Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the reasons for Russia’s restraint

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Armenians flee area as Russian peacekeepers meet Azeri soldiers in Shusha

Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the reasons for Russia's restraint

Experts say that Moscow does not want to quarrel with Azerbaijan and Turkey, and Chechnya has long-standing ties with Ilham Aliyev

On October 9, talks between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia Jeyhun Bayramov and Zohrab Mnatsakanyan began in Moscow with the participation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. These negotiations, dedicated to finding ways to resolve the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, were completely closed to the press and at the time of writing the article had been going on for more than eight hours..

The conversation of the foreign ministers of the three countries took place against the backdrop of bellicose statements by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who on Friday said in a television speech that his country’s forces destroyed the fortifications on the contact line of the conflicting parties, and he himself advocates a military solution to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russia and Armenia are among the countries participating in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), there is a Russian military base in Armenia, the Armenian army is fighting with Russian weapons, the capture of which is reported in the victorious reports by the official Azerbaijani media. Moscow has no such ties with Baku, moreover, Azerbaijan is a member of the inactive, but not ceased to exist, GUAM organization, which united Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, which is considered a counterweight to any regional alliances under the patronage of Russia..

Nevertheless, from the very beginning of Azerbaijan’s offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Kremlin did not support Yerevan, which considers Nagorno-Karabakh to be Armenian territory, and Baku’s actions as aggression. Moreover, representatives of the Russian authorities have stressed many times that they will not answer the question of why Moscow does not support its military ally..

The Russian service of the Voice of America spoke with experts who give their answer to this question.

Ruslan Pukhov: Azerbaijan has become a valuable asset for Russia

Ruslan Pukhov, founder and director of the Russian Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), believes that after 2014, relations with Azerbaijan have become important for Russia:

“After the“ return of Crimea to its homeland ”and Russia’s intervention in the civil war in Syria, the West is trying, not without success, to blockade Russia. And therefore, a number of countries that Russia, like a choosy bride, did not look at five or six years ago, is now acquiring value for it. At the same time, Azerbaijan, being, unlike Armenia, neither a member of the CSTO, nor a member of the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union – ed.), Demonstrates maximum loyalty to the interests of Russia. Therefore, Azerbaijan is becoming a valuable asset in the eyes of the Russian leadership “.

“There is direct confirmation of this. When is it necessary to discuss certain things in the field of conflict avoidance, where does the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces meet with his American counterpart, the head of the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff of the United States? – He meets in Baku. There was one meeting in Geneva, and three meetings, if my memory serves me right, were in Baku – that is, this is a platform that is comfortable for both parties, “the expert says..

In addition, Pukhov believes that Turkey is an important, and possibly the dominant force in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, opposing Armenia, and Putin does not want to quarrel with Erdogan again: both sides, Armenians and Azerbaijanis, were enough to stop these hostilities. It is quite possible that there is no shout from Moscow for the simple reason that the controlling stake in the current confrontation is not in Baku, and not in Yerevan – it is in Ankara. And yelling at Erdogan is absolutely pointless. If the Americans could not tame him with the same purchase of the S-400, then how can Moscow tame him ?! “.

Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the reasons for Russia's restraint

Ruslan Pukhov recalls that although Russia has indeed almost completely armed Armenia with old Soviet and relatively modern Russian weapons, Azerbaijan is also a buyer of weapons from Moscow. True, recently Baku prefers to diversify these purchases: “40-45 percent is now accounted for by weapons that Azerbaijan purchased from other countries. Apart from Russia, the main arms suppliers to Azerbaijan are Israel, Turkey, to a lesser extent Ukraine, and partly Belarus “.

Despite the fact that in the 1990s the army of Nagorno-Karabakh in its moral and combat qualities, according to the analyst, seriously surpassed the army of Azerbaijan, in recent years Baku has tried to bridge this gap: “Armenia is a low-resource state. Armenia has not only a smaller population, not only a smaller budget, but also a smaller army and fewer weapons. Until recently, this imbalance was compensated for by the quality of personnel, but over the past few years, when Azerbaijan received a large oil rent, a lot of money was pumped into the army. And not only in the purchase of weapons, but also in training “.

At the same time, the director of the CAST is sure that Russia will face a very serious test if the hostilities move to the territory of Armenia: “Russia has formal obligations to Armenia, although they do not exist to Karabakh. And recently Putin said that Russia will fulfill all its obligations, thereby, apparently, making it clear not only to Azerbaijan, but also to Turkey that if the hostilities are transferred to the territory of Armenia – not accidental flights of missiles and shells, but we know that shells flew not only into Armenian territory, but real hostilities – then Russia will connect. It seems to me that Putin said this unambiguously “.

Grigory Shvedov: Azerbaijan and Chechnya have direct links

The editor-in-chief of the Caucasian Knot Internet portal, Grigory Shvedov, notes in an interview with the Russian service of the Voice of America that, despite the Kremlin’s obvious attempts to maintain a balance in relation to the parties to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, in one of the Russian republics, Chechnya, there are signs of support Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia:

“There was an interesting story with the Chechen Minister of Health, who suddenly spoke out unequivocally in support of Azerbaijan. After that, unexpectedly, a video appeared in Chechnya, which was published on the pro-Kadyrov Instagram channel “State of emergency Grozny”. This video is about the fact that the Chechens are already in Azerbaijan, and in some front-line positions, because the video shows a corpse of a soldier, an overturned pickup truck, and a dialogue of Chechens is presented, who laugh and talk about what is happening around. “.

The story of the video, Shvedov continues, is largely unclear, but, according to the journalist, it is unlikely that it could have appeared against the will of the Chechen leadership: “Caucasian Knot” found out that this video was a fake. We talked with Azerbaijani and other speakers, and they said that this video could not have been filmed either in Azerbaijan or in the front-line zones. There were publications that the video was made outside the Caucasus, possibly in the Crimea. But it is interesting that this video was filmed, edited, and published in the pro-Kadyrov segment of social networks: there was no direct support for the Kadyrovs of Azerbaijan, but we see that indirect support, moreover, with the help of such a strange tool as a fabricated video, as well as the statement of the Minister of Health has already appeared “.

“I want to remind you that Azerbaijan has a special diplomatic line regarding relations with Chechnya. The very idea that Kadyrov can be received in Baku, and vice versa, that high officials can come from Baku to Grozny is an idea that has real examples … In 2018, Kadyrov met with Ilham Aliyev in Baku, there were also visits high officials from Azerbaijan to Chechnya. Relations between Chechnya and Azerbaijan exist, “says the editor-in-chief of the” Caucasian Knot “.

Grigory Shvedov makes a reservation that there is no exact information about the involvement of the official Grozny in the dubious video, but experience shows that the Chechen leadership sometimes acts at the international level: “We are not talking about the military side, but about some strange“ soft power ”. Kadyrov’s participation in various international conflicts has already been noticed more than once, not with military force, but with a political role. I do not at all want to confidently assert that behind the facts that I have cited, there is necessarily some kind of complex planning and Kadyrov’s propaganda machine. But, perhaps, there are enough people in Kadyrov’s entourage, sensible ones, who suggested to him that sending Chechens to war should be coordinated with Moscow, but editing such a video is another matter. “.

  • Danila Galperovich

    Reporter for the Russian Voice of America Service in Moscow. Collaborates with Voice of America since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and host of programs for the BBC Russian Service and Radio Liberty. Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.

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