Tag Archives: Абхазия

About the «Mecca» of energy resources – with Prof. Dr. Pawel Olszewski (II)

Varianta in limba romana a interviului poate fi citita aici.

PPW: – Because we just talked about the Russian Muslim republics in the Caucasus … tell us  if consider you that in the North Caucasus was a mistaken strategy of the Kremlin to transfer the justification religious (with global implications if we talk about the  war against the terrorism practiced by radical Islamic fundamentalist groups) to an ethnic conflict with historical roots ?

Pawel Olszewski:– Analyzing carefully the events of the past two decades that can be shown the both government policies apply – so the pretext of the fight against Islamic fundamentalists and those justified on ethnic grounds has proved wrong in terms of rebuilding and strengthening Russia’s powerin  the North Caucasus.

The fight against Islamic fanaticism was chosen as justification of Russian propaganda abroad, remember that the first ideas in this direction have appeared for the first time, since September 11- 2001, when Russia joined the U.S. coalition against terrorism. The Russian authorities clamp, then Russia several years fighting Islamic terrorists in the North Caucasus. However, in the second and half of the first decade of the XXI century, this argument has become less reliable as the people of the North Caucasus were in a state of fatigue after a long period of war and radical Islamist influence on domestic instability has becoming weak.However, it seems that the policy of transfer of power to the representatives of the local population loyal to the Kremlin, seemed to be the best way to pacify the domestic relations. This was particularly in Chechnya, Akhmed Kadyrov where he took the lead, and after his death his son, Ramzan Kadyrov.

It is true that the policy of “chechenization” from 2002, seizure of power by local leaders Chechen pro-Russian, has led to the stabilization of the situation, even for that part of the former Chechen activists with radical views were absorbed by structures of local government or police. However, due to the new elite, the new local leadership, the benefit of the agreement, Kremlin very quickly gained practically the independence from the Principles of Russia. In fact, a similar situation in Chechnya, but is less pronounced elsewhere, particularly in the North-East Caucasus. So they came to the crystallization of mafia structures, corrupt, in whose hands “gave end”, most money funds wereallocated from the central budget of the Russian Federation for the reconstruction and development of communities in the north. This led to the fact that perhaps will be a large part of central government representatives of the Russian North Caucasus is becoming more and more a distant enclave of administrative and economic structures of Russia. Some experts believe that the gradual process of consolidation peripheral status of the North Caucasus has been instrumental in turning into a sort of “black hole” for federal funds. In an attempt to stop this process, the Kremlin decided to set up in January 2010, a new administrative in the Russian Federation: District of North Caucasus was separately from South Federal District. North Caucasus district includes Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkes and Stavropol Krai installing the management of the administrative units of an effective manager in person economist Alexander Khloponin, should lead a reduction in unemployment and economic development of the region, including further the development of tourism and winter sports in the Northwest Caucasus. These latter activities are in preparation with the host of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Kremlin is also representative and must puts an end to corruption in the region.

There has been an attempt to limit the power of local elite structures in the North Caucasus. And the answer was no activation of Islamic extremists, some of whom acted under the influence of Russian special services, designed to serve as a shield for leadership rather local republics of the North, leadership is not interested in stabilizing the situation and liquidation mafia groups, existing the system, giving them the chance of huge profits. The lack of a strong government and a weak control of administrative borders between Russia and the North Caucasus also meant that the area became a proper channel for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and fuel from the Middle East, which is ultimately is a source of earnings for everyone, involved local authorities in the North Caucasus and federal government representatives to ensure their protection.

The Russian authorities were unsuccessfulin the attempts to disrupt a local octopus of corruption in the North Caucasus District and determined that instead of integrating all the steps to see that converge to isolate the region. Some analysts have even said something like installing a cordon around areas turbulent military. More specifically they have talked of sending its administrative borders of forces, larger than the police forces of the Ministry of the Interior to “seal” the Northern District created in 2010, and exclusion from the border region of Sochi, which should be left to the District belong to the South Caucasus. Sure, there’s nothing official, but such assumptions circulating think to the Kremlin desire to reduce the area of ​​contact with other areas in the North Caucasus.

In this situation in the region of North Caucasus with plans to integrate the Russian Federation remain far, only “paper”. In particular, the business is most affected, pragmatism combinedbusiness and social instability in the region the uncertainty of law prevents entrepreneurs from Russia and other countries to invest in major economic projects in this area.

