Thursday, 23 September 2010

Interview: Zakayev Says ‘No Irresolvable Issues’ Between Russia, Chechnya

RFE/RL | September 23, 2010

Akhmed Zakayev, head of the Chechen government in exile, returned to London on September 22 following his brief detention in Poland on an international arrest warrant requested by Russia. Zakayev had been in Poland to address the World Chechen Congress, which was meeting to develop a plan for ending the violence in the Russian republic and secure its “de-occupation.” He says he will return to Poland when necessary to participate in an extradition hearing.

Zakayev spoke with RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Natalya Golitsyna about his experience in Poland and about the status of the Chechen independence movement.

RFE/RL: You have said you were a victim of the political games of Poland and Russia. What do you mean by that?

Akhmed Zakayev: I mean that the Polish leadership and the Polish prosecutors had every reason to ignore the request that Russia sent to Poland because I had already been detained twice under that request. The first time was in Copenhagen [in 2002], and in Britain there was already a court process that lasted nearly a year on the basis of this very same request.

So Poland, as a member of the European Union, had every right to ignore this from a legal point of view. But in this matter, I think, political matters trumped the legal and rights aspects. That is why, in order to please Russia, they initiated an extradition procedure. In this sense, undoubtedly, I think that I became a victim because the congress and the efforts we were making in Copenhagen were nearly ruined, although we’d discussed all this with the Polish leadership and Polish politicians five or six months ago. And it was on the basis of agreement with them that the congress was arranged in Poland.

At the last moment, when Russia learned that I would participate, there was pressure on Poland and these papers were sent in order to disrupt the congress. Unfortunately, Poland helped them in this.

RFE/RL: Some people think that the idea of Chechen independence is no longer realistic. They say that since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, all Chechen groups – particularly separatist groups – are considered terrorists in the West.

Zakayev: I absolutely do not agree with that. Quite the opposite. There have been strong changes in international politics regarding Chechnya and Chechen subjects. The first is the recognition of Kosovo by the United States and the European Union. The second is Russia’s recognition of [the breakaway Georgian regions of] Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The third was the decision of the international tribunal in The Hague that Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law.

All three of these developments in international politics indicate that Chechnya and the Chechen question remain on the agenda.

As far as the claim that Chechens themselves are tired and have given up on the idea of independence goes, it has nothing to do with reality. Chechnya is a concentration camp, and usually people in concentration camps try to survive. They don’t go around making political demands. A good example is the Holocaust. No one then was talking about the creation of a state of Israel. They were trying to survive, and they did.

And that is what is happening in Chechnya now – the people are just trying to survive. Chechens will never give up because the idea of Chechen independence and freedom is not something [former Chechen President Djokhar] Dudayev or [former Chechen President Aslan] Maskhadov or Zakayev invented. It is a national idea that exists and will be supported until it becomes reality.

That is why I look at the future of Chechnya now with greater optimism than 10 or 15 years ago. And what is most important – in Russia itself there is the understanding that the current situation in Chechnya has to be changed. What is going on in Chechnya right now is costing Russia a lot, and this situation is all held together by one person, by the personal ambitions of [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin. Because a person who entered the political scene through Chechen blood, through the Chechen war, cannot admit that this was a mistake and that it is necessary to try something else.

This is the only reason that the conflict is continuing, and it will continue as long as Putin maintains a political position in Russia. That may be another 12 years….But for the national liberation movement, 10 or 12 years is not enough time to suppress or halt the movement itself.

RFE/RL: Does the idea of independence have broad support in Chechnya itself?

Zakayev: The fact that people in Chechnya today do not speak about independence is a sign of the times. I remember some examples. After the 1944 deportation and after the Chechens returned in 1956-57, during this period until 1990, the Chechens lived as if nothing had happened, as if everything was forgotten. But the slightest spark, which happened in the 1990s when there was the coup attempt [against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev] and such waves passed through Russia, it was precisely the 1944 deportation that became the detonator for everything that came later.

And compared to that, what has happened in the last 10 years…. Even old people who lived through both experiences say that the deportation was nothing compared to what is happening now. It is a land mine planted in Chechen society. And sooner or later, it will explode. But I am categorically against any revolutions. I don’t think the Chechen people can survive yet another revolution. It would be a national tragedy. That is why we must find a transition from the current regime to a normally formed power structure chosen by the Chechen people.

