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While claiming lack of unity in the West, Moscow is struggling to hold its "Russian World"

REUTERS / PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE
REUTERS / PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE

The Russian world is tearing at the seams… The armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has testified to the fact that Moscow has practically no influence left in the Caucasus. It became clear to everyone in the international arena that Vladimir Putin's geopolitical ambitions do not correspond to his real capabilities to influence the situation in the region.

The Kremlin has long been trying to persuade the West and NATO that their collective security is worthless and that when the day comes, no Western power would stand up for the Ally, but the realities prove the opposite.

Within the Collective Security Treaty Organization, where Russia is an informal leader supposed to ensure stability for member states, the Kremlin has chickened out of supporting Armenia in the latest stand-off around Nagorno-Karabakh. The thing is that Russia is simply unprepared to cross swords with NATO.

On October 14, Azerbaijan's army struck the border regions of Armenia, destroying with a ballistic missile a combat-ready missile system. That's per the official report by the Azerbaijani defense ministry.

"Operational-tactical missiles had been targeting Ganja, Mingachevir, and other cities of Azerbaijan, aimed at inflicting civilian casualties and destroying civilian infrastructure. To ensure safety of civilian population, this missile launcher on launch position, being a legitimate military target, was destroyed in a preemptive strike.

Earlier, at 01:00, an high-recision strike destroyed operational-tactical missile systems, deployed to launch positions in the same area. There was no civilian infrastructure or facilities at the sites where missiles had been brought to combat readiness for launch, "the message says.

In response, the Armenian military accused Azerbaijan of engaging on unfounded assumptions: "The armed forces targeted military hardware on combat duty in the border zone with Karvachar on the territory of the Republic of Armenia, simply based on assumptions that this hardware was ready to strike peaceful settlements in Azerbaijan." In this regard, following the incident, "the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia reserve the right, according to the same logic, to target any military object or maneuvers on the territory of Azerbaijan."

Armenia's harsh reaction is understandable. Since September 27, Azerbaijan has been systematically destroying military hardware and weapons, which the Armenian army is already lacking. After all, it's kind of hard to repel tanks or drones with bayonets. Armenia can only dream of armaments available to Azerbaijan and Turkey. What Yerevan has at hand is obsolete military rubbish of the Soviet era, which Russia has been selling them for years. By the way, Armenia's image is far from clean – its forces have earlier been accused of provocative shelling of Azerbaijani settlements.

And while Armenia and Azerbaijan are trying to find out who's right and who's to blame for the incident, Russia pretends that nothing happened. Vladimir Putin remains silent, leaving his defense minister Sergei Shoigu to call on his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts to implement the ceasefire agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh earlier reached in Moscow. Russia's top diplomat came for the rescue of the country's defense chief, telling a pool of Russian radio stations: "We [Russia – ed.] have never qualified Turkey as our strategic ally." How about that, Turkey?!

It was relatively recently though, in July 2019, when Vladimir Putin said: "The partnership with our neighbor Turkey has reached a strategic level; we are in constant contact with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan." In fact, Moscow tried to "befriend" Ankara, even as the Turks were killing Russian mercenaries in Syria and abandoning Russian gas in favor of Azerbaijan's... Moscow clenched its teeth and accepted all that, but now, it appears, the "ungrateful" Turkey went on to support Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

For an outsider, it might seem that Russia has decided to follow in EU's footsteps as Europeans traditionally opt for limiting themselves to diplomatic statements on most conflicts. In reality, however, Moscow simply decided that a "bad peace is better than a good war" with Baku and Ankara… After all, unlike Ukraine or Belarus, Armenia won't go anywhere anyway, the Kremlin assumes.

Russia is aware that Turkey, a NATO Ally, has the bloc's second-strongest army following that of the United States, and the world's tenth, according to various estimates. The Turkish troops are believed to be the most trained ones in the region. Soldiers undergo training in line with NATO standards and have at their disposal modern military hardware and weapons, having also gained massive combat experience.

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