Mr. Hasanli, do you think President Putin, who previously called collapse of USSR a tragedy will be able to “turn the wheels of history” back?
I do not think this desire will be fulfilled. History shows that certain processes happen only once, attempt to repeat them will be nothing but ironic. Meaning historic processes are true once and only, if someone tries to repeat them, it won’t result in anything but a farce. Secondly, USSR had a 70 years of history as an institution, and it is impossible to return it. Even Putin once said that those who want the collapse of it have no heart, those who want to bring it back have no brain.
However, today there are clear attempts to do so. Although, in 1917 Tsarism wasn’t restored, yet the Bolsheviks built an empire by expanding the Russian borders.
You know, we need to talk about the strengthening of Russia’s imperial intentions rather than of Soviets. I call this a process of restoration of the once occupied lands by the empire to their previous state under the rules of the empire. Today Russia is not interested in restoring the Soviets either. Soviet Union was a system, and bringing this system back and managing ⅙ of the world population under the same regulations is impossible. However, there is a strange tendency in Russia. When their borders become the case, even those known for their democratic outlooks favor militarist calls, and this is a dangerous tendency. Yes, Russia is a great country, and therefore, needs to respect international law even more to set examples to others.
However, Russia is also accusing West in violating the international law…
What are the examples?
In particular, they accuse the United States in the case of Kosovo..
I also read about the accusations against West on Kosovo issue in Russian media. The Kosovo case was about Serbs violating human rights of Kosovars. Crimea can not be compared to Kosovo in this context. As a result of Kosovo operations, America, European countries and NATO handed over the governance of the region to the local people. However, in the Crimea’s case Russians act like the Serbs. If Russia handed over the power to the Tatars of Crimea, then it would be similar to Kosovo case.
However, according to the Russian officials, Tatars are the minority in Crimea, only 15-20%. Aren’t these figures reflecting the truth?
Yes, Tatars are the minority, however, the land is theirs. Russians often write that Crimea belonged to them from ancient times, and so do the Ukranians. In fact, it belongs to neither of them, but Tatars; historically, there was a Tatar khanate.
I would like us to go back to the Russian claims that you called a farce. If Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus recognize Crimea as part of Russia, wouldn’t it be a tragedy rather than a farce?
Geopolitical realities are not defined by recognition from Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus. These realities are resolved by the great powers and international forces that play a significant role in the fate of the world. If one of the G-7 countries made this decision, then we could consider it more seriously. The above mentioned three countries depend on Russia, therefore, try to please them in the case of Crimea. You are referring to the CIS, however, this institute has no practical impact. For 10 years, I was a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the CIS. The union is a tool in the hands of Kremlin to adopt former Soviet Union ideology into the minds of current Russian community.
Then lets move to the economical aspects. There is more than $400 billion trade exchange between Russia and the European Union countries. Isn’t it the gas dependency that make the West act on the safe side with Kremlin?
This tendency surely exists. I think the West can not support Ukraine in the matter of Crimea sufficiently.
What is the reason?
First, there is a traditional prudence. Second, a need for energy resources. Third – trade relations. The fourth, and the main reason is that the last 30 years technocrats have replaced traditional politicians. Technocrats value earning 2 cents over 2 cents rather than territorial changes. Neither of the current state heads would be able to come to power 30-40 years ago. Back then politics was an art, and artists took part in the elections. However, today random people are in power. Who are today’s Churchill, de Gaulle or Stalin? You know, the values have changed.
Is this a positive or a negative factor?
Obviously, there are negative factors to it as well. Professionalism is demanded everywhere. Why not apply it to the governance as well? When the government is managed by professional politicians it becomes more capacious.
Don’t you think upon hearing you the audience might assume you call Putin a professional, and the Western politicians non-professionals?
On the contrary, one of the non-professionals is Putin. Half-jokingly, half-seriously, when I think of Putin in power I recall the events from the movie called “Ivan Vasilievich Changes Occupation.” Obviously, a normal head of the state wouldn’t act the way he does.
Mr. Hasanli, there are different approaches to Azerbaijan’s position in the matter of Crimea. For instance, Vafa Guluzade
, Zardusht Alizadeh support the silent position of Baku. What do you think?
