The fierce conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh is not what it seems. Least of all is this a civilizational struggle between barbaric Muslim Azeris and victimized Christian Armenians. That is how it is being portrayed in the United States, in France and in other Western countries where there are substantial Armenian émigré communities which are and have long been politically active. It is how the conflict is being portrayed by the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, who has raised the very emotive issue of “genocide” in speaking of what would happen to his people if the Azeris reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh, with the help of Turkish drones and jihadist mercenaries from Syria allegedly being introduced into the campaign by the Turks.
Given the succession of French, American and other resolutions in recent years recognizing the claims of Armenians to have been victims of planned genocide through forced relocations under the Ottoman rulers in the last years of their empire, this charge of intended genocide is calculated to win support in the West whatever the truth of who started the latest fighting and for what purpose.
Why is this occurring now? The Azeris say that George Soros is behind it all. They accuse Pashinyan of taking Soros money and being caught in the Soros organization’s spider web of malign influence which in this instance would fit very well with plans in Washington as outlined below. Pashinyan denies a tie-in with Soros, but why would the Azeris spin this out of thin air when there are so many other grounds for explaining what they say was an Armenian attack on their positions at the start the present armed conflict?
To be sure, it could be Turkish backing for the Azeris that lies behind the present fighting and a possible Azeri attack at the start of the exchange. Why now? Because Turkey’s president Erdogan is flexing his muscles in the region and would not mind appearing to be pressing on the Russian zone of influence in the Caucasus, which Armenia has till now represented. This would improve his standing in Washington even as it raises more hackles in Paris, which is staunchly pro-Armenian. It would be treacherous in relation to the Russians, but then again Turkey and Russia are at odds in Libya and Syria, so one more bone of contention would not change much in a relationship that is driven purely by Realpolitik.
One may safely assume that the predisposition of the governor of California and of many members of Congress in favor of Armenia does not carry much weight with the Pentagon or the State Department. And a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia that potentially draws into the conflict Turkey, Iran and Russia would serve very handsomely the US policy with respect to all three states, most particularly policy towards Russia.
It is not for nothing that the Financial Times and other mainstream Western media were well prepared to explain the outbreak of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh as one more evidence of the Kremlin losing control over its “near abroad,” that is one more foreign policy failure of Vladimir Putin. To their surprise and surely to their disappointment, the Kremlin did not go for this bait and Russia has so far remained neutral in the dispute so as to offer its good services to both sides as honest broker. Yes, Russia has a defense treaty and a military base in Armenia, but their pact excludes the Nagorno-Karabakh. Talks in Moscow last week arranged by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brought about a truce which in latest reporting has proven to be less than perfect, but still has prevented the continuation of all out warfare in the region.
The fires burning at Russia’s borders in the Caucasus are an add-on to the disorder and conflict on its Western border in neighboring Belarus, where fuel is poured on daily by pyromaniacs at the head of the European Union acting surely in concert with Washington.
Yesterday we learned of the decision of the European Council to impose sanctions on President Lukashenko, a nearly unprecedented action when directed against the head of state of a sovereign nation. It signifies not a lever for negotiations but an end to negotiations, a step just short of outright declaration of war. From this perspective, I conclude that the objective is not at all what it is proclaimed to be, that is to change the behavior of the country’s president and force him to negotiate with the one opposition recognized by the EU, Mrs. Tikhanovskaya.
She alone enjoys the unlimited support of the Baltic States and Poland. She alone has been received and been shown all courtesies appropriate to a head of government by President Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. Lukashenko’s talks with imprisoned opposition personalities in Minsk in the past week to discuss constitutional reform which he says are precondition to any new elections evidently count for nothing in the eyes of the EU leadership which has its own very specific outcome of regime change in its sites.
