CIACR - South Caucasus presents an interview with the president of the Eastern Partnership Institute (Jerusalem), expert on the Caucasus, Israeli political scientist Abraham Shmulevich.
Mr Shmulevich, US National Security Advisor John Bolton made a visit to Russia, then he visited the countries of the South Caucasus - Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. In your opinion, what caused Bolton's visit to Russia, and whether it was possible to agree on anything?
Bolton's visit was not a visit, for which consensus was expected. It can be said that this was an informational visit. The American administration is changing its policy vector. She put Russia in front of the fact. Russia can join this policy on the rights of a junior partner or pass on to a category of opponents of the United States. Then the US will deal with Russia already as an opponent.
After this visit by the Americans, a few sharp steps have already been taken. They left the DRSMD. This is just a mat of Russia. The arms race at one time destroyed the Soviet Union. In Russia, with such an event, there is simply no chance.
The American administration has made a statement that they are ready to even take preventive blows on Russia's territory if missiles are deployed. Declarations were made about the readiness to block the seaports of Russia. Yes, for the first time such harsh statements were made from Russia, we remember the words of Kiselev on Channel One of Russian TV, about Russia turning America into radioactive ashes. It was taken very seriously. And now the US has responded. But already on a different level. One thing, when it says a civilian man. Let it be the main propagandist of the country, as Kiselev. Another thing is when the Pentagon generals say similar things. At the Pentagon level, at the level of the highest political and military leadership.
Now the United States began to supply Ukraine with flying weapons, it was announced during the said visit that the United States is ready to hand over corvettes, warships to the Ukrainian Navy. Ukraine wants to get three corvettes, which will change the situation in the Black Sea. There are very tight steps ...
Bolton's talks were very voluminous. I met with almost everyone I can meet. This includes not only Putin, but also, for example, the secretary of the Patrushev security council. Negotiations with him took place within 5 hours. One of the issues discussed was about Iran. The goal of the US is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and squeeze Iran out of Syria. We know that Iran wants to create a Shiite empire, to unite under its control all the lands inhabited by the Shiites, in particular to go through Iraq to Syria, Lebanon and to the Mediterranean Sea. The United States set the task of preventing this from happening.
The second opponent is China. He claims hegemony. As far as China is concerned, Bolton offered Russia a choice: Russia can join the US struggle against China, as Russia borders on China. There is a claim from China on the territory of Russia. If Moscow does not do this and will continue to serve as the rear base of China, then the US will treat it as an enemy accordingly. The Russian leadership is faced with a choice, and actually the "substantive negotiations" of the proposals are not provided here. Russia can either accept the American proposal or not. That is, Americans are not looking for a compromise. They are ready to discuss only the technical details and the specific conditions for Russia to accept their plan.
What is connected with George Bolton's tour of the South Caucasus right after his visit to Moscow?
Washington intensifies its policy in the South Caucasus. In the United States it was almost never before. Relations, for example, with Armenia in principle were not. There was some relationship with Georgia. Sufficiently formal, I must say. There was also no special relationship with Azerbaijan. What can Americans interest in the South Caucasus?
The South Caucasus is, first of all, important in relation to two factors: China is known to consider the creation of the New Silk Road, a corridor for the transport of Chinese goods to the West, as an important strategic objective. And part of this route passes through Azerbaijan. China not only creates a transport infrastructure, it claims to be hegemony and is keen to control it all rigorously.
Second: Iran. Iran's relationship with Azerbaijan and Armenia is understandable. Armenia is, to a certain extent, the backbone of Iran, because there have been reports that some money is washed off through Armenian banks, and supplies of some goods are being carried out. The economic role of Iran in Armenia is well known. I think that Bolton's visit to the South Caucasus should be considered in this regard. To some extent, this is a reconnaissance visit. The American administration, apparently, is now rebuilding its policy, including in the South Caucasus.
