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Peace instead of revolutions: about Russia’s goals and tasks in Nagorno-Karabakh

Before the forthcoming visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Armenia, experts are trying to guess what new reconciliation terms the Kremlin can offer in the light of President Putin’s most recent statement that Russia will do its best to settle the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.

And even though mass media have hinted that Lavrov may have some new plan for Armenia, Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, in reality, he will hardly offer anything sensational. All we can expect is just modernized Madrid Principles and one more attempt to consider how to combine the principles of territorial integrity and a nation’s right to self-determination, how to prevent new “four-day wars” and how to solve the fundamental problem of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status.

The conflicting parties have made it clear that they are not going to give in. They in the Kremlin perfectly know this, but they still continue pressing their peacemaking efforts, if not to achieve any substantial agreement (which is doubtful at the current stage), then at least to ease tension on the conflict line. And they have certain motives for such persistency.

To a certain extent the “four-day war” has benefitted both regimes - for without any territorial losses and gains, the authorities in both Armenia and Azerbaijan have managed to consolidate their societies. And even though some people have certain questions, the general mood is quite positive.

Before the war, things were quite different. In Armenia, where each third citizen is extremely poor and where emigration and corruption continue to be the key problems, the society might explode at any moment. As experts told EADaily earlier, even though Armenia has no consolidated opposition, there are lots of active civil movements, who have so far been quite efficient. So, if they decide to consolidate into opposition, they may become much more dangerous for the ruling regime.

In Azerbaijan, things are no better. Low oil prices are causing big financial problems: depreciating manat and growing prices have already triggered protests in many regions. The authorities were even forced to resort to police operations. One more serious problem is growing radicalism. Now that lots of Azerbaijani ISIL fighters are coming back from Syria, people are beginning to adopt some radical Islamic ideas. All this might end in an “Azerbaijani spring” for Ilham Aliyev.

The war has calmed down both nations, so, now it is very important for Russia to try to stabilize the situation - and not only in Nagorno-Karabakh. They in the Kremlin are not concealing their plans to involve Azerbaijan in the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. This will give them a bigger stronghold in the South Caucasus.

Any big wars will cause the conflicting parties so much damage that people on both sides may well revolt. And if they do, Russia’s integration projects in the South Caucasus will be wrecked - and not only because new regimes may be anti-Russian. Simply, this will give rise to new realities and the West will certainly try to use them for enlarging its influence in the region.

In this light, Russia’s continued peacemaking efforts are just an attempt to preserve the status quo in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

This is also a way for Russia to play down Turkey’s ambitions. Now that Russia and Turkey are at odds, any new Armenian-Azerbaijani war will turn Turkey into a key player in the region. If this happens, Russia will have no more chances to be partner to Azerbaijan.

Lavrov’s visit to Yerevan may give answers to some of these questions. In any case, it will show what instruments and arguments Russia is going to use. For the moment, even resuming the peace process will be a big achievement for the Russians: now that both the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis are losing people on the contact line, they both will welcome this step.

Anush Levonyan, EADaily’s political analyst, Yerevan

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