Internet Press Conference with Artur Ataev

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.  



David Stepanyan, "Arminfo" news (Armenia)
1.Baku believes that Armenia is joining the Customs Union to get the full support of Moscow in the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. Do you expect any fundamental changes in the process after Armenia becomes a CU member? In other words, can Armenia rely on Moscow’s support in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution now more than before September 3? 
-Under the present geo-political, military and political circumstances, the maintenance of the current status is already a great achievement. Of course, it is a stable instability, but at present we have no better option. To maintain this status for some time we need Moscow’s help. And so we have it. Armenia’s joining the Customs Union is for sure a great factor strengthening Russia’s position in Armenia as well as Armenia’s position in Russia. Here we have mutually beneficial cooperation.
2.Before his visit to Armenia, Vladimir Putin had already announced about the creation of a joint air defence zone which would include Russia, Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Simultaneously, Russia reinforces its 102nd military base, rents the airport “Erebuni”, and aims to strengthen air-strike forces in Armenia.  It seems that our allies are strengthening not Armenia, but rather their own presence in Armenia.  What are the aims pursued, who is it aimed against and does it correspond with Armenia’s interests?
-Ever since the Imperial Russian era Armenia has been a key political, military and geo-political Eurasian frontier. That is why the growth of Russia’s influence is only a logical outcome of the country’s military and political power. There is one important key point here: Armenia is Russia’s strategic partner. Strengthening of one partner strengthens the positions of the other. 
Aydin Kerimov, "Novoye Vremya" (Azerbaijan)
1.In your opinion how will the events unfold in Ukraine after their gas agreement with Russia is signed? 
-Everything seems to be stabilizing. The Euromaidan failed. It is a fact. Much fewer protesters are going out onto the streets. It seems that Ukraine withstood the pressure, and this will only strengthen the country. 
2.Will Europe strive to sign an Association Agreement with other countries of the Eastern Partnership and, if so, won’t Georgia be the next target? 
-Whose target? I don’t get the question. As for Europe, their “association” spreads even on some North African countries. This is a rapidly globalizing mondialist world. 
David Stepanyan, "Arminfo" news (Armenia)
1.Over the last months the situation around Iran has changed. In particular, IRI is gradually converting from the USA number one enemy into a relatively loyal country. What effects will this abrupt transformation of Iran, the regional superpower, have on its South Caucasian neighbours?
-If this “abrupt transformation” does take place, it will have a beneficial effect on the South Caucasian countries as the USA won’t view these countries as a transit zone in case of a real war operation against Iran.
2.After the end of the Cold War, Turkey ceased being NATO’s vanguard and tried to become the curator of the processes in the Middle East. It seems that the agreement of the world powers on Syria and Iran have put paid on Turkey’s regional ambitions, too. 
-The fact is that it is difficult to speak of Turkey as a country that is losing anything. On the centenary of the creation of the Turkish republic, the country intends to be among the top 10 most developed countries both in economic and “geo-political” spheres. As for the “curatorship of the processes underway in the Middle East” the developments in Syria showed that Turkey would not agree to the loss of its status. Only two days ago the Ambassador of Syria to Russia Mr. Riad Haddad visited our university and spoke about the destructive Turkish influence on this Arab republic which basically is Russia’s only ally in the region. It seems to me that the agreement of the world powers didn’t put paid, on the contrary, it stimulated the Turkish hard-working foreign-policy-oriented mind on new foreign-policy initiatives. I believe we will learn about them in the near future. 
Artak Bagdasaryan, Public Radio of (Armenia)
1.How would you generally characterize the domestic policy of the South Caucasian region after presidential elections held in all the 3 countries? 
-Stability and pragmatism triumphed in Georgia. One could feel it even on the streets in Tbilisi. I experienced it myself this November. For the first time in the entire Georgian history (modern history, after 1991) the government was changed in accordance with the constitution through elections. Let’s recall how Z. Gamsakhurdia was ousted in 1992, and then E. Shevardnadze in 2003. It seems to me that Georgia has entered a period of stability and political adequacy with B. Ivanashvili in power. In fact, Ivanashvili remains in power even with the advent of “Margvelashvili-Garibashvili”. To quote a Georgian ex-minister “it seems that someone bought our country as non-core assets and has not made up his mind on what to do with it”. I would like to stress that by this I mean only domestic policy. Armenia and Azerbaijan have much more stable political systems. The tradition of political succession formed here long ago. However, the Karabakh conflict heavily impacts on the inner political situation in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Most experts share the opinion that the crisis in the negotiation process in 2011 will no doubt affect the Caucasus. In this regard, militarization against the background of sharp statements of some leaders may, in fact, instigate a conflict. That would be the least desired outcome.
