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Perspectives | New Armenian-Azerbaijani War Forces Russia to Make Tough Choices

The violence in the South Caucasus poses challenging questions of both Russia’s capabilities and its vision for itself.

Laurence Broers/Eurasianet

Screen grab of a video footage which shows strike by Azarbaijan forces at civilian infrastructure in Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Courtesy: news.am

A striking feature of the new Armenian-Azerbaijani war is Russia’s apparent passivity. By day four of the last major fighting, in April 2016, the Kremlin had already convened a meeting between the countries’ security chiefs and brokered a ceasefire.

Four years later, while President Vladimir Putin was quick to call for restraint and joined presidents Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump in calling for de-escalation on 1 October, the Kremlin has been conspicuous by its low visibility, if not absence.

To be sure, the scale of the fighting and Turkey’s support have given Baku greater confidence to resist what it has long seen as Moscow’s self-serving conflict management. But what else lies behind Russia’s low-profile response?

Russian reticence: strategy or distraction?

For some observers, Russian reticence may reflect a calculated strategy. Moscow may be hanging back in order to discipline Nikol Pashinyan’s Armenia or illustrate the ineffectiveness of the Euro-Atlantic members of the Minsk Group, while at the same time gaining credit with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose legitimacy at home will benefit if Turkey’s intervention leads to Azerbaijani gains.

This perspective frames the conflict in terms of competing great powers. Turkey’s intervention, as Russian analyst Maxim Suchkov argues, could actually be aimed at a “new deal” with Russia, in a kind of partnership of regional powers united in their opposition to the West and desire for strategic autonomy from it.

A different view suggests that Russia was distracted with demonstrations in Belarus, and has been caught on the back foot. If not actually surprised by the onset of renewed conflict, Russia sees the reported presence of Syrian mercenaries so close to its volatile North Caucasus as deeply unwelcome.

Moreover, large-scale violence has in the past fed “Eurasia-skepticism” in Armenia, whose geopolitical loyalty is not in any case seriously in doubt. If fighting were to affect the territory of Armenia itself in a sustained way – and if Yerevan were to ask for help – the Kremlin would be forced to act. Therefore, Moscow has always been the outside power with the most immediate incentives to prevent a larger war.  

Russia’s policy breakdown

Russian prevarication can also be seen as stemming from the breakdown of Moscow’s 15-year policy for managing the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Drawing on the scholarship of Timothy Crawford, I term this Russia’s pivotal deterrence policy, whereby Russia acts as a ‘pivot’ balancing between Armenia and increasingly preponderant Azerbaijan. Pivotal deterrence has involved numerous, often mutually incoherent, strands of policy: formal alliance with Armenia, arms transfers to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the convening of mediation initiatives.

Pivotal deterrence works by generating uncertainty in its targets. In this context, that uncertainty has generated caution in Azerbaijan, even as its military capability has overtaken Armenia’s. In Armenia, uncertainty has generated ingratiation and Russian capacity to extract concessions, such as Yerevan’s downgrading of its relationship with the European Union in favor of the Eurasian Union.

But pivotal deterrence works best when its targets do not have alternative alliance options. A large-scale or sustained military engagement activating Russia’s security guarantees to Armenia carries the risk for Azerbaijan of international isolation, considering that it is a small state and not a member of any Eurasian security blocs. This is more or less what happened to Georgia in August 2008. Turkey’s support to Azerbaijan has changed that calculus, resulting in pivotal deterrence failure. 

Russia between multilateralism and multipolarity

It is too early to say whether Turkey’s intervention means the definitive end of Russia’s pivotal deterrence policy. There are, however, numerous problems confronting the Kremlin’s formulation of an alternative. Perhaps the primary problem is choosing the rules of the game by which Moscow means to play.

The new Armenian-Azerbaijani war is symptomatic of a wider crisis in multilateralism and challenges posed to it by rising regional powers in a more multipolar global order. Russia’s dilemma is that in the South Caucasus conflict it straddles both.

Russia may not have welcomed OSCE mediation in the mid-1990s, but accepted it as a multilateral framework that could potentially manage and contain Euro-Atlantic entry into the “near abroad” when Russia itself was weak.

Later, the multilateral make-up of the Minsk Group accorded with the fact that the co-chair nations, France, Russia and the United States, did indeed share a common goal in preventing a new war. Russia has increasingly seen itself as the ‘first among equals’ within the Minsk Group: Russian co-chairs typically serve much longer terms than their French and American counterparts. Within the framework of the Minsk Group, Russia enjoys the image of a good multilateralist cooperating with the West.

Moreover, without the Minsk Group, Russia’s actions in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict would look more nakedly geopolitical, and more obviously like the self-interested moves of an ex-imperial power dominating its former peripheries. Or indeed, like an aspiring regional power inserting itself into a conflict as a means of realizing ambitions to elevated international status, as Russia and Turkey have done in Syria and Libya.

