Transcaucasia: there is a smell of storm in the air



How does the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh threaten Russia?

It seems that the Anglo-Saxons and those who joined them have an opportunity to create a second front for Russia. In Transcaucasia, or, as it is now fashionable to say, in the South Caucasus. And not only Armenia and Azerbaijan, which is easy to guess, but also more serious players — Iran and Turkey — may take part in this big mess. The only question here is in what form.

So let’s try to figure it out. And let’s start alphabetically. Azerbaijan.

Baku’s position on the Karabakh issue is obscenely simple: full control over Artsakh, dissolution of local self-governing bodies, disbanding of the defense army, acceptance of Azerbaijani citizenship by the population of the unrecognized republic. Those who don’t want — get out. To Armenia or somewhere else, even to the moon.

Naturally, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will not want to leave their native places, where their ancestors have lived for centuries. This means that Baku will use force, i.e., in simple terms, a massacre may begin, as it already happened in Azerbaijan in the early nineties in Sumgait and other cities and towns of the republic.

A sort of “hint” of such a scenario is the six-month blockade of the Lachin corridor, the only road that connects Karabakh with Armenia. This has already led to an acute shortage of practically everything, from medicines to food, to put it simply, starvation. By the way, the Russian peacekeepers deployed in Artsakh are supplied with food by air, by helicopters.

However, there is a way out of this situation, which is in fact harmful to both Armenians and Azerbaijanis. It is necessary to return the point on Karabakh’s autonomy to the Azerbaijani constitution, give local self-governing bodies, if not full, then maximum freedom in conducting administrative and economic activities, allocate funds for education and health care, unblock transportation routes both with Armenia and Azerbaijan, and, importantly, not to push citizenship.

However, there is nothing similar in Baku’s plans. Not even a hint of it.

I am far from thinking that Ilham Aliyev, a graduate of Moscow’s MGIMO and son of the brilliant politician and strategist Heydar Aliyev, is bloodthirsty. But the circumstances in which Ilham Heydarovich finds himself now are literally pushing him to unleash a new, even bloodier war.

It seems that at the initial stage of his presidency Ilham Aliyev somehow changed the policy towards nationalists of his father, who was known to keep them under strict control. And by now, this group has spread its influence literally everywhere: in the presidential administration, in the power ministries, among law enforcers, cultural figures, etc.

They are supported from outside by Turkey and Britain, which has very serious positions in the republic (more than 650 British companies operate in Azerbaijan, and the main gas fields “Shah Deniz 1” and “Shah Deniz 2” are developed with the participation of British Petroleum). Both countries have a vested interest in eliminating Russian and Iranian influence in the region.

Under these conditions, the Azerbaijani leader understands perfectly well that as soon as he tries to soften the republic’s position on Karabakh, i.e. to meet Russian and Iranian interests, he will immediately be deprived of power. By means of a “color revolution”, for “health reasons” or in the course of a palace coup… In a word, there are plenty of options.

Now about Armenia. In 2018 and 2020, we have already written that Anglo-Saxon forces, in particular Soros and his comrades, promoted Nikol Pashinyan to power with the main goal of surrendering Karabakh and weakening, if not completely eliminating, Russian influence. And we must admit that the Armenian Prime Minister is doing quite well with the tasks set for him.

Judge for yourself: since coming to power, he has been fanning the anti-Azerbaijani campaign in every possible way, not shying away from insulting the leader of the neighboring country. And when the storm hit in 2020, he de facto abandoned Artsakh without any support, thus predetermining its defeat in the conflict. At the same time, even during the battles, he began to demand assistance from the CSTO, knowing in advance that this was impossible, since the Armenian armed forces remained in barracks and did not take part in the war.

The non-interference of Moscow and the CSTO in the hot part of the conflict was used for “black PR” against Russia and its “useless” military in Armenia. The fact that only the personal involvement of Russian President Vladimir Putin made it possible to stop the bloodshed and lay the groundwork for a possible, albeit temporary, settlement of this issue has, of course, been left out of the picture.

