The fact of the matter is, Moscow is not about to sell Artsakh, or Armenia, or anything else in the Caucasus for that matter. As a matter of fact, Russia is still not done reversing the setbacks it suffered during the 1990s. It is well known that the south Caucasus is one of Russia's three most vital geostrategic areas of concern. Accordingly, no self-respecting Russian leadership will tolerate a non-Russian political presence in the area, let alone a Turkic-Islamic one. And let's once again recall that the Russian Federation is as different from Bolsheviks as was the Russian Empire that was destroyed by the Bolsheviks.
Armenians that bring up the evils of Bolshevism to discredit Russians today are either intellectual midgets or doing the dirty work for foreign agents.
Former national security adviser Ashot Manucharyan has just said what I have been saying since the fall of 2008 - Russia is attempting to drive a wedge between Turkey and the West by approaching it with lucrative business deals and by enticing Ankara to sit at the negotiation table with Yerevan. As a result of a series of Western set-backs in the region, Moscow is continuing its relentless geopolitical campaign to either regain its influence over certain areas of interests or pacify/neutralize areas that pose a potential problem. This is what we are currently seeing Moscow do in places like Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Poland, Georgia and Turkey. Geopolitically speaking, I think it is in Yerevan's long-term interest for Turkey to be dependent on Russia instead of the West.
We need to all realize that in addition to protecting Armenia's border with Turkey, in addition to bolstering Armenia's military against Azerbaijan, Russia has also officially recognized the Armenian Genocide and continues to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Armenia's economy. Have you ever wondered why Turkey remains silent about all this, while they get into a rampage when any other nation even talks about genocide recognition? One of the answers to this question is this: Turkey is utterly powerless against Russia and it has an instinctual fear of Moscow. Moreover, Turkey is dependent on Russian energy. As a result, Ankara is in no position to act tough against Moscow. The more Ankara becomes economically and politically dependent on Moscow the less of a threat it becomes to Armenia.
More on why Turkey is reluctantly dancing to Moscow's tune: With their pan-Turkic wet-dream shattered by Moscow, with increasing Islamic/traditionalist tendencies and a decreasing desire to join the European Union, Turkey today is a nation attempting to transform itself. Turkey is gradually moving away from the secular military dictatorship that has defined its politics for decades and slowly turning into an Islamic republic. Ankara's traditional allies have not been indifferent to this transformation. It is well known that American and Israeli intelligence have setup shop in Kurdistan in northern Iraq and are most probably laying the groundwork for a future Kurdish state that is envisioned to act as a regional buffer against Turks, Arabs and Persians. Needless to say, Ankara is deeply distressed at the way it has been treated by its partners in Washington, Brussels and Tel Aviv. Some of you may recall, soon after the Russo-Georgian war, during the fall of 2008, Ankara even flirted with the idea of abandoning its membership in NATO.
In addition to its utter disillusionment with the West, the enlargement of Turkey's economic capacity during the past twenty somewhat years has made it desperately dependent on foreign energy, particularly Russian energy. Therefore, in a certain sense, Ankara today needs Russia more than it needs Washington. Moreover, Georgia's total defeat at the hands of Russia and the global economic crisis currently plaguing the West has more-or-less de-fanged Washington, causing it to retreat from the Caucasus. This situation has managed to isolate Georgia and Azerbaijan, who were until the summer of 2008 Ankara's strategic regional partners. Thus, the current time is ripe for an aspiring superpower like Russia to step in and fill the void in Asia Minor. As you have seen, Medvedev just made political waves by also visiting Syria where he even met with Hamas representatives.
By sweet talking Turkey into major economic agreements and energy deals, Moscow is subtly yet surly driving a wedge between the Turkey and the West. By encouraging Yerevan and Ankara to normalize relations, Moscow also has the added benefit of undermining Georgia's already precarious situation, further isolating Azerbaijan as well as frustrating Western and Israeli plans against Iran. In a sense, what we are seeing is a brilliant game of chess being played by grandmasters in the Kremlin, and the chessboard they are playing on is all of Eurasia. In all this, Armenia has proven to be one of Moscow's most important chess pieces, a major regional strategic asset.
Despite warming of relations between Ankara and Moscow, despite the tens of billions of dollars that flow between the two states, Yerevan will continue playing a pivotal role in the south Caucasus as Russia's only reliable political/military platform, its only regional outpost. In my opinion, as long as Turks, Muslims and Western interests exists in the region in question, Armenia will continue to be an important strategic partner for policy makers in the Kremlin. Due to its strategic relationship with Russia, landlocked Armenia today enjoys a geopolitical standing it has not had since the middle ages. I believe that after working out the problems between Ankara and Yerevan, Moscow will try to do the same with Yerevan and Baku. The only potential danger I foresee in this regard, however, is Yerevan being forced by Moscow into making concessions over the Armenian controlled territories considered by some to be outside of Artsakh proper.
