New status quo and new balance in the region
So, another big war in Karabakh is over. An armistice has been signed, which means a new status quo and a new balance of power in the region. Where is Georgia in this status quo and does this mean further strengthening of Russia? It is too early to give an exhaustive answer to these and other important questions, but much is already clear, and we can safely speak about it.
First of all, it should be noted that Georgia avoided the most difficult possible scenario. We are talking about Russia’s request for a military corridor across our territory. The war resumed and ended in such a way that Russia did not ask for a corridor. Georgia survived the war and was also able to maintain neutrality. Neither official Baku, nor official Yerevan accused Georgia of anything.
Armenia suffered a grievous defeat. It will be a long time before the country comes out of shock and realizes what happened. They lost a large and better part of the army. Pashinyan’s days are numbered. While Armenians are deeply disappointed with Russia’s behavior, it is unlikely that pro-Western forces will be able to stay in power. The opposite is likely to happen – responsibility for the defeat and loss of territories will be assigned to Pashinyan and the West, and the influence of the pro-Russian forces will increase. At this stage, Armenia has no other choice, since it needs the presence of Russian peacekeepers in order to preserve the rest of Karabakh. If the Russian peacekeepers leave, the Azerbaijanis can continue and completely capture Karabakh. Now it will be much easier for them than a couple of months ago – together with everything else, they now have Shusha, a city of strategic importance on a mountain, just a few kilometers from Stepanakert. To orient itself towards the West, Armenia will have to move away from Russia, and this is only possible if Armenia not only renounces Karabakh, but also improves relations with Turkey.
Although Russia has strengthened its position, Azerbaijan remains the main winner. Winning a war in itself is a serious statement. Moreover, hardly anyone could have expected such a success from Baku, including Russia. The latter supplied weapons to the Armenians and followed the development of events. The Russian Federation did not want to offend Azerbaijan and did not directly intervene in the conflict, especially since it had no legal obligations to do so (under a bilateral agreement, Moscow’s guarantees apply only to Armenia).
Russia would probably be better off if Azerbaijan could not move forward and the old status quo was preserved. But Azerbaijan easily destroyed Armenian-owned Russian equipment with the help of drones and not only moved forward, but also approached the last red line – Stepanakert.
It turned out that a revolution had taken place in military affairs and, probably, no one was ready for it, including Russia. And Armenia suffered from this revolution.
Another winner is Turkey, which had not played such an active role in the Caucasus since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It seems that some agreement was reached between Moscow and Ankara: after which, Turkey turned a blind eye to Russia’s intervention in Syria, and Russia turned a blind eye to Turkey’s intervention in the Caucasus.
Russia has proven that it remains a major player in the Caucasus. The war ended after Putin signed a peace agreement and ended with the deployment of Russian peacekeepers. His image as a reliable ally has fallen significantly, but he does not have many allies, and they almost unconditionally cling to him.
This story makes little difference for Georgia: our Russian base is located 40 kilometers from Tbilisi, and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers near Lachin does not actually change anything. So far, unfortunately, we should not expect any changes in our occupied territories. Russian guarantees apply directly to these territories (as opposed to Karabakh). However, at the same time, there is a precedent for the return of territories, and in our region, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali should reflect on the fact that nothing is permanent.
According to the peace agreement, Azerbaijan will be connected with Nakhichevan by a land corridor, and through Nakhichevan – with Turkey. Fears have already been expressed that this will weaken Georgia’s transit function. In my opinion, this is a small loss. If lasting peace is established in the region after this war, Georgia will ultimately prevail.
Our country is oriented towards transit, trade and tourism, and it needs peace. In addition, the strengthening of Azerbaijan increases the chances that the role of our energy corridor (Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum) will increase and, thanks to new additional projects, it will become an even more important route for Europe.
Moreover, after the arrival of Biden in the White House, we should expect a new increase in US attention to our region.