Political Observation - Nagorno-Karabakh War Ends

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Observation - Nagorno-Karabakh War Ends

Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the agreement on a “complete ceasefire” in Nagorno-Karabakh. The agreement stipulated that “a complete ceasefire has been concluded in Karabakh starting 10 November at midnight Moscow time. The armies of Azerbaijan and Armenia have pledged to remain in their positions and to exchange prisoners of war.” The agreement has also stipulated that “Armenia will return Kalbajar to Azerbaijan by 15 November and Lachin by 1 December, while keeping a 5-kilometre wide corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, which will be controlled by Russian peacekeepers.

Russia has succeeded in ending the Azerbaijan-Armenia war in a surprising manner after about two months of military battles in the occupied Azerbaijani Karabakh province, the roots of which date back to 1923 when the province was part of Azerbaijan’s territory and Joseph Stalin decided to separate it from Azerbaijan. In May 1992, separatist Armenian forces occupied the cities of Shusha and Lachin and in 1993, Armenian forces seized six other Azerbaijani districts around Nagorno-Karabakh, namely Kalbajar, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Gubadli and Zangilan.

Before coming to Armenia’s rescue, Russia had concocted this hotbed of tension between the two countries to ensure her intervention and to conduct the relations between the two sides in order to preserve her influence in the Caucasus region which is susceptible to ethnic and religious tensions whose brewing threatens the Russian Federation’s entity itself, not to mention the threat to Russia’s vital and strategic space in the entire region in favour of the US who has been endeavouring to seize its natural resources and dominate its supply routes, and besiege and contain Russia as per the old plan revealed by US policymaker and former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

In addition to America’s covetous designs, Russia also dreads Turkey’s entry as an influential and active competitor in the Caucasus region with an American blessing whose aims are no secret in terms of heating up the friction between Russia and Turkey and weakening their relations, and triggering the demographic situation within the Iranian component, namely the Persians and Azerbaijanis, which led Iran to offer her mediation between the warring sides.

However, because she has been subjected to a flurry of America’s political raids on her sphere of influence in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova after losing Georgia and Ukraine to America, Russia is departing from a defensive strategy hinging on generating an equilibrium between Armenia and Azerbaijan and snatching the file of Karabakh from the Minsk Group, i.e. distancing the US and Europe from the issue, while maintaining the margin of differences with Turkey under control in order to underpin the stretch of antipathy and rifts between Turkey and the US and Europe. This Russian manoeuvring is more like a choice dictated by Russia and Turkey’s need for each other rather than a strategic political decision by either side because Russia has limited options amid the circumstances surrounding her. This led her to let the military operations take their course in a direction that would allow her to achieve her immediate aims, namely remaining in the region and overseeing the relations and not dominating them singlehandedly.

Hence, by succeeding in ending the war in isolation of the Minsk Group, Russia has achieved what she had wanted according to her political approach which is constrained by a catalogue of equilibria, be it on the international plane pertinent to America or in neutralizing Turkey and limiting her manoeuvring and influence, in addition to scoring a point of rapprochement with Iran who is wary of the fallout of the crisis on the unity of her lands and societal cohesion. As for the Armenian domestic political plane, Russia wanted to discipline America’s man, Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, by subjecting him to the wrath of the masses together with the civil society forces linked to US billionaire philanthropist, George Soros.

It is true that the main motive behind the Russian intervention to end the war was the rapid developments on the ground and Azerbaijan’s recapture of Shusha and her advance on various battlefronts, and Moscow’s fear of a total collapse of the Armenian forces which would have threatened the erosion of her backyard. However, Putin’s success in ending the war and brokering a ceasefire agreement is considered a Russian breakthrough and a message to all the stakeholders stipulating that she is main player in the crisis. Hence, the upshots of the agreement could be viewed as a success for Putin in terms of imposing a permanent Russian military presence in the region for five years, automatically renewable for further five-year periods, and shaking American influence by destroying the popularity of Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, who had reneged on his understandings with the Russians by allowing civil society institutions linked to the US to expand and work against her influence. This perhaps explains why Putin accepted Azerbaijan’s conditions which made Pashinyan look submissive, so that he may destroy his popularity, end his political future and make an example of him for those who follow him. Putin’s tactic started to bear its fruits as angry protests against Pashinyan broke out in the capital Yerevan with protesters gathering outside the government building and chanting anti-Pashinyan slogans; they broke windows and stormed the government building with some of them reaching the prime minister’s office and demanding his resignation.

Vladimir Putin has also succeeded in achieving a longer-term objective by weakening Erdoğan’s chances of acquiring any trump cards or bargaining chips which could exert pressure on him, or even enter the arena of rivalry and competition; but he was also eager to maintain the relationship and the understandings he had reached with Erdoğan since he was the first Turkish president with whom he was able to reach a concord.

What Putin has also succeeded in achieving is depriving Azerbaijan, who is backed by Turkey, of recovering full sovereignty over her lands, and dissuading her from defying the Russian master in his geopolitical area in the future, in addition to achieving a far-reaching aim by rescuing the Armenians from a totally humiliating defeat while convincing them of their need for the Russian umbrella. Putin has also downsized the victory of Azerbaijanis who had routed the Armenian occupiers and imposed their conditions from a position of strength with the backing of Turkey, lest their victory should remind the Russians and the Armenians of the grandeur of the Muslims, or restore in the memory of the Muslims their lost glory and their rights that are still confiscated by the Russian tsar such as the Crimean Peninsula.

As for the Azerbaijani and Turkish side, the former succeeded with the help of the latter, despite the Russians’ attempt to thwart their victory, to establish a precedent in isolation of the international volition represented by the Minsk Group, namely laying the foundations of a reality in the Azerbaijani province that could no longer be sidestepped or ignored, whereas Turkey succeeded in imposing her presence in the region as a player whom Russia could no longer ignore, especially after Turkish weapons had proven their ability to change the balance of power in northern Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan. This proves that the Islamic Ummah, who is shackled by international institutions and resolutions, is capable of reversing the state of humiliation and dejection if she were to generate the willpower and the independent leadership which will trample on the resolutions of the colonialist organisations, and lead the Muslims to a lofty standing.

27 Rabi’ al-Awwal 1442h
13 November 2020

hizbuttahrir.org