Staunton, Oct. 11 – It is a commonplace that from Stalin onward, Qarabagh has been a means for keeping Armenia and Azerbaijan at loggerheads so that Russia can play the dominant role in the South Caucasus. But a new Russian analysis suggests, it is more than that and has become “a small space for the solution of big problems.”
That unsigned article on the Materik portal undoubtedly reflects the views of that site’s chief editor, Konstantin Zatulin, who is also director of the Institute of the CIS Countries and an influential commentator on Russian relations with the former Soviet republics (materik.ru/analitika/nagornyy-karabakh-i-russkiy-proekt-so/).
“It is no accident,” the article says, “that the Persians said that he who controls Qarabagh controls the entire Caucasus.” But in fact, it asserts, the control of Qarabagh determines far more, including the possibility of restoring something like the Soviet Union across the entire former Soviet space.
And that explains why what happens in Qarabagh is so important to Russia which has larger goals than just playing divide and rule in the South Caucasus. If Moscow controls Qarabagh, it can block ties between Central Asia and the West, it can limit Georgian and Ukrainian expansion to the East, and it can use Qarabagh as the basis for a new union.
That will be possible, the article says, not only by adding it to the other breakaway states like South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transdniestria, and the Donbass to an imperial arrangement that may be designated “Union 2.0,” but also by offering with clever diplomacy and military power good reasons for Armenia and/or Azerbaijan to return to Moscow’s umbrella.
Orchestrating all this, the Materik portal article says, won’t be easy. But Qarabagh makes the prospect of such a state realistic; and it is thus why Qarabagh and the issue of who controls it are far more important to Russia than most analysts in Moscow or the West assume. It is the place where the empire can be reborn – or where its second birth can be stopped.