Has Russia’s positions changed bor not?

Armenian paper questions motives for Russian minister’s Azeri visit

Hayots Ashkarh, Yerevan
4 Feb 05

By Vardan Grigoryan

Over the past few days the Azerbaijani press and the press sponsored
by the Armenian Pan-National Movement, which often carries quotes from
Azerbaijani press articles, are trying to present Russian Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Baku as a sign of changes in the
Russian position on the Karabakh issue.

Certainly the current attempt to look for “a skeleton in the cupboard”
in Armenian-Russian relations is not the first one. It is also obvious
that the hullabaloo was created by certain forces who want to force
Russia leave the region. They are trying to present the Russian
foreign minister’s visit to Baku and Ilham Aliyev’s statements that
there were no unresolved problems in relations between the two
countries as a sign of Russia’s changed position on the Karabakh issue
in favour of Azerbaijan.

The political reasons for the attempts to create problems in
Armenian-Russian relations are clear, let us try to understand the
other side of the problem: why is our strategic partner Russia
becoming increasingly interested in Azerbaijan, and together with Iran
is attempting to please it?

The problem is that some people, who are trying to look for and find
in Russian foreign policy changes directed against Armenian interests,
do not want to notice another important fact. After losing Ukraine and
as a result finding its opportunities for moving towards the West
limited, the southern direction has automatically become a priority
for Russia in the context of the policy being implemented in the whole
of Eurasia. And this has led to Russian diplomacy increasing its
efforts in the direction of interaction with Iran, the Arab world,
Turkey and other southern neighbours. Azerbaijan is in this direction,
via which Russia is trying to establish railway connections with Iran
for access to the Persian Gulf. Thus, changes are really taking place
in the foreign policy of Russia, but not in the direction expected by
those forces which are interested in withdrawing Russia from our
region, and those mass media outlets of our country that are carrying
such reports.

Russia is not losing interest in our region, on the contrary the South
Caucasus will increasingly become the focus of its attention. Under
the circumstances Russia’s attempts to build highways and
communication links towards the south will result in further efforts
together with Iran to remove Azerbaijan from the strategic programmes
of the West and increase pressure on Georgia sharply. But Armenia
will continue to remain a stable basis for Russia’s attempts to extend
its sphere of influence in the South Caucasus.

A situation has now been created whereby a quick settlement of the
Karabakh issue is becoming a mechanism for counteracting Russia’s
aspiration to the South Caucasus. Therefore it’s no accident that the
Karabakh issue will be on the agenda of the upcoming Bush-Putin
meeting in Bratislava. Under the circumstances Russia would naturally
try to remove the pressure by trying to please Azerbaijan as much as
possible on the one hand, and on the other hand by demonstrating its
impartial position on the Karabakh issue.

The question is: does this mean that Russia may support Azerbaijan and
put pressure on Armenia to achieve a quick settlement of the Karabakh
issue. To think seriously about this, means that Russia wants to cut
the “branch” which is its backbone. Because in a real policy the
existence of the status quo around Karabakh is the only “backbone”
which “preserves” the southern direction of the Russian policy.