Russia September 2020-

Written by  //  November 14, 2020  //  Russia  //  1 Comment

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Was the Nagorno-Karabakh Deal a Missed Opportunity for the CSTO?
Another diplomatic win for Russian bilateralism or a missed opportunity for one of Moscow’s regional multilateral institutions — the Collective Security Treaty Organization?
(The Diplomat) On November 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin managed to broker a deal for a complete ceasefire and cessation of hostilities in the recently renewed conflict between Armenian and Azerbaijan. The two former Soviet republics have been locked in a standstill conflict since 1994 when a ceasefire brokered by Russia was established but was interrupted on several occasions, most recently in 2016. Nagorno-Karabakh is officially a part of Azerbaijan, whose territorial integrity was reaffirmed by U.N. Security Council resolutions, and even more resolutely supported by the U.N. General Assembly in 2008, which demanded a complete withdrawal of Armenian troops. However, since the ceasefire in 1994, Nagorno-Karabakh had functioned as a de facto sovereign entity.
The renewed fighting put Moscow in a difficult situation. After all, Russia is the main great power in the former Soviet space, and it feels responsible for what it declared in 2008 as its “regions of privileged interests.” Furthermore, Armenia is Moscow’s close ally and a fellow member of both a military alliance, the Collective Treaty Security Organization (CSTO), and an economic bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The two sides have close bilateral ties and an alliance that requires Moscow to come to Armenia’s aid should it need it.
At face value, the peace seems like yet another diplomatic win for Russia and an expression of strong statesmanship by its president. … [However] Some analysts do not see any immediate benefits for Russia coming out of this apparent resolution of the conflict, given that Moscow will have to bear the challenging burden of protecting the civilians, incur the financial costs of military deployment, and be seen as an overpowered disruptor in the West. The West wanted to see a multilateral solution to this, and there are doubts about the ability of a rather limited Russian force to fulfill such a challenging peacekeeping task. Some even argue that Russia’s lack of more resolute backing of Armenia is a sign of its gradually diminishing hegemony over the region and acceptance of the increased influence of other players (like Turkey). Another analysis suggests that Ankara’s prestige and regional influence came at the expense of Russia’s given that it was Turkish support that turned the war in Azerbaijan’s favor, while Moscow’s client Armenia did not receive the same level of backing and was being defeated.

13 November
The Kremlin Prepares for a Biden Presidency
The election of Joe Biden represents a return to a familiar status quo ante in U.S.-Russia relations: they will be largely unproductive but have an aura of reassuring familiarity.
By Joshua Yaffa
(The New Yorker) ten days after the election and six days since Joe Biden was declared the President-elect, the Russian state continues to be muted in its response. Vladimir Putin has yet to send the usual pro-forma congratulations to Biden. “We believe it would be proper to wait for an official announcement,” Putin’s spokesman said, referring to the Trump campaign’s various legal challenges lodged with U.S. courts. Few politicians are making the rounds to gloat on state television about how things are turning Russia’s way.

12 November
Moscow’s New Rules
Simultaneous crises in Belarus, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Kyrgyzstan have demonstrated Russia’s maturing approach to its neighborhood. Russia is learning to mind its limitations; to repel residual nostalgia; and to think straight, putting issues before personalities, and staying focused on its own interests, leaving the empire farther and farther behind.
(Carnegie Moscow Center) …the Kremlin that looked threatening only a few months ago appears weak, challenged, and indecisive. Contrasting views of Russia’s foreign policy are nothing new, of course, and have historically led to wrong conclusions about what the country might or might not do. The actual situation is more nuanced, just as the developments around the second Karabakh war suggest.
(See Comments of 16 November below)

5 November
Russian President Vladimir Putin to resign amid Parkinson’s concerns, reports claim
(New Zealand Herald) Reports coming out of the Kremlin suggest Vladimir Putin’s 20-year-reign could be coming to an end.
According to Kremlin watchers, the 68-year-old leader is set to step down at the start of 2021, over concerns he may have Parkinson’s disease.
A number of observers have pointed out that recent footage of Putin appears to show his legs constantly moving and his fingers twitching and, in some videos, he seems to be in pain while holding onto the armrest of a chair.
Speculation has also been fuelled by the fact legislation introduced by Putin is currently being rushed through parliament, to guarantee immunity from prosecution and state perks for former presidents, for life.

