Day.Az interviews the American expert on Russia and post-soviet space, deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment, Matthew Rojansky
- John Kerry, known for his close ties with Armenian lobby, was approved as the new U.S secretary of State. Do you think his pro-Armenian sympathy will affect the foreign policy of America?
I think that is wrong. Kerry represents continuity with the Obama policy of the last four years. It does Washington no good to alienate Azerbaijan and I would expect any Secretary of State to understand this.
- There are some security risks in South Caucasus: Russian-Georgian relations, Karabakh conflict, the situation in neighboring Iran. How serious are these risks and what is the danger if any of them will go in armed clashes?
I believe the risks are serious indeed. The Karabakh conflict is by far the most urgent priority. Any escalation in fighting has the very real potential to draw in regional powers such as Russia and Turkey and this is not a situation which Europe and the US can ignore.
The Minsk group still offers the best hope for progress, but the two sides themselves must finally be willing to accept less than 100 percent of their demands.
- Azerbaijan is one of the key links in the transportation of NATO cargo to Afghanistan and future withdrawal of NATO troops from the country. In addition, Azerbaijan, which is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, has strong support in the maintenance of security (by the peacekeepers) and development (trainings for Afghan professionals and other non-military assistance) in Afghanistan. How would you generally appreciate the contribution of U.S. allies, such as Azerbaijan, in the ISAF operation and non-military aid programs?
Of course, I believe the US government fully recognizes and appreciates these and other contributions of non-military nature from Azerbaijan, just as from other states in the region. They will become much more important after 2014, when the US and NATO presence will be significantly reduced. Without a coordinated regional approach to stability for Afghanistan, history teaches us the result will be something that no government wants to see: declining security, rising fundamentalism, even a new full-scale civil war.
- It is believed that the region of the former Soviet Union is not included in the list of priorities of U.S. foreign policy. What do you think about the views on this region updated by the Obama Administration ? And what it is for the United States and Russia: space for cooperation or rivalry yet?
I don't think the US is prepared to look at the post-Soviet region in zero sum terms. The goal will continue to be to maintain robust and independent relations with each of the countries of the region, and to reject the idea that it belongs to any one country's "sphere of influence." However, there are certain objective realities to take into account. The US administration has announced a "pivot to Asia" and NATO is planning to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014. These factors will invariably reduce the day-to-day attention and resources devoted to the post-Soviet space. Moreover, if cooperation between Moscow and Washington does not bear real fruit for both sides, I do not expect it to continue. The Russians have most recently canceled anti-drug cooperation with the US along with counter-proliferation cooperation under the Nunn-Lugar program. These moves will reduce US-Russian joint engagement in other post-Soviet countries.
- So, American interests in the South Caucasus will be reduced after the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan?
This is unlikely. South Caucasus will remain important for reasons of regional stability and energy transit, but also because the US has invested significantly in development in the region.