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Russian soldiers watch Armenian protesters through a wire fence. Screenshot from YouTube and CRUX.
The South Caucasus has been a region that endured the yolk of Russian influence and hegemony since the 1800s. When Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union held direct rule over the region, ethnic violence based on illogical border manipulations by Moscow produced perpetual conflicts seen today.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are prime examples of ethnic and territorial disputes that emerged thanks to the Kremlin. As a result, both nations have been in a perpetual cycle of violence with minimal chance of lasting peace.
Several wars have occurred between both South Caucasus nations in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. However, to solidify its hardline rule, Moscow took advantage of the ethnic tensions instead of mitigating the violence between both countries.
Now that Russia has begun a self-implosion due to its faltering imperial ambitions in Ukraine, the United States can no longer stay idle in a region it historically neglected compared to the other areas that broke away from Moscow after the collapse of the USSR.
Status of the South Caucasus
Georgia, though having a pro-Russian government, has fought back against a Kremlin-backed foreign agents law and continues to push for European Union membership. NATO and the EU abandoned Tbilisi in a failed appeasement venture during the 2008 war, and from this, Moscow became emboldened. Despite the difficulties of having Russian troops occupy 20% of their nation, Georgians still dream of a chance of western integration post-Russian hegemony akin to Eastern Europe.
The other two South Caucasus nations, Armenia and Azerbaijan are on the brink of another potential war. This one could be even more brutal than the 2020 war, which shocked international news organizations. The forty-four-day war saw Azerbaijan’s use of drones used effectively, which changed the face of modern warfare.
Feeling impatient that Yerevan has not implemented the Zangezur corridor, Baku has amassed forces in the Karabakh region and on Armenia’s southern borders. A renewed military aggression has far more regional and, perhaps, global implications than any other previous conflict between the two.
Regional Consequences if Another War takes Place
Cutting off Armenia’s Syunik province is a red line for Iran, which considers Armenia its last true friendly neighboring state. There is also a major trade route between both nations that has endured for hundreds of years. With Russia militarily crippled and diplomatically ruined, Azerbaijan looks to strike.
The Islamic Republic has been conducting surveillance flights along the Azerbaijani and Armenia borders since the military buildup. Relations between them and Azerbaijan are currently at near lows.
Tehran initially congratulated Baku in the aftermath of the 2020 war, but they quickly regretted their appeasement. This was due to Israel gaining a foothold in the Caspian oil-rich nation to conduct operations against Iran. If Iran were to intervene if another war takes place, this would draw in Turkey due to the mutual defense pact they have with Azerbaijan. This would have wider NATO consequences due to Tehran’s growing ballistic missile capabilities and the possibilities if they land on Turkish soil.
International Calls for a new Peacekeeping Mission
Russian peacekeepers have done little to mitigate the ethnic tensions over a land dispute that was ultimately caused by Moscow. In the aftermath of the 2020 war, it was analyzed that Russia was the true winner between both warring nations. In the Trilateral Agreement, Moscow was able to re-insert influence in the region they had lost to the Velvet Revolution.
Putin’s growing imperial ambitions and threats toward his supposed allies have pushed them to look for more reliable partners. Armenia, though a Russian military ally, has slowly drifted towards the US in the past couple of years. The dealbreaker between Yerevan and Moscow seems to be the lack of inaction when CTSO was unwilling to intervene in the 2022 clashes.
Armenia has refused to send Russian Forces military support during their invasion of Ukraine. They also hosted the then House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in the country later that year.
The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, rejected CTSO extensions and obligations due to the spiteful nature of the Kremlin. It has been reported the country would uphold the Rome Statute and arrest indicted war criminal Vladimir Putin if he were to enter Armenia again.
With Armenia slowly severing its ties to Russia and the CTSO military alliance, the country is now in even more danger of aggression between both its hostile neighbors. France has led the calls for an EU observer force, and the former Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, called for an international peacekeeping mission in the region.
It Would not be a Burden on American Taxpayers
If a new international peacekeeping mission replaces the Russian Forces stationed in the region, it would not have to require a large US force but a smaller contingent. A few dozen American officers could be used in a command, advisory, and assist role with thousands of peacekeepers from several different nations to mitigate biases and conflicts that have endured for decades. Armenia, under the yolk of Moscow for two hundred years, has been labeled a Russian satellite, and due to the deteriorating relations between Ankara and Washington, a multinational mission would stem tensions.
Countries such as France, India, and other Latin American, Asian, and African partners could allocate their own forces for such a mission. This would mitigate concerns of DC being drawn into another prolonged conflict.
A collapse of the Russian Federation and a renewed civil war inside the state could very much become a reality, and America and its allies must prepare to fill the void and remedy the perpetual conflicts created by Moscow’s untenable borders or risk the same bloody wars the world saw in the aftermath of 1917 and 1991.
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