Internet Press Conference with Sergey Markedonov

Joint Internet press conferences with leading experts from different countries on the topical issues of the modern times are organized within the framework of the project, entitled "Enhancing knowledge and understanding of ‘the other side’ by Armenians and Azerbaijani through Alternative and First-Hand Information". This project, implemented by Region Research Center (Armenia) and the Institute for Peace and Democracy (Azerbaijan), is supported by the British Embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan.  
Aydin Kerimov, “Novoye Vremya” (Azerbaijan)
1.The representatives of the USA are very much fond of speaking of freedom of speech in other countries. Don’t you think the Snowden case was an infringement upon that freedom?
-  If we are to focus on the statement made by Snowden himself, this is surely an attempt to present the matter as struggle for freedom of speech. It is interesting to note that the format of Snowden’s statement, like the previously made statements by Assange, does not resemble the format similar to those common in the times of the Cold War. In those times when a secret-service agent wanted to share confidential information, they would go to a concrete addressee. In the case with the representative of the American intelligence service, the addressee would be the Soviet Union. Now Snowden does not have any concrete addressee. As many are trying to present it today, Snowden’s addressee is not Russia. Neither is this addressed to China. This is an attempt to present his own struggle as a struggle against the omnipotence or preponderance of American intelligence services. As for freedom of speech, no one cancelled the intelligence service, law-enforcing authorities or other structures with their professional secrets. No matter how democratic a country is, it will not encourage the disclosure of a state secret. That is why in the given case I do not think that the USA will display any hypocrisy. There are quite a few hypocritical acts in the American politics, but I am convinced that Snowden is not one of those.  
2.Do you think the expansion of NATO is possible in certain conditions at the expense of post-Soviet states?  
- It is possible in quite concrete conditions. This may happen in case there is a total collapse in Russia, or if some other quite extraordinary things happen. In all other cases I do not see any prospects for that. The thing is not whether Tbilisi, Baku or Kiev are eager to join NATO, but in the willingness of the block to adopt and integrate new countries. It is not easy as it may seem. This will entail extra means and extra headaches. NATO as a block is not monolithic in itself, it contains quite varied approaches. And if we recall the same Assange and WikiLeaks, it will be clear that the positions of France and Germany in the issue of Georgia’s membership to NATO were different from that of the USA. Besides, the positions held by the old Europe were stark different from those of the Newer Europe – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. It should also be borne in mind that the attitude to the post-Soviet countries per se was quite varied regarding the issue of joining NATO. If we take Ukraine, as an example, this is an internal policy issue for that country, for the larger part of Ukraine does not want to join NATO. The elite is one side of the medal, the population is the other. If we take Azerbaijan, it is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. This status means complete non-alignment, regardless of what this Union is – NATO, CSTO or anything else?
3.An opinion circulates that Azerbaijan inclines towards the Western geopolitical vector. How justified are such assumptions?
 - It seems to me that it is extreme simplification to consider that any country is pro-Western or anti-West. There is no Cold War now. There are certain disagreements between Russia and the USA which, however, cannot be called a conflict. This is rather a clash of interests, and not a conflict of ideological type, this is, conventionally speaking, not a conflict between capitalism and communism. For example, if we take the same Afghanistan issue. It is largely stated that Georgia is US’s partner in Afghanistan, that 2000 Georgian soldiers are serving there. And that Azerbaijan is a logistical hub to transfer military cargo to Afghanistan. All this is true. But let’s also look at Russia, unaligned with NATO, not planning to join it. 4000 crews are transited to Afghanistan via Russia. And this information is described complimentarily in the documents of the US Department of State. That is why to say today that there is a very hard line and choice between the West and Russia is not right. Let’s also look at the issue of supplying Azerbaijan with Russian armaments. Is this a pro-Western vector? What kind of vector is this? Azerbaijan is not eager to be pro-Russian or pro-American, but rather pro-Azerbaijani, Armenia is thinking of being pro-Armenian. In fact, only Georgia in the times of Saakashvili, made a very clear choice for the West to the detriment of kits relations with Russia. Any other country is trying to have balanced relations. But you may say “How about the decision made regarding Kirgizstan?” But do not forget that the decision was made in 2013. In 2014 Americans will most likely withdraw from Afghanistan. And Americans themselves are not very interested in having a military base there. In 2005 or 2006 it would have been harder to make such a decision.
