Russia may win out as Armenia and Turkey restore ties: Trend News commentator

Russia may win out as Armenia and Turkey restore ties: Trend News commentator


Commentator of Trend European Desk, Elmira Tariverdiyeva

The recent establishment of diplomatic ties between Armenia and Turkey will not only affect the interests of these two countries. This process stretches far beyond the region, as restoring these relations are important for Ankara and Yerevan, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and also the West.

But perhaps the international community is most curious about Russia's attitude about these processes, as one of the most interested regional players in the South Caucasus.

Moscow always played the role of Yerevan's key ally. The Russia-Armenia strategic partnership developed due to a historic friendship between the two Christian peoples. Moscow considers Armenia a major ally and partner in the South Caucasus, especially after the August events in Georgia, when Russia cut off all diplomatic relations with Tbilisi.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has always maintained political balance, sharing congenial relations with all countries in the region, Russia and the West, and historically preferring Turkey as an ally.

The recent history of cooperation between Russia and Armenia dates back to 1992 when the Russian and Armenian presidents signed a treaty on the legal status of the Russian armed forces in Armenia. In March 1995, the two countries signed a treaty on stationing Russia's military base in the country. Since 1992, Armenia and Russia have also joined the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Russia has repeatedly provided financial assistance to Yerevan. Armenia has been in an economic blockade since 1993 when Turkey followed Azerbaijan's example and closed its borders with the country.

Russia also boasts one of the largest and most influential Armenian Diasporas in the world.

However, the establishment of diplomatic ties between Armenia and Turkey today is rapidly changing the geopolitical configuration of the South Caucasus. Many observers believe Russia may lose its influence in Armenia as open borders with Turkey will make the country less economically dependent on Moscow.

Russia, though, will actually benefit from the renewed diplomatic ties.

Armenia will never trust Turkey as much as Moscow. History's ghosts will haunt Ankara-Yerevan bilateral relations - more specifically centuries of Western Armenia being a part of the Ottoman Empire and the so-called "genocide" in 1915.

Recent history is also full of unpleasant memories.

During the active military phase of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Turkey clearly sided with Azerbaijan, which was the reason why it closed its borders with Armenia.

Russian businesses, which filled a serious gap in the Armenian economy at the time, are now so firmly rooted in the country's economy that Turkish businessmen will not be able to compete. After the opening of the borders, Turkish business in Armenia will be more entrepreneurial in spirit than Russia's large-scale projects.

However, on the other hand, Turkey's large and streamlined economy will defeat the need to keep Russia as a constant donor.

Russia's investments in Armenia's small and medium enterprises need to pay off quickly as the border opens between Armenia and Turkey to keep the local population satisfied.

Another positive outcome for Moscow is that many Armenian migrants in Russia will relocate to their homeland or Turkey after the border opens.

On the other hand, the normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties may cool relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey. Russia will take advantage of this situation to improve its relations with Baku.

On Oct. 28, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during a meeting with members of the Turkish Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs touched on the Ankara-Yerevan protocols. The Azerbaijani leader said that part of Azerbaijan's lands have been under Armenian occupation for nearly 20 years and Armenia pursued a policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing in these areas. Therefore, the Azerbaijani society's sensitive approach to relations with Armenia should be assessed properly. A major cause of discontent in Azerbaijan is the assumption that by opening the Turkish-Armenian border, Armenia will no longer suffer from a severe economic crisis and be able to stiffen its position in the Nagorno-Karabakh talks, Aliyev said.

Fearing that opening the border may negatively affect the Nagorno-Karabakh talks, Azerbaijan may begin to see Moscow as an important regional partner.

It is obvious that Russia needs Azerbaijan as a key strategic partner in the South Caucasus, as the geopolitical center of the region and a country rich in energy resources.

Russia's Gazprom has already offered to buy Azerbaijani gas at a price three times higher than the $120 per thousand cubic meters which Turkey pays for the energy. Azerbaijan has also signed a contract to supply Russia with at least 500 million cubic meters of gas per year. The upper bracket of supply is not restricted, and their volume will increase as gas production grows in Azerbaijan.

It seems that Russia can acquire a strategic regional partner in the region without losing its long-standing historic ally, and will economically gain much from the establishment of Ankara-Yerevan ties.

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