Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 12 November 2020
Russia Deploys Its “Peacekeepers” To Nagorno-Karabakh
Moscow’s diplomatic intervention saved Armenia from a total military defeat and its loss of breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh. The country found it extremely painful to accept the ceasefire, brokered jointly by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. However, there is no doubt that Azerbaijan clinched a military victory while Russia notched up a success, by dispatching its “peacekeeping forces” to the area. Besides, many signs are that Pashinyan’s incumbent government will collapse, and a Kremlin-loyal will come to power. Armenia has always relied on Russia, but now – with a new balance of power and borders – it is fully at the mercy of an ally who is holding up to offer help until Pashinyan’s Armenia bleeds out.
In the morning of November 10, the first Il-76 planes carrying “peacekeeping forces” departed for Nagorno-Karabakh. A total of roughly 2,000 troops from the 15th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade are now in the area. Designated as a specialized peacekeeping force, it is an independent unit of the Russian Armed Forces, tasked with carrying out peacekeeping missions mandated by the Commonwealth of Independent States or the United Nations. Russia will also send 90 armored personnel vehicles and 380 military vehicles. The military command will be based in Stepanakert, the capital of the enclave. Russian peacekeepers will locate checkpoints along the front line as well as long the land strip running from Armenia to the still-Armenian part of Nagorno-Karabakh. It is unclear what role Turkey could play in maintaining the truce. Although the truce deal mentions Russia, Aliyev – when declaring his victory in a televised speech – added that Turkey would also take responsibility for keeping peace in the disputed area. “Both Russian and Turkish troops will be present at the peacekeeping base in Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Azerbaijani leader said. Were this not to happen, this would prompt a failure for Turkey whose officials had thrown support for Azerbaijan throughout the whole period of fighting and had an appetite for entering the region – also merely as a mediator. However, if Ankara does not get anything new in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, this could mean two things. The first is Azerbaijan’s disloyalty, as the country would give the green light for “peacekeepers” to enter the enclave in exchange for some territorial gains while trying to formally keep Turkey far away from the region. Another option – far more likely one – is that Moscow and Ankara brokered a kind of deal that might assume that Russian holds a firmer grip on the South Caucasus and makes concessions to Turkey elsewhere. It will soon become clear whether this so, with new events in Syria, Libya, and the Eastern Mediterranean. For Russia, another benefit from the current deal is the weakening of Pashinyan, who will probably be removed from office. Pashinyan became Armenia’s prime minister after rallies, without the approval of Moscow. Russia never forgot it. Armenia’s humiliating defeat – despite allied commitments, Russian troops remained idle, just watching Armenian failures – will make it even more reliant on Russia. A “Karabakh clan” may again claim power in Yerevan.
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