Recent developments in Kazakhstan externally provoked attempts to disrupt security, integrity: Russia
1) Nikol’s regime NEVER officially asked for help. Although Nikol's incompetent and treasonous officials threw a temper-tantrum in public about the lack of Russian support to make the Kremlin look bad, by all accounts, they never officially requested Russian support. I think Nikol's regime did not want any form of intervention from anyone because things are going more-or-less according to their plans, which is to try to normalize relations with Ankara and Baku at all costs. In other words, everything is more-or-less in control and events were more-or-less following a previously agreed to script.
2) Artsakh was NEVER covered by Russian protection. Moreover, nobody, not Western powers, not Russia, not Iran, not even Armenia, recognized Artsakh's independence or its union/merger with Armenia. Since Artsakh was not officially part of Armenia and Moscow was not fully on-board with every single Armenian claim over the disputed territory, CSTO could not be called into action there during the war. Artsakh was our fight, not Russia's. Moscow was never on-board with Armenian claims over Artsakh. Although Moscow recognized the rights of the Armenian population living within the internationally recognized borders of Nagorno Karabakh, it never accepted Armenian claims over the 7 additional territories taken from Azerbaijan during the first war. Artsakh was our fight, not Russia’s. We are the ones that failed Artsakh, not Russia.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained some of this soon after the war. Long story, short: Armenia is not facing an invasion by Azerbaijan or Turkey or anybody else for that matter. From day one, Artsakh was our fight, not Russia's. Therefore, Armenia and Artsakh did not qualify for military assistance from the CSTO. Russia was not obligated by contract or even by geostrategic calculations or concerns to intervene militarily in Artsakh or Armenia.3) Armenia was NEVER in danger of an invasion. The on-going border skirmishes are directly connected to the long overdue border demarcation and delineation process. There has not been a clearly defined border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in over 30 years. Having won the second war for Artsakh, Baku is simply putting pressure on Yerevan to finally recognize Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized, Soviet era borders.
Therefore, the story has not ended yet. Let's see how this all pans-out in the coming months. Nevertheless, and despite what the Kremlin's antagonists want, the writing is clearly on the wall now. The unprecedented unrest in a in Kazakhstan will inevitably bring Astana closer to Russia, just as the unrest in Belarus a year ago brought Minks closer to Russia, just like Armenia's defeat in Artsakh in 2020 forced Yerevan closer to Russia. Eventually, it will be Azerbaijan's, Georgia's and Ukraine's turn as well. All of them will be going back to Mother Russia in one form or another, sooner or later. It's only a matter of time. We may therefore indeed be watching the resurrection of the Russian Empire. God willing. In the meanwhile, for us Armenians, there is Nikol and company to worry about.
As the reader can clearly see, their ultimate goal has always been to drive a wedge between Russia and Armenia and bring Armenians and Turks together, exclusively under the supervision of Anglo-American-Jews. Yet, we keep hearing from our professional Russophobes that it is Moscow that wants Armenia to normalize relations with Turkey. It's disinformation and a half-truth. The reality of the matter is that Russia ALSO wants to see the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey. Not necessarily reconciliation, but normalization. There is a fundamental difference between the two: the former implies friendship, the latter implies formal contacts. In any case, for decades Western powers have been trying to get Armenians and Turks not only to normalize relations but also to reconcile. For reasons I cannot yet fully explain, although as the reader will see later in this commentary I do have a strong suspicion, the desire or wish to bring Armenians and Turks together is an international one. Getting Armenia to open up to Turkey has actually become competition between the two superpowers.
Our so-called nationalists have been against Nikol's attempts to normalize relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan ONLY because it is being done under Russian supervision, not Western. Therefore the problem at hand is technical and geopolitical in nature. And herein lines the problem. Moscow wants Yerevan to normalize relations with Ankara and Baku under its supervision and control, Western powers want the same under their supervision and control (i.e. without Russia).
This in a nutshell is the main danger Armenia faces today. I therefore again pose this question: Since Armenia is on the path of normalizing relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, who do we Armenians want to oversee the process, a neighboring superpower who has been an ally of Armenia through good days and through bad days during the past 200-plus years, or a traditional ally of Turkey who lives thousands of miles away and is in the south Caucasus only to exploit energy (that which Turks control) and undermine Russia and Iran? The answer should be obvious to any rational minded Armenian patriot. If Armenia is to open up to Turkey and/or Azerbaijan, it has to be under Russian supervision. Period.
Therefore, the fundamental problem I have with the current normalization process, is because it's being done with a treasonous and incompetent regime at the helm in Yerevan. Nikol and company cannot be trusted to navigate through the normalization process safely.
This is the complex geopolitical mess Nikol's regime got itself embroiled in, with no idea as to what to how to go about it.
Tigran Khzmalyan: ‘Armenia should start directly talking to Turkey, as well as to Azerbaijan, instead of through Russia:’
Richard Giragosian: My work with the Turkish government is in support of normalizing relations
Lilit Makunts: "Turkey will not join Azerbaijan in unleashing large-scale aggression against Armenia"
Representatives of the Armenian and Turkish civil society to come together at a conference in Istanbul
This is also why I say it's better to be an Oblast than a Vilayet, because the last 30 years have shown us that there will never be a viable or sustainable Armenian alternative.
Long story, short: Anglo-American-Jewish spies are everywhere in Armenian society. Turkish spies are not rare either. In fact, Turkish agents and pro-Turkish Armenian activists have been among us for a long time. And we are now seeing the fruits of their work.
NSS of Armenia Shows Unreasonable Indifference to the Transfer of a Large Amount of Money from Azerbaijan to Armenia: Naira Karapetyan
Լևոն Տեր-Պետրոսյան.«Հայաստանը, որպես պետություն, չպիտի մասնակցեր Ցեղասպանության ճանաչման գործընթացին»
Շուշին ծախել են վերջին 30 տարվա ընթացքում, որովհետև Շուշին մի հատ դժբախտ, դժգույն քաղաք էր․ Փաշինյան
Russian Media: Turkish agents are throughout social media doing their best to alter/warp Armenian perceptions
Baku and its supporters were hoping that when Nikol's regime finally recognizes the Soviet-era borders of Azerbaijan, as it is expected to at some point, Armenia will have to officially abandon Artsakh because Artsakh will be located inside Azerbaijan's internationally recognized borders. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is basically saying that won't be the case as far as the Kremlin in concerned. This is a huge plus for Armenia and Artsakh. There has been other pluses as well. Moscow has also been hinting that Russian troops will remain in Artsakh indefinitely. As long as the territory in question has an Armenian population seeking to live independently, the Russian military has a legal right to be present there. Moscow is also beginning to give-out Russian passports to Artsakh residents. These are unmistakable signs that Artsakh will not be going back to Azerbaijan. Moscow is also increasing its military presence throughout Armenia. Armenia therefore faces no threat of an invasion by Azerbaijan and/or Turkey. Moscow is also saying that the controversial motorway and railroad that is expected to pass through southern Armenia will remain under Armenian jurisdiction. What's more, Russia, US and France refrained from taking part in President Aliyev's political show in Shushi last year. The significance of diplomatic message to Baku should not be underestimated. And this suggests Armenians may at some point be able to reclaim Shushi and Hadrut. In the big picture, these are all good news for Armenia and what remains of Artsakh. All this suggests that the Artsakh dispute is far from being finally resolved, despite what Nikol's regime, Baku and Ankara have been hoping. In my opinion, the Artsakh dispute has just entered a new phase. However, this does not mean Armenia is no longer facing serious challenges and dangers.
Armenia 2nd President Kocharyan on “Meghri corridor” plan: Not beneficial to us now to discuss it as "corridor"between Armenia and its neighbors and the establishment of a regional trade network. I have also been in favor of it. I have always maintained that if we Armenians want Armenia to develop, grow and prosper, we somehow have to figure out how to make peace with our neighbors and see to it that Armenia becomes part of the region's economic network. However, the main concern we all have is the question of security. Another concern is, what will the terms and conditions of the said economic/trade proposal be? How much input will Armenian officials have in formulating such a trade agreement? How can Armenia's economy be protected from an economic giant like Turkey? These are matters that Nikol's regime CANNOT be trusted with. In other words, while many today understand that the proposed trade route can potentially be of great benefit to Armenia in the long-term, realizing its full potential is too complicated and fraught with too many dangers to be trusted to degenerates and dilettantes in Nikol's government.
Allow me to therefore clear the air, so to speak. In reality, EVERYBODY wants Armenia to normalize relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Efforts to bring Armenians and Turks together is not new. This is actually the third time. It all started with TARC over 20 years ago. Between 2008 and 2010, President Sargsyan's regime then flirted with the idea with the so-called Zurich Protocols. For a number of reasons, the previous two attempts did not work. Today, with Nikol's pro-Turkish regime in power, the agenda has a good chance to succeed. As I noted earlier, from a geopolitical perspective, there is however a technical problem. Western powers want the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey to be free of Russian meddling. Russia wants the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey to be free of Western meddling. It could be said that Western powers would like to see reconciliation, whereas Russians would prefer normalization. Nevertheless, both sides want to see Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan open their borders and at the very normalize relations - but each side wants it done exclusively under its supervision and control.
As a result of recent developments in the region, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are now more-or-less the Kremlin's hostages. In my opinion, this realization by Russian officials is what's behind the Kremlin's proposal known as 3+3. Simply put, the 3+3 proposal is an initiative meant to bring together Russia, Iran, Turkey and all three south Caucasus nations. The 3+3 closely echoes the 2008 Caucasus Initiative or Union proposed in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian war. From a Russian geopolitical perspective, the 3+3 is in-effect a plan to disarm Turkey, bring Iran closer to Russia and subdue the south Caucasus. This is a matter that is being taken by Russia, Turkey and Iran very seriously. As with the Caucasus Union in 2008, Georgia however is hesitant. I have no doubt however that Tbilisi will eventually change its mind, unless it wants to suffer serious repercussions yet again. In any case, due to close communications between Moscow, Yerevan, Tehran, Ankara and Baku, and because Russians have increased their military presence in the south Caucasus as a result of Nikol's regime's failures, the Kremlin no longer fears opening lines-of-communications between Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.
This is not to suggest that Anglo-American-Jews are blindly supporting these Chinese and Russian-led initiatives. The West, Anglo-American-Jews in particular, are trying to sabotage it with their meddling.
The modern Armenian's understanding of nationhood starts and stops at his or her doorstep. The modern Armenian loves the good life more than Armenia, but he of course expects Russians to love Armenia more than Russia. The modern Armenian is ready to flee his homeland the moment life becomes difficult. The modern Armenian treats politics as if its a domestic dispute or a street fight. Governments are an accurate reflection of their people. People deserve the governments they have. Leaders do not give birth to nations, nations give birth to leaders. In the big picture, the previous "oligarchs" and the current degenerates are an accurate reflection of modern Armenian society. Nikol's toxic regime in particular was therefore tailor-made for us Armenians. Not only are we Armenians not ready for independence, the last 3 years have proven beyond any doubt that we don't deserve it either. Thank God the tiny piece of arid real-estate Armenians happen to be living on today (and that only because Russians decided to resurrect Armenia some two hundred years ago) is coveted by the Kremlin for geostrategic purposes. So, let Russians do with Armenia and Armenians as they please.
- Western powers will not send troops to fight Russians in Ukraine. There most likely will not be a major war in Ukraine. Both sides, Russia and the West, are posturing in order to negotiate a final settlement over Ukraine's fate. Ukraine will most likely be turned into a buffer zone between East and West. Russians will most likely maintain the Karabakhization of the Donbass region. If negotiations fail to produce favorable results for Moscow, Russia may, at most, sent troops into the Donbass. Russia will be able to resist resulting sanctions. Sanctions will force Russia into deeper cooperation and collaboration with China.
- Regardless of how the riots in Kazakhstan started, the CSTO operation in the country was meant to curb the spread of Pan-Turkism and Islamic radicalism. Armenians against Armenia's role in the CSTO effort are in-effect supporting the spread of Pan-Turkism and Islamic radicalism in Armenia neighborhood. Kazakhstan is also heading back to Mother Russia.
- CSTO was not obligated to help Artsakh because Artsakh was never recognized by anyone, including Armenia. Armenia's situation did not qualify for assistance from CSTO either because the problems on Armenia's eastern borders were related to the long overdue demarcation and delineation process and not an invasion by Azerbaijan. Armenia's involvement in Kazakhstan was smart because the CSTO operation there was carried-out to defeat the spread of Pan-Turkism, radical Islam and help reinstate Pax Russica.
- Moscow will do the bare minimum for Armenia (only what is required by contract, no extracurricular assistance, no white glove treatment) as long as Armenia has a regime like that of Nikol's. As long as Armenia is run by former professional Russophobes, Moscow will only pursue its interests in Armenia without paying much attention to Armenian sentiments.
- Moscow may not be interested in getting rid of Nikol and company because they, unlike previous leaders in Armenia, have become Russia's hostage and slave. In other words, Nikol has become the easy-to-use tool Moscow is exploiting to get a number of things done in the south Caucasus.
- Due to Nikol's mishaps during the last 3-plus years, Russia today is stronger in the south Caucasus than at any time since the collapse of the USSR. Russia now has a major military footprint in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
- Nikol is expected by the international community to do work in Armenia that Serj and Robert would not want to touch. Nikol and company realize that once they finish their work in Armenia their time will be up, and they will be discarded by the same forces that put them in power in 2018.
- Anti-Russian activists and nationalists in Armenian society push not only a pro-Western agenda but also a pro-Turkish agenda. Armenians are lot more sympathetic towards Turks and Turkish culture than Armenian patriots want to believe. Culturally and genetically Armenians are much closer to Turks than Russians. Turks therefore know that they have a fertile ground to work on, and they have done so successfully.
- Nikol is not a Russian agent. If Nikol is a Russian creation, then so is Elchibey, so is Saakashvili, so is Ukraine's Maidan, so is the war in Syria, so is the unrest in Belarus, so is the unrest in Kazakhstan and so is Fox News network's Tucker Carlson. Nikol was a professional Russophobe, who later became President Putin's helpless hostage as a result of his disastrous war in Artsakh. Anybody in Nikol's shoes today, including the most virulent Russophobes we have, would be an obedient servant for the Kremlin.
- Russia does not control everything in Armenia. Such notions are a strawman argument and a smokescreen (i.e. Psy-Ops) by Western and Turkish activists. Russia controls strategic levers in Armenia as well as a number of ranking officials in politics and the military. Anglo-American-Jews and Turks on the other hand control the rest of Armenian society through NGOs, politicians, activists and news organizations.
- Efforts to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey is an international one. However, Russians want it done under their supervision and Western powers want it done under their supervision. Russia is seeking normalization of relations. The West is seeking reconciliation. So, both, Russia and the West, want Armenia to at the very least normalize relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan but they want it done under their terms and their control. Groups in Armenian society that are against Nikol's efforts to normalize or reconcile relations with Turkey are against it only because Nikol is doing so under Russian control and supervision.
- Armenia has to at the very least normalize its relations with its neighbors. Armenia cannot go another 30 years like this. I am talking about normalization of relations (establishing formal contacts and opening borders), not reconciliation (becoming best friends so to speak). However, Armenia has the need to finally open up to its neighbors but do so in close cooperation and collaboration with Russia and Iran.
- Efforts to make Armenia open its borders to Turkey and Azerbaijan have nothing to do with Pan-Turkism, they are related to the China led Belt and Road Initiative and the Russian led EEU, both of which are expected to have branches in the south Caucasus.
- The safest thing for Armenia and Artsakh to do going forward is to enter into a union with the Russian Federation. Due to a number of historic, political, geographic, cultural and genetic reasons, Armenia has no future without Russia.
- The last 30 years have proven that Armenians do not have what it takes to build a respectable nation that can take care of its citizens and protect its borders. The only things that got developed in post-Soviet Armenia were restaurant complexes, gambling casinos and sex clubs. Post-Soviet Armenia is a Potemkin Village.
- Armenia is a weak and a defeated nation with a society that is politically illiterate and an equally incompetent elite that is easily bought. Armenia is in fact a failed state. Armenia therefore is in no position to expect or demand anything from anyone.
- The south Caucasus region has two main geopolitical factors - Russia and Turkey. Iran and Western powers play secondary roles. 80% of Armenia's borders are shared with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenia's independence from Russia will automatically mean Armenia's dependence on Turkey. Therefore it's better to be an Oblast than a Vilayet.
- Russia wants to be in the south Caucasus for long-term, geostrategic reasons. Western powers want to be in the south Caucasus only to exploit energy (which is in Turkish hands) and undermine Russian and Iranian influence.
- Armenia has but two choices: Open up to Turkey and Azerbaijan under Russian and Iranian supervision, or try to abandon Russia and Iran and try to open up to Turkey and Azerbaijan under Western supervision. The answer to the above is obvious to anyone that genuinely has Armenia's best interests in mind and understands history, politics and geography.
- At this point in time, bringing Armenia back to Mother Russia would be the nationalistic thing to do by Armenians. All those who genuinely love Armenia and Artsakh and worry about their future and well-being, need to therefore think along these lines.
- Armenia's willing or unwilling allegiance and subservience, since politely convincing Armenia to abandon the West and fully enter Russia's orbit proved elusive during the past 30 years.
- Demarcate and delineate (i.e. resurrect) Armenia's Soviet-era borders with Azerbaijan, albeit with some modifications vis-a-vis Soviet-era enclaves and Nagorno Karabakh.
- Open Armenia's borders to regional trade in connection to the China-led Belt and Road Initiative and the Russia-led EEU.
- Establish a long-term military presence in Artsakh and increase its military footprint in Armenia and maintain leverage over Azerbaijan.
- Entice Azerbaijan into Russia's political, economic and military orbit.
- Entice Iran into closer cooperation and collaboration with Moscow.
- Disarm and neutralize Turkey through dialogue and, whenever possible, with cooperation. In other words, avoid hostilities with Ankara to secure Russia's southern flank.
- Keep Anglo-American-Jews and Europeans out of Russia's near abroad.
- Curb the growth of Pan-Turkism and Islamic radicalism in Russia's near abroad.
- Force Georgia into cooperation with Russia as a result of the above.
Nevertheless, this will mean only one thing in real life: no Armenians in Artsakh. Everyone who has at least a basic knowledge of the history and current stage of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict understands very well one thing – if Azerbaijani troops, officials and population enter Stepanakert, Martakert, Askeran and Martuni, it will very quickly, within days if not hours, force Armenians to leave or be killed. The current situation in the Shushi and Hadrut region, where you will find zero Armenians 14 months after the end of the 2020 Karabakh war, is vivid, albeit not the only, evidence confirming this reality.
Thus, during his press conference, Pashinyan sent an indirect message to the Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh to use the remaining few years of the Russian presence to prepare their safe landing out of Nagorno Karabakh, either in Armenia or anywhere else. Otherwise, if either in 2025 or 2030 they face a situation similar to what the Armenian population of Shushi, Hadrut, Karvachar or Berdzor faced in November 2020, they should blame themselves and not the government of Armenia. If nothing changes, many Armenians will heed this advice, while simultaneously Azerbaijan will relocate the Azerbaijani population in the territories of the former NKAO currently under its control. Very soon, within a maximum of 10 years and within the borders of the former NKAO, Azerbaijanis will become a majority, thus significantly changing the region’s demographics compared with 1989. It will make the deployment of the Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno Karabakh senseless. With the withdrawal of the Russian troops (which may happen in 2030 or later), remaining Armenians will leave, and Artsakh will be transformed into another Nakhichevan with zero Armenian population.
Meanwhile, the position of the Armenian government makes the continuation of the work of the OSCE Minsk Group senseless. The cornerstone of the activities of the Minsk Group was the issue of the status of Nagorno Karabakh. Suppose Armenia says that Karabakh has zero chance not to be part of Azerbaijan, and the only issue is the security guarantees of Armenian nationals living in Karabakh and holding Azerbaijani passports. In that case, this is not the problem for the three permanent members of the UN Security Council. They are not going to negotiate the number of hours of Armenian language classes in Azerbaijani schools in Karabakh or the possibility to have Armenian language broadcasts on Stepanakert radio.
