Many commentators in Moscow, Baku and Ankara have expressed the hope that the inclusion of countries in the South Caucasus in Moscow’s Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU) will lead to the resolution of the Karabakh dispute. But a Russian expert says that the inclusion of Armenia into the Eurasian Union “will not violate the existing status quo around Nagorno-Karabakh. More than that, it will strengthen the economic security of the two Armenian states [sic—Armenia and the self-professed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic], which will have a positive impact on the region as a whole” (noev-kovcheg.ru, July 6).
Arkady Areshev, a specialist on security issues in the South Caucasus at the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, says that those who think otherwise are “disconnected from reality.” His comment undercuts the far more optimistic comments made recently by the Institute for the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) director Vladimir Lepekhin, Russian Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukayev, and Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev (noev-kovcheg.ru, July 6).
In his article, Areshev recalls that Lepekhin had earlier said that “the simultaneous inclusion of Azerbaijan and Armenia into the Eurasian Economic Union would mean not only a new level of integration for the Union but also the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” something that would require a resolution of the Karabakh dispute. Earlier, while visiting Baku, Minister Ulyukayev had said that by both joining the EaEU, the two South Caucasus countries could find a solution. And before that Nazarbayev had voiced similar optimism.
But Azerbaijan did not sign on to the Moscow-led EaEU when Armenia did, and consequently, any such hopes were clearly misplaced, Areshev stresses. His words are addressed to an Armenian audience, which will likely welcome what the Russian analyst says—in particular, his remark about the existence of “two Armenian states.” But Areshev’s comments are also an implicit threat to Azerbaijan that unless it joins the Moscow-led Eurasian integration effort, the Russian side will do little or nothing to push Armenia in the direction of a resolution of the Karabakh dispute.
In the wake of the Areshev declaration, Baku commentator Adgezal Mamedov argues that Moscow may, nonetheless, move in a different direction. For one thing, according to Mamedov, Azerbaijan is a vastly more important country to Russia than Armenia. Furthermore, he asserts, Moscow needs to find a way to include Baku in Russia-led regional integrationist projects if Russia is to promote its own Eurasian ideas over competing regionalist projects coming out of Turkey. But this will be impossible unless and until the Karabakh dispute is resolved, Mamedov claims (politobzor.net, July 25).
His comments about the intersection of the two Eurasianisms, Russian and Turkic, are instructive. Mamedov suggests that both the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey share common historical experiences as empires that were undermined by the power of ethnic nationalism, and both Moscow and Ankara fear that such divisive nationalism is being used against them to this day. Moreover, these two countries have overlapping interests over large geographical areas that they consider culturally and politically close to them. Consequently, he argues, Russia and Turkey have been simultaneously cautious about promoting the ethno-nationalism of their titular nations and have both been attracted to the super-national ideas of Eurasianism.
Turkey is particularly aware of the dangers of nationalism and has worked out “a new state ideology, carried through constitutional reforms,” which forms “a new consciousness on the basis of territorial rather than national community,” according to the Baku commentator. That already has had profound consequences inside the Republic of Turkey and it “will have foreign policy consequences as well” for Turkey’s neighbors and especially for Turkic peoples. Among these will be closer attention by Ankara to anything that could trigger ethnic conflicts in this region and block the emergence of “a new geopolitical construction” in Eurasia.
Russia under Vladimir Putin and especially since his election to a third term in 2012 is equally committed to avoiding such clashes and the dangers of nationalism they present and thus has been pursuing various Eurasian integration projects, Mamedov continues. Moreover, “Russia is recognized by many, including the founders of the Eurasian idea, as the site of Slavic-Turkic cooperation” and thus appears to be prepared to meet the efforts of the Turkic world toward greater integration.
Mamedov does not say this explicitly, but his article certainly implies that Moscow has far more to gain by meeting Azerbaijan more than half way on Karabakh. By winning over Baku and having it join Moscow’s Eurasian integrationist projects, Russia would not only gain access to oil and gas and to Iran, but also create the possibility of forming an even larger and more influential geopolitical entity: a Slavic-Turkic Eurasian community. Much already stands in the way of such a goal, but it will be absolutely impossible without a resolution of the issue of the occupied territories—such as Karabakh. And at a time when Moscow is challenging so many existing geopolitical constructs (see EDM, July 22), no one should discount that possibility.