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«Turkey creates a group of allies from among the enemies of Russia»

The expert on the Caucasus Artur Ataev about the conflict of interests of Moscow and Ankara in the region

March 18, the personal representative of the OSCE Chairman Andrzej Kasprzyk, urged parties to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh to strictly observe the ceasefire and to avoid increased tensions between the parties on the eve of Novruz and Easter. And on 15 March the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev visited Turkey, meeting finally with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who a second time cancels visit to Baku due to the terrorist attacks in Ankara. Arthur Ataev, head of sector for Caucasian studies of the Russian Institute for strategic studies, in an interview with «the Ribbon.ru» has told about how Turkey affects on politics in the South Caucasus, who benefits from the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh and what are the prospects of Azerbaijan.

«Ribbon.ru»: How hard the rhetoric of the parties involved in the situation in Nagorno Karabakh may signal the willingness of the hot phase of the conflict?

Arthur Ataev: According to the rhetoric of Baku, including the highest political leadership, remains a military solution to the conflict. In the Azerbaijani media says literally the following: «we will liberate our territories, we will solve the Karabakh issue, we will return our lands». And it is against the teachings of the Azerbaijani army, amid bellicose statements of the Supreme commander of the Armed forces of Azerbaijan. Of course, it is disturbing the Armenian political leadership. But the rhetoric itself — a usual thing, she can’t start a war. But if Erdogan interfered — and he has certain trump cards — Azerbaijan can be triggered. This is the most negative scenario for Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia, but it is beneficial to Erdogan. I’m not talking Turkey, Erdogan, his political environment, because then wins the Turkish economy, although it loses the Azerbaijani economy and politics as well as Economics and politics all States North of Turkey. This scenario, this matrix has already been tested. When some power was involved in the Second world war, the country involved, received the dividends. Especially if you are overseas. Turkey acts as a provocateur. Strange as it may sound, the solution to this problem is not in Tehran, not in Yerevan, not in Ankara, not in Russia, but only in Baku. Therefore, such interest to Baku from the Turkish leadership.

How realistic is a direct Turkish intervention in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh?

On 15 February, during his official visit to Kiev Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu met with Commissioner President of Ukraine on Affairs of Crimean Tatars Dzhemilev. Demonstrative support gave courage to the radicals — the Crimean Tatars, operating in Ukraine and in Crimea. First of all, I’m talking about and She is Islamova. According to him, some support, including military, are already provided by the Turkish army nationalist battalion of Crimean Tatars, going to return the Crimea to Ukraine.

Members of the unrecognized Crimean Tatar Mejlis at the rally near the Russian Embassy in Kiev
Photo: Zuma / Globallookpress.com

This is the style of the Turkish leadership. I think Turkey is an interested party of a possible conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and it is clear on whose side. But overt military assistance, of involving the Turkish army in the fighting. There are Syrian precedent: Turkish artillery strikes on Kurdish militants, but deep into Syria Turkish troops can go — there is not enough air support, no sanctions are those States that usually give permission to do so. In any case, the scenarios here are the most negative. Unfortunately, there is no positive scenarios.

As Ankara implements its «soft power» in the South Caucasus and in other regions?

Following the visit of foreign Minister of Turkey Cavusoglu in Georgia, it was stated that Turkey would actually lobby for the interests of Georgia on entering of this country into NATO. For the Georgian political leadership is like balm for the soul — especially in anticipation of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Such mechanisms Turkey is trying to create a group of allies from among the enemies of Russia. And this is, objectively speaking, it turns out. Response the statement by the Minister of foreign Affairs of Georgia specifies that Georgia is increasingly becoming an ally of Turkey.

In the summer of 2014 on the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh has been tension
Photo: Abbas Atilay / AP

In what the reason of such success of Ankara in the region?

Turkish business, Turkish political elites know how to work with the political elite and the business of other countries. Political gains, economic gains of the partner country Turkey is not interested in. It is important for Turkey to find in the ranks of politicians and business lobbyists of their interests. It turns out. So too do Western ideologues and politicians. There are, in fact, a strong Pro-Turkish lobby in Azerbaijan and Georgia. In Tatarstan. The entire political class of Georgia Saakashvili times was Pro-Turkish, suffice it to say that the mother of Mikhail Nikolayevich Saakashvili has directly worked on Turkey. About 72 percent of Adjara the regional economy is Turkey. Turkey enters the region on several levels: religious (in particular, promotion of the ideology of Fethullah gülen), economic (work with regional chambers of Commerce and industry, major construction companies, investment funds), and, of course, political. Door to door, eye to eye you are working, which gives a real positive result. The Pro-Turkish projects in Russia, Moldova in Gagauzia, Ukraine, not to mention Azerbaijan and Georgia. Favoring projects live and develop in the countries of Central Asia. This multi-level system of training: training in schools, the development of interregional and international contacts, language training, literature. The language is also used as a weapon. Represents a clear paradigm of what is lacking in many post-Soviet countries, primarily to those who oppose this expansion in terms of ideology and civilization.

The soldiers of the Azerbaijani peacekeeping units
Photo: Mohanned Faisal / Reuters

Will Russia shut down the Turkish factor in the Caucasus?

No. Russia was worth a lot of efforts to neutralize Turkish factor in the North Caucasus. In the mid-90’s from Turkey was actively supporting the terrorist organizations that operated under the auspices of Ichkeria first project and then the project «Caucasus Emirate» (a terrorist organization banned in Russia — approx. «The tape.ru»). Still, many ideologists of terrorism and radicalism, such as Movladi Udugov, live and work in Turkey. Relatives of the penultimate leader of «Caucasus Emirate» Doku Umarov also live in Turkey. What about the South Caucasus? There are levers to mitigate the adverse effects on the policies of Azerbaijan and Georgia from Russia.

Are there any examples, at least a small but positive steps to strengthen Russian influence in the region?

On 11 January the President of Abkhazia Khajimba signed a decree on sanctions against Turkey. For Ankara it is a sensitive impact, because in the Abkhaz Black sea worked not Abkhazian, not Russian, and Turkish court. Now the Russian and Abkhazian border guards suppress smuggling fish. It is a success of Russian diplomacy, which caused additional anger and the intensification of Turkey’s anti-Russian direction.

How profitable Baku in the long-term cooperation with Ankara?

Azerbaijan at the Turkish court to come should not, it is a loss for Azerbaijan. Neither the Azerbaijani leadership, nor the intellectuals, nor business will not go on it, because in this case Azerbaijan will cease to exist. It is obvious that Turkey will absorb the Azerbaijan — for objective reasons. Yes, it will be part of Turkey, aggressive part, maybe even depressed, which will not survive the effects of the economic crisis. It is in the interests of today’s political elite of Turkey. For Russia, the most acceptable if the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will not erupt into armed phase. Armenia, a member of the CSTO, is a strategic ally of Russia, but Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Russia, it is declared, so says the head of the administration of President Ilham Aliyev, Mehdiyev, people engaged in real politics in Azerbaijan. This is borne out even by some leaders of Musavat activists (members of the nationalist party «Musavat» — approx. «The tape.ru»). It is important to keep in mind one thing — Azerbaijan and its current political leadership does not suit the West. Azerbaijan has the image of the country, where human rights are violated. It’s been stated time and again the American Ambassador, the state Department and Western European democracies. In these circumstances, Azerbaijan has a real political vector one Pro-Russian.

Interviewed By Philip Prokudin