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Rebuild “burnt bridges”. Karabakh and the EU comeback attempt

Rebuild “burnt bridges”. Karabakh and the EU comeback attempt

In flickering mode, I traditionally talked to

… The EU has really been trying to actively establish itself in the South Caucasus lately. New realities are binding. Brussels, for example, was forced to intervene in the internal political crisis in Georgia – we recently discussed this in the light of the visit of Charles Michel, which, however, does not seem to have been particularly listened to in Tbilisi …

Azerbaijan’s victory in the “44-day war” for Karabakh, de-actualization of the Minsk settlement format, its actual replacement by Russian-Turkish “solitaire”, strengthening of the military presence of Russia – all this creates a new geopolitical situation in the region, in which the European Union needs to somehow position itself. It has been repeated many times that the EU does not, in principle, have a unified security policy, and, frankly, no progress has yet been seen in this regard. During all 44 days of the war for Karabakh, Brussels was in a kind of stupor, and the current incantations about adherence or reanimation of the OSCE Minsk Group, it seems, are already causing irritation in the European Union itself …Let us dwell briefly on the realities in which Brussels today has to “build bridges” in the region:

  • Let’s be frank, the European Union is, first of all, about Berlin and Paris. Both Germany and France today live in their own pre-election logic. This year there will be a new chancellor in Berlin, and the French president is busy with his own “transit-2022”;
  • The European Union understands that the Kremlin, assuming the role of a “peacemaker” and blessing well-known transport and infrastructure projects, will try to crush the region entirely for itself. De facto, a new military base in Azerbaijan – in the logic of Moscow, is a mutual Karabakh hook for Baku and Yerevan. Turkey in these scenarios is a situational “partner-competitor” of the Kremlin (in addition to being a fuse for Baku). It is unlikely that the current status quo suits the EU, another question is whether the European Union (read Berlin or Paris) has the tools, and most importantly, the desire, to intervene;
  • Turkey has its own specific history of relations with the European Union. The current deadlock in cooperation is associated, among other things, with the different interests of individual EU members in relations with Ankara. Germany cannot but take into account the powerful internal Turkish factor (Berlin recently de facto blocked the EU’s anti-Turkish sanctions). Recently, France’s relations with Turkey have generally been spoiled – the well-known themes of Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean and so on. There are, however, recent hints of normalization – let’s see what it will take;
  • The Russian-Turkish tandem around Karabakh may collapse, including suddenly. In this case, the Kremlin keeps in mind the resuscitation of that very OSCE Minsk Group – ambiguous messages about this from Moscow (the notorious “status” of Karabakh) irritate Baku, but it seems they are no longer surprising. Not to mention the preservation of the “statist” construction in the “NKR” under its own auspices;
  • There is no prospect of reanimating the OSCE Minsk Group without a radical change in the agenda of the talks – Azerbaijan simply will not return to the old format. At the same time, Baku can act as a communicator / mediator in establishing new formats of relations along the EU-Turkey line (and vice versa). In the event of a rupture of the Russian-Turkish tandem, the European Union will have to decide once again, or traditionally limit itself to “deep concern” …

Vladimir Kopchak