There are several explanations why the Armenian government pursues this policy. One is based on geopolitics. According to this narrative, Armenia and Azerbaijan, under the auspices of the US, agreed to implement a policy to eventually push out Russian troops from Nagorno Karabakh by decreasing the number of Armenians living there and making the deployment of peacekeepers senseless. It could be a part of the US policy of containment aiming to decrease the influence and positions of Russia in the post-Soviet space, in this particular case in Azerbaijan. While in exchange for support of this policy, the US will turn a blind eye to authoritarian trends in Armenia, which became more clear after the local elections in late 2021 and will continue to provide funding to the Armenian government through USAID, World Bank and IMF and will push the European Union to provide loans via EBRD and EIB. In this scenario, the current Armenian government may secure its position for another decade, either by winning the 2026 parliamentary elections or changing the constitution in 2022, bringing Armenia back to the semi-presidential system of government and winning presidential elections of 2023 and possibly of 2028.
Another explanation is more straightforward and more prosaic. The current government wants to enjoy the benefits of being in power – state-funded luxury cars, state-funded business trips, state-funded homes, plus the possibility to be part of lucrative business deals – without problems and complications. The existence of the Artsakh problem may prevent them from enjoying that power. That is why the best solution is to forget about Artsakh and eventually make Artsakh another chapter of Armenia’s tragic history.
Are there any possibilities to prevent the realization of this scenario? A significant part of Armenian society – due to the lack of reliable sociological surveys (it is impossible to say they comprise 30 percent, 50 percent or 70 percent of the population) – is indifferent to these developments. Due to the global rise of the consumer society as well as targeted propaganda in the Armenian media for the last 25 to30 years, the ultimate goal of life of this part of the society is to drive 10-year-old BMWs or Mercedes instead of 20-year-old Opels and to spend their holidays not in Kobuleti (Georgia) or Hurghada but in Cyprus or Greece. Their attitude will be either indifference or, if they feel that at the end of the day this scenario may bring additional money to Armenia and personally to them – American money, European money, Turkish money or Azerbaijani money, they may support this vision.
Meanwhile, there is another part of Armenian society, and also quite significant, which is ready to take actions and even sacrifices to prevent the loss of Artsakh. However, this part needs leaders who are ready to organize. In this context, the ultimate responsibility lies on the shoulders of individuals who have relevant capacities and capabilities to rally this part of Armenians around them. People like Nubar Afeyan, Ruben Vardanyan and others can play a role here. They have the experience to launch different pan-Armenian initiatives – The Future Armenian, Armenia 2041, FAST and IDEA foundations. However, the goals of these initiatives are relatively vague and lack the simplicity to involve significant numbers of people. The first step towards the prevention of the loss of Artsakh could be the establishment of the “Save Artsakh” fund with a straightforward goal – to have at least 30 percent more Armenians living in Artsakh in 2027 than now and at least 50 percent more Armenians living in Artsakh in 2030 than now. This simple and clear goal will unite significant numbers of Armenians both in Armenia and the Diaspora, including the middle class.
This is only one option, and definitely, there could be others to boost population growth in Artsakh. If Artsakh has at least 50 percent more Armenians in 2030 than now, it will ruin the Azerbaijani strategy to change the demographic situation and eventually transform Artsakh into another Nakhichevan. Russian troops will probably be deployed in Artsakh at least until 2030, so the basic security of Armenians living there will be guaranteed. Meanwhile, if the Armenian population increases, it will provide a solid base for Russia to keep its troops in Artsakh after 2030. The upcoming green economy revolution and the relative decrease of the role of oil and gas after 2035 may create problems and trigger instability in Azerbaijan, thus forcing Baku to shift its focus on the domestic situation and probably abandon its plans of destroying Artsakh.
Russia has not issued a peace resolution. The conflict remains as a “latent volcano”, indicates Anna Karapetyan, director of the think- tank Armenian Insight Analytical Center, as evidenced by the outbreak of a trickle of deadly skirmishes. In addition, there are still very important fringes: such as Azerbaijan returning dozens of soldiers captured during the war, says the expert. The trilateral agreement ended a quarter century of Armenian military control over Nagorno Karbaj, a touchstone for Armenian national identity and inhabited mostly by Armenian people. Azerbaijan had lost most of control of the remote, mountainous region in the war of the 1990s. But this dominance has been regained after last year’s war.
Although somewhat volatile, the agreement has been a “significant diplomatic and geostrategic victory” for Putin, highlights Oleg Ivanov, head of the Center for Social Conflict Resolution. Moscow, an ally of Baku and Yerevan, two former Soviet republics with which it has substantial historical and economic ties – and it sells arms to both – had neglected that part of the tumultuous South Caucasus, a region wedged between Russia, Iran and Turkey. And the latter country (a member of NATO), an increasingly assertive player, was gaining momentum. This scheme did not fit in with Putin’s foreign policy, who works hard and with different strategies to maintain influence in his backyard. The freezing of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict has allowed him to play another of his favorite roles and fundamental to his playbook as a global superpower: that of mediator.
Moscow wants a permanent and comprehensive redesign of the security map of the South Caucasus, from where it wants to remove any NATO presence, as well as the entire post-Soviet space. This is what he has demanded of the Military Alliance at a time of high tension due to the concentration of troops along the borders with Ukraine. For now, the Kremlin has guaranteed itself a very important dependence on Armenia, remarks Alexander Iskandaryan, director of the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan. Also, the involvement of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power in 2018 after mass protests against political elites and who was initially viewed with suspicion from Moscow, but who with the signing of the agreement has ended up convincing the Kremlin of which is not wayward. “Russia provides security, not only with soldiers, but also politically. Armenia looks towards Moscow looking for this factor, while when it looks at the EU it sees a benchmark in the model of development and democracy, ”says veteran political scientist Iskandaryan in his bright office in the Armenian capital.
In Armenia, with a significant diaspora in North America and Europe – especially in France – but also in Russia, there are no parties that clearly advocate breaking ties with Moscow, which controls most of the strategic resources and is joined by agreements. of association and defense. The Russian has lost a lot of territory among the population, especially among young people, who now travel more to EU countries and the US than to Russia. But although there are those who believe that Moscow allowed the conflict to go too far, a good part of the population believes that without Moscow the war would have resulted in the total loss of control of the enclave. This is helped by Russian public relations policy, which shows its combat engineers clearing munitions on the ground or escorting buses in which some Armenian refugees have returned to Stepanakert, the region’s capital.
The risks of dependency
The risk for Armenia is that this dependence on Russia is excessive and even “dangerous”, explains analyst Richard Giragosián, director of the Regional Studies Center. “The peacekeeping mission can be imitated, but there is an increase in the Russian military presence in the area, because it is Moscow that will control all regional trade and transport and also the Armenian border,” says Giragosián. This expert points out that, unlike other conflicts, Moscow now wants the involvement of the West as a formula to legitimize its diplomatic drive. The Kremlin would like a peace deal, says the analyst, that would allow that temporary group of peacemakers to become permanent and even expand with international forces. Meanwhile, the Russian deployment – which already had a small and fairly old base in Armenia – has relegated Ankara to a secondary role. Although Turkey, which in a certain way considers itself the winner of the resulting post-war scenario, is also working to increase its influence in the southern Caucasus and has even declared that it wants to “normalize” relations with Armenia that have been broken for decades and also very damaged by the Turkish lack of recognition of the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century.
Russian boots in Nagorno Karabakh
The Russian “peacekeeping” contingent is relatively modest on paper: some 1,960 personnel with small arms, 90 armored personnel carriers and another 380 motor vehicles. They have 27 checkpoints, most far from the front, along the main transportation arteries in the Armenian-populated areas of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin corridor, a narrow, hilly eight-kilometer highway that connects the region with Armenia. . Although it lacks a detailed mandate, it analyzes in a report Olesya Vartanya of the ISPI, and that is a vulnerability if, over time, one of the parties (or both) begins to blame the Russian soldiers for not protecting enough or too much.
The military teams will remain in Nagorno Karabakh for five years, according to the treaty; extendable for another five. And so on if Baku or Yerevan do not demand their withdrawal. And this window raises the doubts of analysts, who recall the example of other conflicts, such as that of the separatist region of Moldova in Transnistria, where there are Russian troops of “peacekeepers” since the war of the 1990s, or the secessionist territories. Georgians from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where Moscow carried out a military intervention and there are also Russian bases, which the Kremlin operates as dials of pressure and destabilization in a country that wants to join NATO and the EU. “We see that the Russians arrive, but then they don’t leave,” says Giragosián.
Political scientist Anna Karapetyan believes that it will not be Yerevan that calls for the withdrawal of Russian soldiers. In Armenia, after the agreement was signed, thousands of people took to the streets and demanded the resignation of Nikol Pashinián, who they accused of capitulating and of not having taken care of relations with Moscow, the strong ally that, according to his idea, could have turned the balance as Ankara did by supporting Baku and selling it a bunch of drones that have been instrumental in its victory. But although many continue to blame the government for the management of the conflict, Pashinián again won the elections held last June.
Jora Pogosián, 78, and her family are among the more than 35,000 Armenians displaced by the conflict. They believe that if it had not been for the Kremlin, Armenia would have lost control of the entire region, which is seeking self-determination under the name of Artsakh and whose authorities are now analyzing making Russian the second official language. “As long as the Russian peacekeepers are there there will be no major escalations. If it had not been for the intervention of Moscow, the destruction would have been abysmal and the number of Armenian victims infinite, ”says Jora Pogosián very seriously. “Make no mistake, this has shown us that in the end we can only turn to Russia,” says this veteran of the first Nagorno-Karabakh war.
In a house lent by some friends on the outskirts of Yerevan, which still does not have heating and which is kept relatively warm thanks to the wood donated by acquaintances, Jora’s daughter-in-law, the teacher Lilith Pogosián, says that she tries to get ahead as may. The family lived in Hadrud, a village in the mountainous enclave now in the hands of Azerbaijan. Last year, when the fighting raged, they packed up all their belongings and left their home and farm, in which they had invested all their savings to start a family-run vodka and honey business. “I don’t find the point of going back to the area now,” Jora Poghosián laments: “To another town? There are no opportunities for development, but if the Armenians leave and that will soon become uninhabited, everything will be lost ”.
On July 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law to establish a common EAEU electricity market, which will allow businesses in Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Armenia to freely choose their energy suppliers. On July 1, a unified search system known as Work without Borders was put into commercial operation in all EAEU countries, marking the grouping’s first joint digital project to promote the intra-bloc flow of labor. Also starting on July 1, all new drugs in the EAEU will be registered according to common rules. Like the European Union, EAEU members are gradually yielding parts of their sovereignty to the grouping, although it will take some time before they reach the EU’s level of integration. The moves to consolidate the EAEU’s core five are happening with an eye on expansion. Latest reports indicate the EAEU and Southeast Asian nation Indonesia plan to complete a joint feasibility study on a potential free trade agreement by September.
Strong economic actor?
That does not mean that an agreement will be signed any time soon, as it will take time to study the current state of EAEU-Indonesia trade and economic relations and project the benefits and risks of a possible expansion of ties. In 2020, the volume of trade between Indonesia and the EAEU countries reached US$2.25 billion. Indonesia’s exports to the region reached $1 billion, while Jakarta imported goods worth $1.28 billion from EAEU nations. “With the potential of a young population, Indonesia needs strong economic actors to become a developed country in 2045,” said Indonesian Minister of Trade Muhammad Lofti, noting his country’s intent on expanding ties with the EAEU. It is debatable, though, if the EAEU has developed yet into a “strong economic actor.” Its richest members – Russia and Kazakhstan – are still oil and gas-dependent economies, while Belarus depends heavily on its energy imports to fuel its economy.
Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countries in Central Asia, while the International Monetary Fund declared Armenia the poorest country in the South Caucasus as of 2018. The EAEU is looking beyond its borders for an economic boost. It is now seeking observer status at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a free trade group encompassing 21 countries. APEC accounts for about 60% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 48% of international trade turnover. Russia joined APEC in 1998 and now reportedly aims to develop closer EAEU-APEC ties. Closer to home, the Kremlin is trying to lure comparatively prosperous Uzbekistan into the EAEU. “Uzbekistan’s full-fledged participation in the EAEU will provide additional opportunities for the growth of the Uzbek economy and tangible advantages for its citizens,” Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin recently said.
The Central Asian country of 34.6 million people has a relatively large economy by regional standards, with a GDP of $57.7 billion and average economic growth of 6.6% between 2011 and 2019, a higher rate than all EAEU countries over the period. “Without the participation of Uzbekistan as a large and strategically located player in Central Asia, it is very difficult to resolve regional development issues, primarily in the field of transport, water and energy supplies,” said Evgeny Vinokurov, chief economist of the Eurasian Stabilization and Development Fund and the Eurasian Development Bank. On December 11, 2020, Uzbekistan was granted observer status in the EAEU. At the time, EAEU leaders granted the same status to Cuba – even though the Caribbean country and long-time Russian ally is located neither in Europe nor in Asia. Besides Uzbekistan and Cuba, Moldova is another EAEU observer.
All EAEU members are part of the Commonwealth of Independent States formed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The EAEU is widely seen as a Moscow project to reintegrate ex-Soviet countries through trade and commerce. It’s not altogether clear how that project is perceived in Western capitals as the EU continues its eastward reach. The EU’s free trade agreement with Serbia will come into force on July 10. The Balkan nation reportedly has no plans at present to join the EAEU, though geographically and historically it would seem a logical candidate for expansion. Moscow senses a Western plot to upend EAEU expansion. Earlier this year, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said the West’s desire is “to turn the post-Soviet space into a zone of constant conflicts and tension.”
Moscow, for its part, says it advocates equal and mutually beneficial cooperation among ex-Soviet states. “The West does not like our desire to unite the Central Asian republics,” said former Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was given the title of Honorary Chairman of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in 2019. “They want to separate us all from Russia and China. They are actively working on it,” claimed Nazarbayev, who recently met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even though he stepped down in 2019, the 80-year-old politician is still seen as a highly influential figure, not only in his Central Asian nation but in the EAEU as well. But Moscow has arguably created certain roadblocks to smooth EAEU integration. That was seen during a May 2020 videoconference of EAEU leaders at which Russia said it had no plans for a uniform unit gas price for all member states. Belarus and Armenia, both dependent on Russian gas, balked at the announcement. Kazakhstan leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, meanwhile, strongly criticized certain aspects of the EAEU’s Moscow-led development strategy, underscoring the many challenges of faster union integration.
At least 2,000 soldiers and civilians, likely more, have died since September 27, when the latest round of fighting erupted over Nagorno-Karabakh, a small, mountainous territory that is legally part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians for 26 years. In the years since the 1994 cease-fire that ended all-out war, Azerbaijani and Armenian forces have regularly skirmished, exchanging sniper fire and mortar rounds, but stopped short of another full-on conflict. The region’s unresolved status put it in a category known to experts as a “frozen conflict”-- hot spots around the former Soviet Union where Russia plays a central role, both perpetuating and mitigating the tensions.
Others, with varying levels of tension and violence, include Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester region. And then there’s eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed forces hold parts of two provinces and a simmering war has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014. As in some of the other places, Russia sought to deploy troops on the ground in or near Nagorno-Karabakh as peacekeepers, but had previously failed on that front. That was due in part to a lack of confidence in Yerevan and Baku that Moscow was an honest broker. Russia has substantial economic ties with both countries; Azerbaijan is a major purchaser of Russian weaponry.
telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin,
President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi welcomed Russia’s initiative to
establish peace and stability in the Caucasian region, the Iranian
Presidential Office reports. “Any change in the geopolitical situation
and the borders of the countries of the region is unacceptable”, the
sides said. Expressing their concern about the current situation around
Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the Russian leader talked about raising the
level of trust and cooperation in the region, stating that they seek to
implement the “3+3” consulting mechanism. Putin expressed hope for
As ARMENPRESS was informed from the Office of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister welcomed Mr. Overchuk's visit to Armenia, noting that it is a good opportunity to discuss the current agenda. "I would like to note that I highly appreciate the works of the trilateral working commission chaired by the Deputy Prime Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan. I hope that we will finally be able to reach concrete solutions.
I would like to say the following in this regard. Armenia is committed to the statements of November 9 and January 11, which refer to the unblocking of all transport and economic ties in the region. But I would like to emphasize that the statements made by Azerbaijan regarding the corridors have a negative impact on the efficiency of our work and atmosphere, especially considering that in our trilateral statements there are no remarks about corridors.
My impression is that Azerbaijan is trying to impose its perceptions on the commission, which, of course, is unacceptable for us. I would like to reaffirm that Armenia is interested in opening and unblocking regional transport and economic infrastructure. I have repeatedly stated publicly that we are ready to go to concrete solutions, the essence of which should be the following. Armenia should get road and railway communication routes through Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan should receive railway and road communication routes through Armenia, including one connecting Azerbaijan to the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic.
Our documents are about the unblocking of economic and transport infrastructures, our position is the following. What do we offer? The railways that existed during the Soviet era must be restored; the highways that existed during the Soviet era, including those connecting the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic with Azerbaijan, must also be restored.
We are ready for such solutions. We have concrete proposals, it should be emphasized that according to the January 11 statement, about which we have talked many times, we should also negotiate on customs control, phytosanitary control, border control and other possible types of control. This is what is stated in our statements of November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021. I want to confirm once again that Armenia is interested, ready, and we hope that in the near future we will be able to reach concrete solutions to these issues. We are constructive," Prime Minister Pashinyan said. Alexei Overchuk thanked the Prime Minister for the meeting and for highly appreciating the activities of the working group comprised of the Deputy Prime Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation.
“We are really working within the mandate that you, together with the leaders of the other countries, granted us in the framework of the statements of November 9-10, 2020 and January 11, 2021. I would like to note that we are in constant touch with our partners and deputy prime ministers. We have held 8 meetings, 4 of which were in-person, the other four were held remotely.
At the same time, we talk on the phone almost every day, discussing various options to find more optimal, more acceptable solutions for all parties. You know that road construction experts also worked, who examined the roads. Today we have a very good understanding of what those roads really look like. Based on these data, after the 8th session of the joint working group held on October 22, it seems to us that we will reach concrete solutions. They are based primarily on that the roads remain under the jurisdiction of the countries through which they pass.
"Russia will defend the formally recognized borders of Armenia as its own, since the two states are part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)," Andrei Klimov, chair of the Ad Hoc Commission on Protecting State Sovereignty and Preventing Interference in the Domestic Affairs of the Russian Federation Council said on Monday. Klimov was asked about the active role of Turkey in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. "You are a member state to the CSTO and we are there. We will defend the formally recognized borders of Armenia as we would do our own. Furthermore, our military doctrine envisages that through defending ourselves and our allies, we would resist to others. This is well known to those why must know this," Klimov said.
The editor-in-chief of the Russian state TV channel RT said Russia should annex eastern Turkey's Mount Ağrı (Ararat) and Kars province. Margarita Simonyan, who is of Armenian descent, told public broadcaster Rossiya 1 TV channel that the country should annex the areas from Turkey. Simonyan's controversial comments followed similar remarks by Russian politician and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who claimed that a "special" tsar-like regime was necessary to secure Armenia.
“Any democratic regime like the U.S., U.K. or France is unacceptable (for Russia). And you, Armenians, will get both Kars and Ardahan if there’s a strict regime like (the rule under) a tsar. Under a democratic government, even Yerevan will be taken away from you,” he said. Armenia and Turkey have never established diplomatic relations and their shared border has been closed since the 1990s. The ties have further deteriorated due to Turkey's support for its regional ally Azerbaijan, which fought with Armenia last year for control of the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region. But last month, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said Yerevan was prepared to hold discussions on repairing relations with Ankara.
Meanwhile, Turkey and Russia enjoy strong relations, as officials
highlight cooperation on numerous regional issues. In July, Dmitry
Polyanskiy, the first deputy permanent representative of Russia to the
United Nations, said Turkey is working to preserve world peace in crisis areas including Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh. A Russian-brokered deal on Nov. 10 halted a six-week conflict between
Azerbaijani and Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh and
its surrounding areas, securing territorial gains for Azerbaijan.
Turkey agreed with Russia that its troops would also monitor the
cease-fire. Ankara and Moscow signed an agreement to establish a joint
observation center in Nagorno-Karabakh. On the other side, Turkey
has frequently voiced that the two countries have made significant
contributions to the establishment of cease-fires in both Syria and
Libya, while further steps need to be taken in Libya to reintegrate the country’s divided institutions.
