What Does the Putin-Aliyev Embrace Mean for Artsakh?

The news out of Baku on Mon., Aug. 8, as Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived for talks with his Azerbaijani and Iranian counterparts, signaled Moscow’s heavy hand in the Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh/NKR) conflict resolution process.

What does the Putin-Aliyev embrace mean for Artsakh? (Photo: TASS)
What does the Putin-Aliyev embrace mean for Artsakh? (Photo: TASS)

Putin told reporters that Russia was continuing to assist Armenia and Azerbaijan to come up with compromises to end the Karabagh conflict, saying “there should be no winners and losers” in the process.

At the same time, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev sounded upbeat following his meeting with Putin, thanking the Russian leader for his role in the conflict resolution process.

So where do all the niceties emanating from Baku leave Armenia and, more importantly, Artsakh?

It’s no secret that the “Four-Day War” in April has resulted in increased scrutiny on the Karabagh conflict with the leaders of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group co-chairing countries becoming directly involved in the process. Russia, however, seems to have been given a carte blanche to advance the negotiations with the thorny issue of concessions taking center stage.

It is also no secret that Armenia is coming under increasing pressure from the mediators to take a step in unknotting the status quo, which Azerbaijan unilaterally challenged with its violent attack in early April that mainly targeted the Martakert region, with Talish and Madaghis being the epicenter.

While the international community—including the Minsk Group co-chairing countries, the U.S., Russia, and France—has yet to condemn Azerbaijan for its vicious attack on civilian and military targets, Baku’s aggressive behavior has prompted the three countries to stand at attention and come up with a resolution to the conflict that is sure to benefit Azerbaijan more than any other party to the conflict.

To begin with, the basis for the conflict resolution process, the so-called Madrid Principles, is skewed heavily in favor of Azerbaijan and the implementation of the said principles would force Armenia and Artsakh to cede territory in return for a nebulous provision mandating a referendum to determine Artsakh’s status.

“Reaching a compromise means finding an optimal balance between the principles of territorial integrity and the right of peoples to self-determination. We are fully aware of the responsibility that rests on the shoulders of the Armenian and Azerbaijani leadership. We welcome the constructive approach that prevailed during the latest summit on the conflict settlement held on June 20 in St. Petersburg,” Putin said on Monday in an interview with the Azerbaijani press.

On June 16, one day before an armed group calling itself the “Sasna Tsrer” seized a police compound in Yerevan sparking a two-week standoff that is certain to change Armenia’s political landscape for the foreseeable future, President Serge Sarkisian was in Artsakh where he asked key stakeholders there about the possibility of ceding territory for peace. Reportedly, the answer was an almost unanimous rejection of such an approach.

Sarkisian also mentioned Artsakh last week when he broke his two-week silence after the standoff with the “Sasna Tsrer” came to an end.

“There will be no unilateral concessions in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Never! Nagorno-Karabagh will never be part of Azerbaijan. Never. I repeat, once again: It is out of question,” said Sarkisian, who elevated Armenia’s recent diplomatic vernacular, which places the emphasis on Artsakh’s independence without addressing territorial concessions.

Sarkisian is scheduled to meet Putin in Moscow on Aug. 10 and both sides have confirmed that the Artsakh issue will be high on the agenda of topics the two leaders will discuss.

With Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declaring last month that a final solution to the Karabagh conflict was imminent and Aliyev sounding uncharacteristically enthusiastic after his meeting with Putin on Aug. 8, signal that Sarkisian may be cornered into a situation whereby territorial concessions would not be out of the question.

That scenario would be unacceptable since not one inch of territory must be ceded to Azerbaijan, which the mediators are eager to appease.



Ara Khatchatourian is the editor of Asbarez (English), where this editorial first appeared.


  1. What has always surprised me is that most authors writing on the Karabagh conflict discern some close intent in an embrace between two leaders or a statement that a final solution was imminent or in a leader’s sounding uncharacteristically enthusiastic, suggesting that these manifestations signal that Sargsyan may be cornered into a situation whereby territorial concessions would be unavoidable. However, the absence of official statements on the part of the Russian government or analyses by authoritative pro-Kremlin think tanks or politicians is indicative of the fact that the issue of territorial concessions is just that: a hypothesis or a speculation, nothing more. But even a speculation needs to be substantiated. Can it be substantiated by Putin-Aliyev embrace or Lavrov’s generic statement or by Aliyev’s enthusiasm? I don’t think this is how serious political analysis must be done. Yet, when official statements regarding territorial concessions emerge from the US or Europe, most commentators are surprisingly quiet. In 2016, James Warlick, the US government representative to OSCE’s Minsk Group has stated that “the occupied territories of Azerbaijan must be returned to Azeri control as part of a comprehensive settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”. In 2014, John Heffern, American ambassador to Armenia, has stated that “occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh should be returned to Azerbaijani control”. In 2016, Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has stated that the conflict “continues for about 20 years [with] illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions of Azerbaijan by neighboring Armenia”. Where is the Armenians’ indignation? Is it a defiance of the reality or a sign of blatant hypocrisy?

