Successive military transport aircrafts with Russian soldiers are landing in Armenia. A total of almost 2000 soldiers, 90 armoured transporters and almost 400 units of other military equipment are being sent to end the Azeri-Armenian war for Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been going on for over 30 years. Baku is celebrating victory because in recent weeks (the conflict escalated on 27 September), the Azerbaijani army has been more successful there than in the last three decades, conquering most of the Armenian territory. Only the Stepanakert [editor’s note: the unofficial capital of Republic of Artsakh] is left to the Armenians, and the Azerbaijani army has stopped just a dozen kilometres from it.
This was probably the time when Vladimir Putin called Baku. Moscow was aware that the further days of war would mean the complete loss of Nagorno-Karabakh by Yerevan, and the risk of a fully-fledged war including the bombing of capitals and the use of aviation. Then Moscow – Armenia’s ally under the Collective Security Treaty Organization – would have to react, but it could be too late, too much blood would be shed on the way.
The Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Paszynian tried to explain to his compatriots that he did not have much room for negotiation, that the next days of war would threaten not only the loss of territory, but also the security of the entire country. The Armenians were not convinced. He was hailed a “traitor” and had to leave his capital city residence. The street raged and the crowd in Yerevan took control of the key government buildings on Monday night. On Wednesday, the protests were announced by all opposition forces and it is quite likely that the Paszynian Government will not survive them.
The determination of Armenians is understandable. They know that the war has been frozen for many years at their expense. They are appalled by the success of Turkey, which is supporting Azerbaijan, and will probably deploy its forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. They are entrusting another section of the Armenian border to Russia, which had been exercising tight control over the 330-kilometre-long Armenian-Turkish border for years (FSB units of Russia are standing there). Armenia and Turkey have no diplomatic relations (because of the Armenian Genocide) and Yerevan does not hide the fact that the presence of the 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri (near the border with Turkey) is supposed to deter not only Baku, but above all Ankara. Another Russian base will therefore be established in Nagorno-Karabakh, this time as part of a peace mission. This means that Armenia has become more militarily dependent on Russia then any other country, giving way only to Syria.
However, the situation does not come down to the presence of the Russian army. Russia has overtaken almost all the key sectors of the Armenian economy, Russian corporations control gas pipelines there, the only fuel suppliers, and manage the energy networks. Even the railways have been handed over to a company owned by the Russian Railways. Is Armenia able to resist this Russian economic and military colonisation? Does anyone other than Putin and Erdoğan (the West for example) care about this part of the world today?