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Russia and Turkey returning to normal definition of rivalry, Armenian expert says

Richard Giragosian. Photo: mediamax. am

Escalation and tension in Russia-Turkey relations is inevitable, but the escalation will be more political and economic than military. In fact, in military field we should see de-escalation, Richard Giragosian told EADaily’s correspondent.

Russia and Turkey relations are under growing strain after Turkey’s air forces shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber jet over Syria. President Vladimir Putin even called it a “stab in the back” of Russia by “terrorism accomplices.” He said Ankara has not apologized to Moscow for the incident; Erdogan even said that Turkey was not going to apologize. Later, he expressed regret over the incident saying such incident would not happen in the future.

Meantime, Russia terminated all military contacts with Turkey. President Putin charged imposing sanctions against Ankara. Russia deployed S-300 and S-400 missile systems in Syria. Moscow hinted that the consequences will be both political and economic. Russian retailers say they are ready to refuse from import of Turkish cloths and shoes. In nine months of 2015, Turkish fabric and textile items worth $514 million and shoes worth $48 million were imported to Russia. In addition, the Russian Foreign Ministry does not recommend Russian citizens to travel to Turkey because of the “threat of terror” in that country. Russia’s leadership weighs suspension of visa free travel with Turkey starting January 1, 2016.

According to Giragosian, Russia and Turkey are now returning to the normal definition of rivalry of the regional power. “The operation or the exception was when they were friendlier. This is the default position. In other words, Turkey and Russia inherently throughout history are rivals in this region. And this is the natural position. It makes it harder for Armenia but less dangerous for Armenia because the real threat to Armenia is some kind of collusion between Moscow and Ankara. What this also means is Russia will be actually more supportive of Armenia in this current context than before,” the expert says.

In this light, the rumors on active consultations of Russia and Armenia over the situation in the region and the visit of Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to Yerevan seem quite realistic.

According to EADaily’s information, representatives of the Georgian authorities were present at the consultations with Russia’s defense minister in Yerevan on November 28.

Further escalation and tension in the relations of Russia and Turkey will drive Georgia into rather a sensitive situation. Tbilisi supports friendly relationships with both Ankara and Baku. Georgia is a transit country in their regional projects, but it strives to restore the erstwhile relations with its northern neighbor – Russia – too. In this light, Georgian officials make quite cautious statements on the Russian-Turkish conflict calling it “dangerous for the region” and expressing hope for its sooner resolution.

“What we should see is that Georgia is in a much more difficult position than Armenia. On the one hand, according to the latest information, the Georgian government will go ahead with the deal with Gazprom, attempting to at least restore a degree of normalcy in relations with Russia. But in many ways Turkey will complicate Georgia’s ability to survive and balance. And the biggest weakness of Georgia is internal now and within its own domestic politics. We don’t have that problem in Armenia. Whether we like the government or don’t like the government, the opposition is largely discredited and there is a greater degree of stability in Armenia,” Richard Giragosian said.

The new situation in the region is turning rather sensitive for Azerbaijan too. That country has faced a conflict between its “senior brother” (Turkey) and close and influential neighbor (Russia). These countries have both military-political and trade-and-economic importance to Azerbaijan. Turkey is a military and political ally and strategic partner of Azerbaijan. The two countries are bound with gas, arms and food deals. However, Baku cannot ignore Russia’s huge influence as a Big Power and co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group for resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This is what makes Azerbaijan’s leadership avoid any sharp statements on the Russian-Turkish conflict.

However, Giragosian believes that Azerbaijan is becoming “more isolated” even considering the above factors. The reason is the “policy mistakes” of Azerbaijani leadership.

“What I see is that Azerbaijan – because of its own policy mistakes – is increasingly becoming more isolated. It’s not interested in either the West or the Europeans. It has a rather childish behavior towards Turkey. It demands respect but it’s putting itself in the corner. What’s most interesting is what happened in the last 72 hours – eight ambassadors and diplomatic officials of Azerbaijan have all been fired. This is after a crackdown of its own national security, after a crackdown of its own civil society. There is an internal power struggle within Azerbaijan, where the trend is even more hardline and aggressive, which will actually do a lot for Azerbaijan to make much more enemies and lose friends,” Giragosian said for conclusion.

By Arshaluys Mgdesyan

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