Nikita Isaev: "The Karabakh conflict for the United States under all presidents was and remains an element of pressure on Russia"
In September, the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Elmar Mammadyarov and Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, will meet to discuss the Karabakh issue. The previous meeting of the foreign ministers was held on July 11, in Brussels with the mediation of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Igor Popov from Russia, Stephane Visconti from France and Andrew Schofer from the United States). The director of the Institute of Contemporary Economics, Nikita Isayev spoke with Vestnik Kavkaza on whether we should expect changes in the parties' positions after the recent Russian-American and NATO summits.
- Which South Caucasian country - Azerbaijan or Armenia - will benefit from the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the highest level in Brussels and the Helsinki negotiations between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump?
-Both the Brussels summit and the meeting between Putin and Trump, as well as G7 and other high-level meetings, of course, indirectly affect this problematic topic. The South Caucasus can become a significant geopolitical problem and a powder keg. For Russia, Transcaucasia is considered to be a gateway to the Middle East, so the issue of stability there, of course, is important.
The visit of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to Brussels, in my opinion, has become a demonstration of a certain geopolitical choice. Although Pashinyan did not negotiate with Trump, their common photos, I think, should be considered a certain marker of the status of their relations.
I must admit, that different groups are acting against the good Russian-Armenian relations. The so-called opposition Russian media’s representative went to Yerevan, the editor-in-chief of ECHO of Moscow, Alexei Venediktov. Despite the fact that ECHO of Moscow belongs to the structures of Gazprom-Media (I recall that Arthur Dzhanibekyan is the director general of the sub-holding Gazprom-Media Entertainment TV) and does not work directly on the political line, one of Gazprom’s structures plays on the agenda of the rejection of Armenia from Russia. There is a serious task to tear Armenia away from Russia. And this does not concern the strengthening of friendly relations between Russia and Azerbaijan, it is about the Russian-Armenian relations.
In general, all that has been happening in recent years since the onset of the protracted conflict in the Middle East. The stakes are high before the major geopolitical deal that may take place, and the military actions are not ruled out.
The creation of coalitions, exchange of blows, attempt to measure forces fit here. The main players are the United States, China, the European Union. And inside the EU there is the UK, Germany, France, which, incidentally, plays an important role on the issue of Armenia due to the presence of the Armenian Diaspora there.
The NATO summit demonstrated the absence of a common line between the alliance members. Donald Trump actually ripped off the second meeting of a similar format, the first was a recent G7 meeting in Canada. The NATO summit in a certain way demonstrated the lack of unity - it is hardly worth expecting any single military operations through the North Atlantic Alliance. Today, only the Baltic countries, which expect ‘the expansion of Russia’ to their territory, rely on this block.
- Trump continues to support Azerbaijan, taking into account this country's oil reserves, the development of energy projects and the confrontation with Iran. Is the US interested in Armenia?
- I do not think that here the US will make a choice in favor of either side. Indeed, Obama supported Azerbaijan and the interests of the energy sector, but Donald Trump is unlikely to make a clear bet. The Karabakh conflict for the United States under all presidents was and remains an element of pressure on Russia, the preservation of chaos on this territory. The business interests will emerge when Azerbaijan becomes a key transit hub for gas and oil flows in the Caucasus region, a link to Central Asia, which is influenced by China.
- At the summit in Brussels, the Armenian Defense Minister met with the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, while the Azerbaijani Minister of Defense - with the US Secretary of Defense. What does the different level of the meetings mean?
- This is the subtleties of the protocol, it is important to pay attention to them. The subtlety of the protocol is subsequently implemented in or becomes a continuation of the political position. In this case, the level of meetings that occurred almost simultaneously indicates that the relations with Azerbaijan are of a higher priority, at least at this stage.
- What is the chance that the process of Nagorno-Karabakh peaceful settlement will be accelerated, if the relations between Russia and the US are improved?
- This probability is quite high. As soon as the relations between the US and Russia enter into a comfortable stage, the most of the existing frozen, smoldering or real armed conflicts around the perimeter of the Russian Federation or in the post-Soviet space can be resolved. But, in my opinion, it is premature to talk about such agreements. Especially if this takes place, Russia will sacrifice its obligations in other areas, for example, in the Chinese direction, where Russia will be required to provide the substantial deterrent elements in the interests of the collective West.