Earlier this month Russian President Vladimir Putin huddled with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and in a few hours hammered out a peace agreement to stop the month-long Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The peace deal is incredibly short, explicit and to the point. Armenia was spared a total defeat. Azerbaijan did well. And Russia won.
Less obvious are President Aliyev’s calculations. Backed by Turkey, and on good terms with Moscow, Azerbaijan’s army was advancing fast. From a military standpoint, Azerbaijan could have gone for a total military victory, which would have avoided a messy post-war peace wrangling. But Aliyev is no warmonger. He is a realist and a political pragmatist.
It also secured a corridor to its enclave, the Nakchivan Autonomous Republic, running through Armenian territory.
Baku demonstrated its military superiority to Yerevan and scored victories which came as a vindication of sorts for the brutal defeat Azerbaijan suffered at the hands of Armenian forces in the 1992-1994 war when it lost Nagorno-Karabakh. And it also managed to make its close ally, Turkey, a party to any future final settlement.
Although Armenia was the defeated side in this conflict, the biggest loser is actually the European Union. It failed, yet again, and in a spectacular fashion, to be a relevant player and a peace broker on its eastern periphery.
Europe should also insist on playing a role in the future talks on Nagorno-Karabakh’s status. Brussels could jump the gun on this point, and begin consultations with Azerbaijan and Armenia.