Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil
There is a winner in the new war for Nagorno-Karabakh, and his name is Ilham Aliyev. The victory of the ruler of Azerbaijan is recognized not only outside, but, most importantly, at home, because in his country he has become a national hero.
Political scientist and orientalist Aleksey Malashenko believes that his finest hour has come for Ilham Aliyev:
- Aliyev received a full credit of confidence. This is the person who has a normal economic situation, the person who won this very difficult conflict. Yes, Karabakh cannot be resolved completely. Everyone understands this even in Baku. But Aliyev is a triumphant.
Before the war in Karabakh, Azerbaijan had rather big problems. Like Russia, the republic is going through hard times with its main export commodity - hydrocarbons. And not only with him.
- Prices for oil and oil products, for gas fell, and these are the main export goods of Azerbaijan. Secondly, they were not at all ready for the coronavirus, and the second wave there is all the more destructive. Considering the issue that the succession of presidential power is being consolidated by inheritance, the Azerbaijani opposition has become more active, - lists not the most successful starting positions of the Azerbaijani president, political scientist, expert on the post-Soviet space Andrei Suzdaltsev.
Thanks to the victory in Karabakh, Ilham Aliyev consolidated his position as a national leader. Even if the economic situation changes, even if the country further evolves towards autocracy, for him personally and for the political system built by his father Heydar and Ilham Aliyev himself, the beginning of the return of Karabakh is an achievement that will always be remembered in Azerbaijan.
Victory also has a foreign policy dimension. The world saw that Azerbaijan as a state is much stronger than Armenia. Aliyev has a dangerous ally for his enemies - Turkey, a country that claims to be, if not a world, then certainly a regional power.
The unsuccessful hostilities in the conflict zone, which ended with the surrender of Shushi, and the signed trilateral agreement, which is not called anything other than surrender in the republic, leave no doubt who lost this war. Actually, the head of the republic Nikol Pashinyan himself took responsibility for the defeat in Karabakh. The painful decision that the Armenian president had to make, political scientist, director of the International Affairs Council Andrei Kortunov compares with the Brest Peace - after Shusha came under the control of Azerbaijanis, there was a threat to lose everything. To leave Stepanakert behind, Pashinyan signed an agreement. After that, it was possible to break down the doors in parliament and knock out windows, but so far there is no replacement for Pashinyan, says Andrey Suzdaltsev :
- They have cleared the political field, it has a lot of enemies. Part of the influential Armenian diaspora here in Moscow is against him. But I do not yet see a person who could replace him.
From the point of view of moderate logic, Nikol Pashinyan should stay, Alexei Malashenko agrees. Even if he is removed, it is difficult to believe that the new leader will continue the war against the half-defeated army. Everyone is used to thinking that Armenians are fighting well and Azerbaijanis are bad. But now it turned out that this is not so. Pashinyan's tragedy is that Armenia was opposed in Karabakh by a stronger army, also because the population of Azerbaijan is larger than the population of Armenia.In addition, the Azerbaijanis fought against separatism, no matter how it relates.
Andrei Kortunov believes that Nikol Pashenyan, with his political inexperience, provoked an aggravation of the conflict in Karabakh, since he always spoke harshly and uncompromisingly about its status. According to the expert, Pashenyan will not survive this situation in a political sense:
- All dogs will be hanged on Pashinyan, and not only for signing the agreement itself, but also for the entire policy that led to this result. He will be accused of numerous mistakes. Its fate is predetermined, although it is difficult to say now how it will happen, when and in what forms.
Turkey, as an ally of Azerbaijan, can share its success. She has shown herself to be effective as an ally and has shown her willingness to take decisive and even risky action. Erdogan himself considers the temporary end of the conflict to be his personal achievement. Experts do not exclude the possibility that Turkey will retain its presence in one form or another. Andrei Kortunov recalls that lately there has been talk about the creation of a Russian-Turkish center for monitoring the implementation of agreements.
However, there is no talk of ousting Russia, says Alexey Malashenko:
- No! Just one argument. In Central Asia, in Azerbaijan, everyone says that the Turks treat them as second-class Turks. It is very painful. There was the first wave of the early nineties, when the Turks poured there, there was delight, the hope that they would raise the economy. There was little money, and the main Turks had great pride. They will not fall under Turkey. Never! National identity is much higher than that of the Turkic, including in Azerbaijan.
Over the fight
All experts note the duality of Russia's role in the current aggravation in Karabakh. Traditionally, Armenia considers our country its ally, it is not without reason that the only Russian military base in the South Caucasus is located in Armenia. But this time our country preferred the role of an objective, unbiased mediator, and a trilateral treaty on the cessation of hostilities was signed, Andrei Kortunov notes. Neither the OSCE, nor Turkey, nor the Minsk Group participated in its creation. Russian peacekeepers will be deployed in Karabakh, and this is an achievement for Russia, because both sides trust it and consider its efforts to be effective.
The neutral position may have a downside - the strengthening of anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia. There is resentment about the defeat, and the search for the guilty on Pashenyan alone may not end. This is a fairly traditional position for the post-Soviet space, says Andrey Suzdaltsev:
- Guys, you will somehow decide whether we are Russian invaders or we are allies. If we are occupiers, deal with Turkey yourself. If we are allies, then coordinate with us some things. And then the Russians are mean, and without them there is no way. You understand that I am telling you the grievances of our leadership. But a huge amount of dirt was poured on Russia, and that is why Russia is offended, why this is so. Russia defended the Armenians, because there is no question of Azerbaijan's attack on the territory of Armenia, it is only about Karabakh.
But other experts see more general processes that continue in the territory of the former Soviet Union. Russian influence is fading, and it is a slow and painful process. Russia is sending its troops, but there is nothing more it can do. Karabakh, Transnistria, Sukhumi, Crimea are the continuation of the collapse of the Soviet Union, says Alexei Malashenko :
- You have to pay for everything good. There was no need to take the Winter Palace. We took it - we still disentangle it.
Karabakh and not only
If hotheads prevail in Armenia, the situation in Karabakh will only worsen. Calls to convene the National Assembly and disavow the signed agreement will lead to the fact that Azerbaijan will continue its offensive. This will mean a massive exodus of Armenian refugees from Karabakh to Armenia. The only way to keep the peace is to rely on Russian peacekeepers. They face an extremely difficult task.
- To let it in or not to let it in - everything will be decided by the Russian peacekeepers who control the Lachin corridor. If you look at the map of Karabakh, it is a madhouse, it is a colored mosaic. Imagine if there were no Russian peacekeepers and Stepanakert was taken? - Alexey Malashenko asks.
Although Azerbaijanis declare that the Armenian population can stay in their homes, few believe in this. Andrey Kortunov says:
- Of course, ideally, Armenians should not leave the returned areas. But it will be very difficult to ensure security and cooperation. I am afraid there will be ethnic consolidation. The regions that have been transferred to Azerbaijan will be populated by repatriates, and what will remain with Armenia will consolidate the Armenian population, although it is too early to talk about this.
We already had Sumgait, there was already a massacre of Azerbaijanis, recalls Aleksey Malashenko. Therefore, there should be armed forces in Karabakh that can prevent ethnic cleansing.
Experts point to other potential risks. The explosive situation in the South Caucasus can help defrost other conflicts in the post-Soviet space. The Russian position was that it was impossible to solve them by military means, so political solutions had to be sought. The situation in Karabakh shows that a military operation can lead to a result that could not be achieved in the course of political negotiations. And this is a dangerous precedent.