'Moscow wants evolution instead of revolution in Middle East'
Friday, May 13, 2011
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Andrey Denisov, who was in Istanbul to attend the UN summit of Least Developed Countries answers
Daily News' questions various issues, including regional issues and domestic ties. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan
Q: How has Russia approached the turmoil in the Middle East? Are there legal demonstrations to voice legitimate
demands or illegal uprisings against legitimate regimes?
A: It is a mixture of different factors. While some observers say they are Facebook revolutions, inspired by new
modern communications, I don’t believe this is true. The roots of the events in the region are much deeper and they are
political, economic and social. The situation is different in every country. Tunisia and Egypt have chances to ensure
peaceful transition. But in Libya for instance we see a clear example of civil war with unpredictable results. Another
vivid example of mixture of elements is Syria. What is it, either suppression of democratic movements as some of our
Western friends call it or undermining activities of underground radical forces? It is probably both. What is important
is to ensure evolutional pace of transformation not revolution. But the transition must be kept in legal framework and
it has to be done by means of legal instruments. There should not be suppression of democratic movement but all ruling
authority must keep the situation under control. Otherwise the Middle East could transform into a source of violence
and terrorism. We must follow the efforts and decisions of regional organization, like African Union or Islamic
Conference Organization, as they know the situation better.
Q: So accept the need for change in the Middle East.
A: Of course no one can deny it. If you are late to the necessary change, if you keep power longer that the society
can tolerate the price can be very high. Violence is not acceptable but any authority has to keep the situation under
control and it is difficult to determine where the line. So we must be very careful and cautious.
In Libya we need to follow the recommendations from international institutions like African Union but unfortunately
one side in Libya, the rebels, deny any possibility of talks with the Gadhafi regime.
Q: But if the rulers resist change, should we remain silent to atrocities?
A: Violence against peaceful populations is not acceptable.
Q: Have you told this to Syrian leaders? Russia has traditionally good relations with Syria.
A: Of course we tell them. As well as other international forces.
Q: But you blocked a resolution in the U.N. against Syria?
A: But one should not see it as black and white as good guys and bad guys. While strongly criticizing violence
against peaceful demonstrations we have to bear in mind that not all demonstrators are full of peace lovers, there are
radicals as well. We can’t react emotionally.
Q: You have been critical of the bombing in Libya.
A: Russia helped pass the U.N. resolution on Libya. But that was about no-fly zones not about bombing shelters, or
urban areas where civilians suffer. How can you be patient when Gadhafi’s son and small children are killed?
Q: Some commentators say Russia prefers siding with the regimes because of fear that they will be replaced by some
Islamic movements, which might have negative consequences on the Islamic groups in Russia.
A: Such concerns certainly exist but they do not only exist in Russia. But there are different types of Islamic
groups. There is the radical, extremist Islam as well as moderate Islam and the forces of moderate Islam are closely
connected to Islamic regions in my country. We in Russia have a good record of coexistence.
Q: But there have been terror attacks attributed to Islamic groups in Russia.
A: We fight against terrorism and we prevent any assistance to terrorists from outside.
Q: In the past there have been problems between the two countries on illegal crossings. There are many people in
Turkey with close relations with communities that live in Russia’s Caucasus region. The fact that the visa requirement
was lifted, does it symbolize the trust between the two countries?
‘We lifted the visas; fresh air from an open window is very valuable’
A: Of course. Turkey and Russia are friendly countries. And also we are not as vulnerable as we were in the 90s.
Terrorist forces are basically withdrawn. There are still some criminal acts in Northern Caucasus region. Some
emissaries of al-Qaeda try to penetrate the region. But the situation is under control.
We don’t see the reason to keep such barriers with Turkey. Turkey is visited each year by millions of my
compatriots. We are grateful for the hospitality. People coming from Turkey are mostly construction workers who help
develop our economy. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said once, “If you open the window, some flue may enter but the fresh
air is more valuable.” This decision will help our two countries.
A: You mentioned the al-Qaeda. How does Russia see the consequences of the death of Osama ^bin Laden? Some don’t
even believe he is dead, while other criticizes the way he was killed.
A: We keep a low profile. We clearly understand that such an operation cannot be done with silk gloves. We
understand that the elimination of bin Laden is a symbolic act for the United States, for he personified evil for
thousands of Americans. It is shown as a success of American agencies. While there are elements of the operation that
were worthy of questioning, we are letting the U.S. tackle them.
