War in the Caucasus: Putin´s image and that of the CSTO are at stake

War in the Caucasus: Putin´s image and that of the CSTO are at stake

Erdogan is igniting new conflicts and wars in his pursuit for a Neo-Ottoman Empire. This time in the Caucasus. While Turkey held several joint maneuvres with Azerbaijan and there were talks about a Turkish military base in Azerbaijan, we now face a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Erdogan wants to send 4000 Turkish fighters from Syria in support of Azerbaijan. After Russia got in contact with the Minsk Group consisting with USA and France, it invited Azerbaijan and Armenian diplomats to come to ceasefire and peace talks to Moscow. While commentators in the Western media had doubts that Putin will reach a ceasefire, it happened, but not for long. Azerbaijan motivated by Turkish support, the absence of Trump- USA due to interest and the US election campaign, broke now the ceasefire and occupied parts of Nagano-Karabakh and wants to get it under its full control. As Azerbaijan president Alijew declared he would only accept a ceasefire if all Nagorno-Karabakh is territory and soil of Azerbaijan again and Erdogan declared that Russia, the USA and France should keep out of the conflict and also rejected the idea of a ceasefire.

Russia which first seemed to be the strong power in the Caucasus faces now a hard choice. Will it engage at the side of the Armenians and defend Nagorno-Karabakh as it also maintains good political and economic relations to Azerbaijan. Some news reports aired that Azerbaijan is already shelling Armenian territory. If Putin would sacrifice Nagorno-Karabakh to get to a final solution, he would maybe have better contacts with Azerbaijan, but also be perceived as a weak power which cannot even control ist Near abroad and backyard and betrays its Armenian ally, especially if the Azerbaijan troops would commit ethnic cleansings in Nagorno- Karabakh or Turkish proxy and voluntary troops and „green men“ would kill Armenians. There are also some reports that Azerbaijan artillery is already shelling Armenian territory. Hard to distinguish if this is fake news war propaganda or not. However, if this was the case this would be the defense obligation for the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) consisting also of Belarus, Tadjikistan, Kasachstan and Kirgistan. Belarus and Kirgistan are at the moment involved in internal riots and color revolutions, while in Tadjikistan the old president was reelected while Kasachstan is also stable at the moment. But the question is if the CSTO members would like to be involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or only react if Armenia was attacked directly. On the other side, it remains to be seen if Muslim brothers and Islamists would call for a jihad of Central Asian Muslim states against Christian Armenia at the side of Muslim Azerbaijan as Turkey does ignoring the fact that most Azerbaijanis are Shiites and more secular and it remains unclear how the guardian of Shiitism Iran will position itself in the conflict. And the Central Asian Islamists could also use the call for Muslim solidarity and Jihad to destabilize Central Asian governments who might reject the call and Dawa.

As long as Putin and some transatlanists hope that they could use Erdogan-Turkey against the other side, the Sultan in Istanbul will expand his neo-Ottoman Empire and threatens to draw Russia and the West into a conflict. What could be a solution? Prof. Rahr proposes a Confederation between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh however, this like the Astanhan solution sounds not reasonable. Such a Confederation could only be possible if Russia abolishes its military base in Armenia what Putin doesn´t want. It is also very vague how such a Confederation Council could be structured in a stable framework and if Azerbaijan would tolerate more autonomy for the disputed region. The danger would be that such a Confederation became such a dysfunctional failing state as Bosnia-Herzegowina. maybe creating more future trouble than being a solution.

Another idea: Before discussing or even negotiating such farreaching ideas, Putin could use the joint call by Trump, Macron and himself for a ceasefire to come to a united front against Erdogan. First, Putin could demand, that the USA, France will make efforts to stop any Turkish plans to set up a military base in Azerbaijan, North Syria and Libya as this would only militarise these regions even more and harden the opposing positions. Putin could appeal to Trump and Macron for sanctions within NATO and the EU against Erdogan if he doesn´t stop his neo-Ottoman expansion and warmongering. Putin should use this historic opportunity to get clarification if the West or NATO is further tolerating Edogan´s expansionism. Loud and openly and maybe also at the UNO. This could also be a door-opener for a rapprochement between the West and Russia at a minimum consensus. However, Putin refused such a multilateral approach, maybe as like forces in the West he has the same narrow-minded unilateral geopolitical thinking and understanding, is also anxious to annoy Erdogan as others strategist in the West are, is not trustful in Trump´s reaction and might also not see a united West, but a disinterested Trump-USA, a more powerless EU and France.

The consequence: Putin is really in danger to be perceived as a weak, helpless leader while Erdogan could be the new strong man in the Caucasus and maybe in the future in Central Asia and maybe even in Chechenia. The West as Putin don´t want to offend Erdogan-Turkey directly and Trump doesn´t care, while the EU has no real power to intervene beyond diplomatic protests and appeals and maybe some sanctions. Meanwhile, Erdogan after a compromise with the EU and Greece is starting his provocation against Greece again. Perhaps Putin hopes that Erdogan could be absorbed by another conflict between NATO partner Greece and Turkey and be appeased in the Caucasus and that both sides in the Caucasus would bleed to death and that due to war weariness and lack of superiority on one side, that there would be a ceasefire like before and it will be a frozen conflict again. But this could be also a miscalculation. In each case: The image of Putin and the CSTO as an organization is at stake. Perhaps a CSTO member will then claim as Macron did with NATO that the CSTO is “brain dead” and that even Kavzak 2020 maneuvers will not change it or that it will be the next stillbirth of a hoped-for germ cell fo a Eurasian anti-NATO.

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