Sep 17, 2022
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Azerbaijan-Armenia: who benefits from a new aggravation of the situation?

The traditional role of Russia as a guarantor of security in the Caucasus suits not everyone

The conflict that broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia was localized largely with the assistance and influence of Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the SCO summit in Samarkand on September 16. According to him, “the last border conflict has nothing to do with Nagorno-Karabakh, it is in a completely different region, on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan”. Recent events have shown that neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan has a desire for a large-scale escalation, Ilham Aliyev said at a meeting with the Russian president, thanking him for his prompt response to the escalation. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, under the pretext of the current extraordinary situation, canceled his trip to Samarkand.

The situation on a vast section of a very conditional Armenian-Azerbaijani border in a section of several hundred kilometers from Meghri to Verin Shorzha sharply escalated on the night of September 12-13. Under artillery and mortar shelling were, in particular, Goris and resort Jermuk. In some areas, the Azerbaijani units tried to move forward. Partially, the civilian population had to be evacuated from the border settlements of Gegharkunik, Vayotsdzo and Syunik regions of Armenia. The number of victims on both sides exceeded 200 people (135 from the Armenian side and 77 from the Azerbaijani side). It is possible that this is not the final data.

Map of the collision and designation of Azerbaijan’s claims to part of the territory of Armenia

This is the largest escalation since the end of the 44-day “autumn” war in 2020 and the four-day “April” war in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2016. Baku accuses the “regular army of Armenia” of mining territories and offensive actions in the direction of the Lachin and Kalbajar regions, however, given the current state of the Armenian military organization, such statements look far-fetched.

An attempt to “probe” the Armenian defensive positions in a number of vulnerable areas seems logical against the backdrop of Baku’s demands to open railway and road links between “mainland” Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic through the territory of Armenia (in the Meghri and Sisian sectors, respectively). For Vayots Dzor and Syunik, the danger of a blow from the Nakhichevan exclave, where a separate army is stationed closely connected with Turkey, remains.

Focused on maintaining its power, the Pashinyan government does not particularly hide its focus on signing a peace treaty with Azerbaijan through maximum concessions on the “Karabakh issue” and not only. The ruling Civil Contract party prefers to talk about a “border conflict” that is not too significant to distract from everyday routine, but this version is refuted by the depth of destruction of targets in Armenia and the range of the Azerbaijani cannon artillery. There is no talk of even partial mobilization (according to the head of parliament Alen Simonyan, this would be a step towards aggression), and individual protests of unorganized citizens are easily stopped. Defense Minister Suren Papikyan advised those who seek to protect the country’s borders on a voluntary basis to apply to the military commissariats at their place of residence.

Nevertheless, a request for assistance was sent to the CSTO, the reaction to which (sending a monitoring mission to Armenia) provoked discontent among Pashinyan’s associates, such as Alen Simonyan or Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan (George Soros’s frame), who regularly meets with Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Gadzhiev, as last August in Brussels. Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan also met there on the last day of summer through the mediation of the head of the European Council, discussing a possible peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan. “Negotiations on a peace agreement are ongoing, being discussed, and I really hope that we will be able to implement it in the near future,” – Simonyan confirmed again on the air of the Public Television of Armenia.

Armen Grigoryan in “Azatutyun” studio

Acting from obviously weaker positions, Yerevan is maneuvering between Moscow, Brussels and Washington. So, at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Pashinyan announced the interest of certain forces in destabilizing the Transcaucasus against the backdrop of Moscow’s immersion in the Ukrainian conflict. The coincidence in time of the September clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Kharkov region, with their subsequent entry to the border of the Russian Federation, is hardly coincidental. “Azerbaijan feels quite confident at this geopolitical moment, and especially now, during the Ukrainian counter-offensive… testing Russia’s commitment to defending Armenia”indirectly confirms this version of the senior researcher Carnegie Europe Briton Tom de Waal. The September clashes represent a “serious strategic headache” for V. Putin, notes with satisfaction Politico: say, “The Kremlin’s peacekeeping efforts are being questioned by both sides”and the EU is seeking to fill the vacuum that has been created.

Western strategists make no secret of their desire to turn Transcaucasia into a full-fledged “second front” designed to create additional serious problems for Russia. The July voyage to the Caucasus by CIA Director William Burns, the recent trip by the State Department’s new chief adviser on the Caucasus, Philip Reeker, stuffing about Secretary of State Blinken’s “leading role” in ceasefire efforts, Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Yerevan at the invitation of Simonyan – all this is motivated by the logic of opposing the West and “aggressive” Russia, forced to act in a narrow corridor of opportunities. Direct military intervention, hinted at by Armen Grigoryan (and not only him), would mean a confrontation between Russia and Azerbaijan and Turkey, on which Moscow does not have much real leverage. Otherwise, the growth of actively fueled anti-Russian sentiments in Yerevan is guaranteed, which is fraught with the final destruction of a meaningful dialogue with Moscow.

Russia’s traditional role as a guarantor of regional security in the Caucasus suits far from everyone. The November 10, 2020 Trilateral Statement reads: “Rall economic and transport links in the region are unblocked. The Republic of Armenia guarantees the security of transport communication between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic in order to organize the unhindered movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions. Control over transport links is carried out by the Border Guard Service of the Federal Security Service of Russia.. After the end of the “44-day war”, which radically changed the balance of power in the region, the deployment of points of the border forces of the FSB of Russia began along the approximate line of the administrative border between the Armenian SSR and the Azerbaijan SSR, one of which (in Gegharkunik) was fired on on the night of 12 to 13 September. It is reported that the personnel were forced to urgently leave the location. According to Armenian sources, as a result of a direct hit, the building for the deployment of Russian border guards and military equipment were damaged. And although the information about the injured Russian border guards has not been confirmed, this episode causes serious concern. Baku denied involvement in the incident, but in a heated situation, new provocations are likely against Russian military personnel, in particular, Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The influence of the Russian flag has significantly decreased, and the security system of the entire post-Soviet space really seems to be broken, – indicates the goals of Western policy employee Chatham Housewell-known in the Caucasus Lawrence Broers. – We are witnessing the collapse of Russia’s reputation as a guarantor of security, both on an objective level … and on a subjective level, in the field of perception of Russian security guarantees.

The success of this colonial tactic, where wishful thinking is presented as reality, will inevitably have a negative impact on Russia’s bilateral relations with the states of the Caucasus and on attempts to establish at least a semblance of mutual understanding in the “triangle” Moscow – Ankara – Tehran.

As noted in an interview RIA News Director of the 4th Department of the CIS countries of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Denis Gonchar, in Brussels they no longer hide the fact that they have set themselves the goal of ousting Russia from the Transcaucasus. Attempts by Europeans to “wedged” into the work of the tripartite Russian-Azerbaijani-Armenian negotiating format intensified against the background of the anti-Russian sanctions campaign of the collective West. Philip Reeker announced the unification of the efforts of Washington and Brussels in the Caucasian direction. Moscow claims no desire to play zero-sum geopolitical games, but the dangerous regional dynamics demand the most careful attention. The “second front” in the Transcaucasus may take on a much more realistic shape.

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