BAKU: Moscow Not Obliged To Take Yerevan’s Side In Military Actions

Aug 1, 2011

News.Az interviews Pavel Salin, an expert at the think-tank, the
Russian Centre of Political Conjuncture.

At the talks in Baku on last week, Russian Defense Minister Anatoliy
Serdyukov agreed to development of a new agreement on the rent of the
radar station in the Azerbaijani city of Gabala by Russia. Though
Serdyukov announced the plans to modernize this station, most even
in Russia say that it is outdated. In addition, Russia is building a
modern radar station in the North Caucasus. What has caused Moscow’s
interest to preserving control over Gabala?

Indeed, for many tactical and technical parameters, the radar station
in Gabala is lagging behind a more updated radar station in Russia
under Armavir, especially after the second sector will be launched
there by the end of 2012-approximately to the moment of expiration
of the agreement of 2002 on Gabala. Certainly, the radar station
in Gabala can be modernized but it is a separate issue and separate
money. Russia needs military presence in Azerbaijan, which is caused
by two main reasons. First is to balance US presence in Azerbaijan.

Official Baku does not flaunts it too widely but in 2005 the country
launched two mobile US radar stations of TRML-3D type with the radius
of 200-300 km. They must pursue Iran’s activeness and ensure security
of the oil and gas transit via Azerbaijan. The second reason which
is also not flaunted is that a military base can always be used as
a tool in political trading. For example, by some data, a Russian
division guarding the radar station played a certain stabilizing role
during Musavatists’ attempt to create a mass riot after presidential
elections in autumn of 2003.

Do you think that Americans will ultimately accept the Gabala radar
station as a part of Euroatlantic security system?

The difference in positions of Russian and American sides is that
Moscow positions Gabala as an alternative to US radars in Europe,
while the United States are ready to allow the use of the radar
station in addition to its radar stations located in Europe. Russia
insists that it takes part in decision-making on the use of missile
defense equally to the United States, while Washington does not want
to accept even its European allies as its equals. The basic problem
is that Moscow considers that it concluded a reconciliation in Cold
War with the United States, while Washington believes that it has won.

This difference in interpretation is also applied to the missile
defense problem-how can Americans accept those whom they consider
they have beaten as equal to themselves?

How justified are Azerbaijan’s concerns that the Russian base in
Armenia can be used against Azerbaijan?

It depends on what you understand saying against Azerbaijan. If you
mean Nagorno Karabakh, the situation is quite complicated here. Under
the new Russian-Armenian treaty, Russia is bound to secure the
territorial integrity of Armenia, but Moscow officially does not
recognize Nagorno Karabakh as an independent state or part of Armenia.

In case of escalation of the military conflict in Karabakh, Moscow
will not be bound to take part in military operations on Yerevan’s side
but as a mediator it will likely try to reconcile the hostile parties
for which it may use the troops from the Armenian base. If during
the conflict Azerbaijani troops will invade in the internationally
recognized territory of Armenia, Russia will be obliged to interfere
on Yerevan’s side under the treaty.

Russia is further growing comprehensive cooperation with Turkey.

Can this circumstance, alongside the future improvement of mutual
trust between Russia and NATO, result in Russia’s rejection of troops
on the Armenian-Turkish border? Or this military presence has a
different sense?

As they say, capacities are more important than intentions in policy.

Clearly, under no guarantees Russia will reject its base in Armenia
or entrust anyone to protect its interests in the region regardless of
goods relations with any country. Meanwhile, importance of the region
and Turkey in it will further grow. Thus, in order to keep up with the
regional power-Turkey, Russia will just have to hold military base in
the region. Now, for the reason of political conjuncture, it turned
out that Armenia is the only one among the internationally recognized
South Caucasus countries where Russia can have its military base (we
do not take account the guard in Gabala). If the situation changes,
the base from Armenia can shift to a different country but Russia
will not leave the region on a goodwill basis in the near future.


From: Baghdasarian

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