There are certain approaches towards the matter, however, we need to bear in mind that Azerbaijan was already faced with a Crimea “card” 20-25 years ago. What happened in Crimea happened in Nagorno-Karabakh as well, with a difference that the latter case wasn’t legally completed. What happened in Crimea was locally legalised under the Russian legislation. They even had to amend their own legislation for this purpose. In fact, there was a provision in the Russian legislation that allowed joining of new states or parts of foreign countries, if the latter agreed to join the borders. This provision existed in Russian legislation up until the Crimea case. This meant that separatist parts of neighbouring countries couldn’t decide to join Moscow on their own. For instance, Abkhazia and South Ossetia refused to join them. The reason was the above mentioned legislative provision. The provision was abandoned to ease Crimea’s annexation. With this in mind, we need to understand Azerbaijan’s position. In any case Russia is a great power, prior to Ukraine there was a Georgian example. In fact, the world’s mistake wasn’t so much related to Ukraine, but Georgia. If back then Georgia had been effectively defended, current events wouldn’t have happened. It is interesting to note that according to Wikileaks, during a meeting with the U.S. military officials, Saakashvili warned that Crimea would be the next on the list. Obviously, it would be much better if Russia was a democratic country developed both economically and technologically. In that case the neighbouring countries would be keen to cooperate with them.
You used the word “next.” One of the U.S. Congress representatives has already stated that “Putin has laid his eyes on Azerbaijan.” Can Azerbaijan be really the next on the list?
I think this issue is a little bit exaggerated. Therefore, I don’t think Azerbaijan is the next to come.
What are the grounds?
First of all, there are major energy projects in Azerbaijan. Second, although the country’s interests call for certain action, the current government is avoiding them not to irritate Russia. This factor also plays a role. For instance, Azerbaijan was meant to sign European Union’s Association Agreement, yet the government evaded the process.
So was this the right step?
It is hard to say whether this was a right step or not. One thing is when you live in a crisis the whole your life, and another is when you experience it only once. I will repeat once again, if they claim Azerbaijan is the next to come, maybe we need to look at the case from a different angle; Azerbaijan was the first on the list. Karabakh was a destructive factor for the USSR. The fact that Azerbaijan’s sovereignty hasn’t been restored around Karabakh and neighboring regions, is directly related to Russia.
What are the reasons you do not believe in Russia’s intention to recreate USSR in a different format?
The issue is not the USSR’s restoration, but rather expansion of Russia’s territories and imperial ambitions. Soviet Union was the territory of Russia in 1914, and was a different way of restoration of the empire.
Can Kremlin return to the Treaty of Union in 1991?
In general, economy-wise Russia is poorly developed, and an interesting fact is that the invasion of Crimea was more of a victory for poor population as opposed to the elite. Imperial ambitions were like a fresh blood going through the veins of the poor. The West’s failure is that no matter how much they work on it, they still do not see the current realities.
Reflection of realities of 1920s..
No, they have an impression that if a minister receives a salary as high as $10,000 per month, he will not take bribes anymore. The West doesn’t want to understand mechanism of bribery; in the post Soviet arena bribes are not based on need, but are rather a governance method. For instance, they talk about the impact of economic sanctions on Russia, however, economically poorly developed countries do not suffer much from those. Sometimes, Azerbaijani officials claim that the world economic crisis did not affect us. Azerbaijani citizen does not posses enough to be affected by the crisis, anyway. Targets of economic crisis are not the countries with salaries of $100-120 per month. In any case, I don’t think Russia’s annexation of Crimea will pass with no traces. Today, the world has more means to influence Moscow. If they truly use those means, Russia will face serious challenges.
Will they use those means?
The West is different from the East in terms of analysing all aspects before actually making decisions. East is usually fast to make decisions, and this is risky. Therefore, their chances to reach the goal are not that high. West has abandoned this approach long ago, but Russia is still acting like East.
From the point of the U.S. President Obama’s view “Russia is a threat to some of its neighbors,” do you think Azerbaijan is also in that list?
