Saturday, June 8, 2019

‘Goble Plan 3.0’ Behind Recent Western Moves in the Southern Caucasus, Baliyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 6 – New US sanctions against Iran and intended to block its development of rail links to Armenia, Russia and Europe are the latest iteration of “the Goble Plan” that threatens both Iranian interests and those of Armenia in particular and Russia more generally, according to Russian commentator Aleksey Baliyev.

            Efforts by the US to block the development of these links perhaps inevitably has always been tied up with discussions of how the Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan might be resolved, he continues. In fact, that is how the first “Goble Plan” was presented (

            According to Baliyev, that “plan” which was offered in January 1992 by the author of these lines involved Armenia’s acquiring Karabakh and the Lachin corridor to it in exchange for Azerbaijan being given part of Zengezur, the land bridge between Azerbaijan proper and the non-contiguous autonomy of Nakchivan.

            Baliyev does not say but as the writer of this notion which has been elevated by some like him to the level of “a plan,” I can testify that this idea arose just after the USSR collapsed, was intended to achieve a peace rather than just an armistice, and was designed to eliminate the outlying areas of the two countries that have generated nationalism in both.

            The idea, which rests on the notion that some problems can better be solved by changing borders than by opening the way to more war, more ethnic oppression and more nationalism, was presented in that spirit, as an idea rather than a plan.  But it quickly acquired the status of a bugaboo for many in Armenia and Russia and continually resurfaces in that guise.

            Its most recent resuscitation, as Baliyev does point out, occurred when former Armenian defense minister Vaan Shirkhanyan declared that former Armenian president Robert Kocharyan had agreed to the idea.

            “It is not difficult to take note of the fact that in all its modifications, ‘the Goble Plan’ excludes or to the maximum extent makes difficult railway connections between Armenia and Iran.” And from the perspective of many in Moscow and Yerevan, that is an even greater sin than earlier concerns that it would allow Turkey to run a railway directly to Baku.

            Amayak Ovannesyan, head of the Association of Political Analysts of Armenia, wrote recently, Baliyev says, that “initially Paul Goble’s project was ‘supported by Russian democrats, above all Andrey Sakharov and Galina Starovoitova,’” but “military successes by the Karabakh self-defense forces made it irrelevant” (

            Ovannesyan quotes my words that “’the Goble Plan’ became a term for any proposals that the Nagorno-Karabakh problem should be resolved by means of territorial exchange. I proposed this idea at the dawn of the post-Soviet era and think that at that time it could have worked. But now, too much has changed ” for its realization (

            “Nevertheless,” Baliyev says, Ovaninisyan says the US pushed it again at the end of the 1990s and it was even discussed by the Armenian National Security Council on the even of the mass murder of members of the Armenian government and parliament on October 27, 1999.” That forced the West to shelve the plan but hasn’t ended its interest in it.

            Now, Baliyev continues, “the plan” has resurfaced as part of the American sanctions regime against Iran and Washington’s desire to isolate Iran from its northern neighbors.  He suggests on the basis of a Regnum report that I am pushing it given my suggestions about a two-tier approach to negotiations over Karabakh (

                But Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan, at least “officially,” has said that Yerevvan will not even discuss any formula of “’territory for peace.’” Nonetheless, Baliyev says, the interest of the US in containing Iran and of Azerbaijan in regaining control of territories it views as historically its own are keeping the plan alive, perhaps in yet another version.

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