May 19 2010

Ingmar Oldberg News.Az interviews Ingmar Oldberg, senior research
associate at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.

They say that the West already lost the fight with Russia over CIS area
(Ukraine, Moldova Kirgizia and Georgia in particular). How would you
comment on this opinion?

Russia has always had more influence in those countries than the "West"
for historical, economic and other reasons , even though "Western"
influence has grown since the 1990s. But those countries are now
sovereign and no pawns in a new great game. It is up to them where
they turn for help, whether they are democratic or (most often) not.

And what about Azerbaijan? Do you expect increase in Russian activity

Russia is of course extremely interested in Azerbaijan and its energy
resources, and will try its best to get more control over them, or
rather their transport to the European customers. But Russia of course,
as you all know, has to balance its relations with Azerbaijan against
those with Armenia, which Russia has a military alliance, including
mutual assistance. If Azerbaijan gets more involved with the "West"
(Turkey) Russia will probably strengthen relations with Armenia and
be less inclined to support Azerbaijan concerning N-Karabakh. Russia
likes to be a mediator on the NK issue, officially friendly with both
sides, currying favors from both.

Moscow says that it CIS countries to decide to be a member of EU and
NATO or not. Do you think that Russia might agree with membership of
Azerbaijan or even Georgia in NATO?

As I've already answered, CIS counties decide each for itself, and
cannot as a collective have a veto on what the others decide for
themselves. The CSTO (Collective security treaty) is another matter.

Even if NATO membership for Azerbaijan and Georgia are very remote
possibilities, Russia will do everything to stop it. Only if Russia
itself would join NATO, it would have to allow the others to do so.

Do you think that Russia may use the "Georgian scenario" in Karabakh,
other conflict zone in the South Caucasus?

The Georgian case with S Ossetia and Abkhazia is special, since both
these regions border on Russia and contain many Russians whom Russia
wants to "protect". The S Ossetians are related to N Ossetians, who
want to remain part of Russia. Russia has no reason to intervene in NK
since it is already de facto incorporated into and by Armenia. There is
no analogy with Kosovo, since the Serbs there are a small minority, and
Albania did nothing to support its kin in Kosovo against Serbia in 1999
and before. It was NATO that intervened to save the Albanians in Kosovo

Russia and Turkey has been developing a close collaboration, especially
during the last 2 years. What is your opinion, may this collaboration
be fruitful for the stability in the South Caucasus region?

Hard to tell. If the collaboration does not harm other states'
interests it is fine, for instance with regard to developing nuclear
power in Turkey with Russian help. But some of this collaboration
has been about pipelines, and the plan to build a South Stream gas
pipeline across Turkish waters in the Black Sea has a thrust against
the EU Nabucco pipeline plans and against Ukraine, which wants gas
transit across its territory to continue. But the South Stream plan
is now threatened by stagnating world prices on gas.