Nevertheless, Russians don't forget and they rarely forgive. Kremlin officials know the serious dangers of pan-Turkism and militant Islam perhaps even better than us Armenians. Russians also know the major role Ankara played in the bloody Chechen uprisings of the 1990s. Moscow is simply trying to exploit Turkey's political/economic predicaments as it attempts to make Ankara increasingly more dependent on it. Despite their current warm relations, Moscow and Ankara will continue to remain regional competitors and knowing their long and bloody history of conflict against each other they will sooner-or-later clash once again. In the meanwhile, we can all expect Russia to continue bolstering Armenia's strength, both economically and politically. However, what we Armenians do with the support being given to us by Moscow is, in the long term, up to us.
Russia Seeks to Separate Turkey From West Through Armenia-Turkey Rapprochement
Former national security advisor to the first President of Armenia, Ashot Manucharyan, doesn’t believe that Russian President’s visit to Turkey will trigger significant changes in South Caucasus region. As he told a news conference in Yerevan, Russia struggles to increase its influence in Caucasus, seeking to separate Turkey from the West through Armenia-Turkey reconciliation. “However, this can’t be viewed as a positive development, considering tragic consequences Armenia faced 100 years ago because of Russian-Turkish approximation,” Manucharyan emphasized. “The only difference in current Russian policy is the country’s geopolitical interests and unwillingness to yield its positions to Turkey,” he concluded.
Armenia Should Not Have Concerns Over Russian President’s Visit to Turkey
Reasons behind President Medvedev’s visit to Turkey are understandable, with Russia pursuing certain interests in the region, according to RPA parliamentary group secretary Eduard Sharmazanov. As he told PanARMENIAN.Net reporter, Armenia should not have concerns over Russian President’s visit to Turkey in view of strengthening RF-RA bilateral collaboration and Russia’s support for Armenia during rapprochement process. As he noted, either Russia or Turkey’s bringing up Karabakh conflict issue during the meeting should not suggest the possibility of Turkey joining OSCE MG. “For Turkey to become OSCE MG Co-Chair, we need the agreement of all conflicting parties. Armenia, however, will never agree to it.” “With both countries vying for regional influence, Russia will not allow for Turkey’s increased influence in South Caucasus region. Increase of Turkeys’ influence spells weakening of Russia’s position,” Eduard Sharmazanov emphasized.
Three to Tango?: Medvedev’s Turkey Visit Spurs Talk on Regional Alliances
Closer Russo-Turkish relations and the latest indications that theserelations may grow from economic cooperation into strategic partnership have caused concern among political circles in Armenia. While there seems to be a relative consensus in Armenia that Yerevan will not yet lose its ‘monopoly’ as Russia’s most important strategic partner in the region, some still urge caution and call on Yerevan to be ready for possible surprises of the emerging Russo-Turkish tandem. The talk of that sort intensified ahead of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s official visit to Turkey on May 11-12 focusing on energy projects and, as announced in the press, addressing some regional tangles, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
As the Turkish press writes, the visit is likely to become a crucial one. And Medvedev himself has stated that “Russia and Turkey are becoming strategic partners.” Turkey, as believed by experts, expects Russia to help it get engaged in the ongoing international mediatory effort on Nagorno Karabakh as part of the OSCE Minsk Group with a far-reaching objective of promoting a settlement of the conflict that would favor its regional cousin Azerbaijan. Also, they say, Ankara hopes that the Kremlin will exert pressure on the Armenians to withdraw from the districts around Nagorno Karabakh currently controlled by the unrecognized republic’s military. Representatives of the governing coalition in Armenia are unanimous that Russia will not make any concessions or moves at the expense of Armenia.
“Russia will not imperil its relations with its strategic partner,” Republican Party lawmaker Rafik Petrosyan told ArmeniaNow, invoking the strong bonds that currently exist between Moscow and Yerevan. Meanwhile, many recall history when in 1920-1921 a similar Russian-Turkish rapprochement culminated in a Lenin-Ataturk arrangement that cost Armenia its historical lands of Kars, Surmalu, Ardahan, Nakhijevan and Artsakh (Karabakh). Pro-opposition political analyst Marine Ghazaryan cites Medvedev’s article in the Turkish newspaper Zaman in which the Russian leader voices “deep respect for the great reformist Mustafa Kemal Ataturk” and calls the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations (between Leninist Russia and Kemalist Turkey) ‘an important date’.
