Friday, November 29, 2013

Thawing a frozen conflict?

At 10:24 GMT on November 29, the News Az website was trumpeting the good news announced in Turkey that Yerevan was going to withdraw from two "occupied Azeri regions."   Less than one hour later,  Azerbaijani MP, Asim Mollazade, was quoted by the same site as saying this was nothing more than more lies from Armenia, and that they should return every inch of Azeri territory forthwith.

Is this all just political theater?  I don't know.  Clearly, the Ukraine joining the Russian Eurasian Customs Union must be upsetting to the Azeris.

In other news, Azeri bureaucrats accuse Armenia of "hydro terror" for not maintaining the Sarsang reservoir adequately.  It is a man made lake and damn built during Soviet times in the NK area.

Finally, on the website, a "Iskandaryan" assures readers that Putin's upcoming visit to Yerevan will cement Russia's strategic commitment to Armenia, though this commitment will not interfere with Russian business interests in Azerbaijan.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Russian Colonel, "Bring It On."

Well, he didn't exactly say that, but the commander of the 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri, Amermenia, Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky was quoted by the “Krasnaya Zvezda” (Red Star) newspaper as saying “If Azerbaijan starts military operation in Nagorno Karabakh, the military base can join the conflict.”

While the Russian Defense Minister, Army General Sergei Shoygu, claimed the statement was a misinterpretation by the journalist, it seems to be a clear indication of the Russian Bear ever so briefly pulling off the velvet glove to show the iron fist.  Stay tuned for Sochi!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Presidential Meeting in Vienna

The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan concluded their two hour meeting in Vienna this afternoon and left the building without making any comments to the press.  If not there to make a statement, then what exactly was the purpose of the meeting?  What can two people speaking different languages accomplish in two hours?

The Turkish foreign minister Davutoglu: "We hope that the Nagorno-Karabakh problem will be solved soon and stability will be restored in the Caucasus region,"

Russian foreign minister Lavrov:  "As I said, we will do our best to help create the necessary atmosphere to reach a resolution for the conflict upon the agreements reached earlier,"

Monday, November 18, 2013

February 14, 2014 and the "wildcard"

I'd like apologize to all of my non existent readers for my absence.  At first I was busy, then I was lazy.  I finally got around to reading the briefing by The International Crisis Group, "Armenia and Azerbaijan: A Season of Risks."

The entire briefing should be read by anyone interested in the subject, but I have my own thoughts.  The most interesting part of the briefing was the reference to Iran as a "wildcard" in the geopolitical standoff.  While Iran has failed to decisively support Armenia in this dispute, I fail to see how it could remain neutral much less not militarily support Armenia.  It has already participated in war games with Russia in the Caspian.  Who else but Azerbaijan could be the target?

Azerbaijan exists under Turkish protection.  Without it, they would stop their bellicose rhetoric.  They are in direct competition with Iranian and Russian oil exports.  The BTC pipeline conspicuously circumvents both Iran and Armenia on its way to Turkey. Azerbaijan's close cooperation with Iran's bette noire, Israel, should convince even the most dovish Iranians that Baku is a threat.

If you take a look at "Iranian Azerbaijan", you can see that any move by Baku to militarily claim territory on behalf of the ethnicity of its inhabitants will be met with Iranian hostility.  All of Azerbaijan was once part of the Persian empire until it was ceded to the Russian Empire after the Russo-Persian war in 1813.  A complicated conflict to be sure, it even involved Napoleon.  Incidentally, the richest regions of Turkmenistan's oil industry also belonged to the Persian Empire prior to 1881.

It is easy to see why Russia and Iran find it so difficult to work together due to their prior hostilities.  However, at this point, the two seem to share a common foe in the "Empire of Money."  Their shared historical antipathy toward Turkey is also a uniting factor.

We are now less than 3 months from my historic date.  Will I be proven right?  Only time will tell.

From Georgia with Love

According to the Russian UN delegation, everyone's favorite whipping boy, Saakashvili, launched a tirade not just against Russia, but against Russian history.

Labeling him as clearly unstable and needing professional mental help, the Russians walked out on his speech of September 25.  Even though Saakashvili's time in office is coming to an end, this can't bode well for Georgian/Russian relations.  Let's not forget, Georgia tweaked the Bear's nose during the Olympics in Beijing.  Could a repeat performance during the Sochi games be ruled out?  Stay tuned!

Coincidentally enough, Saakashvili posed for photos warmly shaking the hand of Turkey's president, Abdullah Gül, who according to News.Az,  "thanked" him for the cooperation and good relations with Turkey during his term as president.