On the brink of a third war in Karabakh
The peacekeeping contingent of the Russians is unable to avoid clashes between Yerevan and Baku over the pro-Armenian separatist region. Moscow would like to replace Armenian PM Pašinyan with its own oligarch. The Kremlin seems increasingly weak in the Caucasus, an effect of the war in Ukraine.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The recent protests in front of a Russian military base in Gyumri, Armenia, are a sign that another phase of open conflict is approaching in Nagorno-Karabakh, disputed by Yerevan and Baku. The risk is a 'third war' after the 1992-1994 war and the 44-day war of 2020, as many observers, both Armenian and Azerbaijani, and neutral observers claim.
As Guseinbala Salimov writes in Zerkalo.az, 'it is now clear that the peacekeeping contingent of the Russians is unable to fulfil its mission'. The parties are actually not ready for military escalation while the conflict in Ukraine is ongoing, and Russia regards Karabakh 'as the 11th finger of the hand'. Armenia 'does not want to calm down', notes the Azerbaijani political scientist, and 'continues to organise provocations', such as the one in Gyumri. Ereven would try in this way to rebalance Russia's policy with the influence of the West, especially the US and France.
Armenian Prime Minister Pašinyan, after all, is a figure disliked by the Kremlin, which regards him as 'an outsider' and only tolerates him 'in order to offload all the negative effects of Caucasian tensions onto him'. According to the majority of commentators on politics in the region, Moscow is preparing an alternative to the prime minister of Yerevan: there is talk of Ruben Vardanyan, a Russian billionaire oligarch with Armenian citizenship, minister of the separatist republic of Artsakh, the Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh. Vardanyan is a very popular figure in Armenia, thanks also to the many humanitarian and welfare initiatives he inspired and organised.
Even in Azerbaijan, the situation is certainly not quiet, also considering the ideological front opened with Iran for the recognition of the so-called 'southern Azerbaijan' to be composed with the 'western' one linked to the conflict with Armenia, and the control of the Zangezur corridor (Lachin for Armenians).
The re-kindling of the Armenian conflict would not only result in a pile of new victims on both sides, but could shake Russia out of its apparent torpor, to make up for the Ukrainian disappointments in the Caucasus. So far Baku has managed to appease Moscow, but 'to everything there is a limit'.
So far Russia, while formally supporting Armenia, has always agreed on the need to assign part of the disputed territory to Azerbaijan in order to keep both countries in its sphere of influence. If Moscow's weakness returned the Caucasian landscape to what it was 30 years ago, this would affect the Russians' ability to assert themselves throughout the former Soviet space of East and West, already severely tested by the tragic conflict in Ukraine.
Putin must now decide whether to punish the Armenians for the increasingly frequent anti-Russian demonstrations, supporting the change of power and liquidating the 'people's revolutionary' Pašinyan, but at the same time trying not to antagonise the opinion of the majority of the country's population. The third Karabakh war may eventually become inevitable, when internal and external relations are now entrusted only to arms.