Sad news from Artsakh/Karabakh – but peace is less sad than war

The latest from Armenia:

Russian peacekeepers have departed for Nagorno-Karabakh after Moscow brokered a peace deal that sparked celebrations in Azerbaijan and protests in Armenia, where demonstrators briefly occupied government buildings.

The truce, announced late on Monday night, calls for the deployment of nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to the disputed enclave, where Azerbaijan will receive significant territorial concessions from an Armenian-backed local government.

In other words, Russia had declined to interfere, waiting for the outnumbered Armenian forces to face the prospect of getting routed, and then volunteered to send its troops as peacekeepers.

It’s a cheaply won prize at the expense of the loser in the conflict, Armenia. Russia declined to take on the real bully in this – Turkey – so it decided to punish the victim. On top of this, Armenia’s PM, Nikol Pashinyan, is a democratically elected leader with an anti-corruption agenda, which is synonymous with “asking for punishment” in the Kremlin’s thinking.

Overall, it signals Russia’s weakness in the region and its utter lack of principle – feeding on leftovers from a major predator’s feast.

In late September, I thought:

This might be one of the rare cases when Russia has a moral obligation to interfere and stop the Azeri-Turkish offensive.

It’s been one of these rare cases, I believe now. Putin may dream of following in the footsteps of Russian emperors but in this, he is following Lenin. Here’s more about the Moscow treaty of 1921 and the Kars treaty of 1921. To quote the Britannica:

Diplomatic relations between the nationalists and the Soviets began in August 1920 and led to the Treaty of Moscow, which settled border disputes by giving Kars and Ardahan to Turkey and Batumi to Russia… As a result of the treaty, the Soviets supplied the nationalists with weapons and ammunition, which the Turks used successfully in a war against Greece in 1921–22.

In 1921, Soviet Russia surrendered the largely Armenian-populated Kars and Ardahan to Turkey. In 1920, Putinist Russia stood by as Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s military support, took control of a large part of the Armenian-populated Nagorny Karabakh. Not much to add to this at the moment.

One comment

  1. […] Betraying its allies sounds more like it. The question at the end of Galeotti’s article is well posed. What if the Russian peacekeepers get attacked from the Azeri side? In 2008, a similar attack was a pretext for the Russian offensive in Georgia. However, the Kremlin neither respected nor feared the Georgians. In contrast, at the moment it fears alienating Azerbaijan and provoking Turkey into action. In other words, there’s no guarantee that the Russian peacekeepers will not withdraw without a fight in an emergency. […]

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