The small republic, called "Artsakh" in Armenian language, has about 150 thousand inhabitants and a territory of about 3000 km2. As a matter of fact it is an enclave in the territory of Azerbaijan, at least partially controlled by local Armenians; it can communicate with the homeland through the narrow mountain corridor of Laҫin, three kilometers long and nine meters wide, protected by the peace forces of the Russian Federation.
Pašinyan's participation in the summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States in St. Petersburg on December 28 provoked a reaction from Karabakh Armenians. The day before, during a press conference, the Armenian premier had blamed his predecessors for the defeat in the separatist territory. Pašinyan's position has also been criticized in Yerevan by the opposition, especially by former president Robert Kočaryan, who on December 29 openly accused the prime minister of betrayal of national interests.
Another former president, Serž Sargsyan, has also announced a public meeting in January on the issue, which will most likely be equally merciless towards Pašinyan. In all of this, Arutjunyan wanted to reiterate that "only Artsakh authorities have the right to speak on behalf of the local population." Arutjunyan stressed that their main goal is the international recognition of Artsakh's independence, and that no form of autonomy within Azerbaijan will be acceptable, such as those to which the Armenian premier seems to be leaving room for negotiation.
The Armenians of Karabakh maintain that there is no possibility of peaceful coexistence with the Azeris, and their territory must be returned to the borders of 1991, when the conflict with Baku over the mountainous area began. For Arutjunyan, Russian troops deployed in the area should facilitate the establishment of a local Artsakh army, staying as long as necessary, and this should be Pašinyan's goal in negotiations with Putin.
The Parliament of Stepanakert - the capital of the separatist republic - has reiterated its president's positions, declaring inadmissible the pronouncements of any politician or party that casts doubt on the Armenian future of Artsakh, especially lashing out at Pašinyan's statements, deeming them too ambiguous and dangerous. The premier had assured that the status of Nagorno Karabakh would remain on the negotiating table, and that "the legal and political bases of Armenian independence in the area are not in contradiction with the positions of the mediators and international structures dealing with the matter".
Karabakh Armenians fear being victims of diplomatic games, and do not want to give up their sovereignty even at the cost of going against Yerevan. The speaker of Stepanakert's parliament, Ašot Gulyan, compared Pašinyan's words to the "style of 1937," when Stalin first annexed Karabakh to Azerbaijan, starting the mountain feud of the two Caucasian peoples, who have always been divided by language, culture and religion.
That is why, any attempt to create such a system would lead to disaster. No Armenian will remain in that land if it will be part of Azerbaijan; everyone should realize that. For us, it is a past phase, a historical and political page in our ancient history; no more, no less. Such attempts are doomed to failure. There is no return to the past," Babayan emphasized, in particular.
The presence of Russian troops in Karabakh must be permanent, since the region will not be able to ensure security on its own, said Arayik Arutyunyan, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, the "Sputnik Armenia" reports. A significant part of Karabakh has become a frontline zone, which is extremely difficult to defend in wartime, said Tigran Grigoryan, a Karabakh political analyst. In his opinion, the Armed Forces of Armenia are also in a state of crisis, while Azerbaijan continues arming itself and improving the results of its military victory. Russian peacemakers should not be the only defence of Karabakh people, said Naira Airumyan, the editor of the "Lragir.am". In her words, France could help in the issue of OSCE troops, but Armenia does not appeal to this country, because "Russia does not allow it."
Russia is not interested in expanding Azerbaijan's influence in the region and fears a conflict escalation, said Kamran Gasanov, an expert at the Russian Council for International Affairs.
The territory’s de facto ministry of foreign affairs announced new entry regulations for foreigners on February 8, and one of the provisions was that Russian peacekeeping forces will examine applications “for security purposes” before they are approved. It’s not clear what prompted the new regulation, which the de facto authorities say had already been in effect before being announced. The day before, a gadfly source claimed that a group of French journalists and activists had been turned away at the de facto Armenia-Karabakh border, and that it was because the Armenian government had made a secret agreement with Azerbaijan allowing Baku to control who enters Karabakh.
Karabakh’s de facto foreign minister David Babayan denied the reports about Azerbaijani control, claiming that the new border regulations were necessary because of the presence of foreign fighters in Azerbaijan proper. “The fact that a large number of mercenary terrorists recruited to fight against Artsakh [an alternate Armenian name for Karabakh] still remain in Azerbaijan forces us to improve the procedure of registering those entering Artsakh,” he said in an interview with Armenian Public Radio, without elaborating on the (improbable) connection.
“We have established close cooperation with the Russian peacekeepers because they are among the key role-players in maintaining peace and stability,” he added.
A spokesperson for Karabakh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Eurasianet the policy did not apply to Armenian citizens, but it did to all other nationalities, including Russians. Anush Ghavalyan, a former adviser to the head of the territory’s parliament, said she thought the new rule was appropriate. “There is a new reality in Karabakh,” she told Eurasianet. “Given that our security now depends also on Russian peacekeepers, I think the regulation fully fits this reality.”
The question of who can and can’t enter Karabakh – which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but which has been controlled by Armenian forces since the first war between the two sides in the 1990s – has long been a deeply sensitive one for both sides. Azerbaijan has for years tried to force foreigners going to Karabakh to ask for Baku’s permission first, and maintains a “blacklist” of many who refuse, denying them entry to Azerbaijan proper on the grounds that they illegally entered Azerbaijan. (A spokesperson for Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a query from Eurasianet.) The Armenian-controlled government in Karabakh, meanwhile, has jealously guarded its sovereignty and maintains its own informal blacklist of foreign would-be visitors it deems too solicitous of Baku’s demands
Pécresse visited Armenia in late December and made a trip to Karabakh, accompanied by former European Commissioner and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier. According to Pécresse, she visited the region because she is concerned about the fate of Christians in the Middle East. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry handed a note to the Chargé d'Affaires of France in Baku, describing the trip as illegal. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev claimed, meanwhile, that Pécresse entered Karabakh "in secret" and that the Azerbaijani authorities would not allow her to leave if they knew about the visit.
Emphasizing Iran's commitment to a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Union, he praised the approach of the union secretariat and member states to this issue and added, “In the approach of Russia and Mr. Putin himself, we see a positive assessment for the expansion of relations with Iran in the form of the Eurasian Economic Union and Iran's membership in this union.” He also referred to Iran's efforts in the field of logistics and added that Iran can facilitate Eurasian trade through regional corridors.
Elsewhere in his remarks, he referred to the existing problems in developing trade between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, expressing hope that Iranian traders will become professional and reach the level of Eurasian countries. It is through such professionalism and strengthening Iran's customs that trade between the two sides will improve, he suggested. He also called for correcting existing problems and making the agreements more effective to achieve the goal.
Emphasizing the effective role of private sector traders and chambers of commerce and the relationship between traders, Jalali said that the lack of familiarity of traders with the laws of other countries is one of the main problems in trade between the two parties. And the solution is online education and creating a database of businessmen of countries. In the end, Jalali emphasized perseverance and efforts to develop relations. The opening ceremony of the first specialized Eurasian exhibition was held in the presence of Iran’s ambassador to the Russian Federation. Officials and diplomats from other countries, including Russia, were also present. During the ceremony, Jalali visited the exhibition and met with a number of businessmen and traders participating in the exhibition. The exhibition, which runs until July 13, will feature Eurasian Union companies, including 30 companies from Russia, 30 companies from Kyrgyzstan, more than 10 companies from Armenia, more than 10 companies from Kazakhstan and companies from Belarus, along with Iranian companies.
Most Russian analysts since the 1990s have argued that the reopening of the transportation corridor between Azerbaijan proper and Azerbaijan’s autonomous republic of Nakhichevan risks transforming Baku into a vassal of Turkey. But a new Moscow commentary argues exactly the opposite. Moscow’s RUSSTRAT Institute says that the corridor will benefit all the countries involved, allowing Armenia to be supplied by land from Russia, Russia to trade with Iran and the Middle East, and Turkey to project power through Azerbaijan to Central Asia (russtrat.ru/reports/10-maya-2021-0010-4172
But it suggests that the planned opening of transportation and communication via the corridor will end any risk that Azerbaijan will be transformed into “a vassal of Turkey” and lose its ability to act independently. Baku “will become only a junior partner but will remain an important regional player in the Trans-Caucasus” because of its ties to other countries there. In particular, RUSSTRAT says, with the reopening of this corridor and Armenia’s dependence on it, “Azerbaijan will gain influence on political processes in Armenia and the position of its elites, above all on questions of war and peace in Qarabagh and its surrounding areas.”
And that means, it continues, that as important as the link is Baku because of the opening of a direct land route to Turkey, something that the Azerbaijani government and people view as “a major geopolitical prize,” its implications are such that Moscow does not have compelling reasons to drag its feet on this route. That has been a serious potential problem because the November 10 declaration that some call an agreement does not specify any timetables for the reopening of routes. Azerbaijan is fully capable of paying for the reopening of the Nakhichivan corridor but Armenia can’t build any of the ones the declaration mentions without outside help.
More generally, RUSSTRAT argues, “it is obvious that ‘the Nakhichevan transportation corridor’ will become powerful stabilizing factor in a region by raising the importance of weak players (Armenia and Azerbaijn) and creating a zone of compromise for the geopolitical goals of Russia, Turkey and Iran.” The reopening of the corridor also works to Russia’s advantage because it seriously undermines the interests of the US and Georgia. Indeed, the only downside from Russia’s perspective, RUSSTRAT says, is that it could lead to the development of a new transportation corridor south of Russia from Afghanistan to the West.
Moscow can counter that via an accord with China, but everything considered, Moscow has good reason to promote the reopening of the Nakhichivan transportation corridor now, however much Yerevan fears it will leave Armenia surrounded by Turks because it helps Russia and hurts the West. If the Kremlin accepts this argument, that would mean that Baku does not face the obstacles to the reopening of the transportation corridor there that many Azerbaijanis had feared existed.
This act has not yet been turned into a legislation. The Parliament of Azerbaijan has not yet ratified the entry of foreign peacekeeping forces into the country. Moreover, the issue has not even been raised at the Milli Majlis (National Assembly of Azerbaijan) yet.
Last night, deputy foreign minister of Russia Sergei Ryabkov spoke to a Russian TV channel, saying he does not understand why neighboring countries and the entire world call Russia an “aggressor”, and why everyone so wary of the Kremlin. He added that such an opinion is both groundless and biased. I will not discuss the affairs of the distant past in great detail. It will be enough to have a quick look at what Russia has been doing since the USSR collapsed 30 years ago to realize that the Kremlin is, indeed, an aggressor.
1. All ethnic and separatist movements in the post-Soviet space have been caused by Russian interventions
2. It is Moscow that supported and recognized the “independence” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. To this day, the ruble is the main currency there, residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia travel abroad with Russian passports, and the budgets of both republics consists of money allocated by Moscow
3. Russia has occupied and annexed the territory of Crimea, and illegal formations were created in Donbass and Luhansk
4. Pridnestrovie, located on the territory of Moldova is a puppet “republic” created by Russia. To this day, it is managed by the Kremlin which also provides it with financial assistance and weapons
5. The Kremlin’s ‘clowns’ call for the seizure of neighboring countries on central TV channels in Russia every day
6. The entire layout of domestic affairs of the Central Asian countries is designed by Moscow
7. During the past 15 years, the Kremlin has been trying to influence policies of the countries in the Baltic and Europe, by means of so-called ‘soft power’
8. Russia is the main moderator of Armenia’s domestic and foreign affairs
9. The Kremlin is building up its military superiority in neighboring states. For example, in Belarus, Russian military bases are located near the border with Poland, however, Russia is outraged whenever NATO acts in the same way
10. Finally, Russia has occupied 3% of the territory of Azerbaijan under the guise of a “peacekeeping” mission.
Russia is a large country, its territory and resources would be sufficiently large to support 2 billion people in comfort. It is the absurd government system and sick ambitions thereof, that is holding Russia back today. Faced with a serious ideological crisis, Russia is trying to prove to the whole world that there are is no such thing as universal humanitarian values – only the “Russian world” and its own unique ways. The Kremlin still does not understand that a new generation of Russians cannot be ruled by the “Suslov’s agitation”, “Stalin’s fear machine”, or “Brezhnev’s insanity.” In fact, Russia has every potential to become a center of balance in the world, a force defending global justice.
What did Hikmet Hajiyev say?
The day before, the Azerbaijani authorities first spoke about this. In an interview with the BBC, Assistant to the President of the country Hikmet Hajiyev noted that at present “certain discussions are continuing on additional legal mechanisms in connection with the mandate of the Russian peacekeepers”. According to Hajiyev, the trilateral statement of November 10, 2020 established a “political and, to a certain extent, legal framework” for the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the territory of Azerbaijan. “The whole of Karabakh is the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan, the international community recognizes the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan and, according to a statement dated November 10, 2020, peacekeeping forces are temporarily deployed in a certain part of the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan”, Hajiyev said. “The main issue we are facing is working on the restoration, reconstruction of the territories liberated from the occupation. Over the past 30-40 years, no country in the world has faced such an issue on such a large scale”, the assistant to the President of Azerbaijan added.
According to the Azerbaijani political observer Agshin Kerimov, with the statement of Hikmet Hajiyev, Azerbaijan in a diplomatic form expressed its dissatisfaction with the actions of the Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh. “At times, peacekeepers go beyond the functions and mandates that they were given by the November 10, 2020 statement. They seem to create additional service obligations for themselves and fulfill them, or try to fulfill them. Baku is worried about these actions and has so far expressed its discontent in various forms.
Hikmet Hajiyev’s statement coincided with the protest of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry in connection with the placement of a tender announcement on the state portal of the Russian Federation regarding the provision of the necessary services to the Russian peacekeepers stationed in Karabakh. In that announcement, their place of deployment was indicated as “the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh”. Apparently, this overflowed the patience of the Azerbaijani authorities and therefore they started talking about the legal aspects of the deployment of peacekeepers in order to show them their place” Kerimov said. According to the observer, it is no coincidence that Hajiyev in his interview pointed out the temporary nature of the stay of Russian military personnel in Karabakh.
“Additional legal obligations of the peacekeepers, which official Baku spoke about, include specifying the types of actions of military personnel in Karabakh, as well as excluding the possibility of the peacekeeping contingent stimulating the actions of illegal Armenian armed formations on the territory of Azerbaijan. Thus, Azerbaijan will bring the responsibilities of the Russian peacekeepers into the international legal framework. And this will speed up the solution of other issues that still remain open”, the expert concluded.
According to political observer Hakob Badalyan, the President of Azerbaijan is most worried about the fact that the Russians can legitimize their military presence in NK by an agreement with the United States and France: act that Azerbaijan does not sign the mandate of the Russian peacekeepers has a legal, legal weight, but the efficiency of this legal weight depends on the actual political weight. And this decision could carry de facto political weight if the US and France reject the legitimacy of the Russian presence. But there are processes and signs that the trend is now the opposite. This is what worries Baku.
Baku has been increasingly airing public criticisms of Moscow over the post-war order, which have been exacerbated by the lack of a formal mandate for the Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh.
Azerbaijan’s relations with Russia, the broker of the ceasefire agreement ending last year’s war with Armenia, have hit another rocky patch. Azerbaijan’s relations with Russia have been in flux since the latter diplomatically intervened to end last year’s fighting. The ceasefire that Russian President Vladimir Putin helped negotiate cemented Azerbaijan’s victory, but it also allowed for the presence of 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops on what is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory and allowed the Armenian-backed de facto Nagorno-Karabakh government to continue to control part of its territory.
While Azerbaijan saw those developments as in opposition to its strategic goals, President Ilham Aliyev has nevertheless portrayed the agreement as marking “the end of the conflict” and the “restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.” Putin, meanwhile, has said that the status of Karabakh in fact remains undetermined. This disagreement over the fundamentals of the conflict has spilled over into several minor controversies over the past month. Most recently, Azerbaijani media unearthed an announcement for a Russian government tender for servicing the peacekeeping contingent that used the term “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.” That name is anathema to Baku, which considers the self-proclaimed government to be an illegitimate occupant of its territory.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry formally complained to its Russian counterparts. Ministry spokesperson Leyla Abdullayeva said that the Russian side explained that the phrasing was a “technical mistake” and would be fixed soon. As of the time this piece was posted it remained online. That episode followed a complaint on August 11 by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense about repeated ceasefire violations in Karabakh. The MoD statement said that Armenian military posts had been newly set up in Karabakh, in the areas of Mukhtarkand and Shushakand (which Armenians call Mkhitarashen and Shosh, respectively).
Though Azerbaijan has long objected to the presence of Armenian troops in Karabakh since the end of the war – the ceasefire statement called on Armenian forces to withdraw from the territory – this was the first time Baku implicated the Russian peacekeepers. “In accordance with the provisions of the tripartite statement, the Russian peacekeeping forces must put an end to the deployment of Armenian armed forces in the territories of Azerbaijan where they are temporarily stationed,” the statement read.
Two days later, the Russian peacekeeping forces reported that the Azerbaijani side had violated the ceasefire, firing at the direction of what they called “Nagorno-Karabakh armed units” – contrary to Azerbaijan’s description of them as having been deployed from Armenia. This statement also was unprecedented; it was the first time the Russians have blamed a specific side for a ceasefire violation. That all, in turn, followed another diplomatic dispute between the two sides. Nationalist Russian member of parliament Vladimir Zhironovskiy gave an interview to a Russian radio station on July 30 in which he commented controversially on events in Azerbaijan.
“Ilham, you will have the territory you want, but no one has a right to look at Russian soldiers askance! You understand me?” Zhirinovskiy told the interviewer. “And he understands perfectly well that he will lose his post, there is a dictatorship there, it’s full of opposition forces there. If Biden wants to, he will be overthrown within two weeks. And only we can save him, as we saved Pashinyan.” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry reported that it summoned the Russian charge d’affaires and expressed “concern and protest in connection with the insulting and biased statements against the Azerbaijani statehood and the country's leadership”, which it believed would damage “the spirit of strategic partnership between the two states.”
Zhirinosvky’s comments also sparked even stronger objections on Azerbaijani social media, with many saying the government’s response was too weak. Isfandiyar Vahabzade, a professor of philology and former ambassador, released a half-hour tirade on YouTube criticizing the Azerbaijani and Russian governments and broadly insulting the entire Russian nation. In response, the Russian government barred Vahabzade from entering Russia for the next 50 years. Azerbaijanis also have objected to recent exercises that the peacekeepers have held in Karabakh. One was training Russian soldiers to defend themselves against drones – one of the keys to Azerbaijan’s military success in last year’s war – and the second, more controversial, was a course billed as “basic training” for young Armenian residents of Karabakh.
Though analysts in Azerbaijan hesitate to call the frequent disagreements a crisis, they say the continuing spats could escalate ahead of the critical date of 2025, when the term of the Russian peacekeeping force is set to expire and Baku will be able to veto its extension. The controversies are exacerbated by the lack of a formal mandate for the peacekeeping mission, in contrast to Russia’s other peacekeeping missions around the post-Soviet space. Russia has been repeatedly pushing for Baku and Yerevan to sign a formal agreement, but it has been held up by demands by Azerbaijan that are unacceptable to the other parties, the International Crisis Group wrote in a June report. One of the key sticking points is that Azerbaijan is demanding formal control of the Lachin corridor, a road that connects Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as an acknowledgement of its sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh itself.
“It seems that Russia does not want to accept Azerbaijan’s condition, thus leaving the mandate question open for now,” analyst Shahin Jafarli told Eurasianet. There may be movement on the mandate issue, however: On September 5, Hikmat Hajiyev, Aliyev’s senior foreign affairs advisor, told BBC Azerbaijani that discussions are ongoing on “additional legal mechanisms” concerning the mandate of peacekeepers. One Baku-based analyst, who asked not to be identified, told Eurasianet that Zhirinosvky’s comments about Russian soldiers were sanctioned by the Kremlin as a response to Baku’s demands on the mandate. “The Russian position is that it has an ongoing mission in Karabakh, and it is not going to tolerate any questions challenging this mission,” the analyst said.
Ahmed Alili, an analyst at the Caucasus Policy Analysis Center, also saw the mention of the peacekeepers as the most important part of the Russian MP’s comments. “He says you can take as much territory as you want, but do not dare touch Russian soldiers,” Alili told Eurasianet, adding: “this implies Russia is fine with potential Azerbaijani military advances in Karabakh as long as its [Russia’s] army remains” in Karabakh. These controversies between Azerbaijan and Russia are temporary but they will likely intensify as the 2025 deadline approaches, Alili said.