RFE/RL: Last summer you were expected to hold talks with the authorities in Chechnya, with the authorities in Russia. What has happened in the last year that made these good intentions collapse?

Zakayev: The problem was that they demonstrated their insincerity. What they stated publicly and what really happened were two different things. They declared good will and a desire for me to return home. But when we ran up against concrete questions that had to be settled, everything came to a halt.

The first matter was the people being held in Russian camps. That is, about 25,000 people. The second matter was the return of Maskhadov’s body. The third was the matter of not persecuting the relatives of Chechen fighters. Without settling these questions, it is not possible to discuss the consolidation of Chechen society. And without consolidating society, it is impossible to work out a unified political program that could be the basis for a lasting peace.

Everything ended on these formulas, because these three questions were within the competence of Moscow and Chechnya. But Moscow was not ready to settle these questions. And that’s where it ended.

RFE/RL: Those were your demands. What were you willing to concede to make such a dialogue happen?

Zakayev: We said from the beginning that Chechens have never set themselves the goal of defeating Russia. The matter of independence was never an end in itself for Chechens. Chechen independence is a guarantee of security. At one point, Putin said that the status of Chechnya is not important for Russia. On the basis of these two political components, we could have found settlement that would have been absolutely acceptable for Russia and for Chechnya, that would have satisfied everyone and facilitated a lasting peace.

There is the peace agreement signed by Maskhadov and in that agreement there is a project for another agreement where the Chechen side declared a single defensive space, a single economic and customs space. All these questions were resolvable. I am confident that even now there are no irresolvable issues in relations between Russia and Chechnya.

Source: RFE/RL


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Caucasian Wars Go Pacific, by Thomas de Waal

The National Interest | September 21, 2010

India, Nauru, Tuvalu. What do these three states have in common? The latter pair, both tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean, are two of the world’s smallest nations. By my calculations, India is 44,000 times more populous than Nauru and Tuvalu put together.

But it is UN General Assembly month, everyone who is not a permanent member of the Security Council is equal and a vote is a vote. Which is why the Georgia-Russia conflict has now opened up a new warm front in the Pacific.

Strangely enough, I know a little about Nauru, population 14,000, area eight square miles (or about one eighth of the District of Columbia), because the first head of state I ever interviewed was its president. His was the smallest state in the world and I was a very junior reporter with the BBC, so we were a good match. It was 1992 and I was compiling a report on a controversial shipment of plutonium that Japan was sending home by sea. Nauru had risked the wrath of the Japanese by saying it would not allow the ship to pass through its territorial waters. I telephoned half way across the world to be told that President Bernard Dowiyogo was actually in Kensington, London, that week and would be happy to give me an interview.

Nauru slipped from my consciousness until the day in 2009 when it suddenly and to much hilarity became the fourth country to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. It was all of course about money. Back in 1992 I hadn’t realized that poor courageous Nauru was also virtually bankrupt. It used to have spectacularly large deposits of phosphate, formed by centuries of bird droppings. Mining by British, German and Australian companies briefly gave Nauru the largest income per capita in the world in the 1960s, but then the phosphate began to run out, the landscape was devastated and the revenues were mismanaged. From the 1990s the microstate dabbled in offshore banking, was accused of being a haven for money laundering and for several years provided a home to a group of Afghan refugees whom Australia was prepared to pay not to keep.

All these ventures ran out of steam, until the government hit on a more durable revenue-earning scheme: converting UN membership into cash. Which is why Nauru has the distinction of being the only country in the world to have recognized as independent Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia—no hang-ups here about Europe’s post–Cold War borders. It also managed to recognize, de-recognize and then re-recognize the Taiwanese government, causing Beijing twice to sever diplomatic relations. I can only guess how much Nauru earned from these nifty about-turns, but we do know that, after recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Russians donated nine million dollars to refurbish the island’s port.

Washington plays this game too, having had Nauru bulk up the No vote on the UN’s recurring resolutions on “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” in which the United States tends to look rather lonely. In 2009 164 countries voted in favor of the latest such resolution; of the seven countries who voted against, four, alongside the United States, Israel and Australia, were Pacific microstates, Nauru among them.

