Leonid Gusev: "Nagorno-Karabakh conflict profitable neither for Azerbaijan nor for Armenia"
A year after the meeting of the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia in St. Petersburg, the tension in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is gradually growing: the ceasefire regime is violated more than 100 times every day, there are increasing calls from the occupiers of the Azerbaijani territories to launch an offensive against the backdrop of Serzh Sargsyan's statement about the lack of alternative to the recognition of the independence of the Karabakh separatists. The latest report of the International Crisis Group shows that the conflict is closer than ever to the transition to full-scale war. Vestnik Kavkaza talked with Russian political scientists and orientalists about what awaits the South Caucasus in the near future, and a senior researcher of the Analytical Center IMI of the Russian MGIMO, Leonid Gusev, is our first interlocutor.
- The expert community of both sides to the conflict, people in Russia and the West started to talk and write about the approaching new war for Karabakh more often. In your estimation, is the resumption of large-scale hostilities really inevitable and can they be prevented?
- I would say that the resumption of hostilities can still be avoided. For 24 years the conflict was more or less kept from returning to a state of full-scale war, and last April's aggravation was quickly stopped. Undoubtedly, it will not be possible to solve the problem by military actions, and any hostilities will only lead to the death of people, the deterioration of the situation and the destruction of the economic agenda in the region. We need agreements between the parties to the conflict, for this purpose they can attract some mediators, since it is impossible to solve the issue 100% by force alone, it can only be achieved through negotiations and compromises.
It is difficult to say whether it can be done now, or the settlement of the conflict will be pushed into the future. People who took part in hostilities are very distrustful of the opposite side. I think many things should settle down, there must be a kind of calm in the views, so that they can really solve this problem. Let me remind you that the problem of Cyprus has existed approximately since 1974, when the Turkish part was de facto separated from the Greek one, and now there are politicians in the Turkish part ready to unite with the Greek part, on their own terms, of course. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is almost 20 years less than it, so we can expect that its settlement will happen in the future, but now it is necessary to do everything to prevent military actions, because it will be terrible for both peoples. I do not want people to die in the Caucasus, I want a peaceful, normal situation to be there.
- After the St. Petersburg meeting the topic of finding a compromise between the parties to the conflict was very popular, but to date it has come to naught. In your opinion, after what event did they stop talking about the search for compromise?
- I think it happened gradually. Everywhere there are people of radical views who do not want a peaceful solution, and because of them the discussion and maybe a peaceful resolution of the conflict has gradually left the agenda. But the peace process must be renewed, although the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is very difficult. It is necessary to find a peaceful solution somehow, because this terrible confrontation is beneficial neither for Azerbaijan, nor for Armenia, nor for the peoples living there, nor their neighbors. The Caucasus region is adjacent to the Middle East, where the situation is very tense now, fighting and civil war have been going on in Iraq and Syria, and terrorist organizations have operated for many years. In this regard, I would not like such a serious hotbed of tension, like the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, to remain in the Caucasus. This region is very important in geopolitical and economic terms, and unresolved problems seriously affect its present and future.
- What can theoretically provoke large-scale battles and how will the parties conduct themselves in the course of new hostilities?
- Any careless action would be enough, any shot that gets into something important and destroys it, so the other side returns fire. Especially it is worth considering that there are many different formations in such wars. On the front line, there are regular armies, with a clear command, which are top-bottomed with discipline and follow orders - but there are people who do not obey orders, as well as obvious provocateurs who can start shooting. To the greatest regret, any such provocation may led to a full-scale armed clash.
- What reaction to the war can be expected from Russia, other neighbors of the parties to the conflict and the West?
- For Russia, the resumption of battles between Azerbaijan and Armenia will be the worst development, because everyone in the Caucasus is our ally. Armenia is part of the CSTO and the EEU, our relations with Azerbaijan are very close and friendly in many areas, not only in the oil and gas, but also in the interbank, Caspian and other economic issues. A new war for Karabakh would be very bad for us. For other neighbors in the region, it is also an undesirable event - for both Turkey and Iran, especially since the latter has good relations with both Azerbaijan and Armenia. Again, I recall the war in Iraq and Syria - Turkey borders with both countries, Iran - with Iraq. Another aggravation on the borders is completely undesirable for them.
The European Union actively cooperates with the Caucasian states on economic, humanitarian and social programs, and a surge of violence in the Caucasus is not something positive for is as well. The US always said that they would like to reconcile Azerbaijan and Armenia, in connection with the possible aggravation of the situation and a new war. For China, which is actively promoting the project of the Great Silk Road, it would be also very bad, because one of the routes goes through the Caspian, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. I do not think that a possible resumption of a full-scale war would be beneficial to someone, because new shocks can lead to very strong negative consequences for regional geopolitics.
- How long may the current state of "no war, no peace" last in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
- It can last a long time, even for decades. Of course, it is not the best version of the development of events, but it is still better than a real war, which is possible, even if the agreements on the cessation of hostilities are badly fulfilled. Judging by other conflicts of a similar kind, the conflict can last a long time, since both sides have accumulated too many grievances, which are very difficult to unravel and resolve. Unfortunately, that's true.