Author: Jeyhun NAJAFOV
Existing relations between the West and Russia resemble the Cold War times, when the U.S. and the USSR would use the third countries, insurgent organizations, loyal governments, etc. for fighting with each other instead of waging direct wars. Under the current explosive situation in the Middle East and Ukraine, Baku expects to hold a meeting of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO, Curtis Scaparrotti, and the Russian Chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov. The exact date and agenda of the meeting were not disclosed. It is only clear that Baku was chosen as the meeting point as the most neutral and reliable platform of world politics.
We interviewed a member of the Public Chamber of Russia, political scientist Sergei MARKOV about the expected outcome of the Baku meeting and the general situation in world politics.
Sergey Alexandrovich, considering the existing unfavorable situation around the world, what are the likely topics of discussions between the high-ranked generals in Baku?
Let me remind you that the previous meeting of chiefs of the General Staff of the United States and Russia was also held in Baku. First and utmost, Russia expects that this meeting will reduce tensions with NATO. For example, regarding the situation with transponders on military aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea. This is a very strange situation indeed. NATO complains that Russian military aircraft fly with disengaged transponders and radar responders, which would otherwise allow NATO to determine their location. Moscow proposes the conclusion of an agreement so that all military aircraft fly with transponders engaged, but the West does not agree to this. This is an irresponsible, irrational position demonstrated by NATO.
In Syria, it is necessary that the troops of NATO and Russia have a direct line of communication between the military of both countries. This is to make sure that the military can quickly contact each other in the event of any incidents. Also, NATO has large resources deployed along the Mediterranean, while the Russian Federation has less. It is necessary to establish cooperation between them too, as we have a common task to fight against international terrorism. Furthermore, Moscow has serious doubts about the NATO infrastructure approaching Russia's borders. We would like to discuss these issues. Finally, NATO officers tell their trainees that Russia is an enemy, hence instilling and creating an image of enemy in the NATO army.
Why did they choose the Azerbaijani capital for the meeting?
Firstly, Baku demonstrates itself as a neutral political partner, which maintains good relations with the U.S. and similar friendly relations with Russia. This makes your capital a convenient place for such meetings. In addition, the bright diplomatic talent of President Ilham Aliyev has played an instrumental role in offering Azerbaijan as a mediator between the parties. Finally, Baku has an excellent logistics infrastructure such as many good hotels, excellent international airport, etc.
An interesting situation develops in Syria, where Turkey conducts anti-terrorist operation. Russia withdrew its military from Afrin. But the U.S. military still remains in Manbij, which Ankara also wants to clean from Kurdish militants. Is it possible that two NATO countries smash head-on on the Syrian territory?
There is a good chance to assume this, yes. Odds are both sides had also victims, which were not reported. After all, Kurdish organizations are the closest allies of the U.S. both in Syria and in the whole region. Kurdish organizations have many American instructors, advisers and other military specialists. The U.S. finances, equips and trains Kurdish militants. Given the situation in Afrin and the intensity of Operation Olive Branch, it is difficult to avoid losses among both Turkish and American military. Even if there are any incidents between the Turkish and U.S. military in Syria, Ankara will not leave NATO in the near future, since membership in the alliance is beneficial to Turkey.
In February 2018, the U.S. plans to impose new sanctions on Russia, which are intended to influence Russian military potential in particular. Will the sanctions have implications on Moscow's allies in the CSTO and EAEU?
Sanctions will have negligible affect on Russian military-industrial complex since the U.S. has already imposed all sanctions that could be imposed against the Russian armed forces. Apparently, the sanctions will also affect the Russian allies in the CSTO and EAEU: Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and so on.
The main target of American sanctions is not the military potential of Russia, but the wealthy people running business in Russia, the U.S. and the EU and connected with state authorities. The main objective is to trigger the hatred of oligarchs against Putin and force them to finance the riots in Russia against the current government. Perhaps, they will achieve this objective with regard to some oligarchs. But in general, American sanctions only strengthen Putin's public popularity. For instance, the U.S. has managed to disqualify some Russian athletes preventing their participation in the upcoming Olympic games, but this has increased Putin’s rating among the population.
Recently, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group made creative proposals for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Are there any other solutions to settle this conflict, except those that have been voiced so far?
I think that all other options, except the well-developed Madrid principles and the Kazan formula, are counterproductive. According to the Madrid principles, Armenia should return the territories around Nagorno-Karabakh followed by the demilitarization of the area, opening of communication lines, provision of temporary status for Karabakh, etc. The settlement process should be based on these principles and the formula. Understanding that the Madrid formula cannot be implemented, they propose the same principles in a modified form, as if these are some other, new, creative proposals. In fact, these are the same Madrid principles of the OSCE Minsk Group.
Theoretically, the mediators can offer something new, but it is obvious that the closest path to establish the peace in Karabakh is the principles approved by the parties to the conflict earlier.