However, realizing that with each passing year prospects of reoccupying Artsakh is getting incrementally weaker, Baku may be seriously considering the creation of a new political reality on the ground. Nevertheless, Moscow officials and to a lesser degree Western and Iranian officials have made it clear to Baku that the international community does not wish to see any foolish military adventures in the region. Personally, I don't even think officials in Ankara would like to see resumption of hostilities in the region - mainly because they are not confident that the Armenian side can be defeated by Azerbaijan. Simply put, by all accounts, the geopolitical stakes are too high for Baku. So, will Aliyev pursue his nation's interests by putting Baku on a direct collision course with Moscow, or will he decide to bite-the-bullet and allow the so-called "political process" to play out?
In my humble opinion, and in the opinion of many experts, Baku deciding to go against Moscow's wishes by attempting to embark on a major military adventure in the region will result in Azerbaijan's second and perhaps worst defeat. Basing my personal opinion on comments made by high ranking Russian officials during the past several years, I think that if Azerbaijan is foolish enough to attack Armenia and/or Artsakh, Moscow will give Armenia the green light for a serious counterstrike. Presented with such an opportunity, after stalling the Azeri offensive in the well defended mountains of Artsakh, Yerevan would need to counterstrike deep into Azerbaijan's sparsely populated and mountainous north-western territory. Striking from Ijevan and Martakert, Armenians forces would be able to reach the strategic towns of Gandzak (Ganja) and Yevlax, then continue on through Azerbaijan's major water reservoirs all the way up to the Russian border. If Baku is foolish enough to embark on a full-scale military operation against Armenia/Artsakh, I have no doubt Armenian and Russian military officials have already planned something drastic in response.
While establishing a common border with Russia is of immense strategic importance for the Armenian state (I would even say of crucial economic importance), such a situation would greatly benefit the Russian Federation as well.
Besides finally establishing a direct land connection with its most significant and stable regional ally, Moscow would also have the added geostrategic benefit of cutting off Georgia from Azerbaijan, thereby further weakening/isolating Georgia and further weakening/isolating Azerbaijan. Under such a geopolitical climate in the Caucasus, Western and Turkish interests will no longer be able to pursue their regional agendas. While Moscow has currently become the behind-the-scenes power broker in the region (mainly as a result of its thrashing of Georgia in 2008), in the event of establishing a land corridor with Armenia, it will no doubt again become the undisputed master of the Caucasus. With Armenian forces controlling Azerbaijan's former border region with Russia, the flow of Islamic terrorists and Central Asian narcotics into southern Russia would be cut-off as well.
While Iranian authorities may not be too pleased with the drastic increasing of Armenian and Russian power in the Caucasus, Tehran will be in no position to oppose Moscow. Under threat from the West and from the Zionist state, Iran desperately needs Moscow's good will. As a result, Tehran will accept the new reality in the region by allowing Azerbaijan to become sacrificed. Turkish leaders will be utterly powerless as well. Not only are Russian forces securing Armenia's western borders with Turkey, Ankara is desperately dependent on Russian energy and Russian trade. As a result, like Tehran, Ankara will also have to accept the new geopolitical reality in the region. Needless to say, the European Union will be a none factor.
The only potential problem I would see having is with Washington. However, beyond resorting to harsh rhetoric and making some vague threats, for the foreseeable future Washington will be incapable of physically intervening in the region. I realize that Armenia may suffer very bad (yet temporary) repercussions such boycotts and UN security council resolutions. However, establishing a common border with the Russian Federation far outweighs anything anybody can do, for it trumps all other factors. Such a historic (almost biblical) opportunity simply cannot be given up if it is within reach. Although what I am discussing here is purely hypothetical, it is nevertheless not a far-fetched scenario by any means. In case of a full-scale Azeri aggression against Armenia and/or Artsakh, establishing a land connection with the Russian Federation is realistic, it's rational, it's doable and it's essential. It just requires proper geopolitical circumstances and conditions and some balls on the part of Yerevan. So, will Aliyev make a disastrous Saakashvilian mistake? Something in me is saying - I hope so.
Regardless of what Aliyev decides to do, however, Moscow's geopolitical chess-pieces are slowly yet surely falling into place all across the Eurasian continent. The Kremlin's multipronged campaign to rollback Western advances throughout the region in question has been in full swing for several years now. The Kremlin continues proving to the world that they are the undisputed grossmeisters of diplomacy and geopolitics. And they have already shown the world that when push comes to shove, they are more than willing to spill blood. But there are still a few battles left to be fought. Moscow realizes that Washington's upcoming aggression against Iran needs to be managed. American/NATO presence in Central Asia has to be contained. Lingering problems with Lukashenko's Minks will need to be ironed out. Moreover, during the next few years, or months, we will probably (hopefully) have the pleasant surprise of watching a bloody regime change in Tbilisi. Moscow will also need to continue keeping a close eye on Washington's planned anti-missile system deployment on its periphery.
