Azerbaijani Protestors During the Lachin Blockade. Photo by USC Dornsife Global Policy Institute

The Russian Invasion of Ukraine is the largest conventional war since the Iran-Iraq War and the biggest conducted on the European continent since World War Two. Already the most condemned aggression since the foundation of the United Nations, Russia has become the most sanctioned nation on Earth in place of its imperial ambitions.

The United Nations has conducted numerous resolutions during the year-long, with growing votes recognizing the Russian Federation as an increasingly aggressive and rogue state. The most recent UN General Assembly vote, which condemns Russian aggression in Ukraine and sets a partnership with the Council of Europe and UN on War crimes, was overwhelmingly against Russia’s favor with 122 nations in turn, only five against, and 18 abstentions.

What made the vote the most shocking is that some of Russia’s “closest” partners voted against Moscow, such as China, India, Brazil, and even Armenia—a nation whose survival had been dependent on the Kremlin until three years ago. Nonetheless, Azerbaijan, which has claimed to fight against Russia and supports Ukraine, has never shown up to vote in any resolution that involves Russia, which has been a significant mystery as Baku considers the status of Russian Peacekeepers and presence in the Caucasus as an “obstacle.”

What Does the Vote Mean and Entail?

In the documents, the United Nations vote stated: “Recognizing also that the unprecedented challenges now facing Europe following the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, and against Georgia before that, and the cessation of the membership of the Russian Federation in the Council of Europe.”

Vladimir Putin, the President and longtime autocrat of Russia, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for the deportations of tens of thousands of Ukrainian children—a violation of the Articles of the Convention of Genocide by forcefully transferring populations. The resolution alludes to respecting territorial sovereignty, prosecuting war criminals, and recognizing and respecting independent nations.

Only five nations, Syria, Belarus, Nicaragua, North Korea, and, non-surprisingly, Russia, voted against this. The four nations outside Russia are dictatorships that heavily depend on Moscow’s diplomatic and military support to retain their kleptocracy.

Why is Armenia Drifting from Russia?

Armenia is a nation that has lived under Russian hegemony since its imperial conquest of the Caucasus in the 1800s. The Young Turks, also known as the Committee of Union and Progress, used the pretext of Armenia being a “Russian allies” as one of the reasons for the genocide.

In the aftermath of the genocide, the concept of Western Armenia, also known as Wilsonian Armenia, was proposed by the Entente. Still, these plans never came to fruition as the Kemalists and Red Army attacked Armenia in the two-pronged assault and carved up the proposed state. Yerevan lived under the hegemony of the Soviet Union until its collapse.

Post-collapse of the USSR, Armenia would become a significant ally of the Russian Federation as the nation, which had a continuously small population, could not defend itself against two countries it never had good relations with. After years of pro-Russian PMs, the Velvet Revolution changed ties with Russia.

When Azerbaijan decisively won the 2020 Karabakh War, Russia relied on Armenia again, recognizing it could not survive without the Kremlin—but this showed the first signs of betrayal. Azerbaijan then invaded Armenia Proper in 2022, causing hundreds of casualties between both nations. This caused a significant drifting in relations with Moscow.

Armenia has become more open to the US, especially after then-Speaker Pelosi’s visit condemning Azerbaijan, and the EU has set up a monitoring mission due to Russian peacekeeper failures. The peacekeepers in the Karabakh region have done little to mitigate violence, including the four-month blockade of Lachin, in which Azerbaijan’s military built a new post while the Russian peacekeepers watched.

In a potential proposition for peace, Armenia’s current PM, Nikol Pashinyan, is preparing to recognize the Karabakh region as Azerbaijan—but if Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev does not give autonomy to the Armenians of the region, it could quickly become another Kosovo scenario—something that would draw the attention of both the US and France.

Why Does Azerbaijan Never Vote Despite its Claims that It “Fights” Russia?

There have been several UN Resolutions that have either called for the condemnation of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Moscow’s troop removal, and recognition of Kyiv’s sovereignty since 2022. Each has been labeled ‘United Nations General Assembly Resolution ES’ with the numbers 11/1, 11/2, 11/3, and 11/4.

Azerbaijan, though having voting rights, has been absent from all these resolutions—not even showing up to abstain or condemn compared to other member states of the international community. This has been a repeated pattern that can be correlated by several means.

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The day before Russia’s full-fledged invasion, Aliyev and Putin cemented an alliance. Russian companies hold significant stakes in Azerbaijan’s rich just as much, if not more than Armenia. The Kremlin maintains a status quo with both South Caucasus nations in perpetual conflict akin to how Azerbaijan benefits from Armenia’s geopolitical catastrophe, which makes them rely on Russia.

Originally a conflict heightened thanks to Stalin’s border manipulations in the Karabakh region, Moscow thinks of itself as a superpower by keeping both nations at war as the South Caucasus has remained under their boot for 200-plus years. With Armenia being labeled as a “Russian satellite,” Azerbaijan maintains a close-knit relationship with Western politicians who have ignored Azerbaijan’s military and brutality. This includes the EU, which traded Russian gas due to a tyrant waging war with funds from gas and oil to another tyrant waging war with gas and oil.

The quiet geopolitics of Azerbaijan, which claims to combat Russian influence but silently benefit from it, should not be ignored. Waging conflicts of aggression while Russia upped attacks on Ukraine, their lack of showing up to the United Nations General Assembly to even vote shows Azerbaijan is afraid of its warlike behavior being brought forth to the international community. 

** Learn more about the culture and history of Azerbaijan here.