The recent clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan were predictable as a large proportion of Yerevan’s political and security elites are unwilling to accept defeat in last year’s Second Karabakh War. Of course, this refusal is also clear regarding the loss of territory in and around Karabakh, which Armenia had controlled for nearly three decades. In the country’s June elections, the Armenian National Congress Party led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, the only well-known political figure that has campaigned to normalise relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, received a mere 1.54 per cent of the vote and failed to enter parliament. Armenia’s new parliament includes two political forces that openly demand that the country retake the lost territory. These are former President Robert Kocharian’s “Armenia Alliance” and the “I Have Honor Alliance” led by Arthur Vanetsian. Together these two parties received 26 per cent of the vote. Desires to retake Karabakh are undoubtedly higher within the senior officer corps of the Armenian siloviki (security forces).
Armenia continues to drag its heels over the signing of a peace treaty with Azerbaijan for two main reasons.
The first is an inability to accept that Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan and that Baku will ultimately decide the fate of the region. The Armenian diaspora, dominated by the nationalistic Dashnak party, has a great deal of influence over the country’s worldview and attitude towards its neighbours. The Dashnaks openly support territorial claims to eastern Turkey and western Azerbaijan as part of wider desires to create a “United (i.e., Greater) Armenia”. The Armenian diaspora rules out any compromise over Karabakh’s sovereignty.
The second issue is the presence of Russian peacekeepers in the area. This should not be surprising to those who have studied the former USSR since 1991, as Russian peacekeepers have never helped resolve any conflict. This is because the Kremlin has allocated them different goals other than peacekeeping. For example, in August 2008 in Georgia Russian peacekeepers were joined by a larger invading army that led to the Kremlin’s recognition of the supposed ‘independence’ of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In other words, Russian peacekeepers have always promoted separatism wherever they have been stationed.
A long-term strategy
In the mid-1990s, when former SVR (Russia’s foreign intelligence service) Chairman Yevgenny Primakov became foreign minister, Russian security policy shifted from viewing the country as part of a common European home to a more Eurasian outlook. Since then, Russia has demanded an exclusive sphere of influence in Eurasia and has used a variety of instruments, including so-called peacekeepers, to establish forward bases in many former Soviet republics.
Russian peacekeepers have directly strengthened Russia’s sphere of influence in Eurasia, as they have dragged out numerous conflicts. In Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova they have even sided with separatists, who have been equipped, trained and transformed into proxy forces to fight central governments. If Russian peacekeepers sought to ultimately resolve these conflicts then their rationale would eventually dissipate and their mandate would be terminated. As the Kremlin views its peacekeepers as outposts of Russian influence, it has no intention of withdrawal. This would naturally undercut its long-term policy of carving out a Eurasian sphere of influence.
Russia has no intention, therefore, to use its five year mandate as a peacekeeping force to finalise a treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan. One year into the mandate, there is no evidence that Moscow’s peacekeepers are encouraging Armenia to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan. Recent clashes between the two countries are driven by Yerevan’s political and security elites, who are unwilling to complete negotiations regarding the country’s border with Azerbaijan. Such an agreement would be the cornerstone of a post-conflict peace treaty between both countries. An Azerbaijani diplomatic source has claimed that various groups and individuals against a peace treaty in Armenia are “trying to provoke Russia to be directly involved in the conflict, which will mean the end of the Russian role of a mediator in establishing peace.” The leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party, Edmon Marukyan, who opposes the November 2020 ceasefire agreement, called upon Russia to intervene under the mandate of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation). Armenia also points to a 1997 security treaty with Russia that it believes can be activated in the event of a threat to Armenia’s territorial integrity.
Ever since the start of last year’s war Armenia has been pushing for Russia to side with it under the CSTO mandate. Russia’s official position during the war was that the CSTO would only intervene if Azerbaijan attacked Armenia proper and not if Baku undertook military operations on what is internationally recognised as its sovereign territory (including Karabakh). The Kremlin also favours balancing between Armenia and Azerbaijan rather than potentially losing leverage over one side. The Kremlin does not seek to punish Azerbaijan, as it has with Georgia and Ukraine, because Baku does not wish to join NATO or the EU.
The Kremlin’s continued ability to balance both sides will decline as the five-year mandate for its peacekeepers draws to a close. During the 2020 war, many feared that Russia would intervene in support of Armenia just as it did in the early 1990s. The trigger for Russian intervention could have been if Azerbaijan had captured the portion of Karabakh inhabited by a small Armenian minority.
The effects of a new Ankara-Baku alliance
Azerbaijan no longer has to be too concerned with potential Russian intervention. A Turkish-Azerbaijani strategic partnership is now a reality following the Shusha Declaration, which recently resulted in real action as Turkey threw its support behind Azerbaijan in response to Iranian threats. Azerbaijan could therefore refuse to renew Russia’s peacekeeping mandate in 2025 with support from Ankara.
Two factors could tip the balance in the region. The first is this growing Turkish-Azerbaijani strategic partnership that first appeared during the 2020 war. Russia has never accepted other powers and international organisations, such as NATO, the EU, or even the UN, acting in what it views as its exclusive Eurasian sphere of influence. Russia has always opposed potential UN peacekeeping in the former USSR, a region in which it has demanded an exclusive right to act as a peacekeeper. At some point in the future Russia may no longer accept Turkey’s right to act in what the Kremlin considers to be its South Caucasian backyard. The second involves the Kremlin’s potential actions in 2025 if Azerbaijan does not renew its peacekeeping mandate. In Azerbaijan, there is a growing view that Russian peacekeepers are allowing Armenia to drag its heels and postpone the signing of a peace treaty.
Azerbaijan’s strategic partnership with Turkey will also stiffen Baku’s resolve against a possible extension of the peacekeeping mandate. An Azerbaijani diplomatic source has said that Baku would prefer to respond with force to provocations, as there is “a firm opinion that Yerevan is not just delaying the process of border delimitation, but actually undermining the trilateral (Azerbaijan-Russia-Armenia) format of the conflict settlement, which formalised the results of last year’s war.”
But this is where ongoing competition becomes both interesting and dangerous for regional security. Iran, even more so than Russia, is itching to teach Azerbaijan a lesson. Theocratic Shia Iran and Christian Armenia have been unusual, albeit long-term, military and geopolitical allies since the early 1990s. Tehran has also long viewed Azerbaijan and its territory as an integral part of its historic national identity in much the same way as Putin’s Russia views Ukraine.
In a joint telephone call, the presidents of Russia and Iran warned against changes to existing borders. This move will be a surprise to Baku; after all, both Russia and Iran never questioned Armenia’s occupation of 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory for nearly three decades and neither country has pressured Yerevan to sign a peace treaty recognising the boundaries of former Soviet republics as international borders. Iran, not surprisingly, praised Russia for bringing “peace and stability” to the South Caucasus in contrast to historical facts that show the opposite to be true.
Russia has long sought to establish a military base in Azerbaijan. Baku has always opposed such a move because it still remains bitter over the Kremlin’s support for Armenia in the First Karabakh War in 1988-94. Aside from its two military bases in Armenia, a Russian peacekeeping base in the South Caucasus is the best the Kremlin could achieve and not something they would therefore easily give up. Moscow has always sought to assert influence over the former Soviet republics but has not been successful in the case of Azerbaijan. A third Russian strategic goal has been to maintain Armenia as a proxy state. This has helped Moscow create a strategic partnership with Iran.
Azerbaijan’s goals are different to those of Russia. Azerbaijan seeks to normalise relations with Armenia, re-open borders and revive economies, trade and transportation. Azerbaijan is the main supporter of a post-conflict peace treaty that would recognise former Soviet internal republican boundaries as international borders. Azerbaijan views the Russian peacekeeping force through the lens of whether it does – or does not – promote the implementation of the 2020 ceasefire agreement and a peace treaty. Baku’s final strategic goal involves the development and consolidation of the country’s strategic partnership with Turkey. This relationship would be based on the Shusha Declaration, military exercises, training, and the joint production of military equipment. Azerbaijan also hopes to establish balanced relations with the US, NATO, and EU. The country probably hopes to have more balanced links regarding the OSCE’s Minsk Group, which was created to negotiate a closing resolution to the Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan was disappointed with France’s role in the Minsk Group as it often sided with Armenia while the US had not taken an active role under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
The presence of Russian peacekeepers in the area only encourages Armenia to drag its heels over the signing a post-conflict peace treaty. If this continues, there will continue to be periodic military clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan. With Turkey covering its back, Baku will increasingly embrace the belief that the mandate of Russian peacekeepers should not be renewed in 2025. Fundamentally, the crux of the problem lies in the fundamental disagreement between Turkish and Azerbaijani interests and those of Russia and Iran in the South Caucasus.
Moscow has taken another step to make the Russian presence in Qarabagh more permanent: it has opened the first Russian Orthodox Church there since the Soviets destroyed all such shrines more than half a century ago (interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=78077). Nominally, the church, which is located on the base of the Russian peacekeeping contingent there, provides religious services to those troops. But it is already clear that those behind it want to help maintain the ethnic Russian community there and Moscow’s hold on the disputed territory.
Aleksandr Bodrov, president of the Russian Community of Stepanakert, says that “Russian churches in Qarabagh to my great regret have not been preserved. All were destroyed by the Bolsheviks in Soviet times, and because of that, the newly erected Russian Orthodox Church in honor of the Birth of Christ acquires sacral and historic importance.”
But there is another reason why the appearance of this new facility is likely to anger many in Azerbaijan and please many in Armenia. Last month, Patriarch Kirill established a Yerevan-Armenian bishopric of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/12/establishing-russian-bishopric-in.html). There was no indication at the dedication of the new church in Stepanakert that it will be subordinate to this bishopric, but it is certain that many in Yerevan will expect that and many in Baku will be alarmed about what both will see as a tilt by Moscow in Armenia’s direction and an indication that Russia intends to remain in Qarabagh not for five years but forever.
The Sochi summit of the leaders on November 26 formalized the peace efforts of the sides over the last year where Armenia and Azerbaijan basically recognized their international borders and launched the negotiations on their delimitation and demarcation. In late 2021, Prime Minister Pashinyan’s reference to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions of 1993 as the inevitable legal basis for the talks about the status of the Karabakh region confirmed that the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan have entered a qualitatively new stage. It is important to recall that the four resolutions adopted by the UNSC amidst the first Karabakh war, the international community recognized Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity with Nagorno-Karabakh being part of it. Referring to the content of peace negotiations between Baku and Yerevan during the rule of his predecessors, Pashinyan said that Karabakh’s status can only be determined within the constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
This, along with the positive accomplishments in the talks over the unblocking of regional transportation and communication channels in line with the trilateral [Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia] ceasefire accord of November 10, 2020, has created an important ground to believe that 2022 promises more peace and security to the South Caucasus. On this account, the following predictions for the Armenia-Azerbaijan relations can be suggested for the upcoming year.
First and foremost, the format of negotiations is expected to remain as it has been since the latest war: i.e., the major decisions are likely going to be made within the trilateral format of the Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia leaders. Since the end of the 44 Day War, Moscow appears to be both supporter and guarantor of the agreements over the most conflictual issues between Baku and Yerevan and does not seem interested in losing its critical role in this process in the foreseeable future.
Along with that, there might be contacts and meetings between the leaders of the two countries mediated by other actors, for instance, the European Union. The Brussels summit of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan on December 14 demonstrated the EU’s capability to bring the two parties to the negotiating table and encourage them towards negotiated solutions to the existing disputes on their agenda. However, although the European Council President Charles Michel succeeded to facilitate a direct meeting of Aliyev and Pashinyan without the mediation of third parties, the regular direct contacts and meetings between them will take some more time to become possible.
Secondly, Baku and Yerevan are expected to announce the establishment of working groups for the delimitation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border next year. According to the results of the Sochi summit, an international commission of the two countries is expected to be founded with the participation of Russia. The progress towards this end would further stabilize the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia and as such prevent the reoccurrence of violent escalations of 2021. The fact that this process is fully supported by all three countries is significantly important and promising for regional peace and security.
Third, Baku and Yerevan are likely to remain on a good track also in the negotiations over unblocking of transportation and communications in the region. The results of the past year provide a favorable basis for this process. It is worth recalling that the leaders of the two countries agreed on the opening of a railway between the western regions of Azerbaijan and its Nakhchivan exclave through the southern Armenian territories at the Sochi summit, after a long period of tug-of war. They have already prepared a timeline and estimated the costs for the reconstruction of this railway. The sides have, nevertheless, yet to reach an agreement about the technical details of a highway along that path which Azerbaijan calls “Zangazur corridor” with a reference to the historical name of the southern Armenian region. We can expect a breakthrough in this direction for next year. In parallel, Armenia is going to get railway access to Iran and Russia via the Azerbaijani territories which will create some degree of interdependency between Armenia and Azerbaijan providing more incentives for peacebuilding in the region.
Fourth, the 3+3 regional cooperation initiative, standing for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia plus Russia, Iran, Turkey and proposed after the 44 Day War, is expected to become an active platform for the discussions and solutions of regional problems in 2022. A summit of the participating countries is possible if all the parties remain interested in this format. Although Georgia is not likely to decide joining this platform next year due to the country’s strained relations with Russia, Tbilisi will have to find a way for engagement with this group if it becomes a real geopolitical force in the region. The 3+3 regional grouping has such a potential as the participating countries are either already in friendly relations with each other or willing to build such relations soon. The rapprochement between Baku and Tehran after the recent tensions in their relations and the progress in the normalization of the Turkey-Armenia relations will make a good contribution to the 3+3 initiative, as well. Hence, this initiative could even serve as a useful platform for the normalization of the Russia-Georgia relations helping the sides resolve their conflicts peacefully.
What is more, the developments of the past year and the prospects for the upcoming year reaffirm that the liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan in the 44 Day War of 2020 has created a unique chance for peace not only in the South Caucasus but also amongst the countries neighboring the region. We hope that it will finally be possible for the region to restore peaceful co-existence after the long years of conflicts and violence. This historic chance for peace should not be taken for granted and needs to be protected against the destructive forces that threaten to undermine the post-war peace process.
To what extent is the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey connected with the policy of Moscow and Washington? After the 3 + 3 or 3 + 2 meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in his speech at the parliament that a representative will be appointed to normalize relations with Armenia, and Istanbul-Yerevan charter flights will be resumed.
Referring to high-ranking Turkish officials, Bloomberg agency writes that this unexpected step of Turkey is connected with US President J. Biden's request. During a meeting with Erdogan in Rome in October this year, he allegedly asked Erdogan to open the border with Armenia and secure his access to the sea, referring to the Mediterranean Sea. According to Bloomberg, Turkey hopes that by improving relations with Armenia it will be able to ease tensions in Turkish-American relations. It is said that in this case Erdogan will have significant achievements in the field of foreign policy, which will help stabilize the economy, as the recent devaluation of the Turkish lira has led to a decline in the rating of Erdogan and his political force.
It should be noted that in order to normalize relations with Washington, Turkey must first withdraw from the C-400 deal and hand over the purchased C-400 systems to Washington. However, Ankara cannot normalize relations with Armenia and expect Washington not to demand C-400s. Another important issue concerns the devaluation of the lira, and the resulting economic crisis. It is no secret that the devaluation of the lira is conditioned by the US policy, therefore Erdogan cannot fight the crisis by normalizing relations with Armenia. In other words, the normalization of relations with Armenia will not give Erdogan any economic benefits that will increase his chances in the 2023 elections. Moreover, the US is unlikely to make concessions in its policy in exchange for this.
Now let's talk about Russia, why its role is important for the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations. First, the South Caucasus is an area of influence for Russia's vital interests, but in recent decades it has gradually lost some leverage. Georgia pursues an openly pro-Western policy, trying to join the EU and NATO, but it should be noted that Russia, represented by Abkhazia and South Ossetia, maintains its military positions in that country. Azerbaijan gradually turned to Turkey and after the Second Artsakh War, we can say that it is absorbed by it, moreover, here Russia is forced to share some levers of influence with Turkey. Armenia continues to be Russia's main strategic ally in the South Caucasus, therefore, taking into account certain circumstances, Armenia's foreign policy actions are harmonized with Russia, which also concerns Armenian-Turkish relations.
In connection with the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations, Yerevan asked Moscow to act as a mediator, in connection with which, we believe, Russia is taking steps. In addition, the announcement by Turkey on the normalization of relations with Armenia was made immediately after the first meeting in the 3 + 3 format, which took place in Moscow. In this case, we can draw two conclusions: Armenia has agreed to participate in this measure after receiving certain guarantees from Russia, which are primarily related to security, and second, Russia is interested in unblocking the region, which is enshrined in a number of documents after the Second Artsakh War. The blockade primarily concerns Armenia and Azerbaijan, but it will not be complete if there is no blockade with Turkey. The operation of communications systems is certainly beneficial for Russia, especially in the context of the sanctions imposed on it.
Are Moscow or Washington more interested in normalizing Armenia-Turkey relations?
No matter how much Washington makes efforts to normalize Armenian-Turkish relations, this issue, as well as the South Caucasus region, is of secondary importance to it. In fact, this issue can be used by the US administration to put pressure on Turkey, but it will remain an additional or secondary issue.
For Moscow, the normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations (non-normalization is not ruled out as well) is important, as the region is vital for it, and Armenia is its strategic ally (Russia also controls the protection of Armenia's border with Turkey). In this case, we think, the harmonization of the interests of Armenia and Russia will be considered a priority, as Turkey remains a strategic opponent for Russia. Another important issue is the vision of the "Turkish world", when Turkey is actively working in that direction. Russia will try to take control of the ongoing processes in this regard, and Armenia will play a key role in this issue.
The beginning of the Armenian-Turkish dialogue will be a difficult and long process. Of course, both Washington and Moscow will intervene in this process, but in our opinion, the latter has more interests and opportunities both in terms of positive and negative role. On the other hand, previous attempts to normalize Armenian-Turkish relations have reached a deadlock, so it is necessary to wait for developments…
Azerbaijan’s recovery of its territories, which Armenia occupied in 1993, appears to have opened the way for an improvement in Turkish-Armenian relations. Immediately following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Turkey recognised Armenia. It was expected that relations would gradually advance toward the opening of borders and establishment of diplomatic relations. These hopes were dashed with the commencement of active hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which led to Yerevan seizing several Azeri regions between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Since then, Turkey has maintained steadfast support for Azerbaijan’s efforts to regain its territory.
The US, EU and Russia have all worked to introduce a modus vivendi between Turkey and Armenia to improve their relations, culminating in 2009 in the Zürich Protocols in which the parties agreed to initiate diplomatic relations and manage their differences within an agreed-upon framework. In the end, this effort failed, not only because of a strong Azeri reaction that Turkey could not ignore, but also because both sides had been pressured into an accommodation that they were not ready to accept or implement by powerful friends.
The recent recovery by Azerbaijan of its territories has transformed the context of Turkish-Armenian relations in two fundamental ways. The first and more obvious one is that Turkey and Azerbaijan, happy with the outcome, are now interested in establishing durable peace and stability in the region. This aspiration, however, cannot be achieved without change on the Armenian side. This is where the second, equally important but perhaps less obvious change comes in. Armenia appears to have shifted its somewhat irredentist foreign policy premise of acquiring territory from neighbours to construct a larger Armenia to one which prefers achieving security and economic prosperity by developing peaceful relations with them.
Armenia’s shift of the fundamental premise of its foreign policy came after clear military defeat. The fact that Prime Minister Pashinyan achieved a major electoral victory afterwards and the ensuing policy shift suggests that the Armenian electorate may be more interested in peace and prosperity than in pursuing irredentist foreign policy adventures. Whether he will be able to sustain this policy depends on the rewards it brings to Armenia’s population and the ability of the opposition to force a return to the previous policy.
Historically, Armenia’s external relations have vacillated between expansionism and good neighbourly relations. The preference for good neighbourly relations has been preceded by military failures. The efforts to build a greater Armenia during the First World War by relying on external forces ended in a multi-dimensional disaster and defeat. The first Armenian State, which enjoyed a short existence, on the other hand, reached without success to the emerging Turkish state for help to survive as an independent entity. Similarly, after Armenia became independent in 1991, its initial orientation foresaw developing good relations with Turkey. The policy was altered in relatively short order as the new country turned to settling historical scores with Turkey and acquiring territory from Azerbaijan. We have arrived at a new stage now where, with dreams of expansion doomed, once again, Armenia appears to be pursuing good neighbourly relations.
