Russia – main obstacle in negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan
In autumn 2020, as soon as the military actions between Armenia and Azerbaijan were over, Russia deployed 2000 troops there, supposedly for “peacekeeping”.
This allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to demonstrate that he had influence in the South Caucasus and to manipulate Armenian separatists to a greater extent for his own purposes.
The Kremlin has projected itself as the major mediator in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict since 1994 when the first Karabakh war was over.
In fact, Russia had initially been interested in freezing the conflict – that is the only way it could maintain influence in the South Caucasus and its military bases in Armenia.
Moreover, calling itself “the only guarantor of security in Karabakh”, Moscow was the largest exporter of weapons into both countries in 2011-2020.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia accounted for 94 per cent of arms imported into Armenia and 60 per cent into Azerbaijan.
It is the freezing of the negotiation process for 30 years and Russia’s massive deliveries of weaponry into the region that created the preconditions for the resumption of full-scale hostilities in autumn 2020.
For the last three years, Moscow has been carrying on with the same tactic of delaying the negotiation process.
Besides maintaining the influence and military bases in South Caucasus, having leverage in Baku is now becoming especially important for the Kremlin. The reason is that in 2021-2023 Azerbaijan became one of the major suppliers of energy resources into the EU and could act as an alternative to Russia in this capacity. Together with Tehran, Moscow is seeking to prevent Yerevan’s ultimate reorientation toward the West, which happened to Georgia.
Putin is taking advantage of Armenian puppet-separatists in Karabakh. And he has done the same before with Ossetians and Abkhazians in Georgia as well as the supporters of “the Russian World” in Crimea and Donbas. This allows Moscow to maintain the military presence in South Caucasus in the same way as in the Georgian separatist region of South Ossetia or in the Eastern region of Moldova, that is, Transnistria. Prior to the full-scale aggression of 2022 the same had been happening in the pro-Russian enclave in the east of Ukraine.
Ousting Russia from the relations settlement process
Given Russia’s destructive role, the West became more involved in the negotiation process between Azerbaijan and Armenia after the 2020 Karabakh war.
For the past three years, the EU in the form of European Council President Charles Michel, and the US represented by the US secretary of State Antony Blinken, have been the initiators of most meetings between the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The most recent meeting was that of Blinken with the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Washington DC on May 1.
While in the past the representative of Washington, Blinken, only used to encourage the parties’ direct communication, he now admits that without the active engagement of the USA the peace process will be undermined by Russia, Iran and Armenia in every possible way. According to the US news outlet The Wall Street Journal “the influential friends of the Armenian-American community such as Senator Menendez and member of the House of Representatives, Schiff, are eager to punish any American officials who cover the cooperation between Armenia, Russia and Iran.”
In this context, according to EUreporter and the major media sources of Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria andLithuania,Armenia serves as virtually the largest hub for supplies of sanctioned goods, including military equipment for Russia, and it is also the largest logistic link between Russia and Iran. Using Armenia for delivery of Iranian attack drones and missiles for attacks on Ukrainian cities is also reported.