What are Russia's goals in Karabakh? Commentary from Baku
The latest events in Khankendi (Armenian – Stepanakert): the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’ and the presence of Russian peacekeepers in the area, have irritated those back in Baku.
Azerbaijani political scientist Shahin Jafarli attempts to answer the question that interests many: what is Russia trying to achieve in Karabakh?
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A celebratory march was held recently in Khankendi, capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, to mark the anniversary of the proclamation of independent ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’ – an unrecognized entity within the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan.
Baku was particularly irritated by the fact that among the celebrating crowd, people in Russian peacekeeping uniforms could easily be spotted.
Russian peacekeeping forces were brought into the part of Karabakh that remained on the Armenian side at the time of the signing of the trilateral statement of November 10, 2020. This document, signed by the presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia, as well as the Prime Minister of Armenia, put an end to the second Karabakh war, which lasted for 44 days.
What is Russia trying to achieve in Karabakh?
“Russia is enabling the celebration of the anniversary of the separatist movement in Karabakh. Why?”, asks political scientist Shahin Jafarli in his commentary.
In Jafarli’s opinion, Russia “must show that the main issues have not yet been resolved, which is why the presence of peacekeepers is still required”.
“If everything that Azerbaijan considers to be an issue is resolved, the country’s sovereignty will extend towards the whole of Karabakh, the presence of peacekeepers will no longer be required and the mission will have to end.
On the other hand, we should not forget that Russia, as well as various parties in the West, consider Armenian separatism to be legitimate. Recently, when discussing Karabakh, Putin often stressed that the conflict was first sparked by the pogroms against Armenians in Sumgait, which led to the Karabakh Armenians arming themselves in order to protect their lives and dignity.
In other words, this issue is not likely to be resolved quickly. Russia will sometimes demonstrate its support for Azerbaijan and appear attentive to our demands, for example, by not allowing Western allies of Armenia to enter Karabakh. However, sometimes Russia will do exactly the same for Armenia.
The reopening of communication routes in the region under the control and moderation of Russia is in line with the geopolitical interests and long-term goals of Moscow. Be under no illusions about the current state of affairs. Why would either Russia or Iran want to facilitate the reunification of Turkey with Azerbaijan and the rest of the Turkic world?
Such a scenario will only be possible if Azerbaijan joins the Eurasian Economic Union, and Turkey, in turn, breaks away from NATO to build its future around the Eurasian project in cooperation with Iran and Russia. In other words, an enormous geopolitical ‘earthquake’ …
Recent events show that Putin’s Russia does not consider this prospect unrealistic and is, indeed, pursuing a policy that would eventually lead to such seismic shifts. One cannot rule out the possibility of Russia receiving some encouraging messages from Turkey.
In general, the way in which Russia formulated its policies during this period showed its ability to respond quickly and establish an efficient geopolitical strategy.
Remember the state of affairs before the war broke out – Russia was losing the Caucasus:
– Moscow has long lost Georgia, and the occasional moving of the borderline in South Ossetian direction does not change anything;
– Russia, whose authority among young Armenians has already been severely damaged after the revolution in May 2018, lost its dominance in Yerevan;
– In the eyes of Azerbaijani citizens, Moscow “died” back on January 20, 1990 [a violent crackdown of the civilian population of Baku in an attempt to eradicate Azerbaijani independence movement], and no matter how powerful an influence it has on the Azerbaijani authorities, its efficiency is still questionable.
In the aftermath of the war, which ended with our victory and the surrender of the Armenians, Russia brought its troops here and created an instrument for spreading institutionalized influence and bringing pressure on Azerbaijan. Armenia got itself even more tied up. Moscow is not particularly concerned with public opinion.
Before the aggressively-minded Biden government had been formed in the United States, Russia was able to create a protective line against Western expansion on its southwestern borders – in the Caucasus, which Russia considers to be a region of strategic geopolitical importance.
We are based directly on this line. During a recent meeting with Russia’s most prominent editors-in-chief, Putin referred to the strengthening of Russia’s position in the post-Soviet space as one of his greatest achievements.
The main question now is how long this new reality will last”, Shahin Jafarli posted on his Facebook page.