And at the same time, Moscow’s recognition of the DNR and LNR has inspired the Armenians to press demands for independence (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/374593/)..
But underlying both is the sense that Moscow is now distracted from the Caucasus by the fighting in Ukraine and that this gives a certain opportunity for players in that region, Azerbaijani and Armenian alike, to press their cases with greater chances of success (meduza.io/feature/2022/03/27/v-nagornom-karabahe-snova-obostrenie-chto-tam-proishodit-eto-kak-to-svyazano-s-voynoy-v-ukraine-i-chto-budet-dalshe).
In an interview with Meduza, Kirill Krivosheyev, a Kommersant journalist who has followed the Qarabagh conflict for decades, examines the causes of the recent deterioration of the situation in the region, a deterioration that could lead to demands for the withdrawal of Russian “peacekeepers” and the renewal of military clashes.
A major cause of tension, at least from Baku’s point of view, he says, is that Armenian troops continue to be present in Qarabagh and that they and the NK government are protected by the Russian peacekeepers who are part of the same army now fighting in Ukraine rather than being disarmed and a new civilian government installed in their place.
Moreover, Krivosheyev says, the population in Qarabagh remains heavily armed; and Russia has done nothing about that despite expectations that it would. The Armenians there see the Russian troops as their saviors and not surprisingly Azerbaijanis resent both that attitude and the Russian behavior that supports it.
For these reasons, he continues, “ever more people in Baku are saying that the mandate of the peacekeepers should not be extended for another five years.” That decision point comes only three years from now, but Baku’s anger at Russia for what it sees as Moscow’s pro-Armenian position is clearly growing.
It would be a mistake to link all this to Ukraine, Krivosheyev says; “but the Azerbaijan leadership is not very pleased with what is happening” either in Qarabagh or Ukraine. It feels it isn’t being respected in the former case; and it is backing Kyiv in a variety of ways in the latter, he suggests.
Thus, it is entirely possible that President Ilham Aliyev will “tell the president of Russia that he wants to end the peacekeeping mission,” a position Turkey would certainly support but that would alarm Armenia. And if the Russian troops left without progress in other areas, the risk of a new war in and around Qarabagh would rise dramatically.
Window on Eurasia