“For us it is ‘important’ by the losses [that we suffered],” said Ghazaryan, talking to ArmeniaNow. “And today, 90 years later, the Russians sit down with the Turks to decide our fate, and our authorities see nothing dangerous in it.” Political analyst and Turkey expert Artak Shakaryan also remembers that the ‘Russian-Turkish embraces’ did not have a good outcome for Armenia at the beginning of last century and that one needs to exercise caution. He thinks, however, that the current ‘embraces’ contain no major risk yet. “The Armenian-Russian relations have stronger and deeper roots than the Russian-Turkish relations, and I don’t think that Russia will trade its long-term interests and relations with Armenia for short-term ties with Turkey,” Shakaryan said in an ArmeniaNow interview.
However, an expert for the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) Ruben Mehrabyan says that closer Russian-Turkish relations should be definitely a matter of concern for Armenia. “The Karabakh conflict is a powerful weapon for Russia to maintain its positions and influence in the region. However, I do not rule out that one day other priorities will emerge for Russia and in that case Armenia will face serious challenges,” said Mehrabyan, adding that the only way for Armenia to meet these challenges is by becoming a truly democratic country.
Mr. Erdogan saluted the progress on the pipeline, which is to run from the Black Sea port of Samsun to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, and said it would ease pressures on the Bosporus and reduce the threat of devastating spills. “Our shores are under severe danger during the passage of the oil tankers through the straits,” he said. “Once we realize the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline, we would have the opportunity to reach out to the world from Ceyhan." For his part, Mr. Medvedev highlighted the expected increases in the $30 billion in trade between Turkey and Russia. “Our trading capacity will not only improve but will exceed past records,” Mr. Medvedev said. “We are aiming for more than $100 billion of trade in future, which is very inspiring.” His comments, in Russian, were translated by Turkish television.
But most of that number comes from Turkish imports of Russian oil and gas, and some Turkish energy experts cautioned that the increase would do more good for Russia than for Turkey. The deal for the nuclear plant, scheduled to be built over seven years in the Mediterranean city of Mersin, raised further concerns among some Turks of relying too much on Russia. “If we add dependency on nuclear energy on top of the current energy trading from Russia, it’s inevitable that we get concerned,” Necdet Pamir, an energy expert, told the news channel NTV.
He said Turkey had energy options it could explore without Russian aid. “Half of Turkey’s immense hydroelectric potential is on hold, so it’s misleading to present Turkey as a helpless country,” he said. Moreover, Mr. Pamir added, the reactor suggested for the project in Turkey, known as Model 1400, has not been given safety approvals by European institutions. A project by a Russian consortium to build a nuclear reactor in Akkuyu, another Mediterranean town, was canceled by a Turkish court last year after intense public complaints. Other agreements signed after the first session of high-level meetings led by Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Erdogan called for cooperation in combating drug trafficking and in transportation and education, as well as a lifting of visa requirements for visits shorter than a month.
Russian tourism to Turkey grows every year, with nearly five and a half million tourists from the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2009, according to Tourism Ministry figures, while Russia is a popular destination for Turkish businessmen. In addition to the agreements, the leaders pledged greater diplomatic efforts toward a resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and called for stability in the Caucasus, acknowledging the delicate nature of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which both Turkey and Russia are closely monitoring. Turkey has been a supporter of Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy but strongly opposes nuclear weapons in the region and has been critical of Israel on the matter.
In related news:
The current explosive situation in the North Caucasus is, to a great extent, the result of Pan-Turkism, Vladimir Zhakharov PhD, Coordinator of the Center for Caucasian Studies, Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University), stated during a Yerevan-Moscow space bridge on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey. According to him, Pan-Turkism remains a real threat even now. “Nothing ‘more real’ could exist, and it is spearheaded against Russia,” the expert said.
Speaking of the Armenian Genocide, Zhakharov stressed that not only the tragic events in Turkey in 1915, but also the Armenian massacres in Shushi in 1918 and in Baku in 1920, as well as the events that occurred in Azerbaijan 20 years ago, can be termed as genocide. The expert, however, did not dwell on the events in Azerbaijan – he reported that the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Russia showered MGIMO with letters of protest at his statements. “We received the last note from the Embassy of Azerbaijan this Monday,” he said.
As regards the reasons for Turkey’s unwillingness to admit the Armenian Genocide, the expert said that in private talks Azerbaijani politicians expressed their fears. “Ankara is afraid of the financial and territorial responsibility should it admit the Armenian Genocide,” Zakharov said. Commenting on Russia’s assistance to the Armenians that survived the Genocide, the expert pointed out that Russia helped the Armenians that survived and settled down there, but “it might have done more.” Russia must not forget the sacred and tragic date, the expert said. He also proposed the organization of an international conference on the Armenian Genocide and the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.
Interview with Russian political expert Vitaly Dimarski.
Q: In your opinion, what issues are likely to top agenda of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s talks in Turkey?