Nevertheless, Ukraine has more-or-less been brought back under Moscow's orbit. Central Asian republics have enthusiastically reaffirmed their allegiance to Mother Russia. Japan was made to realize that Moscow will continue to remain on its doorstep. The resource rich Arctic region is beginning to look like Russia's playground. Chinese-Russian relations have never been better. Moscow's relations with Germany, France and Poland, arguably continental Europe's three most pivotal nations, are improving quite splendidly. Strategic relations between Armenia and Russia have more-or-less been institutionalized. Moscow is enjoying a growing role in South America, Middle East, Balkans and in the Baltic Sea regions again. Georgia has been effectively mutilated and marginalized. And Turkey and Azerbaijan are feeling increasingly entrapped by one of the Kremlin's most effective weapons-of-mass-destruction - Gasprom. The following news reports are pertaining to recent developments in the region that caught my attention.
Russia Today: Leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia discuss Nagorno-Karabakh settlement in Russia
It is worthy of note that the Azeri president is known for his bellicose remarks. However, the statement that he said after the threat of using military power in Karabakh, has never been made before. Aliyev's remarks may mean that he denies the right of being an independent state not only to Karabakh, but to Armenia as well. "Azerbaijan will retrieve its territorial integrity. Nagorno Karabakh is our land, our native land. The present Armenian state was founded on the land that historically belonged to Azerbaijan," Aliyev said. The president has probably forgotten that the ancient Armenian Kingdom was established hundreds and even thousands of years prior to the establishment of the Azerbaijani nation, not to mention the fact that Azerbaijan as an independent state was founded only in 1918. Aliyev's remarks followed the talks with the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, which took place on October 27. The two presidents agreed to exchange the bodies of the military men, who were killed in a battle on the contact line between the conflicting parties. In addition, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to continue the dialogue to regulate the long-standing conflict.
Was Aliyev intended to gain political profit from his bellicose remarks? It could be possible, taking into consideration the fact that parliamentary elections took place in the country on November 7. Armed clashes in the area of the Karabakh conflict occur on a regular basis during the recent six months, and the conflict seems to escalate. In addition, Azerbaijan has been involved in arms deal lately, purchasing arms from foreign countries. For the time being, officials of either Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh have not showed any reactions to Aliyev's remarks. Armenia has its own vision about the history of the region. There are officials in the Armenian administration who believe that Azerbaijan is the territory of Armenia, which was taken away from the country by Arab, Persian and Turkish conquerors. Such an interpretation is obviously an exaggeration. Aliyev went too far as well. The Armenian state was founded over 2,000 years ago and took the vast territory from the Caspian to the Mediterranean Sea during the peak of its power. Armenia was the first state in the world to have recognized Christianity. Therefore, it is incorrect (to say the least) to consider the Armenian land as the land of Azerbaijan.
The recent statement from the Azeri president is another fact to prove how complicated the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia is. Too much blood has been shed during many centuries of the conflict between the two nations. The massacre of Armenians in Sumgait in 1988, the expulsion of Armenians from Baku, the subsequent expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Armenia and the war in Karabakh during the 1990s that ended with the defeat of Azerbaijan's army - all that is still fresh in memory. It goes without saying that the Azeri army is technologically more powerful than it was in 1994. The Armenian army was not born yesterday either. Baku needs to bear in mind the fact that neither Brussels nor Washington will support Azerbaijan, as it happened with Georgia in 2008. The Armenian lobby in the West will be stronger than the influence of Azeri energy carriers. The Nagorno Karabakh conflict is like the conflict in the Middle East, which seems to last forever. Bellicose statements shatter all hopes for peaceful regulation of the conflict. Armenia may take efforts to prove that Azerbaijan is a militarist state that nurtures another genocide against the country. Armenia is one of the few countries where Russia has its army bases. Like it happened with South Ossetia, Russia will not be able to sit on its hands in case of a military attack against its ally.
