Aleksey Malashenko: “What should we do now with Nagorno-Karabakh? The Kremlin doesn't know that”
The Orientalist scholar on ways to reconcile the warring parties in Nagorno-Karabakh
War shootings in Nagorno-Karabakh has not subsided for almost half a month — even the largest world powers cannot stop the military confrontation on the territory of the long-standing conflict. Aleksey Malashenko, well-known Russian Orientalist, discusses why it came to the ongoing military clashes and whether Vakhtang Kikabidze and the authorities of Tatarstan can put an end to the current bloodshed.
“Is it possible to imagine the end and someone's victory here?"
Mr Malashenko, in July, when we discussed another escalation in Transcaucasia, you said that a big war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh was impossible. What do we see now? Not a war?
A very smart and sensible question and this is not flattery. You see, a big war always needs some kind of ending, but is it possible to imagine the end and someone's victory here? One can fantasise about the answers to this question endlessly, but let's take one option — let's say that Azerbaijan regains Nagorno-Karabakh, the territory with almost 100% Armenian population, and tell us — where will these Armenians go in the Azerbaijani state? Will it be a total exodus or a massacre? I don't know. Therefore, even the victory of Azerbaijan in this war will not lead to anything, which means that this is not a war — this is an acute situation, this is a very difficult situation that has been, is and will be.
This time, many experts were quick to say that the conflict was ignited by Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan. Do you agree with this opinion?
I strongly disagree with this opinion — there is a fireplace in which someone put the first match, put firewood, which, by the way, had been put not even for centuries, but for millennia, then on July 4, 1921, the Bolshevik party annexed Karabakh to Armenia, and after a fairly short time to Azerbaijan, then there was 1937, when the autonomous region was created in Karabakh, which soon gave rise to the conflict. As for the Turks, we can say that they can put firewood in this conflict, but they definitely did not ignite it — it is much easier to put firewood than to hold a match.
It all comes down to history in this conflict — let me remind you that almost all administrative borders in the USSR were artificial, and what we are now seeing in Karabakh is the ongoing collapse of the Soviet Union with its artificial borders, and for this we must say “thank you” to comrade Stalin. The Turks simply adapted to this.
From 2001, former Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had been talking about changing the global nature of the whole world and Turkey's role in this change, and the Turks soon really began to claim the leading role in the Muslim world and in the Middle East, and it is very profitable for them to add Karabakh to their previous ambitions
What role does Turkey play in Karabakh?
The Turks don't know it themselves! From 2001, former Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had been talking about changing the global essence of the whole world and Turkey's role in this change, and the Turks soon really began to claim the leading role in the Muslim world and in the Middle East, and it is very profitable for them to add Karabakh to their previous ambitions: we, the Turks, are present in Syria, Libya, we scare America, bargain with Russia, and now we are in Karabakh — and Russia and France are talking about how strong we are. And of course, the Turks are especially interested in Azerbaijan's victory in Karabakh, because they, the Turks, will also win. Turkish President Erdogan's ambitions are known, but his problem is that he does not know where to stop — when he says from the rostrum that we should expel France from the OSCE Minsk Group on Karabakh, he still cannot offer a way out: yes, there is Minsk trio on Karabakh (Russia, France, the United States — editor's note), but how to solve the problem they do not know — they say that, for example, let's live amicably, but even the Turks do not know how to do this.
“Turkey supports Azerbaijan politically — this is true”
As soon as it became known about Turkish support for Azerbaijan, the media immediately published information about the militants sent by Turkey to Azerbaijan from Syria, and even about the Turkish military. As an expert, do you see the truth in this, or, as Erdogan says, Turkey's support for its neighbour Azerbaijan in this regard is only moral?
Moscow always lies — the Russian foreign ministry spoke about Islamic terrorists, but how did they get there? How? Honestly, it's funny. Yes, there was a video on one of the sites saying that armed people were driving through Karabakh and shouting the takbir. Is it really true? It's hard to say. Maybe people were going somewhere, but was it in Karabakh? There is no confirmation of this. Who are these people — are they really from Syria or some remnants of the Islamists of ISIL (terrorist organization banned in Russia)? Who are they by nation? It's unknown.
