Russia, Moscow / Тrend corr R. Aghayev / Trend's exclusive interview with the manager of the US World Security Institutes' Russian and Asian programs, political scientist Nikolai Zlobin .
Question: What do you think about Russia-U.S. consultations on anti-missile defence ongoing in Moscow and the prospects for the bilateral negotiations?
Answer: I do not see any prospects for the current negotiations. I think they are held mostly mechanically, as a part of the negotiating process which began long ago but has not yet resulted in any positive outcomes. Holding of the negotiations is a positive step, but on the other hand, these hopeless talks cause some fatigue. None of the sides suggest new ideas, demonstrates political will, increases trust with respect to the other side. Therefore, I believe this round of talks will not bring any good results.
Question: What will the Unites States and Russia do to overcome the anti-missile defence problem?
Answer: It is worth mentioning that anti-missile defence problem is also an internal political problem of the United States. That is one of the points in Bush administration's foreign policy doctrine requiring implementation. What the Unites States will do is mainly contingent on the internal political situation in the country, though the issue has gained a good speed and irrespective of Bush administration the deployment of anti-missile defence system and its elements in East Europe will be continued by Democratic Presidents as well, whoever is elected in November of 2008. At the current stage Americans will still make efforts to construct missile shield elements in the Check Republic and Poland. I think the United States virtually cannot be stopped, for it considers missile shield to be protection of its national interests, and when Americans speak of their national interests any reasonable and unreasonable arguments merely are no longer relevant. Therefore, nothing will change on this point. As for Russia, it will react by taking a range of steps complicating the situation for the United States both in Europe and the entire Eurasian region, mainly in cooperation on non-proliferation of Iran, Iraq and other counties' nuclear weapons. Russia's further reaction will become a headache for the Unites States, so very drastic and determined anti-U.S. actions should be expected from Russia. Russia will try to create as much as possible problems to Americans, thus demonstrating that deterioration of relations with Russia means too much for the Unites States to put the relations under a risk through deploying missile shield elements in the Check Republic and Poland, that Russia could be useful for the United States much more than it conceives, and can make more harm then it can imagine.
Question: What is the role of Azerbaijan in this problem? What will happen to the Gabala radar station? Will Russia insist on joint exploitation of the station or will it make some new proposals?
Answer: It should be kept in mind that that final word in this issue should be said by Azerbaijan. In no way the Unites States or Russia should be allowed to solve the matter. Otherwise, it seems to me Azerbaijan may be removed from the discussions becoming a country manipulated on this issue by two powers. I think it is very important to define priorities and interests in such negotiations. Most of post-Soviet countries, CIS countries, failed to demonstrate their key role in the talks on their security and lost from it. So, it is always very important to emphasize Azerbaijan's national interests and to proceed from the very national interest, regardless whether Americans or Russians offer and what they offer. I believe Americans will accept Russians' offer on to some extent joint exploitation of Gabala radar station for joint tracing missiles. But, on the other hand, that will in no way cancel US's plans on deployment of anti-missile defence elements in East Europe. In such situation Russia will end up losing, for Americans will accept one part of President Putin's proposal, rejecting the other. Given Russia's strategic goals to reject anti-missile defence elements outwards its territory, it can happen so that after 2012 Americans will receive the opportunity to exploit the radar station in Azerbaijan independently. Anyway, the United States has serious apprehension in this connection. Both Pentagon and the US State Department say Azerbaijan is too close to Iran, and that the radar station will not resolve the pile of the problems Americans initially wanted to solve through East Europe, and thirdly, how it will affect South Caucasus' security, whether it will fortify or weaken Azerbaijan in its confrontation with Armenia, how deep Azerbaijan will go in the strategic partnership with the Unites States, and whether that will complicate Azerbaijani-Russian relations. American experts have questions regarding the above-listed problems, but there are no definite answers for them yet. I think the issue is very important for Azerbaijan, because in many respects it will determine geopolitical development of the country in the foreseeable future. Azerbaijan may win a lot in this issue in strategic standpoint, but to lose in tactical aspect, although it can be vice versa. So it is very important to properly define the priorities and national interests. Otherwise, the interest many countries have for Azerbaijan may vanish or Azerbaijan may become a discord point, which is inadmissible. It also cannot be tolerated that Azerbaijan should become a sort of Georgia in Russia-US relations, from which the same Georgia loses most of all. It might be advisable for Azerbaijan to become a concord point rather than a discord point between Russia and the Unites States. So, solution of the problem should be completely up on sovereign Azerbaijan.
Question: How much will the United States penetrate into Azerbaijan after 2012 through renting Gabala radar station, given recognition of 'Armenian genocide' by US Congress and its rather passive position in settling Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict?
Answer: A new round of tensions on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not ruled out. That will happen also due to the fact that the passive negotiations within the framework of OSCE Minks Group give no results and cause great fatigue. I think Americans understand that any intensification of relations with Azerbaijan will shift the power balance in South Caucasus, particularly considering Nagorno-Karabakh. This fact stops many people. On the other hand, in case the US Congress recognizes 'Armenian genocide', the relationships between the United States and Turkey, US's important partner in the region, will be undermined. It is the first time the United States go so far with recognizing this genocide. The issue was put for discussion every year and was rejected due to different reasons - juridical, historical, military, and so on. The issue as it is faces heavy resistance from the US State Department, Pentagon, and Bush's administration. But the Congress more cares for other issues, such as the United States' image. Basically, that is the result of the struggle among lobby organizations - Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Armenian - around Washington and the Congress. Thus, it comes so that at the final stage Armenian efforts gave some good results, though for many years Armenian organizations were not a success on this issue. That is an important issue which may change situation for the United States, particularly in that region, and the country will face definite problems.