Following Azerbaijan’s attacks on Armenia in recent months and Russia’s concern over Ukraine, the situation in the South Caucasus is in danger of spinning out of control. In an escalation of words, Moscow now accuses the West of using a Ukrainian-style strategy in the region.
In a Telegram message dated 10 Oct. 24 Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said:
We cannot but be concerned about the alarming trends that are gaining momentum in the South Caucasus, where the West is clearly trying to transfer the schemes of confrontation worked out in Ukraine. We see what unprecedented external pressure is being exerted on fraternal Armenia. Steps are being taken to discredit Russia’s policy in the region in an attempt to damage the centuries-old ties between our countries and peoples. Numerous foundations, non-governmental organizations and the media from Washington and Brussels redoubled their efforts to sow anti-Russian sentiment in society.
Briefly: in the early 1990s. OSCE Minsk Group assumed the role of mediator in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan after the collapse of the USSR. In April, Washington and Paris refused to continue cooperation with Moscow in the “troika” format in connection with the invasion of Ukraine. Russia and the West are now pursuing competing peace plans in the region.
Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a war there two years ago, when Azerbaijan seized the land in a six-week conflict that left about 7,000 dead. Peace was concluded through the mediation of Russia, which has 2,000 peacekeepers in the region. The ninth point of the 2020 ceasefire agreement on Karabakh includes granting Azerbaijan access to communications in its Nakhchivan exclave. Ankara and Baku tried to interpret this as an economic corridor and tried in September to use force as a negotiating tactic to make it a reality.
Azerbaijan has a military advantage over Armenia thanks to support from Turkey and Israel and wants to use it to extract more concessions from Armenia. In particular, Ankara and Baku want to create an economic corridor between Azerbaijan and its Nakhchivan exclave, sandwiched between Armenia, Turkey and Iran.
Russia acts as the guarantor of the security of Armenia, sandwiched between Turkey and Azerbaijan, two countries openly hostile to Yerevan. However, Moscow refused to offer strong protection to Armenia, allowing Azerbaijan (with Turkish support) to wrest Armenian territory. The war in Ukraine has made things even more difficult for Moscow as it needs Turkey’s help to bypass sanctions and keep NATO in the Black Sea, but it also faces harsh criticism from Armenians for not doing more to protect the country from Azerbaijani attacks. In response, Yerevan began to look for other security guarantees.
Two weeks ago, the EU sent a 40-member observer mission to Armenia, and negotiations were underway for a more permanent force.
EU monitors are tasked with monitoring and sending reports to Brussels, which will reportedly not lead to any tangible reaction from the EU, such as sanctions, if Azerbaijan launches new attacks.
This step is due to the fact that Europe, which is experiencing energy hunger, is turning to Baku for additional supplies. Azerbaijan has pledged to increase supplies to a total of 12 billion cubic meters this year, a grossly undersized amount as Russian shipments totaled 155 billion cubic meters in 2021. But any violent fighting in the region could jeopardize the EU’s energy security. During the 2020 war, Armenia supposedly attempted to attack part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in Azerbaijan, through which oil is delivered to Europe.
At stake in the conflict is not only Russian influence in the Caucasus and natural gas for the EU, but also key north-south and east-west trade routes that affect countries such as Iran, India and China. While Moscow is occupied by Ukraine, its allies stand up for Armenia.
Iran recently opened a new consulate in southern Armenia and held military exercises on the border with Azerbaijan. From Eurasianet:
The Iranian military is conducting large-scale military exercises on the border with Azerbaijan, including working out the crossing of the Araks River, along which most of the border between the two states passes…
Exercises go just like Iran stepping up its diplomatic warnings Baku about Azerbaijan’s intentions to create a new transport line connecting the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan with the mainland of Azerbaijan, a route that Baku calls the “Zangezur corridor”. The route will run along Armenia’s border with Iran, with uncertain implications for trade between Armenia and Iran.
“Iran will not allow its communication route with Armenia to be blocked, and to achieve this goal, the Islamic Republic of Iran has also launched military operations in this region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahyan said in an October 19 interview. interview with the news agency IRNA.
Exercise is coming reports that Armenia is seeking to buy Iranian drones. If Azerbaijan and Turkey have a continuous land border, and there is no territory of Armenia between them, this will further weaken Iran’s position. Iran hopes to keep the Iran-Armenia-Georgia trade corridor parallel to the Iran-Azerbaijan-Russia North-South corridor.
