Power consolidation in South Caucasus states destabilizes the region: Khelashvili

“Strengthening of the states in the Caucasus over the last decade may have brought about controversial results and one of those results is potential destabilization of the South Caucasus. “

George Khelashvili had stated this at his keynote talk at the leading U.S.-based think tank /CSIS (Center for Strategic & International Studies)/ -organized panel discussion titled “The Caucasus: A Changing Security Landscape”.  “First News and Analyses” conducted a two-part interview with Dr. George Khelashvili on the issues of regional security. Find the second part of the interview published yesterday below. 

Dr. Khelashvili you bring up the idea of strong states versus weak regional security structure: how do you define strength- is it in terms of state capability to provide certain services to population, viability of institutions or regime consolidation?

There are different aspects of the apparently growing strength of the three Caucasus states in the last few years. In the first place, the strength refers to the state’s ability to control its own territory, borders, armed forces, and the ‘legitimate use of violence’. This ability is manifested in greater economic and political power at the disposal of the three ruling regimes. Unfortunately, the institutions, even if strengthened, are still far away from being democratic and accountable and greatly depend on personalities that are in charge of them. Potentially, this ‘personalization’ of power is a substantial danger to these states’ national security but such dangers are neglected by the regimes. It should be mentioned as well that the strength of the states is more perceived than actual. The three nations’ security is still quite vulnerable but the regimes’ over-confidence makes them overlook or disregard these vulnerabilities.

Can we imply that you view regional security as an exogenous notion to be imposed by, in your words, mentor states only? If yes, can this “system” of regional security be replaced by any domestic factor in each of the regional states for instance through democratization of institutions?

There is very little on offer when it comes to regional security in the Caucasus. Ever greater strength of the regional states, paradoxically, may be potentially more damaging to peace than the situation when these states were not quite strong enough to conduct independent foreign and security policy. Before, the regional states depended on their ‘mentors’ when it came to questions of war and peace. Now this may be changing due to the self-perceived power of the regimes. There was a brief hope in the 1990s that democratization in the region could potentially lead to more peaceful outcomes but this hope quickly evaporated after the backtracking of democratization in the 2000s. Now the states find themselves in the classical ‘self-help’ environment, in an anarchical society without the norms of the society. This can be very dangerous if the great powers do not apply more efforts to coordinate their involvement in the Caucasus in order to defuse potential security risks.

 How do you think upcoming elections in all three South Caucasus states can impact on the regional security?

The usual pattern in the Caucasus in the last twenty years was that the ruling regimes would use the propaganda about external threats for consolidation of their respective electoral and power bases just before national elections – local, parliamentary or presidential. However, there is little evidence that elections ever led to international violence. And presently too, the danger does not lie in the conscious efforts of the regimes to apply force to solve external problems but rather in escalation of accidental violence. The states, led by hubris of their own newly-found and largely apparent strength may disregard risks as well as international signals and engage in activities that may have negative consequences for regional peace.





A diplomatic solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not only possible, but is already on the table. Matthew Bryza

1news.az interviewed former co-chair to the OSCE Minsk Group (from the U.S.), former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, the head of the International Centre for Defense Studies (RKK) (Estonia), Matthew Bryza.

Many  foreign experts and analysts  believe that the extradition of Azerbaijani officer Ramil Safarov and his pardon by the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, complicated negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. As someone who knows the region pretty well, what is your opinion concerning the issue?

 I believe that the negotiation process between Azerbaijan and Armenia should continue, no matter what has happened. There cannot be any second view on the conflict. It should be resolved via peaceful negotiations and the sides should make every effort for its continuation. While I was a co-chair to the OSCE Minsk Group, President Aliyev and President Sargsyan always took the negotiation process seriously.

 Can the tense situation, which is in the region, lead to a military solution of the conflict?

 As I have already mentioned, there is no other way to solve the conflict, it must be solved only in a peaceful way. Military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not accepted, and cannot be, since I know that both Azerbaijan and Armenia are not inclined to a military solution to this conflict, as they also support its peaceful resolution. I’m just convinced that the co-chairmen should make every effort to coordinate the 2 sides. Earlier I had spoken  to Mrs. Clinton and told her, that  the most important thing in this issue  is that the  managers of co-chairing countries – presidents, foreign ministers , themselves urged the ides to continue negotiations, and judging from her recent statements, I can see that they will succeed in that case.

 Is it possible that in near future either Washington or New York hosts the continuation of the negotiations?

 No matter where the platform of the negotiations is. The important thing is that the U.S. government should express high interest in the development of the dialogue, and judgingfrom the conversations with Mrs. Clinton, I can assure that she is interested in it and will assist the ides to continue the peaceful negotiations. She is actively involved in this issue, which is a very important factor. At the same time I must remind that the co-chairs may only contribute to the negotiations, but the final word is for the sides, which have to find a point of convergence. However, the case of Ramil Safarov creates tension between the parties, and the White House has already expressed its position on this issue. I hope that all sides will continue to negotiate as before. I think that the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan, also can involve in this process. Diplomatic solution to the conflict is not only possible, but also put on the table. Agreements reached between the co-chairmen and presidents – it is a real option. I think that both sides can once again actively continue the negotiation process.

