Russia’s Stake within the Nagorno-Karabakh Warfare: Accident or Design?

Tartar, Azerbaijan, 10/11/2020 © Nurlan Mammadzada

Because the world discusses the sudden cessation of preventing between Armenia and Azerbaijan within the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh and the deployment of Russian “peacekeepers” to the area to watch the truce, one critically vital query is missed: Why did Russia not discourage Azerbaijan’s navy offensive? A robust safety rationale implies a powerful Russian curiosity in deterring a warfare which may change the regional established order. Preserving a good established order, by strategic logic, is the central safety curiosity of a regional hegemon like Russia.

Armenia and Azerbaijan Conflict Once more


The six-week-long warfare has as an alternative weakened Armenian management over Nagorno-Karabakh, which had endured for over twenty years solely as a result of it served Russia’s pursuits. The chance of spillover throughout the unstable Caucasus presents one other safety risk to Russia. The warfare has altered the stability of pursuits within the area — unfavorably for Moscow — creating openings for regional interventions by Turkey, the USA and others. So what aims are well worth the Kremlin taking such dangers?

Managed Chaos

Russia’s final objective within the post-Soviet area is to politically reintegrate its former satellites into an interstate union. But its makes an attempt to realize this over the previous three many years have produced solely failures. The latest expertise with Belarus suggests it is perhaps attainable in a case the place an authoritarian management feels extraordinarily threatened. Heightening insecurity within the inhabitants has traditionally been one other favorable situation for political integration. Moscow’s capability to place stress on Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has been restricted.

A latest report reveals that the Kremlin views Pashinyan as a “Soros appointee” and accuses him of “selling pro-American politicians.” The Kremlin’s Armenia desk apparently receives its info from brokers representing actors Pashinyan excluded from energy. They discreetly bought to the Kremlin the concept Pashinyan must be changed by a extra loyal politician.

The warfare and the Azeri territorial positive aspects in and round Nagorno-Karabakh create a context favorable to Russia. First, it permits blame for defeats to be projected onto Armenia’s management. Russian media have broadcast statements from Russian political and safety specialists asserting that Pashinyan is liable for each the warfare losses and Russia’s restrained response within the battle on account of his unfriendly angle towards Moscow and his favoritism in the direction of the West. Additionally they promoted claims regarding mounting home opposition. These indicators recommend that Russia’s first objective is to convey to energy a extra loyal Armenian prime minister.

A second objective is to create insecurity among the many inhabitants, propagating the concept Armenia can’t survive as a state with out Russia. To provide the mandatory feeling of risk, Russia allowed Azerbaijan to get well all its territories round Nagorno-Karabakh, making defending the enclave extraordinarily tough sooner or later. Azerbaijan’s victory additionally underlines the navy vulnerability of Armenia itself. Russia will exploit this sense of vulnerability to influence Armenia’s inhabitants and management to conform to nearer integration with Russia, doubtless just like the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

Alternatively, Russia delivered an immense favor to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev by selecting to not make use of its digital warfare capabilities towards Azeri drones. This was key to Baku’s navy success and clearly communicates to the Azeri viewers that preserving their warfare positive aspects is conditional on good relations with Moscow. This won’t create the extent of vulnerability present in Armenia, however it’ll begin constructing a dependency.

Ankara’s open involvement within the warfare affords Russia alternatives to curtail Turkey’s rising regional ambitions or elevate their prices. Armenia and the West view Turkey as a celebration to the battle and can resist Turkish participation in internationally accepted peace negotiations and peacekeeping mechanisms. This might create a chance for Russia to later push for a UN Safety Council authorization for its Collective Safety Treaty Group “peacekeeping forces.” That might be a historic first for Russia and one other strategic achieve.

Not an Unintentional Escalation

It’s official to ask whether or not Russia acted opportunistically in response to the warfare or actively contributed to the escalation of the simmering battle. It’s extremely unlikely that Russia was unaware of Azerbaijan’s intentions. Russia has in depth intelligence-gathering capacities within the South Caucasus. Its capability to watch navy and civilian communications, actions of troops and materiel, in addition to preparations for offensive operations within the area is just about unquestioned.

Furthermore, the Azeri offensive began on 27 September, in the future after Russia’s Kavkaz-2020 strategic train ended. The Armenian navy participated in varied phases of the train each in Russia and in Armenia. This implies nice confidence on the Azeri aspect, in beginning the offensive when appreciable Russian forces have been nonetheless deployed within the area. It’s extremely unlikely that Baku did not seek the advice of Moscow beforehand, given the size, depth and far-reaching aims of its navy operation.

Any try to alter the established order within the post-Soviet area undermines Russia’s credibility and popularity. Moscow has been fast to punish threats to the established order, witness Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. It additionally threatened Moldova after 2014 by rising its navy workouts in Transnistria from just a few dozen to some hundred per yr. Russia reacted unexpectedly calmly to Baku’s invasion. Most surprisingly, it repeatedly rejected Yerevan’s request for navy help on procedural grounds.

Moscow’s capability to cease the Azeri offensive instantly after the autumn of Shushi, the second-largest metropolis in Nagorno-Karabakh, revealed the extent of its management. Russia would solely have allowed the change of the established order if its anticipated positive aspects exceeded the associated dangers and prices. That is what seems to have occurred, with the Kremlin utilizing Baku to tug its chestnuts out of the fireplace.

*[This article was initially revealed by the German Institute for Worldwide and Safety Affairs (SWP), which advises the German authorities and Bundestag on all questions associated to overseas and safety coverage.]

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.

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