One of the main problems of authors writing on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the misuse of the terminology. There are different groups who misuse the terminology on the conflict. Some authors in purpose misuse the terminologies like the former US ambassador to Armenia John Evans did. John Evans presented Nagorno-Karabakh as a “legal entity” and Bako Saahakyan as its “legal representative”. And others unintentionally interpret the terms by describing Bako Sahakyan as a “leader of Nagorno-Karabakh”. While the author’s approach in the article is rather different, one can assume that the use of the “Nagorno-Karabakh leader” in the headline is an unintentional misuse of the word. The headlines are very important since they dictate number of people reading the story, when social media could massively spread it out. The headlines shape the way people think about a piece and the way they remember it in the future. Misuse of terminology as a result of information pollution is the main problem of modern international relations. Bako Saakyan neither politically nor legally represents the people of Nagorno-Karabakh region; nor is a leader. To be more precise, Bako Sahakyan is the leader of Armenian separatists in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Firstly, Bako Sahakyan, was born in Khankendi, then the central city of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) of Azerbaijan. In 1988, before becoming the activists of the separatist movement of Nagorno-Karabakh, Bako Sahakyan held different positions in NKAO. In 1990, he joined Nagorno-Karabakh separatist military movement against Azerbaijan. Sahakyan started his career as a responsible person for smuggling arms for Nagorno-Karabakh separatists from abroad, but he was called back due to embezzlement of some money. As a leader of separatists, he is known for buying ordinary people’s loyalty through cash money or by paying their debt for them.
Secondly, Bako Sahakyan cannot be recognized as the “legitimate representative of Nagorno-Karabakh”, since Azerbaijanis living there were deported from their homelands in between 1988-1994. Even on February 20, 1988, when the parliament of the NKAO voted for the unification with Armenia, the representatives of the Azerbaijani community were absent of this process. As a result of parliamentary meeting, without approval of Azerbaijani population of NKAO, they seceded from Azerbaijan contrary to the constitution of Azerbaijan SSR. After the war, when the illegal and unconstitutional referendum over independence took place in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh was expelled from the region. Until today, more than 780.000 Azerbaijanis have been deported from the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a result of the Armenia-backed military operations internationally recognized as occupation by the UN Security Council resolutions and resolutions from other international organizations. Because of the occupation, the members of Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh remains internationally displaced persons in different regions of Azerbaijan. Thus, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is not consisted of Armenians only, the Azerbaijani population used to live there before they were forcefully left from their homelands.
Armenia and the Armenia-backed separatists captured the management of NKAO through the use of heavy weapons and established their military regime over the civilian population that could not exercise their free will. Not only Azerbaijan, but Armenia itself also suffered from the separatist movement. As a result of this movement, Armenia isolated itself from the regional projects. In 1997, separatists from Nagorno-Karabakh, precisely the so-called “Karabakh Clan” that included Bako Sahakyan as well as the former and current presidents of Armenia Robert Kocharyan and Serj Sargsyan, forced Levon Ter-Petrosyan to resign since he did not share their view of the conflict and expressed his readiness to resolve the conflict. As the President of Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev put it, “the only reason why Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not been resolved yet is because Armenia doesn’t want to liberate occupied territories.” Armenia along with occupying Azerbaijani territories, also ruined the prospect of the future development for the Armenian people.
Bako Sahakyan is a representative of illegal entity that occupied the sovereign state’s territories. Nagorno-Karabakh is an internationally-recognized part of Azerbaijan. The issue is not that no country in the world recognizes separatist regime in Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state; it is merely enough to glance at the map of Azerbaijan on the UN official page. The official website of the US State Department also displays Nagorno-Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan. And yet, despite the fact that the UN and also the United States recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan, the US State Department still provided the visa for Bako Sahakyan. By issuing a visa for the separatist leader, the U.S. government indirectly supports the illegal activity of separatists, which killed thousands of people and caused the mass deportation of the civilian population from their homelands.
