Russia's game in Nagorno-Karabakh

Published 11.04.2016 23:17
Updated 12.04.2016 00:28

Russia never misses an opportunity to have its presence felt whenever a discrepancy sparkles, even in the smallest of places in the world. Of course, it was there again in the latest Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which has been ongoing with hot and cold periods for the last 22 years, escalated again last week. The parties consider each other responsible for the problems, and dozens of soldiers have been killed in clashes. It is problematic how this issue cannot be resolved and what exactly Russia's position is on the issue. The Nagorno-Karabakh region and some seven Azeri districts have been occupied by Armenia. In 1988, the war that started between some Armenian and Azerbaijani groups turned into an Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict after Armenians sided with the district belonging to the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic to be included in the Armenia Soviet Socialist Republic while Azerbaijanis objected to it. This development ran parallel to Russia's divide-and-rule principle after the dissolution phase of the Soviet Union. In 1994, a truce was declared and the war ended with Armenia seizing control of the region.

Azerbaijanis have been subjected to torture since then and about 30,000 people have been killed, both Azerbaijanis and Armenians. Of course, Azeris have rightfully complained about the situation, demanding Armenians leave the territory they occupy. The Minsk Group was formed to resolve the issue. The group tried to negotiate the Nagorno-Karabakh case with the prerequisite of urging Armenians to retreat from five Azeri districts. However, Armenia boycotted this prerequisite and the problem has persisted up to the present day. Azerbaijan wants Armenia to retreat from the land it occupies while Armenia does not consider retreating from the Nagorno-Karabakh region or other districts as negotiable. The fact that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is from Nagorno-Karabakh has a great role in this irreconcilable attitude from Armenia. For Sargsyan, it is very important not to lose the land where he was born, the capital Khankendi, or Stepanakert in Armenian.

Even though Russia seems to act as an arbitrator in the dispute, in fact, the maintenance of the problem favors the country. Through this, Russia can easily keep both countries in its neighborhood and prevent their solidification. Both parties consider each other responsible for the clashes that began on April 2. As Soli Özel from the daily Habertürk wrote in his column: "Even though a conflict had been expected for a long time, considering the armaments race and tensions in the region, the timing is noteworthy. The presidents of both countries attended the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. It was Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's first Washington visit since 2003 when he was elected. The revival of U.S.-Azerbaijani relations and increasing cooperation between the two countries were expected."

Likewise, Sargsyan also made considerable contacts in the U.S. and discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh issue with senior American authorities. Meanwhile, clashes broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh. Aliyev had not even landed in Azerbaijan yet when the weapons started to fire.When the timing is considered, Russia might be sending a message vis-a-vis the increasing influence of the U.S. in the Caucasus and its display of power by arbitrating the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. The message hints that Russia is the only undisputed power in the region and the U.S. must stay away. In a nutshell, while throwing its weight around in the Middle East, as is the case in the Syrian civil war, Russia also makes its influence felt on every occasion in its region. We need to realize that the world is confronted with the expansionist, partly aggressive and imperialist Russia of President Vladimir Putin.

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