Interviews 17:00 19/12/2013

French expert: Recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is the only solution that can ensure stability in region presents an interview with Adrien Gévaudan, expert in geopolitics and geo-economics, founder of analytical website IntStrat, who has recently published an article titled “Geopolitics of the Greater Caucasus and Nagorno-Karabakh” (also published in French). 

- Mr. Gévaudan, you have recently been studying the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and you have written an article on it. From your point of view what is at the heart of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

- Historically speaking, the heart of the problem is the disappearance of the Soviet Union (the beginning of its breakup to be more precise) which set the region on fire.

But today I believe the most important problem is the growing imbalance of powers in the region. Nagorno-Karbakh is isolated and its resources are limited. It is obvious that the power balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan is strongly in favour of the latter (for well known reasons: autocratic system, growing military forces and huge royalties from the hydrocarbon industry). Internationally speaking, when you have a status quo in a situation where there is a balance of power between the states concerned, you can assume they won’t easily change the way they act against one another. However, if the power balance changes too much and too quickly, it is only a matter of time before one side decides to take advantage of its weaker adversary; strategically speaking, it is only logical. And even if right now Azerbaijan is not willing to wage war against Armenia, let’s not forget that they did lose the previous war and that they still claim sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh. If you add to his strong geopolitical powers, such as Iran, Russia or Israel, you have a powder keg ready to explode.

- In that case don’t the Madrid principles, particularly the point about the surrender of territories, actually propose even further shifting of the power balance in favour of the already-strong Azerbaijan? If this point is ever implemented won’t this increase the likelihood of a new war by Azerbaijan against Karabakh as opposed to long-term peace?

- Theoretically speaking if an imbalance is created, consequences will follow. This imbalance already exists in favour of Azerbaijan. So in order to counter that and to avoid war, you have to propose a resolution that solves this imbalance. But how will it be possible when it seems Azerbaijan has no interest in solving the issue? As for how the furthering of the imbalance can result in peace, this is the key problem – it is unlikely to result in peace. This is why I will not be very optimistic, mid-term speaking.

- From a purely geopolitical perspective what configuration do you think is more likely to ensure long-term stability in the region – the affirmation of the status quo and the recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) or a deal based on the implementation of Madrid principles?

- It is difficult to answer. The status quo is actually unlikely to last again because of the growing power imbalance, midterm speaking. For the same reasons, Madrid principles are not likely to be implemented right now; if this process did fail when the imbalance of powers was less vivid, why should it be successful now?
Therefore, the international recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is, in my opinion, the only solution to ensure the stability of the region. But let’s not get carried away: even if it happens, let’s not forget that war between internationally recognized countries can also (easily) occur…

- What do you think are the main reasons for the non-recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR)? Do you think the NKR has the necessary attributes to “deserve” international recognition?

- The main reasons for the non-recognition are of course political!
As I have written in my paper, an entity can be recognized as an independent state when it meets the Montevideo criteria (1933) 1) stable territory; 2) permanent population; 3) political authority and 4) the capacity to build relations with other states. Let’s just say the NKR has the first three and the problem resides with the last one. But in order to build relations with other states you have to be recognized by them, which is quite a paradox.

This having said, we must at the same time acknowledge that international recognition has nothing to do with “deserving” it; recognition is an instrument of power and sovereign states are using it as such. Unfortunately states are not acting internationally driven by ethics but by interest. We can deplore it, and I personally do, but this is a fact. If the NKR wants to be recognized as an independent state, it has to give to strong geopolitical powers interest in doing so.

- And in what case can these powers have an interest in recognizing the NKR?

- As a matter of fact they already do have such interest given all the problems an open conflict would create if it were to explode in the South Caucasus. This especially should be a concern for the EU; this is why I think the EU should do more to promote the international recognition of the NKR. Nobody wants a new war right now (not even the Azerbaijanis); we should, we must take advantage of this while the consensus on peace is still existing.

- One final question: I wonder how you as a French researcher got interested in the topic of Nagorno-Karabakh and what motivated you to study it.

- I always have had a strong interest in protracted conflicts, especially those ignored by the dominant media. In general I dislike the way topics are chosen by mass media - on the one hand the media can create a “bubble” out of a trivial conflict and on the other hand it can completely censor a quite important and serious one. For this reason I got interested in the conflicts that are ignored by the media in the first place and in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in particular, which I believe is a good example of the latter case. I can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for my contact with Save the Children NGO, I don’t think I would have ever heard about it. It is a pity that we have to depend on random, personal events to discover critical conflicts, especially this one.

- Mr Gévaudan, thank you very much for this interesting talk. 

Interview by Nvard Chalikyan


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