But right after the referendum was held on March 16, 2014 in Crimea, on March 17, 2014,the EU foreign ministers imposed EU-wide sanctions against Crimean separatists. Washington followed up with a sanction list of its own. On April 12 2014, the US imposed sanctions on high-profile Crimean separatists. On June 20, 2014, the US imposed new sanctions against separatists in Ukraine. The targets included some of the most high-profile figures of separatist movements in the eastern Ukraine. On 26 June, 2018,the Trump administration imposed new sanctions against eleven individuals that were involved in separatist movement in the eastern Ukraine. The list includes individuals such as so-called minister of finance, trade, justice and security in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic in the eastern Ukraine. Until today, the US has imposed four sanctions against the separatists from the Crimea, but no sanctions against the Nagorno-Karabakh separatists, including Bako Sahakyan, who can freely receive visa to the EU countries and the US, in order to legalize the illegal entity. Both in case of separatists in Ukraine and Catalonia, we saw that western countries show rather different approaches to separatist attitudes in the Eurasian region.
To sum up, whether intentionally or unintentionally, misusing the terminology of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict serves the legalization of the illegal entity on the territory ofthe sovereign state, which is totally unacceptable. Officials and experts should be careful in choosing the terminology. Because, separatism is not just a problem for Eurasian geography, but as we have seen in the case of Catalonia, for the whole world. The Catalan case proved that sovereignty of the states should be respected by all the actors and they have to avoid providing direct or indirect support for the legalization of illegal entities.
Unhappy Iran Battles for Lost Influence in South Caucasus
Events that might not matter elsewhere in the world matter quite a lot in the South Caucasus. Given a recent history of conflict, with all the bad feelings that generates, plus outside powers playing geostrategic games, and its growing importance as an energy corridor between Europe and Central Asia, the region is vulnerable.
This has been worsened by the two-year-long Western absence of engagement. In 2020, Europe and the U.S. were barely involved as the second Nagorno-Karabakh war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, leaving about 7,000 dead. With tensions now on the rise between Azerbaijan and Iran, Western uninterest is again evident, even though this might have wider ramifications for future re-alignment in the South Caucasus.
The drumbeat of Iranian activity against Azerbaijan has been consistent in recent months. Iran is getting increasingly edgy about Israel’s presence in the South Caucasus — hardly surprising given Israel’s painfully well-targeted assassination and computer hacking campaigns against nuclear staff and facilities — and especially its growing security and military ties with Azerbaijan, with whom Iran shares a 765km (430 mile) border. Iran has also voiced concern about the presence in the region of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries, who were used as Azeri assault troops last year.
Much of the anger has been played out in military exercises. The Azeri military has been busy since its victory, exercising near the strategic Lachin corridor which connects the separatist region to Armenia, and in the Caspian Sea, where it has jointly exercised with Turkish personnel. Iran, in turn, sent units to the border region this month for drills of an unstated scale.
This week, the Azeri and Iranian foreign ministers agreed to dial down the rhetoric amid much talk of mutual understanding. Whether that involved promises regarding the Israeli presence or a pledge by Iran to abandon a newly promised road to Armenia was not stated.
Iran’s behavior is a recognition of the long-term strategic changes caused by the Armenian defeat last year. Iran has been sidelined. Its diplomatic initiatives have failed, and it has been unwelcome in post-conflict discussions.
It is true that Iran was never a dominant power in the South Caucasus. Unlike Russia or Turkey, the traditional power brokers, it has not had a true ally. Iran was certainly part of the calculus for states in the region, but it was not feared, like Russia or Turkey. And yet, the South Caucasus represents an area of key influence, based on millennia of close political and cultural contacts.
Seen in this light, it is unsurprising that Iran ratcheted up tensions with Azerbaijan. Firstly, this reasserted the involvement of the Islamic Republic in the geopolitics of the South Caucasus. It was also a thinly-veiled warning to Turkey that its growing ambitions and presence in the region are seen as a threat. In Iran’s view, Turkey’s key role as an enabler of Azeri irridentism is unmistakable.
