On the eve of the upcoming 27-28 of the September summit of the heads of state of the "Caspian Five" in Aktau an annual international conference entitled "Paradigms of International Cooperation in the Caspian Sea" will be held. On the eve of these events, Igor Ponkratenko, a well-known expert and editor-in-chief of Modern Iran magazine, answered questions from 1news.az.
- What factors against the background of geopolitical changes can security issues for the countries of the Caspian region in the near future?
- It seems that the main trend in the near future will be the desire of extra-regional powers to establish control over both the energy resources of the Caspian Sea and the ways of their transportation - pipelines. Highly indicative in this respect история with the plans of the Turkmen side, supported in the West, on the construction of the pipeline under the Caspian Sea (TKT) with a length of 300 kilometers, which would connect the port of Turkmenbashi in the west of Turkmenistan to the terminal in Baku. It is clear that Turkmen gas would be very much in place in Europe’s plans, and the ultimate goal of building this pipe is diversification of energy supplies from Russia. However, the prospects for this project are unlikely. The TKT project is not only disliked by Russia, Iran, the largest producer of natural gas, is also opposed. And the main thing is Beijing, which is absolutely not satisfied with the fact that the Turkmen gas in large volumes will go to the west. Moreover, despite assurances from the Turkmen leadership that the country will be able to produce 2020 billions of cubic meters of gas by 155, the estimate of the International Energy Agency is two times less. Turkmenistan, of course, is a neutral country, but this does not at all mean that it will be given to “swing” simultaneously to the east and west. This is only a private one, but, I repeat, a very significant example of how the main trend looks.
- In your opinion, are the five countries ready to compromise on the issue of determining the status of the Caspian?
- Remember the brilliant phrase of the assembler Mechnikov from “The Twelve Chairs” - consent is a product with complete nonresistance of the parties? So, in order for this “non-resistance”, or compromise, to be more convenient, come, the political elites of the Caspian states need to understand that regional issues must be resolved “intra-family” between the states of this region, since external players are richer, more powerful and, as a result, selfish. A position where the resolution of intra-regional contradictions is made dependent on relations with a third party is, of course, fascinating, but ultimately counterproductive for national interests. When the parties acknowledge this, the road to compromise will be shorter. As for Iran’s position, it is ready to compromise under two conditions - there are guarantees that the Caspian will not have a western presence, and that the observed militarization of the Caspian will not be fueled from the outside. Whether such a position is significant, such an approach, let them think in the other capitals of the Caspian states, including Moscow.
- What is the likelihood of the impact of Middle East conflicts on the situation in the Caspian region?
- Let's immediately discuss the following. Conflicts in the Middle East today fit into three sources. The first is the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. The second is the paranoid "deterrence of Iran" carried out. The third one, which is out of control of the organizers and sponsors, is rapidly mutated into a self-sufficient cross-border education - the notorious “Islamist jihad”. In quotes - because this activity has nothing to do with either Islam or jihad. I will make a reservation - the draft scheme, since I am not talking about external sources. So, it is the third source in the future that can create threats to stability in the Caspian region. But the likelihood of this, however, is not too high, and this is why: the strategic direction for jihadists today for a number of completely objective reasons is the Levant, the Maghreb and the strip south of the Sahel. So the maximum of their capabilities in the region is the formation of an underground in the form of a network of jamaats, pinpoint attacks. So in the coming years, this threat may well be blocked by joint police efforts. However, it is not Middle Eastern conflicts, but the games of the West in this region are the main source of external threats. I have already mentioned the interest above, but we all know perfectly well how and by what methods the West seeks to realize its own geopolitical interests, and the destruction of stability is one of the main methods.
- Does the concept of “new multipolarity of the modern world” extend to processes directly related to the countries of the Caspian region?
- Maybe it will sound and not in accordance, sorry for the expression with the “trend”, but I absolutely do not consider the modern world to be multipolar. There is a hegemon - the United States, there is China, which is catching up with it, which, nevertheless, does not at all strive to proclaim itself a “pole”, since it understands perfectly well that for this there are no special grounds yet. And there are some states whose foreign policy to a certain extent does not suit Washington and that very “West” - a certain aggregate of political forces and capital that has consolidated around the very same Washington. Where and what is multipolarity here? This is the myth of “humanities from analysts,” who, rushing in terms, will not bother to compare the size of GDP and the foreign policy potential of the United States and NATO countries with similar indicators of “multipolar”. Another thing is the tendency to the emergence of regional and interregional associations, but it’s still premature to speak about their results.
- How do you see further geopolitical and strategic cooperation between the countries of the Caspian region?
- Oh, how I would like to answer your question with enthusiasm and optimism. Unfortunately, we are only at the beginning of the road, when the basic approaches are not formed, the goals and mutual benefits are not completely clear, the preferences of such cooperation and many other things are incomprehensible. I am sure of only one thing - regional development and, accordingly, regional responsibility for the security and effective use of the Caspian is an objective, and therefore, inevitable process. The question of the speed of its implementation, let's leave the next time.
- What is the purpose of the international conference organized by you and what are the expectations from it?
- Well, first of all, all the merit in the organization is exclusively on Alexander Alekseevich Knyazev. His energy, his intellectual and organizational efforts. For me, the main goal is, firstly, “to check watches”, that is, to find out the opinions of my respected and more experienced colleagues on the Caspian problems, and to analyze the likelihood of their practical execution in analytical documents. Secondly, for me, of particular interest is the situational analysis planned within the framework of this conference, a kind of brainstorming on the topic “Background and probability of formation of the Moscow-Tehran axis in a changing world: projections to Central Asia, the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus”. In a word, I am waiting for the main thing from the conference - ideas that may later form the basis of the security concepts of not only the Caspian Sea, but also other regions.
Igor Pankratenko: "It is not Middle Eastern conflicts, but the games of the West in the Caspian region are the main source of external threats"
- Igor Pankratenko
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