Reasons, Consequences and Lessons for Ukraine
Doctor of Military Sciences
It is known that on the night of November 9th to 10th, 2020, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed a tripartite ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, which calls for a ceasefire under Azerbaijan’s control over all liberated territories. In addition, Yerevan is returning to Baku all the Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh captured by Armenia in the 1991–1994 war. Armenia keeps some territories under its control in Nagorno-Karabakh, including Stepanakert. Russian peacekeepers are deployed on the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to most estimates, such a document creates conditions for restoration of peace in the region and actually consolidates Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia. At first glance, this is true. Thus, in contrast to the previous armistice agreements concluded between Armenia and Azerbaijan on October 9, under the mediation of Russia, October 17, within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and on October 25, under the mediation of the United States, this time the parties to the conflict have really stopped active hostilities.
As a result, Azerbaijan has regained control of most of its territories, strengthened the security of the population and strategically important facilities (including the Baku — Tbilisi — Supsa oil pipeline) in neighboring areas with the conflict zone. But Armenia has not only lost the “security zone” around Nagorno-Karabakh, but also a large part of the territory of the self-proclaimed republic.
…In the confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, an actual winner is Russia, which managed to realize a number of its strategic and regional interests…
At the same time, the consequences of this year’s intensification of the armed conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh probably have only moral and psychological significance for both Azerbaijan and Armenia. In reality, Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies mainly in the highlands, has no geographical, economic or demographic value. In the confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, an actual winner is Russia, which managed to realize a number of its strategic and regional interests. In particular, the following is meant:
- Russia has reaffirmed its ability to influence developments in the post-Soviet space, including as a “peacemaker” for conflict resolution. Demonstrating Russia’s role has become particularly telling after the failure of the OSCE Minsk Group and the United States to end hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan;
- Russia has expanded its military presence in the Caucasus by deploying its peacekeeping forces in Nagorno-Karabakh but, in fact, in Azerbaijan itself. After all, on the basis of such peacekeeping units in areas of armed conflicts, as a rule, permanent Russian military bases are deployed;
- Russia has not only retained, but has managed to increase its influence on Armenia and Azerbaijan. Thus, the defeat of Armenia in the conflict provoked mass protests of the Armenian population against Prime Minister N. Pashinyan, which was a powerful blow to his power positions. In turn, this makes it possible to bring to power in Armenia politicians more loyal to Russia. This is especially important for the Russian leadership in connection with the strengthening of the pro-Western vector of N. Pashinyan’s policy, which is contrary to the interests of the Russian Federation. At the same time, the deployment of Russian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh will allow Russia to have more influence on Azerbaijan’s policy;
- Russia has localized Turkey’s military expansion in the Caucasus. Contrary to Turkey’s interests, the tripartite agreement between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia do not provide for the deployment of Turkish peacekeepers in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. Only plans to establish a joint Russian-Turkish peacekeeping center to monitor the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh are being considered.
…The deployment of Russian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh deprives Azerbaijan of the opportunity to completely restore its territorial integrity…
Under such circumstances, Azerbaijan’s victory is perceived quite ambiguously. After all:
- A tangible potential advantage over Armenia allowed Azerbaijan to completely liberate the occupied territories. Nevertheless, the offensive of Azerbaijani troops stopped at the nearby approaches to the administrative center of Nagorno-Karabakh — Stepanakert, and Baku agreed to sign peace agreement with Yerevan;
- The deployment of Russian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh deprives Azerbaijan of the opportunity to completely restore its territorial integrity. From now on, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will become “frozen”, like the Transdniestrian one;
- Russia’s military presence in Nagorno-Karabakh allows it to launch an armed aggression against Azerbaijan at any time under the pretext of protecting Russian military and “compatriots” in the region. It was under this pretext that Russia attacked Georgia in August 2008, as a result of which Russian troops occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This is how Russia occupied and annexed Ukrainian Crimea in February–March 2014.
In short, this confirms Russia’s involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which it purposefully manages. For example, everyone knows about Russia’s provision of weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as about the provocation by the Russians of armed confrontation between them. Signs of similar actions are observed in the current situation around Nagorno-Karabakh. In particular, it is possible that Russia covertly insisted on Azerbaijan’s refusal to continue its offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh on Russian terms, which will in some way satisfy Baku’s current interests.
Thus, in late October 2020, Russia agreed to return to Azerbaijan its occupied areas around Nagorno-Karabakh. It was fundamental for Azerbaijan.
At the same time, through the State Duma of the Russian Federation and the pro-Kremlin media, threats began to spread about the possibility of Russia’s providing direct military assistance to Armenia in its confrontation with Azerbaijan.
…In all the conflicts provoked by Moscow in the Soviet republics and the countries of the former USSR, the Russians have always rushed to the aid of the separatists…
According to historical experience, such threats would be later implemented. After all, in all the conflicts provoked by Moscow in the Soviet republics and the countries of the former USSR since 1988, the Russians have always rushed to the aid of the separatists. In addition to Nagorno-Karabakh, such military interventions took place in Transdniestria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine was the same.
The incident related to the crash of a Russian military helicopter on the border between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on the evening of November 9 was also quite eloquent. Moscow and Yerevan reported that the helicopter was shot down by Azerbaijani air defense, which, in fact, created a pretext for Russian aggression against Azerbaijan. Given the whole complex of problems around Nagorno-Karabakh, it is possible that this incident forced Azerbaijan to make concessions to Russia.
In this regard, one fact attracts attention. Thus, bringing Russian troops into Nagorno-Karabakh began at six o’clock in the morning on November 10, 2020, which once again confirms Russia’s advance preparation for such a development.
…By imposing its version of the “settlement” of the conflict in the Donbas, Russia is trying to maintain its influence in Ukraine, as it has already done for Armenia and Azerbaijan…
Russia pursues exactly the same policy and for the same purpose towards Ukraine. By imposing its version of the “settlement” of the conflict in the Donbas, Russia is trying to maintain its influence in Ukraine, as it has already done for Armenia and Azerbaijan because of their conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Shouldn’t this be taken into consideration when working on options for “settlement” of the Donbas and Crimean problems?