In early 2012 there was a re-escalation of violence (media reported multiple incidents) between government forces and rebels in the North Caucasus, on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan. Then at the end of august 2012, fighting between Russian troops and Islamic militants broke out again in Dagestan republic. Armed robberies, murders and frequent violent clashes between the two sides, took a place in different parts of the North Caucasus, especially in Dagestan and – after a long period of relative peace – in Chechnya.From January to July 2012 have died from violence 239 people. These attacks are the result of increased anti-Russian attitudes and hostility towards of the pro-Russian local authorities, which are padded to the growing rivalry between factions of Islamic militants in the North Caucasus, especially among fans of traditional Sufi Islam and followers of Islam the Salafism or “pure” free of local influences. In addition, fighting between Islamic factions are, according to experts, probably largely fueled by representatives of the Russian special services in order to obtain a pretext for military pacification of the situation in Dagestan and to justify the excesses of authority in the region.

The issue of peace in the North Caucasus situation becomes particularly important in the context of security organizers and participants at the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014. Especially since the terrorist activities of Islamic militants had aiming to enter in peaceful areas, and sabotaging the government investment in social objectives for the area which will host the Olympics. Then some rebel leaders made clear that they want to use the Olympics to Sochi to re-awaken the interest of the international community on the issue of independence of the North Caucasus.

PPW: – Based on your last statement, I remember that Movladi Udugova, head of information-analytical “Caucasus Emirate” in an interview with Prague Watchdog,  said that “enemy no. 1 of Muslims of the Caucasus is the Russian state.” How much truth is there and how much religious and political propaganda? Russia is in danger of losing Caucasus, as some analysts have predicted? There could instead gain (official) on Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

 P.O.: We can say that Udugova Movladi’s statement is “the Russian state is the main enemy of Muslim population in the North Caucasus” describes perhaps rather the situation in the region in the first half of the last decade of the twentieth century, when Chechen War broke out, and when they were failed attempts and other regions of the North Caucasus to become independent of Russia.Then anti-Russian resistance in the North Caucasus wasn’t so heterogeneous and divided into different factions, as it is now. But considering the fact that the Russian authorities are trying to establish themselves claim to want, according to expert assessments of non-Russian political reintegration with Russia’s North Caucasus, of course, from the point of view of militant Islamists Russia is still enemy number 1 . But Russia is not the only enemy and sometimes not the most important.

It seems equally important the enemy activitiescalled”Caucasus Emirate” is the local elite in Chechnya, Dagestan, etc.., Who took the control of the region, and sometimes apparently cooperate with the Russian authorities, although actually acts primarily for their family and clan. An important, and perhaps the main “enemy” in the current situation for pro-independence activists approaches is dividing the Caucasus between various Islamist militias from the North.They became seen not only in the West but also by natives like criminal gangs usually concerned only terrorizing the local population. They work in a similar way whether fighting with representatives of local power, claiming tribute / protection fees from local businessmen, and also make deals with corrupt local government representatives pro-Russian. The fact that a group of Islamist militants fighting treating Russia and local power structures pro-Russian North Caucasus primarily as a source of income, practicing kidnapping by “unknown assailants” to then claim huge amounts of ransom from Western activists, and even Russian temporarily living in the North Caucasus and are there for humanitarian missions, seems to justify harsh Russian government policy towards the region. It is true that some of these abductions can be organized at the initiative of local authorities in order to silence vocal critics too, but there is credible information that some of these kidnappings are purely criminal, not political connotations.

Perhaps the criminal element in the North Caucasus is not as great as indicated by official Russian propaganda. In addition, the image of “Islamic militants fighting for a” just caused “against” Russian invaders “not proven credible one. Moreover, a negative perception / positive of these “militants”by the local population is very important because the support and local assistance depends by a large extent the effectiveness of anti-Russian guerrilla North Caucasus.

Of course, the Caucasian Emirate activists statements on population in the North Caucasus is persecution by the  local authorities and is very important because it contributes to strengthening a particular point of view of international public familiar with the bad situation of the civilian population in the region. However, it seems that in some situations, the blame for this situation lies with Russia but rather the local centers of power whose representatives come mostly from the local population.Therefore, information about the persecution of the population in the North Caucasus by Russian authorities may also be part of the religious and political propaganda, both serving to obtain the necessary financing of Emirate Caucasus militant activity in many Muslim countries, as well as from centers in Europe and USA.

