By Theodore Shoebat
The crescent hovers above Baku,
The bear ascend above the Caucasus,
The children of Yank and Dixie argue
Between a casino and and a hospice.
A major Russian official, Vitaly Milonov, has declared that Azerbaijan “has become not a sovereign state of Azerbaijan, but a province of Turkey”. Azerbaijan has been presented as the winner in its conflict with Armenians over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. But truly, since Azerbaijan is simply a proxy of Turkey, it was Anakara to took victory in this conflict. Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a peace deal in which Armenia has agreed to withdraw from huge swathes of the region, giving Azerbaijan really the most significant parts of Nagorno-Karabakh.
If the deal follows through, Azerbaijan will get the most important areas of Nagorno-Karabakh, while Armenia will be left with some territory but not enough for it to be advantageous. Armenians will still control Stepanakert, the capital city of Nagorno-Karabkah, and areas mainly to the north, but nothing strategically pertinent. Armenians will lose a strategic road within the Lachin corridor which bridges Nagorno-Karabakh (specifically its biggest city, Stepanakert) to Armenia proper. Armenians need this road to bring supplies in during fighting; if the war ever resumes, the Armenians will be cut off and starved of supplies. If the deal comes to fruition, by December Azerbaijan will control the three chunks of Nagorno-Karabakh (that Armenian soldiers are suppose to withdraw from), and the surrounding seven territories (which Armenians took after their victory over Azerbaijan at the end of the last war they had in 1994), while also remaining in Shusha (or Shushi) which Azerbaijani troops took (with the help of Turkey) right before the ceasefire.
Armenian soldiers, in accordance to the deal, will be replaced by Russian peacekeepers, or really just Russian troops, indicating the military interests of Moscow. “I personally made a very hard decision for me and all of us,” said Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in a statement announcing the agreement. “It’s not a victory, but there’s no defeat.” Within hours of the agreement, a mob of Armenian nationalists stormed the government building in Yerevan, shouting “Nikol has betrayed us” and “Where is that traitor?” and destroying property.
Almost 2,000 Russian troops will be stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh, and will supposedly be there for five years within a three-mile area of the Lachin corridor, which is a main road bridging Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia proper. In accordance to the deal, those five years will be extended by another five years if none of the parties object to the prolonging of Russian military presence 6 months in advance. Russian troops are there as peacekeepers, to defend Armenia from any Azerbaijani advances. Russian soldiers will oversee the building of a road from the Lachin corridor, going across Armenia proper and connecting with Nakhchivan, an Azerbaijani exclave surrounded by Armenia, Iran and Turkey. Armenia has also guaranteed the security of transport links between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan, and these routes will also be guarded by Russian soldiers.
The building of a road for Azerbaijan which will go right through Armenia into Azeri territory is symptomatic of an Armenian defeat to a Turkish proxy. And the fact that Russian soldiers will be overseeing its construction, and that Turkey advanced Azerbaijan into victory, really shows that — in this conflict — the winner was not exactly Azerbaijan, but Turkey; for with Turkey Azerbaijan got the means to victory through the second most armed country of NATO. Russia’s State Duma deputy, Vitaly Milonov. made this observation:
The Azerbaijani army, if it had fought on its own, would not have advanced more than hundreds of meters. The Turkish army and international mercenaries conquered part of the territory for Azerbaijan. But what they won back, they did not write off to Azerbaijan”
Milonov went on to say that while Azerbaijan “may have won back a part of some territory … [it] has become not a sovereign state of Azerbaijan, but a province of Turkey”.
But its not just Turkey who has taken a win from this conflict, but obviously Russia as well. For Russia brokered the peace deal, making the Kremlin the determiner of peace and thus a one who calls the shots (so to speak). The one who can dictate the terms of peace demonstrates one’s own preponderating political leverage. According to assistant professor Volkan Ozdemir, and the Director of the Asia, Turkey, Europe Platform:
“for Turkey and Azerbaijan this conflict has been a strategic win. For the first time this conflict is being resolved in the interest of Azerbaijan. Russia has also been a winner by showing that only it can resolve the problem between the two sides.”
The Russians see themselves in the same way, as the determiner of peace. Russian political analyst Arkady Dubnov states: “[A]side from Russia, apparently no one today can take on guarantees for Karabakh as a territory and for the people living there”. Yerevan-based security expert Richard Giragosian, expressed his fear of Russian power: “Russian peacekeepers are the only guarantor of regional security and stability and that worries me.”
Ultimately what is taking place is a struggle between Russia and Turkey over the Caucasus. In the words of German journalist Thomas Seibert, “Turkey is expanding its influence in the backyard of Russia.” Just as Russia took Crimea from Ukraine (which lies right on the Black Sea, on the backyard of Turkey), Turkey is expanding in the South Caucasus, right on the backyard of Russia. Both Russia and Turkey are expanding their geopolitical influence and leverage in a struggle for global hegemony and power, and although there are still diplomatic relations between the two countries, we must ask ourselves, How long will this last? We cannot look at the current diplomacy as merely isolated, but in the context of the long history between Russia and Turkey.
There were numerous wars between the Russians and Turks, the most recent one being in World War One; and the Turks were not able to win a single one. With such a history, it is doubtful that Russia and Turkey will be able to maintain diplomacy in the long term. We also must remember that there is a definite struggle between Russia and Turkey currently occurring in Syria, regardless of whatever diplomatics are taken between the two. In November of 2015, a Turkish F16 shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Turkey-Syria border. In February of 2020, the Russian Air Force and the Syrian Air Force slaughtered 34 Turkish soldiers in airstrikes (Turkish government numbers put the death count at 50 to 100), a direct act of war. The line has already been crossed, the question is, When will full out war finally erupt?
The Turks are obsessed with reviving their Ottoman Empire, and see their power within Azerbaijan in light of this reactionary ideology. In January of 2015, the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, visited Turkey and was presented with a display with a show of men dressed in Ottoman warrior garb and holding up the flags of sixteen countries founded by the Ottoman Empire. The obsession is there, and its very real in the collective conscience of Turkey. Russia, at the same time, wants to revive its old hegemony. Since both Russia and Turkey are pursuing empire, eventually they must clash.