Chatham House has no connection to British Government - Sir Andrew Wood

Sat 04 July 2015 06:21 GMT | 11:21 Local Time

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News.Az interviews Sir Andrew Wood, British political scientist (Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs), former British Ambassador to Russia (1995 – 2000).

The Western community has been strengthening sanctions against of Russia. Are you sure that sanctions are the best way to force Russia to change its policy towards Ukraine? What other means can be used to impose such changes?

Sanctions could never have been expected to deal swiftly with Russia's seizure of Crimea and its repeated violations of eastern Ukraine, carried out and continued not only despite international laws but also of specific agreements signed by Russia with regard to the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. It is arguable that Western countries should have acted more toughly when faced with earlier Russian adventures, against Georgia in 2008 for instance. For the EU and other Western countries to have done nothing, including after the way that Yanukovich tried to suppress Ukrainians protesting at his misrule in Maidan, and then fled the country, would have sent a message that they were content to live in a world where might was taken as right, not one where international agreements were to be respected. Sanctions are meant over time to encourage a process whereby Russia can return to a situation in which it acknowledges the rules which have governed our common European home since the breakup of the Soviet Union, and recognises that its true interests lie in living with a stable and prospering Ukraine rather than forcing its will on a country that overwhelmingly rejects its hegemony.

There is an opinion that Ukraine is the single place at post-soviet space where the West attempts to openly resist the Russian policy towards its neighbor. What do you think about that? Don’t you think that the EU’s policy regarding other regions in the former USSR, suffering from the similar conflicts, is not quite active and decisive?  

We have as I said at the beginning to make the best of our past judgements, and no one would be so foolish as to claim that any of us has got everything right all the time. Earlier hopes that Russia would develop into a reliable strategic partner have been disappointed, though I would still hope and argue that Russia's destiny over time will be to recognise its interest in building on the advantages of integrating itself into the wider European cultural, economic and political world, not in pursuing the chimerical ambition of achieving some sort of Eurasian hegemony for itself. While therefore we must resist what Russia seems to want to achieve in Ukraine - which by the way it has never clearly set out, while pretending to deny its obvious intervention in that country - we cannot now try in present circumstances to go beyond the way that we are addressing other issues that we can all wish might have been better tackled in the past. The theoretical best can be the enemy of what is in practice available.

A few questions about Russian policy towards its neighborhood in the South. The Russian officials say that there is no any political base and anti-Russian sentiments in mass protests in Armenia, and the protests are purely economic. Do you believe that? Can protests in Armenia weaken Russia's position in this country and in the region?

It would be wrong of me to pretend to particular knowledge of that country, but it is surely the case that the protests there cannot be or remain exclusively economic. The Armenian government has as I understand it already taken political account of them. It would also be going beyond my expertise to comment on the way that Russia seeks to balance its policies and interests as between Armenia and Azerbaijan. That cannot be easy.

British Ambassador to Azerbaijan Irfan Siddiq was summoned to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on July 1. Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov expressed the protest of the Azerbaijani government over the possible visit of Bako Sahakyan, introducing him as the head of the separatist regime created in the occupied Azerbaijani territories, and the invitation sent to him to participate in an event to be held at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, on July 8, 2015. How would you comment on Azerbaijan's position that such contacts with the separatist leader may harm relations between Baku and London?

Your question as to the possible visit of Bako Sahakyan to London is an illustration, in its way, of the dilemmas faced by outside powers because of the outstanding problems arising out of the Nagorno Karabakh problem. I would however point out, as I am sure the British Ambassador did when he met with the Deputy Foreign Minister, that Chatham House is an independent organisation with no connection to the British Government, and that what it may do or whom it may invite has no implications for the British Government's policies in this matter.




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