Saturday, January 2, 2021

FSB Presence in South Caucasus Expands after Qarabagh Accord

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 1 – Following the November 10 declaration, Moscow has not only dispatched nearly 2,000 peacekeepers to the former Republic of Artsakh and corridors between it and Armenia and between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan, but it has also sough to increase the size of its FSB contingent now guarding most of Armenia’s foreign borders.

            That move, organized during FSB head Aleksandr Bortnikov’s visits to Yerevan and Baku and during a Moscow meeting with the heads of the Armenian and Azerbaijani special services gives the Russian government a far larger footprint on the ground in the region than many had thought.

            Regnum commentator Stanislav Tarasov is celebrating this development, one that he says will help secure the peace in the region, combat any influx of terrorists from the Middle East, and, not unimportantly, limit the growth of Western influence there at Russia’s expense (

            The implementation of the November 10 declaration, the commentator says, would have been extremely difficult without this expansion in the FSB’s presence and role and without the coordination of its actions with the special services of Armenia and Azerbaijan, given the length of borders contested and not in the region.

            “The trilateral Qarabagh agreement touches on the problem of protecting with Russian border guards about 1000 kilometers of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border,” Tarasov continues. For that purpose, he says, on the territory of Armenia are now “approximately 4500” FSB officers.

            At Yerevan’s request, Bortnikov has said, “Russian border guards have deployed additional forces numbering 188 uniformed personnel and the necessary amount of technical support on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan,” an expansion of the FSB presence since November 10.

            Tarasov cites Alexandre del Valle, a French specialist on radical Islam, to the effect that these forces will give Moscow yet another defense against penetration into the region by Islamist forces.  But it is certain that that is only a collateral although not insignificant result of what Moscow is doing.

            Instead, with each new addition to Russian troops in the region, Moscow creates a force that will give it leverage on both sides and allow it to continue to be the arbiter between them. These Russian personnel are thus likely to play a far more significant role in the future of the Qarabagh dispute than those who focus only on the peacekeepers may assume.

            And the fact that the new Russian personnel are FSB rather than regular army means that they may be used for purposes far removed from their stated mission, something far less likely with regular army units, yet another reason for watching this buildup in the Russian special forces there. 

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