U.S. and Russia can make efforts to improve their relations: US political expert Zbigniew Brzezinski (INTERVIEW)

Azerbaijan, Baku, March 6 / corr Trend E.Ostapnko / Trend European Desk interview with former national security adviser to US President Jimmy Carter, professor of Jones Hopkins University Zbigniew Brzezinski:

Trend : Could Russia and the U.S. cooperate in deploying the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe? What could this cooperation be based on?

Zbigniew Brzezinski: The U.S. stated from the very beginning that it is willing to consider cooperation with Russia - even in regards to the missile defense shield that was proposed for deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic. If alternative arrangements are feasible, then the U.S. has been clear that is prepared to consider them. Last, but not least, there is also the issue of whether it is possible to eliminate the potential threats targeted by the missile defense shield via negotiations. That is to say, there is an agreement between the so-called "G6," including the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran. Their need for a defense shield may be dramatically reduced.

Q: What role can the U.S. and Russia play in resolving so-called frozen conflicts in the South Caucasus? Which country do you believe has a better chance of succeeding considering Moscow's direct involvement in the conflict in Georgia?

A: Moscow is directly involved in the conflict in Georgia, but that does not necessarily give it the capacity to resolve so-called frozen conflicts. Moscow could contribute to resolving these conflicts through diplomatic initiatives and by emphasizing established international principles regarding territorial integrity and national sovereignty. The U.S. can also be helpful, but I do not believe that the U.S. or Russia can resolve these problems on their own. Ultimately, beyond such superpowers as the U.S. and Russia, the countries directly involved in the conflicts have the capacity to either move towards a compromise or insist on the status quo for one reason or another. So one should not overestimate the degree to which a constructive resolution of the so-called frozen conflicts depends on the U.S. or Russia.

Q: You mean regional countries should resolve these conflicts themselves?

A: Not entirely themselves. They can be helped by others, but their attitude and willingness to reach a compromise is ultimately a very important element in this very complicated process.

Q: European countries now import gas mainly from Russia. What role does the Caspian region play in European energy security in this respect? Could the Nabucco energy project raise competitiveness in the gas market?

A: There is a growing interest in Europe in the Nabucco project. The governments which were until recently skeptical or indifferent about the project have recently shown considerable interest in moving forward. There is also greater political will in the EU now to move forward with the project. Obviously, Nabucco is not going to eliminate the importance that Russian oil-and-gas exports play in the context of the East-West relationship. Russia will remain a major supplier. But diversification offers greater security to everyone and also eliminates the possibility of serious tensions if there is suddenly a problem in terms of stable supplies. The recent experience involving Russia's cutting off energy supplies via Ukraine certainly made European countries more aware that diversifying resources enhances security for everyone.

Q: Do you believe that the Nabucco project will really launch in the near future?

A: The probability has considerably increased. Before the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline became a reality, many people predicted that there would not be enough oil to make the project a reality, there would be insufficient funds and too little political support, but on the contrary the pipeline is now a key component of a broader plan to diversify European energy resources.

Q: What are your views on future relations between the U.S. and Russia considering the new administration in the White House and the countries' intentions to cooperate in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan?

A: I think the U.S. and Russia can make efforts to improve their relations, which have deteriorated as of late. There is no point to engage in an analysis at the moment as to why the relations deteriorated. Most people know the reasons and, of course, there are also people who have very divergent views as to what lead to this deterioration.

What is important is for the U.S. and Russian leaderships to recognize that some improvement in the relations is of mutual interest. I have no doubt, for example, that the sudden appearance of a serious economic and financial crisis was a shock particularly to the Russian leadership, which was accustomed to the thought that the country is immune to consequences on the world market. All of the sudden the Russian elite discovered that for the first time in its history, the country's well-being is dependent on the well-being of the global economy. That has been a very sobering experience for Russia's elite. And I think that provides a further impetus for improving relations.

As for Afghanistan, I think cooperation between the U.S. and Russia is desirable, but it has to be directed at facilitating what NATO is attempting to do in the country together with the Afghans. The Afghans have extremely negative and bitter memories of the 10-year-long war that Russia waged with its extraordinary brutality against the Afghan people. So any direct involvement of Russia in dealing with Afghan security problems would probably be politically very counterproductive in the Afghan context.

Q: What do you think of Kyrgyzstan's decision to annul the agreement with the U.S. on the Manas base? Do you think that Russia pressured Kyrgyzstan in this respect?

A: I think it is quite evident that Russia certainly did not oppose the Kyrgyz decision and at the same time Russia made it easier through financial arrangements to reduce the economic significance of the base for the country. So I think that the coincidence of these events is very suggestive.

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