Now Georgia has found a way to strike back, via Tuvalu, the closest Pacific state to Nauru. On September 11, it was reported that the government in Tbilisi is “providing financial aid to the permanent mission of Tuvalu to the United Nations.” Later it was confirmed that Georgia had paid for a medical shipment to Tuvalu worth “about $12,000,” or roughly one dollar for each of the island’s inhabitants.

And, hey presto, Tuvalu was one of fifty countries (along, incidentally, with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia) which voted in favor of the recent Georgian-sponsored United Nations General Assembly reaffirming the right of return of all refugees to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Naturally Nauru (and the Solomon Islands) were among seventeen nations voting against.

Fortunately, there are no signs of a new Caucasian war breaking out on the equator. Pacific geography means that although Nauru and Tuvalu are formally neighbors, they are actually eight hundred miles apart—and besides the South Ossetians have no warships. But both Georgia and Russia should be careful. Paying obeisance to Pacific microstates with the population of a U.S. suburb will only encourage little territories in both the North and South Caucasus—South Ossetia, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, the list continues—to ask the question, “If they can be UN members, why can’t we?”

Thomas de Waal is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

An Unfaltering Gaze, by Dmitry Babich

Russia Profile, September 21, 2010

The Jobs of Provincial City Historians Are Back in Vogue

Russia’s regions are now using the history of their cities to forge their unique local identities.

The proclivity toward writing about a city, or even a town, usually the one where the author grew up, became widespread among Russia’s historians during the 1990s. Yuri Borisyonok, the editor in chief of the Rodina magazine, a monthly collection of historical essays and research published on glossy paper with pretty pictures, explained: “In the Soviet times, the best way for a historian to make a career was to go to Moscow or St. Petersburg, get an education and find a relatively well paid job with some scientific body, studying general problems of the country’s history—a research institute or an academic magazine.” To graduate from the historical faculty of Moscow State University and then return to one’s native town to teach at a school or, heaven forbid, to work at a local museum or an archive meant to fail. But this changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “The state stopped distributing apartments, and payment for research work became laughably small,” Borisyonok said. “Historians in Moscow and St. Petersburg found themselves fighting for survival. In this situation, opportunities offered by the governors and mayors in Russia’s provinces suddenly became more appealing.”

Indeed, with the shift from a centralized economy to economic federalism that occurred during the 1990s, Russia’s regions suddenly developed greater interest in their local histories. The rich historical past of some of these regions (primarily Novgorod, Kazan, Yaroslavl, Vladimir and Pskov, among many others) offered an opportunity to attract more tourists and to raise the region’s prestige. Even the governors of not very affluent regions developed an interest in their local histories and allotted funds for historical research from local budgets. At some stage, part of this historical research took a self-aggrandizing turn, justifying certain regions’ separatist ambitions. But the easing of political tensions in the country and general pragmatism later led to a certain shift of interest from “ethnic history” to “city history.” The latter provided more opportunities to mold a local identity beyond ethnic definitions, since Russia’s cities and towns, as elsewhere in the world, tend to be multiethnic, with a history of belonging to different states at different times.

A city of many nations

A good example of how a city’s history can be important for an entire region or even for the whole of Russia is Sochi, the future home of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. A city of 330,000 people, it is a good example of a troubled but fascinating history, reflecting some of the most important stages in the history of Russia and its neighbors.

Located on the territory of the Byzantine Empire and ruled by the mostly Greek-speaking successors of ancient Roman emperors, Sochi was a part of medieval Circassia and a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th century until 1829, when it became part of Russia as a result of Turkey’s defeat in the Russo-Turkish war of 1828 to 1829. Seen as a key to the Caucasus Mountains, the city became the scene of protracted fighting between the advancing Russian colonizers and the local tribes. In the 1860s a large part of the local Adyghe population was faced with a choice: to be deported to Turkey or to move to other areas of the Russian Empire. As a result of tsarist policies the indigenous people were outnumbered by Russians—a situation characteristic of our times, too. At the same time, this period of history, decried by Circassian activists as “genocide,” serves today as a pretext for protests against holding the Olympics in Sochi. The format of urban (not ethnic!) history allows one to tackle even this thorny issue with tact, telling the truth without insulting anyone’s feelings.

