Alexander Rahr: "Only a common global threat will reconcile the West and Russia"
The fragile truce in Syria, the main positive result of the interaction between Russia and the United States this year, was destroyed after the "accidental" bombing of Syrian military units by the US Air Force. Though the parties still confirm the preservation of the agreements on the joint resolution of the Syrian crisis, the very possibility of fully-fledged cooperation with the West has again been called into question. The political scientist Alexander Rahr spoke in an interview to Vestnik Kavkaza about what can truly unite Western and Russian interests in the world and the Caucasus.
- In your estimation, what can establish peace between Russia and the West?
- I think that Russia and the West will come together only when the continent will face common dangerous challenges, when a powerful threat to the foundations of our countries will grow from the separate terrorist attacks that we see today in France and Germany. This is not visible today, but it is possible that everything will happen like that. Then, of course, there will be a need for a coalition against terrorism, and we will work together. If we look deeper into other issues, there is no alternative to cooperation. Now the political climate in the world is changing, deep crises are developing on the continents of Africa and Asia, which we can defeat only together. If there is a confrontation now, as there was during the Cold War between the West and Russia, neither side will win, but the extremists will win again.
- Talking about the influence of extremists in the relations between Russia and the West, what was the role once played by the conflict in Chechnya in the emergence of Russian-Western opposition?
- It seems to me that the First Chechen War was an echo of the collapse of the Soviet Union – but it destroyed the already emerged relations between Europe and Russia. Russia was shocked by how this conflict was perceived by the West, when it was politely told to give independence to Chechnya, to release it, why do you hold on to the empire? The Second Chechen War was marked by a very serious confrontation; I believe it was kind of a reaction to the Yugoslav War, when the West started to bomb Serbia and impose its own order in the former Yugoslavia. The Chechen War showed that Russia would defend its territory: we were dealing with direct aggression, a gang, terrorists, Arab foreign players’ attacks were carried out on the territory of the Russian Federation, Dagestan and outside of Dagestan up to Stavropol Territory. Of course, Moscow then began defensive military operations. The West considered them to be aggression, and the issue of double standards was put on the agenda, it was clear that there were two truths: one was about the West’s actions and the other about Russia's. Then Russia began to suspect the West of attempting to weaken the country, due to a fear of the recovery of the Russian Empire.
- How justified were these suspicions?
- Indeed, these ideas were formulated and really existed in the West. I think a wrong vision of the extremist dangers, the threats of international terrorism that the West confronts today, led to the fact that we moved away from each other in those days and were unable to find common approaches in the fight against terrorism within the framework of the anti-terrorist coalition. At the same time, I recall that a similar coalition was proposed to President George W.Bush by Vladimir Putin immediately after the events of September 11th.
- Do the interests of Russia and the West clash in the South Caucasus ?
- The European Union has no special interests in the South Caucasus, the United States had them. America was trying to take control of the region by all means for the sake of power, so that the oil and gas flows from Azerbaijan could reach Europe, bypassing Russia via Turkey. I feel that today America is not involved in this game, as it plans to focus on its own supply of shale gas to Europe. Now the West has the same goal in the South Caucasus as it had in Ukraine and Belarus – to prevent the restoration of the Russian Empire. At the same time, it should be remembered that, when Armenia declared that the country was joining the Eurasian Union and would not sign the association with the EU, Europe had neither the strength nor the political clout to persuade Yerevan to act as Ukraine was acting. I think the Europeans do not want a new war in Nagorno-Karabakh and do not want a resumption of the Georgian-Russian conflict, but I do not feel such direct interests in the Caucasus as there were before. The EU doesn't have enough strength to play first fiddle in all the flash points.