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Eurasia Daily Monitor - 04/13/2006

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  • Eurasia Daily Monitor - 04/13/2006

    Eurasia Daily Monitor -- The Jamestown Foundation
    Thursday April 13, 2006 -- Volume 3, Issue 72

    *Lavrov puts brakes on Kosovo recognition
    *Baku sees opportunities, risks in Aliyev's meeting with Bush
    *Putin continues to lose allies in European elections

    (part one of two)

    Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov and other officials
    have shifted their tactics regarding the negotiations on the status of
    Kosovo. The new theme of their statements and tactical approach to the
    negotiations is: "No Haste." In their view, the negotiations must
    prepare a settlement "acceptable to all parties" -- translation: hand
    Serbia blocking rights -- even if it means delaying the final outcome.
    Lavrov and his spokesman, Mikhail Kamynin, somberly intimate that
    recognition of Kosovo's independence could set a "precedent" with
    "dangerous consequences in Europe," i.e., encourage movements in parts
    of certain countries to press for separate statehood and international
    recognition (Interfax, April 10). Meanwhile, the United States is the
    main promoter of Kosovo's independence, contingent on proper standards
    of governance and human rights. The EU position is similar.
    Moscow's new arguments seek to dissuade some European governments from
    supporting recognition and, through this tactic, to complicate and
    prolong the negotiations.

    The shift seems due at least in part to the prospect that the Serbian
    government might officially consent to independence and international
    recognition of Kosovo, albeit subject to international (i.e., Western)
    certification that Kosovo has achieved democratic standards. Serbian
    Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Draskovic recently declared that Serbia
    could agree to international recognition of Kosovo's independence,
    including membership in all international organizations save the United
    Nations (a reservation that seems destined to be abandoned in due
    course). Draskovic's statement has triggered a reassessment of policy in

    The Kremlin had initially calculated that international recognition of
    Kosovo's independence could become a "model" or "precedent" enabling
    Russia to call for recognition of Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia,
    or Karabakh. However, Serbian consent to international recognition of
    Kosovo would make it impossible for Moscow to apply a "Kosovo model" to
    the post-Soviet conflicts. In that case, the "model" would stipulate
    that international recognition of a new state depends on the prior
    consent of the country from which that entity secedes. Such a model
    would be useless to Russia and the post-Soviet secessionist territories
    because Georgia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan would not grant such consent in
    any foreseeable circumstances. Moreover, rapid progress toward resolving
    the Kosovo issue with minimal Serbian resistance would deprive Russia of
    opportunities to play spoiler in the negotiations
    within the Kosovo Contact Group and UN Security Council. Moscow wants a
    dragged-out negotiating process with opportunities for tradeoffs,
    whether at Serbia's expense or the expense of Moscow's protégés in
    the post-Soviet secessionist enclaves, depending on tactical
    developments down the road.

    Moscow is responding in three ways to the situation created by the
    Draskovic statement. First, it tries to embolden hard-line nationalists
    in the Serbian government to oppose Kosovo's independence in principle
    and to raise insuperable obstacles in the negotiations. Second, it tries
    to outflank the United States by raising the prospect of destabilization
    in Europe with some West European participants in the Contact Group and
    with some Central-East European governments in bilateral channels. And,
    third, it cries, "No Haste," so as to frustrate the U.S. and, largely,
    Western goal of achieving a resolution this year.

    The authorities in Tiraspol, Transnistria; Sukhumi, Abkhazia;
    Tskhinvali, South Ossetia; and Stepanakert, Karabakh (and Yerevan as
    well) never based their hopes for international or at least Russian
    official recognition upon a possible Kosovo "model" or "precedent." When
    Russian President Vladimir Putin raised this idea earlier this year and
    turned it into a staple of Russia's discourse on post-Soviet conflict
    resolution, the secessionist authorities reacted with caution and
    skepticism. While putting a few of their eggs in the Kosovo basket, they
    are clearly loath to stake their case on Kosovo or Russian actions
    related to Kosovo. They continually stress other arguments, "precedents"
    or "models" in their quest for recognition (see EDM, February 2, 6, 8).

    --Vladimir Socor


    Officials in Baku are rejoicing. Three years after his election,
    Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has received an official invitation
    to visit the White House and meet with U.S. President George W. Bush. In
    a press release issued by the White House on April 10, the invitation
    was justified by the fact that "Azerbaijan is a key ally in a region of
    great importance and a valued partner, making important contributions in
    Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo." The meeting with President Bush, set for
    April 28, will include discussion of a wide range of issues, including
    democracy promotion and cooperation in the Caucasus, energy
    diversification, and the shared U.S.-Azerbaijani commitment to working
    together to advance freedom and security.

