Interview with Razi Nurullayev, Azerbaijani political analyst and the head of “Region” International Analytical Centre (RIAC)
US experts and diplomats have been warning of a new security crisis that could break out in the South Caucasus in autumn of 2014. How good is the forecast and is there any evidence the region is really headed for a new war? Or is it rather a threat aimed at disrupting these countries’ ties with Russia? We are discussing the issue with Razi Nurullayev, Azerbaijani political analyst and the head of “Region” International Analytical Centre (RIAC).
On October 5, 2012, Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian presented a lecture in Los Angeles titled “Arab Awakening, The Turkish Role in The Region and The Future of Armenians in the Middle East”. According to the ‘USA Armenian Life’ reporting, he claimed that “2014 is a potentially deadly deadline for Armenia and Armenians worldwide imposed by Azerbaijan.” He sternly cautioned Diaspora Armenians about the so-called “Azerbaijan deadline” for political settlement of the Artsakh (Karabagh) conflict by 2014… He tersely warned that a formidable military buildup by Azerbaijan spelled trouble for Armenia.
This year Ambassador Richard Morningstar, the US envoy to Azerbaijan, issued a similarly stern warning to Baku, promising it a “Maidan” if the government doesn’t loosen its grip on the opposition.
In both cases, the Ambassadors suggested that Armenia and Azerbaijan had to adopt more “open” policies towards the West and scale down their contacts with Russia. Or face the consequences?
Razi Nurullayev, Azerbaijani political analyst and the head of “Region” International Analytical Centre:
I would say the Caucasian explosion is always pending. The Caucasus is a very sensitive area, both geopolitically and economically. And that is why I think it is not only the matter of autumn, but that is a matter of all the time.
We remember the case of war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, in August. And after that a lot of things happened in the Caucasus. And the Caucasus has been the point of interest not only for Russia that comes from the fact that it is its political, but also for the West, including the US and the EU country.
And of course, we cannot forget about the issue of Turkey. Turkey also is very bound to the Caucasus region historically and it also has its own interests. And Turkey’s interests in the Caucasus are being implemented with the help of Azerbaijan, both brotherly countries.
So, in autumn the Caucasian explosion may happen, but I can’t say on what perspective Mr. Ambassador has said that. Georgia is going to conclude the association agreement with the EU this month, Ukraine does the same and Armenia is going to join the Eurasian Union. So, this tangles this paradox of the developments in the Caucasus and really creates such an environment in which an explosion might happen.
Another point, Azerbaijan is also invited to the Eurasian Union and, on the other hand, the EU has a big pressure on Azerbaijan to sign an association agreement with the EU. So, in this context I think the interests have collided between Russia and the West.
So, it may depend on the further developments and I would actually put more focus on the Ukrainian events. It depends on how Ukraine is going to get out of the situation which it found itself in. And depending on that situation the fate of Caucasus may also be cleared.
Actually, with the Ukrainian events the eastern partnership initiated by the EU has been severely damaged. The other countries of the eastern partnership, including Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus feel that the EU is more of an economic union and when it comes to conflicts and the collision of interests with Russia, the EU cannot defend either of the countries, which has now produced a radical change in the minds of the countries, in their policies.
The Azerbaijan President said in last December that Azerbaijan would not in any way sign an association agreement with the EU and Azerbaijan would prefer an equal strategic partnership between the two sides, in which the EU is not interested.
So, here the connection is – if Russia is more confident and keeps the status quo as it is now in Ukraine, then it would somehow pursue the successful policy in the Caucasus as well. If the West – the US and the EU countries – are successful in Ukraine (which I can’t believe can ensure its territorial integrity and bring peace to its eastern provinces), then it might give a motivation to the other eastern partnership countries to pursue the European integration policy, which I believe is a hard task for now.
So, Ukraine in this context is a point where all the other countries look at and draw the lessons from there.
Of course, we know that Caucasus is an extremely important region, and at the same time, it is a very delicate region in terms of balances that are now kept, but could so easily be tipped. Who of all players could really be interested in creating a stir in that region, in destabilizing it?
Actually, it is a very hard question and it is not very easy to just simply answer it. I think the Caucasus is now a place of the war of interests between Russia and the West. That is why at the moment, it is my personal view, Russia would be interested in the Caucasus to be peaceful, to be economically and geopolitically stable unless it answers its interests.
So, if Russia has an influence over the Caucasus and Russia’s interests are pursued and ensured in the Caucasus, then Russia would be interested in bringing the stability to Caucasus, and would also be interested in the resolution of the frozen conflicts.
As far as the EU is concerned, broadly speaking the EU and the US, until now they did not seem to be active and very interested in peace in the Caucasus. It was out of their very close point of interest. They wanted peace, but never did anything for peace in the region.
But now, after the Ukrainian events the West thinks that the unstable and conflict-fledged Caucasus solely serves the Russian interests. In this context the West, and in particular the US have mobilized their efforts for peace in the Caucasus.
In particular, I remember some high-ranking officials’ statements from the US about Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. So, they now have become more active and try to bring the sides to the round table and find the solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which I think is not possible without the Russia’s consent and participation.”