Armenia may turn into risk factor for Russia's geostrategic interests

Armenia may turn into risk factor for Russia's geostrategic interests

Close cross-border cooperation in the spheres of the economy and security between Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran was incorporated into the multi-vector foreign policy of Azerbaijan as one of the most important possibilities a long time ago. Back in 2009, I wrote a separate chapter about this topic in my book, dedicated to ethno-territorial conflicts in the South Caucasus, because their settlement largely depends on the configuration of the interests of the neighboring regional and world powers. In this sense, the new trilateral negotiation format confirms my opinion.

In previous years, this format was not used enough politically, because there were significant contradictions between the interests of its participants. Not all of them have been resolved, but they have lost their urgency to a certain extent, or rather faded into the background in the context of those prospects that such cooperation can offer. Unlike other regional economic and integrational blocks, such as the EU, the trilateral format is not aimed at bringing the internal policies of all three countries to common standards. That is why the cooperation between Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia, who have very different, and even antagonistic systems, became possible. Azerbaijan strictly follows secularism, while Iran is a theocracy. Russia has a presidential system, the policy of which is legitimized, at least in a moral context, by the Russian Orthodox Church, especially in recent years, which is the current reference to the latest phases of the development of Russian history. It links the modern phase to the previous phases of Russian history.

If the new negotiation format will actually lead to concrete results, which will also get political implementation, it might turn into a very interesting model of regional cooperation. In such a scenario, Azerbaijan will be able to improve the prospects of preserving its territorial integrity, while settling the long-standing conflict with Armenia over the rebel region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been under military occupation by Armenia since the beginning of the 90s. For Iran, this conflict has quite obvious internal political significance, considering the fact that this country has a large Azerbaijani minority, which is why Iran has repeatedly offered its mediation in the conflict settlement. This prospect is further strengthened by the recent normalization of Russian-Turkish relations. The apology by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for destroying the Russian plane in the Syrian-Turkish airspace one year has been long overdue and corresponds to Turkey's strategic interest in good neighborly relations with Russia. Ankara can rely on Moscow as a counter to the US and the EU to increase space for its own political maneuver.

The formula "the better Turkish-Russian relations are, the less Armenia is needed as an anti-Turkish stronghold of Russia in the South Caucasus" applies to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Under certain circumstances, Armenia can even turn into a risk factor for Russian geostrategic interests, if trilateral cooperation between Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan will continue to be profitable. The fact that Russia wants the return to Azerbaijan of at least part of its territories occupied by Armenia is a widely known secret. Armenia has driven itself into a corner with its uncompromising position. Recent events with hostages in Yerevan once again demonstrated that the internal political situation in Armenia is very unstable. This can be explained by the prolonged poor economic situation in the country, as a result of which young people are leaving Armenia. This situation is a direct result of the unresolved conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Two of the four countries bordering Armenia have closed their borders with it and imposed an economic embargo on it, which hurts the foreign economic relations of Armenia, as well as increases transit costs. In addition, a realization of the maximalist interests of Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, in other words, the accession of this region to Armenia or de facto independence, is unrealistic. The ruling elite of Armenia considers a compromise to be a threat to its own power. That is why the internal political developments in the country, which demonstrate that the Armenian population doesn't want a compromise in this conflict, are playing into the hands of the Armenian authorities.

However, Armenia should seriously begin negotiations on the establishment of autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh, before it faces even tougher geopolitical realities, which it will no longer be able to affect. It may even gain more in economic terms, since there won't be the high economic costs associated with the continuation of military occupation anymore, and these funds could be used to improve the overall economic condition. A former head of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, realized this by the end of his presidency.

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