    The invitation comes as a slap in the face to the Azerbaijani
    opposition, which has long complained about election fraud in the
    country and the lack of adequate pressure from the Western community on
    the Aliyev administration. The Azerbaijani opposition has often cited
    the continuing refusal to invite President Aliyev to Washington, while
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Georgian President Mikheil
    Saakashvili were welcomed immediately after elections in their
    countries, to show the international community's negative assessment of
    the state of democracy in Azerbaijan. Now this trump card has

    Local analysts predict that two issues will dominate the talks between
    Aliyev and Bush: Iran and Azerbaijan's long-standing conflict with
    Armenia over the Karabakh enclave. "There will be a set of complex
    issues on the agenda, but Iran will dominate it with the
    Nagorno-Karabakh conflict being included into the discussion through the
    prism of the Iranian question," independent political analyst Ilgar
    Mammadov told Jamestown. "Everything tells us that the negotiations will
    focus around the Iranian and Karabakh problems," according to an
    editorial in the opposition Azadliq newspaper on April 9. Consequently,
    the long-anticipated invitation from Washington might not be the
    blessing that was expected by official Baku.

    Political scientist Fuad Gahramanli believes "Aliyev is not interested
    in participating in possible military operations against Iran and
    actively tries to stay away from this process." For that reason, the
    invitation to the United States at this particular moment might not
    please Aliyev that much, concludes Gahramanli (Azadliq, April 7).
    Mammadov also believes that Azerbaijan will try to play a careful game,
    but "It is not for sure yet if Azerbaijan will stay completely outside
    of the process."

    Still, some other experts forecast that the Karabakh conflict will top
    the discussions, as Washington is re-energizing peace talks between
    Armenia and Azerbaijan and trying to save the failed talks in
    Rambouillet, outside Paris, on February 11. The intensive trips by the
    OSCE's Minsk group co-chairs into the region in the last few weeks have
    raised speculations about the possibility of reaching an agreement on
    this conflict in 2006. U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno L. Harnish
    III, has told the local Azerbaijani media that there are good prospects
    for settling the conflict in 2006. Furthermore, Azerbaijani Foreign
    Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said after his trip to the Washington last
    week "some new, interesting proposals regarding the solution of the
    Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have been offered and the Azerbaijani
    government will discuss them" (Turan, April 10, also see EDM, April 12).

    "The United States is interested in a quick resolution of the conflict
    this year," Mammadov told Jamestown, "but whether Russia will help in
    this process is still not clear." ANS-TV radio quoted Yuri Merzlyakov,
    the Russian co-chair of the Minsk group, as saying that there is no
    competition between the co-chairs and that President Aliyev met with
    Russian President Vladimir Putin long before he is scheduled to meet
    with President Bush (ANS-TV, April 13).

    Much is expected from Aliyev's upcoming trip to Washington, yet most
    local analysts agree that the negotiations will be tough for the
    Azerbaijani president. Particularly, any possible pressures on Aliyev to
    agree to the terms of the referendum that is being proposed for the
    resolution of the Karabakh conflict might produce counter-productive
    results domestically. The Azerbaijani opposition is carefully watching
    what will happen in Washington and they will try to dampen President
    Aliyev's excitement about the long-anticipated meeting with President
    Bush by focusing on the failures of Azerbaijani diplomacy regarding the
    Karabakh conflict. As for President Bush, he is no longer feeling the
    necessity to postpone this invitation, as his re-election in 2004 has
    removed the need to take domestic considerations into account regarding
    such an action. Now the emphasis is on security and foreign
    policy, areas in which Azerbaijan could be a key ally.

    --Fariz Ismailzade


    Every recent election in Europe has severed a connection with Moscow,
    allowing Russia to drift further and further away from the rest of the
    continent. Italy is the latest point in this trajectory since Prime
    Minister Silvio Berlusconi's defeat this week signifies for Russian
    President Vladimir Putin the loss of a key European ally and the end of
    a carefully cultivated personal friendship (Vremya novostei, April 11;, April 13). The March 26 parliamentary elections in Ukraine,
    inconclusive as they are, have confirmed Kyiv's European vector and
    shown the steady retreat of the pro-Russian forces in the multi-colored
    political arena (, April 11). Presidential elections in Belarus
    on March 19 and the swift suppression of public protests against the
    crudely manipulated voting left Putin, who rushed to congratulate
    Alexander Lukashenka on his victory, alone against the broad
    European condemnation of this authoritarian regime (Ekho Moskvy, April
    11). Even the elections in the Palestinian Authority fit the pattern,
    since Moscow's readiness to embrace the Hamas leadership has generated
    mild disapproval in Europe and bitter acrimony in Israel (Kommersant,
    April 12).