The vacillation of the basic premise that gives direction to its external relations appears to be derived from the ambiguous relationship Armenia as a country has with the Armenian diaspora, where major segments of the latter extend political and material support to what they consider to be their motherland and, in return, expect the national government to pursue policies in line with their aspirations of taking revenge on others that have historically “wronged” them. This stance, likely, receives a boost from the Armenian Apostolic Church that can ensure its own survival by inculcating a strong, existential mission among its members. Ironically, the more the Armenian governments pursue diaspora-promoted irredentist policies, the poorer the country becomes, making it even more dependent on diaspora support. It is only after dramatic events like military defeat that such policies come under serious scrutiny and change.
Many observers have also noted that Armenian irredentism may sometimes receive encouragement through the actions of third parties that perceive benefits in Armenia’s problematical relations with its neighbours. If one were to take Russia as an example, it is often judged that Russia extended greater military support to Armenia in its war with Azerbaijan, allowing it to acquire Azeri territories. The ensuing hostile relationship with neighbours produced security concerns that could only be alleviated through the introduction of a significant Russian military presence in the country. Of course, Russia is not interested in Armenia initiating conflicts into which it may be drawn; rather it restrains the Armenian government’s risky initiatives. A strong sense of insecurity on the Armenian side, however, tends to render Russian military presence in the country indispensable. This suits Russia well, since it wants to maintain and extend its influence in the Caucasus.
Is the new opening likely to succeed? Both Turkey and Armenia seem to be interested in developing better relations. Already, Armenia has lifted its ban on Turkish products, the parties have agreed that passenger flights between the two countries would commence on February 2, and more importantly, they have both appointed special representatives to meet regularly for talks with a view to further advancing the relationship. It is important to note that the improvements in bilateral relations will be tied to how Armenia’s relations with Azerbaijan progress. It is unrealistic to expect Turkey to allow the Armenian opening to harm its close ties to Azerbaijan. Turkey hopes that improvements in the short run will allow it to address highly complex problems in the long run with a more positive frame of mind. These problems include, among others, Armenia’s territorial aspirations, as expressed in its Constitution, and historical memory issues relating to the events of 1915. It is hoped that the initial progress will be rapid and bring immediate benefits, so as not to allow the currently weakened irredentist political movements to recover and set positive developments back.
The international community has so far been supportive of developments. The opening also offers Russia and Turkey yet another opportunity to enhance their cooperation and successfully manage the competitive aspects of their expanding relations.
Russo–Turkish relations have been at the forefront of recent media discussions. Cooperative competition, “frenemies,” managed rivalry, “co-opetition,” and other catchy terms are used to describe bilateral relations between Moscow and Ankara. However, the reality is that the two countries have both overlapping, and yet contradictory, interests in many parts of the world. Of these, the most critical for Russia is the post-Soviet space, and the Caucasus in particular.
Managing Competition in Moscow’s Backyard
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian Federation has viewed the entire post-Soviet space as a zone of its critical national security interest. Therefore, Moscow seeks to restrict the influence of other regional and global actors—in particular, that of the United States and the NATO military alliance. The Kremlin has consistently viewed the eastward expansion of NATO with considerable alarm, perceiving it as a violation of the trust in U.S.-Russian relations built during the Gorbachev-Reagan “détente” of the late 1980s. In keeping with that history, Moscow is very suspicious of the activities of any NATO member state in its immediate neighborhood. Turkey is no exception in this regard.
Ankara made its first foray into the Caucasus after 1991, with particular focus on developing relations with Azerbaijan. The ethnic and linguistic bonds with Baku served as an ideal basis for this policy. With the active support of war hawks in Washington, a network of gas and oil pipelines was built to bring Azerbaijani energy resources to the West through both Turkey and Georgia, an aspiring member of NATO. The aim, essentially, was to undermine Russia’s natural position as the dominant energy provider for Europe, and by extension, to weaken Russia’s position in other post-Soviet states, primarily in Ukraine and in Belarus. From the view of Washington war hawks keen on “containing Russia,” this East-West energy corridor would ideally extend further east. That is, it would extend across the Caspian, into the energy-rich post-Soviet Central Asia, especially Turkmenistan, home to the fifth largest reserve of natural gas in the world. The ultimate aim would be for NATO to surround Russia on its borders.
This vision directly clashes with the view commonly held in Moscow, which perceives the Caucasus as a vital part of its Eurasian underbelly. Of particular concern to the Kremlin is its volatile North Caucasus region. Therefore, it seeks to develop strong, and ideally allied, relations with its three neighbors to the south—the post-Soviet republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. Of these, Georgia is the most critical for Moscow. However, given the Kremlin’s fraught relations with Tbilisi due to its Euro-Atlantic aspirations and the conflicts over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a full restoration of ties is unlikely to occur in the near future. Moscow has been able to maintain better relations with Baku. However, here, too, relations with the “Kuwait on the Caspian” have not always been reliable. Its close ties with NATO member Turkey, its leading role in Western-backed energy projects, and the anti-Russian current in Azerbaijani nationalist discourse have prevented relations from developing to an optimal level.
By contrast, Moscow maintains its strongest relationship in the region with Armenia, which depends on Russian security as a “vahan” (the Armenian term for “shield”) against Turkey. Since the 1990s, Yerevan has developed a strategic alliance with Moscow, hosting a Russian military base at the northern city of Gyumri and entering the CSTO and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Given the deep-rooted tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Tehran supports Russian policy in the region, including its alliance with Armenia. Support for this position enhances Iran’s security against possible efforts by the U.S. to use the Caucasus as a launchpad against Iranian territory.
Consequently, the region’s geopolitics has evolved into a tacit confrontation of two competing blocs—the U.S.-supported Turkey-Azerbaijan-Georgia East-West bloc vs. the Moscow-backed Russia-Armenia-Iran North-South bloc. This equilibrium has also played a decisive role in the settlements of regional conflicts. After the 2008 war in Georgia, Moscow recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Meanwhile, conventional wisdom told the Kremlin that it should prevent any drastic change of the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh in favor of Azerbaijan to prevent an increase of Turkey’s influence.
Moreover, although Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili sought to cement Georgia as part of the East-West bloc, the Georgian Dream government has sought to mend ties with Moscow, a process that has seen both successes and limits. In late 2015 and early 2016, Georgia’s then-Energy Minister (now Tbilisi Mayor) Kakha Kaladze even explored the possibility of participating in the North-South bloc by forging stronger energy ties with Moscow and Tehran. In April 2016, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran signed an agreement in Yerevan to establish an energy corridor by 2019, which would sharply increase electricity supplies among them. However, domestic pressures within Georgia, especially from Saakashvili’s party, have prevented a major shift toward a more independent, multi-vectored policy in Tbilisi.
Turkish Delight or Turkish Nightmare?
The second decade of the 21 st century posed new challenges for Moscow in the region. The primary agents of change were the significant deterioration of Russia-West relations amid the 2014 Ukraine crisis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policy to transform Turkey into an independent regional player. Although Ankara sought to assert a separate position from the United States, it still found itself on the same side of U.S. policy on the Syrian Civil War, albeit with different aims than Washington. Turkish-Russian competition in Syria was especially intense, culminating in the Turkish shootdown of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 over the Syrian airspace on 24 November 2015.
The Sukhoi incident marked the lowest ebb in the Russo-Turkish relations since the end of the First World War. It demonstrated how easily a complex conflict like the Syrian war could drift into a “nuclear war by accident.” For months afterwards, Russo-Turkish relations continued to bubble with antagonism. Russian overtures to the Kurds of Turkey and Syria were met by Turkish overtures toward the Crimean Tatars and support for Azerbaijan in its Four-Day War over Nagorno-Karabakh. However, Moscow and Ankara managed to move beyond the animosity and toward rapprochement, a process that intensified after the failed military coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. The launch of Astana format in Syria, the purchase of S-400 systems, the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant were primary examples of an emerging understanding between Moscow and Ankara.
Nevertheless, in many, if not most areas, interests between the two countries continued to contradict and conflict, most notably with regard to the fate of Idlib and northeastern Syria and the situation in Libya. This complex maze of coinciding and contradicting interests was governed by unspoken ground rules between the two sides, in order to avoid another entanglement on the scale of the Sukhoi shootdown. One of those rules was Ankara’s unconditional acceptance of Moscow’s dominant position in the post-Soviet space.
However, Erdogan’s frustrations with Moscow in the Syrian and Libyan theatres led him to do the unthinkable—violate this rule in the fraught conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and the Armenia-allied Karabakh Armenians. His flagrant intervention in the post-Soviet space amid the COVID pandemic paid significant political dividends. Erdogan’s “quick war” in the Caucasus strengthened his position at home, while critically weakening Russia’s main strategic ally in the region (Armenia) and thus Moscow’s regional standing generally. Overall, a combination of NATO military tactics, Turkish Bayraktars, and Armenian incompetence proved to be fatally decisive factors in Karabakh.
Nevertheless, Russia was able to prevent the full takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan through the 10 November 2020 trilateral statement, which saw the deployment of its peacekeepers in what remained of the Armenian Karabakh. However, this outcome has been tenuously unstable. The Russian peacekeepers face manifold challenges, including the constant work of defusing recurring Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes. The number of Karabakh Armenian refugees who have returned to their homes has been limited. Moreover, with Armenia’s cession of the vital districts of Kelbajar and Lachin to Azerbaijan, only a single, narrow road (the Lachin corridor) connects the Russian peacekeepers to the Russian forces in Armenia, placing them in the same security dilemma that the Karabakh Armenians faced in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, the war has emboldened Ankara. In the Black Sea basin, Erdogan cast aside his conflicts with Washington to assist Ukraine in the NATO-led effort to increase pressure on Russia in Donbass. Across the Black Sea, while Georgia is preoccupied by Saakashvili’s latest antics, Ankara-backed Azerbaijan continues to launch new provocations against Armenia and Karabakh, taking advantage of a politically weak prime minister. Demanding from Yerevan uncontrolled access to Turkey via the southern Syunik province (the so-called “Zangezur corridor”), Baku has implemented a strategy of military coercion and blackmail penetrating Armenian territories inch by inch. Although some Russian commentators have raised the idea of a “Zangezur corridor” guarded by Russian troops, replicating the Lachin corridor arrangements, such an approach would only serve as a springboard for the Turkish influence to expand in the post-Soviet space. Meanwhile, across the Caspian, Baku, again with Turkish support, has worked to bolster relations with Turkmenistan and extend the East-West energy corridor into Central Asia. Indeed, despite its increasingly tenuous economy, Ankara appears to be playing a leading role in NATO’s effort to encircle Russia.
Although Moscow’s position in the region remains firm, Kremlin elites are becoming increasingly wary of Ankara’s efforts to project its influence along Russian borders. Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov was jokingly dismissive of Erdogan’s display of a map of a vast pan-Turkic world with a nationalist political ally. However, beneath the cool self-confidence, many in the Kremlin are becoming increasingly frustrated with Ankara’s comportment. Indeed, the threats are significant. Between Ankara’s actions and a growing NATO build-up in Ukraine, Moscow faces one of the greatest security challenges it has confronted since 1991. How Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration will deal with it remains to be seen. One thing is very clear: the Kremlin’s patience is not infinite.
It quoted Alexander Sherin, the deputy chairman of a Russian parliament committee on defense, as saying that Azerbaijan can already be considered a de facto NATO member because its soldiers fought alongside Turkish troops against Russia’s ally Armenia during the Karabakh war. “Its de jure membership [in NATO] is only a matter of time,” claimed Sherin. The Armenian Foreign Ministry has condemned Aliyev’s and Erdogan’s visit to Shushi as a “provocation against regional peace and security.”
In a statement released on Thursday, the ministry accused Turkey and Azerbaijan of threatening Armenia’s territorial integrity after their “joint aggression” against Karabakh. It pointed to the Shushi declaration’s references to a “corridor” that should connect the Nakhichevan exclave with the rest of Azerbaijan via Armenia’s Syunik province.
Ankara lent Baku strong military and diplomatic support during the six-week Karabakh war. Yerevan says that Turkish military personnel participated in the hostilities on the Azerbaijani side along with thousands of mercenaries recruited in Syria’s Turkish-controlled northern regions. The truce accord led to the deployment of 2,000 Russian peacekeeping soldiers in Karabakh. Russia has also deployed soldiers along some sections of Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan.
At present, Moscow and Yerevan are discussing the deployment of Russian border guards to protect Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan. Moreover, Yerevan has again appealed to the CSTO to evoke the article on collective defense against Baku. However, CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas has responded that the alliance will only assist in case of aggression, not in a “per se border incident” between Armenia and Azerbaijan (TASS, July 3). Although Yerevan was dissatisfied with that response (Kavkazsky Uzel, July 7), the incident served as a hint to Baku: joining the organization would shield Azerbaijan from potential CSTO involvement against the country in the future, and it might become an implicit condition for the Kremlin to facilitate the “grand peace treaty” that Azerbaijan wants to reach with Armenia.
Such statements and gestures from Moscow effectively shape a discursive reality, in which Azerbaijan is purportedly ready or willing to join the CSTO but Armenia stands in the way. The next step, thus, would be to transform this discursive reality into material one through, for example, granting Azerbaijan the status of partner or observer despite Armenia’s objections. Indeed, Russian expert Alexandr Perendjiyev predicts that the Armenian obstacle will be settled in order to allow Azerbaijan to become a CSTO partner (Vzglyad, July 8). Similar gestures and calls to entice Azerbaijan into the Moscow-led alliance were repeatedly made in the recent past (see EDM, July 22, 2020).
But presently, the context is sharpened by the outcomes of the Second Karabakh War (September 27–November 9, 2020), including the fact that Turkey has formally asserted its presence in Azerbaijan by signing the Shusha declaration on allied relations on June 15 (see EDM, June 23). Furthermore, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that he has discussed with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, the creation of a Turkish military base in Azerbaijan and that Aliyev would discuss the matter with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Erdoğan also said that Turkey wants to involve Azerbaijan and its state-owned energy company SOCAR in hydrocarbon extraction projects in Libya (Tccb.gov.tr, June 15; Sozcu.com.tr, June 17). And reportedly, the Azerbaijani military may join Turkey’s continued peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan following the United States’ and most of its Western allies’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. These three issues indicate that Ankara seeks to use Baku in a supportive role in Turkey’s geopolitical plays. However, there is a question mark regarding whether Ankara’s intentions are actually compatible with Baku’s interests. One Azerbaijani member of parliament recently warned the government against the risk of becoming embroiled in Afghanistan, where superpowers like the former Soviet Union and the United States “have ended up in a disgraceful defeat” (Azpolitika.az, July 1). But the problem is whether Azerbaijan can afford to refuse Turkey since it is Baku’s turn, at least in Ankara’s view, to reciprocate what are described as brotherly gestures (Qaynarinfo.az, July 9).
Turkey’s presence in the South Caucasus and potential march into Central Asia via Afghanistan following the US withdrawal resonate, in Russia’s perception, with the so-called “Anaconda ring” conspiracy theory, which is deeply embedded in the Russian psyche. Accordingly, the US-led Western world aims to encircle Russia with hostile states and conflicts in order to eventually partition it (Posredi.ru, June 21; Euvsdisinfo.eu, accessed July 15). A recent article in the Armenian service of Sputnik News pointedly referred to Turkey’s activities near Russia as evidence of the West’s “Anaconda ring of Turkish bottling” (Armeniasputnik.am, June 30).
Therefore, Moscow feels pressed to counter increasing Turkish presence in Azerbaijan. Indeed, earlier this year, Moscow expressed its desire to join the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States (informally, Turkic Council). Although membership requires having a majority Turkic population, the Russian Federation actually exceeds most Turkic countries (except for Turkey and Uzbekistan) in terms of the absolute combined size of its many ethnically Turkic populations. Moscow’s drive to penetrate the Turkic Council appears to be driven by its interest in balancing Ankara’s hegemony over the organization as well as the latter’s rising popularity among Russia’s own multi-million-strong Turkic-speaking minorities (see EDM, October 30, 2019 and June 28, 2021; Politicstoday.org, May 20, 2021; News.ru, May 21, 2021; Bizimyolinfo.az, May 23, 2021).
Paradoxically, the Russian attempts to join the Turkic Council or engage other Turkic nations through the CSTO or EEU in order to provide a counterweight to Turkey is frequently interpreted as evidence of a budding Russo-Turkish regional alliance. In this perspective, Turkey and Russia are purportedly the core nations of a union between the Turkic and (Eastern) Slavic civilizations under the Eurasianist idea. Incidentally, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are simultaneously members of the Turkic Council, the CSTO and EEU. Well before the outbreak of the Second Karabakh War but in the wake of the “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia, Alexander Dugin—a leading Russian proponent of Eurasianism, oftentimes (though not universally—Providence, July 8, 2019) dubbed “Putin’s Rasputin” or the Kremlin’s ideologue—visited, in July 2018, the village of Jojug Merjanli, one of the sites of Azerbaijan’s victory in the 2016 clashes with Armenia. There, Dugin stated that Armenia “must return the five occupied districts” and that “the Russian Federation recognizes Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.” Assuming Dugin’s presumed links to the Kremlin have not been overstated, his remarks may have been intended to signal to Baku Moscow’s relative neutrality and red lines in the lead-up to the Second Karabakh War. Perhaps even more importantly, Dugin specifically noted, “The Eurasian idea is impossible without the alliance of Turkic and Slavic nations” (Avciya.az, July 1, 2018; Geopolitica.ru, July 1, 8, 2018). As such, Russia’s maneuvers in relation to Azerbaijan and its push-and-pull approach toward Turkey seem to be dictated by the dichotomous character of the “Anaconda plan” conspiracy and Eurasianist ideology.
Fighting surges in a new area, Aliyev meets Putin in Moscow, Azerbaijan again steps up the info war against Armenia, and the EU throws its hat into the conflict resolution ring. This week’s Post-War Report.
Some of the heaviest post-war fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place this week, as tensions continued to escalate between the two sides. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces exchanged fire for hours starting late July 19 near the Armenian town of Yeraskh, on the border of Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave, an area that had previously seen little tension. The firing included grenade launchers, the Armenian Ministry of Defense reported. Among the wounded was the mayor of Yeraskh. It was perhaps the most serious fighting since a Russia-brokered ceasefire ended last year’s war in November, and it got the world’s attention with the European Union and United States calling on the two to stop fighting and engage in “substantive negotiations,” in the U.S.’s words.
The timing of the violence likely was not a coincidence. The next day, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev flew to Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. It has been a long-established pattern that some kind of fighting breaks out and demands the world’s attention precisely when Baku is unhappy with the pace of negotiations with Armenia to resolve the conflict.
And so it happened this week, although the public comments following the Kremlin meeting curiously downplayed the tension. Aliyev spoke in only very general terms, as did Putin, who thanked Aliyev for the fact that "so far we have always been able to come to compromise solutions" in the conflict – a rosier view of the situation than most might take. And Moscow, unlike Brussels and Washington, did not respond immediately to the outbreak of fighting near Nakhchivan.
But no doubt the conflict took up a significant portion of Aliyev and Putin’s behind-closed-doors time. Azerbaijan has been making it plain that it wants to start real talks over a final resolution to the conflict, which would include Armenia’s formal recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over its territory. And Baku has – with steadily escalating force – been applying a variety of instruments to try to force Yerevan to come to the table. In the face of this Azerbaijani push, the Armenian government has been either silent or feckless, not least because in its weakened post-war state it has few of its own levers. But one figure seems poised to take advantage: Robert Kocharyan, the former president and now opposition leader.
Following his recent announcement that he will not take the seat in parliament that he earned after his coalition won second place – albeit a very distant one – in elections last month, Kocharyan appears to be positioning himself as an extra-parliamentary gadfly. He gave a lengthy interview to several Armenian networks that aired on July 21, and Azerbaijan was high on the agenda.
“It’s completely possible that the events in Yeraskh are preparing the way for a peace agreement, which wouldn’t be signed without Armenia’s recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity,” he said. As tension increases, “the signing of such a document will be perceived not as a betrayal, but as salvation,” he continued. “And that would be the end of Karabakh.”
