"No one can guarantee that terrorists like Melkonyan will not be planted into the region"
Grigory Trofimchuk talks to Caliber.Az
INTERVIEWS 03 October 2023 - 14:58
In a conversation with Caliber.Az, Russian international expert Grigory Trofimchuk elaborates his thoughts on the future of the South Caucasus region and forces trying to prevent peaceful initiatives.
- How did you perceive the undoubtedly significant events in our region, I mean the liquidation of illegal armed formations, self-dissolution of the illegal entity in Garabagh, and detention of its leaders? How, in your opinion, will this affect the geopolitics of the region?
- Those who headed these "structures" in Garabagh quite quickly, even according to their "laws", retired from any responsibility before their own people, as it is too hard to take care of a huge "crowd" in the current conditions. It is strange, however, that the Garabagh Armenians themselves did not hand over their leaders to Azerbaijan, because life on the territory of Armenia is not prepared for them.
For Baku, it is important to realise that it bears almost all the responsibility for the region. At least it is the South Caucasus, and at most - all the links, including the Caspian, etc. The US is also closely watching whether Baku is ready for a new format for itself or whether it should be disturbed, having in mind the emergence of new Western leverage. After all, no one can guarantee that new terrorists like Monte Melkonyan will not be planted into the region (as it is very difficult to encourage Armenians themselves to such feats).
- How do you assess the tools that Azerbaijan is currently using to launch the reintegration process, and restore and modernise infrastructure? Baku is acting absolutely transparently, but can we expect new provocations, and accusations against Azerbaijan, which will be undertaken by Yerevan and the Armenian lobby, and other countries i.e. supporters of the Armenian identity?
- Provocations should always be expected, and of the most serious level. The too-rapid development (end) of the conflict may hide a lot of things. Baku itself acts responsibly and cautiously, and at this difficult stage, it is extremely hard to accuse it of anything, even if someone wants to. The Armenian lobby is already active inside the US and at the most serious level. One of its tasks is to launch anti-Azerbaijani sanctions. But so far it is perplexing to do this, as such steps require a reason. But there is no reason yet. It seemed that it could be connected with the explosion of a tanker with fuel in Garabagh for the departing Garabagh Armenians, but somehow no one has caught on to this explosion. Therefore, the reintegration process on the part of Baku is proceeding according to plan - it has no time to wait now, it needs to strengthen itself immediately and in all senses.
As for the Armenians who left Garabagh, they could have been given such an unspoken command with a long-range aim. Hence such an "off the scale" number. I can say that there are apparently no real politicians in Armenia, otherwise Yerevan, on the contrary, could have given a command to all Garabagh Armenians to stay in their places and demand the best preferences. Thus trying to create a new problem for Azerbaijan, as in this case the human core of "Artsakh" would remain in place and its well-being would be watched by the whole world like an aquarium. But this topic has already passed away, although this option was theoretically quite possible as a strategic plan.
At the same time, another aspect is clear: Azerbaijan's authority has grown rapidly not only in the region but also in the world. Azerbaijan has become a key country in the South Caucasus. The actions of many other states, including Iran, now depend on it.
- There is a view that Russia did not intervene because of Yerevan's anti-Russian policy. Is this true or is it more complicated? How will Russian-Armenian relations develop further?
- It could have been at the initial stage when Pashinyan broke into power from the street. By the way, why have Armenians forgotten such a "proud" phrase as "velvet revolution"? Somehow it does not catch our eyes now. At that time, someone in the Russian Federation might well have had a desire to put it in its place. But not now, in 2023, when the sharply developing process with Garabagh is already affecting the strategic position of Moscow itself. After all, many are beginning to say that Russia will be forced to withdraw from the South Caucasus, and the issue here is not only about peacekeepers. Since there are no borders clearly established by the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty, there is no end to the process. Moreover, the issue of corridors passing through the territory of Armenia, which was approved by the Trilateral Statement of 2020, has not been resolved yet. Therefore, Armenian-Azerbaijani relations are "developing" further, and there is no end to it yet, especially since, as with Garabagh, this "development" has a legal basis. Baku, physically entering Garabagh, in no way tore up that document.
