The Risk of the Renewal of the Karabakh Conflict after the Velvet Revolution in Armenia
Author: Giorgi Bilanishvili, Research Fellow, Rondeli Foundation
For the Russian Federation, Karabakh is probably the most important conflict hotspot in South Caucasus. Mostly at the expense of this hotspot Moscow has managed to gain enormous influence over Armenia and especially its foreign policy. In Yerevan, they understand quite well that losing Moscow’s goodwill might be very costly to them and hence, they are forced to take the Kremlin’s interests into account very seriously. Consequently, nobody is surprised that Armenia remains a strategic partner of Russia to this day.
Azerbaijan believes that tense relations with Russia could seriously complicate the already difficult task of restoring the country’s territorial integrity. This is probably why Baku tries to avoid taking steps that would irritate Moscow. Azerbaijan’s foreign policy vector, also known as the non-alignment policy, is likely mostly predicated on this as well.
It is difficult to insist that Armenia and/or Azerbaijan would have had different foreign policies if there was no Karabakh conflict. We also cannot claim that the foreign policy vectors of these countries would be necessarily pro-Western. However, one thing is clear – the existence of the Karabakh conflict, excludes the formation of South Caucasus as a unified region in the political sense. Hence, South Caucasus, unlike the Baltic region, is merely a geographic term.
Additionally, it can also be said that the existence of the Karabakh conflict complicates a more active involvement of countries other than Russia in South Caucasus, be it neighboring (this especially concerns Turkey, of course) or Western states.
As for Georgia, for it the Karabakh conflict is not important due to the aforementioned conditions only. Despite the fact that the Karabakh conflict does not immediately concern us politically or geographically, its renewal entails serious risks for Georgia.
First of all, both Armenians as well as Azerbaijanis are compactly settled in Georgia. Second, the possibility of the direct involvement of Russia in military action in the case of escalation poses an imminent threat for Georgia, which is a land corridor connecting Russia to Armenia.
Hence, even though the processes taking place in our neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan are important anyway, their importance especially grows in the context of a possible escalation of the Karabakh conflict.
The arrival of Nikol Pashinyan to power as a result of a velvet revolution in spring is a highly important development, and not only for Armenia. For us, however, the main task is to assess whether this development could have any influence on the escalation of the situation in Karabakh conflict zone.
In reality, only three actors have enough political and material resources for the escalation of the Karabakh conflict: these include Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. Apart from political and material resources, the specific interests of these actors in terms of escalation Karabakh at any given time is also very important, as these interests could grow due to certain conditions or on the contrary, reduce. Hence, we shall try to assess these specific interests.
Government of Armenia
In the context of the Karabakh conflict escalation, the Government of Armenia must be mainly interested in two issues. First, re-establishing control over small territories lost as a result of the April 2016 escalation in Karabakh, which would likely strengthen its positions in domestic politics. Second would be the facilitation of Karabakh’s international recognition through the escalation of the situation.
It must be pointed out that military escalation contains unjustifiable risks, first and foremost to the Government of Armenia itself. For further clarity, it is enough to refer to some small details.
Pashniyan’s predecessor, Serzh Sargsyan is clearly responsible for the loss of territories during the 2016 escalation. Pashinyan is not the political successor of Sargsyan and hence, he is free of that responsibility. And generally, Pashinyan rose to the position of the Prime Minister of Armenia through wide public support not a long time ago and he definitely does not need to artificially reinforce his positions.
As for Karabakh’s international recognition, this issue is even more complicated. Armenia’s ruling elite has always understood this complication very well, which is probably why Armenia itself has not recognized the independence of Karabakh to this day.
Without referring to the aforementioned facts, it is still quite clear that the new Government of Armenia has no interests in the escalation of the Karabakh conflict. It is currently focusing on battling corruption and instituting order in the country, which must be considered to be an entirely justified policy.