On the other, this view is contradicted by those who believe that "Russia's reported plans to sell two of its S-300 Favorit air-defense systems to Azerbaijan" is a balancing enterprise to maintain a strategic parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan and thus, keep the status quo of "no war, no peace" situation. Are these two mutually excluding moves part of Russia's South Caucasian policies or are they part of a more far-going agenda? All about East vs. West? Affected by a historical inferiority complex vis-à-vis the West, Russia has initiated a reaction to Western superiority. Development of Russia's ambitions of modernization can be traced through a tripartite evolution of the Russian far-reaching strategy.
The first attempt was undertaken by Peter the Great in 17th century who sought to launch radical reforms of "westernization" of Russia. Some of his successor Tsars followed this path until 1917. The second phase of the project was based on the promotion of Marxist and then Leninist ideas and resulted in the creation of a de-facto Soviet Empire that incorporated, mostly by force, nations of the Russian empire.
Consequently, the Cold War not only became the driving force in the antagonism between the West and Russia after WW2, but a source of new ideological tensions. End of the Soviet Union marked another failure of the Russian project. In the 1990s, Russia found itself as the successor of the two previous (Tsarist and Soviet) attempts and it was consequential to set up the third platform that Russia would use as a tool to (re)gain the control it lost over former-Soviet countries. New ideas were needed and Russia's old ambitions took on new forms. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was created and many of those countries including the South Caucasian states joined it. Since then, any Western ambitions and interplay of CIS countries with Euro-Atlantic structures were seen by Russia as "treachery" by these newly independent states.
Russia has since also established the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) in effect to "tame" any NATO or other Euro-Atlantic inspirations deemed a direct threat to Russia's national security. First, it created regional military alliances. Second, Russia strongly enforced its economic presence in the former Soviet area. Third, it sought to undermine initiatives by non Russia-oriented states toward the West. The Russia-Georgia armed confrontation and the ascendance of Russia-favored Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to power are central elements of this strategy. Russia is also taking revenge against the West's unilateral actions in former Yugoslavia and NATO's enlargements into Eastern Europe.
Russia seems ready to make more moves towards Iran and Turkey to make sure its presence in the region and its influence over the greater Caucasus is not undermined by the US and the EU-led projects such as NABUCCO, Georgia's (and Ukraine's) accession to NATO, pumping Central Asian hydrocarbon resources to Europe by bypassing Russia etc. Although Russia is trying to present itself as open to engaging the West on matters such us Iran's nuclear program, its real priority is enhanced control over the South Caucasus, on one hand, while increasing contradictions between the West, China and Middle East players. Thus, the extension of the lease of the Russian military base in Armenia for another 34 years and Moscow's possible delivery of anti-aircraft missile launchers S-300 to Azerbaijan underscore the third attempt of Russia in its far-reaching strategy.
Russia has strong ambitions both for the West and the Rest. By the same logic, Russia has recently canceled its plans to supply Iran with S-300. Russia doesn't need now to put a spoke in US's wheel and to have a stronger Iran. Over time Russia-Iran-US triangle is likely to reveal new dynamics. We can therefore presume that Russia's endeavors in the South Caucasus and beyond are not partner- or friendship-oriented. Rather, these policies are based on a strategy and pursue the objective to see Russia as a rising instead of falling power. The cold peace may be on its way.
The remarks came just days after President Serzh Sarkisian warned that Azerbaijan will be dealt a “devastating and final” blow if it attempts to resolve the Karabakh conflict by force. Sarkisian issued the warning as he and Ohanian watched what Armenian officials called the biggest ever exercises held by the Karabakh Armenian army. Armenian Public Television reported on Monday that the two-week maneuvers involved thousands of soldiers, hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles as well as heavy artillery. It said the tanks and artillery systems fired more than two thousand live rounds as the troops simulated an Armenian counteroffensive against Azerbaijan. Sarkisian admitted that the exercises were held in response to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s frequent threats to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh and the liberated territories.
Aliyev’s government announced recently plans for another sharp rise in Azerbaijani defense spending. It is projected to reach $3.1 billion next year, a sum exceeding Armenia’s entire state budget. The Armenian government plans to spend only about $400 million on defense in 2011. The spending gap is somewhat offset by Armenia’s military alliance with Russia, which enables it to acquire Russian-made weapons at cut-down prices or free of charge. A new Russian-Armenian defense agreement signed in August commits Moscow to supplying Yerevan with “modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware.” “The existing situation allows us to say that the positions of the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have not weakened,” Ohanian said. “On the contrary, today we have a situation where our positions have strengthened on both the diplomatic and military fronts.”
