When the Second Karabakh War was concluded, a trilateral statement was signed between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, which permitted the presence of a 1,960 person Russian peace-keeping force in the war-torn Karabakh region till 2025. However, after the Russian peace-keeping force was deployed, the war in the Ukraine broke out and this impeded the ability of the Russian peace-keeping force to ensure that peace is implemented between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Furthermore, since any peace agreement would likely weaken Moscow’s influence in the South Caucuses, the Russians were not in favor of true peace being made between both sides.
In fact, in some cases, Russia used the presence of the peace-keeping force in Karabakh in order to expand its influence during difficult times in Moscow rather than actually ensure that peace is made between Azerbaijan and Armenia. For example, last year, it was discovered that the Russian peace-keeping force was actually assisting smugglers, who sought to economically benefit from Karabakh’s natural resources. These smugglings who stole Karabakh’s mineral resources ignited a wave of eco-protests, which further impeded peace in the war-torn region.
After it was discovered that a side-road was being used to smuggle weapons, when the eco-protesters blocked off the Lachin Corridor, the Russian peace-keepers once again provided cover for the smugglers, which once again made peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan more distant. Since then, Azerbaijan has set up a checkpoint in the area due to the fact that the Russian Peace keepers were not doing their jobs properly, which allowed the eco-protests to be concluded.
Dr. Maxime Gauin, a member of the Advisory Board at the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy, added: “The Russian peacekeepers do what they are ordered to do, namely maintaining the conflict because the conflict is the only justification for the Russian military presence in Karabakh and Armenia. So, they allowed the supply of weapons and ammunition for the separatist forces in Karabakh and took part in this to maintain the power of extremism in Karabakh with the ultimate aim to have a referendum like in the Crimea and the Eastern Ukraine, which will permit annexation by Russia. The Azerbaijani checkpoint reduced the problem significantly, but the presence of the Russian peacekeepers will remain problematic as long as they are in the region.”
Meanwhile, while the Russian peacekeepers have provided cover for the smuggling of minerals and weapons, they have visited schoolchildren in Karabakh over 50 times, after the Armenians in Khankendi announced that Russian should be an official language and toyed with the idea of Armenians in Karabakh being granted Russian passports. These moves, combined with the Russians delivering humanitarian aid in the war-torn region, has all worked to increase Russia’s sphere of influence in Karabakh. The fact that the Kremlin appointed General Alexander Lentsoz, who is a highly seasoned official, to head the Russian peace-keeping force in Karabakh last week, once again demonstrates that Russia is serious about Karabakh becoming part of Russia’s sphere of influence.
All of these developments allowed for tensions to spiral out of control, which led to border skirmishes which has cost the lives of and maimed soldiers from both sides. For this reason, both the Americans and Belgians have stepped up their efforts to negotiate peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia, as proven by the recent talks in America and Belgium. However, despite the West’s best efforts, Russian influence remains high in the South Caucuses, as demonstrated by the fact that Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan attended the Victory Parade in Moscow last week, even though Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev did not.
At this Victory Parade, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin compared Russia’s struggle against the Ukraine today to the Soviet war against Nazi Germany: “Today, civilization again is at a breaking point. Again, a true war has been unleashed against our motherland. Western globalist elites still talk about their exceptionalism, pitting people against each other and splitting society, provoking bloody conflicts and coups, sowing hatred, Russophobia, [and] aggressive nationalism. The Ukrainian nation has become hostage to a coup which led to a criminal regime led by its Western masters. It has become a pawn to their cruel and selfish plans.”
Only six countries including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan attended this anti-Western charade. Ayoob Kara, who served as Israel’s Communication Minister under Netanyahu, noted: “Under normal circumstances, most of the world would want to celebrate the Soviet defeat of Nazism during World War II. Twenty-seven million Soviet citizens perished either fighting against the Nazis or being brutally massacred by the same forces of evil, who slaughtered six million Jews in the Holocaust. However, after the Russian government belittled the memory of the Soviet soldiers who defeated Nazism by comparing modern-day Ukraine to Nazism and the West’s struggle against Russia to the ‘final solution,’ the world has lost all respect for the Russian government.”
Kara noted that while Putin portrayed the West as the aggressors, it was Russian forces who fired a barrage of cruise missiles at the Ukraine during the parade, not even taking a break from his war of aggression to honor the legacy of Soviet soldiers who fought against Nazism: “None of this should come as a surprise. This is the same Vladmir Putin that the ICC just issued an arrest warrant for, after it was discovered that he stood behind the deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from the occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia. Thousands of Ukrainian children are believed to be in Russian custody. This is a crime against humanity, which should be condemned across the globe.”
In an interview, Azerbaijani journalist Elnur Enveroglu proclaimed: “Pashinyan’s participation in the parade in Moscow is of unfathomable political stance. Yerevan is obviously playing between the West and Russia, but in reality, Pashinyan is heeding Russia’s heavy fist on his head. So, as we can see from the recent meetings between the Armenian Prime Minister and his Western patrons and the Kremlin, Yerevan is still unable to decide anything without the Kremlin’s consent.”
According to him, “Armenia has always been a state under the influence of Russia. Many facts can be cited as evidence. For example, the Russian military base in Armenia, the arming of Armenia, Armenia’s illegal re-export of Russian goods despite Western sanctions and more.” Dr. Gauin added, “So long as the Russian peace-keeping force remains, it makes it difficult to solve the conflict and there is a threat that Russia will annex the Armenian enclave in Khankendi or even Armenia itself.”
Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”