Wednesday, June 29, 15:53

Analyst at Stratfor Eugene Chausovsky examines Russia's dominant
position surrounding the territorial dispute of Nagorno-Karabakh near
the Armenian- Azerbaijani border.

Chausovsky writes: "A cease-fire was broken between Armenia and
Azerbaijan on Tuesday after an exchange of gunfire occurred between
the two countries on the line of contact. These skirmishes occurred
after the latest round of negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh, which
is a disputed region between the two countries, failed to produce a
settlement on Friday. While negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh have
been going on for several years, there are significant geopolitical
realities that serve as obstacles to any sort of agreement over
this issue.

The primary actor when considering the prospects for a Nagorno-Karabakh
settlement is not Azerbaijan or Armenia but, rather, Russia. Russia's
primary goal in the former Soviet Union is to advance its interests
in these countries while blocking the interests of foreign powers and
particularly the West. This is especially the case in the Caucasus
region, which is made up of Armenia, Azerbaijan as well as Georgia,
and these three countries are heavily pursued by the West. Within
these pursuits, Azerbaijan is the key as it has the largest population
in the region, it borders both Russia and Iran in strategic points,
and perhaps most importantly, it has significant quantities of oil
and natural gas. These energy resources allow Azerbaijan to be a
significant exporter of energy to the West and therefore serve as
a threat to Russia's energy relationship and political relationship
with Europe. This then explains Russia's relationship with Armenia,
which Russia supports politically, economically and has a troop
presence within Armenia. This also explains Russia's position on
Nagorno-Karabakh, which is to appear that Russia is trying to do
everything it can as a negotiator to reach a settlement while in
reality do everything it can to prevent such a settlement.

As long as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains an issue, then
Azerbaijan's access to the west via Turkey is blocked through this
corridor. And while Azerbaijan has been increasing its military
expenditures on the back of its growing energy exports, the fact
remains that Russia's military presence in Armenia will serve as a
significant blocking force to Azerbaijan. In addition, Russia also has
a military presence in two breakaway territories of Georgia, Abkhazia
and South Ossetia, giving Russia even more leverage over Azerbaijan.

Therefore, it ultimately boils down to Russia's position when
assessing the prospects for any meaningful change to the status of

From: A. Papazian