Armenia in 2017: warnings featured in Stratfor forecast

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Baku, 13 February 2017 –

Stratfor, the American global intelligence company with alleged links to the Central Intelligence Agency, has made public its forecast for the year 2017. It highlights global geopolitical trends, and predicts developments in separate regions of the world. Stratfor forecasts that global geopolitical situation will remain complicated in 2017, conflicts and armed clashes will grow in different parts of the world. This applies to conflicts in the South Caucasus too. As far as Armenia is concerned, Stratfor believes the country should not bank on serious military backing. So what comes next in the South Caucasus according to Stratfor`s forecasting is of vital importance.

Tense geopolitical struggle: some complicated developments of 2017

American global intelligence company Stratfor has published its forecast of geo-political developments for this year (see: 2017 Annual Forecast /, 27 December 2016). The forecast covers all regions of the world. In its Eurasia section, Stratfor makes forecasts about Russia and other former Soviet republics (see: 2017 Annual Forecast: Eurasia /, 27 December 2016).

Stratfor predicts that Moscow can increase its influence in the former Soviet Union. Although Russia continues to face certain challenges in Ukraine, South Caucasus and Central Europe, this will not have a serious impact on the situation. Georgia will strengthen security efforts with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Ankara will maintain its foothold in the Caucasus and in the Black Sea (see: previous source).

As far as the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is concerned, Stratfor believes that the Kremlin will be in a better position to assert its authority as the dispute's primary arbiter. "Russia will remain the primary arbiter in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, playing the two against each other to its advantage,'' Stratfor analysts write (see: previous source).

Naturally Stratfor`s forecasts will not necessarily be fulfilled. But we know from past experience that Stratfor, which has alleged links with the US intelligence services, in fact, puts forward a certain position. So this ''think tank’s'' analysis of what Russia and Turkey`s policies will be with respect to the South Caucasus are interesting. What draws particular attention in this context is Stratfor`s reflections on Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia.

It would be interesting to look at the prospect of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution against a background of the problems that Armenia may face in 2017. If the dispute remains frozen with Russia as its ''primary arbiter'', it will hardly be solved. The conflict is mediated by the three co-chair countries, of which two are Western countries. To resolve the dispute, the co-chair countries should at least reach consensus. And the patrons of Armenia are unlikely to play a passive role. So, according to Stratfor`s assumptions, there is little possibility that the year 2017 will bring about any progress towards a fair settlement of the dispute.

But there is one unique point. In other analysis, Stratfor studied the possibility of the Collective Security Treaty Organization`s (CSTO) supporting Armenia (see: "Stratfor" Ermənistanla bağlı fikir ayrılığına toxundu / "Azadliq" radio, 12 January 2017). This is of pivotal importance in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict because Yerevan seriously relies on the bloc from the point of view of military and defense assistance. Serzh Sargsyan has repeatedly complained of this at the CSTO`s gatherings.

Drawing parallels between the CSTO and NATO, Stratfor writes that even Greece supports Turkey within the alliance, but several CSTO member states did not back Armenia in the April war. After a while the Kazakh President did not attend a gathering of the bloc in Yerevan, and Belarus leader Lukahshenko made remarks sympathetic to Azerbaijan.

Sargsyan`s complaints: CSTO remains unfeeling

The Armenian President expressed his discontent when he met with Vladimir Putin during his visit to Moscow. But his complaints did not change the attitude of the CSTO one iota. Stratfor describes this as an important argument in CSTO-Armenia relations. ''The coming months will not be easy for the bloc as it searches for solutions to its leadership vacancies and to divisive issues such as the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The CSTO has never been a particularly cohesive coalition, but disputes over the bloc's next secretary-general could undermine its unity even further,'' say Stratfor analysts (see: previous source). They believe Moscow will do its utmost to ease the existing contradictions.

Stratfor mentions two points in this context. First, Belarus and Kazakhstan will block any pro-Armenian document at the CSTO. Second, the Kremlin will hardly defend Yerevan to the end because Russia attaches greater importance to Azerbaijan`s role in the South Caucasus. Baku is of vital significance to Astana and Moscow in terms of energy.

Stratfor analysts believe that in 2017 uncertainty will dominate Armenia`s security. And the CSTO will remain committed to its double standards. Belarus and Kazakhstan will not change their attitude that may be a headache for Yerevan. Russia will play both Armenia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan to its own advantage.

The prospect of an Armenian candidate`s being elected as the CSTO chief in a couple of months looks uncertain. In fact, the Kremlin has already given its message. On 29 December 2016, former Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha used "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic” phrase while commenting on the battles that took place on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. This provoked a sharp rebuke from Azerbaijan, with several experts accusing the Kremlin of supporting Armenia. Moscow immediately sacked Bordyuzha to demonstrate its neutrality.

Given these facts, several "think tanks'' such as Stratfor obviously forecast that efforts to bring an Armenian candidate to the post of the CSTO's secretary-general are doomed to face serious challenges. This means that in 2017 Yerevan will hardly get any tangible backing from the CSTO. Because of its negligent policy Armenia has failed to earn respect of other members of the bloc.

Azerbaijan will continue taking resolute steps towards restoring its territorial integrity. Baku will increase pressure on Yerevan in all areas. Armenia will be unable to retaliate, and, additionally, will not get any assistance from the CSTO. At the end of the day Armenia will be brought face to face with a strong opponent. Azerbaijan has repeatedly reiterated that if Armenia does not withdraw from the occupied lands, it will launch new successful military operations.

Stratfor`s analysis once more proves that Baku`s stance is absolutely fair. Nothing can justify Armenia. On the contrary, recent developments show that even the closest partners of Yerevan are not going to back its unjust cause. What the Armenian leadership should do at this moment is to reconsider the global processes and draw rational conclusions. The international community now demands such a powerful state as Israel to show understanding on the Palestinian issue. Then what is Armenia hoping for? Some circles within the Armenian opposition are looking for the answer to this question. But if Yerevan continues to disregard this problem, the Armenian people will suffer the most.

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