    The trend could easily be traced further back: Parliamentary elections
    in Poland last September were dominated by parties that hold serious
    suspicions about Putin's Russia, and elections in Germany forced the
    departure of Putin's closest and most privileged partner, Gerhard
    Schroeder, from the Bundestag. Some electoral results that were
    unfortunate for Moscow were decided by margins slimmer than the "hanging
    chads" that decided Bush's victory in 2000, and both Berlusconi and
    Schroeder could complain about bad luck. In other cases, Belarus being
    the prime example, Moscow was clearly set to lose because of its own
    political choices. Lukashenka enjoys solid enough popular support to win
    a free and fair election, but the very possibility of creating a space
    for uncontrollable political opposition was unacceptable, and he opted
    to show the "monolithic unity" of the quasi-Soviet regime
    (Ezhednevny zhurnal, April 1).

    Putin is in much the same situation and shows equally deep mistrust in
    election mechanisms, but he feels the need to hide his true preferences
    behind many layers of "Euro-correct" rhetoric. This habitual hypocrisy
    serves to make him an acceptable partner for Western leaders, but the
    Russian public apparently prefers a more frank expression of political
    views; a recent poll by Ekho Moskvy radio (March 20) showed that 82% of
    listeners would vote for Lukashenka as the president of a hypothetical
    union of Russia and Belarus, while only 18% preferred Putin. Finalizing
    the text of his annual address to the parliament, Putin now may take a
    clue from this rather unexpected choice and add a few explicitly
    populist condemnations of his own bureaucracy (Vedomosti, April 12). He
    also knows that he has no real competitor in the country so that the
    officially discarded idea of a third presidential
    term remains far more popular than any of his potential successors; 45%
    of Russians are now ready to amend the constitution accordingly
    (Kommersant, April 12).

    Each setback with elections in the near and far neighborhood, however,
    increases Putin's distaste regarding the proposition that his tightly
    hand-managed system of power should be subjected to the test of
    competitive -- even if only formally -- decision-making by the general
    population. This entirely unnecessary procedure goes directly against
    his self-perception as the CEO and the chairman of the board of a
    corporation comprising all structures of the Russian state. This
    self-perception, which in fact is not that different from how Berlusconi
    had seen himself until last weekend, probably informed Putin's first
    words to the "captains" of business that were gathered in the Kremlin
    last month: "Dear colleagues" (Vedomosti, April 4). Russian
    state/corporate culture could be quite relaxed and the discipline in the
    hierarchy should not necessarily be draconian, but the idea that the top
    management must be exposed to electoral choices of the "lower ranks" is
    simply alien. Berlusconi's scandalous resistance to his removal from a
    position of power only reinforces the conviction among Putin's entourage
    that undesirable surprises must be prevented at any cost.

    Elections, however, remain a source of grave risks and the possibility
    of a sudden shift in the electorate's mood cannot be eliminated.
    Amassing "administrative resources" and employing every available
    "political technology," the Kremlin still cannot overcome the pervasive
    fear of elections. While perhaps not entirely rational, this feeling is
    driven by growing mistrust among Putin's courtiers and rooted in their
    common knowledge that the Russians indeed have very good reasons not to
    trust any of them. The only way to exorcise this fear is to spread it
    not only through the business elite, which constitutes less than 1% of
    the population, but also across the middle entrepreneurial class that
    has grown to about 20% (Kommersant, April 12). Uncertainty about the
    immediate future, which can bring any kind of semi-official offer that
    cannot be refused, including the sell-off of prime assets,
    is an irreducible feature of Russian business climate. Fear is the main
    instrument of establishing dominance of the 1.462 million strong army of
    bureaucrats, which increased by 10.9% in 2005, over the oppressed,
    abused, and potentially hostile class of middle and small business
    (, April 12; Ezhednevny zhurnal, April 11).

    This instrumentalization of the fear factor creates various distortions
    in Russian economic activities, from the increase of "informal taxation"
    to the speculative growth of the Moscow property market. Such respected
    experts as Yevgeny Gavrilenkov and Yevgeny Yasin have argued this week
    that the abnormally low level of investment affects the dynamics and the
    quality of economic growth and generates huge inflationary pressure
    (Nezavisimaya gazeta, April 11). Entrepreneurs have no confidence in
    their own businesses and are reluctant to invest, so money flows into
    the stock market, which expanded by some 20% since the start of the
    year, or into the accelerated growth of consumer imports. Corporatist
    politics invariably translate into deformed and stagnant economics.
    Putin's team of managers may try to hide their fiasco by doctoring
    accounts and spinning new slogans, but Berlusconi was a
    grand master of these tricks -- and they helped him only so far.

    --Pavel K. Baev

    The Eurasia Daily Monitor, a publication of the Jamestown Foundation, is
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