First Armenian News and Analyses interviewed Dr Artur Ghazinyan, Director of YSU Centre for European Studies.
-Dr Ghazinyan, how can you sum up recent developments in Ukraine?
In order to understand what happened in the Ukraine and what situation we are dealing with now we have understand the source of the current tension. Yanukovich was elected the president of the Ukraine by promising the Ukrainian people that he will finalize, sign and put into action the European treaty to integrate into the European Union which gave him the vote of the Ukrainian people. Negotiations were held to complete the process, treaties were signed and initially signed and were already supposed to sign at the Vilnius summit. Unexpectedly for the Ukrainian people, at least for those living in the western and central parts of the Ukraine, the prime minister announces that he termites the activities aimed at integrating with the EU. This was preceded by meetings with leaders of Ukraine and Russia. And some rumors came about and there was an opinion that Ukraine is changing its foreign economic policy and is prone to Customs Union. At that point, obviously, rose a wave of protests which in fact were justified and the deceived people went out on the streets to demand to implement Yanukovich’s pre-election promise and accomplish the signing of the of the EU treaty and putting it to practice. Initially, the agenda was to secure a European future for the Ukraine. Later, there were attempts to pressure by force. Students, in particular, were prosecuted which led to more massive events. The number of protesters grew several times, dozens of times. Even the Sunday meetings would gather up to half a million people who demanded for the treaty to be signed. As a result of the Ukrainian government’s inadequate response and attempts to solve the problem by force occurred a big resistance in Kiev, and central and western Ukraine. Consequently, radical nationalistic sentiments appeared. In general, existence or absence of alien ideology can nurture radical nationalist sentiments. The problem here was that what demanded in the bottom could not be fulfilled by those at the top. And in this ideological vacuum radical nationalists came about with their agenda which gave them a large army of like-minded people in the Ukraine. So they owned the situation and started to dictate the policies in Maidan. Later, when the issue was supposed to be solved and the process that lasted two, three months had to end somehow, the Ukrainian government decided to close the issue by appealing to rather severe methods, as a result of which civilians were killed, government building were attacked by radicals. Maidan went towards self defense, which resulted in clashes that we know as a result of which had more than 80 casualties. Consequently, those three foreign ministers came and together with the leaders of so-called opposition a treaty was signed to come of the crisis, which was not undersigned by Russia by the way. So, all the parties agreed except for Russia and Maidan. Because we have to admit that Maidan was not represented by opposition. There were completely different sentiments there. They had their own vision regarding ukraine’s future. Maidan simply turned down what was agreed upon and even booed the leaders who came to Maidan and tried to justify that the treaty was the utmost that we could favor and get from the president of the Ukraine at this point. As a result, Yanukovich understood that using armed forces at that point was full of unpredictable consequences and he simply resigned, left his residence and he fled. As result, the situation was that the Ukraine was left without a president, without power. So, a revolutionary government formed.
– How do you assess the western policies throughout this whole process?
– At the initial stage, the west was not participating in any way in protests. It was just encouraging to stay away from using force against peace protests. When I was following the event, I didn’t see any western guidance. Although proponents of conspiracy believe that this was planned event. But to plan such a massive protest against own nation is honestly hard. At the initial stage it had a spontaneous nature. However, later when it became systematic, the west began to work in this direction by supporting. We saw how Katherine Ashton and US deputy secretary of state came to Maidan and showed their support to participants at Maidan. This was already a direct support which the west was showing in this process. As a result, the authorities of the countries were not allowed to appeal to radical methods and means to solve the problem. The west was the guarantor that there shouldn’t happen bloodshed or any other form of violence against the protestors. Whereas we witnessed that the process transformed from peaceful state to clashes. The guilty and the instigator was the government which tried to terminated activities at Maidan with berkuts. They attacked the Maidan and saw what a big power there presented. They tried to clear up that area but saw how big the resistance was. As a result, there was a counteroffensive. A simple revolution. A normal one that we witnessed many times throughout the history of mankind about people move towards revolution.
– How would you commend the development in Crimea? In this case, in fact Russia poured a cold shower on the west with an unexpected move. How will this end?
