While Armenia called on Russian peacekeepers to intervene after Azerbaijan launched “anti-terrorist” operations in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Dmitry Medvedev, the chairman of Russia’s security council, wrote cryptically on Telegram about someone from a so-called brotherly country who had flirted with NATO.
“Russia’s former President Medvedev added, ‘Can you predict the destiny that lies ahead for him?'”
The subtle verbal insult indicated Russia’s present position while Turkey-supported Azerbaijan intensified a thirty-year-old dispute with Armenia. As a result of having a military base in the former Soviet nation, Russia has consistently acted as Armenia’s protector of security, overseeing tensions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is located within Azerbaijan’s recognized borders and has been controlled by its ethnic Armenian population since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In the year 2020, Russia mediated a ceasefire deal between two countries in the South Caucasus region. The ceasefire was overseen by Russian peacekeeping forces and came after Azerbaijan regained control of territories in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in a high death toll.
However, the previously amicable bond between Armenia and Russia has significantly declined in recent months due to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan openly criticizing Moscow’s lack of support during the Ukrainian invasion. This was further demonstrated by Armenia’s decision to hold a joint military exercise with the United States in September, indicating a lack of trust in Moscow.
Laurence Broers, a fellow at Chatham House, wrote on X (previously known as Twitter) stating that Russia’s frustration served as the perfect setting for Baku’s actions.
Currently, Russia is not speaking out, while the prime minister of Armenia and Armenians residing in the separatist region are requesting for a new ceasefire. However, Azerbaijan’s actions on Tuesday only further exacerbated tensions between Russia and Armenia, rather than repairing their relationship.
Prior to the recent intensification on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin commented on the mounting tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh during an interview with a journalist. He stated that Armenia’s leadership had essentially acknowledged Azerbaijan’s control over the region. Putin questioned, “If Armenia has recognized Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, why should we be involved?”
Russian media personalities supportive of the Kremlin were swift to use Tuesday’s events to their advantage, placing the responsibility on Pashinyan for aligning with Western powers. Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the state-run broadcaster RT, described the escalation as “unfortunate, futile, and unsurprising” and likened Pashinyan to the biblical figure Judas.
On Telegram, she wrote, “Pashinyan is requesting (!) Russian peacekeepers for the protection of Karabakh. What about NATO?”
Sergei Markov, a political analyst with pro-Kremlin views, stated on the messaging app Telegram that the Armenian government has already turned its back on Russia. He also claimed that Armenia’s closest allies are now considered foes of Russia, including France, the European Union, and the United States.
During the joint military exercises between Armenia and the U.S., Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, expressed disapproval as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The CSTO is a Russian-led alliance comprised of six post-Soviet countries, including Armenia. Ryabkov stated that the drills were not in line with the spirit of their military partnership.
In early September, prior to the exercises with the United States, Armenia recalled its delegate from the CSTO following allegations that the alliance was not taking sufficient action.
Some specialists believe that Moscow’s lack of action stems from a personal aversion to Pashinyan, who rose to power through a revolution. Vladimir Pastukhov from University College London stated, “Moscow is banking on a quick counter-revolution in Yerevan and anticipates that a loss in Karabakh will speed up this process.”
The presidential office of Azerbaijan issued a statement on Tuesday evening, calling for the “unlawful Armenian military groups to surrender by raising the white flag, relinquishing all weapons, and disbanding the unlawful regime. Otherwise, anti-terror operations will continue until their completion.”
Suggesting potential betrayal, Armenian authorities stated on Tuesday that they were not given prior notice by Moscow regarding Azerbaijan’s intentions, despite Baku’s claim of notifying Russia beforehand.
According to Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for Putin, he is unable to verify the statement made by Baku. The foreign ministry of Russia has shown great worry and urged both parties to cease the violence and seek a diplomatic resolution.