Russian ambassador to Tehran has revealed Russian plans for a new energy route to Europe which effectively sets aside Ukraine, once a major energy route to the continent.
The relatively rapid developments in the region and more important an unsuccessful political coup in Turkey to topple Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government brought forth flow of criticism by Turkish officials of their old allies in Brussels and Washington. It was far-reaching enough to implicate Washington in organizing July 15 coup; the Europeans were also subject to berating by Ankara of not lending enough support to Turkey vis-à-vis coup masterminds.
Quite a novelty was Erdoğan’s shift of alliance which no optimist political commentator would entertain to propose. The Moscow visit months after Turkey targeted and downed a Russia Sukhoi fighter improved speculations of Ankara’s distantiation from its old allies and a détente with Moscow; in a different setting, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, whose country eight years ago had tense relations with Moscow following Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Ossetia, has voiced willing to Meet Putin in Moscow, which would be another concession in NATO’s scope of influence.
To discuss these and other issues, Payman Yazdani of Mehr News International service sat with Russian Ambassador to Tehran Levan Jagarian on Thursday:
Following Mr. Erdoğan’s example which broke the ice in bilateral ties with Moscow, now Georgian president would be second to be welcomed by Putin in Kremlin. How would you interpret this shifts of alliance?
I would only feel sorry for Mr. Mikheil Saakashvili former president of Georgia and current governor of Odessa in Ukraine for his errors of judgement [in dealing with Russia]; Russia had welcomed amicable neighborliness and good relations. Moscow regrets invasion of Southern Ossetia 8 years ago; now people in Abkhazia and Ossetia have worked to make their country. After accession of new government in Georgia, ‘Georgian Dream,’ Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili had Russian leanings, which we welcome possible visit with President Putin. We know that Georgia is there in the region and the visit will be to the benefit of both sides. We love and respect Georgian people. We had been members of a greater Soviet Union in the past, with Georgians occupying great places in the politics of the Republic. I myself was born in Tbilisi and grown up there.
Would you think that now with a détente between Ankara and Moscow on the one hand and berating rhetoric by ruling AK Party in Ankara against EU and NATO, now Tbilisi is in the line for a distantiation from the west altogether? Is a shift of alliance possible in Tbilisi as well?
I would not comment on the possibility that Georgia has been distancing itself from the US; the apparent scene at least indicates a strong relation with NATO for Georgia; however, they would seek to normalizing relations with Russia as well; given the strategic geographical position, it is unlikely that we will see a shift of pivot with Georgia towards Russia. In terms of military and population, Turkey and Georgia evade a comparison. With 80 million people, Turkey has a robust economy and modern military which allows Turkey to criticize the US and the EU. I remember that once former Turkish ambassador to Moscow, Mr. Ümit Yardim had told us that he received directives from Ankara and not from Washington and Brussels. Turkey is Turkey. Georgians in the most probability seeking a NATO membership, but the prospects of an accession to NATO is dim. You would consider Ukraine as an example. With all propaganda and pomp, they have failed to secure neither EU membership nor accession to NATO. The situation on the ground is far from the idealized situation in the minds of the statesmen.
Russia explicitly would oppose a Georgian accession to NATO. How in Tbilissi they would reconcile these apparently conflicting situations?
This is however possible. Nevertheless, Russia would not countenance their NATO accession, since NATO would be a step closer to Russian borders. The question is that whether NATO would approve their accession at all.
Would a Turkish-Russian entente would jeopardize EU energy security?
Not at all.
With Turkey showing a shift of alliance and distancing itself from the west and NATO, if Turkey continues to complete this shift, how the EU and NATO would seek to find punitive measures to possibly tame an unruly member state?
This is a question difficult to answer even in the future. We believe Turkish-Russian détente would not threaten energy security in the EU; rather, it would improve this security, since we supported a pipeline traversing Bulgaria, but the EU rejected the project, leaving out the country. We now have a new project and a new energy route through Turkey and Greece to southern Europe. This would effectively set aside Ukraine as a player in energy security; the EU is our major partner and we would not threaten energy security in the continent.