Does the Russian-brokered ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan represent a victory for Moscow? The tragic coincidence with the shooting down of a Russian helicopter suggests that this is really about the Kremlin’s efforts to manage its decline.
The trilateral deal essentially fixes Baku’s recent territorial gains. Armenian forces have to withdraw from regions such as the politically-significant eastern district of Agdam and the strategically-crucial Lachin region, through which runs the main road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.
That road, the so-called Lachin corridor, will remain open, a lifeline guaranteed by 1,960 Russian peacekeepers, who will also monitor the new line of contact. These troops, from the combat-experienced 31st Independent Guards Air Assault Brigade, have already arrived in-theatre.
While there is massive popular dissatisfaction in Armenia about Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s acceptance of the deal — he himself admitted it was “incredibly painful both for me and for our people” — this is essentially a fait accompli. It was also made all but inevitable by the fall of the strategic town of Shushi to Azerbaijan’s forces, the gateway to Karabakh’s main city, Stepanakert.
For Armenia, this at least staves off a more comprehensive defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh. For Azerbaijan, whose forces had taken heavy losses to get this far, President Ilham Aliyev has been able to crow that this represented Yerevan’s “capitulation.”