Turkish involvement has disrupted the foundations of the South Caucasian status quo established in the 1990s. To expect Turkey to become a major power there is an overstretch, but it nevertheless worries Iran. For example, the recent Caspian Sea exercises between Azerbaijan and Turkey appear to run counter to a 2018 agreement among the sea’s littoral states stipulating no external military involvement.
The Caspian Sea has always been regarded by Iranians as an exclusive zone shared first with the Russian Empire, later the Soviets, and presently the Russian Federation. Other littoral states play a minor role. This makes Turkish moves in the basin and the recent improvement of ties between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan an unpleasant development for Iran — fewer barriers to the Trans-Caspian Pipeline threatens the Islamic Republic’s ability to block the project.
This is where Iranian views align almost squarely with the Kremlin’s. Both fear Turkish progress and new energy routes. The new Iranian leadership might now lean strongly toward Russia. With Russia’s backing, opposition to Turkey would become more serious; Iran’s foreign minister said this month that his country was seeking a “big jump” in relations with Russia.
The fact is that the region is increasingly fractured and is being pulled in different directions by the greater powers around it. This state of affairs essentially dooms the prospects of pan-regional peace and cooperation initiatives. Take the latest effort by Russia and Turkey to introduce a 3+3 platform with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, as well as Iran. Beyond excluding the West, disagreements will eventually preclude any meaningful progress. There is no unity of purpose between the six states and there are profound disagreements.
Thus, trouble will at some point recur between Iran and Azerbaijan, and by extension Turkey. Given the current situation, and Iran’s visible discontent, it is likely it will take some kind of initiative lest it loses completely its position to Turkey and Russia.
Author’s note: first published in cepa
Right-wing extremist soldiers pose threat to Lithuania
It is no secret that Lithuania has become a victim of German army’s radicalization. Could this country count on its partners further or foreign military criminals threaten locals?
It is well known that Germany is one of the largest provider of troops in NATO. There are about 600 German troops in Lithuania, leading a Nato battlegroup. According to Lithuanian authorities, Lithuania needs their support to train national military and to protect NATO’s Central and Northern European member states on NATO’s eastern flank.
Two sides of the same coin should be mentioned when we look at foreign troops in Lithuania.
Though Russian threat fortunately remains hypothetical, foreign soldiers deployed in the country cause serious trouble. Thus, the German defence minister admitted that reported this year cases of racist and sexual abuse in a German platoon based in Lithuania was unacceptable.
Members of the platoon allegedly filmed an incident of sexual assault against another soldier and sang anti-Semitic songs. Later more allegations emerged of sexual and racial abuse in the platoon, including soldiers singing a song to mark Adolf Hitler’s birthday on 20 April this year.
It turned out that German media report that far-right abuses among the Lithuania-based troops had already surfaced last year. In one case, a soldier allegedly racially abused a non-white fellow soldier. In another case, four German soldiers smoking outside a Lithuanian barracks made animal noises when a black soldier walked past.
Lithuania’s Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said later that the investigation was carried out by Germany and that Lithuania was not privy to its details. The more so, Lithuania is not privy to its details even now. “We are not being informed about the details of the investigation. […] The Lithuanian military is not involved in the investigation, nor can it be,” Anušauskas told reporters, stressing that Germany was in charge of the matter.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, German defence minister, said that these misdeeds would be severely prosecuted and punished. Time has passed, and the details are not still known.
