Patrushev`s Baku talks: in the context of global and regional geopolitical realities

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Baku, 9 September 2019 –

Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev visited Azerbaijan immediately after John Bolton`s tour of Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Poland. For experts, the visit came as a surprise as much as the US Security Adviser` s trip. Interestingly, Patrushev visited Armenia in August. Experts believe it`s not a coincidence because senior security officials of two superpowers, which are at loggerheads over geopolitical influence in Eurasia, visited two geopolitically volatile regions. What they came with? Both officials affirmed their countries` commitment to the issue of security. But what does really lie behind these statements? In particular, which issues did dominate Patrushev`s agenda? This article will shed light on these questions.

Second visit to South Caucasus: What did Patrushev discuss?

Armenian experts reacted differently to Nikolai Patrushev`s two-day visit to Yerevan in August. Indeed, Russia and Armenia maintain close cooperation in the field of security. However, experts mocked some aspects of the visit. Complaining about being unable to get access to details of the talks, they said that as usual the sides made generalized statements. However, their common conclusion was that Russia and Armenia failed to reach any consensus despite talks that covered a variety of topics. Experts believe Nikol Pashinyan`s "irrelevant remarks on sovereignty" disadvantage Armenia.

Ahead of Patrushev`s visit to Azerbaijan the Armenian media alleged that the Secretary of the Russian Security Council traveled to Yerevan to give instructions not to allow British and American companies to be engaged in the Amulsar gold mine. After Patrushev left the country Pashinyan dismissed two officials in connection with that issue.

Either Armenia is spreading different rumors in order to hide the true reason behind Patrushev`s visit, or the Russian official criticized sharply the Armenian authorities for certain issues. It`s up to Armenians themselves. But Patrushev`s visit to Azerbaijan in early September adds certain interest to his trip to Armenia. The point is that as secretary of the Russian Security Council Patrushev has great power and he would have never traveled to Armenia to deal with such a minor issue as the Amulsar gold mine.

According to official reports, in addition to important aspects of relations between the two countries, Patrushev discussed in Azerbaijan a wide range of issues, including cyber security, information security, terrorism and extremism. For example, improvement of military-technical cooperation was discussed, and the successful development of Azerbaijan-Russia ties in political, economic, security and other areas was hailed. In addition, the role of sincere relationship between the heads of state in developing Baku-Moscow ties was praised. The two countries affirmed interest in discussing legislation on the fight against extremism and terrorism, as well as cooperation issues.

Azerbaijani experts also point out the issues that need to be discussed at a senior level. One of them is studying the risks that may possibly emerge in the region in the wake of the worsening situation with Iran. Other issues include the reasons behind the postponement of the meeting of the Azerbaijani, Russian and Iranian heads of state as well as Pashinyan`s irresponsible and populist remarks on Nagorno-Karabakh. Against this background, the discussion of the Armenian prime minister`s recent statements, which increase tension and, in fact, encourage Azerbaijan to launch military operations, seems reasonable. Experts believe that Pashinyan is doing it on someone`s instructions in order to blame Russia for Armenia`s defeat in the war and then change the course for the West.

An episode of ''a great game'': geopolitical struggle gaining momentum

But in reality this argument seems unconvincing because being a satellite state Armenia is fully controlled by Russia and cannot take any action on the battlefield without permission from Moscow. It is what lies behind Pashinyan`s arrogant statements. He means "if you start military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh, you will have to deal with Russia, not Armenia". Of course, Azerbaijan understands every minor detail very well and will never give in to any provocation.

Key geopolitical and security features of Patrushev`s visit probably lay in other aspects. The linkage between regional and global processes should not be forgotten. Special attention should be paid to the dynamics of US-Iran, US-Turkey and US-Russia relations. Washington is obviously set to revitalize its policy in the entire post-Soviet region. It manifests itself well in the Eastern Europe, especially in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. Poland should also be added here.

Washington may ramp up its anti-Russian efforts in the South Caucasus too. This will automatically bring the Iranian and Turkish factors to the regional agenda.

More precisely, Russia would not want any South Caucasus country to be involved in anti-Iranian or anti-Turkish activities. It applies to Armenia directly because its patrons in the West are trying to use Yerevan – in terms of terrorism, extremism and separatism – to spoil Ankara`s independent policy. Moscow is aware of Turkey`s resolution to thwart these efforts. So Yerevan should come to its senses.

Naturally, the issue of security is closely linked with that of defense. So it`s natural that Patrushev highlighted the importance of developing cooperation in military-technical area. By supplying its partners in the South Caucasus militarily, Moscow both prevents them from external influences and, at the same time, keeps military situation in the region transparent.

Against this backdrop, high-level cooperation and personal ties between heads of state is a crucial condition here. And the leaders of Russia and Azerbaijan have close relations. Patrushev reaffirmed the Russian President`s commitment to maintaining this relationship.

The current situation necessitates the strengthening of the regional security. Russia openly shows that it is not interested in any contradiction here because Moscow, in fact, started to play a uniting role in Eurasia. It was confirmed by President Vladimir Putin`s giving a message about the possible establishment of a new powerful organization during his meeting with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. He said it could be larger than the G7, including Russia, Turkey, China and India.

Serious processes are now ongoing in a large geopolitical region, including the South Caucasus. The emergence of a new balance of powers is now a distinct possibility. An organization that would bring together major powers such as Turkey, Iran, Russia, India and China, may play a deciding role in the fate of the South Caucasus. And each country will then fulfill a specific function, where Armenia would be unable to become something beyond a satellite country.

As the regional leader capable of influencing processes in a broad geography, Azerbaijan will be a force to reckon with. The country is actively involved in ensuring energy security, building dialogue among civilizations, cultures and faiths and in the implementation of "One Belt, One Road'' initiative.

These factors prove that Nikolai Patrushev`s Azerbaijan visit took place amid important regional processes that intersect with global trends. And time will show that Mosco-Baku cooperation is highly promising.

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