Turkey supports Azerbaijan politically — this is true. If it also supports its own military forces, then show the Turkish tankers and pilots captured, but this is not the case, although they could take some Moscow Turk and make him a “prisoner”.
Turkish President Erdogan's ambitions are known, but his problem is that he doesn't know where to stop
I see a huge number of fakes about Karabakh. As for the losses of the parties, nothing is clear at all — we are talking about hundreds of people, then about thousands, and then about 18. I called the guys in Yerevan, and they said: “Don't trust anyone — we don't know anything”. Stepanakert destroyed? I don't know. I don't know the texture now because my friends in Baku and Yerevan don't know anything.
One thing is for sure — the Azerbaijanis are winning for now, because their army is stronger than the Armenians', and they are recapturing some villages, they are really bombing Stepanakert, but when the Azerbaijanis say that the Armenians hit a military base in Ganja, it is hard to believe. What else is happening in Karabakh, it is impossible to say — there is little reliable data.
Can we say that Russian diplomacy is powerless to help resolve the conflict? There are no serious gestures on its part
And Moscow is simply being in a hopeless situation. Russia played the role of mediator in this conflict. What is the role of an intermediary for Russia? Sorry but we supplied weapons to Armenia for free and sold them to Azerbaijan: it is important for Russia that it just be in this region. And the more serious the crisis, the more significant our influence was, but the Kremlin and Putin never imagined that there would be such an acute situation with the desire of the parties to win back and conquer territories. How should we act now? The Kremlin does not know this — they are mostly silent, as can be seen from our TV propaganda, although it is very interesting that some protect Armenians, like Karen Shakhnazarov, and others protect Azerbaijanis, but what can we do? There are only three options: either keep quiet and say “Let's live together amicably!”, or talk about Russian peacekeepers (but I can't imagine this, because the peacekeepers can go to Karabakh from the same base in Armenian Gyumri), or the CSTO, but in this case it turns out that no one attacked Armenia — the actions are taking place on the territory that is legally considered Azerbaijani, so this is also not an option.
No choice. And this is the result of our strategy in this direction — we can only talk nonsense about Turkish mercenaries, well, let it be carried by Zakharova.
One thing is for sure — the Azerbaijanis are winning for now, because their army is stronger than the Armenians', and they are recapturing some villages, they are really bombing Stepanakert, but when the Azerbaijanis say that the Armenians hit a military base in Ganja, it is hard to believe
“For America, Karabakh, sorry, is an extra prick in the left buttock”
Can the United States and France do something for peace in Karabakh?
For America, Karabakh sorry, is an extra shot in the left buttock: in the US, problems with coronavirus, protests. Yes, there is a large Armenian diaspora in the United States, living mainly in California, so what, to bribe them to support Trump or Biden, but they supported the Armenians? In the near future, no one will be able to show off using Karabakh in the United States.
Yes, there are many Armenians in France, but what should they do? Send volunteers? But what do you get out of it? You'll have a mess in Europe. The situation is stupid and hopeless.
The thing is that no one can stop in Karabakh now, because there are ambitions on both sides — both of them consider themselves winners, and others consider themselves winners. What should they do? Nikol and Ilham should meet somewhere, take a bottle of Kyrgyz cognac (by the way, it is Kyrgyz cognac that is the best in the world), drink a glass and decide — that's it, we will stop at this place. But who will tell Pashinyan and Aliyev this? Russia can't, France can't, America can't, and Turkey even more so, so, guys, make an agreement among yourselves.
Well judge for yourself: Russia — the CSTO, Turkey — Syria and Libya, which means that there is a complex problem. Therefore, it is necessary that some Jew should get up, take a Kyrgyz cognac, call Nikola and Ilham to him and tell them: “Stop! You will fight later!” Yes, on the one hand, this is humor, but on the other hand, now one of the famous personalities must figure out about Karabakh — yes, he will lose something personally, but he must bring peace to Karabakh.
Let each of them — Pashinyan or Aliyev — then say that he won! But now it's just important to tell them at a meeting somewhere in Tbilisi: “Stop — people are dying!”
And let each of them — Pashinyan or Aliyev — then say that he won! But now it's just important to tell them at a meeting somewhere in Tbilisi: “Stop — people are dying!” Recently, your colleagues asked me the question: “Will there be another massacre in Karabakh?" and I will say this: God knows?