Without a doubt. In any case, the country that does not comply with the international law is a source of danger. Statement from Putin’s speech “In one way or another Russia needs to ensure security of Russian and Russian speaking population in neighbouring countries” is a legal ground for direct intervention. By Russian speaking population in Ukraine, he actually meant the Ukrainian population that studied in Russian language due to the ideological demands of the Soviet times. These people made an effort to study the language and Russian literature, and now this knowledge causes their country a great danger.
What do you think of Azerbaijani communists’ appeal to Putin?
Absolutely not acceptable.
Then why doesn’t the government take measures?
Firstly, the communists do not have a solid political position in Azerbaijani society.
In 1920, they also didn’t have a solid political ground, they were only represented by one person – Aliheydar Qarayev in the parliament.
That is true, but the chances situation of 1920th will repeat are low. The history does not repeat itself.
However, let’s not forget that Russia is an unpredictable country…
Yes, Russia is indeed unpredictable, yet goes in a predictable direction. Russia now enjoys ideological euphoria of victory, yet the time to pay back will follow soon. At this stage, Russia will experience very severe turmoil. Nowadays, the values have changed around the globe, now there are different technological and influential means. In any case, it is unacceptable for any political organization to appeal to either East or West.
Mr. Hasanli, don’t you think that the statement by George Friedman, chairman of the geopolitical intelligence and consulting firm Stratfor “U.S. State Department should not be too critical towards Azerbaijan. As it is real politics time.” will mean 10 more years of backdrop in terms of democratization of the country?
This is not a new political trend, but rather a typically technocratic point of view. This process is a continuation of the U.S. and the West’s politics since post-Soviet republics gained independence. On one hand they need to consider Russian factor, on the other hand gently “press” those republics towards democracy so that the latter do not cooperate with Russia.
Will this political approach last long?
I don’t think so. Crimea can be compared to Munich. Western politicians are still acting like Daladye and Chamberlain. However, it is time for politicians like Churchill. And it will happen. Remember Germany’s “Munich euphoria,” and how they paid back for it..
Consequently, can Stalin reappear as well?
Yes. Russia’s aggressive actions has strengthened both political circles’ and masses’ inclination towards Stalinizm. Normally, the masses follow the elite, the opposite is abnormal. However, what is happening in Russia is a perfect example of elite following the masses.
If you are talking about the danger of Stalin “coming back,” can the independent countries experience 40-50 years of thraldom once again?
There is a danger. However, we shouldn’t align all the danger to the processes of gaining nations’ independence. I believe neither Azerbaijan nor other states that gained independence will lose their freedom easily. As this is now a global process.
Can all these processes extend the Nagorno-Karabakh resolution for another 20-30 years?
First of all, a 20 years delay in Karabakh resolution is neither the West’s, nor the East’s fault, but rather our government’s. Every day, the President’s “Azerbaijan is a strong state with a strong military” statement repeats like a commercial. The strength of a strong state and strong military is defined by the occupied territories. If not this, then what defines the power of the army? Azerbaijan step by step has handed over its capacity to liberate the occupied territories to the international organizations. And now we are paying the price for this political act. In general, the policies applied in the past haven’t justified themselves. To say the least, when the government with occupied territories engages in corruption, who can guarantee the liberation of those territories? In fact, the government, the opposition and the nation of the state with occupied territories have to unite and be like clockwork.The motherland is not just for the poor. Today, Azerbaijan’s revenues are divided among the elite. Billions transferred to offshore accounts are taken away from the country. The question is “what is the Government’s strategy on Karabakh issue?” It has to be made public and open for discussions. If certain policy doesn’t meet expectations in 5 years, then suspicions should occur. If this lasts for 10 years, it has to be abandoned. However, if a 20 year old inefficient political direction still continues, then it simply goes against the nation’s will. I believe, democratic processes should expand, and fair elections held.
Don’t you think Crimea’s case will prolong the process?
The willingness for the democratic elections in Azerbaijan shall not come under the West’s pressure. It is our nation’s right, not of the Europe’s. Azerbaijan’s approach is more about everything coming “from overseas.” The nation should no longer look in the Western politicians’ direction. Occupied territories belong to this nation, not Russia, or the West. Therefore, our people should be firm in their positions.