South Caucasus: Two aspects of geopolitical reality

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Baku, 1 October 2018 –

The aggravating geopolitical battle among superpowers is in the media spotlight. Disagreements among the US, Russia and Iran are deepening, which mainly affects the Middle East problem. These countries have taken a tough position on the Syrian problem. The US and Iranian presidents exchanged taunts during the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. This was followed by a terrorist attack at a military parade in the city of Ahvaz in Iran. Against a background of such dangerous processes, the developments in the South Caucasus accelerated. The presidents of Turkey and Russia visited Azerbaijan. Nikol Pashinyan met with Hassan Rouhani in New York. Georgia called on Russia to pull out its military from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. What are the main signs of geopolitical processes in the South Caucasus against a background of these developments? We`ll try to find an answer to this question.

Growing tension: through the prism of global and regional processes

The South Caucasus remains the focus of attention for the global geopolitical players as very serious processes have started in the region. These developments can be characterized with one sentence – the intensity of the struggle for the South Caucasus has reached a new level. Regional states play a role in this process. It seems that the geopolitical dynamics in the South Caucasus is becoming more complex, which is explained by the growing tension in the West-Iran-Russia relationship as well as non-constructiveness and uncertainty dominating Armenia`s foreign policy.

The Iranian problem appears to be growing into a much sensitive issue for the region in this context. At the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, the US President clearly hinted that Washington may take toughest measures against Tehran. The reason is that Iran is not going to terminate its nuclear program and is taking steps that contradict the US and Israeli interests in the Middle East. "If you cross us, our allies, or our partners (mainly Israel, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates)..., there will indeed be hell to pay,'' Trump warned Iran.

Against a background of these threats, a terrorist attack at a military parade in the city of Ahvaz, southern Iran, signaled possible dangerous scenarios. The Iranian special services immediately made a statement, blaming the US, Israel and their allies in the Middle East for the deadly attack. After a while they specified the names of the perpetrators of the attack, saying it was committed by a Syria-based terrorist group backed by Saudi Arabia.

A few days later media reports emerged saying that Iran fired missiles at radical groups located in the eastern part of Syria. The reports suggested that "many terrorists” were killed. Official Tehran released a statement, saying the strikes targeted the ringleaders of the deadly attack in Ahvaz. Experts believe that America and Israel will respond, which will naturally aggravate geopolitical tension in the Middle East.

Against a background of this tendency, Iran and Russia are becoming more active in the South Caucasus. The Armenian media are describing Nikol Pashinyan`s meeting with Hassan Rouhani on the margins of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly as a success, alleging that the two are interested in strengthening cooperation and that Tehran has long been looking forward to Pashinyan`s visit.

But the reality is completely different. Yes, Iran would like Yerevan to expand their bilateral relations amid the West`s pressure and sanctions. But no friends exist for the Armenian government and they cannot take decisions independently. The point is that Pashinyan is seeking sympathy from the West so any warmness with Iran is an impediment to Yerevan`s pro-Western policy. This is the reason why Pashinyan has not yet made his visit to Iran, which he announced two months ago. Yerevan is probably playing a dirty geopolitical game on Tehran.

On the other side, Russia does not want Iran-Armenia relationship to cross a certain line. Moscow is in particular jealous of energy cooperation between Yerevan and Tehran. Iran needs Armenia mainly as an energy route. But Gazprom has been killing off Iran`s hope for years, and there are no chances that Pashinyan will be able to overcome this barrier.

Constructiveness and destructiveness: distinguishing characteristics of Baku and Yerevan

Yerevan`s attitude towards Tehran is built on the anti-Turkish hysteria, which is the main reason behind its fiasco. Armenian experts interpreted Pashinyan-Rouhani talks in the anti-Azerbaijani context. (see: Акоп Бадалян. Сюрприз Пашиняна и Рухани Баку /, 26 September, 2018). The Armenian officials` emotional and political hysteria is obvious. They are now making an absurd attempt to incite Iran to act against Azerbaijan. Iran is a county with deep roots. Unlike Armenia, it is not a satellite and fictitious state. Is the experienced Iranian diplomacy unable to compare Azerbaijan and Armenia? Or is it so naive as to take a step that would run contrary to the interests of Turkey, its ally in the Middle East?

The primitiveness and inability of the Armenian diplomacy is not limited to this. They are also trying to draw parallels between Vladimir Putin`s visit to Azerbaijan and Pashinyan-Rouhani talks. These two events are incomparable in terms of both the scale, essence of the issues discussed and goals.

First of all, Putin arrived in Azerbaijan for a working visit and made concrete proposals on cooperation. Azerbaijan and Russia discussed cooperation in energy, transport, humanitarian, economic and business areas. As regards Pashinyan`s meeting with Rouhani, it was just a brief talk on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. Do the Armenian experts realize which events they compare?

Armenia`s major concern in its relationship with Russia is Moscow`s treating Azerbaijan as an independent state. During his recent visit, Putin clearly stated that Russia-Azerbaijan relations are developing as relations between equal independent states who respect each other`s interests. The Russian leader described this as "inter-governmental relationship building''. And what do Armenian leaders say in Moscow? They ask Russia to treat Armenia as an independent state, not to put pressure on and give instructions to Armenia, and to respect its sovereignty. Difference is obvious. But the Armenians forget that respect for your sovereignty should not be won through requests. You should prove yourself to be independent, you should have certain geopolitical weight in the international system. Armenia does not have any program, policy or diplomacy, it has failed to established itself as an independent state. Why should others respect Armenia?

In addition, the aforementioned comparisons prove that when saying cooperation Yerevan means relationship that would necessarily cause certain damage to any of its neighbours. It dreams about Azerbaijan and Turkey, and when it wakes up it is again engaged in anti-Azerbaijani activities. Russia supplies Armenia with arms, and Yerevan immediately states that "we are frightening Azerbaijan''. Russia-Azerbaijan cooperation deepens, and Yerevan gets offended, describing it as "a negative case''. Instead of addressing its own problems in a civil manner, Armenia is busy with criticizing others.

This once again proves that there are two kinds of reaction to the intensification of geopolitical processes in the South Caucasus. On the one hand, we have Azerbaijan, which is developing its independent policy and reinforcing its standing. Baku now enjoys very good relations with regional powers, including Russia, Turkey and Iran. Azerbaijan maintains mutually fruitful relationship with the United States. It`s strategic partnership with Georgia is rapidly developing.

On the other hand, we have Armenia whose behavior is characterized by confusion, irrationality and non-constructiveness caused by illogical and careless foreign policy. Yerevan remains committed to its ultra-radical, inhumane and unfounded claims. Against this background, it puts forward groundless claims against Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. It is playing a deceptive geopolitical trick on Iran. This will undoubtedly lead to fiasco.

What is extremely dangerous for the South Caucasus region at this stage of aggravating confrontation among superpowers is that Armenia is becoming a source of chaos and danger. With its unbalanced geopolitical and diplomatic maneuvers, which worsen the already tense situation and cause new contradictions in the region, the Pashinyan government is drawing the regional nations into an abyss.

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