AFTER its success in the “natonisation” of Eastern Europe which began during the Clinton administration, by the time George W. Bush ruled, the neocons were setting their eyes on the Caucasus.
The first salvo on the Caucasus began during the final months of the Bush administration when the US interfered in the conflict between Georgia and the Russian-backed South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008.
Once again, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) was “weaponised” when the US promised to consider Georgia’s bid for membership, making Russia all the more determined to ensure the victory of the separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
And indeed the separatists won with the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia on August 26.
Having been “defeated” in Georgia, the neocons’ attention shifted to Ukraine, again using the same playbook of weaponising Nato but with a slight modification.
In concert with the European Union, the Euromaidan uprising was launched in 2013 by the neocons, which later snowballed into the Maidan revolution in 2014 in which a democratically elected president of Ukraine was brought down.
This resulted in Russia sending its troops to Ukraine followed later by a ceasefire known as the Minsk agreement, which was sealed.
Herein lies the modification whereby the Minsk agreement was used to freeze the conflict for eight years in order for the US and the collective West to build up a far stronger and powerful Ukrainian army to fight the Russians in case it “interferes” in the Donbass again.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to this modification was to plead to the US to redraw the security architecture of Europe that takes into account Russian interests.
For many years, Russia has rightfully seen all these US manoeuvres in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe as an existential threat. Rightfully because Russia is an integral part of the Caucasus and the Eurasian region, while the US is not.
In 2021, Putin was reported to have told western leaders: “You promised us in the 1990s that (Nato) would not move an inch to the East … You cheated us shamelessly.”
The Biden administration was unwilling to eliminate that threat through diplomacy and indeed in 2021, escalated the situation further by recommitting the US to bringing Ukraine into Nato.
Putin, obviously feeling enough is enough, responded by invading Ukraine on February 24 last year.
Now that the Ukraine war on the battlefield is not going well for the US and the collective west, the idea of opening a second front in the war is always there.
Candidates for this second front could be Georgia, Moldova, Poland or Romania. The idea of Armenia being the second front is so inconceivable because of the close relationship between Russia and Armenia.
Armenia could have been wiped out of existence in the second Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020 had it not been for Russian peace-making deals resulting in a ceasefire and the stationing of Russian peacekeepers there.
So the current flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh reflects the ingenuity of the neocons to conceive plans even when the odds are against them.
The crux of the plan hatched by Armenia and the US and its allies seems to be on blaming Russian “ineffective” peacekeeping operations in Nagorno-Karabakh, in order to create chaos and confusion in the enclave as a pretext for a US intervention in the region.
But because the US is bogged down with the Ukraine war, the leading role for this plan is given to Armenia.
If you think this is far-fetched because there were only 85 US troops and 175 Armenian soldiers in Exercise Eagle Partner to create chaos, then think again!
What about Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s allegation that Russian peacekeepers overseeing the 2020 truce have failed to end an Azerbaijani blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh?
The Russian foreign ministry has asserted that the situation there was dramatically affected by Armenia’s apparent acknowledgement that the region is part of Azerbaijan.
It cited two occasions during the past two years when Yerevan did so formally, both times during EU-mediated negotiations. The shift impacted the status of Russian peacekeepers, Moscow said.
The first instance came last year in a joint statement issued after talks in Prague, which affirmed that Armenia and Azerbaijan “mutually recognised the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each other”.
The second in May this year, when Pashinyan stated Azerbaijan’s total territory was 86,600 sq km – a figure that includes Nagorno-Karabakh.
This is unprecedented as Armenia has never officially recognised Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence. Treating the territory, which Armenians call Artsakh, as part of Armenia itself is a cornerstone of the country’s politics.
He claimed that his hand had been forced last year because Russia would not intervene on Armenia’s behalf during border clashes with Azerbaijan.
Putin has said his Azerbaijani counterpart, President Ilham Aliyev, had told him that since Armenia did not dispute the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, any relevant issues should be settled without Yerevan.
Hence, there is no question of Russian peacekeepers failing in their duties since by Yerevan’s own statements, Azerbaijan was acting inside its sovereign territory. – October 1, 2023.
* Jamari Mohtar reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.