Politics Regional

Nagorno-Karabakh: Russian and Turkish interests behind the long-live conflict

The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh escalated on September 27, active clashes are taking place in the disputed territory. Martial law was introduced in Azerbaijan and Armenia, and mobilization was announced. Both sides reported killed and wounded, including civilians. In Baku, they announced the control of several Karabakh villages and strategic heights. Yerevan also reports about the shelling of the territory of Armenia.

The crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh worsens as according to Russian and Syrian intelligence, hundreds of Syrian mercenaries are trained in camps in both Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russia has generally supported Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan, despite developing increasingly friendly relations with Baku as well over the last dozen years.

Today, the Russian military continues to resupply Armenia. It flew generous resupplies to Armenia even during the July hostilities. The airplanes took a Russia-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Armenia flight path because Georgia refused overflight rights. Azerbaijan did not understand Russia’s military assistance to Armenia in the middle of the conflict, since Baku had been significantly improving its relations with Russia after the United States lost interest in the region more than a decade ago.

Sources claim that from the beginning of the conflict until now, Russian military intelligence has seriously taken the opportunity to investigate the places where some kind of military training of Syrian mercenaries is taking place, which will later intervene in the conflict in favor of Azerbaijan.

The same sources claim that only a few hours after the intelligence was processed, Russian fighter jets of the Russian aerospace forces bombed these positions in order to destroy and prevent the possibility of these “terrorist” groups developing into large-scale structures.

According to the information provided, “command posts, training camps for fighters and other infrastructure facilities of illegal armed groups, on which the activities of gangs are recorded, were found at the specified coordinates,” a source from the Russian Ministry of Defense told a journalist in the Russian Free Press Agency.

Sources claim that air strikes on mercenary positions and camps on the territory of Karabakh were destroyed, and hundreds of mercenaries were killed during the air raid. Thus, Moscow continues its campaign to eliminate Syrian terrorist groups, and provides “unofficial” assistance to Yerevan in the conflict with Baku.

Azerbaijan succeeded in late September in taking control of strategic heights overlooking the two highways that connect Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh. (Indeed, a further incitement to Azerbaijan was probably an official Armenian government announcement in late July that a third would be constructed this year.) The Armenian military probably knows that it is in danger of facing a long-term siege there. It has been trying to distract and provoke Azerbaijan with increasing attacks on civilian Azerbaijani towns and cities outside the conflict region.

Russia is keen to preserve its influence in what it calls its “near abroad,” where it cohabited with the countries concerned for 70 years under the Soviet Union, not to mention a further-reaching imperial Tsarist history. It sells arms to both sides. Thanks to Western embargoes, it is now Azerbaijan’s largest arms supplier, although Baku pays Moscow full world prices in hard currency, whereas Yerevan pays domestic Russian prices with ruble-denominated loans from Moscow.

Turkey’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh can firstly be explained by the close emotional and identity ties linking Turkey and Azerbaijan. Turks and Azerbaijanis speak closely related languages and consider themselves part of a greater Turkic family extending all the way to Central Asia. In addition, Turkey has been firm in its criticism of the international community’s stance.

Turkey has always expressed political and military support for Azerbaijan’s struggle to recover its occupied territories. It has not acted any different this time; indeed, Turkish drones purchased by Azerbaijan were an important factor turning events in Azerbaijan’s favor. Azerbaijan also now has missile batteries and long guns, mainly from Russia, that it did not have before. With those and new drones from Turkey, it has been picking off Armenian tanks and other armor rather regularly and with relative impunity, although it has suffered some losses.

The Kremlin has been caught out in the South Caucasus. It was preoccupied with Belarus, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the unexpected uproar over the poisoning of the opposition activist Alexei Navalny, and increasing domestic protest and dissatisfaction. It is possible that Moscow will wait until Azerbaijan achieves certain territorial gains to weaken Pashinyan in Armenia and then use its own influence in Yerevan to oust him and install another Armenian leader more pliable to Russia’s wishes.

In doing so, Russia would accomplish several objectives. It would keep the conflicting parties on a short leash by perpetuating a lingering conflict, thus maintaining the Kremlin’s clout in the region while earning some points with Azerbaijan, with which it enjoys generally good relations. Moreover, it would punish the so-called revolutionary and unpredictable Pashinyan for overstepping Armenia’s historic role as a client state of Russia.

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