In the new episode of the “Crossroad” Benyamin Poghosyan discusses the situation in and around Nagorno Karabakh with Pietro Shakarian, a Ph.D. candidate in Russian history at the Ohio State University.
The second Karabakh war ended with Armenia’s defeat with significant territorial losses and damaged infrastructure in Artsakh. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan failed to conquer the entire territory of the Republic of Artsakh. Around 3000 square km out of 4.4 thousand of the former Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region remained under Armenian control and de facto Russian protectorate.
Russia and Turkey are now the key players in the region, while Western powers have been sidelined.
The November 9 trilateral agreement of ceasefire stipulates a possibility of Russian peacekeepers’ withdrawal every 5 years, but few believe that such a scenario is possible in the short-run. The Post-Soviet history proves that Russian soldiers do not leave territories they get into: Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria are good examples of it.
Russia is going to create another military base in the South Caucasus, headquartered in Stepanakert, and will keep its presence there as long as possible. Given the establishment of the joint Russia – Turkey ceasefire monitoring center in Azerbaijan, some Turkish troops will be legally deployed in Azerbaijan too.
The population living within the borders of the Russian protectorate will never accept Azerbaijani citizenship and will never agree to live under Azerbaijani jurisdiction. The only way to establish Azerbaijani control over this 3000 square km of the territory is to start another war and to force the Armenian population to leave these territories. This scenario looks unrealistic at least for the coming 5 years, or even longer.
The new status quo provides significant leverage for Russia to influence Armenian foreign and domestic policies. After the November 9 agreement, Armenia is much more dependent on Russia than any time after gaining independence in September 1991. This means that Armenia has few if any opportunities to continue any resemblance of balanced or multi-vector foreign policy, which Yerevan for better or worse sought to pursue in the last 20-25 years.
However this does not mean that Armenia will cancel its Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the EU or will stop its cooperation with NATO within Individual Partnership Action Plans. But it means that all significant domestic and foreign policy decisions in Armenia will not be adopted without the approval of the Kremlin.