Russia could recommit to Armenia to combat Turkish influence in the Caucasus - report

Russia may turn to Armenia to in an effort limit Turkey’s influence in the south Caucasus following the success of Azerbaijan in the recent conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, the National Interest said on Wednesday.

Clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh broke out again in September, before Russia brokered a ceasefire agreement earlier this month. Thousands of fighters and hundreds of civilians are reported to have died in the conflict.

Russia has historically sought to play a mediating role between Azerbaijan and Armenia, both former Soviet Republics, and will deploy a 2000-strong peacekeeping force to the region. But Turkey’s strong support for Azerbaijan may see Russia taking a more assertive stance in favour of Armenia, the National Interest said.

Turkey provided Azerbaijan with Syrian mercenary fighters and combat drones, helping tip the balance of military forces against Armenia. But the extent of Ankara’s influence in the conflict may have been underestimated, with a Turkish-major general based in Baku since July, the National Interest said, citing Russian publication Vzglyad.

"A panoply of high-ranked Turkish officials met with their Azerbaijani counterparts throughout the summer to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, and Turkish arms sales to Baku exploded in the months leading up to the September offensive,” the U.S. magazine said.

The National Interest said Ankara’s sway in the Azeri military had grown in recent years as the “Soviet-derived officer corps has been gradually replaced by personnel who received their military education in Turkey”. 

“Ankara has seemingly acquired near-total veto power over Azerbaijan’s defence and military cadres,” and may now seek to establish permeant naval or air bases to challenge Russia’s presence in the Caspian Sea, the magazine said.

“Now that the fault lines of Russian influence in the south Caucasus have been clearly drawn, it remains to be seen if Moscow will opt to recommit to its Armenian security guarantee as a bulwark against the further projection of Turkish power in the region.”