Following the Belarusian crisis, the military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh becomes Russia’s Second Front, where significant diplomatic and possibly, military resources will be directed to. Under these conditions, the Moldovan agenda might temporarily fade into the background for the Kremlin
Despite the well-known lack of ethnic tolerance in relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the armed confrontation between them would every time fall spontaneously and strike with its fierceness the unenlightened public. The use of military equipment, artillery, general mobilization and video footage of serious clashes leading to casualties and infrastructure destruction are alarming symptoms indicating a low level of conflict control. Historical, religious and propaganda factors make the population of Azerbaijan and Armenia even more charged for armed confrontation to reach victory at any cost than the actual political elites of these countries and that complicates the conflict dynamics’ analyzing and forecasting.
In addition to the large number of casualties and serious destruction, the emerging information suggests that the Azerbaijan armed forces were able to capture and gain a foothold in part of the of Nagorno-Karabakh territory. This means a change in the balance of power in the region and a high likelihood of Yerevan and Stepanakert’s attempt at military or diplomatic revenge. The point is that the hot phase of the confrontation may drag on.
The happening can be viewed as a challenge for the Russian Federation, since Armenia is one of Moscow’s few military allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Russia has a large military base in Armenia with a 5 thousand servicemen personnel, equipped with S-300 and MiG-29 fighters. The base serves the so-called. “Unified Air Defense System of the CIS”, and where two other Transcaucasian states: Georgia and Azerbaijan, are not included. In addition to the military base, 4 Russian FSB border detachments operate in Armenia, guarding the borders with Turkey and Iran with a total length of almost 400 kilometers.
In addition, a number of countries in the region have decided on their preferences and declared their strong support for one or another side of the conflict. Thus, Turkey predictably supported Baku and, according to some reports, even sent several thousand militants with experience of the war in Syria and its military instructors and equipment, to the conflict region. In turn, Greece promised assistance to Armenia. The situation was commented on by the presidents of Russia and the United States. Diplomatic solutions are of course, still available at this stage but they will require active concerted efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group member states (USA, Russia and France) and by the parties to the conflict themselves as well if non-resistance of the populations of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
It cannot be ruled out that Russia will transfer significant resources to the Transcaucasian theater, since stabilizing the situation there is vitally important from the military-strategic point of view. Taking into account the Russia’s military factor presence in Armenia, the military response from the Russian Federation is very likely if the escalation reaches a new level and in case of a direct attack on Armenian territory.
Meanwhile, Russia’s position is overshadowed by the need of responding to the Belarusian crisis: last week after Alexander Lukashenko’s inauguration, protests in the country flared up with renewed vigor and along with hitherto unprecedented hacker attacks. Belarus is a key country for Russia from historical, military-strategic, transit, trade-economic, ethnic and other points of view. Minsk’s geopolitical turn could be fatal both for Russia and Belarus itself the way we know it.
Not everything is being calm in the Moldovan direction as well. Moscow has traditionally supported the incumbent President Igor Dodon and that confirmed his yesterday’s talks with Vladimir Putin. However, a near-revolutionary situation is also brewing in Moldova. Opposition politicians who are fighting Igor Dodon for presidency are already announcing results’planned falsifications and non-recognition of if they do not suit pro-Western politicians. As known, being an unstable state entity, Moldova has been under the close tutelage of its international development partners for decades: the USA, Romania, and the EU, which have serious leverage over the internal situation.
The grain of doubts about elections legitimacy has already been laid by disputes over the diaspora and Transdniestrian voters, accusations of fraud and the use of administrative resources, criticism of presidential elections outside parliament and other warnings, including international ones.
As easily seen, the H hour is approaching in several countries at once, and that’ll give an answer to the question of whether Russia will be able to cope and effectively administrate conflicts erupting under the domino principle on several fronts at once.
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