By Theodore Shoebat
As Armenians and Azeris continue to kill each other, there are a lot of people who continue to hope that Russia will intervene on behalf of the Armenians. Is this really likely? Is this something that we should have great hopes in? While an eventual war between Russia and Turkey is very likely, for now Russia wants the conflict to take place to give Moscow the opportunity to assert herself in the South Caucasus and maintain Russian geopolitical order. The current administration in Armenia initially took power with a more pro-Western (pro-US and pro-EU) position and really showed signs of a distancing from Russian power. The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, then, gives Russia the perfect opportunity to force Armenia back into the Russian sphere. The ruling Armenian government began on not very nice terms with Moscow. For one, Prime Minister Pashinyan came to office as a result of the Color Revolution, which was pro-European. On top of this, Pashinyan, in the previous parliament, led the “Yelk” (Exit) faction, which wanted Armenia to break away from Russian hegemony. This is something Russia has not forgotten. While there is definitely a strong pro-Russian sentiment within Armenia, much of the country’s youth have become strongly more favorable towards integrating with the West.
Russia is currently not totally on the side of Armenia; Russia provides weapons to both Armenian and Azeri militaries. And if Armenia does not respect Russian interests, it is possible that Russia will threaten Armenia by giving more support to the Azeris. In the words of Wojciech Górecki, an expert on the Caucasus:
Russia has a military base in Armenia, but it also maintains, as I said, good relations with Azerbaijan and may be in control of Yerevan by threatening the Armenians that if they do not respect its interests, it will increase its support for Baku.
Gorecki provides an example of Armenian submission to Russian demands. Inerevan made the announcement that it was not going to sign a partnership agreement with the European Union at the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, but was rather going to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and would also join the Eurasian Economic Union. This was the result of Russian pressure. Gorecki points out that there is even conjecture that Moscow “has threatened to roll up its informal protective umbrella over Karabakh and turn a blind eye if Baku decides to intervene. Armenia could not go to such a risk.” Armenia is hoping that Russia will intervene, but Moscow is in a difficult predicament. It wants to maintain an alliance with Armenia, but at the same time it does not want to lose its strategic partner, Azerbaijan, to Turkey.
It is worth noting that if Russia were to spark more enmity with Azerbaijan, that Baku would only get deeper into the embraces of Russia’s historic enemy, Turkey, which is already in a rivalry with Russia over control of the Black Sea. Russia obviously does not want to completely lose a strategic partner to Turkey, although looking at how closely Turkey and Azerbaijan are collaborating against Armenia, this would not be shocking at all. Turkey, obviously, is using the conflict as an opportunity to impose her own will in the Caucasus. By being the main backer of the Azeris, Turkey can then assert itself also as a peace broker. Russia is doing the same thing; hence why both Moscow and Ankara have been both speaking about peace talks.
Ultimately it is not about peace, but about capitalizing on war in order to take control of the chaos; for the ones who control the chaos are the ones with power. What you have here is nothing new: two poor countries going to war with each other, and two powerful countries (Russia and Turkey) working to encroach on the regions of violence to expand their own zone of influence, control the belligerent parties, and expand hegemony. The ones who can dictate peace can also destroy peace, and this is one reality we should come to grips with when observing such conflicts. What Turkey is doing, in the words of Gorecki, is “in line with the assertive policy of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which is also observed in the Eastern Mediterranean, around Cyprus, Greece, Idlib (Syria), Libya and the Horn of Africa. All this meets the assumptions of the Mavi Vatan (Blue Motherland) doctrine, i.e. the maritime perspective of Ankara’s foreign policy. The Turks sincerely believe that this is a defense doctrine.” While Turkey is a member of the Minsk OSCE Group, she is not one of its co-chairmen. Thus, Turkey has to exert her efforts as an Eastern hegemony to the point that she has to be given a final say so, be it in peace talks in the South Caucasus, or in Libya or in Syria.
Both Russia and Turkey have their interests in the South Caucasus, and that is the interest of control and power. They are both pursuing hegemony through working to control the conflict. But the question lies, are they going to share this power? Neither Russia nor Turkey will relinquish power without the prospect of war. If one country lets go, it will only be a sign of coming conflict, just as Russia allowing the Austro-Hungarians to annex Bosnia was a presaging sign of conflict which eventually escalated into the First World War. The black blood that seeps from the fields of Baku and that runs through pipelines adjacent to the field of battle on Nagorno-Karabakh, this is the material aim of all of the outside involvement in the chaos. While Armenians fight for the idea of their homeland, the idea of Armenia, and Azerbaijanis fight for their own nationalist and Islamist ideals, exterior powers will squeeze both countries of that black substance for which all the earth rests, and yet kills.