Q. Do you expect any retaliation?
A: There is this possibility and all of us we need to be vigilant. But the fact there was punishment is important.
The worst is impunity. Sooner or later those who perpetrate attacks will be punished. It does not mean this terrorist
network will no longer be active. But especially all countries, including Russia and Turkey, which suffer from
terrorism must remain alert.
Q: To what degree do Russia’s and Turkey’s positions converge in the Middle East?
A: We appreciate the position of Turkey, with regards to major global and regional issues. We have strong mechanism
of political consultation. We work very closely on key international problems.
Q: What are your views on comments that Turkey is drifting from the West toward the East?
A: “Foreign policy is not like a peace of ice. It must be flexible. It is a reaction to international situations, we
asses Turkey’s foreign policy as a flexible tool for the pursuit of its national interests. There might sometimes be
disagreements but that does not overall effect our cooperation.
Q: Turkey voted against sanctions on Iran in the Security Council where you said yes.
A: But we say no to further sanctions. There are some efforts to impose sanctions unilaterally. We don’t see any
reason to impose any more sanctions because it won’t bring positive result. We favor a combination of stimulus and
Q: Some in Turkey question the need for nuclear energy and are concerned about the plant Russia will build in
A: Everybody is concerned after what happened in Japan. We are convinced the future belongs to peaceful use of
nuclear energy. What is needed are mechanism ensuring the safety and security of nuclear power. Russia has plenty of
experience. We paid a high price for that. Chernobyl was a painful test for us but there it was a human mistake rather
than a mechanic one.
Q: Yes but there will always be humans involved in nuclear plants?
A: We can’t avoid human participation. But there are systems to assure the safety of nuclear installation. Japanese
Fukushima was 40 years old.
Q: Some are saying Russia will test new technology on Turkish soil.
A: Russia intends to increase the production of electricity from nuclear power from 13 to 18 percent. We are
building several nuclear plants in Russia, so it is inappropriate to allege we will use Turkey as a test.
Russia and NATO
Q: Russia and NATO will cooperate for a European missile defense shield. Recently Russia said it is ready to assume
protection of its sector in Europe from a missile threat in the framework of so-called “sectoral” approach. If this
offer was accepted, does that mean Russia would be provided a nuclear shield for Turkey?
A: I believe Russia is closer to northeastern Europe than southeastern Europe. What Russia is saying is
that cooperation in missile defense shield can only be effected if there is mutual trust. Europe’s defense shield
should not affect Russia’s strategic potential. Russia is a key element to the nuclear deterrence system. And we want
this to be preserved in the future.
Q: Russia voiced concern over Romania’s recent decision to host U.S. interceptors for a European missile shield.
There were plans for Turkey to host parts of the system, namely the radars? What would be your reaction if Turkey takes
such a decision?
A: I don’t know about specific talks and this is not my responsibility. But we don’t expect an unfriendly move from
Turkey. It is our distinguished partner. What is important is transparency, predictability. There should not be steps
inspiring any suspicions on what the real plans are. I don’t mean Turkey. But in the case of Romania we had an
uncomfortable feeling. It was done on a bilateral basis, without consulting us in advance. It is up to the countries to
make their sovereign decisions. We were told that this would not affect Russia’s capability.
Q: What’s your view on the Prime Minister’s plan to have a parallel seaway in Istanbul, called the Istanbul
A: Russia is not an isolated Black Sea country. It is up to Turkey to put forward a bold plan. While working on such
a plan, the interests of other Black Sea nations must be taken into consideration from the perspective of international
law. I can give an example, the public road from Moscow to the international airport is free of charge, but it is
overloaded. The city authorities have plans to build another road but then using it will not be free of charge. Turkey
can offer such plans, but of course the Black Sea countries are waiting for clarification.
Q: Let’s move from the Black Sea to South Caucasus. Lately we see Russia is spending a lot of effort to solve the
Nagorno Karabakh issue. How close are we to a solution?
A: Russia was always active to find a solution. Prime Minister Medvedev in particular offered his good offices. This
conflict has a very complicated nature. It unfortunately cannot be resolved only in judicial terms. The solution should
involve political and diplomatic means. Only good will from the two parts can solve it. We are ready to facilitate and
play the role of guarantor. We are closer to the breakthrough. It may go slowly but the process is going on. Last March
we arranged an agreement for the inspection of incidents at the border.