The new world order, following the fall of the Soviet Union, is still taking shape. That is why many aftershocks are continuing to shake up international relations.

Amongst those aftershocks are the breakup of former Yugoslavia, the Arab Spring, wars in the Caucasus and now the threat of war in Ukraine.

The implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 landed Russia in a state of turmoil, allowing the West to take advantage of the situation and put its marks on the global map.

At that time, the West drew a line in the sand by intimidating Serbia in the wake of its actions against other ethnic groups and signaling to Moscow that its influence on the European continent was significantly shrunken.

With Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, Russia responded in kind by drawing its own line in the sand in the Syrian front, while the West was jubilantly destroying one Middle Eastern country after another. Thus Russia’s stand in Syria halted the drive of the Arab Spring, whose terminus would have been Iran. That is why Iran joined Russian in support of the Assad regime, though it certainly had its own political ambitions in the Middle East.

All eyes are now on Ukraine at this time, on whose borders hundreds of thousands of Russian troops are amassed and Western capitals are announcing an imminent Russian invasion, without giving up hope on diplomatic efforts.

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France and Germany have already sent their presidents to Moscow to negotiate and the United Kingdom followed suit with its foreign minister.

In the meantime, President Joe Biden talked to President Putin by Zoom. They all presented stern warnings to the Kremlin, indicating that a package of powerful sanctions will be put in place which could cripple Russia’s economy, should it invade Ukraine. In addition, defensive arms and economic assistance are pouring into Ukraine, in lieu of military participation by the West.

What Russia wants is Ukraine’s neutrality and its pledge not to join NATO. President Putin insists that the West had pledged not to expand NATO further east and pose a risk to Russia’s security. In fact, Mr. Putin is gambling with high stakes, expecting perhaps to get the minimum. He is asking the West to withdraw the NATO borders to its 1997 position. The Kremlin is basing its claim on a verbal assurance by US Secretary of State James Baker to then Premier Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would “not shift one inch eastward from its present position” once it had safely taken in a reunified Germany. This pledge has not been honored.

Gorbachev was considered one of the shrewdest statesmen of his time and he had not figure that such a verbal assurance may disappear with the people who had made them.

Any collapse of power will create a vacuum which other countries will try to take advantage of. At that time, US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady had advised President George H.W. Bush that America’s strategic priority was to see the Soviet Union become “a third-rate power, which is what we want.” At that time, with its sagging economy, Russia was indeed heading in that direction, until Putin came to power to stage a turn-around, mindful of the US’s intentions.

Indeed, NATO’s expansion was intended to contain Russia and never allow it to reemerge as a superpower.

Today’s crisis in Ukraine is a direct face-off between Russia and the West. However, France and Germany have been soft-peddaling the issue. Outwardly, the West has been demonstrating a unified front against Russian aggression, but cracks within the alliance are visible. Particularly, Germany is too dependent on Russian energy supplies. It was very indicative that when President Biden threatened to shut down North Stream 2, which supplies gas to Germany, in the presence of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the latter kept silent.

As the standoff continues, diplomacy is at work. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, in a recent interview on Fox News, said President Biden can diffuse the situation by a simple statement that Ukraine will not join NATO, since the probability is so remote. Also, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko, made a slip of tongue when he stated in an interview on BBC that his country may reconsider its bid to join NATO. That statement was immediately refuted by Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry as the prospect of joining NATO is in Ukraine’s constitution.

While the crisis continues and many countries are removing their diplomatic staff and citizens from Kyiv, the Armenian government has announced that its embassy is operating normally and it has no intention of withdrawing the embassy staff nor their families. However, even if Armenia wanted its citizens out, it could not achieve this practically because they are 500,000 strong and contribute to Armenia substantially.

Armenians in Ukraine, just like those in Russia, do not represent political power, as they do in Europe and the US.

Even with an Armenian serving as Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, Ukraine continued sending military aid to Azerbaijan during the 44-day war. Thus, relations between Armenia and Ukraine are complicated.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have lined up with Ukraine and that further impacts Armenia.

During this latest crisis, President Ilham Aliyev rushed to Kyiv and signed an agreement with Ukraine, which has a military component. That hostile act did not aggravate the Kremlin, which is so beholden to the Aliyev regime.

Should war break out, Armenians will suffer on both sides of the border as there are at least three million Armenians in Russia. Many of them continue sending money back to their families back home. In addition, Russia is the largest market for Armenia and a war will adversely impact Armenia’s exports and economy.

In addition, prospective Western sanctions on Russia will have a domino effect on Armenia. A case in point is Iran, a country which has neighborly relations with Armenia. Iran is Armenia’s only other outlet to the world after Georgia. Yet, trade capacity has not reached its full potential because of sanctions on Iran. The same may happen should Russia go to war and its economy languish under those sanctions.

Another dilemma is Armenia’s membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). As we witnessed during the recent crisis in Kazakhstan, Moscow dragged Armenia into the conflict, although that Russian-led military alliance did not lift a finger when Azerbaijan attacked Armenia.

It was not enough that Armenia was mistreated by CSTO; one of its loudest members, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, made derogatory remarks in a recent interview with Russian journalist Vladimir Soloviev, by stating “Who needs Armenia? Nikol [Pashinyan] has nowhere to go but to join the Union State” which is a goal Moscow and Minsk have been working toward for a long time. Lukashenko, whose position is tenuous after the last presidential elections, predicted that Ukraine would also join that same union in 15 years’ time.

Another issue is the involvement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the Ukraine crisis. Already, its mission in Karabakh through its Minsk Group is dragging; with the current crisis in Ukraine, the OSCE officials’ hands are full. That, of course, favors Azerbaijan, which was hampering the organization’s mission in the Caucasus. Now it has a good reason not to send its delegation to the region.

President Aliyev has stated many times that the OSCE has no longer a task there as the war resolved the Karabakh issue. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group insist the issue of status has yet to be resolved and it must happen through negotiations. However, there is no unanimity amongst the co-chairs. France and the US insist on the Karabakh status issue, while Russia, time and again, insists that the OSCE Minsk Group mission has to confine itself to humanitarian issues, like the release of POWs and the exchange of remains of fallen soldiers.

Scholar and journalist Simon Maghakyan states in an essay on the website Hyperallergic that Azerbaijan, emboldened by the crisis in Ukraine, has undertaken the task of officially distorting the identity of Armenian monuments in the occupied territories of Karabakh.

The Karabakh war has relevance to the Ukraine crisis due to the fact that the 44-day war was mostly won by the introduction of Turkish-made Bayraktar drones into the theater of battle. Their novelty and success have boosted their commercial value, which is injecting hard currency into Turkey’s moribund economy, as the latter continues to supply Bayraktars to Ukraine. Whether true or not, military experts in the West believe that Bayraktars are superior to conventional Russian arms, which were defeated in Karabakh.

Incidentally, Turkey, besides supplying arms to Ukraine, announced that should war break out, it will fulfill its obligations as a NATO ally to boost its sagging credibility to that alliance, although President Biden has stated that the last thing he wants is to fight Russian forces in Ukraine.

The Russian tanks are moving on Ukraine’s border as the war rhetoric is increasing. Hopefully, a face-saving breakthrough will take place to avert a war.




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