Ohanian also downplayed a recent spate of non-combat deaths and other violent incidents in the Armenian army ranks, which sparked a public uproar and led to the sackings and arrests of several dozen servicemen. “Of course, this is a worrisome issue,” he said, answering a question from a student. “But analyses conducted in the army and statistics lead to the conclusion that, on the whole, abuses and other extraordinary incidents in the armed forces are decreasing, rather than increasing.” Another student wondered which military structure in the country is most corrupt. “There is no [military] area where corruption is particularly rampant,” replied Ohanian. “It all depends on the moral integrity of the commanders of a particular field. We are making appropriate efforts in that direction.”
If Attacked, Armenia and Karabakh Will Deliver Final, Deadly Blow, Warns Sarkisian
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian was in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic over the weekend where he observed major military drills carried out near the Karabakh-Azerbaijan line-of-contact at Aghdam. He was accompanied by Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian, the Armenia’s Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanian and other high ranking officials. According to the Armenian President’s press service, the leaders of Armenia and Karabakh were present at the military exercises, conducted observation of the defense area, and participated in the opening ceremony of the apartments built for the military staff. Later, Sarkisian conducted a working meeting with the participation of the Army High Command, where he delivered a powerful speech, in which he warned that Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh will deal a “devastating and final” blow to Azerbaijan if it unleashes a new war in the South Caucasus and attempts to resolve the Karabakh conflict by force. Below is the full-text of the speech Sarkisian delivered to the soldiers.
Dear junior officers, Dear soldiers,
The exercises that we observed today have really been very impressive. This is the greatest proof of the fact that every month and every year our army advances even further, becomes more combat ready, more organized, and more disciplined. What we have is enough to deal the potential enemy a lethal blow. However, we will not be complacent about that but will continue to constantly amplify capabilities, skills and armaments of our Armed Forces because developments in the neighboring country are extremely troublesome. They link all their failures and problems to Armenians. Anti-Armenianism has become state policy. Unfortunately, they prepare their own people for war; we, on the contrary, prepare our people for peace, explain the importance of solving the issue through peaceful means. We state publicly, yes, we are ready to make some concessions, ready to solve the issue when the final status of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic is determined, i.e. the issue of security of the people of Nagorno Karabakh is resolved.
And to solve this issue, officers and soldiers, you always must be stronger, your combat readiness must intensify, your weapons must be faster, your willpower must prevail, your dedication must be boundless. I have no doubt that if the time comes, we will not only do again what we did in 1992-94, but will go even further and solve the issue once and for all; the issue will be closed for good. What’s to be done to reach our goal? We must constantly be vigilant, be ready. Nobody should doubt your resolve just as I don’t doubt it, because provocations go on, shooting goes on, people continue to die and not every one gives this conduct of Azerbaijan a proper assessment. It means that we have to be vigilant, it means that our military exercises, which have been very close to combat situation, must become a warning for the others, while for us they must become a norm of life. During the military exercises, the officers should display their knowledge, soldiers—their abilities, the command should constantly improve their skills. This is our approach, we have no other way. As Commander-in-Chief, as President of Armenia, officers and soldiers, I promise that you will have no need of anything. We will acquire modern gear, which we possess also today, we will have everything to be able to protect the most precious thing we have—lives of our soldiers and officers. What we have is quite enough to fulfill with honor the most important task we face.
We hear warmongering every day, every day we hear threats and attempts to scare us. But we have been there already. My veteran friends, who are present here today, officers of senior generation remember how in the beginning of 1992 only the lazy in Azerbaijan was not talking about drinking tea in Stepanakert or Shushi. Their dream remained unfulfilled and many of them took it to the otherworld. At the time they too thought that they were very strong, that they could solve the issue and very fast. We don’t want war and never wanted, but at that time we had to defend our Motherland. If the time comes again, this time our blow will be final and deadly. I would like to thank you, your parents, your friends, your teachers, all those who sent you here, and long live to all the defenders of our Motherland.Source: http://asbarez.com/88635/if-attacked-armenia-will-deliver-final-and-deadly-blow-says-sarkisian/
At the end of August, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Yerevan and signed an agreement extending Moscow’s lease on a military base in Armenia and committing Russia to defend that country. Then, less than two weeks later, the Russian leader made his third visit to Baku, the latest effort by Moscow to maintain its difficult balancing act among the countries of the South Caucasus even as the Russian government exploits its growing power there in the wake of the Russian-Georgian war of two years ago particularly relative to powers outside the region. It remains unclear at this writing how far he succeeded. Azerbaijanis were outraged by the base agreement between Russia and Armenia, viewing it not only as a step that will lead Yerevan to be even more intransigent in negotiations on the withdrawal from the 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory that Armenian forces occupy but also as an indication that Moscow is not going to be an honest broker in talks between Baku and Yerevan, a role Russia has been promoting for itself in recent months at the expense of the OSCE Minsk Group which has little to show for its more than 15 years of effort.