– To say that it was unexpected is wrong. For Russia Crimea has vital importance. Strategic importance. Defensive importance. It is obvious that the Ukraine is irrevocably changing its foreign policy. If during the orange revolution in 2004 brought to power still had the opportunity to return to Russian political field which happened by the election of Yanikovich as the president as we’ve seen, whereas now the victory at the expense of deaths of 80 people will not be compromised. The compromise will lead to disintegration of the Ukraine. Russia understood this very well and as a priority it placed the issue of guaranteeing its security which is to secure the existence of military base located in Crimea. Why is this important for Russia is because if the Ukrainian government decides to apply for NATO membership by having a military base of the opposite bloc is simply impossible. In fact, the military base in Crimea is the guarantee for non-membership of the Ukraine in NATO. Consequently, they had to appeal to concrete measures. But as always, everything was done in a dilettant way, this could be done in a more intelligent way, in regard that it was claimed the Russian speaking populated is under threat. Also rumor had it that the Ukraine intended to terminate the Kharkov Treaty through which it was entitled to rent the base in Crimea, as well as the threat for their citizens was the fundamental base for the Russian president to come up with a proposal to use armed forces in the territory of the Ukraine. We saw that not a single of threat for the Russian speaking population, or any attack or any form of problem related to the Russian speaking population of the Ukraine particularly in Crimea was not there. There was no threat. They were not used force against. I would say right the contrary. We’ve seen that in Kharkov, in Donetsk there was a revenge by the Russian speakers who brutally beat. And here bringing facts was rather poor in the sense that there was no threat. Crimea is mostly populated by Russian speakers and they were not under threat. At least in practice there was no threat for them. Although it is still being claimed that Russia has not sent troops to the Ukraine. It’s jus it got the approval to do so by the federal council as prescribed by the constitution, still we see that there are armed people without identification in Crimea with armor that closed all the inputs and outputs. If Russia denies that they are its forces, it means they are an assault which should be isolated. If no one take the responsibility for those people who closed all the roads, who are armed who do not reveal their identity and use arms, then this is an immediate threat to the people living in Crimea. Someone should be held responsible and state that it is me who’s there.
– Aren’t the Russian actions in Crimea severe violation of the Budapest treaty? And what possibilities does the treaty give to the parties of the treaty other than Russia? What can be applied?
– It is a relevant question that you moved to international law. I should say that the events in the Ukraine opened a new page in international relations, international diplomacy and the implementation of norms of international law. Namely, we see that Russia being member of numerous UN treaties and conventions, and having signed the quadrilateral memorandum in 94 with which three countries, UK, US and Russia guarantee the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, and the integrity of borders, political self-governance, possibilities of economic development, we see that Russia unilaterally at least intends to violate the memorandum which it had signed. It has an intention. I can speak about the legal terms of the violation at this point. But the fact is that Crimea is being forcefully retained in the field of Russian influence by which it guarantees the existence of its military base in Crimea, in Sevostopol. The violation will not stir any legal consequences in fact – it is just a memorandum where the parties have agreed to guarantee. This will cause the loss of russia’s international reputation as a trustworthy partner because once you’ve agreed you should implement. We see that at the moment Russia does not lean towards keeping the power of its own signature. Whereas in general as regards the principle of territorial integrity that are prescribed in the international law are currently in the phase of violation. Why? Because in order for one country to use force again another, the decision of the UN security council is required. Or the use of armed forces has to be precisely proved and motivated. So far we there were precedents to that. Namely, by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq – there was a military intervention which was ultimately close to the procedures prescribed by the international law. In case of Afghanistan all the norms of international laws were maintained. In case of Iraq they couldn’t reach the decision of the UN security council while all the doubts were available that chemical weapons were being proliferated there. Moreover, the chemical weapons had been used against peaceful citizens in particular against the Kurds in northern Iraq. At that time large numbers of Kurds were killed. In general, the point that US is allowed while Russia is not is being largely manipulated and discussed. The problem here is not about the entities but what cause the use of military force. Whether all the possible mechanisms and tools are used before appealing to military force? The available institutes in the international law. The procedures that international doctrine prescribes. In order not to go in the military way of solving the problem. I can say for sure that in case of Iraq the United States have attempted to do everything in order to avoid military intervention. Because first of all, the US government is democratic which is accountable towards its people. It takes the responsibility for every deceased citizen. And to make such a decision precise, concrete reasons were required. We’ve seen that they existed in reality. Of course, the chemical weapons were not found but the success is that the authoritarian power was demolished. In this case, we didn’t see procedures proceeding the use of military use. Although it could be possible to find possibilities. It could be possible to send an observers group to Crimea. It could be possible to use the possibilities of the OSCE, the EU, the UN why not. It could be possible to find formats of cooperation. If the point was the security of the Russians, if that was the problem, then it could be very easily in the international format, bilaterally, trilaterally, or quadrilaterally encourage the Ukrainian government to restore the language status as well as constrain fascistic ideologies and its spread. And alongside gain guarantees that the Russian speaking minorities in the Ukraine will enjoy the rights prescribed by the constitution, international laws. We have witnessed that they were not attepted, nor applied. The decision to use military force was immediately made. I believe this was a quick decision to make on behalf of Russia. It was possible to solve the problem by other means. And not lead to such a tension.
