Putin and Erdogan measure “missiles” and try “dividing and conquering” Nagorno-Karabakh03.12.2020
Reserve Sergeant of the Latvian National Guard,
“Peace and prosperity” have come to Nagorno-Karabakh and the entire Caucasus region. But how could it not, when Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov even spent an entire night talking to Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives. Shortly after, some French and Lombardian media outlets rushed to tell the entire world about an unprecedented diplomatic triumph by the Kremlin in the Caucasus – thousands of peace doves have been unleashed in the mountains and abysses of Nagorno-Karabakh.
I am, of course, being ironic because there’s a slight problem – the fighting hasn’t stopped and the Kremlin’s peace doves from Pskov are armed to the teeth and riding around the area in tanks. And I won’t even mention the destructive activities of the Chechen and Don Cossack private military company Wagner.
Only time will tell how the situation unfolds, but one thing is certain – the Kremlin has become weak and unable to protect its own hide and interests in the territories surrounding Russia. One after another, the former Central Asian and Eastern European Soviet republics are spitting in the face of Putin’s regime. It seems Putin has lost his edge, if there was one to begin with, but maybe it’s the Botox injections that are to blame. Those oppressed by the Kremlin have apparently sensed its weakness, and now each protest, uprising and conflict is like a hot potato in the Kremlin’s mouth – impossible to swallow, but impossible to spit out as well.
As I already once wrote, the world established by communists and chekists has finally – after thirty years – been rocked. Its southern region is gripped by fighting between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, there are protests against the immortal Lukashenko in the west while in the east Kyrgyzstan is facing its third political crisis in the last 15 years. However, I am not sure that Kyrgyzstan has ever experienced times of prosperity, perhaps except for the era of Genghis Khan.
Experts of Western and Russian geopolitics are literally mocking Putin and the Kremlin, calling them “clowns” who have stumbled on the international political arena by accident. They ironically point out: “While you were interfering in other countries’ elections, poisoning foreign citizens, launching propaganda campaigns abroad, looking for “fascists and Nazis” in Eastern Europe and fooling everyone with your Sputnik-V vaccine, you lost influence around and within Russia.”
While the Kremlin was doing whatever it was doing, three new players arrived in the post-Soviet space – Turkey, China and the West. The new guests proved that Russia can no longer be considered the dominating “superpower” in the post-Soviet space, which was also confirmed by the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Sadly, the blood of innocent people was and will continue to be spilled.
Meanwhile, Putin continues pestering everyone with his “stability” and “nanotechnologies”, despite the foundations beneath him being more than slightly crumbled. Is there stability, for instance, in Pskov Oblast which is Russia’s poorest and most economically underdeveloped region. What example can Pskov and its inhabitants give to the Baltic states, Belarus and Ukraine? Pskov Oblast is the European part of Russia, it is Russia’s “billboard” facing the West. In a place where there should be countless skyscrapers and business incubators, we see only forests and the Ostrov air base.
It is believed and hoped that the unrest in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia, as well as the flop of communist Dodon in the Moldovan presidential election could mark the beginning of the end for Putin’s regime. Moreover, everyone still remembers the recent poisoning of Navalny and there are still ongoing protests in Khabarovsk. The Covid-19 pandemic also hasn’t helped Putin’s regime, as it has created enormous problems in all of Russia. It seems the kettle is finally bubbling.
It is interesting that small nations, especially those in the Caucasus, blame each other for their problems, and Armenia and Azerbaijan are no exception. For instance, is there an Armenian person who believes that the Kremlin should take responsibility for the suffering of the Armenian nation? The same question could be asked to the Azerbaijanis – is there anyone who thinks that Erdogan’s regime should take responsibility for what the Azerbaijanis did in Nagorno-Karabakh?
There are rarely winners in war. Then are is the eternal question of who started what. These are perfect conditions for a “divide and conquer” strategy, which the Kremlin is and has historically been using to further its influence in the Caucasus region. The difference now is that Erdogan has joined the game and he too is familiar with this strategy.
Turkey’s open engagement has cornered the Kremlin and lessened its maneuverability, because since the Soviet era the Kremlin has employed a sort of a delicate diplomacy in its relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan.
We could see that during the war the Kremlin’s “diplomacy” meant observing from the sidelines how Erdogan-backed Azerbaijanis were whipping the Kremlin’s allies in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Kremlin maintained its “gentleman’s” position, saying that it will only protect Armenia, not Nagorno-Karabakh. Even when Azerbaijani forces openly eliminated several military objects in Armenia, the Kremlin remained idle. However, it was later revealed that Pskov’s airborne troops were in constant combat readiness. The Kremlin “didn’t dare” to do anything even when a Russian Mi-24 helicopter was shot down over Armenia. What does this mean?
The only thing that followed was Putin phoning Erdogan. Unfortunately, we will never know what both of them discussed and whose voice was more trembling. According to the official version, both men stressed that the bloodshed must end as soon as possible and that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue should be resolved in a peaceful way. I would say that this came a lot too late and left both Caucasian nations fooled. I am more than certain that after this small war the Armenians and Azerbaijanis will hate each other more than ever. So, who is to responsible for this?
Although until now Russia and Armenia were considered allies, the military activities of Turkey and Azerbaijan showed that the Kremlin sees Armenia as its stepchild. The Kremlin never really considered Armenia to be its ally and partner, despite the bunch of Kremlin-hired Armenians working hard to spread Putin’s propaganda, and in the end Armenians were still betrayed. In this regard, I should mention the 2018 uprising in Armenia, which resulted in pro-Kremlin elements losing power and Armenia turning more to the West.
Turkey taking the side of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue noy only lessens Russia’s influence in the Caucasus, but also forces its security services to consider the possibility of Islam combatants arriving from North Africa. Radical Islamists could cause certain problems in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan and elsewhere in Russia.
Nagorno-Karabakh is not the only place where Putin and Erdogan are “measuring” their missiles – there’s also Syria and Libya. In other words, Turkey and Russia have been in a warring relationship for quite some time now.
By sending armed-to-the-teeth peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh, Putin wants to present himself to the entire planet as a peacebuilder and strengthen his influence in the southern post-Soviet space. I believe that Putin has once again failed, because Wagner mercenaries – who have been caught torturing prisoners of war in Syria to death – will not bring any kind of peace.
Augusts Augustiņš especially for INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR COUNTERING RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA