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An Interview with Igor Mouradian

May 8, 2004

By Khatchig Mouradian

Eighth of May 2004

Igor Mouradian has played a key role in the early stages of
the struggle for self-determination in Karabagh. A member
of The International Institute for Strategic Studies
(IISS), Dr. Mouradian is also the author of a number of
books, in Russian, about geo-politics and geo-economics
(http://news.artsakhworld.com/igor_muradian/main/eng/index.html ).
I spoke to him in Beirut.

Aztag– What is your take on the current ruling elite in Georgia?

Igor Mouradian– It was clear from a long time that the culinary change
in Georgian politics will be connected to the right wing and not
the leftists. The right in Georgia would become the most popular
and the most active in the political arena. This has something to do
with the connection with the United States. Georgia was always keen
to demonstrate its orientation towards the west. In fact, this was
only a declaration; the orientation was only towards the U.S. However,
the U.S. is maintaining a very rigid framework in its international
politics in general and regional politics in particular. Some people
think that U.S. politics is very wide, but that’s an illusion. The
interests of Georgia and other countries in the region cannot really
fit into the framework of U.S. interest, and the situation is dramatic
for this very reason.

Armenia has chosen a different path. Some analysts accuse Armenia of
being isolated. This is rubbish!  These people either do not understand
the realities on the ground, or they’re simply lying. In fact, Armenia
has a well-balanced international policy. Because of their policies,
Georgia and Azerbaijan are much more isolated than Armenia. The
main problem of Georgia is that the regime is not adequate. The
ruling elite is more than a marionette, it is extremely dependent on
foreign signals. It is not capable of creating long-term international
policies, because the U.S. is demanding that they quickly solve very
important issues. The new Georgian president does not really understand
the problems of the Georgian foreign policies.

Aztag– What are these problems?

Igor Mouradian– This country has chosen its main political and
economic profile, which is based on the development of transit and
services. If they want to succeed as a transit country, they should
be keen on establishing good relations with their neighbors. Georgia
cannot really develop the model it had chosen when it is in conflict
or confrontation with Russia. Of course, one can understand why the
Georgian elite is behaving this way: Russia has been carrying
forward inconsistent policies in the area, and it has done little to
improve its relations with Georgia.

The main problem that the Georgian politics is facing at the moment
is not Adjaria or Abkhazia and not even the economical issues,
but creating an effective and a centralized administration. Most
members of the new administration have already had the experience of
administrative work, but with no positive results. In my opinion,
the present Georgian administration is illegitimate, inadequate,
and it is clear that it’s not permanent.

Aztag– How can it be illegitimate? After all, it is the people that
brought this administration to power.

Igor Mouradian– No revolution can create legitimate governments; it can
create efficient regimes, but never legitimate governments. Georgia
has neither. The leaders are very ambitious, and they will refuse to
be consistent in setting up a well-balanced regime. The current regime
is doomed to catastrophe. The foreign influences are too strong. The
situation is very dangerous for Yerevan not because this experience
could also be applied to Armenia, but because the current situation
in Georgia is very inconvenient for our interests and us.

Aztag– And what are, in your opinion, the factors that make an unstable
Georgia a problem for Armenia?

Igor Mouradian– One and only one factor: Communication. Even the
situation of Armenians in Georgia is not that much of a problem. The
politicians in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East are interested
in the following question: Could the Georgian scenario happen in
Armenia as well? That’s rubbish. We have a completely different
social and economical system, our country is developing very fast,
the shortcomings of the ruling regime in Armenia are being compensated
by the presence and the activities of very stable political structures
within the country, the parliamentary process, and other factors. We
have created a powerful army, and at the same time, a very efficient
security system.

Armenia is approaching a time when the opposition will be represented
by nationalistic forces. The political parties oriented towards
Russia, Europe, or the U.S. will refuse to maintain policies that have
anything to do with external factors. Armenia will become a patriotic
nationalist state. In this respect, we can become an example to the
other independent states. And of course, our main problem will be the
problem of the elite, but our administration is much more adequate. The
problem of elite is a problem that runs for decades, and therefore,
it is not worthwhile to speed up any process; a revolution is not
something that is necessary. Revolution would make sense in only one
instance: if the ruling regime ignores the national interests.

Aztag- The western media refers to the current Georgian elite as
"nationalists" and "pro-western". You are saying that Sahakashvili's
government is extremely dependent on the U.S. How can this dilemma
of nationalism-dependence be explained?

