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Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be intensively arming Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan, with massive Russian weapons deliveries, threatening a possible new war in the South Caucasus.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, all former Soviet satellite-republics, including Azerbaijan and Armenia, broke away from Moscow and gained independence.
Russian political leaders, especially its current president Vladimir Putin, haven’t hidden their regret for the dissolution of the USSR. Putin deplored the collapse of the Soviet Union as, “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” [of the 20th century].
Along with its neo-imperialistic “near abroad” concept, referring to the newly independent republics that emerged after the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Russia still considers the South Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, its exclusive influence zone.
In the absence of a proactive European Union and US leadership in the Caucasus, Russia has become increasingly aggressive in the region, chiefly concerning the Armenia-Azerbaijan long-standing conflict.
The conflict began in the early 1990s when Armenia, aided by Russia’s military, invaded, and during which ethnically cleansed Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts. One million local Azerbaijani civilians were forced to flee their ancestral lands, to become internally displaced people inside Azerbaijan.
Despite four UN Security Council resolutions condemning Armenian’s occupation and demanding all of the Armenian troops’ immediate withdrawal from Azerbaijan’s occupied lands, Armenia’s belligerence continues. Under military occupation, Armenia illegally holds around 20% of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory while the forcibly displaced Azerbaijanis hopefully wait for Armenia’s greenlight to allow them to return to their homes.
Since Russia’s military and financial aid to Armenia helped carry out the invasion to Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan being the first South Caucasus country to have kicked the Russian military forces out of its territory, one can say, this was the “price” Azerbaijan paid for gaining independence.
In the years after Armenia’s invasion, though struggling with Armenia’s illegal occupation of its territory and carrying out its commitment to see to the internally displaced Nagorno-Karabakh Azerbaijanis welfare, the Republic of Azerbaijan has become the South Caucasus region largest economy and the West’s most important ally and partner. Unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan refused to be part of any Russia-led military-economic union.
Over the last 30 years, Russia has continued to arm Armenia. Russia’s military base in Armenia is among its largest in the world. Russia owns 80% of Armenia’s economy and its military forces guard Armenia’s borders and airspace. Armenia is also a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russia-led anti-NATO military block and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
Several strategic oil and gas pipelines, most essential to Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and economy, as well as to Europe and the United States pass through Tovuz district. The South Caucasus natural gas Pipeline (SCP), a key part of the Southern EU Energy Corridor, passing through Tovuz, Georgia, Turkey and Southern Europe routes, which is due to become operational in few months, will deliver Azerbaijani gas to European markets via Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) and Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).
Bypassing both Russia and Iran, this pipeline will deliver non-Russian-non-Iranian natural gas directly to Europe’s consumers’ market, helping reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian gas and improving the continent’s energy supply sources’ diversification.
Seeking to maintain energy deliveries control to Europe via its own networks, Russia fiercely opposes the SCP project. Therefore, it is no coincidence that Armenia’s latest military adventure against Azerbaijan’s vital Tovuz district took place a few months prior to this strategic gas pipeline’s completion.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, asked Putin to clarify the nature of the shipments to Armenia, considering that Moscow is one of the OSCE Minsk Group’s three co-chairs, tasked with resolving the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict – not aggravating it.
Almost daily a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 strategic airlifter, flying over the Caspian Sea and via Iran, lands in the Armenian capital of Yerevan with assorted Russian weapons. Is it becoming obvious that Russia is preparing Armenia for a fight with Azerbaijan?
Azerbaijan claims that Armenia sides with Russia in Syria, actively participates in Syria’s conflict, and is also dealing with the “black trade” weapons’ purchase from Syria.
Iran, always suspicious of Azerbaijan’s secular governance and the country’s being US and Israel strategic partner is a willing participant in this dangerous energy gambit adventure in the Caucasus.
The latest developments in the South Caucasus, especially Russia’s neo-imperialist policies and arms deliveries are alarming. Considering Azerbaijan’s geostrategic and geo-economic importance and its significant role in connecting Central Asia with the West, the United States and Europe should be alarmed by Russia’s continuing weapons shipments to Armenia.
Without some sort of diplomatic intervention, unrest may erupt in the South Caucasus region from which only Russia can benefit.
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Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