In any case, Mr. Lukashenko’s back was already against the wall even before the imposition of personal sanctions on him and there is nowhere for him to go except on a still tougher policy of arrests and police force against the ever more violent and radical street demonstrators. It is easy enough to see that the real intent of the sanctions is to put pressure on the Kremlin, which is Lukashenko’s guarantor in power, to compound the several other measures being implemented simultaneously in the hope that Putin and his entourage will finally crack and submit to American global hegemony as Europe did long ago.
The other pressure points are the phony poisoning of opposition blogger Alexei Navalny with Novichok which is laid before Vladimir Putin’s door explicitly by Navalny in an interview with Spiegel last week. The same is implicit in all the recriminations against Russia over its failure to satisfy EU demands for “clarification” of the poisoning. Here German Foreign Minister Maas has been doing the heavy lifting for his Chancellor.
Finally, there are the ongoing reckless American flights of B-52s armed with cruise missiles to the sea borders of Russia from the Black Sea, Baltic Sea, Sea of Okhotsk and elsewhere. As I mentioned in these pages a couple of weeks ago, these threatening maneuvers which have gone beyond surveillance and turned into mock war exercises come to more than 40 approaches a week, compelling the Russian Air Force to scramble to turn back the potential attackers.
Add to the mix, the steady flow of threats against all participants in the Nord Stream gas pipeline project coming from Washington.
Why are we seeing this unprecedented political, military and economic pressure on the Kremlin? Why now?
I have a couple of tentative explanations.
First, there is the belated reaction of US and Allied forces to the clear emergence of Russia as a step ahead of the West in developing and deploying cutting edge strategic weapons systems that are game changers. I have in mind in particular the Avangard hypersonic missiles, which have received ample coverage in Russian media. With reference to Avangard, Vladimir Putin said a week ago when presenting an award to the longtime head of the factory that developed and is producing them, it represents the first time ever that Russia has pulled ahead of the USA in strategic weapons. In the past, the Soviet Union was always playing catch-up to US advances in nuclear weapons, in delivery systems and the like. Moreover, there is additionally an entire panoply of new age weapons undergoing simultaneous testing and entry into serial production. These have the cumulative effect of providing Russia with invincibility against all currently deployed Western attack and defense systems.
Secondly, on the level of the Information War which the US has been waging against Russia ever since Vladimir Putin’s speech before the Munich Security Conference in February 2007, I see the present campaign of multiple threats against Russia as a push-back against the Russians coming out first with a Covid-19 vaccine. Moscow played up its achievement for all it was worth by dubbing the vaccine Sputnik V, in open reference to the shock and awe technical achievement of the Soviet Union in putting the first artificial satellite into orbit in 1957. Like the spectacular original Sputnik, Russia’s latest attention-grabbing vaccine puts to shame all Western developers and Western governments. Here we see the brilliance of Russian science highlighted, a fact which goes unnoticed in the usual metrics of achievement, namely the number of patents filed annually and number of peer-reviewed scientific works published annually. More to the point, Russia’s political leaders have shown great boldness in moving to save lives and to save the livelihoods of their population threatened by lockdowns, all by overruling the kind of ass-covering bureaucrats who are running the health services elsewhere, particularly in the EU and the USA.
The anti-Russia full tilt ahead policy outlined above is going on against a background of the U.S. presidential electoral campaigns. The Democrats continue to try to depict Donald Trump as “Putin’s puppy,” as if the President has been kindly to his fellow autocrat while in office. Of course, under the dictates of the Democrat-controlled House and with the complicity of the anti-Russian staff in the State Department, in the Pentagon, American policy towards Russia over the entire period of Trump’s presidency has been one of never ending ratcheting up of military, informational, economic and other pressures in the hope that Vladimir Putin or his entourage would crack. Were it not for the nerves of steel of Mr. Putin and his close advisers, the irresponsible pressure policies outlined above could result in aggressive behavior and risk taking by Russia that would make the Cuban missile crisis look like child’s play.
Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2017. Reprinted with permission from his blog.
© Gilbert Doctorow, 2020