Russia wants to create a military base in Azerbaijan – commentary from Baku
On January 11, a trilateral meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan took place in Moscow. Negotiations resulted in another trilateral statement that has disappointed both the experts in Baku and in Yerevan.
According to political scientists in Azerbaijan, the end of hostilities in Karabakh has led to a number of serious problems that require an immediate solution.
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“As evidenced by the new trilateral statement, at this stage, Russia has directed all of its attention to the fulfillment of the conditions of the 9th paragraph of the November 10th agreement,” said political analyst Shahin Jafarli.
According to the 9th paragraph, economic and transportation links in the region must be restored, including transportation links between the western regions of Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan.
“Without a doubt, this is an important issue for us. Citizens of Azerbaijan can get into their car in Baku and drive to Nakhichevan and back without any problems. The goods that have been delivered to Nakhichevan through the territory of Iran will travel back and forth by road and rail via a shorter route through Armenia. Although it is still under the control of Russia, we will be getting a shorter land route to Turkey as opposed to the existing route via the Georgian road”, the expert said.
But in his opinion, at this stage, there are far more serious problems concerning the Azerbaijani public, such as:
– Restoration of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the part of Karabakh that is now controlled by the Russian peacekeepers
– The safe return of Azerbaijani migrants to this area
– The fate of Armenian armed groups in Nagorno-Karabakh
– ‘The fate of the puppet separatist regime and its leaders in Nagorno-Karabakh‘
– Issues related to the scope of activity of the Russian peacekeepers and their mandate
– Opening of the road connecting Agdere with Kelbajar“
Shahin Jafarli added that, apparently, these issues have not yet been included in negotiations.
“Perhaps, those issues ought to be resolved within the framework of a peace treaty, and they will, therefore, be discussed within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group,” he said.
“But why did Russia focus all its attention on the 9th clause of the joint agreement of November 10, 2020? In my opinion, there are two reasons for this,” Jafarli continued.
“First of all, Moscow wants to quickly establish a reliable year-round road and rail connection with Armenia via the territory of Azerbaijan.
At present, Russian-Armenian trade relations are carried out mainly through Georgia, via the Upper Lars checkpoint. But in winter the movement along the Upper Georgian road becomes more difficult, and sometimes, completely unnavigable – which is why there is a need for an alternative road.
On the other hand, the Georgian government does not permit ( or seldom gives permission) for the transportation of military cargo to Armenia to pass through its own territory. Thus, the Russian military bases in Armenia exist in the absence of any feasible routes for transportation and logistics. On top of that, the unequivocal strategic choice of the Georgian authorities in favor of the Euro-Atlantic integration means that the Georgian route cannot be a reliable and long-term solution for Russia’s trade relations and transit transportation of military goods.
With the territory of Azerbaijan available, Russia will be able to withdraw its military bases from the blockade, as well as deliver the goods and carry out rotations without any obstacles, and at any time of the year (with the permission of Azerbaijani authorities, of course).
Another problem is that Armenia has no land ties with any of the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union which means that the country found itself in a position of an enclave of this single economic space. A short road through the territory of Azerbaijan will connect Armenia with Russia and will also solve this problem.
Secondly, I think that after the restoration of communication and transportation routes, Russia can bring up Azerbaijan’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. Open borders and communication ties create a fertile ground for this. If Moscow voices such a proposal, it will not be easy for Baku to refuse, since Russia has enough leverage to create problems for us in Karabakh. EAEU membership can protect us from such risks.
In my opinion, the Russian vision in this region can be summarized as follows: as in the days of the former USSR, Nagorno-Karabakh remains a part of Azerbaijan and the sovereignty of our country is ensured there, the parties begin to actively cooperate, the enmity between them is gradually forgotten, the peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh is transformed into a Russian military base, and peace and stability are achieved under the auspices of Russia,” Shahin Jafarli said.