    • A sign of blatant hypocrisy.

      btw: the diaspora Armenian wordsmiths bravely throwing out martial slogans like “NOT ONE INCH” are safely ensconced in Anytown, USA, and have never been anywhere near the LOC, and have no 18-20 y.o. sons risking death at the LOC that I know of.

      Any diaspora Armenian that has the sentiment “NOT ONE INCH” must catch the next flight to Yerevan, and hurry on to the LOC: to put their beliefs where their mouths are.

    • Good point about a nonsensical embrace leading to a gloomy political analysis, I think it is jumping the gun. And what you say is true about a number of diaspora Armenians with their approach to the USA and Russia seemingly with double-standards, hypocrisy, etc., but there might be a couple of reasons why that is.

      Besides American media constantly engaged in anti-Russia propaganda, for one, Armenians living in the USA may not be keen on quickly criticizing American officials so as not to get on anyone’s radar. Perhaps in their view that might cause something “negative”. And in this sense it is a lot safer to go after and criticize Russia. On this point I would disagree.

      And also, I think that because Russia (and not the USA) is the guarantor of Armenia’s security, and because of the perception that Armenia therefore looks at Russia as a sort of “best friend”, Russia is thus held to a higher standard and scrutiny. Russia talking about “Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity” for example, is a lot more cause for concern than any other nation. On this point I would say I agree.

    • {Armenians living in the USA may not be keen on quickly criticizing American officials so as not to get on anyone’s radar.}

      I’d take this point had Armenians living in the USA been keen on criticizing Israel for its arms sales to Azerbaijan that totaled some 5 billion USD.

      {Russia talking about “Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity” for example, is a lot more cause for concern than any other nation.}

      I’d take this point had the RoA activists, shouting “We are the masters of our country!”, egged the Russian embassy for arms sales to Azerbaijan AND the US embassy for calling on the Armenian side to return “occupied” territories.

      Although, in my opinion, only frantic losers throw eggs…

    • It’s incredible that not one of these leaders understand the historical issues within the area. Amazing really and here we are the US once again getting unfortunately involved with something they have no idea about. Take the Palestinians as an example – Armenia is being used up with the gang of four pressing to give away the rights of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabah. Ironic?????
      When will the world ever realise the plight of the Armenians. I wish Armenia discover OIL and other minerals – let’s see how and who will change their tune. Bet they will all join in backing Armenia. Is this fairness?

    • The leaders of Armenia are the same people who fought for NKR 1988-1994 and are the people who liberated 1,000s of square miles of historic Armenian lands.

      What have you done other than falsely accuse and complain?

  2. Without Russian support not only Artsakh but all of Armenia will eventually fall to Turks and Islamists. Armenia/Artsakh exist in the south Caucasus because of the Russian factor in the region. That said, the Artsakh conflict has to end. I believe Artsakhtsis have the foresight to agree to land concessions IF doing so will lead to genuine peace between the two nations. Armenia’s red line has to be Artsakh proper and the region between Armenia and Artsakh. The “five territories” can be returned if Baku recognizes Artsakh’s independence. Another 25 years of the geopolitical climate we have had during the previous 25 years will sink Armenia hopelessly deeper into a third world existence. The south Caucasus region desperately needs peace and stability for it to develop economically. If the powers that be (primarily Russia) can guarantee that land concessions will bring lasting peace, then so be it.

    PS: Almost exactly one hundred years ago our “nationalists” not only lost all of Western Armenia but also parts of Eastern Armenia because they were stubborn, Russophobic, shortsighted and maximalistic in their demands and also because they trusted Western powers. We can’t afford repeating the same mistake.

    • “Almost exactly one hundred years ago our “nationalists” not only lost all of Western Armenia but also parts of Eastern Armenia because they were stubborn, Russophobic, shortsighted and maximalistic in their demands and also because they trusted Western powers.”

      More drivel from the Apparatchik Handbook of Kavkaz History.

      Those pesky, shortsighted “nationalists”, if only they hadn’t created the legal Armenia, we would be in such good hands today…

      And that silly “nationalist” Karekin Njteh, if only he had approved of Syunik to be handed over to your friends in Baku, there would have been lasting peace today…

    • Hagop,

      You seem incapable of understanding hat I wrote. Allow me to repeat what I previously wrote to John:

      Our nationalists at the time, a time when Armenia was on its knees and on the verge of death, not only refused to negotiate with Turks over the fate of Western Armenia, they also held a very hostile posture against the Bolshevik government that had come to occupy the Russian Empire – essentially because they were too rigid in their political thinking and they were expecting the British and French to come to their aid.

