Russian Security Supremo’s Armenia, Azerbaijan Trips Cloaked In Secrecy Amid Karabakh Tension

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 4 September 2019
Russian Security Supremo’s Armenia, Azerbaijan Trips Cloaked In Secrecy Amid Karabakh Tension

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev made almost a surprise visit to Azerbaijan. The trip under a cloak of secrecy is that it was announced on September 3 that he was going to visit Azerbaijan on September 4 but turned out that he flew in on the it was made public.

Pundits in comments on the visit ascribed it to Russia’s intention to search for a “golden mean” in balancing policies vis-à-vis Armenia and Azerbaijan and avert a possible flare-up in the Karabakh conflict zone.

In early August, Nikolay Patrushev visited Yerevan and held meetings with his opposite number and Armenian Premier Nikol Pashinyan. At that time, some experts attributed the visit with the Kremlin intention to feel the pulse of Armenia’s new prime minister and let him know that Russia is concerned about free behavior of him since Moscow views Armenia as its outpost and Yerevan’s perturbation may cost it dearly.

He gauged the official mood as well as the public and took the message to the Kremlin boss for further actions. Patrushev is said also paid a secret visit the Russian military bases located in Armenia.

In Yerevan, at talks and contacts with the media, Patrushev left unanswered questions about the sale of weapons to Azerbaijan though this question of Armenia was in time responded by Rogozin, then deputy prime minister in charge of the military issues.

According to official sources, Moscow has currently no particular discontent with Pashinyan as the message was properly got by the Armenian prime minister. Everything seems to be good, calm, and nothing threatens Russia's interests for the moment. The Kremlin nodded in the affirmative form and decided to closely monitor the slippery Armenian prime minister, who is trying to create a democratic image for himself.

Now Patrushev is visiting Azerbaijan and was met by President Ilham Aliyev on September 3. The meeting, according to the official press release, noted the successful development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Russia in the field of politics, economy, security and in all other areas.

They emphasized the role of warm relations between the presidents of the two countries in the development of relations and it was reported that during the visit to Azerbaijan, the delegation led by Nikolai Patrushev would discuss legislative issues and cooperation related to the fight against extremism and terrorism. The two men also expressed confidence that this visit will contribute to further development of the relations.

Again, the public, ordinary citizens can only fantasize about the visit of a senior Kremlin official. Someone thinks that they are discussing Karabakh; others think they are discussing purely economic issues and business matters, someone claims that at the meeting, they mainly discussed military issues, including the crash of the Azerbaijani MiG-29 fighter. Options are always enough to confuse people. But still, everyone knows that he just could not fly to Yerevan and then to Baku to underscore how best the ties are between Baku and Moscow or Yerevan and Moscow.

So the Karabakh conflict tops the agenda of the meetings in the capitals of the two warring nations with Moscow’s top official. Russia is struggling to squeeze the post-Soviet countries closer and closer, especially enhancing its role in the Caucasus, where a conflict has persisted since the collapse of the USSR.

After all, any flare-up or outbreak can lead to the resumption of these conflicts and then Russia will not just keep the region under control and various armed groups that serve the interests of various geopolitical players will penetrate the South Caucasus, sleeping groups that are awaiting orders to take action will also step up activities. In this case, Moscow will only have to send troops into this region, which will be the beginning of an endless bloody war.

Such a development of the situation is primarily disadvantageous to Russia. Moscow is quite happy with the dissonance - frozen conflicts and the preservation of the status quo in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Karabakh. It’s easier to control all the countries of the region, blackmailing the possible resumption of war and speculating in the conflicts.

And when external players begin to actively cooperate with internal political forces in the countries of the South Caucasus, the situation begins to change dramatically and there are different opinions in the information space that Russia is far from the only center of power in the world and there are very powerful states besides it that may well help parties dissatisfied with the Kremlin policies.

And there are more such parties than satisfied ones. At the moment, due to the difficult economic conditions that arose after the war with Azerbaijan, public opinion in Armenia is opposed to Russia, which the new generations of Armenians consider the oppressor, which prevents them from becoming completely independent.

In the case of Azerbaijan, the situation is completely different. This South Caucasus country, despite the fact that with the active participation of Russia and due to its military-political pressure, has lost 20% of its territories, it continues to rapidly develop its economy and pursue an independent policy. Of course, this reality cannot but hurt the imperial feelings of Russia, which is used to dictating its conditions in the region, not taking into account anyone's interests, especially the interests of the peoples of the Caucasus.

The loss of Karabakh to some extent hurt Azerbaijan and caused tremendous damages to its economy and continues to be a burden on the country's budget. But despite this, the people and the state together solve all problems, 1 million refugees have been fully equipped within 25 years, they are provided with housing, whole towns with all living conditions have been built for them in various regions of the republic.

Azerbaijan, with the participation of major companies, is actively extracting hydrocarbon reserves of the Caspian and has turned into the most important transportation hub, the most important artery of the region, without which no major economic project linking Asia with Europe is carried out. The unresolved Karabakh conflict that the Kremlin is manipulating is forcing Azerbaijan to keep distance from Moscow, and Russia is losing billions and big dividends from this.

With the toughening of Western sanctions, the Russian economy has been going through hard times in recent years. The budget deficit is growing, the country's population is rapidly impoverishing. And against the backdrop of a deepening crisis in a large neighboring country, Azerbaijan’s economy, unlike the economies of other post-Soviet countries, did not suffer a single drop from the crisis in Russia, but quite the contrary, it is developing dynamically every year, and all this is due to the independent economic policy of the Azerbaijani state.

The Kremlin began to realize this fact very well. Now the question of “who Russia needs more - Azerbaijan or Armenia?” is very acute for the Kremlin. Armenia is loss country for the Kremlin, a subsidized region of Russia, and Azerbaijan is a strong, well-established state with a strong economy and developing industry. Now Moscow is thinking whether it is worth helping Armenia keep the Azerbaijani lands under occupation and what good is for Russia from such a Caucasus policy.

Patrushev’s visit is most likely due to the fact that Russia is looking for the best option to solve the Karabakh problem, which would suit Azerbaijan and at the same time not “hurt the feelings” of its vassal - Armenia. But in any case, it is important for Azerbaijan to restore territorial integrity and this is not the subject of discussions, especially political bargaining. Karabakh is AZERBAIJAN, and that’s it!