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Dialogue between societies, not between authorities: a left activists’ view of the situation in Karabakh

by Zara Harutyunian and Anton Ivchenko, leftists and anti-war activists

                  Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliev, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Serzh Sargsyan, President of Armenia


The end of July saw a flaring up of the simmering conflict around the unrecognized Nagono Karabakh republic. The confrontation between the militaries of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbajan, in the course of which both sides sustained serious losses, marked a new level of escalation.

Against the background of crescendoing militarist rhetoric and the de facto end to the status quo, at the initiative of Vladimir Putin, two- and three-way meetings took place between himself and Presidents Sargsyan and Aliev. Although these meetings were planned long before the escalation, according to a number of experts, their results could play a decisive role for the unfolding conflict.

The steady stream of cross-border shootings preceding the escalation is in many ways characteristic for the logic of the last 20 years: constant up and downs, which allow the authorities parasiting upon the war, to keep hold of their throne.

Indeed, few other governments have reached the level of professionalism in war speculation demonstrated by the Armenian and Azeri regimes. Warming up nationalist sentiments, they periodically put forth the possibility of a war, thereby legitimizing their own power and pushing aside social problems. Neither side would like to give up such a useful instrument.

This elaborate mechanism of periodic escalations worked not without the participation of third powers such as Russia, the EU, the USA, and Turkey as well as some well-known transnational corporations, which have never been known for their squeamishness about war profits.

As the main player in the region, Russia deserves special attention. On the one hand, it keeps military bases in Armenia for free, selling that country defensive weaponry and claiming the responsibility for its security; on the other, it sells massive amounts of offensive weaponry to Azerbaijan and doesn’t recognize Nagorno-Karabakh People’s Republic.

At the same time, there are ways in which the current events don’t fit into the typical geopolitical scenario of the conflict. Could we say that the elaborate system of three-way negotiation has crashed? Or maybe it has moved up to a new level or changed the format?

But let’s give the regimes their due—they are good at hiding their traces and it is difficult to assert anything with a degree of certainty. There are different versions. Some experts think that the border clashes represents typical Azeri militarism while the level of escalation and the above-average number of casualties could be explained by an unusually severe reaction by the Armenian side.

There are those who blame the recent escalation on Russia, which pursues several possible goals: 1) of forcing Armenia to cede the disputed territories to Azerbaijan in exchange for integration into the Eurasian Union, 2) of reconciling both parties and incorporating them into the Eurasian Union, or 3) of introducing a Russian peace-keeping garrison in the disputed territories.