Karabakh Armenians Hail Russian Recognition Of Abkhazia, South Ossetia - August, 2008

Although Armenian authorities in Nagorno Karabakh have publicly supported Moscow's recognition of Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's independence, officials in the Armenian Republic have not. Armenia does not have a choice in this sensitive matter, it must remain silent. Moscow never intended to annex or destroy the Georgian state. Thus, Georgia still remains the country through which over 90% of Armenia's goods and energy supplies come through. If Tbilisi ever decided to seal its border with Armenia, Armenia's already fragile economy would most probably collapse overnight. What's more, Armenia simply can't afford to ruin its cordial relations with the Western world. Official Yerevan simply can't afford to be emotional or sentimental when it comes to these types of matters. What has been happening recently in the region is not a street fight, it's not a family dispute, nor is it child's play. This is serious geopolitics at play. As shortsighted officials in Tbilisi showed us recently, a single wrong move by the authorities in any one of the regional countries can prove catastrophic. Armenia today is not a major power. As a matter of fact, politically and economically, Armenia is very vulnerable and is at the mercy of foreign powers. I rather have official Yerevan remain overtly neutral and covertly pro-Russian through all this; which is what Yerevan seems to be doing at this point.

Regarding official recognition for Nagorno Karabakh: What recognition do we want? By whom? Why? To feel good? Nagorno Karabakh is free and independent and it has been free and independent for over fifteen years now. What is international recognition going to get it? Besides feel good rhetoric, nothing. The fact remains that official recognition of Nagorno Karabakh's independence is 'not' in the interests of the major powers and that includes Russia, China and Iran, not to mention the West. For nations like Russia and Iran, it makes more strategic sense to have the Nagorno Karabakh dispute unresolved as leverage over Azerbaijan.

Arevordi

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Karabakh Armenians Hail Russian Recognition Of Abkhazia, South Ossetia


August, 2008

In a move contrasting with official Yerevan’s silence, the ethnic Armenian leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh has welcomed Russia’s controversial decision to recognize Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s de facto independence from Georgia. Bako Sahakian, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), sent on Thursday congratulatory messages to his Abkhaz and South Ossetian counterparts.

“It is with sincere joy that the people of Artsakh (Karabakh) received this news long awaited by your people,” Sahakian wrote to Abkhazia’s President Sergei Bagapsh. “Abkhazia has achieved something which it has sought for many years, having deservedly overcome numerous obstacles.” The Karabakh leader extended similar congratulations to “the brotherly people of South Ossetia” and their leader, Eduard Kokoyty. “May peace take a permanent hold in your country,” read Sahakian’s letter to Kokoyty made public by his press office. Russia recognized the two breakaway regions following its crushing victory in a brief war with Georgia that was triggered by Tbilisi’s attempt to regain control over South Ossetia. The Kremlin says the extraordinary move was necessary to prevent a repeat of what it calls an attempted “genocide” of South Ossetia’s non-Georgian population.

Georgia and much of the international community have strongly condemned the Russian recognition, saying that it runs counter to the universally accepted principle of territorial integrity. The Georgian government has said it amounts to an “unconcealed annexation” of a part of its internationally recognized territory. Echoing statements by Russian, Abkhaz and South Ossetian leaders, the NKR Foreign Ministry pointed on Wednesday to another international principle upholding peoples’ right to self-determination. The Karabakh Armenians, backed by Armenia proper, have long said that self-determination should take precedence over territorial integrity in the resolution of the conflict with Azerbaijan. The NKR ministry also implicitly blamed Georgia for the outbreak of the war that killed hundreds of people and displaced tens of thousands of others. “We have repeatedly warned that threats to use force, disproportionate military build-ups and a penchant for solving problems by force are fraught with humanitarian disasters,” it said in a statement.