Laurence Broers, a scholar of the Caucasus, had a similar take on Azerbaijan’s motivations. “Baku is seeking to avoid a repeat of the 1990s – where the militarily victorious side, then Armenia, was not able to consolidate its victory into a favorable peace from a position of strength,” he tweeted following the Nakhchivan-Yeraskh flareup. “Azerbaijan is consequently seeking to maximize pressure on Armenia to force it into a comprehensive peace agreement, for which – from Baku’s perspective – there will never be a better time than now.” Indeed the pressure keeps coming, in various forms.
One is a sort of soft territorial claim, in which Azerbaijan makes “historical” claims to Armenian territory, while stopping short of formally politically claiming the land for itself (as the Armenia-backed, self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has done in Azerbaijan). Aliyev rolled out that strategy again last week. Baku is now going to start using Azerbaijani names for geographical entities inside Armenia, pro-government media reported. “Baku started to announce the historical Azerbaijani names of cities, reservoirs, regions and mountain systems of present-day Armenia only after it became finally clear that the latter does not agree to peace,” one pro-government commentator, Vafa Ismayilova, wrote on July 22. “Yerevan’s actual refusal to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity means that Azerbaijan no longer considers itself obliged to recognize Armenian’s territorial integrity.”
The issue of territorial integrity – that is, Armenia’s refusal to acknowledge Azerbaijani sovereignty over the territory of the former Soviet Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, part of which Armenian forces still control – is the biggest substantive stumbling block to a final resolution. But the two sides also have different takes on the format negotiations should take. European Council President Charles Michel made a trip around the region last weekend, and offered the EU’s diplomatic services – alongside those of the Minsk Group of the OSCE, the Russia, U.S. and France-led body that mediated pre-war peace talks but which has since been sidelined.
Neither side directly formally addressed the EU proposal, but Armenia has been saying that it would be amenable to negotiations under the standards that the Minsk Group had been working on pre-war, which included the principle of the people in a territory to determine its status – in this case, that the Armenians of Karabakh would have a say in how they were ruled. "Armenia is willing to be involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process based on the approaches proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group […] including the right to self-determination," Armenia’s acting foreign minister, Armen Grigoryan, told foreign ambassadors in Yerevan on July 20.
But Azerbaijan has a lot less interest in the Minsk Group now – even more so after the U.S., France, and Russia appear to have coordinated on a snub of Baku’s invitation earlier this month to tour Shusha, the jewel of the territories that Azerbaijan retook last year. Baku further considers the principle of self-determination no longer relevant following the war, and that Karabakh not only will be part of Azerbaijan but will not even have any sort of autonomous status. Privately, Baku was “outraged” by the EU’s offer, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported, citing an unnamed “informed source in Baku.” In his comments in Yerevan, Michel also had raised the issue of the need to resolve Karabakh’s status.
“For Baku, which considers the conflict to be resolved, the question of some kind of status is a red flag,” Kommersant’s source said. In addition, Baku sees EU involvement as a back door for French involvement; Paris has taken a noticeably pro-Armenia approach in the conflict.
Russia, meanwhile, took a sort of middle ground, welcoming EU involvement – as long as it was within the framework of the current, Russia-brokered ceasefire statement. "If mediation efforts bring stability and predictability, and facilitate the implementation of the existing agreements, they should be welcome,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitriy Peskov told reporters on July 21. And in his own lengthy interview, aired July 23 on state TV, Aliyev put a positive spin on Michel’s statements, noting that the EU leader didn’t utter the word “status” – at least while he was in Baku.
Aliyev further riffed on the status issue, making some rare comments about Stepanakert – the capital city of Karabakh, which remains under Armenian control following the war and which Aliyev generally seems to treat with careful ambiguity. In this interview, though, he went on at some length about Azerbaijan’s intelligence-gathering capabilities in the city, which he claimed now has only about 25,000 residents. While that is almost certainly an undercount – its pre-war population was roughly 50,000 and by all accounts it has gotten more crowded since then with Armenians displaced from other parts of Karabakh – Aliyev used the claim to further discredit the idea of any kind of autonomous status for the region under a (still only implied) reassertion of Azerbaijani control. “Under what kind of logic would you create a status for only 25,000 people?” he asked.
Armenia’s Civil Contract party scored a landslide victory at the 2021 parliamentary elections last week, securing the votes needed to preserve their ruling majority. The snap elections, called by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, were seen as a referendum on the outcome of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. The conflict was widely interpreted as a defeat for Armenia, sparking mass protests over the Pashinyan administration’s handling of the war effort and the subsequent peace negotiations. Pashinyan described the November 9 armistice agreement, which involved large territorial transfers from the breakaway, Armenian-backed Republic of Artsakh back to Azerbaijan, as a “painful” necessity: “This is not a victory, but there is no defeat until you consider yourself defeated. We will never consider ourselves defeated and this shall become a new start of an era of our national unity and rebirth.”
It appeared from the election results that a large portion of the Armenian population accepted Pashinyan’s assessment, but the full picture is more complicated. Despite several waves of popular demonstrations by the Prime Minister’s supporters and detractors in the months leading up to the elections, voter turnout did not exceed forty-nine percent. This is not as unequivocal a mandate as Pashinyan may have wanted, especially at a time of crippling polarization in Armenian politics. The opposing “Armenia Alliance,” founded and led by former President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan, still has not fully conceded defeat as of the time of writing, promising instead to publish evidence of widespread electoral misconduct. But observers from the United States, Russia, the European Union, and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have all accepted the election results, which put the Civil Contract party at 53.96% against the Armenia Alliance’s 21.06%.
Though it was intended to be a referendum on Pashinyan and the outcome of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the election to some extent became a referendum on his opponent. Kocharyan was widely accused of corruption throughout his presidency from 1998 to 2008. In 2018, he was charged over his alleged involvement in the 2008 election crackdown that led to hundreds of injuries and the deaths of eight protesters at the hands of the police. He was released on bail and proceeded to relaunch his political career as a leading opposition voice against the Pashinyan government. The charges against him were dropped by Armenia’s Constitutional Court in March 2021, but Kocharyan remains linked in Armenian political discourse with a kind of heavy-handed, “criminal-oligarchic” governing style that many in the country would prefer to leave behind. There is yet to be a comprehensive post-mortem of what went wrong for the opposition bloc, but Kocharyan’s political baggage was quite possibly a contributing factor to Pashinyan’s blowout victory.
Then there are the foreign policy implications of Pashinyan’s victory. A long-time friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kocharyan brandishes all the credentials of a consistently pro-Russian politician. Earlier this year, Kocharyan called for a deeper, “full-fledged modern integration” with Russia. By stark contrast, Pashinyan has routinely been accused by commentators and politicians in Moscow of harboring anti-Russian views. “If we leave [Pashinyan] in power in Armenia,” said well-known Russian political scientist and politician Sergei Kurginyan, “this man will destroy everything we have achieved there . . . to leave Pashinyan in power is to cede Armenia to NATO.” A significant subset of Russian commentators seemingly still cannot forgive Pashinyan for coming to power via the 2018 color revolution against the government of Kocharyan ally Serzh Sargsyan. Pashinyan was one of the leaders of the “Way Out Alliance,” a liberal faction that favored European integration at the expense of deeper ties with Russia. As Prime Minister, he was accused of staffing his government with pro-western officials as part of a long-term plan to transform Armenia into an anti-Russian outpost in the Caucasus; Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev went as far as to accuse Pashinyan of being a “product” of billionaire investor George Soros.
But, in spite of the inflammatory charges being leveled against him, Pashinyan has yet to take even a single meaningful foreign policy step against Russia. From his first day in office, Pashinyan has sought to reassure the Kremlin that he is not looking to fundamentally alter the pro-Russian course taken by Kocharyan and Sargsyan. Not only has Pashinyan done nothing to reduce Russia’s considerable military presence in Armenia, but his government has signaled their openness to expanding the Russian military base in Armenia’s western region of Gyumri. “The issue of expanding and strengthening the Russian military base on the territory of the Republic of Armenia has also been on the agenda,” Armenian Minister of Defense Vagharshak Harutyunyan told reporters. Pashinyan even went as far as dispatching a small military contingent in 2018 to support Russia’s ongoing military mission in Syria. Russia continues to provide ninety percent of Armenia’s military equipment, with Pashinyan reiterating earlier this month that Russia is Armenia’s “main partner” on security matters and that there is no alternative to Armenia’s continued membership in the Russian-led military alliance known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Despite widespread disdain for Pashinyan among Russian elites, the Kremlin has done nothing to put its thumb on the scale of Armenia’s elections— least of all in Robert Kocharyan’s favor. If anything, the Kremlin may very well have concluded that Kocharyan’s victory could spawn more problems than it solves. Kocharyan’s promise to leverage his ties with Putin to tweak the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process in Armenia’s favor is a major liability for Moscow, which has no desire to renegotiate the fragile armistice agreement signed in late 2020. To the extent that Moscow wants to see an Armenian government that will uphold the agreement as it is currently written, Pashinyan— who is one of its three original signatories, along with Aliev and Putin— seems a safer bet.
Far from the Soros-NATO stooge that his Armenian, Russian, and Azerbaijani critics make him out to be, Pashinyan has established himself as a reliable, if not amenable, partner to Moscow. “I still see the Russian government preferring to see a Pashinyan government in power,” said Richard Giragosian, head of the Yerevan think tank Regional Studies Center, as reported by Eurasianet. “In many ways, Pashinyan has become a trophy for Putin: a legitimate, democratically elected leader well under Russian subordination and control. The opposite of [Belarusian President Aleskandr] Lukashenko.”
After it became known that Armenia would send its military to Kazakhstan within the framework of the CSTO peacekeeping forces, a wave of discontent arose among the Turkish and Azerbaijani political circles, as well as some public and political figures in Armenia, who are traditionally financed from outside. For a long time now, pro-Western circles in Armenia have been working in sync with Armenia’s ill-wishers.
Immediately after the decision of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to send Armenian troops to Kazakhstan, a number of Soros organizations in Armenia made a statement, which noted that they were against the introduction of CSTO troops into Kazakhstan in general, and also condemned the decision of the Armenian Prime Minister on the participation of the Armenian Armed Forces in this process. Then there are accusations against the Russian president of attempting to occupy Kazakhstan, etc. The statement was signed by the following US-funded and Soros-based NGOs:
- Transparency International
- NGO “Dialogue for Peace”
- NGO “Support for Rights Without Borders”
- Center for Advanced Development
- NGO “For Equal Rights”
- Center for the Study of Human Rights
- NGO “Free Citizen”
- Helsinki Civil Assembly (Vanadzor Office)
- Armenian Women’s Initiative NGO
- Club of journalists “Asparez”
- NGO “Helsinki Association”
- NGO “Union of Informed Citizens”
- Scientific and educational foundation “Restart”
- Human rights organization “Pink”
- Public Journalism Club
- Center for Media Initiatives
- Coalition against Discrimination and Equal Rights
- Foundation for the Development of Law and Defense
Among the signers are such well-known recipients of American and European grants as: the head of the Union of Informed Citizens NGO Daniel Ioannisyan, the head of the Asparez press club in Gyumri Levon Barseghyan, the head of the Helsinki Civil Assembly (Vanadzor office) Artur Sakunts, etc.
These individuals are known for their Russophobic stance in everything related to Russia. A similar statement was made on January 6 by representatives of the National Democratic Pole movement led by Zhirayr Sefilyan. Some attacks on the topic were made by the chairman of the European Party of Armenia Tigran Khzmalyan, the former head of the State Control Service David Sanasaryan, a member of the National Democratic Pole movement Ara Papyan.
The following messages are heard: why should Armenia help the Kazakhs who did not help us ?! Kazakhstan is an ally of Azerbaijan, and we should not help the friends of our enemies, Russia plans to occupy Kazakhstan, but Armenia should not take part in this. The publications of the above persons on social networks carry the same message, and all this suggests that their actions are directed from a single center. A similar picture is in other CSTO countries, where local paid circles made similar claims and demands.
The protests in Kazakhstan are deep-seated. It is naive to believe that the armed men who cut off the heads of law enforcement officials are disgruntled citizens who oppose the rise in gas tariffs. These are radical groups that have been actively trained, educated and amply funded. There is every reason to believe that there is also a Turkish trace in the events in Kazakhstan.
It is clear that it is in the interests of Armenia that Erdogan’s imperial ambitions are not realized, since this is a direct threat to the RA national security. Apparently, many did not like the fact that the CSTO is a real organization that put its mechanisms into action. It was repeatedly stressed that the CSTO peacekeeping forces will not take any part in hostilities, and only the protection of state and strategic facilities will be in the zone of responsibility of the military bloc. Despite this, a real panic began among those who had previously boldly declared that the CSTO did not exist.
The synchronized work of Turkish and a number of Armenian public and political figures, as well as NGOs, raises great concerns. Why do Armenian public and political circles not act in the zone of Armenian interests, but defend and promote Turkish interests? I would like to direct this question to Prime Minister Pashinyan, who, as the chairman of the CSTO Collective Security Council (CSTO), the country’s leader, coordinated the political process of bringing peacekeepers to Kazakhstan.
"…Edgar Grigoryan, head of the 'DataLocator' project for monitoring, analyzing and processing information on the Internet, reported in an interview with RT that his team had managed to identify about 6,500 accounts on various social networks, in which fake Armenian [users] were spreading deception about the course of the conflict and driving wedges into relations between Armenia and Russia.
"In 31% of the cases the IP addresses led to Azerbaijan, in 21% of cases to Turkey, and in 19% of cases to the UK. Grigoryan believes that the activity was under centralized management .
"'From the first day [of the conflict], the idea that Armenia does not need Russia was introduced, that the Armenian army is inherently strong, that it is necessary to refuse Russia's help, and that Russia is an occupier. The main goal was to present Russia as a sort of tyrant,' said the expert.
"By now, the war is over, but the activity of the bots continues: they explain to real people that Armenia was 'deceived and betrayed' and that 'Russia orchestrated everything to expand its own influence in the Caucasus.'
"On the whole, the cocky sentiments in part of Armenian society, as well as the grievances against Russia within it, can hardly be attributed to bots alone. Real persons, such as comedian Sarik Andreasyan, have also made statements of this kind.
"At the same time, armies of bots engaged in propaganda and disinformation have become constant participants in the information wars, accompanying real ones. Since Baku made such excellent preparations for the offensive on Artsakh in terms of renting Turkish drones and hiring Turkish specialists, then it would be strange if Baku did not make provisions for hostilities in the Internet and did not target them on the Russian-Armenian military alliance, or rather - on the mutual understanding between peoples.
"At the same time, Russian users are being used without their knowledge, provoking a negative reaction towards Armenians. And Armenians themselves are taught to think about the unreliability of Russia - the culprit behind their current troubles.
Armenia Became Russia's 'Hostage'
"Regardless of what would happen to the army of identified bots… the information war around Armenia is just beginning. "After the Russian peacekeepers were brought into the Karabakh conflict zone, Moscow's of influence on Yerevan has increased significantly. Fate has made Armenia our 'hostage': its dependence on the Russian army in this case is voluntary, but also forced. "From a security point of view, to have a hostage is even more secure than just having an ally. But the rapidity and the quality of changes [in the region] became a challenge for Russia's competitors in the area - both for Turkey, which counted on a different outcome of the war, and for the Western countries, especially the United States and France.
"Vladimir Putin has already called on Washington and Paris not to hold grudges, but they still are going to sulk, since a lot of funds were invested in the slow drift of Armenia towards the West.
"There are a huge number of Western NGOs in Armenia - much more than Russian ones. Not all of them are agents of political influence, the situation is largely explained by the status of Armenians as a transatlantic nation, that is, through NGOs, the Armenian diaspora participates in the life of the homeland. But it is difficult to find a harmless explanation for the fact that the American legation in Yerevan is one of the largest in the world – two thousand employees for a country of three million. In the Russian one, by comparison, there are less than a hundred employees.
"The results of these peoples' activities are much more modest than, for example, in Georgia. Although Nikol Pashinyan came to power as the result of another 'color revolution,' as prime minister he revised his anti-Russian attitudes - geography cannot be changed, and it is a harsh mistress: Armenia is surrounded by enemies and can count only on the help of Russia.
"Now this dependence has become even stronger, but the political crisis in Armenia and the general disappointment in Armenian society open a wide window of opportunities for Western agents of influence.
International Players Hope To Increase Their Influence In Armenia And Push Russia Out Of There
"Before the implementation of the Karabakh agreement, Russia was interested in keeping Pashinyan at the head of Armenia's vertical power – the Kremlin still doesn't trust him, but all other options are much worse. Logically, after [the peace agreement] the prime minister should leave - like the 'Moor who has done his work' and turned to be politically bankrupt. But there is no idea of who can replace him.
"The Russian authorities have a long and fruitful history of relations with the Republican Party of Armenia, one of the oldest in the country. However, after the resignation of its leader [former PM] Serzh Sargsyan from all government posts, under pressure from the street, Pashinyan, who took power, practically destroyed this structure. In the new elections, the previously dominant force in Armenian politics was unable even to surmount the electoral threshold and was left without representation in parliament.
"Now two-thirds of the National Assembly is dominated by Pashinyan's people - the 'My Step Alliance', and almost all of them are quasi 'wooden soldiers,' devoid of political will and individuality. The opposition is represented by two parties – Edmon Marukyan's 'Enlightened Armenia' and Gagik Tsarukyan's 'Prosperous Armenia.'
"Marukyan is a former associate of Pashinyan, who broke with him after the 'love revolution.' He and his people are rigidly oriented towards Washington and Brussels, and their platform includes such topics as Armenia's withdrawal from the CSTO and joining NATO.
"'Prosperous Armenia' stands for an Alliance with Russia, but the problem is that ideology does not play any role in its case. This is not even a party, but an asset of Tsarukyan, who is considered to be the richest man in the country. The picture will not be complete if we do not specify that the 63 year-old oligarch is a wrestling coach, and that he served a prison term during the Soviet era for robbery and gang rape.
"In other words, under certain circumstances, the power in Armenia can go to such people, compared to whom, even the leader of the local Maidan, Pashinyan, is the best figure in Russia's eyes. The fact that he is responsible for the current crisis with unpredictable consequences, and for such an ugly party balance, is a different matter.
"In the coming months, the pack of Armenian politics will be reshuffled under a new historical reality, where most of Karabakh has been lost, and Turkey and Azerbaijan use the territory of Armenia, which was previously closed to them, for trading with each other. But now comes the time when international players will be investing in the redistribution of forces, hoping to increase their influence in Armenia and push Russia out of there.
"The army of bots described above is just one [example] in a series of many, through which [international players] will try to play on public opinion within both countries. Speculating on the Armenians' national distress has not yet proved its effectiveness, but one would not like to learn about it retroactively, when a Russophobic core has already formed within Armenian society."
