Author`s name Lyuba Lulko

Turkey wages war in Nagorno Karabakh. What should Russia do?

The crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh poses a huge challenge for Russian diplomacy. A breakthrough is needed, otherwise it will be Turkey, not Russia, that will bring its erstwhile empire back to life.

Turkey conducts military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh

On Sunday, September 27, the active phase of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh resumed. In the south of the unrecognized republic, the army of Azerbaijan launched an offensive using heavy equipment and artillery. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said at a meeting of the Security Council that Azerbaijan must resolve the conflict once and for all to restore historical justice. The President of Azerbaijan added that he would never allow a second so-called Armenian state on Azerbaijani land.

As a result of the hostilities, the parties have suffered losses both in military hardware and manpower. According to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, 31 people were killed on the line of contact from the Armenian side during the battles. Azerbaijan says that Armenia lost 550 people.

Armenia has so far refused assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), since Armenia does not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as a sovereign state - it means that the war is not taking place on the territory of Armenia. However, the current aggravation is not just a matter of the positional advance of Azerbaijan to occupy a few dominant heights. The current crisis comes as part of the plan to bring Karabakh back under the control of Azerbaijan under the leadership of such a strong regional player as Turkey.

According to political scientist Semyon Baghdasarov, the offensive is being conducted in coordination with Turkey as a "well planned operation."

"Both Turkish special forces and militants of the Syrian so-called opposition are fighting on the side of Azerbaijan - they are, in fact, representatives of terrorist organizations from all over the world and from the East - 4,000 people. This is a pre-planned military operation," Semyon Bagdasarov told Pravda.Ru.

According to him, Turkey's President Recep Erdogan is preparing for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Lausanne Agreement in 2023 and for the presidential election. Erdogan is active on all fronts at once: Cyprus, Greece, Libya, Iraq and South Caucasus.

Russia's three most important objectives in the conflict

In this regard, Moscow faces the first objective to show CSTO allies and observers that this organization actually exists and has power to defend others. This is very important, because security is the only factor that today keeps Armenia and the Central Asian states in Russia's sphere of influence and protects them from the destructive influence of the West.

Objective No. 2 is to once again stop Turkey in its revanchist ideas of neo-Ottomanism and Pan-Turkism.

Turkey, in contrast to Russia, which called on the warring parties to show restraint in connection with the crisis in Karabakh, clearly expressed its support for Azerbajian. Azerbaijan and Turkey are "one nation in two states," as Erdogan once noted.

Erdogan calls himself Putin's "friend," but in fact he undermines "fraternal" relations with Russia.

Ankara openly pushes Gazprom out of the Turkish gas market at a difficult time for the Russian economy. Russia currently ranks fifth on the list of gas suppliers to Turkey, while Azerbaijan ranks first with a 23.5 percent of the share of the Turkish market. Natural gas supplies via the Turkish Stream pipeline system actually stopped, while the Blue Stream never came out of repairs.

Turkey has been reducing its purchases of Russian oil too lately in an effort to replace Russian oil with that from Azerbaijan. Turkey's largest refinery STAR, which belongs to SOCAR of Azerbaijan,  has not bought a barrel of Urals oil from Russia for two months already, although in the past it used to be one of the country's largest buyers of Russian oil.

Russia's third objective is to prevent the triumph of one religion over another, which in this case is fraught with the strengthening of Islamic extremism in the region, which is critically dangerous for Russia. Erdogan once threatened to "blow up Russia" from the inside in its Islamic regions.

All this does not come contrary to the fact that Azerbaijan has the right to return its territories, but not within the framework of the former Soviet autonomy, whose people made their choice in a referendum in 1991 - but within the framework of Azerbaijani regions that Armenia seized around the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region. One ha to return those territories, albeit with the recognition of the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. That would be fair.

The crisis must be resolved within the framework of the Eurasian counterparts of OSCE

The Karabakh crisis is tackled within the framework of the OSCE (the Minsk Group), which includes, in addition to Russia, the United States and France. The unresolved conflict indicates the weakness of the alliance with the West, which is destabilizing Russia by fueling up conflicts in post-Soviet countries.

It is obvious that Russia needs a new Eurasian security system instead of the OSCE. Russia needs to work with China, Kazakhstan, India, but the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) does not become an analogue of Western peacekeeping structures. It lacks political will, which is suppressed by the threat of economic sanctions.

Vladimir Lepekhin, Director General of the EAEU Institute, told Pravda.Ru that it is impossible to create an alternative to the West quickly.

This is a consequence of Gorbachev's perestroika, when Russia eyed integration with international law, world economy and everything else, where the West dominates, the political scientist explained.

According to Vladimir Lepekhin, it took Russia time to see the dangers of integration with the West, the goal of which was to subjugate Russia to his interests completely. When Russia started showing its desire to secure its sovereignty, the West received this extremely negatively, the political scientist continued.

The West subsequently punished Russia with Georgia's invasion in South Ossetia, the coup in Ukraine. Crises are brewing in Moldova, the Baltics, Belarus, Georgia and so on. The most recent events in the South Caucasus, in the opinion of Vladimir Lepekhin indicate that the West shows support to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

"The Russian leadership and many elites of post-Soviet space are beginning to understand that, in fact, the West is pursuing a colonial policy to achieve revanchist goals that had been set during the Second World War with respect to the Soviet Union, but had not been implemented," said Vladimir Lepekhin.

According to him, Russia is growing to apply its structures in international affairs. Several international organisations have already been created for the purpose: the club of presidents of post-Soviet countries, the CIS, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is a military-political organization.

"Now it is becoming more obvious that Russia does not need the World Trade Organization - Russia needs its own Eurasian trade organization, Eurasian health organization, its own organization for the protection of human rights, which would be identical to the OSCE," the expert added.

According to him, in order to create an analogue of the OSCE, other countries need to exercise their will to participate in the endeavour, because such organizations require serious funding.

The expert believes that BRICS or SCO may ultimately create such structures.

"China is a closed country for the whole world, for the West. But China may perhaps soon evince interest in creating such an organization. Therefore, Beijing will create an analogue to the OSCE together with Russia and other countries," Vladimir Lepekhin said.