The new complexity of the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis

During a demonstration in support of Azerbaijan in Istanbul on October 5.

Editorial of the “World”. Give a voice to diplomacy and secure a ceasefire, without claiming to resolve the conflict immediately. This is the goal set by the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, which has been trying for more than twenty-five years to facilitate a solution in Nagorno-Karabakh, between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Since the launch on September 27 of a military offensive by Baku, the United States, Russia and France have tried to put on a good face and play a score that has become traditional. For each serious incident since 1994, they call on the parties to restraint and to negotiate. This time, however, the gear is more complex.

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This is not only linked to the scale of the military means deployed by Azerbaijan, launched in the “reconquest” of the lost territories, located between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. This is not only due to the strong polarization of public opinion, on both sides, on this identity and existential subject. The increased complexity comes from the intervention of a third country, Turkey, and the spectacular and incomprehensible restraint, in return, of Russia.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is providing political and military support – through Syrian mercenaries and equipment supplied to Baku – to the operation launched by Azerbaijan. He said Armenia should leave the “Occupied Azerbaijani territory”. Here are confirmed, in a new theater of operation, the criticisms leveled by Paris on the area of ​​neo-Ottoman expansionism in Ankara. After Syria and Libya, Erdogan once again imposes his country as a key player, ambitious, disregarding in the process its commitments as a member of NATO.

Fires at the gates of Russia

On Monday, the heads of American, Russian and French diplomacy, Mike Pompeo, Sergey Lavrov and Jean-Yves Le Drian, representing the co-chair countries of the Minsk Group, condemned “With the utmost firmness the unprecedented and dangerous escalation of violence in and outside the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.” That same day, Vladimir Putin met for the fourth time since September 27 with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov offered to host his two counterparts from Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow, as part of the Minsk Group.

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But behind this classic diplomatic activity, Moscow’s attitude is puzzling. What interest would Russia have in allowing Azerbaijan and its Turkish godfather to carry on the offensive in an area as sensitive as the South Caucasus? Punishing Nikol Pachinian, the Armenian leader, not pro-Russian enough? This is to reverse the order of priorities. Geopolitics and the clash of powers matter more to Putin.

Several fires, of a different nature, threaten the gates of Russia. Outside Nagorno-Karabakh, a frozen conflict is taking hold in the Ukrainian Donbass. In Belarus, the peaceful and civic revolution against the regime is taking hold, without succeeding in overthrowing Lukashenko. Here again, Moscow is caught in the crossfire, the lack of enthusiasm or the leap into a stranger to master. Finally, in Kyrgyzstan, clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement officials after Sunday’s legislative elections led to scenes that rekindled, in Russian eyes, the specter of “color revolutions”. Russia is often credited with great harmful power. But its weaknesses are also exposed these days.

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