Maxim Shevchenko: Russia still has no comprehensive policy in the Caucasus
ArmInfo's interview with Maxim Shevchenko, Russian journalist,
editor-in-chief of

by Ashot Safaryan

Saturday, June 29, 18:21

Mr. Shevchenko, the weapon deal between Moscow and Baku has had a wide
public response. What made Russia sell weapons to a country - enemy of
its strategic ally Armenia?

Russia is connected with Armenia via CSTO, therefore contractual
relationships between the two countries are deeper than the relations
of Moscow and Baku. Armenia and Russia are closely cooperating in many
key fields. However, Azerbaijan is not an enemy for Russia either. In
Russia we are very upset over the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. As
regards the sale of weapons to Azerbaijan, I don't know what is the
logic of the Russian government or the president. I think, however,
that balance of forces in the region is the guarantee of peace and
stability. If disarmament is impossible, balance of force is the
guarantee against military actions and use of force. There is nothing
anti-Armenian in the sale of the Russian weapons to Azerbaijan. The
contractual relations of Armenia and Russia make Moscow protect
Armenia in case of a threat.

Supply of Russian weapons to Azerbaijan leads to a new wave of
anti-Russian sentiments in the Armenian public. Isn't Russia concerned
over that fact?

Public sentiments in Armenia and Russia have no impact on the
decisions of politicians. Russia cannot take either pro-Armenia or
pro-Azerbaijani position in the Karabakh conflict. Moscow will
observe certain balance in it. We will not allow military

Russian politicians say that Russia supplies weapons to Azerbaijan not
to lose its weapons sale market. Otherwise, USA, Turkey or Israel will
start supplying weapons to Azerbaijan. Do you share these views?

Russia does not want to lose Azerbaijan as a sales market for its
military production or yield it to the USA, for instance. That is not
the point, however. If the USA decides to supply weapons, it will do
that irrespective of Russia. We have already witnessed how the USA
'pushes through' its decisions at any cost. I think that in the light
of rather serious developments in the regions, threats of war around
Iran, unfortunately, the balance of forces is the guarantee against
the use of force by the conflicting parties.

What do you think of further relations of Iran and Azerbaijan under
new President of Iran Hassan Rouhani? Yet during the presidential
race, Rouhani called Baku a threat to the security of Iran...

A confrontation with Iran would be dangerous for Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan's decision to let Israel use its territory for anti-Iranian
reconnaissance is dangerous for Iran, but it is no less dangerous for
Azerbaijan as it may lead to an Azeri-Iranian confrontation. One of
the scenarios the United States and NATO are considering for
withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan is the use of Azerbaijan's
territory, which will hardly be good for the Azeri people. The mass
arrests of Shias in Nardaran are aimed against Iran. Azerbaijan should
not to conduct such a policy now that Wahhabis are getting
increasingly active in its south.

Over the last 2-3 years, some experts and politicians in Armenia have
revised the Armenian-Russian relations criticizing them for
inequality. What do Russian experts and politicians think of these

I'd not say that the relations have been revised. We can see certain
activation of the interests of the USA and NATO in Armenia. I think
Russia takes little efforts, maybe, because the Armenian-Russian
relations are at rather a high level and do not need any caution. The
two leaders have good personal relations and activity of the western
structures will hardly be able to spoil those relations. However, I
think it is necessary to be a little more cautious.

On the other hand, Russia still has no comprehensive policy in the
Caucasus. Russia does not perceive the Caucasus as a single whole. All
the countries in the Caucasus are inter-related, which must be
reflected in the Kremlin's policy. Moscow needs an efficient policy
meeting the interests of all the subjects in the region.

There are hot debates in Armenia over deep integration into EU and
integration projects offered by Moscow. Is it a dilemma for Armenia or
complementary foreign policy?

To join the Customs Union, Armenia needs to sign certain documents.
However, Armenia will hardly manage to fulfill the provisions of those
documents unless the Russian-Georgian and Armenian-Azerbaijan
relations are settled and the railway communication via Abkhazia and
Georgia is restored. The idea of the Eurasian Union is worth
supporting, of course. I think it is a historical, strategic project
and the relations of Moscow and Tbilisi must be normalized. As for the
relations with the EU, I think Armenia's joining that structure is

European officials speak of `deep integration' and not admission...

If Armenia continues integrating into the EU, it may be required to
stop its relations with Iran. The pro-European lobby in Armenia
consists of politicians receiving grants from Brussels. But they don't
specify what benefits Armenia may expect from its integration into
Europe. The EU is not ready to make Armenia its member. On the other
hand, it may set preconditions, like withdrawal from the Collective
Security Treaty Organization, closer cooperation with NATO and no more
contacts with Iran. I don't think that the last precondition will be
good for Armenia and its big community in Iran.

From: A. Papazian