Andrei Sushentsov: "Russia's and America's positions on Karabakh are very close"
Yesterday, Baku held international conference "South Caucasus in the international arena: cooperation and competition in the region and around it", organized by the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of Azerbaijan. On the sidelines of this event, Associate professor of the Political Science Faculty of the MGIMO, Andrei Sushentsov, discussed the correlation of international law and realpolitik in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, as well as the future of relations between Russia and the United States, including in the South Caucasus region, in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- During today's conference there was a discussion that realpolitik and international law significantly differ from each other. How can this idea be applied to the Caucasus region, especially to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement?
- This is a great, deep question about one of the most complex international crises of our time. On the one hand, we all inherit those problems that were created as a result of unregulated collapse of the Soviet Union, which had no fundamental preparation - neither an agreement on borders, nor an agreement on exchange of population. Basically, as soon as all these countries decided that they will be independent it happened in an instant. And while Soviet Union continued to de facto exist in some places, the war immediately began in others, because the idea "now or never" appeared: to resolve all issues using force. I'm not talking about just Azerbaijan, but also Moldova, Georgia, Tajikistan, and Russia itself. There were several conflicts at once - and if there was realpolitik at that time, it was realpolitik of local projects, when individual countries and individual nations tried to implement their "big project".
A certain status quo emerged as a result of these conflicts, regardless of whether and to what extent these countries achieved their goals. Only one country resolved the conflict - it was Tajikistan. Diplomatic and political settlement process brought results only in Tajikistan. All settlement institutions have already been established in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement: the OSCE Minsk Group, active independent mediation of Russia and so on. International legal settlement is seen as the most preferable and most economical option. It would be a huge mistake to abandon all existing political and diplomatic baggage, available for Nagorno-Karabakh. There is a consensus of all external actors - Russia, France and the United States - which, in my opinion, is unprecedented. The most difficult thing that is yet to be achieved is agreement between leaders of the two states.
- How do you view the future of relations between Russia and the United States? How difficult is it for countries to overcome contradictions between them?
- I think it's very difficult for us to overcome contradictions, regardless of who is the American president. America's strategy is primarily the strategy of a naval state, which relies on control of marine space and a network of allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The United States are not that interested in building inclusive security systems that would include not only allies but also opponents. The United States are an island that can easily avoid a flood of instability even from the territories of neighboring countries. I'n not even mentioning those countries where the US conducr an active foreign policy: the Middle East and Africa. Russia is a continental power, bordering large number of other countries, and has the longest land border. Our country depends on what is happening in bordering countries to a much greater degree than the United States, and therefore it's more oriented towards the creation of security systems that don't allow escalation of those conflicts that can't be resolved. That's why Russia and the United States have certain fundamental contradiction in the logic of life, as well as in the competition of interests on certain issues. These contradictions will create objective difficulties for any American president and any Russian leader.
- Are there any points of contact that could help us reduce these these contradictions to minimum?
- Of course, local deals are possible. Russia's and America's positions on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement are very close. For example, former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza said today that even during five-day war of 2008, Russia and the United States remained on the same side on this issues. The same can be said about the Iranian nuclear deal. We even agree on many aspects of the North Korean problem. Of course, sometimes Moscow and Washington disagree on aspects of the fight against terrorism, even though this threat is common. There are certain nuances, since the United States are very selective in defining organizations as terrorist organizations, and they often support a number of these organizations if they fight regimes of their rivals, in Syria, for example. In this sense, it seems to me that our differences are more or less objective and won't disappear anywhere.
- Is modern anti-Russian campaign in the US more really directed against Russia or against Donald Trump?
- First of all, I think it's an internal political issue of the United States. It has only indirect relation to Russia, because there are no close or deep relations between our countries in any areas, except for military, between our countries, which would make our contacts necessary. There's nothing that unites us and connects us exept strategic stability. That's what makes Russia a convenient target in US domestic policy, and the US is a convenient target in Russia's domestic policy: in these circumstances, it's really easy to criticize each other.
What is currently happening in the United States around Trump is a well-planned, negative campaign of his opponents aimed to paralize current administration and stop it energetic steps. Trump himself didn't expect his victory, he doesn't have specific program, he looks at many things with an experimental approach. This causes a friction among American establishment, and they are trying to prevent it.