New realities emerge as Russian opinion-makers trip to Azerbaijan’s village in Karabakh & challenge Armenia

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 2 July 2018
New realities emerge as Russian opinion-makers trip to Azerbaijan’s village in Karabakh & challenge Armenia

Renowned Russian political-military experts, journalists, politicians, parliamentarians and opinion makers are visiting Azerbaijan’s Cocuq Marcanli, a village in the occupied Cabrayil District of Nagorno-Karabakh that was liberated by the Azerbaijani army in April 2016 and rose from the ashes the Armenian occupation in early 1990s.

In February 1994, during the seizure of Azerbaijani lands, the Armenian armed forces established control over the strategic Lala Tapa height and the territory was included in Hadrut district of the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region. In April 2016, during the brief fighting on the contact line, the Azerbaijani armed forces regained the peak and the territory was returned to Cabrayil District of Azerbaijan.

"Currently, there is a rapid rapprochement between Russia and Azerbaijan, which is the restoration of historical justice. Azerbaijan is Russia's main partner in the South Caucasus. Armenia is also our friend and partner, but this friendship and partnership can in no way be regarded as directed against Azerbaijan," pro-Kremlin ideologue, the leader of the International Eurasian Movement Aleksandr Dugin believes.

From the point of view of the Russian Federation and all international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan, Aleksandr Dugin told Azerbaijani news agency haqqin.az in Cocuq Marcanli village. In Aleksandr Dugin’s opinion, the participation of prominent Russian political scientists and public figures in the conference in Nagorno-Karabakh is symbolic and shows how Russian intellectuals treat this problem.

Aleksandr Dugin also believes that Azerbaijan plays an important role between geopolitical allies. "Baku plays a key role in Russia's relations with Turkey and Iran. We are strategic partners with both Turks and Iranians. Together we are building our common policy on Syria. And if earlier it was only about the unions of Russia with those countries, now it is a question of the place of Baku in these unions. And I think that this is the central place," he said.

Last year, long before the velvet revolution in Armenia, the International Eurasian Movement and the Izborsk Club - the two leading public platforms in Russia, formed at the height of the political struggle for the return to the post of president of the Russian state, Vladimir Putin, advocated the creation of a new geopolitical axis Baku-Moscow.

Considering the exceptional growing geopolitical role of Azerbaijan, especially in the light of the emergence of the multi-level Moscow-Baku-Ankara, Moscow-Baku-Tehran relations, the national-patriotic forces of Russia proposed expanding the strategic partnership between Moscow and Baku to a systemic military-political union based on personal trust relations between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev. Azerbaijan’s foreign policy strategy envisages Russia’s dominant political role in the region and it was expressed by the landmark statement by the Azerbaijan president that "Russia is the guarantor of stability in the region".

The qualitative transformation of the Russian-Azerbaijani relations has created prerequisites for a rethinking of the Karabakh problem - one of the main catalysts for destabilizing the regional security system and a threatening challenge to the expansion of Eurasian socio-cultural integration within the personal initiatives of the Russian president.

Rethinking political risks for the whole region, caused by the permanent escalation of the Karabakh conflict, has led to attempts to find a formula for a just peace. One of these attempts may be a conceptual theory - the political thesis of the leader of the International Eurasian Movement Aleksandr Dugin, who called on Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian to pull out troops from the five occupied districts around Karabakh immediately and without preconditions.

For the implementation of this important precondition for a just peace, a new model of the Moscow-Baku political axis must be built, and speeches of many influential participants in of the September 2017 Moscow conference called for a just and compromise solution to the Karabakh problem.

However, the latest geopolitical changes in the South Caucasus after the "color revolution" in Armenia, marked by the coming into power of pro-Western liberal forces, calling for the complete ousting of Russian political influence from the region, and the unequivocal choice announced by the pro-western Georgian government for integration with the Euro-Atlantic community, and against this background the expansion of political partnership between Russia and Azerbaijan, bring about new approaches to the relations between Moscow and Baku and the latter remains the only natural political ally of Russia in the Caucasus.

The second conference in Azerbaijan within the framework of the public platform "Moscow-Baku geopolitical axis" urged Armenia and stated unambiguously that Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan should be returned without any conditions to Baku’s control.

Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee of Russia Dmitry Saveliev believes that Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia are interested in resolving this conflict. "It is the presence of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that is conditioned by the blockade of Armenia, because of which the country was engulfed by a deep economic crisis. But unfortunately, the Armenian authorities do not realize this yet," the Russian deputy noted.

"We are confident in Azerbaijan as a close ally. Because of this, we sell weapons for billions of dollars, because we know that this weapon will never turn towards Russia, but will serve the interests of the two states," according to Saveliev, who said Russia is aware and disappointed in the changing policy of the new government of Armenia, while in the person of Baku, Moscow sees a reliable ally.

The Kremlin also assesses the importance of Azerbaijan as a mediator between Russia and many regional countries, according to Russian experts.

The conference in Azerbaijan’s Cabrayil District, of which main part is still under the occupation, brought together influential Russian public and political figures: the leader of the International Eurasian Movement, Aleksandr Dugin; public figure and journalist Maksim Shevchenko; the editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine and well-known military expert, Igor Korotchenko; political analyst Yevgeny Bakhrevsky; leading analyst of geopolitica.ru, Aleksandr Bovdunov; Russian State Duma MP from the ruling United Russia Party Aleksey Ezubov; Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee Dmitry Saveliev; aide to the Speaker of the Russian State Duma Vladislav Kalhidov and many other well-known politicians, and representatives of the Russian political circles.

For its turn, in the wake of the latest developments, Armenia is said to be reading for possible developments along the front line. The Armenia's military should be ready for any developments in the Karabakh conflict zone and on the state border with Azerbaijan, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

"The Armenian armed forces must be prepared for any development of the situation and this is my order to the armed forces," the prime minister, who has been avoiding resuming the peace talks with Azerbaijan, and liberating Nagorno-Karabakh, said.

On July 2-6, the Azerbaijani army kicked off planned large-scale military exercises. The main goal of the exercises is the development of scenarios of the military operations of troops in the zone of the Karabakh conflict, including the destruction of the enemy's military infrastructure.