Among the latest “achievements” in the field of surrendering Artsakh by Mr. Pashinyan are his July statements that Yerevan does not question the belonging of all of Karabakh to Azerbaijan, including the unrecognized republic with its capital in Stepanakert. And also that the Karabakh issue is not Armenia’s problem at all: “Armenia cannot decide the fate of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. It should be a party to the negotiations itself.” And since Baku is not in the mood for any negotiations with the authorities of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, the phrase of the Armenian Prime Minister can only be understood as “hell with them, with the Armenians of Artsakh, it doesn’t concern me.”

So we can say that the task of the sponsors for the journalist-dropout, who put him in the chair of the Armenian Prime Minister has been fulfilled. Almost accomplished.

There is one inconvenient moment for those who intend to destroy Artsakh, and then Armenia in the form in which it still remains. This is the Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh, the border guards and the military base in Gyumri.

And just recently (August 3) Pashinyan said that Russian peacekeepers do not allow humanitarian cargoes to pass through the Lachin corridor and questioned the expediency of their presence in Artsakh in general. Great. The first step in the right direction has been taken.

Of course, he received a corresponding, rather harsh rebuke from the Russian Foreign Ministry on the same day, but there is a feeling that this is only the beginning of a purposeful campaign aimed at eliminating the Russian military presence in the Transcaucasus.

And here the question arises: who really needs all these games that inevitably lead to a new large-scale bloodshed?

There are two possible responses here — tactical and strategic.

The first one is obvious. Seeing the clear failure of its plans to use Ukraine as a weapon against Russia, the U.S. is using the hands of the British and Turks to try to urgently create a hotbed of tension in the geopolitically important region, which will divert Moscow’s attention from the Ukrainian direction. In fact, it is a question of creating a second front for Russia. Especially at a time when the situation on the line of contact is increasingly favorable for the start of Russian offensives.

As for the strategy, let us pay attention to just one of a number of points: long-term destabilization of the situation in the Transcaucasus will hit hard the project of creating a North-South corridor, in which not only Russia and Iran, but also the countries of the Gulf, Central Asia, India and the rest of the list have a vested interest.

In this context, let us recall recent reports about the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway section in Iran. Although Russia currently has no extra money for obvious reasons, it is ready to finance this 164-kilometer project by investing $1.6 billion. Moreover, the construction will be carried out at an accelerated pace and should take two years. Why would a country at war need this?

The importance of this project is that it is the last section in the strategic highway from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas to Russia. Naturally, through Azerbaijan.

The North-South corridor currently has two operating routes: along the Caspian Sea from Iran to the ports of Dagestan and Astrakhan, and a mixed route through Armenia to the ports of Georgia. However, the direct railroad route will, understandably, be the most convenient and cheapest. But will it be?

But there are also plans to build another branch line that would connect this highway to Iran’s deep-water port of Chabahar on the Arabian Sea coast. Its attraction is that it can accommodate ocean-going vessels of more than 100 tons displacement, which is of great interest to India. So much so that it may finance the modernization of the port.

Of course, all these efforts and plans may come to a grinding halt if Transcaucasia goes up in flames again. And seriously and for a long time. Especially since Ankara and Tehran, with whom Baku has virtually canceled diplomatic relations, are closely watching the development of the situation.

For the time being, these countries are watching the development of the situation. However, the Iranians have concentrated a full-scale military grouping in the areas adjacent to the borders of Azerbaijan and Armenia: about 200,000 personnel, long-range artillery, etc. As for the Turks, no concentration of significant military formations was noted. In this regard, it can be assumed that Recep Erdogan will use the methodology already practiced during the war of 2020. He will send several thousand thugs from ISIS (an organization banned in Russia) and similar formations to Azerbaijan. In doing so, the Turkish leadership will simultaneously solve two problems: it will help its ally and reduce the number of poorly managed “refugees” who can only kill.

Naturally, Moscow does not need a new war in Transcaucasia. Not at all. And according to our information, maximum possible efforts on this issue are being made at all levels. Whether Baku and Yerevan will heed Moscow’s appeals, advice and proposals, the future will show.

But it is clear that it is impossible to let the matter rest — let’s say we’ll figure it out later — after the special military operation.

As well as withdrawing Russian troops from the last remaining republic in the region. Russia has already successfully abandoned its bases in Azerbaijan and Georgia in due course. The result of these “goodwill gestures” is obvious. If Russia does not have missileers and aviators in Armenia, they will lose Syria and, consequently, their positions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East as a whole.

Does Russia need it?