Government of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan started large-scale military exercises on July 2, 2018, involving about 20,000 military personnel, 120 tanks and other armored vehicles, as well as over 200 artillery pieces.
Before the beginning of the exercises, on 30 June, the Minister of Defense of Azerbaijan, Zakir Hasanov, stated that the military forces are ready to resolve the Karabakh conflict through forceful means, if the peaceful resolution of the conflict drags out.
Prior to this, President Aliyev’s official twitter account published the following statement: “The developments unfolding in the world confirm that the international law does not work. If it did, Azerbaijani lands would have been freed from the invaders long ago.”
Naturally, the aforementioned exercises were followed by speculations that Azerbaijan was beginning military action; however, they died down quickly. The General Staff of the Armenian armed forces made a statement about these exercises, clearly pointing out that there was no threat of direct military action.
In general, in Azerbaijan, the military spending of which is 3% of its GDP and is three times bigger than that of Armenia, military exercises of such a scale are frequent. Azerbaijan’s leaders also often make statements similar to the ones mentioned above.
In reality, the Government of Azerbaijan also clearly recognizes the risks of starting military action, as it knows that Russia remains a strategic ally of Armenia. At the same time, it also knows very well that it would have to pay a serious political cost in the case of possible military failure.
Hence, generally it is understandable that Azerbaijan is increasing its military potential and does not exclude the possibility of restoring its territorial integrity through force. However, at this stage, there are no clear indicators to prove that the interest of using military force has increased in Azerbaijan as a result of the regime change in Armenia.
Government of Russia
At the beginning, we already pointed out that it is important for Russia to keep the Karabakh conflict in its current form and hence, changes in status-quo are contrary to its interests.
At the same time, it would be a huge achievement for Russia to convince Azerbaijan to join the Eurasian Economic Union. In order to make this happen, one of the ways is to make a deal regarding Karabakh and seven Azerbaijani regions occupied by Armenia. In order to get such a deal, it might be in Moscow’s interests to slightly modify the status-quo in Azerbaijan’s favor.
However, objectively, such a deal would be quite difficult to achieve. Whatever Azerbaijan gets from it, it still has to concede something (Karabakh, at the very least), for which the Azerbaijani society is clearly not ready. At the same time, the Armenian public is also not prepared to give back even the occupied regions to Azerbaijan.
There is one more important factor remaining for Russia, specifically Pashinyan who came to power in Armenia through a velvet revolution and who, to put it mildly, is not well loved in Russia. Couple of examples is enough to prove this. Specifically, on the background of Armenia velvet revolution, a famous TV host and the Press-Secretary of Russia’s state company Rosneft, Mikhail Leontiev, made such an insulting statement towards the Armenian people, that he was later forced to apologize for it. As for another famous TV host, Maxim Shevchenko, he declared that the recognition of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region by the Assad regime was due to determined actions of the Armenian lobby, which, according to his assessment, served to derail the improvement of relations between Georgian and Russia.
It must be pointed out that Leontiev’s and Shevchenko’s absurd and exaggerated statements are no mere exceptions. They are only a part of the anti-Armenian hysteria, which followed the rise of Pashinyan to power among Russia’s so-called expert society.
It should also be noted that the problem is not in Pashinyan either. The conspiracy-obsessed Russian establishment is traditionally very concerned with the phenomenon of a velvet revolution. The concern, actually, are not just the conspiracy theories either. As it would seem, Russians understand better than others how vulnerable the “strong” Russian domestic political stability actually is.
Hence, Moscow must be interested that the new political situation in Armenia, created as a result of a “velvet revolution,” ends with failure. Consequently, we should not exclude the possibility of Russian facilitation of a limited-scale military escalation in Karabakh, the main goal of which will be to show the non-effectiveness of Pashinyan’s government, in order to later remove it from power.
- Moldova’s challenges alongside the war in Ukraine
- How the Sino-American Competition Looks from Tbilisi
- Is Israel's New Government Shifting its Policy towards the Russia-Ukraine War?