In this sense, Azerbaijan has great prospects. If the Azerbaijani diplomacy shows enough art, then it can get a rather favorable position in this new configuration. On the one hand, it is contacts with Iran. It is common knowledge that Azerbaijan has trade relations with Iran. As an example, we can name the last loan of 500 million for the construction of the road of Rasht-Astara. On the other hand, there are fundamental contradictions that are not advertised. This is the situation of Azerbaijanis in Iran, and this is a dispute over the Caspian Sea area. I think that in principle Azerbaijan should not be delighted with the idea of Tehran to unite under its control all Shiite lands. In principle, there is something to think about. On the other hand, Azerbaijan can offer a lot. Bolton stated that he understood the existing realities. In Yerevan, he said that the United States does not require states to take any steps that can directly break everything that was built up before. That is, it's a policy that builds up for some time. Careful and smart.
Third: relations with Turkey. As you know, relations between the United States and Turkey are experiencing a rather difficult period. At the same time, Americans are not interested in this relationship getting worse. They have tactical contradictions in Syria. The Americans supported the Syrian Kurds because they did not find another force that could actually counter Yigil people.
On the other hand, it is clear that the Syrian Kurds, unlike the Iraqi Kurds, are opponents of Turkey. Here the interests of the United States and Turkey contradict each other. But again Americans are not interested in this relationship getting worse. They are ready to make some compromise. According to other questions from Americans with Turkey there are no contradictions. It seems that the initiative of deteriorating relations comes from the Turkish side. As you know, Azerbaijan has levers of influence on Turkey. That is, not only Turkey influences Azerbaijan but it is known that Azerbaijan invests in Turkey. Here Azerbaijan can offer the role of some mediator between Trump and Erdogan. Use its influence on Turks in an issue that is of interest to Americans. Nothing was said about it, but I do not exclude that some negotiations on this matter were also carried out.
During his visit to Armenia, Bolton did not rule out the supply of American weapons to Yerevan. Nikol Pashinyan also did not rule out this. The Armenian Defense Minister has diplomatically noted that today there is no such demand. How do you think, how realistic is this option in principle?
I think that this is in principle quite possible. Such offers simply do not throw themselves. Bolton said it openly, not during the behind-the-scenes talks. This means that there is a certain desire for the American administration. The United States is interested in breaking the countries of the South Caucasus from Russian dependence and hegemony. Armenia is now completely dependent on Moscow. Before the arrival of N.Pashinyan to power, it was, in essence, a Russian colony. The United States is also interested in breaking the unilateral dependence of Armenia on Russia. In this sense, the supply of arms can become an effective lever ...
How actively will the Americans be involved in the process of settling the Karabakh conflict after the visit of J. Bolton to the South Caucasus? Is it worthwhile to expect active steps from the US administration?
The Karabakh crisis was once provoked by the Soviet leadership in order to keep the South Caucasus within the Soviet Union. After so many decades, Moscow has used the Karabakh issue to hold both Armenia and Azerbaijan under its control. Moscow is not at all interested in this crisis being resolved. Because then they lose powerful leverage of pressure on Yerevan and Baku. If the United States comes to this configuration, then one can suppose that the issue will somehow shift from the dead point. Americans are not interested in this conflict continuing forever. At least from the considerations that, if it is somehow resolved, it will deprive Moscow of powerful leverage of influence.
In addition, both Turkey and Iran, in principle, are also not interested in a full-blown war in the Karabakh area. This is absolutely not necessary for them. There is also a possible Washington compromise with Tehran.
If the United States is seriously involved in South Caucasus affairs, one of Washington's first tasks will be to regulate the Karabakh conflict so that it does not interfere with the further development of relations. Such initiatives have already been. Remember, for example, the plan of Paul Goblet? The Americans have already made such initiatives. It can be assumed that in this direction they will continue to operate. Probably, the plan of P. Gobla will somehow be resuscitated. In any case, if the Americans come to the region, negotiations on the Karabakh issue will be renewed with renewed vigor. If the task of Russian diplomacy is to tighten this conflict, then the US is interested in having it been resolved in one way or another.
In your opinion, what steps should the United States Administration expect from the South Caucasus after Bolton's visit?
The attention of the American administration to the region will be intensified. The visit is proof that this gain has already happened. One can expect the development of those areas that have been said. This is the intensification of military and economic contacts with Armenia, a number of initiatives on Azerbaijan, for example, US assistance to Azerbaijan to improve relations with Europe, restoration of old ones and formation of new trade contacts. The United States has already formulated or even formulated a specific package of its claims to Iran and China. It will not be a question of a complete break of relations, but the United States, apparently, will strive to keep these processes under control ...
CIACR - South Caucasus