Igor Mouradian- Every nation has its own notion of
nationalism. Nationalists cannot be "anti". If nationalism is directed
against a political pole or a major political force then it is
defective. Nationalism is not only about maintaining the uniqueness
of your own nation but also that of other people. Liberalism and
cosmopolitism, especially imperialistic liberalism and communism,
do not respect the notion of nation. But nationalism is fighting for
the uniqueness of all nations. Perhaps the ruling elite in Georgia is
not really nationalist. Or it might be a pseudo-nationalist regime,
or a racist regime. After all, any idea could be perverted. The thing is that
Georgia has established a European political system; the leftists and
the rightists are very obvious. Armenia doesn't have that; Armenia
has a different scheme: the conservatives and the liberals. I don't
think that any of those is better or worse than the other. Georgian
nationalism has not become a uniting force; it has not created
national ideas. Moreover, the policies of the regime have divided the
society. Of course, the situation in Armenia is not ideal; there, the
clash between fake liberalism and conservatism will become fiercer
with time. One has to be reminded that in Armenia, nationalism has
very deep roots. One can even speak of national fundamentalism.

Unfortunately, our social situation does not allow this national
ideology to become a real thing. One has to be reminded that
Pan-Armenian National Movement and the satellites of this movement
are not incidental. The basic aim of this movement was ideological
modernization, a desire to modernize Armenian politics...it would
have had positive results, of course, but their aims were very low.
Aztag- Currently, Ankara is bringing up the issue of opening the
borders with Armenia more frequently. Some analysts say that the
Armenian side might gain from such a move on the economic level, but
it has things to lose on the political front. What are the factors
at work here?

Igor Mouradian- The economic interests and the national interests
are not necessarily conflicting. currently, we do have trade relations with
Turkey. According to different estimates, we buy goods from Turkey
worth something between 100 and 160 million U.S. dollars. Our exports
to Turkey are worth about 20 million U.S. dollars. Politically, all this
doesn't change much.

There are two major problems for the U.S. in the region: The
Russo-Georgian relations and the Turkish-Armenian relations. Both
problems are connected with the idea of getting rid of Russian
influences. Despite the fact that the relationship between the
U.S. and Turkey have deteriorated recently and it continues to
deteriorate because the Americans are not insisting on solving
the Cyprus problem, the U.S. continues to insist on improving the
Armenian-Turkish relation. The American idea is very simple: once
they improve the relations, this will create security; Armenia
will be much more secure. It's a lie or failure to appreciate
the situation. The relations can be improved, the border may get
opened at some point and investments might start flowing to Turkey
and Armenia, but the threat will still be there. Turkey appreciates
only strong positions. We must be strong in order to become partners
with Turkey. Now we have a strong army, an efficient security system,
and developed international relations. We are more prepared to start
relations with Turkey. However, one has to separate two things that
have little to do with each other: our economic development and our
relations with Turkey, which include the issue of Genocide recognition.
Aztag- but couldn't the economic factor be used to pressure Armenia
to get other concessions on the political front?

Igor Mouradian- We speak of Armenia as some other country that has
nothing to do with us. Armenia is us. It all depends on us. We should
sort our own problems and not the problems of Turkey. We should do
everything we can to make sure that we have a government that has a
nationalistic agenda and is not a marionette. Refusal to push for the
recognition of the Armenian genocide, concessions in the Karabagh issue
will not improve our relations with Turkey. Turkey is not interested
in Karabagh at all and they are not interested in the opinions of
Azerbaijan. This is an illusion that has been created. Turkey has its
own tasks, its own problems. Turkey is more interested in the question
of genocide than in the question of Karabagh. It wants to show the
western community that apart from the genocide problem there's also
the Karabagh problem that Turkey is interested in.
Aztag- What are the strategic aims of Turkey in the region?

Igor Mouradian- They want to achieve firsthand political and economic
dominance in the region. Apart from pan Turkism, there's also the
doctrine of neo-Ottomanism. When it became clear that Turkey is not
capable maintaining its important presence in central Asia, and that
the U.S. is doing nothing to help Turkey become a Eurasian power,
Turkey has become more interested in neo-Ottomanism. I couldn't find a
better term to describe this doctrine, according to which Turkey must
suck non-Turkish people (Albanians, Bosnians, Georgians, Chechens,
and Uzbekistanis) into Turkish politics. Turkey is now interested in
closer regions like the Caucasus, the Balkans, Ukraine, and Iraq. It's
very important that the Armenian communities in the U.S. and the Middle
East appreciate one thing: the U.S. is now carrying out anti-Turkish
policies in the Caucasus. They are doing everything they can to make
sure that Turkey loses its influence on Azerbaijan, they are doing
everything they can to pressure Turkey by creating alternative air
bases in Georgia and they are also using the Armenian factor as a
tool for pressure. It seems that the U.S. likes to create a little
Israel in Armenia, simply because Armenia is the most stable, the
most organized country in the region.
Aztag- What do you mean by "a small Israel"?

