Нагорный Карабах в тени российского влияния
Last year I met with a Russian official at an international conference in Moscow. During our long and contentious discussion on the problem of settling the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, he argued that any attempt by Armenian leadership to try to change the status quo in a positive sense will result in events similar to those that took place in 1997 when former President Levon Ter-Petrosian was forced to resign, or in 1999, when several top local officials were shot dead by terrorists in the national parliament. I was not surprised to hear such a strongly held opinion from my Russian colleague, just as I was not surprised to learn of a new failure of the opposing parties to reach a breakthrough in the peace talks recently held in Kazan.
In reality, the factor of external powers has always held a special place in the conflict settlement process. Many agree that there are outside strategic concerns behind the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis. Clearly, an influential group of principal powers (in which Russia, the US and the European Union dominate) plays a key role in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) when it comes to the issue of conflict resolution. In recent years Russia has taken a proactive stance in the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process, thus trying to convince the West that the Kremlin has quite a big potential to impose a diplomatic solution on the parties, or at least to be a credible mediator.
Indeed Moscow has succeeded in strengthening ties with both Yerevan and Baku, with the West progressively losing ground to increasing Russian economic, military and political advancement in the region, as reflected in Russia's military agreement with Armenia and growing energy ties with Azerbaijan. Moscow is trying to create a new balance of relations in the Armenia-Russia-Azerbaijan triangle, and all the latest diplomatic steps by the Kremlin have been aimed at maintaining a geopolitical equilibrium in the conflict-torn region. By doing so, Russia has enhanced its position in the South Caucasus.
Russia's successful foreign policy in the region also results from the failure of other international players, or at least the systemized weakening of their stances. The Obama administration's shortsighted policy has seriously weakened US strategic objectives in the South Caucasus. Washington's failure to craft any coherent vision as to how the region fits into broader US strategy has allowed America's role to be increasingly defined through the prism of Russia. The lack of a meaningful US response to the challenge presented by the protracted conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh not only highlights the low level of US engagement in this troubled region but also renders questionable America's ability to be an effective player in the OSCE Minsk Group. Likewise, the EU lacks a visionary and principled approach in its policy toward resolving the conflict. Brussels has practically no role in the conflict settlement and therefore does not have the necessary tools to intervene in the peace process, offering only confidence-building activities. Such a situation strongly limits the influence of the EU in the region and dramatically hinders Brussels' capacity to formulate meaningful policy to deal with simmering secessionist conflicts. The resulting lack of a common and integrated strategy may lead in the near future to a withdrawal of the West from the South Caucasus and the loss of ground to Russia's more assertive foreign policy.
Therefore, Russia is seen as essentially having a monopoly over the peacemaking process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a role which the OSCE has effectively forsaken. By orchestrating the negotiations, the Kremlin seeks to enhance Russia's “sphere of influence” and to cause Euro-Atlantic security arrangements in the region to disintegrate. The failure of the OSCE not only shows the EU to be effectively lacking the ability to speak in the face of the South Caucasus crisis, but also demonstrates their inability to build international support around interests in competition with Russian ones.
Meanwhile, Moscow's mediating mission has given rise to intensive speculation as to whether Russia is presently interested in a definitive solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. More precisely, the question that needs to be answered is: Does Russia want a quick resolution of the conflict? It is very unlikely that Russian-led peace talks will effectively solve the crisis in the near future. Instead it is likely that Moscow will exploit the peace process to gain more economic, military and political power. In order bring about a progressive shift of the region into its own orbit of influence, Russia needs only to keep things as they are in the South Caucasus. Given these circumstances, Russia is simply interested in maintaining the “managed instability” in the region.
Nevertheless, Russia's role in finding an ultimate solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis is very critical. Without doubt, the Kremlin holds the key to the Armenian-Azerbaijani quandary. Russia does have a golden opportunity for ending this protracted territorial conflict and helping reconcile the two nations. However, Moscow seems to be waiting for a time when a new, beneficial political situation that fits well into Russian strategic interests is realized in the post-Soviet Southern Tier. Until this happens, the game goes on and the end is still ahead. The Western democracies are surely not powerless to bring about a change in Russian behavior in Europe's backyard. The US and the EU must understand that stand to lose all influence in this strategically important area. Moreover, the Western players will risk losing a major geopolitical game if they continue to pursue a “Russia first” policy and watch calmly how Russian economic, military and political influence extends in the aftermath of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
Источник: Today's Zaman. 12 июля 2011г.http://www.todayszaman.com/news-250246-opinion-nagorno-karabakh-in-the-shadow-of-russian-influence.html