In addition, it seems that this kind of perfect overlapping claims over the views of conservative political and business elites in Europe and USA. They treat Russia as the direct heir of Communist Russia, which continues to operate under the old method, tried and tested, using terror communist repression. Of course, some of these statements may be correct, however, to speak of Russia as the main enemy of Muslim population in the North Caucasus creates a one-dimensional picture of the situation in the North Caucasus, pushing into the background or completely ignoring an important factor in shaping current situation in the region. Namely, cooperation between the central government and part of the national political elite North Caucasus, which has opted for cooperation for various reasons, purely economic, and also the power, influence, prestige, etc..

The problem with the cooperation of the local population in the North Caucasus and “Russian oppression” is closely related to another question: “Is Russia in danger of losing the control in the North Caucasus”? In my opinion, both short and long term, such a situation is unlikely, assuming the international agenda there will be no major conflict such as a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, or regional conflict like the Russo-Georgian or Azero-Armenian, because these events can completely change the geopolitical situation around the Caucasus region. Russia is interested in maintaining the control of the Northern Caucasus, both geo-strategic reasons and for reasons of prestige, influence, etc… North Caucasus is a natural barrier.

Its control is an important part of the south border security of the Russian Federation. Control of the South of Russia needed to protect against potential threats from the Middle East. In addition, the North Caucasus control and indirect control of at least part of the South Caucasus (through economic dependence on Russia) – Armenia, republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia) allows to extend the area of ​​influence, and integration interests economic and political life of Russia in the Middle East. An equally important role played by North Caucasus represents the transit area for the existing distribution infrastructure (and planned to be built) for fuel from Azerbaijan and Central Asia, as mentioned earlier.

Therefore, despite the lack of stability in the North Caucasus, Russia will consider the complex area as important for its strategic interests, which should be monitored. Moreover, despite the strong centrifugal aspirations in the North Caucasus is unlikely to emerge something that could threaten Russia\’s dominance in this space. Of course, a question that remains open is the degree of integrity, but none of the two decision-powers in the region: central Russian authorities and local centers of power are not interested at this time, to change the current balance of power precariously. However, from the point of view of history past twenty years the North Caucasus should note that on several occasions since the outbreak of the second Chechen war in 1999 escalated tensions in the region, and later to return to periods of relative quiet.

Of course, the situation is not encouraging, especially for the younger generations in the North Caucasus and without any job prospects has increased the number of Russian Islamic militants who embrace Islam and become members of the guerrilla groups fighting against the government security forces. In addition, a large group of Russian immigrants and other ethnic minorities in the North Caucasus are constantly forced to emigrate in search of work, often illegally.However, this makes migration between Russia and the North Caucasus to create the strong economic relations further strengthen the region’s dependence on Russian Federation. Also, it should be noted that sometimes we forget an essential aspect: the Russian economy needs the cheap labor in the North Caucasus (and Central Asia). The immigrants from these regions lower paid the positions that are rejected by the Russians, and are also important for the proper functioning of the entire economy gear.

Another issue is the annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the Russian Federation. Although the Russian authorities have formally recognized the independence of these two “states”, in practice, they are gradually “absorbed” in the administrative structure, and in particular the economic equation of the Russian Federation. This is evidenced by the phenomenon of granting Russian citizenship to residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, an “incentive” very “attractive” to the citizens of these enclaves, as this can officially work in Russia. Dependence on Russia demonstrated the presence of Russian security forces and that the budgets of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are largely dependent on central government grants of the Russian Federation.

It should also be noted that North Ossetia is Russian administrative, and therefore, the Kremlin would agree with the union of the two and becoming Ossetia as part of Russia. On a separate note, it can be stated that the “right” interpretation of history for political purposes turbulent Caucasus is now necessary not only for the Ossetians, but is characteristic of almost all nations of the South Caucasus: Georgian, Armenian…

Observing the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia suggest that there already is a visible process similar to the one held earlier in Chechnya, Dagestan and other parts of the North Caucasus, ie seizure of power by local elite ‘agreed by Russia “and approved the Kremlin. In addition, their dependence on Russia, Kremlin offers the possibility of pressure on Georgia and therefore must assume that both short and long term, the Russians will not give up control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite maintenance of these enclaves that can be financially costly and problematic conceptually Russian budget political.

PPW: – Minsk Group (the OSCE-Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), which has worked hard to pacify conflict azero-armenian said Azerbaijan’s territorial the integrationis beyond question. Nagorno-Karabakh should be regarded as a territory within Azerbaijan. However, there remains the question of whether the statute mentioned enclave appropriate governance is possible?