26 October
No Compromise in Sight for Armenia and Azerbaijan
A Century-Long Search for an Impossible Victory in Nagorno-Karabakh
By Thomas de Waal
(Foreign Affairs) The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh remains one of the most tragic and persistent disputes in Europe. It is one of the last pieces of unfinished business from the end of World War I, still fought by the zero-sum rules of the last century: Armenia and Azerbaijan seek to pummel each other into capitulation. The devilish intractability of this conflict stems from two factors: a century-old security dilemma, in which each side has sought to achieve a sense of safety and control at the expense of the other, thereby undermining the security of both; and a democratic deficit, a total absence of societal trust and real dialogue, that makes compromise between the two sides almost impossible. The current toothless European security order cannot restrain them, nor have recent talks orchestrated by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The main prospects for curbing the fighting lie in the logistical limitations of the rugged terrain of Nagorno-Karabakh and the willingness and capacity of two great powers—Russia and now, after a century’s absence, Turkey—to facilitate a peace deal.
The last outsiders to “resolve” the Karabakh conflict were the Russian Bolsheviks. Exactly 100 years ago, in 1920, the Bolsheviks’ 11th Army pushed invading Turkish forces out of the Caucasus, crushed the two newly independent republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan, and took over the disputed highland region.

Karabakh: Hatred and Euphoria Are Fuelling Madness
Independent, dissenting Azerbaijani voices have never been so ostracised.

19 October
What role is Russia playing in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
Moscow sells weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan but has also led attempts for the battling sides to put down their arms.
(Al Jazeera) Armenian observers say that their nation – along with ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh – maintains the pro-Moscow geostrategic balance in the Southern Caucasus region that straddles Eastern Europe and Middle East.
To them, the biggest flareup of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that has killed hundreds of soldiers and dozens of civilians is a mere resumption of Ankara’s “imperialistic” policies – and anti-Armenian sentiments that led to the mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey a century ago.
Armenia, Azerbaijan Accuse Each Other Of Breaking Latest Cease-Fire Within Minutes
(NPR) Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region took another turn on Sunday, with the two countries accusing each other of violating the latest cease-fire just minutes after it took effect.
The tiny region in the South Caucasus has been the site of hundreds of military and civilian deaths, significant property destruction and inflamed tensions since violence broke out between the two countries in late September, intensifying a decades-long conflict.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but governed by ethnic Armenians as a de facto independent state.

13 October
The conflict we can’t ignore
Opinion by Michael Bociurkiw
(CNN) While the world is preoccupied with the Covid-19 pandemic, the regional conflict in the remote separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh is threatening to escalate into a wider war on the doorsteps of Europe and Asia. Saturday’s Russia-brokered ceasefire has already crumbled, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledging Monday that hostilities were continuing.
Nagorno-Karabakh is controlled by ethnic Armenians located in Azerbaijan and both Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, have accused each other of violating the terms of the ceasefire. Given that the conflict can be traced back to the early 20th century, it is hard to imagine genuine peace taking hold without the resolution of long-standing grievances.
Already the agreement has been rejected by Turkey, an aspiring regional power and NATO member that has been backing Azerbaijan.
The region is a crucial transit point for oil, gas and commerce that, if interrupted, could reverberate through the global economy – especially for the European Union, which will soon begin receiving gas from Azerbaijan.
Now Iran may be poised to enter the fray. While President Hassan Rouhani said he hoped to “restore stability” to the region, the Iranian Border Guards commander said his forces have been placed in “necessary formation” after claiming that shells and rockets have landed on Iranian soil.

9 October
Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
Truce intended to exchange prisoners and recover dead, top diplomats say
The announcement follows 10 hours of talks between the diplomats in Moscow, which were sponsored by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who read the statement. It stipulated that the ceasefire should pave the way for talks on settling the conflict. If the truce holds, it would mark a major diplomatic coup for Russia that has a security pact with Armenia but also cultivated warm ties with Azerbaijan.

