Powerless in the South Caucasus

Berlin's attempt to gain influence in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict failed. Moscow monitors the ceasefire.

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Own report) - Foreign policy experts consider the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to be a success for Russia and a strategic defeat for the West. The mediation of a cease-fire was a "spectacular diplomatic move" by Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the Carnegie Moscow Center. "The West" has "once again yielded the floor to Putin," criticizes the government-financed Deutsche Welle. In fact, Moscow has once again successfully ended an armed conflict in close cooperation with Ankara - like previously, for example, in Syria. The OSCE's "Minsk Group" (USA, France and Russia), which had dealt with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, has failed, just as Berlin and the EU's attempts failed to end that war. Russian troops will now monitor the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian armed forces are deployed in all three South Caucasian countries - for the first time since the early 1990s.

The Ceasefire

With the ceasefire agreement coming into effect in the early hours of November 10, the hostilities over Nagorno-Karabakh have ended. On the military side, Azerbaijan emerged victorious from the war. Thanks to the systematic rearmament, particularly by Turkey and Ankara's material support,[1] Azerbaijan was able to reconquer some of the regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. Even though these regions belong to its territory, Armenia has kept them to serve as a "buffer zone." By December 1, Armenia must withdraw from the remaining Azeri areas not yet restored. The Azeri military also succeeded in conquering areas of Nagorno-Karabakh, including Shusha, a city situated directly above Nagorno-Karabakh's capital Stepanakert, overlooking the Lachin Corridor, the only remaining overland corridor to Armenia. Armenia must allow Azerbaijan to establish an overland corridor through its territory to the Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan. Many issues remain unresolved, including that of Nagorno-Karabakh 's future status. It is unclear, whether and how many of the Nagorno-Karabakh residents, who had fled to Armenia during the war, will return to the region under the current conditions.

Ineffective Fist Brandishing

German observers and experts reluctantly consider the ceasefire's entering into effect as a success for Russian diplomacy. The "Minsk Group," established already back in the 1990s by the United States, France, and Russia to find a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, had failed to mediate between the two warring parties. The Trump administration's attempt to single-handedly end the war was also unsuccessful. The German government's efforts to intervene as mediator in the conflict led nowhere. Already in late September, shortly after the hostilities began, Chancellor Angela Merkel had spoken with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia's president Nikol Pashinyan and again with Pashinyan on October 11. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had talked with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to seek a solution to the conflict - in vain. EU appeals had no consequences. The EU's foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell had expressed his "concern" about the war and rapporteurs spoke of a "collective fist brandishing in the EU Parliament."[2] Neither had had any consequences.

Russia's Growth of Influence

On the other hand, Moscow was able to mediate a ceasefire that went into effect on Tuesday - in cooperation with Ankara, on which the Azeri government relies. As in the case of Syria and Libya, Russia has once again demonstrated that, in spite of massive differences, it is in a position to work out a compromise with Turkey and to reach a ceasefire agreement on that basis.[3] In addition to prestige Moscow also gained new concrete influence in the region. For example, Russian troops will monitor compliance with the ceasefire: 1,960 soldiers with 90 personnel carriers, 380 other vehicles and other equipment are planned.[4] They are scheduled to be stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh. A five-year extension is intended. Russian troops are also supposed to monitor the Lachin Corridor - the overland connection to Armenia - as well as Azerbaijan's newly planned overland corridor through Armenian territory to the Azeri exclave Nakhchivan. This means that from now on, Russian troops will be deployed in all three South Caucasian countries: In Georgia, Russian troops are stationed in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; In Armenia, with whom Russia cooperates within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance, the Russian military has its own military installation - the Gyumri Military Base.

"A New Geopolitical Configuration"

Russia's growth of influence is widely recognized. The ceasefire agreement means "a geopolitical victory" for Moscow, says Michael Carpenter, managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania.[5] Fyodor Lukyanov, chief editor of the Russia in Global Affairs journal and Research Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club, said "the Minsk group basically doesn't exist anymore." Washington along with Paris including the EU, have lost influence. Instead, Moscow is now cooperating also in the South Caucasus with Ankara. There's "an absolutely new geopolitical configuration," where "the Russian role as a guarantor of stability is highly demanded by both sides."[6] According to the Carnegie Moscow Center Russia "played a spectacular diplomatic move."[7] President Vladimir Putin was the "unexpected winner of this war," writes the opinion-making Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.[8] According to the German government-financed Deutsche Welle "the West" has "again yielded the floor to Putin" - "like already in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria."[9]

The Crisis Zone Surrounding the EU

In fact, once again the attempts by Berlin and the EU to impose themselves as guarantor of stability within the broad zone of countries at the EU's outer borders have failed. "We must work toward establishing to the east of the European Union and along the shores of the Mediterranean, a ring of responsibly governed countries, with which we can maintain a close cooperation-based relationship," according to the European Security Strategy, adopted December 12, 2003.[10] Since then wars and conflicts have flared in a number of countries within that ring surrounding the EU, however, the Union's attempts to come to grips with this disorder have been in vain: In Libya, Mali, Lebanon, Syria and East Ukraine, and currently the protests in Belarus, as well as the conflict with Turkey - not only in the Eastern Mediterranean - can be added to the list. Germany and the EU are regularly demonstrating their incapability of at least durably attenuating the conflicts or of finding lasting solutions. The fact that Berlin and Brussels are systematically undermining their relations with the only country - Russia - that is at least in a position to achieve ceasefires in those crisis countries is doing nothing to better the situation.[11]


[1] See also Kämpfe im Südkaukasus.

[2] See also Neighborhood in Flames (II).

[3] See also Buffer Zone in the Airspace and The German-Russian Treasure.

[4] Friedrich Schmidt: Die Wut einer ganzen Nation. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11.11.2020.

[5] Leyla Latypova, Daniil Galaydov: What Does the Nagorno-Karabakh Deal Mean for Russia? themoscowtimes.com 11.11.2020.

[6] Andrew Roth, Michael Safi: Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal reshapes regional geopolitics. theguardian.com 10.11.2020.

[7] Thomas de Waal: A Precarious Peace for Karabakh. carnegie.ru 11.11.2020.

[8] Reinhard Veser: Kein Frieden. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11.11.2020.

[9] Roman Goncharenko: Meinung: Putin und Erdogan als Gewinner in Berg-Karabach. dw.com 10.11.2020.

[10] Ein sicheres Europa in einer besseren Welt. Europäische Sicherheitsstrategie. Brüssel, den 12. Dezember 2003. See also Nachbarschaft in Flammen.

[11] See also The New Strategy toward Russia.