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Putin's hint at possible agreement with Azerbaijan became determinan

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  • Putin's hint at possible agreement with Azerbaijan became determinan

    Putin's hint at possible agreement with Azerbaijan became determinant
    for Sargsyan's decision to join the Customs Union

    ArmInfo's Interview with Thomas de Waal, Senior Associate in the
    Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International
    Peace, author of the book Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through
    Peace and War

    by David Stepanyan

    Saturday, September 7, 14:55

    Earlier you said that Vladimir Putin's visit to Azerbaijan hinted that
    Armenia would inevitably join the Customs Union. Can one say after the
    Putin-Sargsyan meeting in Moscow that Yerevan has taken the hint? What
    role has Karabakh played in this decision?

    I think that Vladimir Putin's broad hint that Russia can easily agree
    on a range of issues with Azerbaijan was a determinant factor for
    Armenian President Sargsyan's decision on Armenia's membership of the
    Customs Union. Even the smallest threat of losing Russia's military
    protection seemed too fearful to Yerevan. Another matter that what
    happened in Moscow was a result of Armenia's insufficiently flexible
    policy of many years towards Russia and Europe. It was not hard for
    Yerevan to stay economically dependent on Russia for long years,
    though, the country's leaders should have realized that the country
    would sooner or later have to pay a political price for that. The
    administrations of both Serzh Sargsyan and ex-president Robert
    Kocharyan allowed takeover of Armenia's economy by Russia, which
    helped them retain political control over Armenia. When Serzh Sargsyan
    tried to revise that deal with great caution, he had no options left.

    Does Armenia's membership of the Customs Union mean automatic
    maintenance of the status quo around Karabakh for years to come given
    the military balance of the Karabakh conflict parties? The Kremlin
    sells weapons worth billions to Azerbaijan and 'compensates' for that
    with delivery of weapons to Armenia on preferential terms. How
    successful is the Kremlin's policy?

    Russia is interested in either preserving the status quo in the
    Karabakh conflict or settling it without any painful efforts. The
    Russian authorities try their best to preserve the military balance.
    Meanwhile, it would be wrong to say that Russia can keep the situation
    in the Karabakh conflict zone fully under control. Never before has
    Moscow controlled the situation around Karabakh. And now, the decision
    to either unleash conflict or maintain the status quo rests upon
    Azerbaijan, first of all. The arms race between Armenia and Azerbaijan
    and new stockpiling of arms make both the countries realize that
    dancing on a volcano is becoming more and more dangerous. On the other
    hand, the arms race means that any new conflict will quickly get out
    of control.

    Despite Armenia's willingness to join the Customs Union, the
    Association Agreement with the EU has not been cancelled yet. Has the
    EuroAtlantic community got any levers to use the Karabakh conflict to
    exert pressure on Yerevan at the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit
    in Vilnius?

    No, it has not. Actually, the EU is, first of all, a technical and
    bureaucratic union. I am sure that most Europeans engaged in the
    Eastern Partnership little communicate with the Minsk Group and have a
    very general idea of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

    It appears that Baku places its stake on economic growth,
    particularly, on sales of energy resources. It connects the Karabakh
    conflict settlement with its further strengthening in the
    international arena. How grounded are these aspirations?

    Certainly, now Azerbaijan is stronger and wealthier than it was 20
    years ago during the Karabakh war. This gives Baku a new profile and
    an opportunity to promote itself more efficiently and to use the
    international structures to lobby the Azerbaijani stance in the
    Karabakh conflict. The new status of Azerbaijan creates many problems
    for Armenia, because Baku successfully blocks any attempts to
    recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an international subject. However,
    Armenians, for their part, are capable of hurting Azerbaijan by simply
    maintaining the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh and around it.
    Therefore, I have repeatedly qualified the current situation as a
    suicide pact.

    Iran has repeatedly made it clear that in case of foreign
    interference in the Syrian conflict it will take retaliatory measures.
    Won't U.S. President Obama's decision on military strike against Syria
    lead to a large-scale war in the region? What consequences will it
    have in the South Caucasus?

    Of course, the escalation of the conflict in Syria will have a
    negative impact on the neighboring countries. However, I foresee no
    direct consequences for the South Caucasus. From the political point
    of view, the South Caucasus countries are a long way from the Syrian
    conflict. By the way, Iran itself has enough problems and it is not
    interested in destabilization in its northern neighboring countries.