And because of that, Azerbaijanis had extraordinarily high expectations that Medvedev would offer something equally valuable to Baku to restore the balance, all the more so because they believe that Moscow, despite its tilt on occasion toward Armenia, continues to view oil-rich and geographically-central Azerbaijan as “the prize” in the South Caucasus. While the specific agreements reached between Medvedev and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev were in the eyes of some less important than Medvedev’s accord with Armenian leader Serzh Sargsyan, both the implications of those agreements and the tone of the discussion suggest that the balance has been maintained, albeit at a new level. Even before Medvedev arrived in Baku, Russian officials said that the new Russian base arrangements in Armenia do not mean that Moscow would come to the defense of Yerevan if Baku seeks to recover the occupied territories by force. And once the Russian president arrived, he suggested that the accords in Yerevan represented “nothing new” but rather were required by the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty, a pointed comment given that Armenia is a member and Azerbaijan is not.
But more to the point, the Russian president said that he had come to Baku in order to sign an agreement with President Ilham Aliyev on the delimitation of the land border between Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation. That accord, he said, “close[s] the last of the major issues which existed between our countries,” a somewhat exaggerated claim given the absence of an accord on the sea border but one that does serve as a model for the eventual conclusion of land border accords with Azerbaijan’s other neighbors. (Negotiations about that border have been proceeding for years, and the accord, as several Russian officials noted, does little more than ratify the administrative border of Soviet times as the international state border of today. But one thing it does do, something some Russians are concerned about, is define the distribution of water from the river there, something that will certainly help Azerbaijan even if it hurts Russia’s Daghestan).
Perhaps still more important, Gazprom signed an agreement with Baku to purchase up to two billion cubic meters of natural gas next year and more than two billion cubic meters beginning in 2012. Gazprom’s Aleksey Miller said that what made this agreement special is that it does not define “an upper limit” for Russian purchases of Azerbaijani gas, an arrangement that clearly is intended to make Baku think again about participating in the Western-backed Nabucco project and consider taking part instead in the Russian-favored Southern Flow pipelines. Indeed, Medvedev said during his visit that this accord “lays the foundations for relations [between Moscow and Baku] for many years ahead.” Those agreements attracted most of the attention of the media, but there were others in the security area that may prove even more important in advancing Moscow’s interests—and Azerbaijan’s as well. As Kremlin officials said prior to Medvedev’s visit, the Russian president planned to “touch on questions of military-technical cooperation,” including the exploitation by Russia of the Gabala radar station after 2012 when the current agreements call for Russian staffers to withdraw, expanded military training in the Russian Federation for Azerbaijani officers, and the possible sale of advanced military equipment to Baku.
Such arrangements not only reflect Moscow’s appreciation of Azerbaijan’s geopolitical position and Russian hopes that Baku will not over-read the new Russian basing agreement with Armenia but also the Kremlin’s desire to continue to pursue a balanced policy in the South Caucasus, albeit at a level where the Russian Federation plays a greater role than earlier on both sides. Whether Moscow will be successful in doing this or whether Azerbaijan will be put off by what Moscow has been doing with Yerevan remains to be seen, but it sets the stage for a reset of the balance in the region, all the more so because Azerbaijan under President Ilham Aliyev himself is committed to pursuing a balanced foreign policy, something that has achieved a great deal for Baku but a strategy that may prove more difficult to carry out when other powers and particularly the Russian Federation are pursuing a balanced foreign policy as well.
Russian trade representative in Armenia, Alexander Zaitsev, said today Russian companies have invested a total of $2.8 billion in Armenia since 2009 July.Speaking to Armenian reporters after the official opening of the third annual Russian industrial exposition in Armenia- EXPO-RUSSIA ARMENIA.- he said investments rose by 16% in the first six months of this year. According to him, Russian investments in construction of a new nuclear power unit in Armenia will raise the figure to $5 billion. There are about 1,400 companies in Armenia with Russian capital. Earlier Armenian prime minister Tigran Sarkisian said Russia accounted for sixty percent of all foreign investments in Armenia since it gained independence. According to Armenian government data, Russian investments in Armenia in January-June 2010 rose to around $117 million, including $86 million of direct investments, which made 35.7% of all investments in the real sector of economy and 38.95% of all direct investments. Compared to the same period of time last year direct investments grew by 5.1%.