Հարցին, թե երբ եկավ իշխանության, ինչ փուլում էին բանակցությունները, Փաշինյանն ասում է․ «Սերժ Սարգսյանն այդ ժամանակ ասաց՝ բանակցային գործընթացը կանգնած է, որովհետև Ադրբեջանի ակնկալիքները այդ գործընթացից անընդունելի են մեզ համար, սա կարևոր է»։ Փաշինյանը համարում է, որ այն մեղադրանքը թե ինքը հողեր է հանձնել անհիմն մեղադրանք է, փոխարենը լեգիտիմ է իրեն հողեր չհանձնելու մեջ մեղադրելը։ Արցախահայության ապագային անդրադառնալով ասաց, որ տեսնում է իրենց բնօրրանում ապրող, բարգավաճող ժողովուրդ։
«168 Ժամ»-ի զրուցակիցն է ԱՊՀ ինստիտուտի Կովկասի բաժնի ղեկավար, ռազմական փորձագետ Վլադիմիր Եվսեևը
– Պարոն Եվսեև, հետևում եք տարածաշրջանում ծավալվող իրադարձություններին: Այս օրերին և հատկապես նոյեմբերի 16-ին ծանր մարտական լոկալ գործողություններ բռնկվեցին հայ-ադրբեջանական սահմանին: Ադրբեջանը մեծ ուժերով հարձակվեց Հայաստանի վրա: Ինչո՞ւ սա տեղի ունեցավ:
– Հիմնական պատճառը տարածաշրջանում և կողմերի միջև ուժային հավասարակշռության փոփոխությունն է: Ադրբեջանն իրեն ուժեղ է զգում, ավելի հանդուգն է իրեն դրսևորում։ Բացի այդ՝ Ադրբեջանը հաղթանակի էյֆորիայի տակ է և, չգիտես ինչու, իրեն թվում է, որ Թուրքիան մշտապես յուրաքանչյուր հարցում լինելու է Ադրբեջանի կողքին: Սա շատ սխալ դիրքորոշում է: Թուրքիան երբեք Ադրբեջանի համար չի պատերազմի Ռուսաստանի Դաշնության դեմ: Դա անհնար է: Այն դեպքում, երբ Ադրբեջանը ստեղծի մի այնպիսի իրավիճակ, երբ Ռուսաստանը չունենա ընտրության հնարավորություն, ապա Ադրբեջանը կմնա ՌԴ-ի հետ դեմ-հանդիման: Ադրբեջանի փոխարեն՝ իրավիճակը նման ուղղությամբ չէի տանի: Նույնը վերաբերում է Ուկրաինային՝ ուկրաինացիների փոխարեն՝ սեփական հարցերի համար ոչ ոք չի պատերազմելու՝ ո՛չ ամերիկացիները, ո՛չ լեհերը, ո՛չ թուրքերը, ո՛չ ոք նրանց փոխարեն չի պատերազմելու: Նույնն այստեղ է: Իրավիճակը սկսում է փոխվել: Այն, որ խոսել են Ռուսաստանի ու Իրանի ղեկավարները՝ չափազանց կարևոր հանգամանք է:
– Ինչո՞վ է, ըստ Ձեզ, դա կարևոր:
– Դա խոսում է համատեղ գործողությունների համակարգման մասին, որը զսպելու է Թուրքիային և Ադրբեջանին՝ հատկապես Հարավային Կովկասում: Ցանկանում եմ հիշեցնել, որ այս ամենից առաջ Իրանն անցկացրեց մասշտաբային զորավարժություններ՝ ամենամասշտաբայինը վերջին տարիների ընթացքում Նախիջևանի մոտ: Զորավարժությունն անցկացրեց Իսլամական հեղափոխության պահապանների կորպուսը, Իրանը պատրաստ է ՌԴ-ի հետ համատեղ գործողությունների, քանի որ իրեն ևս անհանգստացնում է իր հարևանությամբ ուժերի հավասարակշռության փոփոխությունը, և պատրաստ է հանդես գալ երկրի տարածքային ամբողջականության խախտման դեպքում, այս դեպքում՝ Հայաստանի: Ուստի Ադրբեջանը շատ չի առաջ մղում իր այդ դիրքորոշումը, քանի որ զգում է Իրանի ու Ռուսաստանի դիմակայությունը:
Սակայն, որպեսզի նման իրավիճակներ այլևս չլինեն, հարկավոր է, որպեսզի ՀՀ ղեկավարությունն ընդունի մի շարք որոշումներ, որոնք բնական են այս իրավիճակում: ՀՀ-ում երկրորդ ռուսական ռազմաբազայի ձևավորումը կենսական նշանակության հարց է, ինչպես նաև ռուսական խաղաղապահ ուժերի տեղակայումը հայ-ադրբեջանական սահմանին, ինչպես նաև սահմանապահ ծառայության տեղակայումը: Ցավոք, ՀՀ ղեկավարությունն ԱՄՆ-ի և նրա գործընկերների ճնշումների ներքո սրան չի գնում, ես դա սխալ եմ համարում: Պետք չէ անընդհատ հղում անել Ռուսաստանին, դիմել, պետք է անել այն գործողությունները, որոնք կապահովեն ՀՀ անվտանգությունը, առավել ևս, երբ Ռուսաստանն ու Իրանը սկսեն կոորդինացնել իրենց գործողությունները: Այդ դեպքում ստեղծվում է օդային միջանցք, որից ՌԴ-ն կարող է ՀՀ զորք և զինամթերք տեղափոխել: Այլ նմանատիպ միջանցքներ Ռուսաստանը չունի: Սա շատ կարևոր է: Բայց ինչ-որ հղումներ են արվում նաև միֆական Արևմուտքին, կգան ամերիկացիները… ամերիկացիները հայերի փոխարեն՝ Հայաստանում չեն պատերազմելու: Սա լիակատար հիմարություն է: Ֆրանսիացիները՝ ևս:
– Ինչպես նաև ռուսները, ի դեպ, ՌԴ-ն այնուամենայնիվ ռազմավարական դաշնակից է:
– Այո, ես պարզաբանում եմ՝ ինչու է այդպես: Ոչ ոք չի անելու: Նման պատրանքներով պետք չէ տարվել: Միֆական ընկերներ պետք չէ փնտրել, պետք է կառուցել հարաբերություններ նրանց հետ, ովքեր կան ոչ թե՝ ՀԱՊԿ շրջանակում, այլ՝ երկկողմ մակարդակում և առկա իրավապայմանագրային բազայի վրա:
– Պարոն Եվսեև, հենց այդ բազայի հիման վրա ՀՀ ԱԽՔ Արմեն Գրիգորյանը հայտարարում է, որ Երևանը դիմում է Մոսկվային ռազմական օգնության խնդրանքով 1997թ․ երկկողմ փաստաթղթի համաձայն: Իհարկե, շատ ռուսաստանցի վերլուծաբաններ քննարկում են՝ կա՞ գրավոր դիմում, նամակ, թե՞ ոչ, սակայն գլխավոր հարցն այն է, որ կա խնդրահարույց իրավիճակ նույնիսկ այս դիմումի շուրջ: Ի՞նչ է կատարվում:
– Ես Ձեզ ասում եմ՝ չպետք է օգնության խնդրանքով դիմել, քանի որ նման խնդրանքով կարելի է յուրաքանչյուր ամիս, ամեն շաբաթ դիմել: ՀՀ իշխանություններից գործողություններ են պահանջվում, ոչ թե նամակներ: Պետք են կոնկրետ գործողություններ, իսկ թե ինչո՞ւ չեն նախաձեռնվում, ես չգիտեմ: Կարծում եմ՝ ԱՄՆ ճնշման հետևանք է, քանի որ նրանք չեն ցանկանում ՀՀ-ում ՌԴ ռազմական ներկայության ընդլայնում: Պետք են քայլեր, ոչ թե խնդրանքներ կամ նամակներ: Հասկանալի է, որ Ռուսաստանը կօգնի, սակայն խնդիրը չի լուծվում երկարաժամկետ առումով: Իսկ խնդրանքներով նա Ռուսաստանին վատ դրության մեջ է գցում, կան ոչ միայն տեխնիկական, այլև քաղաքական բազմաթիվ հարցեր: Գյումրիից Ղարաբաղ, նայեք՝ ինչ տարածություն է: Գյումրիի բազան նախատեսված է Թուրքիայի զսպման համար, բայց ոչ՝ ԼՂ-ի համար: Հերի՛ք է շատախոսությամբ զբաղվեն, պետք չէ խոսել միֆական բաների մասին, դա արդեն զզվեցրել է բոլորին: Իսկ գործողություն ՀՀ իշխանության կողմից չկա:
– Այսինքն՝ ՌԴ-ն պատրաստ է կատարել իր պայմանագրային պարտավորությունները, բայց ՀՀ իշխանություննե՞րն են իրենց քայլերով դրան խոչընդոտում:
– ՀՀ իշխանությունները երկերեսանիությամբ են զբաղվում: Նրանք խոսքերով ասում են՝ պետք է օգնություն, բայց որպեսզի այդ օգնությունն իրականացվի, հարկավոր է ենթակառուցվածք: Իսկ ենթակառուցվածք չեն ցանկանում ստեղծել, քանի որ դա ամերիկացիները չեն ցանկանում: Ի վերջո, կողմնորոշվեք՝ ի՞նչ եք ցանկանում: Եթե ցանկանում եք, որ ՌԴ-ն օգնի, ստեղծեք ռազմական ենթակառուցվածք, կամ պետք է շարունակեք դատարկաբանել: Սա Երևանի ինչ-որ հրապարակ չէ, շատախոսել պետք չէ, այլ պետք են կոնկրետ գործողություններ:
– Դուք ասում եք, որ ամերիկացիները չեն գա, բայց կարծում եք՝ պատահակա՞ն է, որ ԱԽ քարտուղարը խոսում է այլ կենտրոնների դիմելու մասին: Ըստ Ձեզ՝ դա հնարավո՞ր չէ, կամ՝ եթե ՌԴ-ն չի օգնում գործնականում, ի՞նչ է պետք անել:
– ՌԴ-ն կօգնի ամեն դեպքում, ես ասացի: Բայց ես հենց այս մասին էի ասում, ինչո՞ւ են նման բաներ ասվում: Եթե Հայաստանը ցանկանում է ԱՄՆ օգնություն, ի սեր Աստծո, կարող են դիմել: Բայց ցավալի է, քանի որ հայ ժողովուրդն է շարունակելու տառապել, ոչ թե իշխանությունը, որը գալու և գնալու է, տառապելու են հայերը, որոնք արդյունքում ՀՀ տարածքում ցեղասպանվելու են:
– Ձեր կարծիքով՝ ո՞րն է ՀՀ իշխանությունների քայլերի տրամաբանությունը, փոխել ՀՀ անվտանգային համակարգը, փոխել կուրսը դեպի Արևմուտք:
– Ոչ, սա արվում է հայ-ռուսական ռազմական համագործակցության հիմքերը թուլացնելու համար:
– Ինչո՞ւ, ո՞րն է նպատակը դրա:
– Պարտության մեղքը ՌԴ-ի վրա բարդելու ցանկությունը: Եթե դու պետության վարչապետ ես, պետք է ապահովես երկրի տարածքային ամբողջականությունը, եթե դու դա չես ապահովում, հրաժարական տուր: Եթե Դուք այդ խնդիրը չեք կարողանում կատարել, որը պետության ամենակարևոր գործառույթներից մեկն է, հեռացեք, թող այլ մարդիկ գան, որոնք կկարողանան դա անել: Իսկ նա բոլոր ուժերով կառչել է իշխանությունից: Երկրում ստեղծված այս իրավիճակի համար, երբ իրանցի վարորդների համար ճանապարհը փակվել է, տեղաշարժը երկրում սահմանափակվել է, ո՞վ է մեղավոր՝ Ռուսաստա՞նը, թե՞ ՀՀ իշխանությունը: Ռուսաստանին պետք չէ շանտաժի ենթարկել, Ռուսաստանը հայերի փոխարեն չի պատերազմելու Հայաստանում, Ռուսաստանը կարող է դա անել հայերի հետ, իսկ այստեղ չես հասկանում, թե ինչ է, երկերեսանիություն է սա: Ինձ նյարդայնացնում է ՀՀ իշխանության վարքագիծը: Նրանք էլ անձամբ հակառուսական տրամադրություններ են հրահրում:
ԵՐԵՎԱՆ, 8 հուլիսի - Sputnik. Ռուս սենատոր, ՌԴ Դաշնային խորհրդի միջազգային հարցերով կոմիտեի նախագահի առաջին տեղակալ Վլադիմիր Ջաբարովը «լավ նշան» է անվանել խորհրդարանական ընտրություններում հաղթելուց հետո ՀՀ վարչապետի պաշտոնակատար Նիկոլ Փաշինյանի առաջին այցը Մոսկվա: Նա այդ մասին ասաց Sputnik Արմենիա մուլտիմեդիոն հարթակում կազմակերպված տեսակամուրջի ժամանակ։ Ջաբարովի խոսքով՝ շատ կարևոր է, որ ընտրություններից հետո առաջին այցը Փաշինյանը կատարեց հենց Ռուսաստանի մայրաքաղաք։ Հայաստանի ղեկավարությունը հասկանում է, թե որքան կարևոր է Ռուսաստանի հետ համագործակցությունը տարածաշրջանում անվտանգության հարցերում, Ղարաբաղի շուրջ ստեղծված իրավիճակում։ Քաղաքագետ, պատմաբան Արմեն Գասպարյանն էլ իր հերթին ասաց, որ Փաշինյանի այցը ևս մեկ անգամ ցույց է տալիս, որ հաշվարկները, թե ԱՄՆ-ն, Ֆրանսիան կամ Գերմանիան կօգնեն Հայաստանին հաղթահարել մարտահրավերները, չարդարացան:
«Մեր աչքի առաջ տրանսֆորմացիա տեղի ունեցավ։ Քաղաքական գործիչը, որն իշխանության էր գնում տրամագծորեն այլ հայացքներով, և որը լրիվ այլ իրականության մեջ է հայտնվել։ Մի բան է, երբ խորհրդարանում ընդդիմություն ես, կարող ես ում ասես քննադատել և ինչ ասես ասել, և բոլորովին այլ բան է, երբ դու վարչապետ ես»,-նշեց Գասպարյանը։
Նա հիշեցրեց, որ անցյալ շաբաթ Մոսկվա էր այցելել Հայաստանի պաշտպանության նախարարության պատվիրակությունը, որը քննարկել է 102-րդ ռուսական ռազմակայանի ուժերի կողմից սահմանամերձ տարածքների ուժեղացման հետ կապված հարցերը, ինչպես նաև Մոսկվայի միջնորդությամբ հայ-ադրբեջանական համատեղ հանձնաժողովի ստեղծումը: Հենց այդ պատճառով Գասպարյանի համար բացարձակապես հասկանալի էր, թե ուր պետք է Փաշինյանը գնար։ Նա կարծում է, որ Փաշինյանը շատ ծանր դաս է ստացել։ Թե որքանով այն կյուրացվի, ժամանակը ցույց կտա։
Յունուարի 17-ին ՀՀ ԱԺ-ում ելոյթի ժամանակ փոխխօսնակ Ռուբէն Ռուբինեանը, ով նաև հայ-թուրքական յանձնախմբում համակարգում է հայկական կողմի աշխատանքը, սպառնաց, թէ այլևս համբերատար չի լինի նրանց նկատմամբ, ովքեր իրեն կ’անուանեն թուրքական ազդեցութեան գործակալ։
Նախ՝ գիտի՞ արդեօք Ռուբէնը, թէ ինչ է նշանակում «ազդեցութեան գործակալ» տերմինը։ 2018-ի աշնանը, երբ այն ժամանակուայ փոխնախարարներից մէկի առաջարկով Երևանի «Շերեփ» ռեստորանում հանդիպեցի այն ժամանակ ԱԳՆ փոխնախարար Ռուբէն Ռուբինեանի հետ, կարճ զրոյցի ընթացքում հասկացայ, որ գաղափար չունի, թէ ինչ պաշտօն է զբաղեցնում, չգիտէր, թէ ինչ է «ժողովրդական դիւանագիտութիւնը (soft diplomacy), որը քաղաքագիտութեան ֆակուլտետի իւրաքանչիւր առաջին կուրսեցի լաւ գիտի։ Դա Ռուբէնի հետ իմ առաջին ու վերջին հանդիպումն էր։ Իմաստ չունէր էլի հանդիպել, թէպետ ոգևորութեամբ իր հեռախօսի համարը տուեց, որ խօսենք։ Այսօր էլ կասկածում եմ, թէ նա գիտի՝ ինչ է ազդեցութեան գործակալի իմաստը, ինչպէս որ չգիտի, թէ ինքը ինչպէս է յայտնուել թուրքական ազդեցութեան գօտում։
Ազդեցութեան գործակալ բառն առաջացել է դեռևս 20-րդ դարի կէսերին՝ սառը պատերազմի ժամանակ, երբ ԽՍՀՄ և ԱՄՆ յատուկ ծառայութիւնները բարեկամանում ու իրենց ազդեցութեանն էին ենթարկում միմեանց պաշտօնեաներին, հասարակական, քաղաքական ու մշակոյթի գործիչներին, լրագրողներին։ Սրանք էլ, սկզբնական շրջանում, ոչինչ չհասկանալով, իրենց կամքից անկախ, իրենց երկրում քարոզում են հակառակ կողմի արժէքները։ Ժամանակի ընթացքում նրանք այնքան են տարւում միւս երկրով, որ իրենց գործողութիւնները համակարգում են հէնց այդ երկրների յատուկ ծառայութիւնների հետ։ Այսինքն՝ ազդեցութեան գործակալը վերածւում է իրական, մտածուած գործակալի։
Հիմա վերադառնանք Ռուբէն Ռուբինեանին։ 1990 թուականի մարտի 8-ին ծնուած այս տղան ԵՊՀ-ն աւարտելուց անմիջապէս յետոյ՝ 2011-ին յատուկ ծրագրով տեղափոխուել է Մեծ Բրիտանիա, սովորել այնտեղ մէկ տարի, իսկ 2012-ին նոյնպիսի յատուկ ծրագրով սովորել Լեհաստանում։ 2017-ին Թուրքիայում գործող «Հրանտ Տինք» հիմնադրամի ֆինանսաւորմամբ տեղափոխուել է Թուրքիա և ուշադրութիւն դարձրէք, «փորձի փոխանակման նախագծի» շրջանակում հետազօտութիւն իրականացրել Ստամբուլի «Սաբանջը» համալսարանում։
Երկու խօսք թուրքական «Սաբանջը» համալսարանի մասին։ Այս բուհի հիմնադիրը թուրք ազգայնական գործարար Հաջը Օմերն է, ով 1934 թուականին Քեմալ Աթաթուրքի խորհրդով ընտրել է Սաբանջը ազգանունը և նոյն Աթաթուրքի օգնութեամբ տիրացել Ատանայի հայերի անհատական ու եկեղեցապատկան ունեցուածքին՝ ընդհանուր առմամբ՝ 100 մլրդ դոլար։ Այս թուրքի զաւակները քարոզչական կրթութեան նպատակներով 1994 թուականին հիմնել են «Սաբանջը» համալսարանը՝ այնտեղ աշխատելով հիմնականում օտարերկրացի ուսանողների հետ՝ ուղեղների լուացման, ազդեցութեան գործակալ դարձնելու համար։ Թուրքական այդ բուհի դասախօսների մէջ շատ են Թուրքիայի յատուկ ծառայութիւնների աշխատակիցները։
Ռուբէն Ռուբինեանը 2017-2018 թուականներին հետազօտութիւն է արել հենց «Սաբանջը» համալսարանում և Հայաստան է վերադարձել 2018-ի ապրիլեան հանրահաւաքների օրերին։ Չմոռանանք, որ Նիկոլ Փաշինեանի Գիւմրի-Երևան քայլերթը և արագաչափեր փակելու արդիւնաւէտութիւնը առաջին անգամ փորձարկուել է 2017-ի յուլիսին նոյն Թուրքիայում՝ Անկարա-Ստամբուլ քայլերթով։
Ռուբէն Ռուբինեանի սիրելի թուրքական «Սաբանջը» համալսարանում գործող «Ստամբուլի քաղաքականութեան կենտրոնում» (IPC) էլ հէնց մշակուել է «ՀԿ-ների դերի բարձրացման և նրանց միջոցով քաղաքական փոփոխութիւններ իրականացնելու նախագիծը»։ Նոյն Ռուբէնը հէնց «Ստամբուլի քաղաքականութեան կենտրոնում» (IPC) եղել 1 տարի։ Հիմա հռետորական հարց։ Ռուբէն Ռուբինեանը բրիտանական կամ թուրքական ազդեցութեան գործակա՞լ է։ Այդ տղան սպառնում է, թէ չկայ մէկը, ով կը կարողանայ իր դիմաց ասել իր մասին նման բան։ Ես կարող եմ»։
Youtube–ի ալիքում իր հաղորդման շրջանակներում, ժամանակակից քաղաքականության մասին մտորելով, գիտնականը, Բիսմարկի խոսքերը փոքր-ինչ ձևափոխելով, հայտարարում է, որ քաղաքականությունն այսօր արդեն անհնարինի արվեստն է, քանի որ մի շարք երկրներ փլուզման ու անհետացման վտանգի առաջ են կանգնել։ Կուրղինյանը նշում է այն պատճառները, որոնք ժողովուրդներին հասցրել են այդ եզրին` խոսելով գլխավոր պատճառի մասին` սպառողական հանրությունը ի զորու չէ արարել և զարգանալ։ Նա օրինակ է բերել և՛ Իսրայելին, և՛ ԱՄՆ–ին, և՛ Ռուսաստանին` բացատրելով, որ այդ երկրները հեռացել են իրենց հոգևոր առաքելությունից։
Գիտնականը կարծում է, որ Հայաստանը կարող է փրկվել միայն ներկայիս կիսաքաղքենիական գոյությունից մեկ այլ իրականություն ցատկ կատարելով։ Նա համոզված է, որ իրավիճակը, որում հայտնվել է երկիրը ներկա պահին, ոչ թե քաղաքական է, այլ էքզիստենցիալ, և Հայաստանը բաժանվել է ոչ թե քաղաքական, այլ կյանքի ու մահվան ճամբարների։
Идея создания так называемого «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» родилась и получила оформление в концептуальном виде в результате мирного соглашения между Арменией и Азербайджаном по Нагорному Карабаху. Соглашение было подписано по инициативе России, и «нахичеванский транспортный коридор» – его составная часть (Заявление Президента Азербайджанской Республики, Премьер-министра Республики Армения и Президента Российской Федерации от 10 ноября 2020 г., п.9).
