Russia Is Interested In Sustaining The Karabakh Conflict, Intelligence

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The FINANCIAL — The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict con- tinues to play a key role in the bilateral relations of Armenia and Azerbaijan, with both Yerevan and Baku seeing Moscow as holding the keys to resolving the conflict . It is vital for Armenia to maintain Russia’s political and military support, without which it would be difficult to provide military protection to ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Estonian Intelligence Service reported.

Russia is essentially the only state that supports Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, Russia is Armenia’s main arms provider and largest economic partner. Russia’s state companies—Russian Railways, Gazprom, Rosneft, Rosatom—are the largest foreign investors in the Armenian economy. Despite this seemingly firm friendship, Russia has consistently refused to write off Armenia’s debt, which stands at several billion dollars, and Armenia has surrendered several strategic companies to Russia to cover the liability. During the change of power in April, Rosneft press secretary Mikhail Leontyev controversially said that “Historically, politically, physically and financially Armenia is a burden for Russia,” owing to which “If they want to jump off” it would be “a relief for Russia”. Leontyev later sent a letter of apology to the new prime minister.

Presented to the public as the crowning events of a fraternal alliance between the two nations were Vladimir Putin’s visit to Yerevan on 1 October 2019, as he attended the Summit of the Eurasian Economic Union, and Russia’s agreement to supply Armenia with Su-30SM fighter aircraft.

Behind this facade, relations between the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russia are reserved, but since the Pashinyan government has not collapsed, Russia is forced, for the time being, to accept the internal political situation in Armenia following the “Velvet Revolution” of 2018. While tensions between the former elite and the new government remain, popular support for Pashinyan also persists. No serious political rivals have emerged for Pashinyan.

RUSSIA IS NOT INTERESTED IN SOLVING THE NAGORNO-KARABAKH CONFLICT, BUT NEITHER IS IT INTERESTED IN THE OUTBREAK OF A FULL-SCALE WAR BETWEEN ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN.

The Armenian economy has not collapsed either. Instead, itis showing good growth momentum and government revenue has in fact increased.

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Top-level contacts and the promotion of economic cooperation also continued between Russia and Azerbaijan. Concerning the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it is important for the Azerbaijani leadership that Russia take its views into account at least as much – and preferably more – than those of Armenia. Also, deserving attention were the visits of several top Russian officials, such as the Secretary of the Security Council, Nikolay Patrushev, to Baku, and the participation of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the second World Summit of Religious Leaders held in Baku in November 2019. With the express consent of the hosts, the Patriarch used this gathering as a propaganda platform for the positions of the Russian Orthodox Church and government. At the same time, economic ties between Azerbaijan and Russia continued to tighten; preparations were made to connect the Russian, Azerbaijani and Iranian electrical grids, and to launch a transit corridor through Azerbaijan to Iran and the rest of the Middle East.

In 2020, Russia’s influence in Armenia is likely to remain stable, while continuing a moderate increase in Azerbaijan. The latter is largely due to the political choices made by the Azerbaijani leadership – President Ilham Aliyev and those close to him have probably decided that the way to a favourable settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for Azerbaijan goes through Moscow.

While passing off as a constructive and solution-oriented mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russia is not actually interested in solving that conflict; neither is it interested in the outbreak of a full-scale war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The first scenario would deprive Moscow of its main lever of influence in South Caucasus since neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan would have to work hard for its favour . The risks involved in a full-scale war, however, would be too great and unpredictable.

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