A: I think that main issues to be discussed at meetings between President Dmitry Medvedev and the Turkish leadership will be implementing projects of gas pipelines, including the "South Stream" and restoring the Turkish-Armenian relations. Turkey is an important geopolitical player in the south of Russia. This is a transit country with its interests in the South Caucasus region, where much depends on Ankara’s position. Russia attaches special importance to normalization of Turkey-Armenia relations. As is known, these relations are not very easy. On the one hand, there was a sharp convergence, but then the process was suspended, because Turkey put a new condition regarding the settlement of the Karabakh conflict which is absolutely unacceptable for the Armenian side. I think that the Russia President cannot bypass this issue because Russia is one of the mediator countries which must somehow provide a solution to this conflict. I cannot say that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will be resolved in near future. It seems that this process takes place with “ebbs” and “flows”. That the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan meet on neutral territory promises some progress. Later everything reaches complete standstill. As far as I know, the process has stalled as of now. Moreover, the Karabakh problem prevails in relations between Turkey and Armenia. Of course, President Medvedev will talk about it with his Turkish interlocutors. I think Russia is interested in resumed rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey. Medvedev will try to have an impact on the Turkish side in order to remove the additional conditions that have been made lately.
Q: Turkey-Armenia relations experience another problem, that is, Yerevan’s striving for “genocide” recognition. May Moscow influence Armenian leadership to give up ‘genocide” claims?
A: Russia is unlikely to do so. A compromise is possible in this regard: Armenia softens stance in response to softening of Turkey’s stance. Armenia will never refuse the "genocide” recognition policy. Any Armenian politician who will do it will issue himself a death sentence in a political sense. Although, who knows. Formally, Armenia will not abandon this requirement. It may advance this requirement less and less if the Turkish side makes concessions. I do not think that Russia has a strong influence on Armenia in this regard. Russian politicians understand that this question is fundamental for the Armenian people.
Q: In your opinion, is Russia interested in resolving Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
A: Russia is interested in ensuring stability in the South Caucasus region. Moreover, Russia is one of the mediator countries in the Karabakh conflict. As a mediator, Russia can help to ensure that the parties compromise. A year ago in Prague, I spoke with an American mediator, and back then all of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, including Russian co-chair, were optimistic. They all said that something will be resolved very soon.
Q: Will resumed relations with Turkey reduce Armenia’s significance for Armenia? After all, Armenia's leaders make no secret that they need Russia to protect them against Turkey ...
A: Russia and Turkey are competitors in the Caucasus region to some extent. But Turkey will not be able to oust Russia from the South Caucasus. It will fail because Russia cannot simply leave the region. Moscow has its own interests in the region. Part of the Caucasus region is Russia’s territory and much is interconnected in this regard. Besides North Caucasus, Russia has very weak link in the region - broken relations with Georgia. I do not think that Russia can afford to harm relations with someone in the region. It is impossible to squeeze Russia out of the region. But Turkey may try to reduce its influence in the South Caucasus. From this point of view, if we can relieve the tension between Turkey and Armenia, it will give a chance to Yerevan for a more multi-vector policy. Now Armenia has nowhere to go, since its borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed with the only help coming from Russia. It is possible that the way out of the enclave, which Armenia has ended up, will reduce Russian influence on Armenia and, accordingly, on the Caucasus region. But this, as the saying goes, "is written with pitchforks on the water.” In this way, there is a very big problem like Karabakh conflict and the Armenian-Turkish relations. In the meantime, Russia remains a major strategic player in the Caucasus region. The fact is that Russia is an important economic partner not only for Armenia, but also for Azerbaijan. But with the "South Stream” project, it became an important economic player in the southern Europe.
Q: Can Moscow urge Turkey to abandon preconditions in terms of normalizing relations with Armenia in exchange for laying the "South Stream” pipeline through Turkish territory?
A: I think that every problem in the region can only be solved in conjunction with other problems. Many factors impact on what you refuse or agree. These are the Azerbaijani-Turkish and Turkish-Armenian relations and interests of other countries although there is no special contradiction between Russia and the U.S. This is a fairly complicated process, and I would not consider one issue in isolation from others. It should be noted that Turkey did not initially put forward the settlement of the Karabakh conflict as a condition for normalizing relations with Armenia. When the Turkish leaders visited Yerevan, there were no conditions on the Karabakh conflict. Only after pressure from Azerbaijan, the Karabakh conflict began to figure in the Armenian-Turkish talks. Everything is not so straightforward in dealing with such issues: we give you the "South Stream" and you refuse Nagorno-Karabakh. This diplomatic trade involves not only two goods. The negotiations may have different options. For example, the condition may exist only on paper, or the requirement is not removed, but they do not insist on compliance. In any case, just such issues are not resolved.