Moscow’s Rebuke to Yerevan Unveils Geopolitical Chess in the South Caucasus

Moscow’s Rebuke to Yerevan Unveils Geopolitical Chess in the South Caucasus

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s recent criticism of Armenia has ignited a fresh round of geopolitical chess in the South Caucasus, exposing underlying tensions and strategic maneuvers that extend beyond the region’s borders.

Zakharova’s accusations against Armenia center on the alleged failure to adhere to the trilateral Statement of November 9-10, 2020, which marked a significant moment in the turbulent history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. From Moscow’s perspective, Yerevan stands accused of neglecting key aspects of the agreement, including the withdrawal of weapons and military personnel from Karabakh, the utilization of the Lachyn road for transporting mines and weapons, and the obstruction of the trilateral group tasked with unblocking communications.

The explicit warning to Armenia about the repercussions of potentially departing from the trilateral format carries weighty implications, with the not-so-subtle suggestion that the West would not be a savior in such a scenario. This strategic positioning aligns with President Putin’s recent remarks cautioning against Armenia’s withdrawal from key regional organizations like the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

Analysts in Azerbaijan, too, have weighed in on Moscow’s stance, viewing it as part of a broader diplomatic framework. Farhad Mammadov, head of the South Caucasus Research Center, interprets Zakharova’s statements as a prelude to Prime Minister Pashinyan’s anticipated visits to EAEU and CIS summits, as well as a meeting with President Putin. Mammadov highlights Russia’s discomfort with the growing bilateral agreements between Baku and Yerevan, sensing a convergence with Western reservations about the bilateral format in the context of peace negotiations.

The critique from Moscow against Yerevan appears selective to some observers. Historian Eldar Ginesli questions Zakharova’s assertion that returning to the implementation of the trilateral agreements is the obvious solution, considering the evolving dynamics in the region. Ginesli underscores the capacity for direct negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, as demonstrated in recent years, challenging the perceived necessity of external mediation.

The underlying message seems to be that regional players, especially Azerbaijan and Armenia, are increasingly capable of negotiating and reaching agreements without the involvement of traditional mediators. This shift in dynamics is unsettling for external actors accustomed to steering the narrative. The echoes of Russia’s concerns about losing influence parallel recent challenges faced by Azerbaijan in its relations with the United States and the European Union.

As the geopolitical chessboard evolves in the South Caucasus, the interactions between key players will undoubtedly shape the region’s future, raising questions about the role of mediators and the autonomy of regional actors in determining their destinies.