Although the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has left the front pages of the world media, the geopolitical trends in the region are still taking shape. During June-July 2021, Armenian diplomats sharply increased the number of meetings with their French counterparts in Yerevan, Paris, and the UN headquarters in New York. The purpose of these contacts is to seek a kind of delegitimization of the peace deal in Nagorno-Karabakh, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on November 9, 2020. Meanwhile, Armenian political institutions and society see the Nagorno-Karabakh war as a defeat and a direct betrayal of the commitments made by Russia and other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). However, Yerevan has not formally requested outside military help from Russia or the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Nonetheless the people of Armenia consider clearly the loss of occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a great defeat.
In the media, in the Armenian society, and even among the opponents of Nikol Pashinyan, what has attracted a lot of attention is that Russia has left the Armenians and the country has not received any practical benefit from membership in the CSTO. Therefore, Armenia must look for a replacement for the Russian military. A European replacement seems the most desirable option, as it seems difficult to attract US support, especially after leaving Afghanistan. Moreover, all of Yerevan’s efforts to win Washington’s support were unsuccessful only in a blunt statement by State Department spokesman Jake Sullivan: “Sending troops to the disputed areas is an irresponsible step and an unjustified and provocative act.” This position announced by Washington cannot affect the current situation in any way. But at this point, Paris, which is keen to receive any significant confirmation of its global geopolitical importance outside the framework of NATO and the European Union, showed more support for Armenia. French President Emmanuel Macron has called for the immediate withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the disputed areas and the introduction of a European peacekeeping force there. He accepted the formation of this group based on the military forces of the Fifth Republic.
Although the practical implementation of such a plan seems definite, this plan generally activates two serious processes that can have far-reaching geopolitical implications. First, the statements of French politicians to create the belief that the West is with us, the West supports us, the West is saving us, you just have to put a little more pressure in the official forums and agree with a little behind the scenes among the people, and Armenia’s political organization seems sufficient. Second, the internal political processes that took place after the defeat in the war clearly showed the terrible humiliation of the Armenian government. Angry people blamed the failure on the war with Prime Minister Pashinyan, who failed and did not serve the national interest. However, during the early parliamentary elections, the people re-elected the same Nicole Pashinyan as Prime Minister. This is precisely what shows the high degree of confusion in the public perception of itself and the world around it, especially when dealing with small structures and a clan of ruling elites. They do not and do not want to understand the nature and meaning of the state as a global social mechanism.
Meanwhile, the undeniable fact that the Armenian people do not want to understand is that Paris’ interest in the events in the disputed regions of Armenia is not due to its empathy with the problems of the Armenian people but to its interests in the context of the Franco-Turkish confrontation in the Mediterranean. Armenia is just an excuse or a suitable tool to put pressure on Ankara to be consumed in the process. It should be noted that Turkey is actively seeking to exploit the emerging geopolitical vacuum in the region for its purposes and is showing a growing desire to secure and even take control of its actual position in the South Caucasus. The Second Nagorno-Karabakh War is not only a victory for Azerbaijan (which it is, because Baku solved the problem that existed since 1990), but its results are also a great success for Turkey itself because in this way, Turkey was able to help its brother country and solve a major geopolitical issue in the Caucasus. Turkey seeks to present itself as a potential alternative to expanding Russian influence, which local government elites in Central Asia see it as more dangerous. Thus, Armenia becomes essential in the South Caucasus region and begins to influence the prospects of all southern directions of Russia. This means that Armenia’s influence extends from the future of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in the post-Soviet space to Central Asia and Russia’s relations with Turkey, which automatically cover the entire Black Sea region and the eastern part of the White Sea.
Logically, Moscow benefits from expanding and strengthening international relations with Baku more than maintaining ties with Yerevan. Especially now that Armenia’s foreign and domestic policy relations have sharply decreased and the level of Russophobia in the Armenian society is increasing. In this regard, it seems that using the impact of the Afghanistan crisis on the Collective Security Treaty Organization can be used as a tool to formalize the relations of all members of the organization with Russia, which is an excellent excuse to reconsider the composition and content of the organization and Armenia’s relationship with it is to start all over again.
Today, it is not difficult to prevent France and other European countries or NATO, as a military-political organization, from infiltrating the South Caucasus. Regardless of the prospects and circumstances, it should not be forgotten that the South Caucasus has been and will be an integral part of Russia’s geopolitical interests. Therefore, Russia does not want to leave Caucasus under any circumstances. But it should not keep its inefficient allies there at any cost.
In conclusion, Soon, the South Caucasus will face a stage of great political turmoil. One will have to wait for the strangest political moves of the Armenian authorities and even individual efforts for a complete conflict with Russia. In other words, with Armenia frustrated by Russia’s support, it is not unlikely that we will see the presence of European countries in the Caucasus, which could lead to a political and even military confrontation between Russia and Europe in the near future the Caucasus.
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About the author:
Amin Bagheri is a Research Fellow at the International Studies Association in Tehran. His primary research interest lies in international relations, transnational governance, international peace, and conflicts in the Middle East.