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Sep 16, 2022
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The West is knocking Russia out of the Caucasus

In the photo: the military on one of the streets of Armenia.

In the photo: the military on one of the streets of Armenia. (Photo: Alexander Patrin/TASS)

The European Union does not even hide the fact that they have set themselves the goal of ousting Russia from the Transcaucasus. This was stated in an interview with RIA Novosti by the director of the 4th department of the CIS countries of the Russian Foreign Ministry Denis Gonchar.

He drew attention to the fact that Brussels’ attempts to intervene in Moscow’s trilateral work with Baku and Yerevan are taking place against the background of the sanctions campaign unleashed by the West against Russia and the termination of joint work through the OSCE Minsk Group.

“These are zero-sum geopolitical games that we don’t play. We are engaged in practical work every day, which is based on direct contacts between our leaders and foreign ministers, the historical proximity of our countries, mutual intertwining of interests and is focused on building a more secure and prosperous future in our common region,” the representative of the Foreign Ministry said.

Gonchar also stressed that Moscow is in close contact with Baku and Yerevan and is taking all measures to stabilize the situation as soon as possible.

Recall that on the night of September 13, hostilities broke out on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, the parties accused each other of shelling the border villages. By morning, Baku and Yerevan agreed on a ceasefire, but the truce did not last long. The region is currently quiet.

Naturally, all the leaders of the West, including the European Union, sharply condemned the escalation and called for negotiations. But what exactly is the EU intervention? The fact that four rounds of talks between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan have already taken place recently through the mediation of the President of the European Council Charles Michel. And all?

As you can see, the participation of the EU did not help the settlement much…

– Similar topics periodically appear in the press of the United States and EU countries. For example, at the end of 2021, forecasts periodically appeared in the American and European press that EU mediation would “put aside the Russian president” in the negotiation process between Baku and Yerevan,” says Leading Analyst of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications Mikhail Neizhmakov.

– Of course, publications in the media are one thing, but the real strategy of the leadership of states and international organizations is a little different. It is clear that the EU representatives would like to increase their influence in the South Caucasus and it is unlikely that Russia’s ability to influence the situation in the region pleases them. There are indeed examples of mediation efforts and readiness to use financial instruments to strengthen its influence in the region on the part of Brussels. Another thing is that the willingness of the EU to spend efforts and resources on solving this problem also has certain limits.

“SP”: What are these attempts?

– One can note the mediation efforts of the EU in the framework of the dialogue between Baku and Yerevan. In particular, the December Ilham Aliyev as well as Nikol Pashinyan in Brussels, among the events of recent months, one can note similar negotiations mediated by the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, in May and August 2022.

We can also note the EU initiatives in the framework of supporting infrastructure and investment projects in the South Caucasus (primarily under the auspices of the Eastern Partnership). Say, back in July 2021, the European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Oliver Varhelywhile on a visit to Yerevan, he noted that in the next 5 years, the EU intends to allocate 2.6 billion euros for the implementation of various programs for Armenia. In February 2022, it was reported that about 2 billion euros would be allocated to Azerbaijan from the European Union as part of an investment plan for the economy.

“SP”: – Speech specifically about the EU? Or USA? What is the role of the EU and which countries?

– It is the structures of the EU as a whole that are active in this direction. Of the EU member states, attention to the region is traditionally noticeable, for example, from France. The United States, of course, is also working with the South Caucasus, but in a slightly different way – there are quite a few examples: from visits of high-ranking figures from the United States to the region to work with NGOs.

Among other things, the EU is clearly determined to expand its mediating role in the dialogue between Baku and Yerevan, a greater role for its business in the implementation of major projects in the region.

“SP”: How successful can these attempts be?

– Although Moscow’s attention is now, to a large extent, diverted to the situation around Ukraine, the EU still does not have a number of tools to influence the situation in the negotiation process between Baku and Yerevan, which Russia has. The representatives of Azerbaijan and Armenia publicly repeatedly reaffirmed their “commitment to the comprehensive implementation” of the agreements of November 9, 2020, as well as January 11 and November 26, 2021, concluded with the mediation of Moscow.

The factor of the presence of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh also remains. As part of plans to unblock communications between Azerbaijan and Armenia, let’s not forget, for example, the content of paragraph 9 of the tripartite statement signed in November 2020, which stated that as part of the establishment of communication between the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic and the rest of Azerbaijan through the territory of Armenia, “control transport communication is carried out by the bodies of the Border Guard Service of the FSB of Russia.

Of course, public statements and official documents do not automatically mean the implementation of such plans. Much will depend, including how Russia will cope with the challenges associated with the military special operation in Ukraine. Nevertheless, Moscow’s foreign policy opportunities should not be underestimated even in the face of new challenges.

Let’s not forget that Russia played an active role in the post-Soviet space (including the South Caucasus), including in the 1990s, when the situation in its economy and armed forces was associated with serious problems.

– The goal of the EU is precisely to oust Russia from the region, – no doubt Associate Professor of the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation Gevorg Mirzayan.

– To minimize its influence in the region. So that local countries do not count on Russia as a reliable military-political, and in the future, economic partner, so that they focus on other centers of power, primarily Western ones.

“SP”: If? Or USA? What is the EU’s role here? What exactly are they doing?

– This is done by European countries, and America, and Turkey. If we take specifically the South Caucasus, then Turkey, Great Britain and France are the most active here. Paris, for example, is making active efforts to court Armenia, even convening the UN Security Council for the sake of Yerevan. And, of course, one gets the impression that France thinks about Armenia more than Russia.

There are different types of attempts. Here are the beliefs of the locals that the West is the best guarantor of security. And participation in various kinds of negotiation processes. And work with civil society, which Russia does not do. And work through the elite, as you know, Pashinyan has very close ties with Western countries. So we have a whole strategy.

“SP”: Can the current aggravation be considered inspired from outside?

– There is such a version. To be more specific, the cause of the current escalation is, of course, the unresolved conflict. Different interpretation by the parties of the agreement, which was concluded in 2020 after the Second Karabakh War. However, the fact that this aggravation occurred after the failure of Russia at Balakleya shows that there was also external interest here. Turkey, and possible other countries, thus want to fix in the minds of the inhabitants of the South Caucasus the idea that Russia is weak and cannot do anything.

“SP”: Much has been said lately about a “second front” against Russia. Is it possible to open it in Transcaucasia?

– It all depends on what you mean by “against Russia.” No one will attack us from the South Caucasus. Ukraine and the West tried to convince Georgia to do this, but the Georgians refused. However, if the front means the situation on the periphery of Russia, which Moscow should pay attention to, which should be resolved, then yes, there have been and will be such attempts.

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