– Does that mean that comparisons are irrelevant? With Iraq and Afghanistan.
– As a final outcome, we can compare with Iraq. As a final outcome. That as a final outcome the US used military intervention in Iraq without UN security council sanction. The same will be done by Russia so in that regard we can compare. But what did the US do before the military intervention? How many years of negotiations preceded the intervention? How many UN missions were sent over to Iraq? How many times Hussein was asked to open up the possibilities to examine and study? Once they gained a rejection by the Iraqi leader which didn’t allow to enter the areas where there could be chemical weapons. As a result of which a decision was made. And there was this case that chemical weapon was used in northern Iraq. So, they are different in form and content. Russia’s and the US strategies are different. The approach is different. As a final outcome there is similarity.
– How should the west tolerate Russia’s such policy? What steps do you foresee? And what steps do you consider necessary today?
– It is hard to say at this stage because it seems that steps are being made to encourage Russia to act within the framework of international law which is the geopolitical and economic isolation. The upcoming G8 summit in Sochi can be considered canceled. As well as economic sanctions which the west will attempt to use against Russia. As well as other formats within which there will be attempts to find dialogues with Russia. And the format exists. As we speak, an extraordinary session of EU foreign ministers is underway which was summoned by Katherine Ashton around the Ukraine problem. And I think that the EU has all the possibilities to find a solution through mediation mission of Germany or France or Franco-German alliance. What is optimistic for me is that as we know yesterday the Russian president and German chancellor have come to an agreement in their telephone conversation to send to Crimea an observation mission within the OSCE. This makes me hopeful that the west, namely, the EU will find possibilities to cooperate with Russia which will minimize the launch of military actions and escalation of tension. At least, it will be the beginning of a process which will temporarily or forever, I hope, eliminate the use of arms, of armed forces in the Ukraine which is, speaking otherwise, declaration of war to a state which is when you intrude the country with arms without the country’s consent – it’s a war. Whereas in case of Ukraine and Russia the war will be a disaster. All the possible means and mechanisms should be found in order not to let it happen.
– Neither the European union nor the US recognize Yanukovich as the president. During a recent press conference he mentioned that he is and continues to be the legitimate president of the country. Today does he have the right to be called a president or no?
– Not only did Yanujivich, but other high ranking Russian officials have stated that Yanukovich remains to be a legitimate president. The one who stated that, the Prime Minister, is a lawyer by profession. There is a huge difference between the words legal and legitimate. Legitimacy is the possibility to run authority that a certain leader has. Namely, making decisions, implementing those decisions, and inputting a resource in it. Whereas legal is prescribed by the constitutional regulations for election or impeachment process. Now Yanukovich is not a legitimate president. Maybe Yanukovich is a legal president. Because the impeachment process prescribed by the constitution was not retained. But in fact it’s a revolution with all the obvious consequences. But speaking about Yanikovich’s legitimacy is, I would consider, illiteracy.
– These days both Carry and Mccain talked about cold war trying to persuade Russia about its unexecptability. Do you see potential today?
– Frankly speaking, you cannot identify the Soviet Union of the 50s with today’s Russia. These are different units with economic, geopolitical, military potentials. The Soviet Union could afford the luxury of entering a cold war with the west, namely with Europe which was heavily deprived and damaged in post-war infrastructure, the US has undergone lesser damage because of the war. I think Russia today cannot enter a long-term cold war with the west – economically, politically, demographically, culturally.. it doesn’t have any relevant resource.
– In your opinion, how will current affairs related to Russia and Russian integration projects?
– In post-Soviet area economic and political processes with the Ukraine’s participation and without it are different form and content. Integration processes with the participation of the Ukraine have huge potential to restore infrastructures created at Soviet times and sum up a political resource which is to consolidate that resource. Without its participation it will just be a half step. A process that has no prospective. It is very well perceived by Russia, it is very well perceived by other partners that are in the Customs Union and other potential parties that assume to create Eurasian partnership. The process was active because Russia was sure that Ukraine would join it sometime. And everything was moving in that direction if not for the Maidan. And the Ukraine would join if the Ukrainian people hadn’t struggle for its freedom and its European future. But the situation today is that Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine do not even have an intention to think about participating in post-Soviet integration. While without them it will be just another phase of satisfying the aspirations of Russian imperialism.