Igor Mouradian- Israel means an isolated country serving as an aircraft
carrier for the U.S. It's a very dangerous perspective for us, we
shouldn't allow this to happen, we should maintain very good relations
with the Arab countries, Iran, and central Asian countries. This
is extremely important for us. Armenia has demonstrated that under
conditions that are far from perfect, it can make breakthroughs in
many areas. Georgia and Azerbaijan cannot be genuine partners of the
U.S. They are very unreliable partners not only for the U.S. but also
for Russia, Iran, and Europe. There are only two countries in the
south Caucasus capable of maintaining the role of strategic partners:
the republic of Armenia, and the N.K.R.
Aztag- Armenia boasts excellent relations with Iran, despite the
religious and cultural differences between the two countries. What
are the foundations of this alliance?

Igor Mouradian- The region is coming up with new alliance and with
new blocks that have nothing to do with religious affiliation. These
blocks they are called geo-civilizations, which are not formed within
a cultural-religious framework.
Aztag- So you don't believe in Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations"
theory.

Igor Mouradian- I do believe in the clash of civilizations, but I
think alliances based merely on historical and cultural factors do not
work. The geo-civilizations which are based on geopolitical interests
are the ones that work. The Slavic countries are acting against
Russia and there's lots of conflict between Christian countries, and
between Muslim countries. And the major conflict of them all is not
the conflict between the Islam and Christianity, but between U.S. and
Europe. Islam civilization does not have a common policy. The Islamic
world is being used by many, even by Israel. The Islamic world is not
capable of creating a common policy; even the Arab world isn't capable
of doing that. Accordingly, however well the relations with Turkey and
Azerbaijan develop, Iran will never refuse to maintain good relations
with Armenia. This is because of fundamental geopolitical interests.
Aztag- What does the future hold for the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict? The
status quo cannot be maintained forever, can it?

Igor Mouradian- The conflict is not going anywhere. One
should understand a few things: Russia is not interested in any
changes. Russia is now maintaining its relations with Azerbaijan in
a completely different dimension. There are the other issues where
Russia and Azerbaijan understand each other well. Russia is supportive
of the political regime in Azerbaijan; there are also the issues
of Caspian oil, the Russian gas imports, the question of the Azeri
economic migrants in Russia, and some security questions connected
with Russian interests in northern Caucasus. The Azeri leadership
has no illusions about Russian intentions in the Karabagh problem.

On the other hand, Europe has no operational abilities in Caucasus at
all and has no goals or aims in the region. The only European task
is to make sure that Americans feel uncomfortable; this is the only
thing that they are interested in.

Turkey has no time at all for Karabagh. The Turks are terrified
of this topic, because if they are accused of supporting one side,
the Azeri side, it will create for them another problem in terms of
joining the EU. Iran is also very happy with the status quo.

In turn, the U.S. has only three aims: oil, oil and oil. Sometimes
people confuse priorities and goals; the priority is stability,
and the status quo perfectly corresponds to the U.S. interests. The
U.S. administration has had the chance to see for itself in Key West
that there's no political solution to the Karabagh problem, which
can only be solved militarily. The U.S. will not accept a military
solution, they're afraid of military solution, and they are supportive
of the current administration on one condition: Ilham Aliev should
not try to solve the Karabagh problem by resorting to the option of
war. For the U.S., if there is no political way, there is no other way.

If you had asked me three years ago "what is the future of Karabagh?" I
would have told you that it will stay like this for decades and it
will be capable of developing successfully in its current state. But
now, seeing the current movements and tendencies, I've come to
understand that the western community will have to decide the status of
uncontrolled territories (Kosovo, Bosnia, Taiwan, Sumatra, Palestine,
Karabagh, Adjaria, Abkhazia, the Iraqi Kurdistan and Northern Cyprus
and possibly another 10 more territories including Kashmir and some
territories in Afghanistan).

Sometimes they ask the question "how many U.S. congressmen know the
surname of the Nigerian president?" I don't think that many do.
It's a country with 100 million people. However, Ghougasian,
the president of Karabagh, is known to many congressmen and so is
Denktash. They're playing an extremely important role in the external
balance of power. And this problem will persist and it should be
solved. Moreover, there's another question of task or problem: not
all the territories will receive its formal status, and the Americans
have discussed this publicly. Nevertheless, Karabagh has more chances
than anyone else does to become internationally recognized. Of course,
there is a danger when discussing the recognition of the N.K. state;
the question of territories will arise, but there is probably a way
out. Perhaps Karabagh will play an exceptional role in political
history by demonstrating how a tiny country coming out of the fierce
and bloody war can create a fascinating democratic society.
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