'There Is Definitely A Threat Of War In The Karabakh Conflict'
Interview with Lincoln Mitchell, Associate Research Scholar, Harriman Institute, Columbia University.
Q: How did the 08.08.08. war change the situation in the whole region?
A: The August war changed a great deal in the region. It was a reminder to the west of both the extent to which Russia will go to pursue its interests in the region as well as of the limits of US and western ability to stop Russia. This is not good news for the west, but it is clearly one of the lessons from the conflict. The conflict is also, however, a reminder of the limits of Russian influence as thus far virtually no other countries, with precious few exceptions, have recognized the independence of Abkhazia or South Ossetia.
Georgia was, and still is, a major US ally, perhaps even client, but the US and other western powers were unable to help Georgia in its time of need. This demonstrates the limits of US and western power in the region. We can pour in millions of dollars, offer strong and eloquent defenses of Georgia's territorial integrity, but when Russia troops were flooding into the country, the west could do very little. This is not a happy situation, but it is something of which both Georgia and the west should remain aware.
Q: Do you believe in a soon reconciliation between Georgia and Russia?
A: Reconciliation between Georgia and Russia is unlikely anytime soon. There are core disagreements over Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Georgian sovereignty that do not easily led themselves to reconciliation or compromise. The two sides can find a way to deescalate some of the tension, but more than that is unlikely.
Q: Do you expect any changes in the Georgian policy towards Russia with a new leadership of Georgia?
A: The Georgian election has not yet occurred so we do not know whether or not there will be new leadership in Georgia. If, however, the opposition comes to power, Russia will be in a weaker position. Russia has benefited from the current Georgian government's declining popularity in the west and poor governance at home. A new government that is able to govern better at home and restore the Georgian economy while embarking on a foreign policy that goes beyond angry rhetoric will serve Georgia much better.
In short, new Georgian government will not have significantly different goals with regards to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, but will probably be able to pursue those goals much more effectively.
Q: May the South Ossetia and Abkhazia be recognized by (Western) international community?
A: This is very unlikely anytime soon. Russian led efforts to win recognition for these two polities have stalled and are unlikely to be jump started anytime soon.
Q: Is there a threat of “August war scenario” in the Karabakh conflict, although there are not Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone?
A: There is definitely a threat of war in the Karabakh conflict, but that war would like quite different from the August 2008 war.
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