The "New Karabakh War" lasted just over a day. The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been ongoing for decades, claiming thousands of lives during that time.
This enmity runs deep. During the previous conflict in 2020, in an effort to stop the bloodshed in Nagorno-Karabakh, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, with Russia as a mediator, signed a joint statement. However, a final peace agreement was never signed because the parties could not agree on the fate of over 100,000 ethnic Armenians living in Karabakh. Under the terms of the agreement reached at the time, the Armenian side lost significant territories in Nagorno-Karabakh and all the surrounding occupied areas, with Russian peacekeepers entering Karabakh to monitor the ceasefire.
On September 19, 2023, another escalation began in Nagorno-Karabakh. Baku announced the start of "local anti-terrorism measures" and demanded the withdrawal of military forces, including Armenian armed forces, from the region. The presence of Russian peacekeepers did not deter Baku. Azerbaijan stated that this was in response to "a series of large-scale military provocations and acts of terrorism" by Armenian forces. In turn, the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Baku's actions a widescale aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh with the goal of ethnic cleansing.
The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan confirmed that combat operations would be halted if the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic surrendered all weapons, heavy equipment, and military personnel left their positions.
On September 20, the unrecognized republic agreed to lay down arms and disband its armed units to initiate negotiations with Baku. A delegation from Nagorno-Karabakh's authorities headed to the Azerbaijani town of Evlakh for a previously announced meeting regarding "reintegration, ensuring the rights and safety of Armenians."
The most interesting comment on the latest escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict came from the spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova. According to her, Russia's "main task is to ensure the security of its own peacekeepers and to place this responsibility on the conflicting parties."
What specific roles do Russian peacekeepers have? One of the main objectives of the presence of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh is to ensure the safety of the civilian population. The functioning of the Lachin Corridor was supposed to be guaranteed by Russian peacekeepers. However, this did not happen in practice, as Azerbaijan effectively controls the corridor, which is still closed for the import of goods, creating a very difficult situation for Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh.
It is challenging to assess Russia's level of hypocrisy. Russia itself initiated the largest war in Europe but simultaneously calls for peace. The latest armed escalation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region shows that the Russian peacekeeping mission in the region is ineffective and unnecessary. Statements from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, that Russian peacekeepers were unaware of the operation, vividly illustrate Russia's real authority in the region.
Hopes for Russia's guarantees evaporated with the start of Russia's aggression in Ukraine. If immediately after the "Second Karabakh War" of 2020, the peacekeepers made efforts to facilitate dialogue between the parties, these efforts later dwindled. Russia, weakened and entangled in the war in Ukraine, cannot fulfill its direct obligations to its allies within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). This organization has long lost its reason for existence. Why should countries join this fictional alliance if they will be left to deal with conflicts on their own when they arise? The Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia, Armen Grigoryan, has already stated that Armenia's membership in the CSTO, effectively led by Russia, poses "certain problems," and it is important for Yerevan to cooperate with Western partners on security matters. "Since 2020, Azerbaijan has launched three large-scale attacks on Armenia in which the CSTO provided no assistance," he noted.
The Kremlin is becoming an increasingly unreliable partner, and Putin can no longer be a guarantor of anything. The CSTO, the "Russian equivalent of NATO," is effectively disintegrating. It is evident that Russia will not come to the defense of anyone and will abandon its responsibilities when the time comes. And this is in the best-case scenario, as all that Russia's neighbors can expect from it is aggression.