After intense power show in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region between the Armenian and Azeri military forces, both sides have charged each other of opening fires on the Nagorno-Karabakh region on 29th September 2020. They blamed each other of violating the civilian populations of their respective territories. After six weeks of unpreadictability, Russia brokered the peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The deal came after Armenia lost control of a tactical city in Nagorno-Karabakh known as “Shusha” to Azerbaijan and “Shushi” to Armenians, and after the accidental downing of a Russian plane by Azeri forces. Moscow and Ankara is the main card movers who brokered the peace deal resulting in the players of Western theatre; Misc group been left out in cosmos. Both; Russia and Turkey oscillate local players to boost influence.
Ankara is the main actor that could have competed with Moscow in the region. Both countries have a history of rivalry during the Ottoman Empire and Cold war eras. Moscow and Ankara have different interests from Crimea, from Eastern Mediterranean to Libya and the Caucasus. Even with the vying of power scuffle, both countries want to increase cooperation in bilateral relations, from defense to economic. Maybe, Moscow and Ankara brokered the deal to reduce the tension in the backyard of Syria.
Russia has a military base in Armenia, and the two countries are members of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Moscow also has strong ties to Azerbaijan, which is being openly backed by Turkey who happen to be a NATO member too. Russia has been selling weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In a secretive United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting, enormous concerns were expressed about these military standoffs and they supported the call from UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez to immediately stop firings on each other. They also highlighted the importance of the Minsk Group consisting of Russia, France and the United States of America in providing mediation tables to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The political attitude of the great powers and regional actors in the conflict is remarkable. Moscow had organized a large-scale military drill in Armenia and also announced military drills with Azerbaijan brokered the deal by using local influence on both sides. Ankara appeared as another main player. Russia did not force Yerevan to stop the clashes. But Russia took a more active role and tries to protect the status quo in the region.
France, which along with the U.S. is a co-chair of the Minsk Group, is currently using a hard-discourse in its foreign policy after touching the religious tap line of Muslims; the incident of Cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (SAAW). French President; Emmanuel Macron’s administration wanted to play an active role in the Caucasus. Paris aimed to increase cooperation against Ankara and limit Turkey in the negotiations with local influencers alongside Moscow.
On the other hand, Washington’s agenda was different from previous years. According to the outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump, regional countries should find solutions to regional problems. Despite this policy being described as political uncertainty by various scholars and think tanks in Washington, Trump believed regional nations should pay the cost of crises in their backyard. After conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh started, the White House did nothing except called for a cease-fire between the parties. This result in Russia expanding its horizons over the Caucasus when U.S didn’t entered the ring to give Moscow a fight. After increasing its hold in Syria, Vladimir Putin started to be active in Libya. Now Putin became a playmaker in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Ankara is one of the greatest players to stand in front of Moscow’s desire to expand its regional influence. After the Syrian episode, the regional contest of being the king between the two countries has been reflected in Libya, Ukraine, Georgia and now finally in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Although both Armenia and Azerbaijan were not steadily equipped with advanced or extremely dangerous military hardware, their adamancy on not withdrawing from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and continuous firing on the shared border could’ve lead to major regional instability in the South Caucasus.
So far, many chances have been wasted to find a realistic, constructive and permanent solution to the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The interests of the sides remain diametrically opposite and nothing has improved since the beginning of the conflict, despite the peace deal between both countries. A deal has been brokered but not on will of both countries but pressure exerted through local influencers by strategic players who may have their own interest in the region.