The Impact of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armistice Agreement on the South Caucasus. Future Scenarios for Security, Economy and Social Developments
International Online Conference
On November 10th, 2020 the Armistice Agreement signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan, mediated by Russia, came into force. The historic ceasefire deal ends the previously reignited in September conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Agreement stipulates a complete end of all hostilities, the returning of several districts to Azerbaijan and the deployment of Russian peacekeeping presence for the next five years along the line of contact separating the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the Lachin Corridor from the rest of Azerbaijan. Following the signing of the agreement and the deployment of the Russian peacekeepers, a memorandum on establishing a joint Russian-Turkish monitoring centre in Azerbaijan was signed by Russian and Turkish defence ministers.
A new geopolitical configuration that reverberates through the regional security, economy, trade, migration, and social developments. It is certainly the result of continuous disputes over unsettled scores, one whose intensity is heightened by religious and historical subtexts. It is, at the same time, a reconfiguration that is able to trigger far-reaching geopolitical shockwaves.
According to the geopolitical analytical framework put forward in 1997 by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Caucasus is within the very core of the so-called “Eurasian Balkans,” a highly volatile area due to the following reasons: 1) its vast deposits of natural resources, including hydrocarbons and minerals; 2) its heterogeneous blend of peoples whose bitter interethnic rivalries have lasted for centuries; 3) the prevalence of arbitrary borders that are often contested, and 4) its pivotal strategic position in terms of geopolitical influence and international trade flows attract the interest of both local and extra-regional powers.
The “Eurasian Balkans” have indeed witnessed a wave of conflict, rising geopolitical tensions, and strategic competition over the past three decades.
On the other hand, according to Russian strategic thinking, the so-called ‘near abroad’ – a concept that refers to the whole post-Soviet space – represents a region in which either favourable geopolitical attitudes toward Moscow or at least neutrality must prevail for reasons of national security related to the protection of Russia’s vulnerable flanks and the preservation of its strategic depth. The Kremlin’s anxieties are motivated by the prospect of contagious anarchy and chaos that might reach into Russia itself or, even worse, the presence of competitive great powers perceived as potentially hostile toward Russian interests. To manage these concerns, Moscow has been promoting regional collaboration through institutions like the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
Security Dilemma is seen as consequence of mutual insecurity perceptions which lie at the root of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been were driven into violence in their attempts to guarantee security needs – even through defensive measures. Almost three decades of the conflict resolution process has not borne fruit mainly due to the uncertainty about the opponent’s intentions and the absence of mutual trust between the parties.
Political scientists have called an impasse such as the one in Nagorno-Karabakh a security dilemma. This is defined as a situation in which one side in a conflict seeks to strengthen its own security vis-à-vis its opponent by taking steps that the other sees as threatening, leading to an escalation of tensions that undermines the security of both. Referring to the nearest past, the crux of the security dilemma here is that any effort by Azerbaijan to reverse the status quo by recapturing the occupied territories by force only reinforces Armenians’ determination to hang on to the territories to protect their own security interests.
More than two decades, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was a much greater international priority than it is today. Great hopes were placed on the OSCE as the emerging European security organization that would handle it. At one of its earliest meetings in 1992, the organization called for a conference to resolve the conflict, to take place in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. The conference was never convened, but a Minsk group was formed to mediate between the warring parties. Following the 1994 ceasefire, a new framework for the Minsk process was formalized. Russia’s failure to become the unilateral mediator gave the responsibility to the OSCE as a whole—an arrangement that also allowed the conflict parties to play the mediators off against one another.
OSCE structures have lost power and prestige in the last twenty years. The international actors have seen Karabakh slip down their agendas and have increasingly focused on managing the conflict rather than resolving it. The rotating one-year chairmanship structure of the OSCE means that the chairman in office lacks institutional memory on the issue. Gradually, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, for whom the conflict remains the number one national priority, have become the chief conductors of the process and found ways to influence the OSCE mechanisms.
In this vacuum, both sides have purchased modern destructive weaponry, with Russia acting as the main supplier of arms.
Azerbaijan has used massive oil revenues to increase its military budget to more than $4 billion a year. In the recent round of fighting, Baku was able to use tanks, heavy artillery, and attack helicopters, as well as Israeli-produced military drones. One reason why the Azerbaijani government may have been tempted to use force in April was that it was a moment when the military balance was most in Baku’s favour, as the military budget is being cut under pressure of falling oil revenues.
Statistics showed that the Armenians cannot afford the same level of military expenditure, but they counted on the advantage of defending higher ground. At the same time, being a strategic partner of Russian Federation, member of the Eurasian Economic Union as well as a member of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, Armenia used the opportunity to buy Russian weapons at reduced prices and relies more on Russian support.
As mentioned in preamble, after six weeks of renewed fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory, Russia brokered a ceasefire agreement for Nagorno-Karabakh that changed the map of South Caucasus.
Aim of the project
The current event is aimed to understand various positions and problematizations of international and regional experts from South Caucasus by meeting Romanian academics, officials, analysts, interns and students.