Russia and the balance

The ceasefire has already begun in the 10.10.2020 and enabled prisoners and the bodies of the dead to be replaced. Immediately thereafter, “substantive talks for a settlement of the conflict” will begin under the leadership of the so-called Minsk Group of the organization for security and cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Would this also be the first step towards peace negotiations?

For two weeks now, the new war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh has raged and has affected more and more civilians and civilian institutions. Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital Stepanakert and the beautiful, high on a Hill, formerly multicultural town of Shusha have been the target of Azerbaijan’s missile, artillery and air strikes for days. Since the days of Azerbaijan, reports the Armenian rocket attacks on its second-largest city Gendsche. The medium - or long-term consequences on the civilian population are deliberately excluded. In a public statement on 4 October, the ICRC described the situation in the South Caucasus region as follows: “hundreds of houses and important civilian facilities such as hospitals and schools have been destroyed or damaged by heavy artillery fire and by air force attacks including rockets. Roads, electricity and gas works as well as communication networks were also destroyed. Families are on the move in search of some safe shelter, while others have retreated to unheated basement rooms where they feel protected from violence.”

Local authorities estimate that about half of the civilian population, especially women and children, are now on the run. Several hundred people have died. The Armenian side alone has more than 320 dead soldiers to complain about. How many victims there are on the side of Azerbaijan, is still unknown. “Nagorno-Karabakh has returned to zero,” says the young entrepreneur Aelita Chobanjan in conversation. “The destruction of its infrastructure is almost complete.“And it confirms that thousands upon thousands of desperate refugees arrive in Yerevan every day. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called this war “an existential war for Armenians”, even a “continuation of genocide”. In the shadow of the first World War, The Young Turks had over one Million Armenians of the Ottoman Empire murdered between 1915-1917. Those who survived were expelled. The Trauma of the genocide, which Turkey has never acknowledged as such, weighs on the Armenian soul and has anchored itself like a primordial fear in the Armenian DNA. The fact that Turkey has openly sided with Azerbaijan in this war has reawakened the Trauma of the genocide in Armenia. Older generations suffered from permanent stress situations, says Aelita Chobanjan.

Call in the desert?

The foreign ministers of the USA, Russia and France had issued an appeal calling on the warring parties to cease their fighting immediately. Previously, they had appealed to the warring parties to cease their fighting immediately. The three countries “strongly condemn the unprecedented and dangerous escalation inside and outside Nagorno-Karabakh,” it said in a joint statement published in Washington. Their appeal for an immediate ceasefire, however, faded away. Azerbaijan accuses the three countries of failing in relation to the Karabakh conflict. The United States, Russia and France chair the so-called Minsk Group of the organization for security and cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which was formed in 1992 to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The fact that the new war has broken out tragically shows how all three countries have clearly underestimated the explosive power of this conflict for many long years at least.

The conflict did not seem to be a priority for them even now. The American government only cares about the next presidential elections in the USA – and is falling away as an effective negotiator for the time being, said the Caucasus expert Thomas de Waal in conversation with the internet platform “ahval”. Although France enjoys great prestige in Armenia, it advocates a rapid ceasefire as” the great exception”. In Azerbaijan, however, Paris has no weight whatsoever to bring about any change in the situation. And Russia, the expert described as the “big puzzle”: although Moscow traditionally counts the Caucasus as its" near abroad", i.e. its exclusive zone of influence, and is in a security-strategic relationship with Armenia, it has so far tried to maintain the" same distance " to both warring parties. Russia would fulfil its obligations in Armenia should this country also be attacked, Vladimir Putin asserted on Wednesday - in order to distance himself in the same breath: however, the war would not take place on Armenian territory. Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to the territory of Azerbaijan under international law, but has been controlled by Armenia since 1994. The area is inhabited exclusively by Armenians. After all, the Kremlin has now announced a meeting with the foreign ministers from Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow next Monday.