It should be said Germany has for years struggled to modernize its military as it becomes more involved in Nato operations. Nevertheless problems existed and have not been solved yet. According to the annual report on the state of the Bundeswehr made in 2020 by Hans-Peter Bartel, then armed forces commissioner for the German Bundestag, Germany’s army “has too little materiel, too few personnel and too much bureaucracy despite a big budget increase.” Mr Bartels’ report made clear that the Bundeswehr continues to be plagued by deep-seated problems. Recruitment remains a key problem. Mr Bartels said 20,000 army posts remained unfilled, and last year the number of newly recruited soldiers stood at just over 20,000, 3,000 fewer than in 2017. The other problem is radicalization of the armed forces.
Apparently, moral requirements for those wishing to serve in the German army have been reduced. Federal Volunteer Military Service Candidate must be subjected to a thorough medical examination. Desirable to play sports, have a driver’s license and be able to eliminate minor malfunctions in the motor, to speak at least one foreign language, have experience of communicating with representatives of other nationalities, be initiative and independent. After the general the interview follows the establishment of the candidate’s suitability for service in certain types of armed forces, taking into account his wishes. Further candidate passes a test on a computer. He will be asked if he wants study a foreign language and attend courses, then serve in German French, German-Dutch formations or institutions NATO.
So, any strong and healthy person could be admitted, even though he or she could adhere to far-right views or even belong to neo-Nazi groups. Such persons served in Lithuania and, probably, serve now and pose a real threat to Lithuanian military, local population. Neo-Nazism leads to cultivating racial inequalities. The main goal of the neo-Nazis is to cause disorder and chaos in the country, as well as to take over the army and security organs. Lithuanian authorities should fully realize this threat and do not turn a blind eye to the criminal behaviour of foreign military in Lithuania. There is no room to excessive loyalty in this case.
Lithuanian foreign policy: Image is everything
It seems as if Lithuanian government takes care of its image in the eyes of EU and NATO partners much more than of its population. Over the past year Lithuania managed to quarrel with such important for its economy states like China and Belarus, condemned Hungary for the ban on the distribution of images of LGBT relationships among minors, Latvia and Estonia for refusing to completely cut energy from Belarus. Judging by the actions of the authorities, Lithuania has few tools to achieve its political goals. So, it failed to find a compromise and to maintain mutually beneficial relations with economic partners and neighbours. The authorities decided to achieve the desired results by demanding from EU and NATO member states various sanctions for those countries that, in their opinion, are misbehaving.
Calling for sanctions and demonstrating its “enduring political will”, Lithuania exposed the welfare of its own population. Thus, district heating prices will surge by around 30 percent on average across Lithuania.
The more so, prices for biofuels, which make up 70 percent of heat production on average, are now about 40 higher than last year, Taparauskas, a member of the National Energy Regulatory Council (VERT) said.
“Such a huge jump in prices at such a tense time could threaten a social crisis and an even greater increase in tensions in society. We believe that the state must take responsibility for managing rising prices, especially given the situation of the most vulnerable members of society and the potential consequences for them. All the more so as companies such as Ignitis or Vilnius heating networks “has not only financial resources, but also a certain duty again,” sums up Lukas Tamulynas, the chairman of the LSDP Momentum Vilnius movement.
It should be said, that according to the Lithuanian Department of Statistics, prices for consumer goods and services have been rising for the eighth month in a row. According to the latest figures, the annual inflation rate is five percent.
Earlier it became known that in 2020 every fifth inhabitant of Lithuania was below the poverty risk line.
Pensioners are considered one of the most vulnerable groups in Lithuania. In 2019, Lithuania was included in the top five EU anti-leaders in terms of poverty risk for pensioners. The share of people over 65 at risk of poverty was 18.7 percent.
In such situation sanctions imposed on neighbouring countries which tightly connected to Lithuanian economy and directly influence the welfare of people in Lithuania are at least damaging. The more so, according Vladimir Andreichenko, the speaker of the House of Representatives of the Belarus parliament, “the unification of the economic potentials of Minsk and Moscow would be a good response to sanctions.” It turned out that Lithuania itself makes its opponents stronger. Such counter-productiveness is obvious to everyone in Lithuania except for its authorities.
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