Andrey Sidorov: "The South Caucasus is not a priority topic for the Trump administration"
The US Senate approved a bill to extend sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act will be sent for President Donald Trump’s signature. The White House says that it supports strict restrictions on Moscow, Tehran and Pyongyang. The head of the Department of International Organizations and World Political Processes of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, Andrey Sidorov, spoke with Vestnik Kavkaza about the sanctions and new geopolitical realities.
- How can the sanctions affect the world politics?
-The United States sees itself as a leader. They have invested heavily, including in Europe's security, and want to receive dividends from these investments. Europe gave largely an important sphere of ensuring its security in the hands of a transatlantic power. The entire European defensive community was built on this. In 2010, when the Western European Defense Union was dissolved, all the functions were transferred to NATO, where the US is a leading power. Just a few months ago, before Trump took the office, there had been a close cooperation in the humanitarian sphere, the members had been talking about common values, Obama had been recognized as a pro-European leader. But now, when Trump builds the relationship between the US and Europe in a different way, the Europeans have found themselves in a difficult situation. [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel said a month ago that Europe should seek its own ways. But will they seek their own ways, if the American establishment succeeds in holding Trump's impeachment? If he vetoes the bill, the process of impeachment may be launched. Trump could leave, then the politics will return to its former track - Trump will be replaced by [current vice president] Mike Pence, who is much closer to the establishment that supported Obama.
- The sanctions are also directed against Iran ...
- The relations between the US and Iran have been historically worsening since the late 1970s, after the Iranian revolution. The Obama administration did a lot to improve the relations. The agreement on the Iranian nuclear program should have had a positive impact on the relations between the two countries. But the current president came convicted that it was a bad deal, and the measures that his predecessor took to improve the relations with Tehran lead to the strengthening of Iran and growing influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria. The current US administration sees Iran pursuing a policy that does not meet the interests of the United States. Therefore, the draft bill on sanctions is directed mainly against Iran.
- And what about the sanctions against North Korea?
- North Korea is a traditional enemy of the United States. It joined the axis of evil in 2002. According to the US, Kim Jong-un threatens the US security. A recent launch of a medium-range missile, which Americans consider to be ballistic, became an evidence of this. This poses threat directly to the US territory, at least to Alaska. But a military solution to this problem is hardly possible, because North Korea is in China's sphere of responsibility. And Americans do not want to worsen seriously the relations with the PRC.
- How do you assess the role of Russia, Iran and Turkey in the settlement of the Syrian crisis?
- Russia pursues a policy that in this case meets its interests in Syria. The Russian Aerospace Forces are fighting terrorism in Syria. Otherwise, we would have to do this at our own borders or even on our territory. Any power fighting against this evil makes positive contribution. If the US were fully involved in this struggle, they would not use various organizations, calling them anti-Assad coalitions. if they continued to pursue a policy of a clear fight against ISIS (banned in Russia), this would play a stabilizing role.
Iran also pursues its interests, trying to get out of isolation and strengthen its influence in Syria. This is normal.
Turkey is trying to become a regional power. [President of the country Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has made a serious request, wishing to turn his country into the main power in the Middle East. These ambitions sometimes lead Turkey in the wrong direction. We all remember the downed Russian plane at the end of 2015, and a sharp deterioration in the relationship that followed. We can not exclude that similar incidents can happen again. Now Turkey is going to buy our S-400 Triumph. Americans are against this, saying that the standardization of NATO, and Turkey is a member of the organization, is an important component of the union relations. Nevertheless, impulsiveness in the Turkish politics can have rather complex consequences.
- In your opinion, has the US succeeded in forming a policy for the South Caucasus?
- The policy is formulated by the administration. The United States almost did not react to the five-day war in August 2008 - no sanctions were imposed, although the situation was similar to what is happening in Ukraine. But then there was another context - the context of the global economic crisis, when the US administration had to deal with the internal affairs. Moreover, it was necessary to rely on the external forces to overcome the crisis - hence the emergence of the G20. The Caucasus was not a priority for the Obama administration, and it is not an option at all for the Trump administration. I never saw them seriously considering the regional problems. There are people in the State Department who deal constantly with the Karabakh conflict, but the State Department is now disoriented, since many positions there are vacant. They have not been able to form the managerial staff for six months, many experts have quit their jobs. Therefore, the South Caucasus is not a priority topic for the Trump administration.