After the end of hostilities in the Caucuses the city fell into its usual slumber, which continued until the early 1930s, when Joseph Stalin developed a taste for vacationing in that city. (Contrary to rumors about his workaholic character, during most of the 1930s Stalin spent at least two months every year vacationing in the south). Coupled with a similar passion for the place on behalf of the “first person in the Red Army,” Kliment Voroshilov, this became the driving force behind the city’s first general reconstruction, started by special Politburo order on October 9, 1933. The reconstruction was done on a grand scale, but in the post-Stalinist period of Soviet history the pace of change somewhat slowed, as Stalin’s successors in power preferred Crimea. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimea found itself a part of independent Ukraine, and thus inaccessible for domestic vacationing. With Crimea out of business, Sochi was given a new boost by the continued presence of Russian presidents.

Both Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin became great fans of Sochi. They pumped funds into it, citing the fact that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sochi became the only major health resort with access to warm seas on Russia’s territory. On July 4, 2006, Putin’s tireless lobbying of Sochi brought the desired result: the International Olympic Committee chose Sochi as the location of the 2014 winter games, preferring it to South Korea’s Pyeongchang and Austria’s Salzburg. Interestingly, every one of these major events and epochs in the city’s history found its devoted researchers among brilliant local (and outside) historians.

A deadly profession

The period before the Russo-Turkish war was best covered by Yuri Voronov, a native of the neighboring Abkhazia. After Abkhazia became a de facto independent country in 1993, separating itself from the nationalist Georgia of the early 1990s and fending off an attempt to bring it back to heel by the multi-faced Eduard Shevardnadze in 1992, Voronov devoted a lot of effort to studying the ties between Sochi and the ancient Abkhazian kingdom in the seventh to the tenth centuries. It was a classic attempt to use history to build a national identity. In Voronov’s case, however, it was not mere opportunism, but a conscious attempt to bring to fruition the work of a lifetime.

In 1979, long before Gorbachev’s liberalization revealed the dormant animosity between Georgians and Abkhazians, Voronov published the book “The Antiquities of Sochi and its Environs.” During Georgia’s short but bloody war with the multiethnic splinter state of Abkhazia, Voronov became a member of the Abkhazian Parliament. In 1994, meeting a group of journalists, Voronov described the predicament of the Abkhazian population, then cut off from Sochi by Russia’s border guards. Acting on the orders of Russia’s leadership, which at the time tried to ally with Eduard Shevardnadze, the Russian border guards in the north and the Georgian army in the south isolated Abkhazia for several years from the outside world. This alliance with the White Fox, as Shevardnadze is known in his own country, proved to be remarkably short-lived and futile, since Abkhazians never “crawled on their knees” back to Georgia, as Tbilisi had hoped.

“Sochi fascinates me as a wonderful example of multi-ethnicity,” Voronov said at the time. “If local history teaches us anything, it is that borders in the Caucasus are always bloody and dangerous. This area forms a very complex and multi-faceted entity, and you can never divide it to everyone’s satisfaction. Ethnocentrism and the construction of mono-ethnic states in the Caucasus is often tantamount to genocide. Sochi, with its ancient walls, portal graves and magnificent antiquities, has always been at one of the crossroads of the world’s civilizations.”

Unfortunately, Voronov was murdered in September of 1995 by an unknown criminal near his home in Tsebelda, an Abkhazian valley not far from Sochi. Public opinion linked this murder to Voronov’s activity as the leader of the Russian community in Abkhazia. Voronov’s death marked the end of a period of immature freedom and separatist tidings ushered in by Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms in the mid-1980s. A new, more down-to-earth vision of city history was needed.

The stench of Stalin’s failed struggle

And this vision was realized in the work of Sochi’s younger city historian, Lyudmila Kosheleva. Unlike Voronov, she did not go deep into the region’s ancient past, but instead concentrated on the fascinating story of Sochi’s reconstruction in the early years of Stalin’s rule. In the early 2000s, Kosheleva laid her hands on the fascinating correspondence of Stalin’s Politburo members discussing ways to clean up Sochi, which in 1933 to 1934, very much like nowadays, actually turned into the Soviet Union’s summer capital.