Unlike the NKR leadership, Armenia’s government has so fair declined to explicitly comment on the Russian support for Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s secession from Georgia. The Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a short statement Wednesday reaffirming Yerevan’s stated support for a peaceful settlement of the regional ethnic disputes. But in what could be construed as an indirect endorsement of the Russian recognition, the statement said the conflicts in Karabakh and elsewhere in the South Caucasus should be resolved “on the basis of a free expression of peoples’ will.” President Serzh Sarkisian likewise said last week that “the military way of conflict resolution is futile.” Despite its close ties with Russia, Armenia is extremely unlikely to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, mindful of negative international reaction and Georgia’s vital importance for its transport communication with the outside world.

A leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), one of the four parties represented in Armenia’s government, said in a newspaper interview published on Thursday that the Sarkisian administration should not rush to follow Moscow’s example because “having normal relations with Georgia stems from our country’s vital interests.” “Armenia has not even recognized Karabakh’s independence because it believes the international community has not exhausted its capacity to solve the problem peacefully,” Armen Rustamian told the “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” daily. “We think that the possibilities of a peaceful settlement of the Russia-Georgia conflict have not been exhausted either.”

Source: http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeni...A79DFE03D9.ASP


All Quiet on the Southern Front

Despite Having Been Affected by the Russo-Georgian Squabble, Both Armenia and Azerbaijan Cautiously Abstain From Taking Sides


The events of the “five-day war” in South Ossetia demonstrated that countries of the Southern Caucasus largely act according to their own national interests, and not on the assurances of “eternal friendships.” Thus, both Armenia and Azerbaijan behave in a careful and calculated manner, realizing that getting involved in the Russian-Georgian conflict bears a lot of “hidden reefs” which could prove to be more dangerous than the status-quo that is so despised by Baku and so cherished by Yerevan.

Georgia’s attempts to “restore the constitutional order” in South Ossetia and the harsh Russian response have altered the politico-legal and power configurations in the CIS, and not only in the two “hot spots.” They had a serious impact on the entire ethno-political situation in Eurasia. In this regard, it is crucial to consider the consequences of this “security deficit” in the South Caucasus, especially because in recent weeks, Armenia and Azerbaijan have remained in the shadows. What lessons were Baku and Yerevan able to draw, having been brought to a conflicted state by the events in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the “hot August” of 2008?

Let’s consider the horizontal links among the three former Caucasus republics, all of them now independent states in the South Caucasus region. Georgia considered Azerbaijan its natural ally. Baku was ready to reciprocate the sentiment. Let’s recall that the day before the new escalation in South Ossetia, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called Azerbaijan no less than the “guarantor of independence” of his country. Typical theatrics of the Georgian leader aside, we should recognize a few important points. First, Georgia and Azerbaijan are members of an organization whose stated goal is to play a peculiar anti-CIS role—GUAM. After Georgia officially left the CIS, GUAM remains the sole structure in which Tbilisi can realize its integration projects (another question is how successfully) within Eurasia.

Secondly, Azerbaijan has always supported the territorial integrity of Georgia. Unlike Ukraine, Azerbaijan itself lost some 13 percent of the land that is recognized as its integral part, and hence its support, along with political reasons, has emotional and psychological grounds (which in politics, especially in the Caucasus, is extremely important). Thirdly, there is the economic cooperation. In 2005, during the energy crisis, it was Azerbaijan that provided gas for Georgia. "The Georgian people will never forget this," Saakashvili said in a statement during the groundbreaking opening ceremony for the Turkish section of the "Baku-Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki-Kars" railway on July 24 (only two weeks remained before the Tskhinvali tragedy). The two Caucasian states were also united by two pipelines (oil and gas). Baku also often served as a profitable and reliable sponsor for Tbilisi.