Armen Minasyan, (Armenia)
1.Do you think the “Snowden scandal” will affect the already tense relations between Russia and the US? How would you assess the Kremlin’s position regarding this issue?
- Snowden’s value for Russia is not obvious. He is not a Russian agent, and it would be even more surprising to defend such a surprise exposer. Because no matter how tense the relations between the two countries are, Moscow would not want to create a precedent in such a sphere, because Moscow’s logic is a logic of a “status quo country”. If it is possible not to change anything, it is better not to change it, rather than make the situation explode and create new challenges. On the other hand, there is some interest on the Kremlin’s part for PR. It is necessary to clearly divide the Russian foreign policy and the talks on the relations between Russia and the USA for inner use. Unfortunately, they do not draw this demarcation line, and they take the public statements made by Puttin and the representatives of his team as Moscow’s absolute approach to foreign policy. Moscow coordinates many issues with the US, starting from the issue of Afghanistan and ending with the issues of the security of the Sochi Olympiad. As for the probable reflection of the scandal on the relations between Russia and the US, everything will depend on the future dynamics. If Snowden was given a refuge in Russia, it would. If he sits in the transit zone (I do not know how long he is going to sit there), it will not.
2.May the “Snowden scandal” negatively impact on the relations between the US and the allies in the North Atlantic Alliance?  
- In terms of psychology, it already has. But, on the other hand, what may be surprising here? Frankly speaking, I do not understand the surprise Snowden’s information has caused. Has he really exposed anything new? Who hasn’t known that the US has global ambitions? The piece of information that the US has 16 intelligence services is openly accessible. It is no news that the US has secret service all over the world, including in its ally countries. I do not think that Europe has enough resources to quarrel with the US.  Europe’s problem is the lack of its own power and security model. Since 1945 Europe has been relying on the US in this issue. It is true that this has caused Europe to have some psychological discomfort in this aspect, but still it continues to rely on the US.
3.How would you comment on the main European players’ position regarding Snowden, taking into consideration the events related to the forced landing in Vienna of the President of Bolivia Evo Morales’s plane due to the assumption  that Edward Snowden might be aboard? Can we say that here Europe somehow gave way to Washington’s pressure?
-Europe has long given way to Washington. In 1939 it gave way to Hitler’s pressure, in 1945 the Eastern part of Europe gave way to Stalin’s pressure, and the Western part gave way to the pressure of the USA. 
Natig Javadli, “Bizim Yol” (Azerbaijan)
1.Can we consider that the scandal around Snowden has given a blow onto the democratic image of the USA? 
 - It did give a blow onto the image of the USA, but I think that more onto its image in terms of security. Snowden exposed certain information to show the US in an unfavorable light. As for its democratic image, those who were eager to see the US in this light, they will continue to see it that way. Whoever did not want to see it, they did not see it before either. This is an emotional matter. If you ask Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, whether they felt disappointed with US’s methods and will withdraw from NATO, they will surely say they were not and they won’t. For there are a number of pragmatic issues and national interests involved.
2.What do the interests of the US in the relations NATO – the EU consist in?
 - The interests consist in the aspiration to ensure American dominance in those structures and the leading role of the US in security issues. In fact, this is what the national interest of the US is.  
Artak Barseghyan, Public Radio of (Armenia)
1.It seems Snowden’s eyeopeners cost Washington quite a lot. Do you think that this scandal was a trump card against the US or do you think there were some guesses, regarding the US intelligence programs?
- Once again, let me tell you that it is difficult not to guess, especially taking into consideration the global ambitions of the US. If the ambitions are global, it is hard not to reinforce them by means of secret services. We may dislike this, get irritated by it, some may speak of the “big brother,” but it does exist!  If there are secrets, they need to be known.
2.May social networks that were so generously cooperating with CIA and NSA lose their popularity against this background?
- Due to their format social networks have an audience of users that need contacts. And I think that such need will persist.
3.Do Russian secret services have an analogy to the US PRISM program?  
- The question is quite specific and has to do with the activities of the Russian secret service.  I do not know the answer to this one.  
Tarana Kyazimova, “Turan” news (Azerbaijan)
1.Mr. Markedonov, what’s Moscow’s position regarding Snowden? Will he be found guilty?