 P.O.: – Making an assessment of the activity of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh the conflict can be said that the members of this group have invested a lot of dedication and work to find an acceptable solution. However, the current geopolitical situation in the North Caucasus, and considering the conflicting interests of different countries directly or indirectly involved in this conflict, it is an unnecessary activity. Organizing a number of meetings at various levels of government and experts, at least for now, does not provide a concrete result in conflict. Of course, the OSCE and the majority of international opinion taken into account in accordance with the principles of the international law, that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan.

However, it seems that at the moment (in autumn 2012) can be outlined a solution that would resolve the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. It seems that this is the “freezing” of the dispute agreed yet many countries, especially we got Russia, Turkey and Iran. These countries have the largest impact on the settlement issue, mainly because of geo-strategic settlement: direct neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan, and have strong economic and political ties with both countries. For these reasons, the impact of proposed solutions to Russia, Turkey and Iran may be more crucial to the situation in the region than a decision of the OSCE as an organization and the United States and France, both as members of the OSCE, as well as independent actors in international relations.

As I mentioned before, don’t want a solution for the conflict of Karabakh,that matters for the political future of the region. Nagorno-Karabakh is a perfect “bargaining chip” for Turkey, Iran, Russia, and especially in their relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia, but also in the relationship between Istanbul, Moscow and Tehran, as well as relations with the U.S., EU and NATO. “Karabska card” is used in particular to preserve the Russian influence on the situation in the South Caucasus. Of course, if you think about the future geopolitical structure of the South Caucasus and the Middle East, we can assume that in case of war, a coalition of Western countries versus Iran could lead to renewed the violence in Nagorno-Karabakh. Of course, there may be voluntarily or, less likely, pressure shared by all countries concerned, Armenia to decide not to support separatist tendencies in Karabakh, which will then be passed again under the authority of Azerbaijan. However, even if it reaches this highly unlikely, and despite protests from Baku to grant the large autonomy for the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh issue of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be regulated out in accordance with international law standards.

Accumulation far for many “layers of hatred” between Karabakh, Armenians and ethnic Azerbaijanis who were forced to leave the area at any time could lead to renewed outbreak of the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Presumably it could be prevented only by the presence of peacekeeping forces of the OSCE, the United Nations or another international organization. However, given the lack of effectiveness of this type of active peacekeeping missions past and present, in the South Caucasus and the former Yugoslavia, it seems that the presence of peacekeeping forces and military police in Nagorno-Karabakh is not guarantee the complete security of Karabakh Armenian population in the region.

Just as possible for re-inclusion of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan authority will have a mass exile (voluntary or involuntary) of most Armenians in Armenia, Russia and other countries because of their fear of reprisals from the government of Azerbaijan. At the same time, even if the Armenian population of Karabakh would receive some form of self-government under the authority of Azerbaijan, which theoretically can be in accordance with international legal standards in practice is suspected that the law would be respected by the authorities in Azerbaijan.

A similar situation is may also occur if the Nagorno-Karabakh remains an independent or united with Armenia in compliance with the international law and repression targeting in this case Azeri refugees.

 PPW: – As a historian specializing in this area, so who knows very well the mix of ethnicities, religions, ideologies and pragmatic interests (given the importance of fuel resources in this area), believe that it is possible to find a lasting political solution to Conflict in the Caucasus (which is considered to be acceptable for all countries in the region), or rather Caucasus will continue to be an area of ​​conflict and turmoil?

P.O.: – Most likely your last remark seems to be the answer. For a long time will be a core Caucasus generator division and destabilization of international order. If we look at the two most important conflicts, and certainly the most publicized in the South Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia-Georgia on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it seems that none of the parties disputes that generated no currently has sufficient military capability, economic and political, to impose its own solution in the near future and its advantage without external support.

It is true that the Azerbaijani authorities to clamp repeatedly that they are ready for another war to recover Nagorno-Karabakh by force. Such a position may indicate a rapid growth over the last year spending on modernization of armament and military training in Azerbaijan. However, it seems that the more one propaganda statements and we are spoken to consumer use domestic policy in this country, because in reality, Azerbaijan has too much to lose politically and especially economically in case of a New outbreak of war in Nagorno-Karabakh, given not so sure that a new round army will be winning Baku.

