Putin-Erdogan negotiations: agreements on the region and risks for Armenia. Opinion
Putin-Erdogan agreements on the region
Armenian society has been eagerly awaiting information on the results of the Putin-Erdogan meeting, and analysts have been discussing possible consequences of negotiations between the presidents of Russia and Turkey. They say that in the context of Russian-Turkish relations, “Armenians, as a rule, become a bargaining chip.”
After negotiations in Sochi on August 5, the Kremlin published the text of a joint statement. Only one paragraph is devoted to the region, with no details:
“On regional issues, the leaders emphasized the importance of sincere, frank and trusting relations between Russia and Turkey in order to achieve regional and international stability.”
The opinion of an Armenian analyst on what topics the presidents might cover, how agreements could affect the South Caucasus as a whole, and what risks might arise for Armenia.
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Hakob Badalyan, political commentator
The Caucasus as a bargaining chip in Russian-Turkish agreements
“It is impossible that in Sochi Putin and Erdogan didn’t talk about the current situation in the region, and about the tension in Nagorno-Karabakh. I think these topics were discussed extensively. This means that rather detailed questions of Russian-Turkish “trade” were discussed.
“In this context, Erdogan’s wording in the protocol part of the meeting with Putin is interesting. He stated that “the whole world is now closely following the meeting in Sochi, and after this meeting, probably the best answer will be sent to these circles, these people.” He also expressed confidence that they “will open a new page in Turkish-Russian relations.”
“New page means that a new element has been introduced into Russian-Turkish relations.
“The main areas of Russian-Turkish relations are Syria, Libya, the Caucasus and the Karabakh issue, Ukraine, and in part Central Asia. The Balkans could become a new element, taking into account recent events in Kosovo. The Caucasus may become a bargaining chip within new agreements.”
Armenian interests at stake again
“In general, stability in the Caucasus is important for Russians given the war in Ukraine, which significantly reduces the Russian ability to repel aggression or escalation in different regions. But at what price stability in the Caucasus? As a rule this happens at the expense of the Armenians. Every time, a Russian-Turkish deal is concluded at the expense of Armenian interests.
“Yerevan’s statement on the possibility of using international mechanisms to force Azerbaijan to fulfill its obligations under the agreement of November 9, 2020 on Karabakh is rather a preventative political step.
The day before the Putin-Erdogan talks, the Prime Minister of Armenia spoke of the obligations of the Russian peacekeepers stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh. Nikol Pashinyan recalled certain events there since November 2020 “in the presence and with the connivance of Russian peacekeepers” – namely, violation of the ceasefire by Azerbaijan and the capture of Armenian soldiers and territories.
Pashinyan said that there are “issues related to the purpose and essence of the peacekeeping operation.” And if the signatures of Armenia and Russia are not enough to fulfill the mandate of the peacekeepers, “it is necessary to take measures to establish this mandate at the international level or to endow the peacekeepers with a broader international mandate.”
“Pashinyan stated that if once again Russian-Turkish relations should be built at the expense of Armenians, that Armenia, which will have nothing more to lose, will try to involve international players.
“He said this a day before the Sochi meeting and after the Azerbaijani aggression in Artsakh. And Pashinyan’s statement may have been an attempt to prevent another concession from Putin to the detriment of Armenia.”
Expansion Russian and Turkish zones of influence
“Russia is a big player and Turkey is trying to become more important. Regardless of what effect their actions have in various regions, they are trying to expand their areas of influence and increase their political role.
“The Russians have experience working with the Turks, and now Russia wants to activate Turkey in the Balkans in order to cooperate with it. The Russians would prefer Turkey not work with NATO or the US in the Balkans, but with Russia – or at least with her as well. Tensions in Kosovo would favor that plan, especially since Turkey has long been interested in the Balkans.
“Turkey would not work directly against the West, realizing that, without it, it does not have the necessary weight to play big. Turkey would try to work with both sides, selling its services to both the Russian Federation and the West, which is basically what it is doing now.”
Risks for Armenia
“Armenia can be squeezed out of something in the Karabakh issue, in the issue of its relations with Azerbaijan, relations with Turkey, in the issue of unblocking roads. Russia and Turkey can impose solutions that are unacceptable to Yerevan.
“Of course, not everything is so simple. And we must take into account that until now there has been no full-fledged Russian-Turkish cooperation, but, nevertheless, there are risks.
“Unfortunately, there are risks on the other side as well. The United States offered Aliyev supportand declared its readiness to support the expedited unblocking of roads.
“Whether this statement competes with Russian and Turkish, or with a single Russian position, is still difficult to say; nothing is clear.
“The United States may try to oppo sesomehow Russian-Turkish agreements on the political agenda of the Caucasus. And it is not clear how this will affect relations between Russia and Turkey, whether it will lead to an even closer connection between them or, on the contrary, will complicate their relations.
“But there is also the Iranian problem, on which all other issues in the region depend. If Iran’s relations with the West go in a positive and constructive direction, the West will try to reduce Russian-Turkish and Turkish-Azerbaijani influence in our region.
“If the West fails to reach an agreement with Iran, it will try to resolve two issues. The first is to weaken not only Iranian, but also Russian influence, to weaken the possibility of an Iran-Russia accord. The second is to strengthen the positions of Turkey and Azerbaijan, since both countries are sufficiently controlled by the West.
“It cannot be ruled out that the United States will even cooperate with Russia.
“For example, on July 29, a telephone conversation between Lavrov and Blinken took place; this was their first conversation after the start of the war in Ukraine. The heads of the special services of the two countries visited the Caucasus. It is conceivable that the US and Russia will try to do something together in the Caucasus. And again, it is possible that this will be at the expense of the interests of Armenia.
“Not everything is clear, but we have our traditional risks: painful trade in our interests in the context of Russian-Turkish cooperation, risks of pressure as a result of tensions around Iran. In any case, no matter what anyone does, everything is at our expense since we are weak.”
Putin-Erdogan agreements on the region