- What does Russia want from Georgia?
- Geopolitics, Turkish Style, and How to React to It
- The Ninth Package of Sanctions - in Response to the Russian Escalation and Missile Attacks
- The Danger Russia’s Neighbors May Face after the Russo-Ukrainian War
- The Biden Doctrine and its Implications for Georgia
- Belarus and Russia deepen trade and economic relations with occupied Abkhazia: A prerequisite for recognition of Abkhazia's “independence”?
- "Captured emotions" - Russian propaganda
- A Looming Winter Energy Crisis in Europe: Can Azerbaijan Become the Continent’s Next Large Energy Supplier?
- The Eighth Package of Sanctions - Response to Russian Annexation and Illegal Referendums
- What’s next for Italy’s foreign policy after Giorgia Meloni’s victory?
- War in Ukraine and Russia’s declining role in the Karabakh peace process
- The Russian Exclave of Kaliningrad and the Lithuanian "Sting"
- Seventh Package of Sanctions and Embargo on Russian Gold
- What could be the cost of “Putin’s face-saving” for European relations
- In line for the candidate status, Georgia will get a European perspective. What are we worried about?
- Failed Tskhinvali Referendum
- The War and Georgia
- “Rural Orbanism”- Polarization as a determinant for Hungary's political future
- Illegal Presidential Elections in the Tskhinvali Region: Why Bibilov Lost and What to Anticipate in Future
- How to Respond to Russian Ultra-Orthodox-Historic-Hegemonism?
- The War in Ukraine and the UK’s New Role in Eastern Europe
- What Will the Abolition of the OSCE Minsk Group Bring to the South Caucasus?
- Will Pashinyan Be Able to Make a Drastic Turnaround in Armenian-Azerbaijani Relations?
- Why Has the Abkhaz Side Become More Active on Social Networks?
- Why a Neutral Ukraine Is Not on Putin’s Mind (Ukraine’s Neutral Status Is Getting Closer, but What Does It Mean to Putin?)
- Europe's energy future - challenges and opportunities
- Uncontrolled Mass Immigration and the Position of the Georgian Government
- Changes in Putin's propaganda narratives since the Russian invasion of Ukraine
- Ukraine will soon embark on a path of practical integration into the European Union. What about Georgia?
- Positions and Actions of Turkey in the Russo-Ukrainian War
- NATO’s possible expansion in Northern Europe and its significance for Georgia and Ukraine
- Political Winter Olympics in Beijing
- What Is behind Putin’s Sudden Gambit in Ukraine?
- Abkhazia in 2021: Energy Crisis, New “Minister” and Political Controversy
- L'Europe pourra-t-elle éviter le “déjà vu” ? (France, President of the Council of the European Union, and the Tensions in Eastern Europe)
- US-Russia Relations and the Issue of Ukraine
- The New Targets of Ramzan Kadyrov’s Regime
- What are the Prospects of the Eastern Partnership Summit Set on 15 December?
- What Will the Post-Merkel Era Mean for the EU’s Russia and Eastern Neighbourhood Policy?
- What Lies Behind the Growing Cooperation of the Georgian and Hungarian Governments
- “Doberman” as a Minister: Inal Ardzinba’s Prospects and Challenges
- The Belarus Crisis: How to Enhance Our Resilience Against the Russian Strategy for Its Near-Neighborhood
- Moldova’s Gas Crisis Has Been Russia’s Yet Another Political Blackmailing
- Belarus One Year On: An Insecure Regime Under Russian “Protection”
- Why Did Iran-Azerbaijan Relations Become Strained?
- Russia’s Parliamentary Elections - What Can Be Said About the Regime’s Stability
- Vaccination: “To Be, or not to Be”…
- Can Georgia use China to balance Russia?
- Belarus’ exit from the Eastern Partnership and what to expect next
- Pacta Sunt Servanda: Agreements must be kept
- The West vs Russia: The Reset once again?!