Yet ‘going it alone’ confronts Moscow with some significant constraints. Militarily, Russia does not have direct access to the combat zone, and nor, according to military analysis, does it have an effective response to the Turkish combat drone technology that has reportedly been effective in recent days.

Politically, the ‘proxification’ of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict presumably entails an unambiguous role for Russia as Armenia’s patron and Turkey as Azerbaijan’s patron. Such a role would inevitably poison Russia’s significant bilateral ties with Azerbaijan as a trading and geo-strategic partner in developing north-south connectivity.

Russia’s status in the South Caucasus would also presumably suffer in the transition from the informal leader of an international coalition managing the conflict to the patron of one side in a manifestly zero-sum struggle. Russia’s pivotal deterrence was founded on the idea that the Kremlin’s influence is best served by the avoidance of any such choice.

The new Armenian-Azerbaijani war thus poses challenging questions of both Russia’s capabilities and its vision for itself, not only in the South Caucasus but vis-à-vis the global order that elsewhere it has been happy to challenge.

Laurence Broers is the Caucasus program director at Conciliation Resources, a London-based peace-building organization and the author of several books on the region including Armenia and Azerbaijan: Anatomy of a Rivalry.

This story was originally published by Eurasianet Eurasianet © 2020

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How to identify Fake News or Messages on Social Media 

Beware of Fake News and Fake Messages on Social Media

Always follow websites or social media platforms of traditional media outlets whether newspapers, magazines,Television News Channels or Radio Stations and authentic online only media outlets.They still maintain journalism excellence and stress on reportorial talent.On the other hand, fake news websites run by people with non journalism background and promote their own ideology with fake news and disinformations and obviously conspiracy theories.

But unfortunately mainstream media also manipulates news to establish their story angle.There were various instances when News papers and TV Channels promoted fake news/conspiracy theories in the form of out of context or manipulated pictures/videos and distorted informations.

Always check the URL of any website.Some fake news websites look like the orginal and popular one the same layout,Logo but if you check the URL you may find extra words like if the orginal website's URL is www.xxx.com the duplicate one might be www.xxx.com.co or something like that so first check the URL for authentic informations.

Check whether photos are original or photoshopped.Check Google images for authenticity.You can find help from Google Reverse Images search.

Check the news sources from other websites whether they picked up the story or not.

Whether the website layout is little bit clumsy and obviously grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes and excessive use of Sex related and sensational and hate stories.Because sex and hate sells.

Follow official websites relating to COVID-19

WHO Clarifies the disinformation about the virus:
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
Cold Weather and Snow can not kill the new coronavirus
Taking a Hot Bath Does Not Prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 Can not be transmitted through mosquito bites

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth)

According to World Health Organization (WHO): Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth . If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

Follow WHO guidelines

www.who.int

When you follow COVID-19 related news and messages from social media then check and recheck it before consuming it.Follow journalism mantra: if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Most of the messages or informations quote different organizations like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP,Cambridge University  or other well known institutes,organizations or individual to authenticate the messeges.Check official websites of these organizations  if stories are repeated there

Forwarding messages from unknown sources or little known sources, it would be better to ignore it.

Check whether any logo like UNICEF or WHO or other organizations used in the messages which look similar to original logo.

These type of messages are full of Grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes which are quite uncommon in original messages.

Some fake messages pretend to be real one like unofficial Twitter handle of international media organizations like BBC,CNN,Washinton Post, New York Times-check the official Twitter handles of media outlets.

You can identify fake messages if the message requests you to share it.

Beware of Fake News or Fake Photos/Videos Relating to Communal Hatred

Always check the fact checking sites if you have some doubts about the authenticity of any information or picture.

www.boomlive.in

www.altnews.in

https://check4spam.com

https://smhoaxslayer.com

www.factchecker.in

www.allsides.com

www.factcheck.org

www.newsbusters.org

www.politifact.com

www.snopes.com

www.propublica.org

The Same Method Applies to You Tube Videos Check the Source the credibility of the Source.To Check Fake You Tube Videos Check and Recheck the sources. Does the person have the legal right to the video posted? Did that person capture the video? Whether it has been altered?

But due to advancement of technology we can not really wipe out fake news.According to experts advent of  Artificial Intelligence(AI) some companies small or big one developing  technologies that can  lay digitally created script to anybody's voice  even words,sentences never said by the person.Even they a.re developing a technology which can create fake video footage,images,audios like originals.So be cautious! Rumour-mongers are active everywhere whether in physical world or cyber world.

Without evidence or with fake evidence, a conspiracy theory will always remain a conspiracy theory.

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