Swiss Ambassador to Armenia Lukas Gasser: Switzerland will try to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without questioning the established formats such as the OSCE Minsk process
ArmInfo’s interview with Sergey Grinyayev, Director General of the Center for Strategic Assessments and Forecasts, Doctor of Engineering Science
by David Stepanyan
During the last meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Dublin US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Eurasian Union “a move to re-Sovietize the region.” What was the motivation of that statement?
The motivation was quite simple: it is no secret that the USA watch the post-Soviet area and, first of all, the South Caucasus states like an instrument for fulfillment of its own geo-political goals in the region. In particular, the Americans scare successful fulfillment of the Eurasian Union project which will form a new force center in the world geo-political configuration. One can say for sure that by the Dublin statement US Secretary of State voiced death penalty to resetting of the Russian-American relations. During her speech Clinton also said that the USA was trying to draw out effective means to slow down or prevent the given process. Against such a background many leaders of the post-Soviet states voice their intention to extend comprehensive cooperation with European Union up to joining it. By the way, some of them like the prospect of joining the EU so much that they even place the flag of the EU next to the national flag of their country, which is evidence of utmost unity. Meanwhile, the leadership of the EU is not going to further extend, as to preserve stability within the EU is becoming more and more difficult year by year. There are some impartial reasons for that, and first of all, global economic crisis that captured Europe and put several European countries at the edge of default.
The anecdotic example of the decade-long process on Turkey's joining the EU does not seem very encouraging for the countries of the former USSR, does it?
I think it doesn’t. It is obvious that the EU goes on conducting such a policy regarding post-Soviet states, that wish to join the "European family", which was rather successfully tested on Turkey. The talk that Turkey has a chance to join the EU has been there since 1963. From that moment and to the present time, they force the Turks to make various reforms in their country and say about achievement of "certain progress" on the way of European integration. However, such a game may be held to endlessness. The EU has similar position regarding the post-Soviet states, offering various cooperation programs practically in all the spheres. The leading European countries have been conducting the policy of the USA and watching the South Caucasus states like an instrument for fulfillment of their geo-political goals in the region. "For this reason, the USA supports practically all the integration projects and programs offered by Brussels.
Let’s compare the benefits the West’s and Russia’s projects can give to the post-Soviet republics and Armenia, in particular?
The surveys conducted by the Center for Strategic Assessments and Forecasts have revealed that in the light of the systematic crisis in the EU, Eurasian integration will provide better and more realistic opportunities to the post-Soviet states, including Armenia, for sustainable economic and social development. It is the real state of affairs in the European economy and the illusive efficiency of the European strategy of 'admonishment' that actually make the post-Soviet states to tend towards Moscow's project. As for Armenia, it is extremely important for Yerevan to continue its constructive and friendly relations with Moscow.
It is the relations with Russia that help maintaining social and economic stability in Armenia and ensuring stable domestic political positions of the incumbent authorities. These relations create fundamentally new conditions for the country's development in the new post-crisis conditions of new global economy, considering that Armenia's possible role of 'a gate to the global world' for the Russian business was studied yet several years ago. In addition, the status-quo in the Armenian-Russian relations should be maintained especially in the light of the economic decline and the growth of Armenia's foreign debt that has exceeded 5 billion dollars.
You haven’t mentioned the factor of security, considering the existence of an unresolved conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh...
The Armenian-Russian military-political partnership is ensuring the balance of forces and stability in the South Caucasus. This is especially important as unfavorable outcomes in Syria and Iran may wake up some of the sleeping conflicts in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Well aware that European integration is a goal it will hardly hit, Armenia is heading for Eurasia - guided by historical, geographical, economic and legal factors. Meanwhile, some media in Armenia are actively campaigning against this policy, which, according to the expert, suggests that the country's accession to the Eurasian Union may threaten the far-reaching and quite dangerous plans of the backstage world powers.
Do you see any obstacles to Armenia’s joining Russia’s integration projects?
By our assessment, there are no political obstacles to Armenia's joining the Customs Union and the Eurasian Union at present. The existing difficulties are of technical nature only. One of the technical problems is lack of a common border with the Customs Union member-states. However, Armenia has no common border with the EU either. Nevertheless, in Yerevan many advocate European integration opposing Eurasian integration. Russian State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin, who was in Armenia in July 2012, confirmed the Customs Union's readiness to admit the country if the authorities display relevant political will. The Customs Union member-states are going to set up a mix commission with Armenia to develop four-sided cooperation. President of Russia Vladimir Putin made such statement during his meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Moscow in August. In this light, it is noteworthy that even economists of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development consider the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan "the first successful example of economic integration of the post-Soviet states."