- I have already answered that question above. On the one hand, Moscow does not have any desire to complicate its relations with the USA. On the other hand, due to the certain degree of dependence on domestic PR, there is a desire to show the Russian electorate that they are tough guys and keep the US in check. I do not think Moscow will find Snowden guilty and a criminal. It is a different story if Americans propose something concrete, holding figures and facts. Then, it may. But so far, I do not see such a proposal coming.
2.Why does Moscow refuse to extradite him? At the same time, the Kremlin constantly insists on the extradition of Kremlin opponents (the now deceased Berezovski, Akhmed Zakayev and others). 
 - This question shows that many journalists treat politics as some kind of standardized substance. In reality, every country does what is beneficial. Will America gain from acknowledging Kosovo and support separatism? It will and it does. It is not beneficial to support Nagorno Karabakh, Transdniestria and Abkhazia, so it won’t. And the same is true from the Russian perspective. Over 100 countries have acknowledged the independence of Kosovo, Russia has not, while it acknowledged Abkhazia. Zakayev is a symbolic figure. It is clear that he is not a Chechen separatist number one, but an individual who has challenged the unity of Russia, that is why Russia insists on his extradition. There are many rituals in politics. In Snowden’s case, and I will reiterate myself, Moscow is waiting for some concrete proposal. In politics, standards are formed as in any concrete puzzle. The politician is not a researcher; neither is he a moralist to act in compliance with moral canons. He has a concrete task; he puts this puzzle together, using the resources at hand.
Emil Babayan, correspondent of “Regnum” news agency in
1.The problem of interrelations between the US and NATO allies against the “Snowden scandal” is very similar to the problems of relations between the USA and NATO allies during the problem of the resolved “WikiLeaks” scandal in 2010. There were no serious consequences then. Are there any grounds to assert that a certain Snowden without a passport can affect the relations between NATO partners?
- A certain Snowden without a passport as an individual cannot, of course. The problems that Snowden causes can. And they have affected the psychology of the people. When we speak of NATO allies, we can use this image. One of the allies is a 100 kilo hefty and strong man while the other allies are small and slim. If you consider the military budget of the US and that of the whole of Europe, you will understand who the leader here is. That is why Europe may get on a high horse and take offence, but it will not divorce the USA. 
2.The President of Russia Vladimir Putin, when speaking about Snowden, announced that theoretically he might stay in Russia, but at the same time he announced conditions that would not be acceptable for the dissident. Isn’t Moscow missing a chance to outclass its Western “partners” and to get a trump card that could be extremely useful in certain disputable issues?
- But I do not think that Snowden may already be really useful, he has gone public, published all he had, and crossed the border. It is one thing if he went to his work quietly and could be useful for Moscow’s interests. And why should the Russian policy be one of outclassing anyone? The policy of Russia should be one to ensure the national interests of the country, and this does not lead to outclassing everyone. Russia is a serious country and not a kindergarten teacher. As for Snowden’s dissidence, let’s tell the difference between an individual who announces state secrets (it does not matter how he serves it) and a dissident. We can consider Solzhinitsin, the participants of the hot spring in 1968 in Europe or the USA dissidents. But on the other hand we can hardly call Assange and Snowden, or Mr. Shevcheno who fled to the West dissidents. For then we will have too many dissidents. A dissident is someone who does not agree to the policy led by the power, while a turncoat or an oath-breaker is something else. The oath was not invented by Americans, or Comrade Stalin together with Comrade Lenin, it has always existed. And the oath-breaker breaks the Oath. If you do not like working for the secret service, then don’t, find a different job and another field of activity.  
Rashad Rustamov, “Zerkalo” (Azerbaijan)
1.Do you believe the USA will manage to get Snowden?  
- This is not a matter of belief. I think that Americans would not really like to get him. Snowden is a contractor, he is not the head of a department or a major figure at FBI. I am repeating again – he has already said what he meant to. Americans are spying everywhere. And this is not a secret, at large. Not being a secret agent, I actually know this. 
2.Do you think Snowden has exhausted all his resources or does he still have unmasking information? 
- A good question, and I have already practically answered it. I do not think that there is still any unmasking information left. As the Assange story showed, this is a PR step. Here we have a bulk of information, and we will open it up!
3.If Russia does hand Snowden over, what will this be fraught with for it?  