- Associated Trio, What is Next?
- Formation of a New “Political Elite” in Abkhazia - Who Will Replace the Old “Elite?”
- The Cyber-Dimension of the Geneva Summit
- Securitization of the Arctic: A Looming Threat of Melting Ice
- The Victory of Nikol Pashinyan and its Potential Implications for the Region
- Europe in Anticipation of the Results of a “Harmful Deal”
- What Should Georgia Expect from the NATO Summit
- The Issue of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region in the Context of NATO and European Union Membership
- (Re)Mapping the EU’s Relations with Russia: Time for Change?
- USA, Liberal International Order, Challenges of 2021, and Georgia
- What does US President Joe Biden’s Recognition of the Armenian Genocide Imply?
- The Political Crisis in Moldova: A Deadlock without the Way Out?
- Russia's Testing or Bullying?
- Georgia's transit opportunities, novelties and challenges against the backdrop of the pandemic
- ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’: A New Opportunity for Global Authoritarian Influence?
- Georgia’s Application for European Union Membership
- A New Dawn for Transatlantic Relations under Biden’s Presidency: What Are the Hopes for Georgia?
- The End of the Russian Natural Gas Monopoly in Balkans
- Who did the judge sentence: Navalny, Putin or Russia?
- 2020 Developments in Abkhazia: “Elections,” the Pandemic and Deeper Integration with Russia
- Could Belarus Become a Prelude to the Great Polish-Swedish War 400 Years Ago?
- Vladimir Putin's Annual Grand Press Conference - Notable Elements and Messages
- COVID 19 Pandemic Economic Crisis and Reducing the Instability of Georgia’s National Currency
- Russia’s Energy Policy in the Tskhinvali Region
- Who Won and Who Lost with the War in Karabakh?
- What Russia has Gained in Karabakh
- What Armenia Did and Did not Lose as a Result of the Ceasefire Declaration in Karabakh
- Escalation of the Karabakh Conflict: Threats and Challenges for Georgia
- Protests in Belarus, Lukashenko and the Russian Federation
- Some Thoughts on the Use of the Term „Post-Soviet Space“
- Georgia’s European Way During the Period of Pandemic Deglobalization
- Khabarovsk Krai Protests as an Indicator of the Russian Federation’s Stability
- The Pragmatism and Idealism of the Georgian-American Partnership
- Independence of Georgia and the Historic Responsibility of Our Generation
- Trio Pandemic Propaganda: How China, Russia and Iran Are Targeting the West
- Complications Caused by the Coronavirus in Turkey and Their Influence on Georgia
- From Russia with… a Canny Plan
- “Elections” in Abkhazia: New “President’s” Revanche and Challenges
- Consumer Crisis in the Tskhinvali Region: Food for Thought
- Georgians Fighting the Same Battle 99 Years Later
- Georgian Defense – Political Paradox and the Vicious Circle of Not Having a System
- Confrontation between Russia and Turkey in Syria
- Why It Matters: Georgia’s 'Troll Scandal' Explained
- Political Crisis in Occupied Abkhazia
- What is the Significance of Killing General Qasem Soleimani?
- What Will the New Dialogue Format with Russia Bring for Georgia?
- On the “Russian Culture Center” in Georgia
- Whither Economic Policy?
- Main Messages of Russian Propaganda
- Massive Cyberattacks On Georgia Calls For Defense And Resilience
- What do we know about the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Georgia?
- What is the Connection between NATO and Reclaiming Abkhazia?
- New Focuses of the Anti-Occupation Policy
- Georgia's Problems are not Addressed at G7 Meetings: Who is to Blame?
- Vladimir Putin’s Main Messages in his Interview with the Financial Times
- Georgia and Russia’s Post-modern Fascism
- Dugin has Come Out as a Supporter of Georgia – How Did This Happen?
- The Outcome of the European Parliament Elections - What Does it Mean for Georgia?