Under the terms of a draft deal being discussed by Moscow and the strategically important Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, Russia would be allowed to keep five existing military facilities in the country operational for a further 49 years and be permitted to open a brand new military base in the south of the country too. The deal is expected to be agreed before the end of the year and comes after Moscow negotiated similar arrangements with Ukraine and Armenia earlier this year that prolonged Russia's military presence in those countries by decades, guaranteeing it a firm geopolitical foothold in the former Soviet space. Improving its position in Kyrgyzstan, which hosts an important US airbase that supplies combat operations in Afghanistan, would be a major coup for the Kremlin as the impoverished Central Asian country is being actively courted by the United States and China too. Russian daily newspaper Kommersant said that Kyrgyz defence minister Abibulla Kudaiberbiyev made the offer to consolidate and expand Russia's military presence in his country during a meeting in Moscow on Monday with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov. It said he had argued that an agreement needed to be signed "as soon as possible" and that Kyrgyzstan wanted Russia to pay for the privilege in small arms and military hardware instead of cash. The country's president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was deposed in a coup earlier this year, fresh parliamentary elections are due next month, and ethnic clashes in the south of the country in June left hundreds if not thousands dead. Analysts say the country's new rulers are keen to beef up their security forces and their own position with Russian help to head off any future unrest.
90% of Armenians hail positive the protocol prolonging deployment of Russian military base in Armenia, Aharon Adibekyan, head of Sociometr center, told the journalists today. According to him, in 2010 Armenian public actively responded to 3 events, one of them is the mentioned protocol. Ahabekyan said that majority of Armenians consider that Russia (followed by U.S. and the EU) should become country’s’ vector in foreign policy. “Interestingly, 3% of respondents included Turkey in the list, standing for reconciliation with Turkey,” sociologist said. “The second key event in Armenia’s life was attempts to open the Armenian-Turkish border and normalize relations between the states, with 46% of respondents backing this initiative,” stated the head of Sociometr center. Consequences of the global crisis are the third issue Armenians are mostly interested in. “Our study shows that 60% of Armenians were well-off before the crisis, while 40% considered themselves financially vulnerable. After crisis 461% of respondents sustained losses, including loss or selling business, lack of funds for education, unemployment, failure to get treatment and impelled migration,” Adibekyan stated. Armenian citizens also responded to measures implemented by the government to overcome consequences of financial crisis. A total of 48.9% of Armenians called the measures “rather negative than positive”, while 10.6% - definitely negative. In conclusion, Adibekyan noted that considerable part of the Armenian families is biased assessing financial circumstances. “According to the UN norms, 46% of pollees are below the poverty line, but only 19% of them think they really are,” he said. A total of 1650 people of different ages and social groups of Yerevan and the regions took part in the public opinion poll.
Related news from the past:
“Azerbaijan is doing a dance between the West and Russia,” said Isa Gambar, an Azeri opposition figure. “Until now, there was an unspoken consensus. Georgia was with the West, Armenia was an outpost of Russia, and Azerbaijan was in the middle.” But with the war in Georgia, Russia burst back into the region, humiliating Tbilisi and its sponsor, the United States, which issued angry statements but was powerless to stop Russia’s advance. It was a sobering sight for former Soviet states, and one that is likely to cause countries like Azerbaijan to recalibrate their policies. “The chess board has been tilted, and the pieces are shifting into different places,” said Paul Goble, an American expert on the region, who teaches at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy in Baku, the capital. “What looked balanced before does not look balanced now.” A Western official said, referring to Azerbaijan: “Georgia was very much a wake-up call.
This is what the Russians can do and are prepared to do. Georgia events underscored their vulnerability.” Azerbaijan will be under more pressure from Russia when undertaking energy contracts and pipeline routes that Russia opposes, said one Azeri official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. Officials from Russia’s gas monopoly, Gazprom, on a trip here this spring, offered to buy Azerbaijan gas at European prices, rather than at the former reduced rate. That offer, if the Azeris chose to accept it, could sabotage a Western-backed gas pipeline project called Nabucco. Rasim Musabayov, a political commentator in Baku, said that under the new conditions, many Azeris think that selling gas to Russia is not such a bad idea. New projects carry political risks, he said, and if Russia “will pay us a price we agree on for our gas, why build something new?” “You can’t have a foreign policy that goes against your geography,” he added. “We have to get along with the Russians and the Iranians.”
