ArmInfo.The West cannot achieve independence for the Karabakh Armenians, rather, it is counting on the long-term game.
As soon as Yerevan gives up Nagorno-Karabakh, it will no longer need Russia, also because of the accumulated disappointment. Deprived of the role of protector, Moscow is likely to lose out in the competition of mediators during the post-war normalization. Political analyst Alexander Atasuntsev, states this in an article, published in the online publication of the Carnegie Endowment Garnegie Endowment for International Peace,.
The author notes that the war between Russia and Ukraine, although its scale overshadowed other conflicts in the post-Soviet space, did not make them less acute. Rather, on the contrary, it strengthened the desire to take advantage of exceptional circumstances. The fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia that broke out in early September is a vivid example of such an attempt. Taking advantage of the fact that Moscow's forces are now distracted, Baku is energetically trying to get Yerevan's consent to settle the Karabakh conflict on Azerbaijani terms as soon as possible. This undermines Russia's authority, threatening Moscow's already shattered positions in the Caucasus.
In a situation where the internationally recognized territory of Armenia was attacked, of the two possible roles - a mediator and a guarantor of security - Moscow has chosen the first one, although this is no longer the Karabakh issue. While the United States, France and a number of other countries unequivocally condemned Azerbaijan's aggression, Russia called on both sides to respect the ceasefire.
As the analyst notes, after gaining independence in 1991, Armenia tried to ensure its protection by Russia. The country joined the CSTO, hosted a Russian military base, signed a separate Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with Moscow. At one time, that alliance seemed more indestructible than the friendship between Russia and Belarus. Armenia was surrounded by enemies - Turkey and Azerbaijan - and only a Russian shield could cover it.
In 2020, during the lost war for Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenians expected help from Moscow, but they had no clear reasons why they should get it. Yerevan itself has never recognized the independence of Nagorno- Karabakh, de jure agreeing that it is the territory of Azerbaijan. Why did Moscow have to fight for this unrecognized land?
However, the outcome of the war changed Russia's position in the region - it began to turn from an arbitrator into just one of the mediators. More than two thousand Russian peacekeepers deployed in Karabakh did not help - they have become nominal rather than real protection of the Armenian population of the region. Two years after their deployment, they still don't even have a clear mandate to regulate the use of weapons. In fact, their real ability to contain Azerbaijan is measured only by Russia's authority.
Nevertheless, Atasuntsev believes, even after the victory in 2020, the territory of Armenia proper remained a red line for the Azerbaijanis, which they did not dare to cross. This has been the case up to the current crisis.
In particular, the article notes that the past summer showed that Moscow is not ready to defend the strict implementation of even a tripartite statement that stopped the war in 2020. This became finally clear during the previous escalation in early August, when Baku demanded that the Armenians hurry up with the construction of their section of the new road connecting Armenia and Karabakh, bypassing Lachin. And it delivered an ultimatum through Russian peacekeepers: either the Armenians leave Lachin, or Baku will force them to do so.
In September, against the backdrop of Russia's retreat near Kharkov, Azerbaijan attacked the territory of Armenia itself. It is possible that Baku realized that everything, except for the Ukrainian front, is now secondary for Moscow.
Therefore, Moscow is trying to delay the resolution of the conflict. The parties have a Russian draft peace treaty, which proposes to draw an interim result, delimit the border, and leave the Karabakh issue until calmer times. But this predictably does not suit Azerbaijan, which is now in a strong position.
Baku believes that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was closed in November 2020, when the Azerbaijanis won a quick but bloody war at the cost of thousands of lives. And even ensuring the rights of the Armenian population of the region is now an internal affair of Azerbaijan. From Baku's point of view, Karabakh Armenians are no different from other national minorities in the country, such as the Talysh or Lezgins.
The Armenian authorities would like the agreement with Baku to be more like a peace treaty, rather than unconditional surrender - for Nikol Pashinyan, this is a matter of political survival. But Yerevan does not have the opportunity to achieve some kind of autonomous status for Karabakh through diplomacy. It can only be won back, while neither the authorities nor society are ready for a new war in Armenia.
It is hard to believe that Azerbaijan's goals are more ambitious and that it wants to cut a corridor to Nakhichevan by force. Not only because of the unpredictable consequences, starting with international sanctions and ending with the threat of a military clash with Russia. But also because then Baku will violate the principle of territorial integrity, which it has defended all these years, seeking the return of Karabakh. Azerbaijan has tried to be consistent on this issue, even to the extent of supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine against Russia. There is no such political force in the world that could force Azerbaijan to give up its claims to Nagorno- Karabakh. The United States, even taking into account the visit of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Armenia, is limited to only words of support. Armenian resistance is fading. Before the 2020 war, Yerevan argued that the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic could not be part of Azerbaijan. After the defeat, such announcements were made only from Stepanakert. Now referring to Karabakh, Yerevan only voices the protection of the rights of local Armenians. This looks like a willingness to discuss autonomy within Azerbaijan.
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