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Aggression without boundaries

By Messenger Staff
Friday, August 21
The major news issue of this past week has been Russian President Medvedev’s attack on his Ukrainian counterpart, thankfully so far only verbal, in which he accuses him of conducting an anti-Russian policy. Now some yet more extraordinary news has been published on Russian website Regnum.

Russia is surprising its neighbours by saying it might possibly allow Armenian soldiers to organise small bases on Russian territory to protect the transportation network which delivers goods to Armenia. This information comes from the headquarters and joint headquarters of the Collective Security Organisation, a CIS structure, which says that the special rapid reaction force, established in the CIS and Armenia according to an agreement concluded on February 4, 2009, could undertake this work. This force, in effect Armenian Special Forces, would allegedly be deployed in Dagestan in the northern Caucasus and Dagomis, a town in the Krasnodar region of the Russian Federation on the Black Sea coast.

Plenty of questions arise immediately. First, this is a direct threat to Azerbaijan, and why is this being made? Second, it is strange that Russia cannot secure the safety of its communication network itself. Why does it need Armenian assistance? Furthermore, what kind of communications pass through Dagestan which are so crucial for Armenia that they need to be guarded by soldiers?

Stepan Saparian, an MP from Armenia’s opposition Heritage faction, thinks that this suggestion is a Russian attempt to blackmail Azerbaijan. There are several reasons why Russia is not happy with Azeri conduct. The first could be that Azerbaijan has refused to sell its whole output of natural gas to Russia, as Moscow wanted it to do in order to undermine the potential supply of the proposed NABUCCO project. This refusal frustrated Russia’s wicked plan to be the only supplier of natural gas in Europe. Another reason is Moscow’s need to supply the Russian military base in Gumri, Armenia, which obviously Azerbaijan will not let it do. Before the August aggression Russia supplied this base from Georgia, but now of course this route is blocked. Moscow has tried to negotiate with Turkey on supplying it from there but has apparently been told this will not happen.

Azeri military analyst Uzeir Japarov says the only way Russia can now supply its base is through Iran. Russian cargo would have to be transported through the Caspian Sea or through Central Asia to get to Iran. Others suggest the Azeri Government should talk to the Iranian leadership about this issue. Ildrim Mamedov says that Azerbaijan should ask the USA to monitor what kind of weapons, in what quantities, Russia would transport to Gumri through Iran. He also suggests that the Americans should provide Azerbaijan with relevant data from US space intelligence.

Of course, Moscow is not happy with the Azeri position and it is presumed that this is why the possibility of Armenian soldiers being based in Russia has started to be talked about. So far President Medvedev has not written to Ilham Aliyev, the Azeri President, but Moscow is indirectly hinting that it expects Azerbaijan will take steps favourable to Moscow. The Messenger has previously written that the Kremlin wants to play the first violin in the Caspian Sea region and its policies are designed to achieve this.

Russian-Azeri relations cannot be considered in isolation from Armenian-Azeri relations. However these are a knot which is not easily to untangle. It is difficult to suggest that the Karabakh conflict could be solved in a way which will satisfy both sides. Despite the current threat to Azerbaijan, Moscow wants to simultaneously influence both countries and present itself as an honest broker in their conflict. However even in these circumstances it is acting aggressively towards one side, Azerbaijan. Sooner or later it will have to directly indicate which side is its genuine ally, and what boundary will its aggression have then?