7 October
As Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Expands, Israel-Azerbaijan Arms Trade Thrives
A proliferation of flights between the two countries is linked to the renewal of the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region
(Haaretz) Nagorno-Karabakh is a 4.400-square-kilometer (1,700-square-mile) enclave with a population of 150,000. It is situated in the heart of Azerbaijan, but most of the population are Christian Armenians, with only a minority of Azeris or Turks. The enclave is a result of a Soviet tradition, the aim of which was to pursue a policy of divide-and-rule. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Armenia tried using peaceful methods in order to transfer the enclave to its sovereignty, but this met with opposition. War broke out between the two countries in 1988 over control of this enclave. This intensified in 1991 and lasted for three years, and included ethnic cleansing and a massacre of Armenians in Baku. Thirty thousand people died, and one million lost their homes.
… Turkey and Israel, currently hostile to one another (with Recep Tayyip Erdogan stating only last week that Jerusalem belongs to the Moslems), find themselves both supporting Azerbaijan, a Shi’ite Moslem country. On the other side, Iran, a third of whose population is of Azeri extraction (including its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei), is supporting Christian Armenia and, according to some reports, supplying it with weapons. Russia, which has a military base in Armenia, is trying to please everyone, arming Azerbaijan as well.

5 October
Azeris and Armenians say civilian areas attacked, NATO seeks ceasefire
The fighting has raised international concern about stability in the South Caucasus, where pipelines carry Azeri oil and gas to world markets, and about the possibility other regional powers being dragged in – Azerbaijan is supported by Turkey, and Armenia has a defence pact with Russia.

2 October
Russian Journalist Sets Herself on Fire and Dies, Blaming Government
(NYT) The self-immolation by the journalist, Irina Slavina, 47, a longtime Kremlin critic, came a day after the authorities in her hometown of Nizhny Novgorod had searched her apartment.
Local authorities throughout the Russian regions have been putting pressure on independent media outlets and journalists. Many have quit established publications to create their own small websites or blogs. Before founding her own news website in 2016, Ms. Slavina worked in several local media outlets, where she always faced various forms of censorship.

1 October
Why Armenia and Azerbaijan Are on the Brink of War
Local Tensions Meet Global Rivalries in Nagorno-Karabakh
(Foreign Affairs) On September 27, significant fighting broke out between the militaries of Armenia and Azerbaijan, two states that have been locked in an intractable conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh since the last days of the Soviet Union. Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions have seen periodic outbursts of violence in recent years, but the current fighting is the most serious since Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a cease-fire in 1994.
Domestic political factors in both countries militate against compromise. The international context surrounding the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has also shifted in ways that complicate efforts to peacefully address the underlying dispute. In particular, Turkey’s growing involvement in a conflict in which Russia has long been the dominant player risks both giving the protagonists—especially Azerbaijan—an incentive to keep fighting and opening up a new front in the Turkish-Russian rivalry that has already engulfed Syria, Libya, and to a lesser extent Ukraine.

One Comment on "Russia September 2020-"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson November 16, 2020 at 10:43 pm · Reply

    From a former Canadian ambassador to Ukraine:
    I am inclined to think of the Nagorno-Karabakh deal as a brilliant rescue operation by Mosow. If we take Dmitro Trenin seriously, the CSTO could not have handled the dispute. It only does light co-ordination . Besides, Azerbaijan is not a member.
    The danger for Russia in dealing with Nagorno-Karabakh is that Russia would have to choose between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The agreement Russia has reached on Nagorno- Karabakh has allowed the Russians to avoid choosing. The agreement furthermore brings the Russian armed forces back onto the area, strengthening Russia’s long term influence. The Turks apparently have been limited.

    Jeremy Kinsman:
    I agree with the above.
    I unusually consented last week to do an RT interview, because for once I too thought Russia had indeed done something helpful. The dismay from RT personnel with how pushy the Turks had been and were being was palpable.
    There is a problem, of course, in that the Armenians feel let down, defeated (and Aliev’s crowing about the great Azeri victory doesn’t help), and they don’t know who to blame, their own PM or the Russians who, they feel, didn’t help them enough!
    Armenia has always been pro-Russian, under the USSR, and they have had very good relations since 1991. THis Armenian government is its most democratically elected so far. Pashinyan is hurt politically by this loss of NK, but his party has a large majority in parliament.

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