Since 24 February 2-22 Washington has shifted its approach to the Armenian-Azeri conflict and efforts to settle it. Even less than previously, The U.S. sees the conflict less as an autonomous issue that US foreign policy should help to resolve for the sake of peace and international security. Instead, Washington views the problem more than ever through the prism of the West’s struggle against Russia and President Vladimir Putin for NATO expansion to Ukraine and elsewhere along Russia’s borders. Almost all issues on the American foreign policy agenda are viewed now through the prism of the NATO-Russia Ukrainian war and Western efforts to achieve and Russian efforts to stop NATO expansion.
In other words, there is no common interest any longer in resolving this conflict among the parties committed to its resolution: the US, EU, and Russia. To the contrary, whereas Moscow would like to see this issue resolved and help secure Armenian interests, the US would love nothing more than to either bring Armenia over to the West’s sphere or force another ‘front’ against Moscow, and this is the priority, not conflict resolution. Indeed, if necessary to solve America’s Ukraine problem and defeat Russia in the NATO-Russia Ukrainian war, then the US will encourage, even pressure Baku to undertake military action against Armenia in and around Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh. The West hopes any compromise of Armenian interests whether military or diplomatic will help undermine Russia’s and Putin’s authority, and this can help defeat Russian in Ukraine and then Putin in Russia. At the same time, Washington would do as much damage to Russia and thereby Putin by seizing the initiative in resolution of the Azeri-Armenian conflict, becoming the main sponsor of the peace process.
In Yerevan and Baku, Moscow is considered to be too distracted by Ukraine in order to maintain the initiative in the diplomatic sphere in the Transacaucasus. At this point, given Chinese diplomatic activation in the Middle East and in Ukraine, one is inclined to think that Yerevan would be better off seeking the mediation of China in ordet to avoid slighting Russia and falling into the hands of Western powers. It is clear that the U.S. has been attempting to seduce Yerevan to leave Moscow’s protection and alliances and turn West. The most obvious piece of evidence is then Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Armenia. Los Angeles, California, where Pelosi has close connections, is the center of the Armenian diaspora, and it was no accident that it was Pelosi who was used to probe the possibility of an Armenian defection from the Russian fold. Beijing would be most interested in settling the dispute in order to create the stability across Eurasia its OBOR project requires.
It seems that Russia’s weakened cover for Armenia is having its effect on the Azeri-Armenian balance of power and thus course of the peace talks. Armenian President Nikola Pashinyan’s comments on May 25th that he was willing to recognize Baku’s sovereignty over NK/Artsakh under certain conditions is a case in point. So too is Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliev’s stipulation that all administrative and state-like political structures must be dismantled in NK/Artsakh, and it must be integrated into and subordinated to Azerbaijan’s state apparatus. This condition would make Pashinyan’s already risky compromises prohibitive among Armenian nationalists and war veterans, raising the specter of another potential revolt in Yerevan. In such an event, US operatives and money could decide the issue and bring a pro-Western government to power in Yerevan that could pose or in reality be a nationalist one that makes the re-start of war more likely and complicates Russia’s life, facing it with a choice of devoting badly needed military and financial resources to support Armenia or lose Yerevan’s respect and potentially its semi-allied relations with Moscow. Washington is pressing Moscow on all fronts, and the Transcaucasus knot is not the least important of them. As the next meeting of the negotiators approaches in August, this summer’s political jockeying could turn hot, bringing more bloodshed to the Transcaucasus and the post-Soviet, central Eurasian space.
We can speak of a certain shift in the configuration of the military-political situation in the Transcaucasus as a result of the Ukrainian war. Azerbaijan finds itself with an enhanced hand in relation to Armenia, the chief ally of which is distracted by its special military operation in Ukraine. In response, Armenia has flirted with Washington. Although this may have been an effort to get Moscow’s attention, this become a more concerted trend should the Kremlin neglect Yerevan. Destabilization in Armenia could produce a pro-Western Armenian regime, which over the mid- to long-term might withdraw the country’s participation in some of the Russian-led alliances, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or even the Eurasian Economic Union and/or the Collective Security Treaty Organization. In addition, Georgia’s drift from its Saakashvili-era pro-Western position may be reversing and could provoke conflict in Tbilisi. While the Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has expressed strong support for Ukraine, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili recently blamed NATO and its expansion east for the war in Ukraine (https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/03/21/russia-war-georgia-ukraine-zourabichvili-protest/ and http://www.pravda.com.ua/eng/news/2023/05/30/7404473/). In sum, the tectonics in the Transcaucasus are shifting and my alter to the detriment of Russian interests at a time when Putin can little afford a geopolitical setback along Russia’s borders.
EUROPE BOOKS, 2022
MCFARLAND BOOKS, 2021
MCFARLAND BOOKS, 2018
About the Author –
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, www.canalyt.com. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu
Dr. Hahn is the author of the new book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored five previous, well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group.