ROAR: “Azerbaijan may host Turkey’s base after Russian-Armenian deal”

Baku may have “a symmetrical response” to the extension of the lease of the Russian military base in Armenia as efforts to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict bring no results, analysts warn.

As President Dmitry Medvedev and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan discussed mutual projects in Yerevan, observers also asked if stepping up Russian-Armenian military cooperation could calm down tensions in the uneasy region.

Russia and Armenia have “a genuine strategic partnership,” Medvedev said in Yerevan. The extension of the lease of the Russian military base in Armenia to nearly 50 years is seen by many as a sign of such partnership.

This move reflects the strengthening of Russia’s international authority as a guarantor of stability and security in the South Caucasus, former chief of staff of the Soviet armed forces Mikhail Moiseev told Interfax.

The presence of the base in Gyumri is also a deterring and stabilizing factor for those inclined to various reckless military affairs,” he noted. At the same time, Russian troops in Armenia do not pose any threat to Azerbaijan, he stressed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on August 18 that the function of the military base would not be changed. He also made it clear Russia would not export weapons to unstable regions.

Medvedev’s state visit to Armenia is important because the tension in relations between that country and Azerbaijan “has recently become fairly dangerous,” believes director of the CIS countries Konstantin Zatulin. “It is related to the unsettled Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and numerous belligerent statements in this regard from Azerbaijan,” he told Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.

Russia has ties and mutual interests with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the analyst said. “Of course, the level of these ties with Armenia is essentially bigger because we are members of one military club,” he said, referring to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Holding a CSTO summit in Armenia, Moscow may warn against a possibility of a military action, he said.

The agreement on the military base also demonstrates that “Russia intends to preserve its military might and possibilities in this uneasy region," Zatulin said.

However, some politicians and analysts asked why Russia and Armenia have signed the agreement on the base at this particular moment. The deal signed in 1995 would expire in 2020, deputy of the Armenian parliament Stepan Safaryan told Regnum news agency. “Why has the extension of the lease been prolonged 10 years before this term?” he wondered.

It would be wiser to wait for 2020 and decide whether to extend it or not according to the geopolitical situation,” he said. “These 10 years would also offer the answer to the question of the vitality and effectiveness of the CSTO,” he added.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan and Turkey may have prepared their “symmetrical answer to Yerevan and Moscow,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said. A Turkish military base may be deployed in Azerbaijan as a result of the talks between Baku and Ankara, the paper noted.

“The topic was allegedly discussed during the recent visit of Turkey's President Abdullah Gul to Baku and his meeting with Azerbaijan’s leader Ilkham Aliev," the daily said. According to Azerbaijan’s media, the military base may be deployed in Nakhichevan autonomous republic, an exclave between Armenia and Turkey.

The relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan are so close that the question arises why Ankara has not yet deployed its military base in the friendly country, the paper asked. Baku may have expected Russia’s more effective role in settling the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, the daily explained.

Hoping that Russia could “influence its strategic ally – Yerevan – and help to promote the restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity,” Baku "did not venture on strengthening a pro-Turkey vector or another one,” the daily stressed.

However, the authorities in Baku think that “expectations were overestimated” as the situation over Nagorno-Karabakh remains unchanged, the daily said.

“Baku, in fact, has determined the limitation of its expectations after which it will probably try to change the situation in its favor by other actions,” the daily said. “This limit is President Medvedev’s visit to Baku scheduled for September.”

The Russian president has extended Russia’s military agreement with Yerevan for 49 years, and “the renewed military base together with Armenia’s armed forces will guarantee Armenia’s security,” the paper noted.

“Analysts in Azerbaijan believe that, with the new agreement, Moscow has fixed its geopolitical presence in the South Caucasus and simultaneously warned Baku against a military solution to the conflict,” the daily said.

At the same time, Turkey’s president made it clear that the renewed agreement between Ankara and Baku was not a response to Russian-Armenian military cooperation. “Russia and Turkey are friendly countries and we are not competing with each other,” the paper quoted him as saying.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT