RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service, Radio Azadliq asked Richard Kauzlarich, the former United States Ambassador to Azerbaijan (1994-1997) to comment on a possible impact of Kremlin's recent steps in Ukraine on South Caucasus.
RFE/RL: What should West do About Russia and OSCE Minsk Group after Ukraine Developments?
Richard Kauzlarich: The dispatch of Russian troops to Crimea and Russian support for unilateral succession of Crimea requires a firm response from the West. US and EU cooperation and unity will be necessary for that response to succeed.
In examining what is appropriate cooperation with Russia under these conditions, one area for consideration must be the Minsk Group and Russia’s role in it. As in Georgia in 2008 so in Ukraine today, Russia has chosen unilateral military intervention rather than international diplomatic cooperation to deal with problems in the region near her borders. This calls into question whether Russia can play a positive role in the Minsk Group process having not only rejected the US and EU offers to work with Russia regarding Ukraine but prevented OSCE from playing a role as an observer mission there.
RFE/RL: What else should Azerbaijan be concerned about here?
Azerbaijan missed an opportunity to declare its intention to join the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative this past fall. Now it is in a “neutral” position that makes it event more vulnerable to Russian pressure to join the Eurasian Union.
In addition, in recent days Putin has announced a number of principles underpinning Russian military intervention in Crimea. Among the many often confusing points that he made in his recent press conference, he said that only people residing in a region have the right to determine their future.
What if the Crimean election goes forward and on the basis of the election results – only those individuals living in Crimea having the right to vote – the authorities in Crimea declare either its independence or desire to become part of Russia? What kind of precedent does this present for Nagorno-Karabakh? Russia has explicitly established a principle that N-K authorities could use to hold their own referendum for either independence or union with Armenia.
RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service