BAKU: Azerbaijan gradually becoming stronger vis-a-vis Armeni

news.az, Azerbaijan
Jan 7 2010

Azerbaijan is gradually becoming stronger vis-Ã-vis Armenia, scientist
Thu 07 January 2010 | 09:53 GMT Text size:

Dmitry Gorenburg News.Az interviews Dmitry Gorenburg, Harvard
University, Executive Director American Association for the
Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS).

In your opinion, does Russia have a great influence in South Caucasus
region? What kind of political leverage could Moscow exert on Baku and
Yerevan?

Russia is by far the most important player in the region. It has the
most powerful military (both army and navy ` including the Black Sea
Fleet and the Caspian Flotilla). It also has numerous political levers
it can use ` including control of Abkhazia and South Osetia vis-Ã-vis
Georgia. Despite the recent rapprochement with Turkey, Armenia remains
virtually a Russian client state and this relationship can be used to
limit Azerbaijan’s freedom of maneuver. Finally, Russian corporations
(some state-owned) control a significant part of the region’s
infrastructure, especially in Armenia. All of these factors allow
Russia to have a great deal of influence in the region.

The uses to which this leverage can be put are another matter.
Russia’s goals in the region seem to be limited to 1) neutralizing
Georgia, 2) reducing US/NATO influence and 3) maintaining/increasing
its control over energy transit from the region to Europe.

The 2008 war with Georgia allowed it to more or less achieve goals 1
and 2. Goal 3 is proving more difficult, not so much because of
Nabucco and BTC, but because of the increasing role being played in
the larger region by China, which is constructing pipelines that will
reduce Russian control over Caspian energy transit even if they don’t
reach Azerbaijan itself.

In your opinion, to what extent is Russia interested in peaceful
settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? What kind of interests
does Russia pursue in this?

I’m afraid I have not been following this topic closely in recent
years and cannot answer this question with much confidence.

What do you think about the current geopolitical role of Turkey in the
South Caucasus and this country’s interests in the region?

In previous years, Turkey saw itself as a close ally of Azerbaijan in
its conflict with Armenia. This was part of its effort to be the
leader of the international Turkic community. More recently, Turkey
has been trying to play more a more even-handed role, including its
recent opening to Armenia. I see this as a positive development. I
don’t think there is any chance of settling the NK dispute as long as
Armenia feels isolated ` they will refuse any settlement and maintain
their fortress mentality. But as relations develop with Turkey, it may
turn out that Armenia comes to feel less encircled, and therefore more
secure. This may lead to a greater willingness to compromise. A second
factor for Turkey is that its elites have come to realize that they
share many interests in common with Russia, especially in the Black
Sea . This has led to closer relations between these two countries, as
they work on trying to limit the influence of outsiders in the region.

Is there any possibility of breaking out the military operation
between Azerbaijan and Armenia again? If it happens, what countries
could be drawn in the war, taking into consideration the presence of
Russian military base in Armenia, on the one hand, and the strong
strategic relationships between Azerbaijan and Turkey, on the other
hand?

Again, I haven’t followed the specifics of the NK conflict very
closely. At the same time, it seems to me that the situation is
inherently unstable. Azerbaijan is gradually becoming stronger
vis-Ã-vis Armenia. For this reason, I expect that any future conflict
would have to be started by the Azerbaijani side.

Armenia has everything it wants and has no reason to start a war it
might well lose. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, could well retake some
or all of the occupied territories, but runs two very serious risks:
1) the possibility of Russian intervention to help Armenia, which
would make Azeri victory virtually impossible and 2) the loss of
Western political and financial support if it is seen as the aggressor
in such a conflict, which would have a severe impact on the country’s
economy.

These two factors, I would guess, limit the willingness of Azeri
elites to launch a war. (Turkey, I would venture, would not intervene
in this conflict unless it is obvious to everyone that the war is
started by Armenia.)

B.A
News.Az

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