In a letter to Abel Yenukidze, the secretary of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union, published by Kosheleva in the Rodina magazine, the nominal head of the Red Army Kliment Voroshilov complained in 1933: “Everything is done in a very sloppy way… Since 1923 I regularly take (like hundreds of others) the dirt baths in Matsesta; this treatment must have some effect on my body. So, do you think our doctors keep track of my condition, draw the necessary conclusions, etc.? Nothing of the sort! In our sanatoriums this process is set in a lamentably shabby way. [Deputy Chief Sanitary Inspector Mikhail] Metallikov is naïve to the point of being criminal about it. He does not know anything, believes everything and allows himself to be deceived as the worst kind of idiot.”

It should be noted that in 1937 Metallikov was executed on Stalin’s orders. Officially, his meeting with the son of exiled Leon Trotsky at a scientific conference in Paris was the reason, but obviously the pitiful condition of Matsesta baths did not earn Metallikov a lot of friends in the Politburo. Metallikov’s sister Bronislava Metallikova was the wife of Alexander Poskryobyshev, Stalin’s personal secretary, but even her intervention did not save the poor doctor. The same terrible fate awaited Bronislava herself in the late 1930s, along with Voroshilov’s addressee, Abel Yenukidze. Why? Probably because, as Stalin wrote in September 1935 in a special message to Molotov, Kaganovich and Voroshilov, “The water in Matsesta baths stays dirty, upon taking a bath it is still necessary to wash oneself again in fresh water at home… A special check revealed that the tanks had not been cleaned since 1933, developing a covering of dirt 30 centimeters thick. And this dirt is dumped with Matsesta water into the baths of the patients.”

Somehow, the Bolshevik leaders, always eager to require self-sacrifice from other citizens, were remarkably attentive to their own health and abhorred being sacrificed to some standard proletarian negligence. Kosheleva’s city-centered research reveals this better than hundreds of pages of abstract dissertations. And probably the reasons behind the cruelty of Stalin and Voroshilov should be looked for in more prosaic matters than Shakespearean ruminations about genius and villainy.

It should be noted that Matsesta’s waters stayed dirty even after a special order from the Politburo on October 9, 1933, which required putting all the dirt into a special sewer. The execution of Sochi’s mayor Alexander Metelyov in 1937 did not help, either—a demonstration of the “effectiveness” of Stalin’s system.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Window on Eurasia: Caucasus Emirate ‘a Product of Russian Special Services,’ Chechen Émigré Leader Says

by Paul Goble
Staunton, September 20 – Akhmed Zakayev, the Chechen nationalist leader in emigration, said yesterday that the shadowy Islamist Caucasus Emirate and its head Doku Umarov are “a product of the Russian special services,” which are used by Moscow for its own purposes rather than reflecting the aspirations of the people of Chechnya.

“In order to understand this,” Zakayev said, “it is sufficient to trace the history of the North Caucasus for the last 20 years. Such Islamist structures appeared as soon as Russia had need of them,” and both the Emirate and Umarov will disappear “when Russia ceases to have need of them” (

The Chechen leader provided no specific evidence for his charges, relying instead on what could be no more than a continuing string of coincidences. But by making this suggestion now, he positions himself to challenge Russian suggestions that he and his associates are terrorists and to undercut Moscow’s image of itself as a leader of the counter-terrorist effort.

Zakayev, a leader of the Chechen movement in the 1990s, was in Poland for the World Congress of the Chechen People. When he arrived, he was arrested by the Poles on an Interpol warrant based on Russian charges that he was involved in terrorism. A Polish court then released him, and he has returned to London to get a new Polish visa in order to return for a hearing.

The relations between radical groups in the Caucasus and the Russian security services have a long and complicated history. Many of the radicals, such as Shamil Basayev, earlier served in Russian agencies, and many commentators have suggested that at least some of them continue to operate under Russian control.

Sometimes, as with Zakayev’s charges, these suggestions are self-serving whether they are true or not: If it is the case that Moscow is behind this or that radical movement such as the Emirate or if at least some accept those charges as true, then it follows that the Chechen national movement itself is not guilty of many of the things Moscow says it is.