Russian-Armenian relations depend on how deep Yerevan will allow the US to infiltrate Armenia. But all sides realise that today it is not the non-military 2020, but 2023 in full swing, so many regional problems in the post-Soviet space are solved differently. I am putting it so mildly, but I think everyone understands what I am talking about.
At the same time, Pashinyan himself is continuously strengthening his ties with the West. I would like to remind you (or many may have forgotten) that this started immediately with the composition of the Pashinyan government, which included all the Western-bred politicians. At that time, they were listed indicating the "nests" from which they came. And closer to the present day, Pashinyan's men, such as, for example, Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Court Grigoryan, are going to London to meet with Western representatives in order, first, to agree on placing their capitals there, and second, to find levers for a new destabilisation of the Garabagh region. At the same time, the Pashinyan group will already have to pay with Armenian money for the implementation of these plans. It is worth reminding once again that the same Grigoryan studied in the same places, and as recently as in the summer went there on holiday with his family, hiding under the guise of relaxation to solve such issues. In general, the Armenian government "named after 2018" is still actively working, and this time with the same "velvet" methods.
- Will the global project of the Zangezur corridor through Armenia be realised in the near future? Who actually backs it, who is against it, and how will the process go?
- It depends on Azerbaijan itself. If it does not lose the speed, which was set by Garabagh as such, the foreign policy situation may turn out to be quite favourable for Baku. But it will have to act against the background of the well-known Armenian game, where Pashinyan will continue to follow his favourite habit: agreeing to everything, ready to negotiate, ready to sign everything, but not right now, etc. Armenia, as is well known, disputes the very notion of the "Zangezur corridor", pointing out that there were no such specifics in the 2020 statement. At the same time, Moscow has never slowed down this phrase or disputed it. Türkiye, meanwhile, is not accelerating the process, keeping a close eye on what is happening and only noting that other communications can be laid in the meantime. However, Ankara is unlikely to give up the idea of the Zangezur corridor, as all the alternatives associated with the border version of the corridor do not give the desired effect. So, in my opinion, Baku has a real chance.
In general, with the corridor, as with Garabagh, everything will be decided in one second for a precise step. If this conditional second is chosen inaccurately, Azerbaijan's opponents can use it, as they call it, to the full. Armenia itself will not go to war against Azerbaijan because of the corridor, as it realises that in such a case it will give it a direct chance to "Irevan". Tehran, of course, may make some statement, but here, as they say, you can't go against the statement of 2020 - it "consecrated" the corridor. Moscow probably had nowhere to go in the force majeure conditions of November 2020, but it doesn't matter now.
- A number of political analysts, including Russian ones, express the view that the successful and generally supported by external players finale of the separatist formation in Garabagh is only a prologue to the unleashing of a new large-scale war in the Middle East and the South Caucasus, the epicentre of which will be Iran, which has opposed the US-Israeli-Arab coalition, which Azerbaijan may be asked to join...
- Azerbaijan, as it has already been mentioned, has reached a new level, not even regional but geopolitical, and now it has to choose whether to participate or not in this or that group, structure, or coalition, taking into account, of course, its basic principle of non-alignment. It is roughly clear where Azerbaijan will look. If the West will pressurise Baku, then the preferential course will be towards the East (China, etc.). But in this case, Azerbaijan will be the western outpost of Greater Asia. I think that with all pros and cons Baku will strengthen integration with Central Asian countries, creating a large common region linking also the Caspian Sea and the South Caucasus. In any case, this is logical. But the new system will have to be fought for one way or another. Türkiye and Israel are very important partners for Baku, which were chosen in advance, long before all the events.
As for the whole post-Soviet, Eurasian space, it should be said that Azerbaijan is one of the main contenders to preserve itself as a successful state even after the final, "second collapse of the USSR", as I once called it. Since there will be very few undestroyed, intact and sovereign ones left here.
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