      [Prior to the Bolshevik revolution. While some Armenians were indeed collaborating with Russia, many others, because of their ties with Western socialists, were actually against Russia. Armenians ties with the growing socialist movement in Eurasia in the late 19th/early 20th century sowed distrust between Armenian political parties such as the Hnchaks and the Dashnaks and the Czar’s government. In a sense, our “brilliant” nationalistic leaders not only rose against Ottomans but also against the only entity that made Armenia’s existence possible in the region.]

      I believe, had the First Republic’s leadership been well versed in history and politics and had they been able to approach matters pertaining to Armenia rationally and with realpolitik, they would have – at the very least – saved Kars and Artsakh. By being hostile to the Bolsheviks (regardless of who they were) Armenia’s leadership guaranteed Armenia’s defeat. I fear similar things happening today.

      PS: I saw a rerun of an interview by Richard Hovanissian last night on television. Disregard the Russophobic context of the interview and pay close attention to Richard’s comments about Armenia’s leadership at the time: http://hayojax.am/en/shows/kentron-tv/urvagits/25842/richard-hovhannisyan-25052016.html

  3. The NKR situation is one of the grave and inhumane issues the Soviet Union created and did not resolve before its brakeup. Large Armenian territories were annexed to other countries without Armenian concent or permission. Mr Putin has the opportunity to correct this historical wrongdoing for all generations to come and not condone it for his own political gains, sacrificing a friendly nation in its hour of need. A strong Armenia/Artsakh with the full backing of the Armenian Diaspora would have discouraged the Azeri attacks. Our strenght lies in our unity of spirit and purpose. It is never too late.

  4. Putin: “there should be no winners and losers”.

    I would ask then since when, and on what planet, does a so-called “nation” engage in terrorism against its own citizens and neighbor, launch a full scale invasion, attempt genocide… then lose the war it started and fail in its mission of ethnic cleansing, and subsequently is not supposed to be held accountable… or in your words, “lose” something?

    Armenia/Artsakh will neither lose nor win anything. The only thing that can happen is for justice to be implemented and historical wrongs corrected. Armenia cannot “win” territory, it can only liberate it. And “Azerbaijan” cannot “lose” territory, it has none as a slapped-together squatter nation to begin with.

  5. Regarding Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan: There is a thing called “geopolitics” that Armenians, due to their emotions, arrogance and political illiteracy, almost always fail to properly understand. Allow me to therefore try to explain a few things in as few words as possible.

    Oil rich Baku has the money to purchase anything it wants from whoever it wants. Yerevan does not have that luxury. Moscow wants to keep leverage over Yerevan and Baku, as well keep the military balance between the two. Moscow will therefore sell Baku what Baku wants and give Armenia what Armenia needs. Russian officials also know that if they do not sell arms to Baku, there are a number of nations – like Israel, Turkey, Ukraine and China – that will. In fact, Israeli-made weapons proved most destructive during the four day war. Moscow wants leverage over Baku. Moscow wants military parity in the region. Moreover, Moscow is trying hard to keep Baku within its orbit essentially because it does not want to see Azerbaijan turn into yet another hotbed of pan-Turkic and Islamic extremism right on its border. In the big picture, this is in Armenia’s long-term interests.

    Russia is not abandoning Armenia (or even Artsakh). Russia continues to be Armenia’s one and only ally. Russia continues to protect Armenia’s borders with Turkey, allowing Armenia to concentrate its resources its border with Azerbaijan. That Armenian officials are squandering the task of properly fortifying Armenia’s and Artsakh’s borders with Azerbaijan due to graft and embezzlement of financial resources is all together another topic of discussion. That said, if there are problems or flaws in Moscow geostrategic vision towards the region, Armenians need to stop throwing temper-tantrums like little emotional children and figure out a way to work with their Russian counterparts to fix the problems that may exist. Our leaders cannot do this by enabling Armenia’s Western operatives or by running off to Western capitols to complain about Moscow.

    Armenians better realize that the Western world will never provide Armenia with the kind of security it need. Armenians better realize that the West can never be an alternative to Russia. Armenia will not survive the south Caucasus alone. Armenia therefore needs Russia. We as a people therefore need to wake-up and understand all this and figure out ways to more efficiently lobby Russian officials. In other words, we as a people have the desperate need to mature politically. I’m afraid maturing as a people may be a long and bumpy road for us Armenians. I just hope we don’t lose our statehood along the way.

    • Harutik,
      You should join Izvestia news media and publish your “interesting” comments there. Russians will love your comments more than your name!

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