– So you don’t see any prospectives?
– I don’t. More than that, I have a feeling that both Russia and Armenia got what they wanted from the process called Customs union. So what did Russia get? What it got is that Armenia refused its aspiration of EU integration. Armenia got the lowest rate of its reputation ever. In fact, Russia gained a fully controlled economic and political system. While Armenia in return gained cheap gas, gained its migrants, the possibility to live and work freely in Russia. The parties did not expect more, in my view. Since customs union without a common customs border when the free movement of goods, services, capital and human resources wouldn’t be guaranteed because there was a country which was in a different economic system and a different bloc which would naturally create technical and content obstacle for the transfer of goods, I think additional obstacles would be created for Armenia. Likewise for Russia. We add also the unsettle confrontation in Nagorno Karabakh, the special attitude of Belarus and Kazakhstan towards Azerbaijan, where will be the outer border of the Union be, would Turkey open the so-called foreseen outer border of the Customs Union with Armenia, and what would be reason behind it since there is no note on that by official Turkey regardless that for about five six months the membership process is underway which means that Turkey should be speaking about not having a closed border with Russia. Whereas it doesn’t talk about this. Therefore, as an analyst, I can infer that the parties gained what they were expecting to gain. This is my personal opinion. I won’t attempt to predict what will be the result, but that the process will slow down… Russia especially, and we talk about Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union, it will slow down and even postponed. Why? Because Russia is facing more important issues to solve. And armenia’s membership is not the issue for Russia to allocate resources in this difficult situation where we already see the Russia’s stock exchange is experience a huge decline.. deals in the stock exchange have already been canceled. Russia may face a huge economic collapse. As well as the exchange rate of the ruble. And in this regard, to assume a new burden such as Armenia and the latter is very weak at this point and is expecting a support from Russia and Russian is not able to support since it has more important problems to invest in, I think what the parties have acquired will be enough. It may be good because legally and in fact we will not become a member of the Union.
– Many parallels are draw in regard that Crimea can become a precedent for the Nagorno Karabakh. Do you see a similar scenario?
– I do not want to even think about it. I wouldn’t even want to … want to.. I hope our government will be clever enough not to draw parallels between Crimea and Nagorno Karabakh. These are entirely different cases. Absolutely. The people of the nahorno karabakh have gain the right of self-governance and independence. Nagorno Karabakh is independent de facto and possesses its state borders while Crimea is in the process of ukraine’s territorial integrity and separatism in the 21st century especially in such a confrontation within the package of international laws, I simply see at this point as impossible unless there is a military intervention. Even Crimea itself does not claim to withdraw from the Ukraine. Even the newly formed authorities in Crimea do not speak about withdrawing from the Ukraine. They speak about forming a federal state. But Karabakh is an entirely autonomous unit. It is not dictated anyhow by the central government of Azerbaijan. It makes decisions internally. It possesses all the required attributes of self-government, which is not there in case of Crimea. It doesn’t claim to. We may be running ahead of the Crimea people or their government to become independent of the Ukraine, but they don’t want to.
– In your view, what will be Turkey’s actions? There were publications in the media that Crimea will join Turkey. I wonder how will Turkey react to this action of Russia.
– Turkey has stakes in Crimea. This is not something new and Turkey has stake claims but Turkey views Crimea as part of the Ukraine. This was said by Davit Oghlu on March 1 in Kiev during his meeting with the current Ukrainian prime minister. It was announced that Turkey defenses Ukrainian territorial integrity and sees Crimea as part of the Ukraine. If there are any manifestations of separatism regarding withdrawing Crimea from the Ukraine, Turkey will not stay away from that process. A concrete process will start and Turkey being part of NATO, and NATO will not let Crimea separate from the Ukraine. A phase of concrete actions will start and we shouldn’t forget that Turkey is our bordering neighbor.
– Armenian government does not recognize the new authorities of the Ukraine? Why? And in your view, how will this later on impact the Armenian-ukrainian relations?