But what makes Zakayev’s suggestion special is that he is making this charge not about links between Moscow and the national movements in the North Caucasus but rather about ties between the Russian special services and an Islamist group, charges that if accepted would discredit Moscow’s presentation of itself as an ally of the West in the war against terrorism.

Zakayev’s statement came at the end of a three-day Chechen conference near Warsaw at which, according to, its participants acknowledged that “in recent times, the world has practically forgotten about the Chechen problem.” By both his appearance and his charges, Zakayev was trying to change that (

Deni Teps, the president of the World Congress of the Chechen People, told the assembly that “the conflict [in Chechnya] not only has not ceased but it is spreading and now covers the entire territory of the Caucasus. And the so-called struggle with Islamist extremist has led to war between Christian countries” and Muslim ones, a very dangerous development.

The meeting called on the United Nations to convene “an international tribunal on Chechnya and on the European Union and council of Europe to organize a conference on the situation in the [Chechen] republic together with representatives of Russia,” reported, citing a Radio Liberty report.

Neither is likely to take this step: Russian opposition to anything that recalls the Chechen national struggle is too strong and Moscow’s influence too great. But Zakayev’s comments and the meeting in Poland show that the Chechen cause has not disappeared as Moscow claims and that the nature of the Islamist movement there may be different than Moscow suggests.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Russia and Turkey in new conditions in Black Sea region, by Aleхander Sotnichenko

East+West Review Analytics Agency (24/08/10)

XXI century presented new reality for both Russia and Turkey. Now we can see that the West doesn’t want to include neither Turkey, nor Russia to its political and economical structures. Despite the development of western style modernization in our countries, Turkey has no chances to be a full member of the EU, but Russia looks more and more unfriendly in western eyes: I think we’ve lost the possibility to enter WTO in real future. We’re aliens for the West. It is the axiom for nowadays policy of Europe and USA, and I don’t see the prospects of changing this view.

The political elite of both Turkey and Russia was disappointed by the failed experiences of close and equal co-operation with the West in 1990-es. Turkey hasn’t been invited to the club of safe and well-developed European countries and we don’t hope that it’ll occur in close times. The political and economical support of the USA halts when the interests of Ankara cross the Washington pass, like it took place in 1974-1975 in Cyprus, or 2004 in Iraq. The main countries of liberal Europe recognize the “Armenian genocide” and even imprison people, who don’t. Turkey is always criticized for the human rights violation, for the low level of economical development (which is much better, then in Romania or Bulgaria for example), for the growing role of Military forces (supporting at the same time the Kurdish separatism from EU NGO’s) etc.

The same situation appears in the relations between Russia and the West. It’s possible to stop terrorism in bombing very distant independent countries Iraq, Afganistan or Pakistan, but the same style operations in the territory of Russian state are recognized as a genocide and violation of peoples self-determination. In 1991 after the fall of Soviet Union and Warsaw Treaty Organization all progressive people were waiting for the disbandment of NATO as a military organization. But instead USA invites new members to NATO (the most part of them supports all the overseas operations of Washington) despite the serious warnings of leading specialists in International Relations[1], bombs Russian ally Yugoslavia and play active role in anti-Moscow “orange revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine. Now we see the real hostility of the USA policy in the Caucasus and in the structuring of new Anti-Missile system (BMD) in Eastern Europe. The later history of Russia – USA and Turkey – USA relations could be resumed: We can be allies of Washington only if our interests follows the mainstream of the American policy. I see that our political elites begin to understand this reality.

The relations between Russia and Turkey in XX century were not friendly. We were enemies in World War I and during the Cold War, in 1945-1946 Turkey was an object of Stalin’s expansion, and in 90-es Ankara tried to move Moscow’s influence from the Caucasus and Central Asia regions. All this initiatives did not give prospects for future friendship, but economy, geopolitics and security make us closer even if it is not corresponding with Turkish proverb “Moskovdan dost olmaz” or Russian old meaning basurman (musulman) as an enemy.

All years of XXI century our positions became closer and closer. We stopped to support separatist movements in the territory of a partner. The level of commodity circulation grew more then in 10 times from about 2 bln $ in 2000 to 25 bln $ in 2007, and this tendency continuous in 2008. Russia became the second economical partner of Turkey, but our economical relations not always reflect in political field. The last conflict in Georgia gave us a good chance to open a new page of the real partnership between Russia and Ankara.