Rehabilitation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenia is one of the main goals of President Ilham Aliyev team. However, the outbreak of new armed conflict could pulverize the existing of balance relations in the South Caucasus (and indirect implications on the North Caucasus), with repercussions on economic and political dependence of neighboring Azerbaijan and Armenia in May bigger and stronger. It would add delay new pipeline projects and for Azerbaijan, the main source of its revenue budget is based primarily on oil and gas exports.A renewed outbreak of the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh could lead to the withdrawal of Western companies decided to invest here. This could be stagnated by the   modernization and economic development of Azerbaijan. Moreover, it is difficult to predict what attitude to adopt Russia in such a situation. Or, as I said, Russia’s attitude could be the key in this conflict.

It seems that a similar situation to keep the conflict in “freezing” is preferable if the dispute between Russia and Georgia regarding South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Republishing an armed conflict can be a real threat to both, Russia and Georgia state leadership. We appliedthe  analysis of the situation then, coordinated response to Saakashvili, but parliamentary elections in Georgia have brought the opposition leadership, we have a new government led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose attitude towards Russia is not yet known, despite alleged pro- Russian policy, according to analysts. If Georgia lose again the conflict with Russia, Saakashvili could accept a political compromise on Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In addition, Georgia, (remember the reactions of the international community after the war in august 2008) could be considered unsafe again a partner for the West, especially in economic circles making plans to diversify supply network of oil and gas Europe. Then reopen a scandal between Russia and Georgia may also be at least embarrassing for the Kremlin. Again, it will be in the public eye with anti-Russian views of European countries and the United States, Russia is aggressively attacking monster nations fighting for their sovereignty. This would bethe confirmation of the idea preached by some political leaders and the leaders of international public opinion on authoritarian and neo-colonial policy of new Russia. Assumptions can be many, but taking into account the comments made by political analysts regarding the new pro-Russian government in Georgia, it is believed that we could see even a normalization of relations between the two countries, which could nullify the threat another violent round of  Russian-Georgian.

Given the complex web of the conflicting interests, historical animosities and even some phobias that are present in the peoples of the South Caucasus and strategies from the Russian, Turkish and Iranian apparently not expected, even in the future removed completely stabilize the situation in the South Caucasus and throughout the Caucasian region. Sure, you can find the reasons for the various countries and peoples of the region to treat civilized, at least divergent positions on various aspects of national political and economic factors. Although South Caucasus consists of three separate states because of geographic location is a geopolitical region. This situation causes, if not directly, then certainly indirectly, economic ties and strategies in the distant future may lead to a form of cooperation, if the peaceful co-existence is too much.

Perhaps the analysis of secular existence of different national groups in a relatively small area that existed until the collapse of the Soviet Union’s, could help to establish the cooperation between different communities. At the same time, we should not overlook that at this stage the governments in the South Caucasus national and nationalist politics (sometimes with radical tendencies) is a tool to stay in power. However, multi-cultural baggage of experience of people in this region can be helpful in establishing good relations NGOs, caused by direct contact between citizens of different states of the South Caucasus.

In fact, most of these communities are tired to fight, know that an armed conflict is negative consequences, such as rising unemployment, low standards of living, therefugee’s situation for much of the population in these countries. It should be noted that, unlike the official propaganda, not all citizens of Georgia have supported the war for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as not all people of Armenia and Azerbaijan have supported their government in Nagorno-Karabakh. I hope that enlightened and lucid minds of the South Caucasus countries will be a real core and strong civil society that could impact the ruling elites of these countries to normalize relations.

In fact, most of these communities are tired to fight, know that an armed conflict is negative consequences, such as rising unemployment, low standards of living, the situation of refugiees for much of the population in these countries. It should be noted that, unlike the official propaganda, not all citizens of Georgia have supported the war for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as not all people of Armenia and Azerbaijan have supported their government in Nagorno-Karabakh. I hope that enlightened and lucid minds of the South Caucasus countries will be a real core and strong civil society that could impact the ruling elites of these countries to normalize relations.

However, this process can be very lengthy because historical conditions, especially long negative experience gained during the USSR and the lack of stabilization of the situation in the past 21 years since the creation of the independent states of the South Caucasus is not yet suitable for internal and external development of democratic relations. In addition, a huge impact of this process are the cultural and historical conditions of development of the region, clearly different from those democratic countries of Western. So, perhaps, for many years Caucasus remains into tensioned and foggy situation.

interview made by Gabriela Ionita