– I wouldn’t say they do not recognize. I’d say they didn’t state they recognize. That creates a different situation. At this point it is very difficult for Armenia. Hard in the sense that on the one hand we have a strategic partner, we are a part of CSTO, we have Russian military base in Armenia, on the other hand our immediate neighbor Turkey being counterbalance of the strategic polarity and a leading country, having NATO’s biggest army in their territory and in the region, to weigh or counterweigh these two forces on the borders of Armenia is the number one problem for the Armenia authorities. Look, in this confrontation, in this tension we’ve heard the names of various international organizations. But I didn’t hear a single word about CSTO. After all Russia is a member of CSTO. Russia is making a decision to use military force against another sovereign state. This is russia’s separate decision – which doesn’t have anything to do with CSTO. But at least it is worth consulting with member states of CSTO and take into account their stakes and benefits because in case of unfavorable development these states are automatically involved in war. It should be considered as a scenario therefore it would be desirable to stick to the partnership format and environment, and consult on constant basis or summon a extraordinary session of the CSTO board where Russia will share its intentions with the partners at least to keep they ready. So, there’s a feeling that the CSTO member states are not immediately favoring Russia’s actions in the Ukraine. This is a serious challenge. And Armenia should reconsider its guarantees of security and consider whether today’s guarantor of security may become a source of threat tomorrow for Armenia.
– We witness the same CSTO policy during the war in Georgia in 2008. Georgians have highly praised armenia’s position at that time. At this point you consider armenia’s position as sufficient in regard to the Ukrainian development?
– Armenia should abstain from any announcements. Abstain from any actions at this point. If any announcements should be made then it must the announcement about the neutrality of Armenia regarding this issue. Because Ukraine is a brotherly country and Armenia doesn’t have any issues with the Ukraine. And we must be very cautious in this matter. It is desirable not to do anything. In case of doing just announce about its neutrality. It’s the only thing Armenia should do. Later when everything ends or in the long run we should seriously ponder what to do next.
– Although the situation is not yet finished, I assume we can make preliminary assumptions about how it will influence the region and particularly Armenia.
– You probably wanted to ask whether there will be Maidan in Armenia or not. I assume that was your question. In the region Georgia has had its Maidan long ago. In case of Azerbaijan I can’t say anything because I am not aware of current processes in Azerbaijan. As to Armenia I can state that for Armenia it is an extremely undesirable Maidan. The Maidan in its form and content that happened in the Ukraine. Namely, clashes with the police, casualties, radical sentiments, semi-fascist ideologies… we simply cannot afford that. But we also shouldn’t say that Armenia should stay away from this issue because priorities in the world are changing. The world is changing. Due to the events in the Ukraine we will live in a different reality. And we should adapt our policies to the newly emerged situation. Therefore, Armenia should find ways to diversify its economics and security policies, find a bilateral format of cooperating with NATO as a military alliance. With the United States as a bilateral cooperation by maintaining good and positive relations with Russia. How this will happen is a very tough issue. It required serious political and diplomatic skills for Armenia to be able to implement. But this is the number one issue for Armenia. Armenia should reconsider its foreign economic and political priorities and be able to diversity them.
– Will the west reconsider eastern policies after these developments?
– You know, we speak of the west in a collective sense which includes both the US and the EU. We have witness that in case of Armenia the United States was neutral. That is they didn’t intervene or interfere in the de facto fiasco of the eastern partnership, the abortion of the European integration which we no longer have. We have a partnership search. The US has silently observed the process. Whereas in the Ukraine they were not observers. They were active and direct participants. We saw the active and personal mission of the US secretary of state in the Maidan events, his bilateral and multilateral conversations with the Ukrainian oligarchs, how they were convinced to appear in the western political field, how Rada became entirely pro-western, how former fractions of regions became advocates of Ukraine-EU integration path, in Armenia the US did nothing. Thus, the EU being the most developed and perfect economic structure, being the center and basis of value system cannot yet find its geopolitical identity. And here US and the EU should find an cooperative and mutually beneficial format in order to succeed. The European Union will promote values and wellbeing, will demonstrate its inner capacities, but when it comes to physical existence and security, they all become secondary. And today, regardless how unfortunate it may sound, the EU is not capable of assuring Armenia’s security. It can be done by the US.
– So, the security which is in Armenia can change? Is there such a concern?
– The security guarantee may become a source of threat. It may. As a result of change of the situation. That is armenia’s presence in CSTO can become dangerous. Despite the fact that Armenia should remain a loyal partner, should remain a predictable partner, and remain loyal to the principles it fostered and loyal to its position within signing for associating with European integration. It had to remain loyal. But it has to think of diversifying it.
– Will the United States give that opportunity?
– Yes. I think it will. We simply have to approach the issue timely and in the right way.