Tectonic Movements in the South Caucasus

In recent months, American activity in the regulation of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations has been clearly visible. Washington is trying to use all the tools at its disposal to help sign a peace treaty between the parties. It can be argued that this is the most active phase of American diplomacy in this part of the world since 1992 and the momentum is in favor of the US. A geopolitical environment has been created in the South Caucasus which seems to be the one for which Washington waited almost three decades.

First of all, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has changed the shape it has exhibited for the last 30 years, erasing the balance of powers in the region. The Armenian government now expresses its willingness to normalize relations with Turkey, meeting all Turkish preconditions. The same can be said about Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. Russia, once a powerful regional player, focuses all its diplomatic and political resources on the Ukrainian war, and does not have enough power to deal with the South Caucasus region and the challenges it faces there. All this means that a historic opportunity has opened for the United States to significantly reduce Russia’s role in the South Caucasus, and Washington’s activity should be viewed in this particular light.

At the same time, it is necessary to act as quickly as possible, taking into account other factors such as the strengthening and growing role of China not only in the world, but in the South Caucasus itself. The improvement and strategizing of Sino-Georgian relations was approached rather coldly in Washington, which realizes that China is becoming a major competitor from the Middle East to the South Caucasus. And if we take into account the settlement of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, respectively a longtime ally and a longtime enemy of Washington, through the mediation of China, then Washington has reason to worry.

Undoubtedly significant changes have been taking place in the region since the 2020 Artsakh war and the Ukrainian war. The decrease of Russian influence in Armenia, the increase of Turkish influence and Ankara’s more active involvement in the South Caucasus after the war of 2020 are forming new realities. The regulation of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Armenia should also be considered in this logical chain. In the near future, the prospect of establishing diplomatic relations between Armenia and Pakistan is very possible.

The Armenian-Azerbaijani peace agreement, as mentioned, is on the political agenda of Washington and is one of the most important priorities of American policy towards the South Caucasus, along with the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations, the establishment of diplomatic ties and opening borders. It is true that Armenia continues to be a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member and a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), but it is obvious that along with the reduction of Russian influence, the importance of these organizations for Armenia will also be reduced, particularly in terms of the CSTO.

Obviously, the EAEU is an economic organization and Armenia joined it out of economic interests. On the other hand, although in the logic of the new political architecture of the region the CSTO is not of vital importance for Armenia, Yerevan is not in a hurry to withdraw from that organization. According to the charter of the CSTO, member states shall inform the organization of such an intention at least 6 months before leaving it, and Armenia has not made such a statement yet. As for the EAEU, most likely, Armenia will not leave this structure until it has similar alternative markets.

Of course the Russian political elite totally understands these developments and scenarios, knowing very well the intentions of Washington’s policy. However, as long as the Ukrainian war continues, Moscow does not have many opportunities to strengthen its position in this region. Whether Moscow will agree to lose the South Caucasus, calculating that in return it can get what it needs in Ukraine, is still difficult to say. At the same time, it is really difficult to say how long this window of opportunity will remain open for Washington’s diplomacy. The future of Ukraine depends not only on Russia and Ukraine, but also on American internal political processes towards Ukraine, in particular the provision of aid, the possible return of Trump to power, etc. One thing is for sure. The tectonic movements taking place in the South Caucasus will be very difficult to stop. Regardless of how long these movements last, the region will never be the same again.

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