Tumultuous political processes around Ukraine, including the Russian annexation of the Crimea, the extent of their influence in the whole post-Soviet space and in particular Azerbaijan and this and many other things happening in the world today, to the questions of our portal responds well-known political expert Ramis Yunus, who has worked in the highest echelons of power in Azerbaijan and abroad. He was Chief of Staff of the Government in Azerbaijan and Chief of Staff of the Parliament in Azerbaijan. Moreover, he worked for several years in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Fluently knows the political establishment, mentality, culture and languages of the countries about which he writes his analytical articles. Currently lives in the U.S., where he advices as a political expert on many American media channels, independent foundations and think tanks.
Q: Ramis Bey, when we were talking at the end of last year, you predicted that the refusal to sign the agreement in Vilnius with the EU will cost Yanukovych presidency. I also remember how you said that Russia in order to not lose its influence in Kiev, in this confrontation will provoke the situation in Crimea, in the eastern regions of Ukraine and, if necessary, will push their interests by their Black Sea Fleet. Basically, what happened. And what to expect next and what are the further Moscow plans to influence Kiev?
A: Behavior of Russian politicians who make decisions today in the Kremlin, should be considered through the prism of their policies for all these years.
Domination of Russian security services in the Kremlin, or to be precise, after the very first keynote speech Putin at the Munich Conference on Security Policy, February 10, 2007, which provoked in Western (primarily American) political circles debate about reopening the “Cold War.” American delegates at the conference agreed then the opinion that Putin’s speech were “the most aggressive expressions that any of the Russian leaders since the Cold War.” Unfortunately, the usual western pragmatism didn’t let even then the U.S. and its allies in Europe, in the bud to neutralize neo imperialistic designs of new inhabitants of Kremlin, which led to the Russian aggression against Georgia in August 2008 and that was for all signal that Moscow starts thus practically implementing that doctrine, which Putin declared in Munich. As you remember, then the U.S. and its allies were content with the fact that giving Abkhazia and South Ossetia didn’t allow Moscow to go to Tbilisi to overthrow Saakashvili’s government, stopping the Russian army just on the outskirts of the capital of Georgia.
Not having received a proper rebuff in 2008, Putin decided to repeat the same scenario today and occupied Crimea, violating all international agreements, including the Budapest Declaration of 1994, declaring this part of Ukrainian territory to be part of Russia. Just like in case of aggression against Georgia, there is a strong pressure on Ukraine, around the borders of Russia which has concentrated a huge contingent of troops now. Judging by how responsive the U.S. and the EU countries, it is evident that they do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past and try to be more stringent.
Q: When you say hard, what do you mean? Many observers on the contrary, say the same caution in the actions of the West, given its dependence on energy and how the isolation of Russia may hit the Europeans themselves. As far as this factor is real?
A: Caution of the leading Western countries is not due to only power supply problems. Western politicians in decision-making on foreign policy must always take into account the opinion of its population, which for the most part does not want to involve their countries in either military action on the territory of third countries, and to lose votes of the electorate in the election no one in the U.S. and the EU will want to. Plus of course the fact that 25% of EU energy supplies from Russia. Therefore, these two factors provide the appearance of caution, although it is not so.
Q: Then what actually motivates the West? Has the United States and its allies hope that Russia voluntarily withdraws from the occupied territories of the Crimea, Abkhazia or South Ossetia?
A: West tactics in this game of chess with Russia is clear: sacrificing minor figure, advancing to the East, thereby obtaining the pace, as they say in chess. Look at the map and by giving South Ossetia, Abkhazia, which has for 20 years been occupied by Russia, Georgia, which still had no effect on these enclaves is already in full swing closer to the EU and NATO. The same situation will be with Ukraine and giving up for the time being Crimea, the country will be rushing into the EU and NATO and the Kremlin can’t stop this process anymore. Next in this circuit is Moldova, which also now faces a dilemma: to give up the Dniester, which for 20 years, occupied by Russia and to move rapidly towards the EU and NATO, or still wait without making any sudden gestures. Moldova in Vilnius also signed an agreement with the European Union, which is already leading to the political advancement of the country towards the EU. So, Russia and the West, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each other, will continue to follow the rules of this game. But lets not forget that the white pieces in this game, the U.S. and its allies, as Russia operates in Zugzwang positions, i.e., in a situation where every move leads to a deterioration in their same position, while the West will continue to step up the pace and eventually, just crush Russia economically because as said satirist Zhvanetskiy “what Russia is doing with the tanks, the West is doing with the banks .”
Q: And what awaits these annexed territory in the future? How long Russia can hold them?
A: Remember the results of the Second World War and how the allies then divided Europe into two parts, East and West. Giving up then part of the European territory of the USSR’s Western partners, using the “Marshall Plan” and in a “cold war” systematically increasing their advantage that eventually turned into a collapse of the “evil empire” and the return of all of these areas in one fell swoop. Today, Russia is not the Soviet Union, both in its political and economic indicators, and therefore this confrontation won’t stretch that far. The West won’t hurry, because nobody needs chaos in the largest nuclear power in the world, especially when there are so many other unresolved issues: Syria, Iran, Egypt and the whole Arab world after the recent revolutions there. If the time comes and the collapse of Putin’s model of authoritarianism in Russia, it will be “controlled chaos” and leverage the West for this abound. Or why you think, President Obama just recently flew to the king of Saudi Arabia? A collapse of oil prices and the Putin’s regime will end. The question is only when it is necessary to include this switch in change of the price of oil and how much they omit? And maybe it will be possible to do without it? Judging by the fact that Russian troops began to withdraw from the borders of Ukraine, there are well aware of what could be said between the U.S. president and the king Saud. So, sooner or later, but the Crimea, Abkhazia and South Ossetia will politically return to the bosom of their own countries and become EU territories as well. It will happen immediately after the change of power in the Kremlin, which is not far off.
Q: And what to do to Azerbaijan, which has the same occupied territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, and even borders not only with Russia but also with Iran and Armenia? How can affect our region above processes and how we should behave?
A: Certainly, in Baku all this is carefully being watched, because everyone is well aware that Russia won’t give up its positions without a fight as it showed in Georgia and Ukraine. The presence of a powerful Russian military base in Armenia, a large and poorly guarded border with Iran, the same transparent border with Russia, where for many years are located ready separatists entrenched in Dagestan, make situation very vulnerable because the possibility of Azerbaijan and it may be possible to understand what ” Silence of the Lambs, “as I would call the regime’s behavior in Baku. But because of this “Ostrich policy” has not brought any dividends to the country, and sitting on two chairs in Azerbaijan nobody will allow. It’s time to be determined, especially when one of these chairs about to be broken and falling off, you can get another injury. Does Azerbaijan need one more injury?
Q: How do you assess the political situation in Azerbaijan? What our problems are seen from far away America?
A: In a nutshell, I would say it in one word: Stagnation. There is an impression that everyone is waiting for something, just do not know what. Authoritarianism regime went so far as to speak today about some political life is not necessary or even possible. Look what came before that against Russian aggression in the Crimea, in Baku has not passed any anti-Russian rally-protest! In the same Moscow there were tens of thousands of Russians against this aggression, even in authoritarian Belarus came out a few thousands who marched through Minsk and in Baku just a few young activists held a picket in front of anyone unnoticed by the Russian Embassy, ?? While it was the perfect occasion to speak united for the regime and the opposition, and in general in our society. But alas … I guess it’s time for new decisions, create new platforms for the implementation of the political changes in society, and maybe it is time for the arrival of new politicians as well.