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Старый 01.11.2010, 07:01   #5293
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Russia’s strategic ambitions in South Caucasus and beyond

On August 20 Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev signed amendments to a 1995 bilateral treaty extending Russia's use of its 102nd military base near Armenia's border with Turkey through 2044.

The signature launched long and controversial debates over possible causes and implications of the agreement.

On one hand, some are confident that the main purpose of such a move is directly linked to the Armenian-Azerbaijani contention over Nagorno-Karabagh and is clear evidence of Russia's strategic-military support to Armenia in the event of military force used by Azerbaijan.

On the other, this view is contradicted by those who believe that "Russia's reported plans to sell two of its S-300 Favorit air-defense systems to Azerbaijan" is a balancing enterprise to maintain a strategic parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan and thus, keep the status quo of "no war, no peace" situation.

Are these two mutually excluding moves part of Russia's South Caucasian policies or are they part of a more far-going agenda?

All about East vs. West?

Affected by a historical inferiority complex vis-à-vis the West, Russia has initiated a reaction to Western superiority.

Development of Russia's ambitions of modernization can be traced through a tripartite evolution of the Russian far-reaching strategy.

The first attempt was undertaken by Peter the Great in 17th century who sought to launch radical reforms of "westernization" of Russia. Some of his successor Tsars followed this path until 1917.

The second phase of the project was based on the promotion of Marxist and then Leninist ideas and resulted in the creation of a de-facto Soviet Empire that incorporated, mostly by force, nations of the Russian empire.

Consequently, the Cold War not only became the driving force in the antagonism between the West and Russia after WW2, but a source of new ideological tensions. End of the Soviet Union marked another failure of the Russian project.

In the 1990s, Russia found itself as the successor of the two previous (Tsarist and Soviet) attempts and it was consequential to set up the third platform that Russia would use as a tool to (re)gain the control it lost over former-Soviet countries. New ideas were needed and Russia's old ambitions took on new forms.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was created and many of those countries including the South Caucasian states joined it. Since then, any Western ambitions and interplay of CIS countries with Euro-Atlantic structures were seen by Russia as "treachery" by these newly independent states.

Russia has since also established the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) in effect to "tame" any NATO or other Euro-Atlantic inspirations deemed a direct threat to Russia's national security.

First, it created regional military alliances. Second, Russia strongly enforced its economic presence in the former Soviet area. Third, it sought to undermine initiatives by non Russia-oriented states toward the West.

The Russia-Georgia armed confrontation and the ascendance of Russia-favored Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to power are central elements of this strategy.

Russia is also taking revenge against the West's unilateral actions in former Yugoslavia and NATO's enlargements into Eastern Europe.

Russia seems ready to make more moves towards Iran and Turkey to make sure its presence in the region and its influence over the greater Caucasus is not undermined by the US and the EU-led projects such as NABUCCO, Georgia's (and Ukraine's) accession to NATO, pumping Central Asian hydrocarbon resources to Europe by bypassing Russia etc.

Although Russia is trying to present itself as open to engaging the West on matters such us Iran's nuclear program, its real priority is enhanced control over the South Caucasus, on one hand, while increasing contradictions between the West, China and Middle East players.

Thus, the extension of the lease of the Russian military base in Armenia for another 34 years and Moscow's possible delivery of anti-aircraft missile launchers S-300 to Azerbaijan underscore the third attempt of Russia in its far-reaching strategy.

Russia has strong ambitions both for the West and the Rest. By the same logic, Russia has recently canceled its plans to supply Iran with S-300. Russia doesn't need now to put a spoke in US's wheel and to have a stronger Iran. Over time Russia-Iran-US triangle is likely to reveal new dynamics.

We can therefore presume that Russia's endeavors in the South Caucasus and beyond are not partner- or friendship-oriented.

Rather, these policies are based on a strategy and pursue the objective to see Russia as a rising instead of falling power.

The cold peace may be on its way.
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