The current conflict in the Caucasus is not only about regional issues, but also and above all geopolitical issues.
The Armenian claim to Nagorno-Karabakh
Despite, or precisely because of, this history, I say that the Armenians, who lost 90% of their settlement territory to Turkey after the 1915 genocide of 1915 to 1922, have a right to protect the few countries in the lower Caucasus that remain to them. And this includes Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been inhabited by Armenians for 2,500 years, when the Turks were still riding through the steppes of Central Asia as nomads and the Germans lived in primitive wooden huts. The magnificent monasteries of this landscape are an eloquent testimony to ancient Armenian history. Unlike Kosovo or the neighbouring Azerbaijani exclave of Nashchevan, no massive ethnic shifts in favour of the Turkish or Muslim side have taken place in Nagorno-Karabakh over the centuries.
From an international point of view, the starting period of the Karabakh conflict is not that of the disintegration of the Soviet Union around 1990 with the result of massacres, the Nagorno-Karabakh war and the declaration of the independence of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, but the early 1920s and in particular 1923. The annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan was promoted this year by the then Commissioner for the Nationalities of the Soviet Union, the Georgian Josef Wissarionovich Stalin. Stalin’s motives included dubious promises and unfair contracts. with Turkey, with which Moscow had already deceived the Armenians since the Armenian-Turkish war of 1920 in the aftermath of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk of 1917, which was forced by Germany, and its calculation that both republics and the peoples of the Armenians and Ashis, ethnic Turks, would fight against each other forever through the unresolved conflict, thus facilitating Moscow’s governance. This approach of “divide and rule” by adding individual territories to the respective mortal enemy has also been pursued elsewhere in the Soviet Union, for example in the case of Georgia and Ossetia, which declared independence in 1920, or in the Fergana Valley with the Uzbek-populated city of Osh, which was slammed into Kyrgyzstan.
For Azerbaijan, the Stalinist annexation of 1923 cannot give rise to an international claim to the Armenian-populated area of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Aeris, who were driven out of the defensive villages around the Armenian mountainous area that were built after 1923 in the Nagorno-Karabakh War, have a right to return. Moreover, an exchange of territory between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which is not part of Nagorno-Karabakh, is rightly the subject of negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. But the reintegration of Nagorno-Karabakh into the state of Azerbaijan cannot be discussed from an international point of view.
The Role of the West
So why does the West, whose governments are dominated by lawyers, fail to recognise the clear legal position in favour of the Armenian claim over Nagorno-Karabakh and defend a Stalinist act of non-law?
The answer, as is almost always the case when international law is safely broken, is geopolitics: the political situation that arose from the secession of Nagorno-Karabakh is now being used by Washington and London, as well as their followers in Berlin, to keep the conflicts in the Caucasus in general boiling and to attack Moscow through its proxies in Ankara and Baku. It is economically about oil and gas pipelines north and south of the Great Caucasus. It is about the large geopolitical East-West axis, which runs through Tbilisi and Baku in the middle of Halford Mackinders' heartland of geopolitics, to Central Asia, where it crosses with the north-south axis between Moscow, Tehran and Baghdad.
Any insanimating of Armenia, however small and insignificant changes in territory, is in the way, even if the current president in Yerevan stands for a political rapprochement of the country with the West. Those who drive from there the few kilometers to the beautiful monastery Khor Virap stand in the middle of this geopolitical conflict on a border between Armenia and Turkey, which is more impenetrable than the inner German border from 1961-1989 was ever – with a firing order, but without any border traffic and with a mutual total blockade. The Armenians can only look longingly at their holy mountain, the Ararat, or further north their ancient capital Ani, both of which are located on Turkish territory – they cannot go there. That this is and remains so is politically wanted in the West.
I can confirm this personally, because I know first-hand the attitude, especially from London circles. A decade ago, after the Kosovo war, which led to the result not recognised by Serbia, I wrote a comment in which I proposed a ‘Kosovo-Karabakh swap’, i.e. a balance of interests between the Turkish-Muslim and Slavic Orthodox sides, extended to the non-Slavic areas of the Caucasus, by exchanging disputed territories in several places. Such exchanges with the aim of lasting peace have long been a diplomatic tradition. They are an economic necessity for the countries concerned. Serbia and Kosovo have now understood this and, in recent years, 15 years after the war, have been pushing ahead with negotiations on the exchange of territories.
The answer, which came from the London Economist at the time, which, without getting too close to it, can be described as the mouthpiece of the British government and its geo-politicians in the military and intelligence services, was an article that can be summed up in one word – NO. It was written by an editor from a high-ranking British military family. And, as we know, the response of NATO and the EU to the far-advanced negotiations with Serbia and Kosovo is also a NO.
The Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict could therefore have been resolved decades ago by simple diplomatic means, which Prince Bismarck still dominated at the Berlin Conference of 1878. But there seems to be no interest in making this possible in the West. The victims are the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan, who are being propaly-pagandised with false ‘mediation’ formats such as the Minsk Group, which do not produce any real peace solutions, and continue to rush into each other in the backrooms through arms deliveries and related political alliances, rather than creating peace. This goes all the way to the absurdity that Israel, the country where Holocaust survivors found a home, is now Azerbaijan’s main arms supplier, using these weapons to attack the Armenian survivors of another genocide.
The abuse of Turkey
Turkey, which is coordinating Azerbaijan’s attacks on Armenia militarily and thus actively intervening because the Azerbaijani military has proved incompetent in the past and has always been defeated by the Armenians, is once again an aggressor in the current crisis. It should not be overlooked that the sparkling nationalism and, above all, Islamism that drives Turkish President Erdogan to attack Christian Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh is the result of a geopolitical calculus. The aggressors act from the background.
Even before Israel was founded in 1948, colonial power Britain had successfully divided the Arab world, which was on the path of socialism and pan-Arabism, by creating the extremist Wahhabi-Islamist kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1924. This was followed by the American-backed takeover of The Islamist military ruler Zia ul-Haq in 1978 as the eastern cornerstone of Islamism in the Pakistan region. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan then jointly launched the US-UK planned attack on the Central Asian geopolitical heartland of Afghanistan, plunging the country into a 40-year civil war. Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia has also supported the West in the conflicts over the oil and gas pipeline routes in the Caucasus, especially in the Chechen wars of the 1990s aimed at the disintegration of Russia. In this conflict, a young Turkish Islamist named Recep Tayyip Erdogan earned his first spurs as a servant of Western interests. The turning of secular, Kemalist Turkey by Erdogan and his AKP party into an increasingly radical Islamic republic since 2003, which is waging war or threatening war against almost all its neighbors, is not a coincidence, given its predecessors Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, but intelligent geostrategic planning.
Yet nothing less is in Turkey’s national political interest than pursuing exactly what it is doing – forced under Erdogan – with its neighbors from Syria to Iraq to Armenia. The last thing a rationally governed Ankara will want is an ethnic cleansing of even more Armenians after a ‘successful’ attack on Nagorno-Karabakh. The attacks on the cities in northern Syria inhabited by refugees from the Armenian genocide of 1915 since 2011 with Islamist terrorist groups, with the result of heavy civilian losses, have already severely damaged Turkey’s reputation in the Arab world and parts of the West. The current economic sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia against Turkey, for example, have to do not only with the conflict over the murder of Jamal Kashoggi, but also with Turkey’s continued occupation of Arab land. The United Arab Emirates has also clearly positioned itself against Turkey. In the Arab countries, the interests of the Armenians and other peoples in conflict with Turkey, which have been generously received in countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Jordan in the past, are seen with sympathy.
To be fair, Turkey has been incited by the West to support Islamist terror in the Syrian war. But in the end, Ankara must admit that it has been lured into a trap: the permanent destruction of relations with its neighbors and the diminishing of its role in a region where Turkey could have the potential to become a central economic and regulatory power.
A repetition of syria’s events in Armenia must therefore be avoided at all costs for Turkey. The consequences of ethnic cleansing of the Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh for the country’s reputation would be different from the events in Syria that have been swept under the table by the media, they would be devastating and would last for generations. Not only the door to the Arab world, but also that of Europe would be closed for good. Economic sanctions would be the mandatory consequence of permanently destroying Turkey’s economy, which is already on the ground. The German political position on such measures, whatever the geopolitical footnotes of Washington and London, Merkel and Maas, say, would in this case, under pressure from the public, approach that of France, which has made its position on the protection of the remnants of the Armenian country unequivocally clear.
The question for Turkey, then, is whether it wants to continue to stand on the side of those who want to continue the Karabakh conflict in order to further destabilise the Caucasus and attack Russia, or whether it wants to resolve the conflict in order to contribute to the development of the Caucasus region and to good relations with all its neighbours , thereby strengthening its own role in the wider region of the Middle East.
The best chance for Turkey, and for peace throughout the region, is to keep the West, which is caught up in geopolitical power games, out of the conflict over Karabakh as far as possible and to find a common solution with Russia based on a reasonable interpretation of international law. Foreign Minister Lavrov, arguably the best foreign minister of his generation, a half-Armenian, seems to me to be a good interlocutor here. Whether he will be, with or without the servant of the West, Erdogan, is the big question. In Turkey’s national interest, such a regional solution is always in place.