- Deterring Russia
- On NATO, Russia and Pat Buchanan
- Why Local Elections of March 31, 2019 in Turkey are Important?
- Does the Principle of Strategic Partnership Work in Ukraine-Georgia Relations?
- A New Chance for Circular Labor Migration between Georgia and the EU
- Modern Russia’s Own Wars of Religion
- Georgia’s Trade with Electricity: The Influence of Bitcoin
- Bolton’s visit to Moscow– what to expect in U.S-Russia relations?
- Georgia’s External Trade: How to Strengthen Positive Trends
- The Situation in Syria’s Idlib Province, Interests of the Parties and Threats
- The Helsinki Summit and its General Results
- Why It Is Necessary to Know the Day the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 Started
- Georgia’s Position in the Westernization Index 2018
- Why Did the Results of the G7 Summit in Charlevoix not Meet Our Expectations?
- How to Win Cold War 2.0
- The Ben Hodges Model – a Real Way for Georgia’s Membership in NATO
- The Russian “Ambassador’s” Rotation in Abkhazia
- EU Soft Power and the Armenian [R]evolution
- Why did the Foreign Ministers of G7 not remember Georgia during their 23 April 2018 Toronto Meeting?
- Georgia and the American Strategy
- Putin’s Pre-Election Economic Promises: Myth and Reality
- Trade of Electricity: Successes of 2016, Reality of 2017 and Future Prospects– the Impact of Bitcoin (Part Two)
- The Armenian Parliament has elected a New President: Who will be the New Prime Minister?
- Let Geneva Stay the Way it is
- Trade of Electricity: Successes of 2016, Reality of 2017 and Future Prospects – the Impact of Bitcoin (Part One)
- Presidential Elections in the South Caucasus: Who Armenia and Azerbaijan are voting for
- Turkey’s Military Operation in Afrin – a New Phase in the Syrian Conflict
- Kremlin New Appointments and the Occupied Regions of Georgia
- Geopolitical Vision of the Russian Opposition
- Dangers Originating from Russia and Georgia’s Security System
- Eurasian Custom Union and problems of Russian – Georgian FTA
- Is Georgia’s Export Growth Sustainable?
- Russia’s Influence over the Field of Security in Tskhinvali Region is Growing: Support for Full Integration
- Russia’s Influence over the Field of Security in Abkhazia is Increasing
- What Awaits the People of Gali?
- Growth of Military Spending and Relations with Russia: Azerbaijan trying to Gain Advantage over Armenia
- Disrupt and Distract: Russia’s Methodology of Dealing with the West
- Trojan Horse Model IL- 76 or Why Would Russia Want to Fight Georgia’s Forest Fires
- Russian Diplomats in Georgia – who are they, how many of them are there and what are they up to
- Putin’s Visit to the Occupied Abkhazia: Was our Reaction Actually Adequate?
- Is it Acceptable for Georgia to Declare Neutrality?
- Georgia’s European Perspective in the Context of EU’s Future Evolution
- Brexit Negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom have been re-launched: What will be their Influence on Georgia?
- How to Stop the “Creeping Occupation”
- Kremlin’s Policy in the Occupied Regions of Georgia Moves to a New Stage
- Syrian Civil War in the Context of Regional Security
- The Winnable Second Round of Russia’s Neighbors’ Struggle against Its Imperialism
- Turkey’s Domestic and Foreign Policy in the Context of Regional Security
- Post-Soviet States – Struggle for the Legitimation of Power
- Parliamentary Elections in Armenia – The Triumph of the Governing Party
- Current Foreign Policy of Georgia: How Effective is it in Dealing with the Existing Challenges?
- Parliamentary Elections in Armenia: Sagsyan’s post-elections plans
- Military Resilience - a Needed Factor for NATO-Partners
- Observations on the Agreement Reached with Gazprom
- New Russian Weaponry in the Caucasus and Its Impact on Georgia’s NATO Aspiration