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia was weak, with a collapsed economy and a scattered, inconsistent foreign policy. Azerbaijan used that to its advantage. Now Russia is stronger and speaks in one voice, and Azerbaijan has to be more careful in its relations with its big neighbor. Georgia is now so hostile to Russia that working with it as a partner in the region is increasingly difficult, said Borut Grgic, chairman of the Institute for Strategic Studies in Ljubljana, Slovenia, an expert on Caspian energy infrastructure. “Azerbaijan will never seek E.U.-NATO integration at the expense of functional and working relations with Russia,” he said. The Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, he said, “is making this balance difficult to sustain.” At no point in the crisis did Azerbaijan take a position that would have made Moscow bristle.
When the fighting began, Azerbaijan appealed to Russia, asking it to preserve its infrastructure in Georgia — a port, an oil terminal and a pipeline. Moscow agreed, according to Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, Elmar Mammadyarov. Azerbaijan helped European diplomats enter Georgia while it was under attack, but when the leaders of Ukraine, the Baltics and Poland traveled to Tbilisi to express solidarity with the Georgians, the Azeri president, Ilham Aliyev, did not make the trip. And after Vice President Dick Cheney visited Baku in September, Mr. Aliyev flew immediately to Moscow for talks with the Russians. But the issue closest to this country’s heart is that of Nagorno-Karabakh, an area in its southwest where Armenian separatists formed an independent enclave in the 1990s. For years, Azerbaijan has tried, through international mediation, to reclaim the territory and allow Azeri refugees who fled to return.
Since the war this summer, the Russians seem to have grabbed the initiative. President Dmitri A. Medvedev, on a trip to Yerevan, Armenia, this week, said Russia was pushing for a meeting between the Azeri and Armenian presidents. “I hope such a meeting will take place in Russia,” he said, Reuters reported. Russia has traditionally backed the Armenians, but times are changing. “One of the positive effects of the Georgian crisis is that the Kremlin will try to show that they are not crazy guys,” an Azeri official said. “That they can be good neighbors, too.” The Russian attitude toward Azerbaijan, one Azeri official said, was that “the U.S. has come to your country and is plundering your natural resources, but not giving you any support. Why not go with us instead?” Mr. Cheney, on his visit to Baku, also pledged to redouble efforts, causing some Azeris to remark ruefully that it took him eight years to make the trip. Ali Hasanov, an official in Azerbaijan’s presidential administration, said concrete progress would win many points in Baku. “If a big country takes a position, stands on the side of unbroken territory, we will follow its interests,” he said.
- What do you expect from official visit of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to Azerbaijan, scheduled for July 3-4?
- Perhaps, several important intergovernmental issues will be discussed,but the most important, what Russia is concerned about are energy problems. Russia tries to prevent Caspian energy sources supply to the world market via Azerbaijan bypassing Russia. Moreover, Russia tries to possess the Caspian gas to strengthen monopolistic positions of Gazprom in ensuring gas for Europe. Perhaps, we will be persuaded to reject support of Georgia.
- A number of experts state that Russia is still ruled by Vladimir Putin, while Dmitri Medvedev fulfills purely representative functions. Do you agree with this point?
- Yes, it is this way so far, but I would like to note that Putin has once been not the sole ruler of Russia and was a representative of a powerful grouping comprising senior officers of the FSS and reconnaissance. Medvedev has not taken any steps, not envisioned by the strategy of the said grouping. His speech during the economic forum in Petersburg was in fact the repetition of the confrontation Munich speech of Putin. But let's not hurry. Medvedev has time for demonstrating himself as an independent politician.
- Vladimir Putin's presidency was marked with a thaw in the Azerbaijani-Russian relations. Can we expect further closing of our countries under Dmitri Medvedev?
- Well, anyway, the relations will not worsen significantly under him, except for any extraordinary cases. Some toughening of policy towards Azerbaijani migrants is possible, which can be prevented by our diplomacy.
- How far can Russia go in its loyalty to Azerbaijan and can we expect from Russia to impose pressure on Armenia strong enough for this country to return the occupied lands to us?
- Under the current course, laid in the mid 1990s and finally formed under Putin, no changes are expected in the Russia's policy towards conflicts in the Caucasus. Too much should change in Russia and in the world for Moscow to reject support of separatism in the Caucasus.
- What can Azerbaijan give to Russia in exchange for such steps as pressure on Armenia?