Unlike Azerbaijan, Georgia never considered Armenia as a strategic partner and even less as a “guarantor of security.” There have been a lot of sensitive issues in their bilateral relations. These include the position of Armenians in Georgia (in the Armenian populated Samtskhe-Javakheti and in Tbilisi itself, considered to be an important cultural center for all Armenians), and the role of the Armenian community in the Abkhaz events. During the Georgian-Abkhazian war of 1992-1993, the Bagramyan battalion fought on the side of the "aggressive separatists" (as they call them in Tbilisi). There were far fewer Armenian participants on the Georgian side (largely from the aforementioned Tbilisi). In present-day Abkhazia, the Armenian community is represented both in the government and in business, and is generally loyal to the leadership of the de facto state. The irritating factors are compounded by the military partnership between Armenia and the Russian Federation (particularly the military base in Gyumri, to which, among others, Russian military units from Georgia were moved). Prior to the withdrawal of the Russian military base from Akhalkalaki, there were many local ethnic Armenian residents employed there. Also, Georgia (along with Iran) is Armenia’s window to the world (because of the land blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan). Hence, Yerevan does not want to move past certain milestones in its relations with Tbilisi. Armenia also realizes that its gateway to Russia is through Georgia, and that is why the dependence on the dynamics of Russian-Georgian relations is an extremely sore point for Armenia. In turn, given the secession of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Tbilisi is more cautious in dealing with the “Armenian question.” The Georgian leadership cannot ignore that, unlike the Abkhazians or Ossetians, Armenians have strong support in the United States and the EU (similarly from France).

Indeed, the given dispositions have determined the attitude that Georgia’s neighbors have toward the “hot August” events. Despite its commitment to a strategic alliance with Russia, Armenia preferred to abstain from sudden moves and categorical statements. There are many reasons for this. There is a reluctance to either clearly align their actions with the Russians or to spoil their relations with the West. They are already uneasy in connection with the events of March 1 in Yerevan. It is understandable that Serzh Sargsyan is no Alexander Lukashenko, to whom the United States and the EU have long ago given their “blessing” of more freedom in his interpretation of events.

Armenia, which has such a vulnerable place as the Karabakh, was also not overly interested in anchoring the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) and the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict to Russian-Georgian relations. Besides, even earlier, both Armenia and the NKR leadership distanced themselves from an openly pro-Ossetia and pro-Abkhazia position. This is why representatives of Armenia’s Ministry of Defense hastened to declare on August 10 that raids on the Georgian airbases were not being conducted from the Russian base located in Armenia: "The 102nd military base in the city of Gyumri has no military aircraft capable of committing acts such as these bombings,” they claimed.

The position of Armenia in connection with the heated Russian-Turkish relations is another sensitive issue. Mild support by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan for the Russian Federation’s position is creating a feeling in Yerevan (as well as in the Armenian Diaspora in the West) that the two great powers can agree with each other to the detriment of Armenia (in particular, on the Karabakh issue). Recall that on August 13 Erdogan stated: "The situation in South Ossetia gives us cause to review the relationship between our countries, whose solidarity in this region is of great importance." Here is what Karapet Kalenchyan, an expert at the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, wrote on this matter: "Seeing that Russia is once again entering the South Caucasus, Turkey gives it its full support in exchange for certain concessions on the part of Russia. What kind of concessions could these be? Armenians have often worried that such concessions might be made at the expense of our interests.”

Prudence (only in the opposite direction) is also what set apart Azerbaijan’s position. Representatives of various political parties of the republic (including the ruling party) were more open in expressing their positions. According to Mubariz Gurbanly (the ruling “Yeni Azerbaijan” party), the "Georgian authorities' actions to restore the country's territorial integrity are fully merited. These actions were undertaken in accordance with the UN Charter." Note that this idea (the legality of actions to punish separatists) had so far been far more popular in Azerbaijan than in Georgia. The chairman of the Supreme Majlis of the "Musavat" (opposition forces) party, Sulhaddin Akper, stated that Georgia "was forced to conduct the operation against the separatists in South Ossetia." However, Baku was officially much more cautious than, for instance, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and the Foreign Ministry of his country (which, unlike Azerbaijan, does not have such serious interests in the region).

