The bombings by Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a disapproval for Russia.

Le ministre russe des affaires étrangères, Sergueï Lavrov, à Moscou, le 18 septembre 2023.

On the diplomatic front, the resumption of the Azerbaijani offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday, September 19, is a setback for Moscow. It was under the auspices of Russia that the peace agreement of November 2020 was concluded, and it was a contingent of 1,960 Russian “peacekeepers” who were supposed to ensure its implementation, as well as security on the ground, in theory.

Instead, Moscow has allowed tensions to persist and has been unable or unwilling to prevent the Azerbaijani party from imposing a blockade on the Nagorno-Karabakh region for almost a year. Whether due to a lack of political will or military capabilities – a result of its weakened army in the ongoing war in Ukraine – Russia has neglected its role as an arbiter and guarantor. This once again demonstrates its inability to ensure stability in what it claims as its backyard, whether in the Caucasus or Central Asia.

Despite its connection to the Russian army, the Telegram channel Rybar, which closely monitors the regional conflict, went as far as mentioning on Tuesday a “discredit” brought to the Russian mission and Moscow’s role as a security guarantor.

Service minimum diplomatique

The initial response from Russian diplomacy to this new escalation of tensions in the Haut-Karabakh confirms Moscow’s position as a mere observer. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has thus “called on both parties involved in the conflict” to stop the conflict, a statement that resembles diplomatic lip service and denies the obvious fact that Azerbaijan deliberately initiated the conflict.

Du côté du Kremlin, le porte-parole Dmitri Peskov assurait que « la priorité est la sécurité des forces de maintien de la paix russes ». Il a été obligé de démentir les rumeurs selon lesquelles Bakou avait informé la partie russe en amont de son opération.

The suspicion has been lingering for a long time regarding Russia’s position in the matter: in 2020, Yerevan already felt abandoned by its traditional Russian ally, who allowed Baku to demonstrate its military superiority before obtaining a ceasefire – and a peace agreement that, without resolving anything fundamentally, made a resumption of hostilities almost inevitable. In addition to this, there are complex relations with Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, a strong supporter of Azerbaijan, which Russia handles carefully due to other more pressing issues in its view.

In recent weeks, the Armenian government has been consistently distancing itself from Moscow, sending various symbolic signals – such as expelling Russian journalists, the prime minister’s wife visiting Kiev, and providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine – as well as more significant actions. These include organizing a joint military exercise with the United States and announcing the ratification of the Rome Statute by Yerevan, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court. In March, the court issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin for “war crimes” related to the deportation of Ukrainian children.

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