«Нахичеванский транспортный коридор» — это сеть транспортных коммуникаций, расположенных вдоль южной границы Армении с Ираном и идущих на запад Азербайджана. Нахичевань – автономный экстерриториальный анклав Азербайджана на территории Армении со времён СССР.
В советское время регион обладал развитой сетью дорог в сторону от России к Ирану и Турции через Азербайджан и Армению, проходя через Нахичевань. В результате Нагорно-Карабахского конфликта в 1993 году дорожная сеть была перекрыта, что повлекло сухопутную блокаду Армении от России – основного торгового партнёра. После тридцати лет блокады транспортное сообщение восстанавливается.
«Нахичеванский транспортный коридор» позволяет соединить Азербайджан, Армению и Россию с Ираном и Турцией прямым сухопутным сообщением, неподконтрольным США, тем самым вернув регион к степени транспортной связности времён СССР и восстановив региональное геополитическое значение России, Ирана и Турции.
В советский период по нахичеванской жедезнодорожной линии осуществлялись крупные региональные перевозки между Россией, Ираном и Турцией. Перекрытие этой коммуникации стало в своё время крупной геополитической победой США, повлекшей глобальные последствия в Евразии.
Основой «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» является нахичеванская железная дорога, с советского времени связывавшая Ереван (станция Масис), Нахичевань и Баку. Это единственная и кратчайшая сухопутная коммуникация между Россией и Арменией. Разблокирование этой магистрали обнуляет геополитический выигрыш США конца 80-х – начала 90-х и возвращает ситуацию к периоду независимых экономических связей трёх региональных центров силы, соперничающих с США в Евразии.
Восстановление и развитие «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» усиливает ЕАС, так как облегчает доступ на его рынки для Армении. Также Армения получает железнодорожное сообщение с Ираном и Турцией. Для России «нахичеванский транспортный коридор» означает альтернативный сухопутный маршрут к рынкам Ближнего Востока, и, в первую очередь, к Ирану и Турции, где товарооборот стабильно растёт.
Турция получает доступ к Каспийскому морю через Азербайджан, получив возможность отказаться от использования дорог Грузии и Ирана. Россия, Турция и Иран становятся более независимыми от США, что непременно скажется на их внешней политике.
Для Азербайджана восстановление «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» означает крупный геополитический приз. Первое: Азербайджан получает транспортный коридор в Турцию и дальше, что облегчает все прочие военно-политические и инфраструктурные проекты между этими двумя странами.
Второе: Азербайджан уходит от риска превращения в вассала Турции и утраты субъектности. Он становится лишь младшим партнёром, но остаётся важным региональным игроком в Закавказье, обусловливая торговые связи Турции, Ирана и России по кратчайшему маршруту.
Третье: из-за возможности подключения Армении к коммуникации, имеющей для неё стратегическое значение, Азербайджан получает влияние на политические процессы в Армении и позицию её элит, прежде всего в вопросах войны и мира в Нагорном Карабахе и его окрестностях.
Речь идёт о риске прихода в Армении к власти сил реванша. В случае победы на выборах они попадают под мощное давление пророссийских групп и прежде всего российского руководства, какое бы оно ни было. Так Азербайджан вовлекает Армению в мирный процесс, фиксируя выгодные условия мира в первую очередь для Азербайджана и препятствуя их пересмотру.
Нынешняя правящая группа в Армении во главе с Пашиняном понимает, что «нахичеванский транспортный коридор» — это перспектива нескольких дорог из Армении как в Россию, так и к Персидскому заливу. Пашинян уже заявил, что это «имеет переломное значение» в истории конфликта Армении и Азербайджана и в корне меняет ситуацию в регионе.
Армения становится транзитной страной и принуждается к миру ещё одним экономическим рычагом, будучи обязанной гарантировать безопасность перевозок по «нахичеванскому транспортному коридору», позволяя тем самым строить новые коммуникации из Азербайджана в Нахичевань и повышая региональную транспортную связность в интересах как Армении, так и всех региональных центров силы.
В настоящее время Азербайджан приступил к разработке ТЭО на строительство дороги от железнодорожной станции города Горадиза (Физулинский район Азербайджана) до Нахичевани, и строительство дороги займет максимум два года. Горадиз входил в состав территорий, занятых армянским ополчением Карабаха, но возвращён Азербайджану в результате боёв осени 2020 года.
В целом проект «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» интегрирован в проект «Север-Юг», соединяющий по суше Санкт-Петербург и индийский Мумбаи, а также интегрированный ранее в этот проект участок линии БТК (Баку-Тбилиси-Карс), соединяющий Азербайджан, Грузию и Турцию и повышающий значимость грузинской логистики.
Все три проекта взаимодополняемы и при некоторой конкурентности отдельных фрагментов в целом являются мощным евразийским логистическим комплексом, способным даже повлиять на отношения между ЕС и США, снижая ресурс влияния Вашингтона на Брюссель и повышая субъектность Германии и Франции.
В интересах снижения зависимости от доступа к краткосрочным кредитным ресурсам США лидеры ЕС ищут путей на Восток, и рост его инвестиционной перспективы объективно ведёт к снижению американского могущества.
Очевидно, что «нахичеванский транспортный коридор» становится мощным стабилизирующим фактором в регионе, повышая значимость слабых звеньев (Армения и Азербайджан) и создавая зону компромисса геополитических устремлений России, Турции и Ирана.
Однако это серьёзно ущемляет интересы США, и потому следует ждать ответной реакции Вашингтона, который будет всеми силами стремиться сорвать процесс и вернуть ситуацию к состоянию войны. Проигрывает и Грузия, чьи логистические возможности становятся неактуальными, так как «нахичеванский транспортный коридор» на 340 км короче ныне действующей линии «Баку-Тбилиси-Карс».
Одновременно возникают риски для транзитного проекта между Афганистаном, Турцией, Туркменистаном, Азербайджаном и Грузией, названного «Лазуритовый коридор», куда входит комплекс железных и автомобильных дорог от Герата через Ашхабад и порт Туркменбаши на Каспии до Баку с ответвлениями на Поти и Батуми и от Анкары до Стамбула.
«Лазуритовый коридор» - это фрагмент Великого Шёлкового пути, пущенный в эксплуатацию в 2018 году. Однако в связи с низким объёмом и узкой номенклатурой грузов из Афганистана (ковры, сухофрукты, малое количество полудрагоценных и драгоценных камней) по этому логистическому маршруту возможны лишь разовые акции.
Однако «Лазуритовый коридор» - это не экономика, а геополитика. Борьба за вовлечение Афганистана в свою орбиту происходит между США, Британией, Россией и Китаем. В ней участвуют Индия и Пакистан, пытается найти себе место Азербайджан, повышая свой транзитный статус. Суть проекта – объединение Афганистана с Центральной Азией по схеме «5+1», продвигаемой США в целях не допустить в регион Россию и Китай.
Также для США критически важно увеличить контролируемые возможности наркотрафика. Афганистан и Грузия – реперные точки для США, через них они входят в региональную систему Южного Кавказа, ключевую для стабильности в Евразии. Поэтому США всеми силами постараются не допустить снижения транзитного потенциала Грузии. Они будут делать всё возможное, чтобы превратить «нахичеванский транспортный коридор» в новый очаг конфликта.
Объём потерь Грузии от некоторого снижения грузопотока по коридору БТК потенциально можно скомпенсировать увеличением объёмов торговли в регионе в результате его инфраструктурного развития. Однако Грузия отвергает предложения об участии в проектах, где участвует Россия.
Получение же мультипликативного эффекта для Грузии возможно лишь при условии её интегрированности в имеющиеся проекты, а для этого в регионе необходимо сотрудничество и «дружба народов». Если это произойдёт, Грузия утратит нынешнюю зависимость от патронажа США. Влияние же США на транзит с Юга на Запад будет ослаблено, что повысит автономию ЕС. Понятно, что инциденты с расширением воронки конфликтов в регионе гарантированы.
У Ирана в отношении восстановления прямого транспортного маршрута из Турции в Азербайджан через территорию Армении возникает конфликт интересов. С одной стороны, для Ирана выгодно усиление возможностей внешней торговли по неподконтрольным США маршрутам, проходящим через территорию Ирана.
С другой стороны, Иран долгие годы был логистической альтернативой замороженному нахичеванскому маршруту, получая плату за транзит и сохраняя влияние на Баку. Теперь это влияние уменьшается, и всё, что теряет Иран, перетекает к Турции и России.
Больше того, Турция как извечный соперник Ирана, получает выход к Тихому океану, что неизбежно усиливает её геополитический потенциал. Здесь возникает точка пересечения интересов США и Ирана – им обоим не выгодно усиление Турции.
Возможно, этот аспект способен стать темой для сепаратных переговоров Ирана и США на предмет неких возможных координаций, и к влиянию на этот процесс сразу подключатся Израиль, ЕС и Россия. Возникает потенциальный узел интересов и активных переговорных процессов, что будет обеспечиваться целым комплексом сопровождающих и подготовительных действий.
Причём, по умолчанию за всеми действиями участников будет подразумеваться китайский фактор. Продвижение своего видения переговорной ситуации и своих интересов определит целый комплекс тенденций на ближайшее десятилетие.
Восстановление «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» объективно способствует возрождению идеи Транскаспийского газопровода, одной из частей газопровода «Набукко», ранее поддержанного США, но не состоявшегося в задуманном виде. Транскаспийский газопровод – это доставка газа из Туркмении и Казахстана в обход России через Азербайджан в Турцию и Грузию, и дальше в Европу. Две других его части – Трансанатолийский и Трансадриатический газопроводы – уже построены ранее (в 2019 и 2020 г.г.).
С учётом введённых в строй мощностей Турецкого потока и падения спроса на газ в связи с кризисом и эпидемией COVID-19 рентабельность Транскаспийского газопровода под вопросом, но это политический проект, и к нему так или иначе всегда будут пытаться вернуться.
При этом надо учесть, что тогда Транскаспийский газопровод планировался без учёта фактора ввода в действие Северного потка-2 и возросших амбиций Турции. Сейчас реализация Транскаспийского газопровода не только ударит по интересам России и Ирана, но и повысит независимость ЕС.
Это ещё больше увеличит выбор доступных для Европы альтернатив и ослабит влияние США на евразийском векторе. Транскаспийский газопровод объективно несёт в себе потенциальную возможность возникновения дополнительных проблем у США с вассалами и союзниками по НАТО.
Открытие «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» создаёт понижающее давление на цену иранского газа для Турции. Сейчас эта цена $490 за тысячу кубометров иранского газа, но прокладка газопровода через Нахичевань может снизить стоимость до $335. Кроме того, создаются дополнительные возможности для поставок газа из Туркмении в Турцию.
Кроме того, Иран теряет комиссионные доходы от транзита газа из Азербайджана в Нахичевань. Это 15% от цены транзита. К тому же через Иран идут поставки грузовым транспортом из Турции в Среднюю Азию. За проезд каждого турецкого грузовика до границы с Туркменистаном (протяжённость пути 1800 км.) Иран брал $800. Теперь доходы Ирана и его и влияние на Турцию снизятся.
Таким образом, устраняя старые конфликты интересов, «нахичеванский транспортный коридор» создаёт новые. Кроме прогнозируемого сопротивления США и Грузии, усиливаются Турция и Иран, региональные конкуренты и соперники в исламском мире. Причём, их соперничество усиливается в сфере влияния на Азербайджан, являющийся зоной стратегических интересов обеих стран.
Также объективно усиление Турции не в интересах Китая: эти две страны являются жёсткими конкурентами между собой на мировых рынках в сегменте лёгкой промышленности и производстве тканей. Формирование логистического анклава вокруг «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» усиливает ЕАЭС и несколько понижает монопольную роль китайского ОПОП, создавая альтернативные развязки и ослабляя позицию Китая на переговорах с Россией.
1. Восстановление мира в Закавказье в первую очередь предусматривает окончательное прекращение войны между Азербайджаном и Арменией по поводу Нагорного Карабаха.
2. Стабильный мир между Арменией и Азербайджаном возможен только при условии общей экономической выгоды и общих спонсорах этого вектора политического процесса.
3. «Нахичеванский транспортный коридор» - проект, способный генерировать общую зону стратегических интересов у главных региональных игроков: России, Ирана, Турции, и тем самым стать стабилизирующим фактором в регионе с глобальными последствиями.
4. Главными бенефициарами «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» становятся Россия, Азербайджан и Армения. Их положение однозначно упрочивается.
5. Двойственное положение получают Турция, Иран, Индия и Китай, впрямую в проекте не участвующий. Их выгоды уравновешиваются повышением издержек. Они получают расширение возможностей и усиление статуса, но одновременно возрастает зона турбулентностей и политических и экономических рисков от косвенных потерь в виде упущенной выгоды и возросшего сопротивления партнёров и соперников.
6. Косвенным бенефициаром «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» становится ЕС, получая возможность играть на противоречиях и интересах России, Китая, США, Турции, Британии и Ирана.
7. Ухудшают своё положение США и Грузия. США – за счёт того, что участники проекта улучшают свои возможности без участия США, а Грузия – за счёт утраты статуса ключевого звена с золотой акцией для всех участников. Нынешняя политическая элита пришла к власти в Грузии именно на волне ожиданий бонусов и выгод от транзитного статуса, полученного с помощью США.
Снижение этого статуса влечёт рост внутренней напряжённости в Грузии (что отчасти уже имеет место) с последующей сменой политических элит и перспективой победы сил, в меньшей степени зависимых от США.
8. От кого будут зависеть новые элиты Грузии, станет ясно по итогам изменения расклада сил в Евразии – с учётом изменения роли России, Турции и Китая.
9. Заключение союза между Россией и Китаем в долгосрочной перспективе (10–20 лет) скажется на раскладе сил в Закавказье в целом и в Грузии в частности. Если США сохранят свои позиции, элита Грузии останется проамериканской. Если союз России и Китая спроецирует силу на зоны их интересов за пределами своих границ, при определении для Турции красных линий и согласовании стратегий, Грузия будет ориентироваться на восстановление отношений с Россией. В ином варианте этой стране грозит распад.
10. Россия получила возможность для силового влияния на действия участников процесса трансформации расклада сил в Закавказье и далее в Евразии. Дороги «нахичеванского транспортного коридора» будут охраняться погранвойсками ФСБ России. В сочетании с корпусом миротворцев в Нагорном Карабахе это решающий фактор предотвращения попыток дестабилизации обстановки в Карабахе и вокруг стратегической транспортной артерии.
11. Статус России как посредника в карабахском вопросе стал спасением политических элит Армении, Азербайджана и Карабаха. После того, как инфраструктурные проекты заработают, возникнет новая ситуация, и стороны смогут заключить новую сделку, исходя из сложившихся реалий. Главное, что в этой сделке не будут участвовать США.
12. США сделают всё возможное, чтобы обнулить выгоды от проекта для России, Турции и Ирана. Возрастают шансы военных конфликтов в Центральной Азии и на Дальнем Востоке, террористических диверсий в Закавказье. Разрешение межэлитного конфликта в Грузии при решающем участии США становится для Вашингтона условием сохранения контроля над процессами в Закавказье и далее в Евразии.
13. Британия в создавшейся ситуации получает чрезвычайно широкое поле для игры против всех участников, включая США и Афганистан. У Британии в регионе собственные интересы, и заключаются они в первую очередь в раздувании конфликта между всеми соперниками и союзниками. Через конфликт Британия будет вклиниваться в процесс и помогать всем в войне против всех. Только это расчистит поле для участия Британии в борьбе за новые контуры Евразии.
14. Наиболее эффективные действия России по поводу использования проекта «нахичеванский транспортный коридор» для восстановления своей зоны влияния на постсоветском пространстве сводятся к способности быть крайне полезной силой для всех активных игроков, кроме США и Британии. Интересы Турции, Азербайджана, Армении и Ирана не могут быть удовлетворены без согласия и помощи России.
15. Процессы, протекающие сейчас на территории между Арменией и Азербайджаном, носят решающее значение для возникновения двух кластеров глобальной экономики, свободных от прямого влияния США, – это зона соединения ЕАЭС под эгидой России и ОПОП под эгидой Китая.
этими кластерами Турция пытается втиснуть свой геополитический проект
Великого Турана, без одобрения России и Китая не имеющий перспективы,
так как он заточен на китайских уйгуров и российских тюрок. Одновременно
началась работа по созданию институтов финансирования, расчётов и
вооружённой охраны российско-китайских кластеров.
19 ноября было распространено сообщение Совета Европы о том, что премьер-министр Армении Никол Пашинян и президент Азербайджана Ильхам Алиев после телефонного разговора с президентом Европейского совета Шарлем Мишелем договорились встретиться 15 декабря в Брюсселе, в рамках саммита ЕС — Восточное партнёрство. Об этом сообщил сам европейский чиновник в Twitter. Официальный представитель МИД Армении Ваан Унанян подтвердил ТАСС договорённости. Из сообщения МИД Азербайджана стало ясно, что инициатором встречи стал Никол Пашинян.
"Премьер-министр Никол Пашинян предложил провести их встречу 15 декабря на саммите Восточного партнёрства в Брюсселе. Азербайджанская сторона всегда открыта для политического диалога, приветствует такие контакты. В связи с этим Азербайджан согласился организовать такую встречу при посредничестве Совета Европы", — сказала пресс-секретарь МИД Азербайджана Лейла Абдулла.
Это была не истерика: Ереван исполнил свою угрозу
Таким образом стало ясно, о каких иных вариантах "международного партнёрства" говорил в обращении секретарь Совета Безопасности Республики Армении Армен Григорян после обострения обстановки в Сюникской области 16 ноября, когда потребовал от РФ защитить территориальную целостность Армении в рамках соглашения 1997 года, а если нет, то тогда Армения обратится к другим посредникам. Кстати, письменного обращения к Москве, которое обещал организовать Григорян, так и не последовало. Откровенно говоря, предательство Азербайджана не кажется странным, страна состоит в союзе с Турцией, и Путин относится к этому "с пониманием". Алиев высказывался против присутствия российских миротворцев в Карабахе. Но для Армении такое "кидалово" России может стать критическим. Если бы российские миротворцы не вошли 9 ноября в Степанакерт, то турки оккупировали бы весь Нагорный Карабах и Сюникскую область. Россия охраняет внешнюю границу Армении, в Гюмри стоит её военная база, и только российская армия сможет оказать армянам мобильную помощь, если Ильхам Алиев с Реджепом Эрдоганом начнут новую военную кампанию. Если же ЕС выступит посредником установления отношений Армении с Турцией, то тогда это будет изменение внешнего вектора Еревана.
Пашинян кладёт Армению к ногам турок
Известно, что к этому идёт подготовка. Пашинян говорит о нормализации отношений с Азербайджаном и Турцией, открывая "эру мира". Президент Турции заявил журналистам в сентябре, что получил через премьера Грузии предложение о встрече с Пашиняном. При этом Эрдоган отметил, что для этого Армения должна предпринять определённые "позитивные шаги": открыть Заргезурский коридор через Сюникскую область Армении между Азербайджаном и Нахичеванской Автономной Республикой. Это даст Эрдогану выход в Среднюю Азию, которую он включает в зону своего влияния. Между тем Россия предлагает сторонам договариваться о демаркации-делимитации государственной границы, это было бы долгосрочным решением, но Ереван этого не хочет. Вероятно, договор о пребывании миротворцев Ереваном, не говоря уже о Баку, не будет продлён, и России надо готовиться к уходу с Южного Кавказа и кардинального изменения геополитической карты региона. Вопрос в том, входит ли это в планы армянского народа — оказаться под турками? Россия делает всё, чтобы решить вопрос мирно. Если это армян не устраивает, то Нагорный Карабах Армения потеряет первым. Дальше — и всю Армению, Ереван станет Иреваном, а армяне — меньшинством в строящейся (и успешно) Османской империи.