The statement by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs from August 8 in support of Georgia’s territorial integrity (approved by the Georgian diplomats) contained general statements on the validity of the Georgian operation under "international law," but was not further clarified.

Five leaders of states that expressed their solidarity with Georgia were present at a rally in Tbilisi on August 12. There were leaders of the three Baltic countries, Poland, and Ukraine, but Ilham Aliyev, the head of the state which Saakashvili called the "guarantor of independence" less than a month earlier, was not there. Baku preferred caution, given their interest in maintaining stable relations with Russia. Unlike Georgia, Azerbaijan’s foreign policy is not based on a rigid confrontational manner. In Baku, they consider Russia to be a counterweight to the West (which does not have such unambiguous relations with Azerbaijan as it does with Georgia). Azerbaijan is also afraid of being drawn into the “Iran game,” where it is destined to play a role as either a runway or the target of “Tehran’s retaliatory shot.” Hence the desire to appreciate the generally friendly, albeit difficult, relations with Russia.

The opposition is trying to take advantage of this situation. Isa Gambar, the leader of the "Musavat" party (who received second place in the last presidential elections) believes that the official Baku reaction to the events in South Ossetia is inadequate. But what level of influence does Isa Gambar, or other opposition figures (Eldar Namazov or Ali Keremli), enjoy today that he can alter the position of the president’s team? That is a rhetorical question. Let's consider a hypothetical situation. Tomorrow either Gambar or Namazov replace Ilham Aliyev. I think that they would also strictly separate rhetoric and realistic politics, guided by the national interests of Azerbaijan. Note that if such a scenario were to be repeated in Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku would receive a much tougher reaction from the West. There would even be talk of the consolidated opinion of the United States, Russia, and leading EU countries. And that is why the Azerbaijani police prohibit protests at the Russian embassy in Baku, and prevents anti-Russian hysteria from sweeping the country.

Source: http://www.russiaprofile.org/page.ph...id=a1219848872

InterMedia Survey Finds Armenians Most Favorably Inclined Towards Russia and Optimistic about Democracy in their Country


Despite a powerful Diaspora lobby in the United States, Armenians' positive feelings towards the U.S. are nearly 40 percentage points behind their feelings towards neighboring Russia. So says a survey of the small (3 million inhabitants) yet strategically located nation, conducted earlier this year by InterMedia, a Washington, D.C.- based research, evaluation and consulting organization. The InterMedia survey found fully 90 percent of Armenians are favorably inclined towards Russia, but only 53 percent say they are so inclined towards the United States. "The higher favorability towards Russia compared to the U.S. is not surprising," says Lyuda Andriyevska, one of InterMedia's project managers for Eurasia. "Russia has been the main strategic partner for Armenia for centuries. Currently, Russia provides landlocked Armenia with oil and gas, invests heavily in business and infrastructure, sells weapons and supports many positions of Armenian foreign policy, the touchiest of which is its dispute with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region."

Armenia is strategically significant in the region due in part to its location at both the energy and ethnic crossroads of Europe, Asia and Middle East. With growing demand for energy resources in the world, Armenia is an important player among three regional powers -- Iran, Turkey and Russia -- all of which compete for political and economic leadership in the region. Only slightly more than one-quarter of Armenians, 28 percent, are favourably inclined towards their northern neighbour, Georgia. "One reason is the souring of Georgian-Russian relations over the last couple of years," says Ms. Andriyevska. "Georgia serves as a lifeline for the Armenian economy, as all the inland trade with Russia goes through it. However, the ongoing conflict between Georgia and Russia has seriously disrupted communication and transportation of energy and food supplies to Armenia. This should serve to increase Armenians' animosity towards Georgia and perhaps even take some of the lustre off their feelings towards Russia."

