Azerbaijan, Baku, March 5 / Trend , E.Tariverdiyeva/
Trend 's exclusive interview with Ariel Cohen, Heritage Foundation Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security Senior Research Fellow, specially for Yeni Azerbaycan newspaper
Question: Russia and France plan to continue cooperating closely to settle the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, President of France Nicolas Sarcozy stated after his talks with Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev. Why does France come out with this initiative right now? How will France's strengthening role influence on settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
Answer: I think, the initiative was offered because this is one of those safe topics where the positions of Moscow and Paris coincide. Neither of the sides loses from such statements. But I do not see real means of pressure against Armenia that Russia or France could have suggested to change the existing strategic position of the sides. Such statement does not change the status quo, and such declaration will not change Yerevan's position.
Q: Suggestions that France, as an OSCE Minsk Group co-chair, can be substituted by a co-chair from the European Union have become more frequent lately. How can this change the Minsk Group's work over settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? What can such reshuffle give Azerbaijan?
A: Such a change would have been an EU's awkward attempt to pull the blanket from Paris to Brussels. As far as co-chairing in the Minsk Group is no paramount priority for Paris, the latter, probably, will do it. This is a purely bureaucratic game between EU bodies and EU national member-states.
Brussels tries to strengthen its prerogatives, but it would reduce the status of a European envoy inside the Minsk Group. Hence, it would increase the status of a Russian envoy. And the United States currently is in an "interesting situation" because South Caucasus's priority for the Barack Obama's Administration has reduced. In other words, only Russia will win from this.
Such a change will give nothing to Azerbaijan because the latter will remain standing face to face with that very Armenia.
The problem is that the EU currently does not act as an effective foreign political player. It has no strict, coordinated workout of foreign political course and has a very weak mechanism to realize such course. Every capital city struggles for its own interests. The status of President and Foreign Minister is low.
The EU will not be able to act as an effective player in big geopolitics until it has an effective process of workout and execution of foreign political decisions, including application of sanctions, not to mention general armed forces.
Q: Latest events related to "the reloading" between the U.S. and Russia are illustrative of Washington's desire to receive Moscow's backing in the issue of Iranian nuclear program. How do you assess prospects of this process?
A: As far as the U.S. task is to settle the nuclear program matter and to stop uranium enrichment and development of nuclear weapons, the U.S. tries to use Moscow's strong positions in regard to Tehran to receive Moscow's support to UN sanctions. If Moscow strengthens its positions in other sectors in Iran, on the condition the aim of nuclear program is accomplished, I think, the U.S. will treat this rather quietly.
Russia still does not let know clearly whose side it is on - either the United States and the EU, which back tough sanctions, or China and Iran, which try either to stop these sanctions fully or dilute these sanctions to make them ineffective.
I think here is the collision of different interests inside Russia. On the one hand, the Government of Russia does not want to see Iran with nuclear weapons but on the other hand, it wants to do a bad turn to America, especially reduce its influence over the Gulf, and keep its own influential positions in Iran.
Q: The newly elected President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovitch has repeatedly announced Ukraine's desire to partake in the North Stream Project. How realistic is it to think that Gazprom will change North Stream pipeline's route and lay it down via the territory of Ukraine?
A: Such position is absolutely ungrounded from the point of energy economy
The already existing capacities of Ukraine's gas pipeline system currently are not filled in fully because of the slump of gas consumption in Europe. Therefore, it is senseless to lay down a North Stream pipeline's section toward Ukraine. The North Stream pipeline is made specially to circumvent Ukraine, Belarus, Baltic countries and Poland to sell gas directly to Germany and other Western European countries.
It is reasonable to lay down a North Stream section toward Poland, and the Poles currently are in talks with Russia over this. I think we will become eyewitnesses of a much more pro-Russian stance of Kiev, but it is unclear whether the things will come to Ukraine's participation in North Stream or the point will be about some other options (for example, partial purchase of Ukraine's gas pipeline system by Gazprom). I assume such possibility, but this is a matter of future.