2.What geo-political processes may occur in the South Caucasus region after the Vilnius Summit?
-You know... the Azerbaijani example shows that there are two probable scenarios: a Maidan-Bolotnoye or a constructive process. Look which Caucasian politicians addressed the public at Maidan: the ex-president of Georgia, M. Saakashvili, and one of the opposition leaders of Azerbaijan, Isa Ghambar. Both greeted the audience pointing at the correctness of their choice for Europe. Both in Azerbaijan and in other South Caucasian countries there are Maidan-Bolotnoye-type moods. However, the example of Russia-Ukraine relations served as the most effective anti-maidan illustration. The next summit of Eastern Partnership will be held, if I’m not mistaken, in March of 2015. That is when the post-Soviet countries will once more be tested on durability.
Aydin Kerimov, "Novoye Vremya" (Azerbaijan)
1.Can we assume that the agreement signed in Baku on the transportation of the Azerbaijani gas to Europe is the first step to Europe’s energy security?
-I don’t quite understand the term “energy security”. Does it mean that there are “energy terrorists” and “energy extremists”? Azerbaijan fulfils its economic mission. What does this imaginary and amorphous “energy security” have to do with it?
2.Why does the West resent Russia’s promotion of its interests in the post-Soviet space where it has always dominated? The West is doing exactly the same, regardless of its father location from the region.
-Russia has not always been dominating the post-Soviet space. In 1988-1989 Russia, in the person of the USSR back then, was rapidly abandoning the Soviet republics. Let’s not forget that the updated version of the Soviet agreement included only 10 out of 15 Soviet republics. Moldova, Georgia and the Baltic republics were not going to sign it. In that period as Russia was withdrawing, the Western actors penetrated into the region: at first, as institutes of civil society, then as advisers in economic and social issues. Thus, in a number of regions (in the post-Soviet republics) pro-western political elite which was mentally alien to the local tradition was formed. That’s what we have to deal with today.
3.How do you see the fair resolution of the Karabakh conflict?
-Unfortunately after the 2011 crisis it is hard to forecast anything. But let's consider the facts. The Azerbaijani military budget totals up $3.7 billion according to Western experts, which is more than the budget of Armenia, equaling $2.8 billion. Armenia's military budget is 450 million dollars. Moreover, patriotic-bellicose rhetoric is put forth in both countries, also by top statesmen. We must consider things objectively - a fair solution to the conflict is impossible nowadays. The parties have made some concessions, but this is not yet enough to satisfy both actors (Armenia and Azerbaijan).
Gagik Baghdasaryan, "News Armenia" news (Armenia)
1.Mr. Atayev, can we say that Armenia has finally decided on its foreign policy priorities and refused the complementarity policy?
-There are all the objective and subjective grounds in order to give an affirmative answer to your question. The answer to your question will be "yes" only after Armenia joins the CU. This process is not an easy one, though. Considering the fact that there may be some problems in Kazakhstan, the process may be slightly delayed. But, anyway, I think for the time being (especially considering the Ukrainian context) the problem will be solved within good time limits. We must take into consideration that Armenia’s accession to the CU actually meant reformatting the Caucasian geopolitics. Armenia's accession to the CU is the peaceful version of the “Five-day war in August, 2008”. I am for an exclusively peaceful reformation of Caucasian geopolitics.
2.What is the likelihood of opening an Abkhazian section of the railway in the near future?
-This is impossible in the short term perspective. And perhaps, even in the long term perspective either. Abkhazia has an ambiguous position. Moreover, the amount of investment in this project is currently exorbitant even for major geopolitical players. I have recently taken part in an event where a study on this issue was presented. Some sections on the railway are missing, and some need to be dismantled. It is a very expensive regional project.
3.Do you think Azerbaijan can make a decision to join the Customs Union following Armenia?
-There are objective prerequisites for this. In fact, Azerbaijan has strong trade and economic relations with Russia. But the problem is that the sale of hydrocarbons has ensured the sustainable economic growth of this South Caucasian state. Therefore, if Azerbaijan, too, speeds up the negotiation process, its participation in the CU will be dictated only by the political component. In case the CU becomes an attractive transnational project, such a development is quite probable. If Turkey and India can claim this, why cannot Azerbaijan do the same?