The first and the main aspect of the Turkish plan of Caucasian Alliance is to stave off the West from the real policy in the Caucasus. Indeed, last 20 years the western political organizations or conflict resolution theories and programs haven’t solve any ethnic conflicts in the region. The only way of resolution was demonstrated in Georgia, where the USA at first supported the “Rose revolution”, and then armed with their allies for future wars against Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If the war in the Caucasus for USA is only the incomes from selling armament issue and an occasion for interference, for its neighbors it’s a thousands of refugees, closing of active trade ways, possible foreign presence in a zone of conflict.

The countries of the region (like Turkey and Russia) not only know better how to establish peace and stability because their historical fates, peoples and religions are associated with the Caucasus. They are really interested in stability much more then in war because it’s necessary for their own security and economic prosperity. For me as for Russian it is an omission that the idea of Caucasian Alliance came not from Moscow, but from Ankara. That means Turkey will play a leading role in this organization. But there is no other way to make the Caucasus “Zone of peace and Stability” except the co-operation between Russia and Turkey, and Russian suggestions also have to be coordinated with the main plan.

What are the points of co-operation for Turkey and Russia in the Caucasus?

Turkey-Armenia dialogue can not be positive without the mediating role of Russia. Armenia is a political and military partner of Russia, member of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Russian military bases are situated in Armenia. People of Armenia don’t believe Turkey and I don’t think that the bilateral initiatives will be successful. Only Russia can help Yerevan to understand correctly Turkish suggestions and connect the both sides around common political platform.

The same we can say about the relations between Russia and Georgia. Ankara hasn’t broken the relations with Tbilisi in August 2008, but Moscow did. The image of Turkey as a mediator is much better for Russia then all other possible, like USA for example. Turkey is interested in expansion of its capital to Abkhazia as an experienced investor to real estate and tourism, also there are thousands of muhajeers Abaza origin in Turkey, who want to have business in their native land. Solving the problem of international recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is very important not only for Russian official structures, but also for Turkish business.

Armenian Security Council mentioned, that the mediating role of Turkey is impossible in resolution of the Karabakh conflict[2], the same reaction we have to wait from Azerbaijan if Russia offers its mediating mission. The OSCE mission failed: after 15 years of negotiations we can’t see any results of their activities. Only the joint effort of Turkey and Russia, framing their common position and joint mediating mission can make peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and solve the problem of Karabakh.

Caucasus is a very important transition region for oil and gas. In conditions of low-intensity permanent conflict we see multibillion losses of Baku – Tbilisi – Ceyhan pipeline, the impossibility of establishing Nabucco and several other projects. All countries of the Caucasus are interested in export or import energy resources like oil, gas or electricity. May be this projects are not profitable for all countries of the region, but pending the negotiations this problems can be solved in the region.

There is one problem: Iran is also situated in the Caucasus. What is interesting, they answered the Turkish initiative a month later after Erdogan’s statement with their own suggestions. Iran has a good relations with Armenia, and Yerevan doesn’t want to refuse it’s support. Iran has some antagonisms with neighbors – the status and sea borders on the Caspian sea, the religious invasion of Iranian funds to Azerbaijan and the distribution of Turkic nationalism ideology among Iranian azeri’s from pan-Turkism organizations of Turkey and Azerbaijan. Iran is in “Axis of Evil” list and hardly criticized by the West. The participation of Iran in the project of collateral co-operation can activate the negative reaction of the West (especially USA and Israel) which can prevent the positive development of the peacekeeping process in the Caucasus.

So, we are now very close to the future fantastic alliance, which can change the role of Turkey and Russia in the region and present our countries new possibilities of development and co-operation. We can establish an equal coordination system between our countries in the Caucasus and transform the level our relations from economical to full-size partnership. All we need is a coherent program of co-operation between the parts of a dialogue and the political will of our governments.

[1] The antagonist of the expansion of the military alliance is George Kennan. See Kennan G. Fateful Error // New York Times. - 1997. - 5 Febr.

[2] Security Council of Armenia: Turkey can’t be the Mediator in Resolution of Karabakh Conflict.//