News.Az interviews Nikolay Baranov, doctor of political science.
How will Vladimir Putin’s return to presidency in Russia affect changes in Russian foreign policy towards the adjacent states, including the South Caucasus?
In my opinion, Russia’s foreign policy will see no cardinal changes. Vladimir Putin is a stiffer politician and is quite pragmatic when it comes to the Russian interests. No principal changes will occur, which is why Georgia will have no hopes for improvement of relations under Saakashvili’s presidency. Relations with Azerbaijan will be smooth, Russia may offer new proposals on mutual profitable cooperation, especially in energy sources. Armenia will likely be tied to Russia more closely in terms of energy supply with possible preferences for preservation of the military base. Russia will likely attract other CIS members to the Customs Union, thus expanding the area of influence via economic mechanisms. A civilized breakup is possible with the CIS countries with whom no common projects are available.
Is the Kremlin policy in relation to South Caucasus in terms of provision of their security by Russia justified?
Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was undesirable but a forced step by Russia. If these republics were not recognized, Russia would say farewell to the status of a superpower, which the country’s leadership could not accept. Thus, Russia created excessive problems in the South Caucasus, whose importance is shrinking with the increase in the economic and military might of the country and on the contrary is rising with the negative economic indicators. A big and powerful state is forgiven many things but to this end it must become big and great. The title of a ‘superpower’ must by attached not by Russia but other superpowers. Russia has problems with this recognition, which means problems in security sphere.
Do the South Caucasus countries, particularly, Azerbaijan have the opportunity to draw Russia’s attention to the resolution of their strategic problems, if exactly, the territorial dispute? In other words, is it possible to say that Putin’s return to presidency in Russia will raise the opportunity of settlement of the Karabakh conflict?
The problem of Nagorno Karabakh cannot be settled by any third countries, however big they are. This is a problem of the two countries-Azerbaijan and Armenia. If there is a political will of both parties, this problem can be settled anyway. The most important is to have a wish to settle the territorial dispute peacefully and not in favor of only one state. Politicians should understand it clearly that to gain something, it is necessary to refuse something. It is up to these two countries to define this ‘something’. There is no significant difference who will be the president of Russia-Vladimir Putin or any other politician. South Caucasus is an area of Russian interests, which is why negotiation process cannot do without its mediation, if there is really a wish to negotiate.
Nikolay Baranov doctor of political science, deputy chair of international relations of the Saint Petersburg institute of foreign economic relations, economy and law.