Iran sees the creation of the Zangezur corridor as a matter beyond Azerbaijan’s access to the Nakhchivan exclave and believes that this corridor will provide Turkey’s direct military access, as a NATO member, to the Caucasus and west of the Caspian Sea. Indeed, a significant part of the Iranian elites and experts believe that the expansion of the Turkish presence in the South Caucasus, especially through the Zangezur corridor, will strengthen pan-Turkism in the region, which poses a direct threat to the Azerbaijani regions of northwestern Iran.
In addition, Iran is deeply concerned about the presence of Israel near its northwestern border, given the close ties between Israel and the Republic of Azerbaijan, which developed strongly during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.
New Delhi is also concerned about its vision of connecting Europe and Russia with its Indian ports through the International North-South Transport Corridor. Both India and Iran want to maintain close ties with Armenia so that it plays a key role in connecting the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea and prevents Turkey from accumulating too much power in the region.
India is now ramping up its arms trade with Armenia. From Cradle:
Since June 2022, there have been rumors that Armenia is secretly negotiating the purchase of Indian drones, air defense systems and rocket launchers. The assumption was confirmed at the end of September, when Indian media it was reported that New Delhi would export missiles, rockets, ammunition, anti-tank missiles (ATGMs), and local Pinak multi-barrel rocket launcher (MBRL) systems to Armenia.
However, military experts explain that this is not enough to change the balance of power between Armenia and Turkey-Azerbaijan.
India is concerned about the strengthening of the Turkey-Azerbaijan-Pakistan axis, as well as the fact that China is increasingly becoming a player in trying to advance its middle corridor connecting China to Central Asia and then to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey before heading to Europe.
Both India and Iran are concerned that their north-south trade routes will be severed if Turkey and Azerbaijan achieve their dream of the Zangezur corridor.
During the September meeting between the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev, and President of China Xi Jinping, Xi Jinping stressed that Azerbaijan plays an important role in the transport process between China and Europe, and the country’s transport and logistics capabilities are great. importance in international shipping. From Briefing on the Silk Road:
Bilateral and transit trade between the two countries can be expected to increase as Baku is a strategic Caspian port linking the Southern Belt and the route between China and the EU, with onward rail links to the Black Sea ports in Georgia and Turkey and eventually to the southern ports of the EU in Bulgaria and Romania.
But where is Washington in all this? State Department spokesman Ned Price, of course, dismissed all Russian claims that Washington wants to turn Armenia into another Ukraine. speaking:
Our sole purpose here is to see and help these countries work together towards a comprehensive and lasting peace and, ultimately, to save lives. I don’t know if this is self-advertising…
Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia and its ongoing brutal invasion of Ukraine show that Moscow has little respect for the sovereignty of its neighbors and is hardly a reliable long-term partner.
This is a bit rich on the part of the US, as they will almost certainly see both Armenia and Azerbaijan fall to ruins if it means advancing their goals against Russia, Iran, or helping to put pressure on Turkey. years of hostilities, the US, along with Brussels, is putting forward its own plan to resolve border disputes – primarily control over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but until 2020 largely controlled by an ethnic Armenian majority
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, but it is not clear what kind of peace plan the Americans are promoting.
Armenia, destined to be at the crossroads of so many intersecting interests, is stuck either relying on Russia for its security or inviting new guests to the party. But it will be difficult to balance the situation so as not to give the impression that Armenia-Azerbaijan is a continuation of the battle between the West and Moscow. According to Armenian Spectator Mirror:
If this perception prevails in Russia, Iran or the West, it could be disastrous for Armenia. Azerbaijan will do its best to portray Armenia as a traitor in the eyes of Russia, which has invited Russia’s enemies to the Kremlin’s backyard by rejecting the CSTO’s offer to host its observers. Iran has always opposed any foreign presence in the South Caucasus, and Tehran does not view the Russian military as a foreign force. In this context, the deployment of Western observers in Armenia may also have a negative impact on the Armenian-Iranian relations. The Iranian foreign minister recently visited Armenia to open a consulate general in Kapan. During meetings with Armenian officials, he made two direct messages: Iran will not allow Azerbaijani and Turkish control over Syunik, and Iran is against any international presence in the region.