- If Russia does not hand Snowden over, this may be fraught with some complications with the USA. If it does, it will be fraught with some domestic side effects. Russian anti-Americanism is instrumental, and it is firmly controlled. I do not think it will take Putin anything to stop this anti-Americanism in a second. I think that if there were a concrete proposal from the USA and if the US refused from the educator’s mission in terms of the improvement of the democratic image of Russia, Moscow would be ready for more pragmatism.  
4.The information Snowden revealed somehow relates to Azerbaijan, too. Do you think that these revelations will make the United States introduce any corrections in its relations with Azerbaijan?
- When Azerbaijan plays a major role in terms of logistics in Afghanistan, when energy projects involve more financial interests and when against the image in the Muslim world (not nil, rather negative) there is a secular ally in the Muslim world that has a common border with Iran, I cannot think of anything that may make the USA change its relations with Azerbaijan. Perhaps some kind of Islamic revolution or a collapse in that country could lead to this. In all remaining cases, the relations will hardly change. We see that the US Department of State is critical on the deviations from democracy in Georgia and Armenia. Azerbaijan does not seem to get into that focus. We followed the recent tours made by State Secretaries in the Caucasus; Azerbaijan is not viewed as a major infringer of democracy. We could at least recall the situation around the Safarov case. There were some ritual statements. Similarly and in their reports on democracy all over the world Azerbaijan is slightly criticized, but this does not lead to any serious consequences.    
Let’s consider Georgia that is doing a lot to prove its loyalty to the US. The third term for Saakashvili was not even discussed here. But in the case of Azerbaijan the third term in office worked. The Constitutional referendum eliminated all restrictions on the third term. Had anyone taken care of this in Washington? Interests always come first. Often Americans harm themselves, pretending to be number one democracy supporters. Even students in the US wonder that if they are fighting for democracy how about their friendly relations with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan?  
Gagik Baghdasaryan, “News Armenia” news agency-www. (Armenia)
- Mr. Markedonov, recently a few EU countries groundlessly and perhaps at the request of the US simultaneously closed their air space for the Bolivian Plane 1. Recently also information appeared that Great Britain has prohibited the entry of individuals on Magnitski’s List, that is it started to apply the provisions of the American legislation in its territory.  Taking into account all these facts, how appropriate is it to speak of full sovereignty of US partners?
- In the modern world no one has full sovereignty. US seem to be hegemony number 1. But go to any tourism center, and you will see that even souvenir magnets that bear American symbols (Washington, Statue of Liberty and so on) are “Made in China.” US also depend on the Chinese consumer goods channeled into the American market, and this is dependence, too. Or the US energy dependence, with their own oil wells closed; the imported oil from Venezuela puts the US into a dependent state. I have already dwelt upon Europe which after appearing under the US umbrella in 1945 and singing the Warsaw Pact behind the Berlin wall partially lost its sovereignty, especially in security issues. And Russia, too, which regardless of all its announcements of full sovereignty, is also dependent in many issues. They speak of Russia’s energy dictat. But this dictat is based on the fact that someone pays for this energy. And in this regard Russia is also dependent upon Europe. That is why as Mikhail Sergeyevich (Gorbachyov – By Editor) used to say: “We are all in the same boat.” But of course, we do not always realize this.    
- Do you expect NATO states to take any practical actions in response to the revelations by Snowden or will everything be confined to simple diplomatic rhetoric?
- I have already answered this question and I will reiterate myself that diplomatic rhetoric is already there, but I do not think that it will lead to a divorce between the US and Europe. 
- What do you think the fate of the American secret service man will be in the future? Will he stay in Russia and begin to cooperate with the Russian secret service or will he get out of the headlines?
- It is hard to answer on behalf of the Russian secret service. But this will probably depend on the quality of information provided. But at the same time I think that Moscow will not be likely to feel interested in making such cooperation public. Moscow does not like loud PR and such innovations.  
- Will Snowden’s example be contagious? Do you expect a “snowball effect?” 
- A very interesting question, and it was asked back in Assange’s times.  The two stories – Assange and Snowden – showed that it may be contagious. But not as frequently, as the acute respiratory disease virus. The novelty here is that the revelations are not targeted at a concrete figure. 


30 January, 2014
Right after the New Year, the citizens of Armenia were shocked by the gas and electricity bills for December.

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