Category Archives: Russian Politics

Russia’s peace mission in Karabakh provokes reaction in Azerbaijan

Photo: Opening ceremony of accommodation for the Russian peace-keeping contingent in Karabakh; Russian Ministry of Defence

Photo: Opening ceremony of accommodation for the Russian peace-keeping contingent in Karabakh; Russian Ministry of Defence

As part of the 10 November ceasefire agreement that ended last year’s 44-day war, a contingent of Russian soldiers was deployed to Karabakh as peacekeepers. However, the lack of a formally agreed mandate and perceptions of Russian overstepping has led to growing tensions between Baku and Moscow, writes Fuad Shahbazov in this op-ed for KarabakhSpace.eu.

The second Karabakh war ended with the signing of a Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement and the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces with the aim of preventing further hostilities and ensuring stability in the region. However, the ceasefire arrangements between Azerbaijan–Armenia on one side and Russia–Turkey on the other has left more questions than answers. The fact that there is still no formally agreed mandate for the Russian forces operating on the ground causes outrage in Azerbaijan as local authorities loudly criticise Moscow for provocative actions. Continue reading

Azerbaijan Feels Pressure to Join Moscow-Dominated Eurasian Economic Union

 

Photo credit: MIKHAIL KLIMENTIEV/AFP/Getty Images

EAEU member states’ leaders pose for a picture before a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Sochi on May 14, 2018. (Photo by Mikhail KLIMENTIEV

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 18 Issue: 68

The next meeting of the Intergovernmental Council of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will be held in the central Russian city of Kazan, on April 29–30 (TASS, March 17). A key agenda item for the EEU member states may reportedly be to discuss the possibility of bestowing observer status on Azerbaijan and, at a minimum, to allow its delegation to take part in this and future meetings, if officials from Yerevan approve. For Russia, this would be an important first step toward Baku’s eventual full membership in the regionalist bloc (Central.asia-news.com, April 19; Turan, April 24). However, from the point of view of Armenia, several important issues will need to be addressed before it would agree to Azerbaijani attendance at this week’s EEU gathering. Continue reading

What’s driving Turkey and Ukraine’s growing alliance?

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy (L), attend a signing ceremony ahead of press conference in Istanbul, Turkey on October 16, 2020. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar / AA)

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R), and President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy (L), attend a signing ceremony ahead of a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey on October 16, 2020. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar / AA)

In the past few years, Turkey has been gradually increasing its influence in Ukraine amid escalating tensions with Russia, challenging Moscow’s standing in the Black Sea region. The strategic cooperation between Ankara and Kyiv is not limited to political statements but encompasses other important fields, such as the economy, security, and, in particular, defence industries.

Relations between the two countries gained further impetus with the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and reached their peak during the administration of President Volodymyr Zelensky, who assumed office in 2019. The conflict in eastern Ukraine and the growing military activity of Russia in Donbas have made the Ankara-Kyiv axis a top priority for both states. In recent years, high-ranking figures have made several official visits. Continue reading

Turkey is the new major power in the South Caucasus

Turkish soldier greets an Azerbaijani colleague during recent military exercises between the two countries (photo TRT Istanbul)

Turkish soldier greets an Azerbaijani colleague during recent military exercises between the two countries (photo TRT Istanbul)

The bloody six-week conflict erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia on September 27 in the Nagorno-Karabakh region resulted in significant territorial gains for Azerbaijani forces. It was no secret that since the early 2000s Azerbaijan had been steadily building up its armed forces. The defeat of the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, an unrecognized Armenian populated territory within Azerbaijan’s borders, revealed serious military-technical problems on the Armenian side, which triggered mass anti-government riots in Armenia itself.   The recent Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement between Baku and Yerevan halted the ongoing bloodshed and enabled the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone. It also marked a significant shift in regional geopolitics. Continue reading

Lavrov’s Gulf trip highlights Russia’s growing regional role

Photo by Alexander Shcherbak/TASS via Getty Images

Photo by Alexander Shcherbak/TASS via Getty Images

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a four-day trip to the Gulf in early March, stopping in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of a broader effort to boost Moscow’s ties with the region. Although the Gulf monarchies are traditionally considered some of the U.S’s closest allies, relations between Russia and the Gulf have improved in recent years and there is potential for further cooperation going forward.