Total surrender of Armenia demanded

Ten days after the start of the war, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. From Baku, he called on the world community to “stand on the right side of history this time – and this is on Azerbaijan’s side,” he said during a joint press conference with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Finally, Armenia occupied the territory of Azerbaijan. Turkey will continue to support Azerbaijan with all means at its disposal until “our brother state” recovers its territorial integrity, Cavusoglu added. Aliyev briefly addressed the Minsk Group’s appeal for an immediate ceasefire. “If there are any talks on a ceasefire, it is only to discuss the exact timetable for the unconditional withdrawal of the Armenians,” Ilham Aliyev concretized. So both politicians demanded nothing less than the total capitulation of Armenia.

From a certain distance, the whole thing seems like the repetition of a badly acted film: exactly one year ago, Turkey had blown the whistle on the war in northern Syria and had its troops invade the area, which was mainly populated by Kurds. There, too, endless suffering: villages, cities and the livelihoods of thousands upon thousands were destroyed, and around 300,000 people were displaced into the desert as refugees. The “mercenaries” of Turkish President Erdogan did the dirty work on the ground: murder, rape, kidnappings and looting without end, for which no one was punished. It left a destabilized area and traumatized people without any prospects. Turkey is creating a second Syria in the Caucasus, warned Armenian President Armen Sarkisyan, who is respected in his country as a moderate voice. He called on the world community to Act quickly.

Ankara’s strategic mistake?

The local and international press as well as politicians regularly report from 23 September on how Ankara is moving mercenaries from Syria via Turkey to the front line in Nagorno-Karabakh; that is exactly four whole days before the war had begun. While Ankara and Baku had initially indignantly denied the use of mercenaries, their politicians are now shrugging their shoulders. Too many mercenaries are already dying on the Front lines to be able to hide them.

The political magazine “Der Spiegel “called them"Shadow Warriors”. The mercenaries are usually poor devils who often go to war to get their families home with their wages. But not only that: according to Herfried Münkler, professor emeritus at Berlin’s Humboldt University, they live from war and for war. “To act as a warrior is for them the basis of existence and form of life”. Mercenaries, of course, are not only used by Turkey: the use of mercenaries made a name for itself for the first time in the Iraq War. The USA had used them massively at that time. Particularly notorious were the fighters of the private military service company “Blackwater”. According to Herfried Münkler, the Russian company of Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Turkish military service company SADAT now follow the model of “Blackwater”. While Prigozhin organizes the so-called"Wagner” mercenaries, SADAT recruits the shadow warriors on behalf of the Turkish government.

Most of Erdogan’s mercenaries come from Syria and are or were members of the “Syrian National Army”, founded and logistically supported by Turkey. Among them, however, are many fighters of the jihadist groups of the Sultan Murat Brigade and the El Amshat brigades. According to the Turkish journalist Fehim Tastekin, the salary for their deployment in Nagorno-Karabakh is to be $ 1500-2000 per month. Their number is estimated at 900 (according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights) and 4000 (according to the government in Paris).

Irritating Decision

However, the deployment of Sunni fanatics in the Caucasus could turn out to be a strategic mistake by Turkey. He initially irritated Moscow. Erdogan is “testing Putin’s patience,” Alexander Dynkin, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the American press agency Bloomberg. Geographically speaking, the road from Nagorno-Karabakh via Azerbaijan and Dagestan to Chechnya is only short – and the memory of years of bloody fighting between Russian troops and the Sunni fighters of Chechnya in Russia is still very much alive.

The use of Sunni fanatics may also have caused a feeling of discomfort in Azerbaijan. The loss of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding provinces in 1994 was a national humiliation for Azerbaijan. Many see the fact that their leadership today commissions and pays Sunni fighters from Syria to liberate the “home territories” as a second humiliation. Azerbaijanis speak a language very close to Turkish of Turkey. In contrast to Erdogan’s Turkey, which is only committed to the Sunni interpretation of Islam, the overwhelming majority of the population in Azerbaijan is Shiite.

However, Iran was also alarmed by the presence of jihadists directly on its border. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned strongly that the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia would grow into a “regional conflict” if the war did not stop.

On Friday, the red lines of Moscow were obviously crossed. President Vladimir Putin invited the foreign ministers of the two opponents of the war on Nagorno-Karabakh to a meeting in Moscow. Details of the ceasefire are to be published in a statement in Moscow next month.