Staunton, May 11 – Most Russian analysts since the 1990s have argued that the reopening of the transportation corridor between Azerbaijan proper and Azerbaijan’s autonomous republic of Nakhichevan risks transforming Baku into a vassal of Turkey. But a new Moscow commentary argues exactly the opposite.
Moscow’s RUSSTRAT Institute says that the corridor will benefit all the countries involved, allowing Armenia to be supplied by land from Russia, Russia to trade with Iran and the Middle East, and Turkey to project power through Azerbaijan to Central Asia (russtrat.ru/reports/10-maya-2021-0010-4172
But it suggests that the planned opening of transportation and communication via the corridor will end any risk that Azerbaijan will be transformed into “a vassal of Turkey” and lose its ability to act independently. Baku “will become only a junior partner but will remain an important regional player in the Trans-Caucasus” because of its ties to other countries there.
In particular, RUSSTRAT says, with the reopening of this corridor and Armenia’s dependence on it, “Azerbaijan will gain influence on political processes in Armenia and the position of its elites, above all on questions of war and peace in Qarabagh and its surrounding areas.”
And that means, it continues, that as important as the link is Baku because of the opening of a direct land route to Turkey, something that the Azerbaijani government and people view as “a major geopolitical prize,” its implications are such that Moscow does not have compelling reasons to drag its feet on this route.
That has been a serious potential problem because the November 10 declaration that some call an agreement does not specify any timetables for the reopening of routes. Azerbaijan is fully capable of paying for the reopening of the Nakhichivan corridor but Armenia can’t build any of the ones the declaration mentions without outside help.
More generally, RUSSTRAT argues, “it is obvious that ‘the Nakhichevan transportation corridor’ will become powerful stabilizing factor in a region by raising the importance of weak players (Armenia and Azerbaijn) and creating a zone of compromise for the geopolitical goals of Russia, Turkey and Iran.”
The reopening of the corridor also works to Russia’s advantage because it seriously undermines the interests of the US and Georgia. Indeed, the only downside from Russia’s perspective, RUSSTRAT says, is that it could lead to the development of a new transportation corridor south of Russia from Afghanistan to the West.
Moscow can counter that via an accord with China, but everything considered, Moscow has good reason to promote the reopening of the Nakhichivan transportation corridor now, however much Yerevan fears it will leave Armenia surrounded by Turks because it helps Russia and hurts the West.
If the Kremlin accepts this argument, that would mean that Baku does not face the obstacles to the reopening of the transportation corridor there that many Azerbaijanis had feared existed.