Andrei Kortunov: "Trump may try to create Arab NATO"
This week is exactly one year from the day the US president Donald Trump took office. The Director General of the Russian Council on International Affairs, Andrei Kortunov, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the results of the past year for the United States, Russia, the Caucasus and the Middle East, as well as the year's foreign policy results for the Russian Federation.
- Andrey Vadimovich, in your estimation, has the US become interested in the South Caucasus after the year of Trump's work, or is it still out of the spotlight, as in the days of the election campaign?
- I think that after this year the South Caucasus will be considered in the broader context of the US major foreign policy tasks. We are waiting when the policy of the new US president administration on the Middle East region will be determined, since there are still so many questions about Washington's aims in the Middle Eastern countries. The US-Georgia and the US-Azerbaijan relations will largely depend on this, and Armenia also plays its role here. The US-Azerbaijan contacts will definitely be affected by the development of very complicated relations between Washington and Tehran, the US might start considering Baku as their ally in its confrontation with Iran. But Trump has no final strategy on the Middle East,as well as the South Caucasus.
- If the US-Iran confrontation results in a breakdown of the "nuclear deal", how will this affect the situation in the region?
- This will lead to further polarization of the region both on the Iran-Saudi Arabia line and the Shiite-Sunni line. Even a new "cold war" in the region is possible: Trump may try to create an "Arab NATO" to confront Iran. I think he will not succeed, but such a task can be set. Of course, the breakdown of the deal will also hinder the progress in the Arab-Israeli settlement. In Tehran, in turn, conservative forces will strengthen, which will push the republic's leadership to confrontation. That is, it will be a negative event in any case, and it is better to avoid it.
- How likely is the breakdown of the "nuclear deal" now?
- For now, one can only talk about the tendency of reviewing the deal by Americans. Experts, including the State Department and the White House, who understand threats and challenges, are trying to slow down this tendency, but it is strengthened by the influence of radicals, including in the Pentagon and a narrow Trump team that demonize Iran and are very serious about confrontation. There is a struggle in the US now. The first indicator of this struggle's result will be the preservation or non-preservation of the deal between Iran and the P5+1. If the format is destroyed, a chain reaction, leading to very serious negative consequences, may be triggered.
- What are the other challenges for Russia that came from last year, in addition to the American ones?
- I think that we have one fundamental problem - Russian-Ukrainian relations without any progress, including in the east of Ukraine, without a stable truce, without fulfilling at least part of the Minsk agreements. Without this, it will be very difficult for us to continue not just build relations with Kiev, but also contacts with Europe.
In addition, there are a number of other issues, in particular, the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union, as the process is difficult. There are some results, and I would like that this year these results be strengthened.
In addition, there are a number of conflict situations. This also applies to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian relations, as well as Donetsk, Lugansk and Transnistria, especially since the political process in Moldova is not easy. It is very important to minimize the current risks and, if possible, maximize positive opportunities.
It also is very important to move forward in integration of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt, as well as in creating free trade zones. There are many interesting proposals from our partners, and it is necessary to take steps to reduce the level of the Russian-European confrontation in the neighborhood, so that we would act not as competitors with EU, but as partners in our relations with the post-Soviet states, whether it is Belarus, Moldova, Armenia or others.