The InterMedia survey also found Armenians are pro-European but less keen on NATO. Seventy percent of the population agree or strongly agree with the statement that "Armenia should join EU." NATO, on the other hand, has the support of only slightly more than a quarter of the population, 27 percent. Although favorability toward Russia is high, there are fundamental differences in public sentiment between the two countries. The InterMedia survey finds Armenians are more optimistic about democratic changes in their country and have more faith in the power of the electoral process than do Russians. Almost two-thirds of Armenians, 64 percent, anticipated increased chances for democracy and personal self expression after the presidential elections in February 2008; only 5 percent of the Russian population expected similar improvements in terms of democracy and self expression after their own 2008 presidential elections. (InterMedia's Russian survey took place in January 2008.)

InterMedia is a leading international media research, public opinion, evaluation and consulting organization creatively equipping clients to understand their audiences, gauge their effectiveness and target their communications in transitional and developing societies worldwide. Based in Washington, D.C., and active year-round in more than 60 countries, InterMedia helps clients understand complex issues in challenging research environments. The company's strengths include its people-area experts skilled in scientifically-based research and focused on client solutions-its vast global network of local research partners and contacts and its rich data archive of more than 670 media and opinion surveys carried out over the past 15 years.

Survey Details: InterMedia conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,000 face-to face interviews in Armenia between 22 January and 27 February 2008. Maximum margin of error, with a 95% confidence interval, is +/-2.2%.

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/news/stor...A%7D&dist=hppr


In other news:


After Georgia, US fears interests at risk in Ukraine, Azerbaijan


The United States is worried that after the Georgian conflict, US strategic interests in Ukraine and Azerbaijan -- especially in oil -- could be at serious risk. The clearest sign of US concern: Vice President Dick Cheney next week will travel to Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The White House, on announcing the trip Monday, said President George W. Bush had given Cheney the job of discussing the United States' common interests with these key partners. The White House did not specifically identify these interests, but analysts say there is a common thread in these former Soviet republics: the strategic Black Sea region, where major powers have played out power struggles ever since oil was found around the Caspian Sea in the early 20th century.

Even that far back, Azerbaijan, which does not have direct access to the Black Sea, shipped its oil to the Georgian port of Batumi to gain access to Europen markets, said Edward Chow, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). It is no fluke that during the Georgian conflict, US officials firmly spoke out against Russia's brief control of port facities at Poti, now a key site in Caspian Sea oil and gas shipping. Meanwhile, an attack in Turkey in early August claimed by the Kurdish rebel PKK underscored the vulnerability of the BTC oil pipeline (Bakou-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) linking Azerbaijan and Turkey. It follows the Russian border. "The transit route through Georgia previously thought to be relatively secure and reliable is now seen as vulnerable and threatened by regional hostilities," Chow stressed.

US oil giants ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips have major stakes in Caspian sea oilfields, he noted. With its broad opening on the Black Sea, Ukraine also is a key strategic US ally in the region. The United States is keen to diversify its suppliers of oil to reduce dependence on the Middle East, and to limit Moscow's influence. Washington is strongly in favor of expanding NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia. But for Stephen Larrabee, of the Rand Corporation: "Georgia is a sideshow. What the Russians are really concerned about is Ukraine. "Georgia's entry into NATO wouldn't have major strategic consequences for Russia. Ukraine, on the other hand, is a very different matter," Larrabee added.

If Ukraine joins NATO Russia would not only be forced to remove its ships based in Crimea; it also would see dashed its hopes of founding a Slavic union with Ukraine and Belarus, he said. What's more, Russian and Ukrainian defense industries are closely linked. For Dmitri Trenin, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "it is Ukraine... that moves into the center stage of the new geopolitical rivalry. "No Russian leader could have failed to respond to a direct attack on Tskhinvali," he added in an opinion piece in Newsweek. "But, more ominously, no Russian leader can remain in power if he 'loses' Ukraine to the United States as a member of NATO," Trenin stressed. Crimea, a peninsula attached to Ukraine in 1954 under Nikita Kruschev, is two-thirds Russian speaking.

Source: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5...5dcgREnqjVBXCA

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