"Azerbaijan will play a significant role in overcoming the energy crisis in Europe"
    American political scientist hosted by Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  22 August 2022 - 10:05

    Bahram Batiyev

    Caliber.Az had an interview with Margarita Assenova, an American political scientist, and senior researcher at Jamestown Foundation.

    - After a short break, the US has renewed its interest in the Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement process. What do you think is the interest of the Biden administration here?

    - Russia's war against Ukraine underscored the importance of resolving existing conflicts in Europe and Eurasia. As Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Türkiye have made some progress in changing regional dynamics for the better, the US obviously wants to make sure that this momentum is not lost in a new wave of military action. Peace and stability in the Caucasus are of paramount importance to both Europe and Central Asia since Europe depends on increased energy supplies from Azerbaijan via Georgia and Türkiye, and Central Asia uses the Middle Corridor via the Caucasus for trade and oil exports.

    Since Russia is under sanctions and the West is trying to limit Russian energy supplies, the US is more involved in helping alternative oil and gas producers enter European markets. At the same time, Russia is preventing oil transit from Kazakhstan, which affects a number of Western companies, including American ones.

    - So, at the same time, the US is trying to weaken Russia's influence in the South Caucasus?

    - I do not think that Russia is in a position to have a strong influence in the world, including on its neighbors. Russia was not a fully established state even before the barbaric war with Ukraine began, and now it is weakening every day - economically, financially, militarily, and socially, as a society will soon feel the burden of sanctions much more painfully. This war is already a strategic loss for Russia, but it is also a military loss, both in strategy and tactics. Such a country may not have influence, but it can still try to stir up discord and even conflict in its region. And this is what governments in the South Caucasus and in Washington should be concerned about.

    - Negotiations between Baku and Yerevan are held not only with the mediation of Moscow. Since last year, the European Union has also played an active role in this process. In your opinion, who has a better chance to reconcile Azerbaijan and Armenia - Moscow, Brussels, or Washington?

    - This is about peace in the South Caucasus, and this should concern the countries of the South Caucasus in the first place. An outside observer can only help but not direct the process. But for the first time, we are seeing the EU getting more substantively involved in the process, and this is a very positive development. The South Caucasus should take a more important place in Europe's security strategy, as the war against Ukraine showed us.

    - How do you assess Azerbaijan's role in overcoming Europe's gas crisis caused by the Russian-Ukrainian war and anti-Russian sanctions?

    - Azerbaijan will play a small (in the scale of Europe - Ed.) but very significant role in overcoming the current energy crisis in Europe. Baku's efforts to accelerate new gas routes to help Europe are highly appreciated both in Brussels and Washington. Azerbaijani gas will make the most significant changes in the Balkans, where it could fully replace Russian gas supplied via Turkish Stream-2. On average, the countries of South-Eastern Europe - from Slovenia to Romania to Greece and all the countries in between - import less than 10 billion cubic meters of Russian gas annually. This volume could easily be replaced by Azerbaijani gas.

    - In your opinion, is the world today really close to the dangerous point of starting a nuclear war between Russia and NATO?

    - I think Moscow is bluffing about the possible use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine or the West. Vladimir Putin may be a killer, but he is certainly not suicidal. He is well aware that starting a nuclear war with NATO would mean the end of Russia and more.

    -  Speaking about EU and NATO enlargement, do you think Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia will be accepted into these organizations?

    - The EU is ready to accept these three countries into its ranks - Ukraine and Moldova have even been invited. I am sure that Georgia will also be invited in the near future. This process is long and depends on the level of reforms and harmonization of laws in countries-candidates. But it can go very quickly, as happened with most of the new members during the wave of 2004 and 2007. It depends on the governments in Kyiv, Chisinau, and Tbilisi far more than it does on Brussels.

    NATO membership is also possible, but again this would depend on the willingness of individual states to join the Alliance. However, Georgia is refusing its application to join NATO, clearly under pressure from Russia. Moldova is hesitant and is now very much afraid of a horizontal expansion of the war. And Ukraine is ready to join NATO because it has demonstrated that it has a brave and very effective army, capable of repelling Russia even before the appearance of Western weapons.


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