Earlier this month—just a year after the end the 2020 conflict—a short period of intense fighting broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the long-disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Once again, Vladimir Putin, who has inclined toward the Armenians, stepped in to broker an “interim solution.” It’s worth noting that Baku has important security ties to Israel, while Yerevan retains warm relations with Iran. Amir Taheri examines what the latest flair-up says about Russia’s strategy in the region, and beyond:
[Putin’s] “interim solution” makes the regimes in both Baku and Yerevan dependent on Russian power for at least the next five years. It also keeps Turkey out, thus depriving Azerbaijan of a powerful regional ally. On the opposite side, Armenia is deprived of an opportunity to seek meaningful support from potentially sympathetic powers in Europe and North America. Moscow also benefits from its new military presence in the region by gaining control of borders with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Is the situation that has developed in Transcaucasia a model of Russian behavior in the international arena? Several examples could be cited in support of a “yes” answer.
By keeping [various] nations in a state of crisis with their neighbors, Putin achieves one of his two geostrategic goals: preventing NATO expansion to Eastern Europe, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia. Because no country in conflict with its neighbors would be allowed to join the U.S.-led coalition, it is important for Russia to keep all those wounds open with its knife in them.
Russian activism in Syria and Libya, and its strange alliance with Egypt in the Libyan theater, are also calculated to exert pressure on the EU. . . . At another level, the openly pro-Russian path taken by the Khomeinist leadership in Tehran gives Putin another card to play with minimum, not to say zero, actual political and/or economic investment by Russia.