- Russia demands too much: to reject our independent external and energy policy, give up developing relations with Turkey and NATO, reject support to Georgia, join the Collective Security Treaty, allow Russian frontier guards to guard our borders and return troops to Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, by doing it all we will not have a guarantee that we will get Karabakh as Russia does not trust Azerbaijan considering it to be a part of a different unfriendly civilization. Russia strategists consider that Azerbaijan will always dream of being with Turkey, strive for European integration and independence from Russia.
"Resumption of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh would cause more damage than in 1992-1994, since collisions would take place between well-equipped armies not guerilla troops," said Vladimir Kazimirov, the former Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group. If war resumes, he said, neither side would manage a victorious blitzkrieg. Hostilities will linger for the next 4-5 years and the consequences will be destructive for the initiator first and foremost. This is a fact that demands very thorough consideration by the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, he said.
According to Kazimorov, the war is a threat for the entire international community as well. "The South Caucasus is not a region deserving indifference," he said, noting that it won't be easy to justify new carnage or an occupation of Armenia, since everyone sees Yerevan and Stepanakert as insisting on a compromise solution, while Baku stubbornly threatens war if Armenians don't relinquish all territorial claims, including Nagorno-Karabakh. The Repetition of hostilities will be perceived as a great anomaly," the Russian diplomat said.
"The side that dares to violate the armistice will immediately draw universal condemnation for breaking from the principles of the OSCE and the commitments to the CoE," he stated. "World powers and influential international organizations, which have worked for a peaceful resolution of the conflict will severely condemn the aggressor," he added.
Although Article 9 of the Azerbaijani constitution rejects war as a means of settling international conflicts, Azeri leaders have already undermined the authority of their Laws by making repeated bellicose statements, Kazimorov noted. They don't fail to cite the Constitution when commenting on the referendum on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh but they completely ignore the above-mentioned article, he added. Baku's role in exacerbating the situation in the Caucasus is becoming more apparent, Kazimorov stated. Baku has been intensifying the arms race in the Caucasus by drastically boosting its defense budget year after year. While President Heydar Aliyev has completely neglected the agreement with Armenia and Karabakh on the suppression of border incidents, he noted.
Every day the Azeri Defense Ministry reports a violation of the ceasefire by Armenians. However, if Baku truly wanted to suppress such incidents, why doesn't it follow the agreement officially signed under the aegis of the OSCE? Meanwhile, Yerevan and Stepanakert have time and again stated their support of the agreement. If Baku thinks this agreement imperfect, it could be amended or replaced by another one. However, it is clear that Azerbaijan prefers the mounting casualties so as to aggravate tensions and pursue their hysterical propaganda. According to Daniel Fried, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs armed revenge will entail grave consequences and ruin Azerbaijan's future.
National consensus has been reached in Nagorno Karabakh regarding the fact that “the republic must be an independent state,” so victory of one or another candidate at the presidential election will not radically change on the general situation, head of the Caucasus department at the Institute for CIS Studies Mikhail Alexandrov said. “The matter concerns nuances. For instance, Bako Saakyan is quite moderate and is orientated towards connection with Armenia and talks with Azerbaijan. Masis Mailyan is tougher, he opposes returning of seven occupied areas to Azerbaijan and speaks for a more autonomous from Yerevan negotiation stance,” Alexandrov said adding that in any case, the key direction in Stepanakert will be dialog. At the same time, he noted that Ilham Aliev’s hopes for returning Karabakh through dialog are naïve.
“A military settlement is an affair that will result in collapse of Azerbaijan as a state. It is unreal for Baku to win over Armenia and the NKR, no matter how strongly they increase their military spending,” the expert believes. The matter concerns not only money, but efficiency of the Army. “Besides, Armenia is connected with Russia by military agreements; the most up-to-date military equipment is supplied there at lower prices. Some types of weapons are impossible for Azerbaijan to acquire in foreign markets; nobody will sell them to it. So, it will be ungrounded to hope for superiority and a Blitzkrieg,” the analyst stressed adding that “this form of being looped” can result in Azerbaijan losing the seven areas of the Nagorno Karabakh security belt.
Now, he believes, there is still an opportunity to implement the formula “peace for territories”: Azerbaijan recognizes Nagorno Karabakh independence and the latter returns the territories. “However, now, the time is not serving Baku. The Kosovo precedent that, most probably, will end with a one-sided recognition of the territory’s independence by the West will only encourage Karabakh in its intentions. ‘The Fifth Column’ and a coup in Stepanakert are ruled out, because there is no single Azerbaijani there,” Mikhail Alexandrov is quoted as saying by PanARMENIAN.Net.