By the way, Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in now in Azerbaijan and one of the issues he discussed with President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, was the implementation of the Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP). Can U.S. support the project?

I should mention that for about 15-16 years, the U.S. is supporting a project in the Southern Corridor and before that –it was the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Moreover, President Aliyev himself has repeatedly emphasized the role of U.S. in the realization of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. So I’m sure that U.S. will assist in the implementation of the project TANAP.
Do you think that your successor as ambassador to Azerbaijan, Richard Morningstar, will carry out your woks till the end?

 Not only I think that wat, I’m sure that Mr. Morningstar will do his best in order to strengthen the US-Azerbaijani relations in all spheres. Mr. Morningstar is a great and experienced diplomat. He was my boss at a time when the Clinton administration was just beginning to work on the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. I saw how enthusiastic Mr.Morningstar worked in this direction. I believe that all of us – American diplomats – are serving for the interests of our country, and I am convinced that Mr. Morningstar will do everything possible to carry out the works till the end.

 What are your views on the implementation of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline?

 The implementation of this project depends on the countries involved. I think that from a legal point of view, this project is quite possible, despite what Tehran or Moscow say concerning the project. From an economic point of view, this project makes sense, so the most important thing is to find a political solution. It is very important that the European Union, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan came to a common agreement. You also need to address the issues disputed fields in the Caspian Sea, but still, these issues can be solved very easily.

Translated from Russian By Artavazd Gevorgyan 

After Nagorno Karabakh war refugees will become additional “hemorrhoids” for Russia

“First Armenian News and Analysis” had an interview with the president of the Center of Political Conjuncture of Russia, Sergey Mikheev.

-Mister Mikheev, The extradition and pardon of Ramil Safarov having axed Armenian officer escalated the tension between the sides of the conflict. Do you think it is possible that this can result in change of Karabakh status quo or lead to more severe tensions in the region?

-I think this event will not bring any essential change in the region. Neither the change is possible in Karabakh issue. The event proved to awaken some reaction, but this is temporary. Soon it will be forgotten. It is sure to be inflaming the relations, but I thing no root change will take place in Transcaucasia.

-In this phase, there was a question that the measures of OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries are not enough for going forward in the conflict resolution process. Do you think that the mediators’ efforts are in vain or anyhow solutions will be found?

– It’s 20 years that the co-chairing countries cannot resolve the conflict. There are unable to solve it as the positions of the parties are incompatible. No effort of mediators can succeed unless they find a way satisfying both the parties. But parties put forward contradictory demands. And one can forever argue who is guilty and who is innocent. The fact is that Baku and Yerevan have contrary positions. And in such situation the mediators are practically powerless.

– You mean that negotiations are impossible to carry on in this format? Do you find the format change possible?

– This format at least keeps away from war. I don’t see the resolution of the conflict in the near future. The reason is again that parties cannot negotiate. One can renounce Minsk Group format, create a new group, two or even more groups, but anyhow everything will be the same unless the parties change their positions. The problem is not in the format or in Minsk Group.

– Do you think that in this phase, when Azerbaijan gifts pardon to the murderer having axed an Armenian officer, Armenia can gain favorable turn in negotiation process and dictate its conditions?

-I think in this situation nobody has the right to dictate. I don’t see such possibility. It is a quite impossible plot.

– Ms. Mikheev, there have been ideas that the created situation is favorable for this or that country. Namely, there is a thought that war can favor Russia to eliminate the plans of West in our region. According to you what countries can profit from the tension in the region?

-I think that in reality it is not favorable for any country. This is irreconcilable conflict, both parties show implacability, that’s why they seek the guilty all the time. How this can be favorable for Russia, I can’t perceive. If there is a war in Karabakh again, what will Russia gain? It can only bring problems to our southern borders, there will be a great flow of refugees, and first of all they will immigrate to Russia.
Russia doesn’t need it at all. The refugees will become additional “hemorrhoids” for Russia.

I constantly meet representatives from different countries and constantly hear the question who will favor from this. The reality is that the Armenians and the Azerbaijani can agree with each other. Principally any tension in the region can be favorable for the USA. It will gain a chance to actively integrate into region. It could say that because of the instability of the region, and its strategic importance for Iranian and Syrian factors, they find it necessary to strengthen their positions here. But this motive is not certain, it is disputable.

-Do you find it rational for Armenia to come out of the negotiation process?

-I think that coming out of the negotiations will not lead to anything favorable. It means to go towards war. And I think that war is not favorable for any party. This situation will not lead to war. And if one has nothing to do or has no probems, he can start a war, why not?

Translated from Armenian by Narine Hambardzumyan