Russia’s interests in the Gulf are multifaceted, but key areas include energy, military affairs (especially arms sales), and investment, as well as regional conflicts, most prominently Syria. During his official meetings, Foreign Minister Lavrov focused on economic cooperation, in particular Gulf investment in Russia, and negotiations over further coordination on Syria. Russian-Gulf commercial ties are especially relevant at the moment as Moscow is set to host several events next month, including the fifth ministerial session of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum, Arabia-EXPO 2019, and a meeting of the Russian-Arab Business Council. Part of Lavrov’s mission was to invite the Gulf countries to attend, and he no doubts made a major effort to persuade them to send high-level delegations. As yet, however, the Gulf monarchies have not shown a willingness to take part. Continue reading

Will the Syrian Kurds strike a deal with Moscow?

Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency

Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency

President Donald Trump’s announcement at the end of 2018 that he would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria came as a surprise to all parties involved, sparking particular concern among America’s Syrian Kurdish allies. The move followed President Trump’s declaration of victory over ISIS after a four-year military campaign fighting alongside Syrian Kurdish forces. This sudden and unexpected decision has been widely criticized not only by allies but also those inside the White House, with many analysts arguing that the U.S. withdrawal will expose the Syrian Kurds to an attack by Turkey.

The news caught the Pentagon and local Syrian allies off-guard and ultimately led to the resignation of several senior U.S. officials, including Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, and Brett McGurk, the president’s special envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS. According to McGurk’s resignation letter, the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops would be dangerous and lead to a risk of resurgence among the remnants of ISIS in Syria. Continue reading

What Would Membership in the CSTO Mean for Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus?

Photo Credit: Russia Business Today

Photo Credit: Russia Business Today

On August 16, the Azerbaijani MP and head of the Azerbaijan-Russia interparliamentary group Ali Huseynli told local media that “It would be advisable to consider Azerbaijan’s participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization” (CSTO). The sensational statement triggered a public discussion on Azerbaijan’s possible membership in the Russia-led CSTO and its consequences for the region. While some state officials described this prospect as a logical extension of Baku’s cooperation with Moscow, others strictly opposed the idea, stating that it would pose dangerous challenges to the country.

BACKGROUND: Russia’s various political and military initiatives have constituted important tools for regaining influence across Eurasia. However, the Russian-led regional groupings, including the CSTO, are inconvenient alliances. The CSTO unites a number of former Soviet republics including Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus (and previously Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan) under the umbrella of defense cooperation against internal and external threats such as international terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime. Whereas Russia has sought to exert leverage in the former Soviet republics via the CSTO, the organization has not become a powerful tool in this respect. In order to boost the CSTO’s role, Moscow seeks additional members including Azerbaijan, with its economic potential and rich hydrocarbon resources. Continue reading

Azerbaijan in the CSTO: An Unlikely Prospect

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 125

In an interview, last month (August 16) with the media outlet Azeri Daily, Azerbaijani member of parliament and the head of the Azerbaijan-Russia inter-parliamentary group, Ali Huseynli, suggested that considering the changed geopolitical conditions in the South Caucasus, “it would be possible [he later also used the word ‘advisable’] to consider Azerbaijan’s participation in the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization]” (Azeri Daily, August 16). His sensational statement triggered a heated public discussion domestically and abroad about Azerbaijan potentially joining the Russian-led military bloc.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization—or “Eurasian NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]” as it has sometimes been referred to in the West—brings together a number of former Soviet republics, including Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus (formerly also Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan). The military bloc purportedly strives to develop closer intra-regional defense cooperation against internal and external threats like international terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and similar threats. However, the organization also serves to maintain Russia’s political-military influence over the post-Soviet space (Janusz Bugajski and Margarita Assenova, Eurasian Disunion: Russia’s Vulnerable Flanks, The Jamestown Foundation, 2016). Continue reading