4.Does Georgia have chances to deepen the Euro-Atlantic integration further until accession into NATO and the EU?
-No. It will not happen the way Georgia wants to make it. I am even sure about it. And many Georgian politicians realize this, but still proclaim the thesis about their state’s Eurocentrism. But, admittedly, Georgia had already partially joint NATO in the times of Mikhail Saakashvili. Although I have faced justifications of opinions that Georgia is de-facto, but not de-jure in NATO. As for the EU, it is an even more remote project, and it is solved by methods typically practiced by E. Shevardnadze and M. Saakashvili. The actual geopolitical situation in the South Caucasus is as follows: Russia will strengthen its influence in the states of South Caucasus, and the Western players will not particularly resist this.
Tarana Kyazimova, “Turan” news (Azerbaijan)
1.How has Russia’s policy in the South Caucasus changed after the Vilnius Summit, and how is it manifest?
-I am sure, moreover, I am convinced that Russia's policy in the South Caucasus states is a double-checked backbone line, and an event like the Vilnius Summit cannot change it. It could correct it, but it could not change it. As for the adjustments to the Russian foreign policy, I would like to address the expected changes in the South Caucasus states, before answering this question. Armenia has turned towards Russia, and this was testified to by Mr. Putin’s visit to Armenia. Today the complementary policy of Yerevan has been replaced by the Russian vector. The political leadership of Georgia has radically changed its rhetoric towards Russia. Although the official representative of the Prime Minister Zurab Abashidze said that the agenda of Russian-Georgian negotiations had been fulfilled by 80%, there were all reasons to believe that the dialogue would continue. President Putin's visit to Azerbaijan in August 2013 showed that the strategic partnership between the two countries had become stagnant. And yet Russia’s policy does not seem to be changing because of such Summits. Apart from Ukraine, all the rest was just expected and predicted.
2.What is the reason for strengthening the Russian military base in Armenia, are we talking about the transfer of arms, military personnel, war games?
-I cannot answer this question, since I deal with political aspects. But as far as I know, the strengthening of the Russian military base is another information maneuver that is not quite clear yet.
Natigh Javadli, "Bizim Yol" (Azerbaijan)
1.Will Russia’s 15-billion aid to Ukraine make Kiev turn away from Brussels for Moscow?
-Nowadays, Ukraine's foreign policy is multidirectional. This was asserted by the top leadership of the country until recently. But the policy of individual actors, I mean the German Foreign Minister, Senator McCain, and many others have identified a number of latent political processes. My experience in analyzing “color revolutions” suggests that the “Ukrainian project” has been prepared not in Kiev, but rather in Brussels. This became obvious to Ukraine's political elite that is why, I believe that the current government of Ukraine has irrevocably turned away from Brussels. And I assume that the Russian aid is not the main argument here...
2.Moldova and Georgia have signed the Association Agreement with the EU. Armenia intends to join the Customs Union. Azerbaijan and Ukraine are still waiting. What shall we expect from this course of events? What form can Moscow’s pressure on Baku take, and what proposal may come up?
-I assume no pressure on Baku is intended. It is both impossible and impractical. I think it is the multi-million Azerbaijani Diaspora and the serious Azerbaijani business in Russia that will put pressure on Baku. Besides, Azerbaijan and Russia are real trading partners. There is humanitarian cooperation. As for the pending position of Ukraine, this is a mistake, that is, the interpretation of these events is a mistake. This is what it looks like to me. The Ukrainian political elite were very clear on its position, because the Euro-Atlantic route currently guarantees not only Ukraine’s destruction, but also the split of the country. Look what particular tendencies there are in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
3.What could make theEU and the CU attractive to post-Soviet countries?
-I am very skeptical about the prospects of any post-Soviet country that has joined the EU. First of all, the prospects of the Baltic states that are considered to be European in mentality. The fact is that the EU is a political brand. I had the chance to visit an EU country that formerly belonged to the socialist block. The fact is that countries have actually lost their economic, political, and cultural sovereignty when they entered the EU. Even in the Baltic countries they have started to indicate that the accession to the EU was not economically viable. Only an economically and politically powerful country should join it. The EU does not guarantee growth. But Turkey could join the European Union. It will become a domination centers there right away. And what will happen if Ukraine joins? The economy will be destructed. Unlike this project, the Customs Union has envisaged possibilities to ensure growth and development. Therefore, it is more profitable for post-Soviet countries. Another very important point as well. The EU causes the destruction and the blurring of traditional cultures and traditional states.


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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