Erdoğan Triumphs as Putin Stabs His Best Ally in the Back

News: Commentary
by David Boyajian  •  •  January 24, 2022   

Putin's regional blunders

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Russia president Vladimir Putin has been making some astonishing demands, including:

  • NATO mustn't admit additional countries near Russia (such as Ukraine and Georgia)
  • NATO must cease military activity in non-NATO territories including Georgia, Ukraine, the Caucasus, Central Asia and parts of Eastern Europe
Russia president Vladimir Putin

Yet, incredibly, Putin has been enabling a NATO member's aggression bordering Russia.

In 2020, the Kremlin embraced Turkey's sending of American-designed F-16s and Bayraktar drones containing NATO components into Azerbaijan. Turkey and Azerbaijan (one nation, two states) subsequently defeated the Armenian-populated Artsakh Republic/Nagorno-Karabagh and Russia's longtime ally, Armenia. Israel and Pakistan backed Azerbaijan militarily.

The brutal 44-day war ended with a so-called peace agreement on Nov. 9, 2020.

Russia facilitated Turkey's (and, de facto, NATO's) participation in Putin's self-defeating grudge war against Armenians. 

Each of the following facts proves this:

  • Putin stood aside as Turkey openly deployed troops, weapons and thousands of Russian-hating international terrorists into Azerbaijan
  • Turkey and Azerbaijan struck parts of Armenia, not just Artsakh, yet Russia and the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization ignored their defense pacts with Armenia
  • For decades, Russia stopped battles over Artsakh between Azerbaijan and Armenians at an early stage — despite Artsakh's lacking a defense treaty with Russia; this time, though, Moscow intervened only belatedly (in November 2020) as it posted Russian "peacekeeping" troops in parts of Artsakh
  • Moscow welcomed Turkish soldiers to partner with Russians in "monitoring" the peace agreement

Since the end of the war, Putin and the CSTO (Azerbaijan isn't a member) have shamelessly humiliated their Armenian ally. For instance, Russia is permitting Azeri troops — unquestionably at Turkey's urging — to invade southern Armenia, seize highways, kill civilians and attack Armenia's diminished military. Notice that Russia and the CSTO continue to rebuff Yerevan's legitimate requests for assistance.

President Putin has been making some astonishing demands.

In contrast, in January, Putin promptly dispatched CSTO troops into member Kazakhstan to subdue violent protests. Moreover, NATO never signed a formal agreement barring eastward expansion. Therefore, despite the Kremlin's contention, NATO isn't legally required to bar Ukraine's membership. Russia and the CSTO are, however, legally required to adhere to their signed, formal defense pacts with Armenia — but aren't doing so. Russia obviously has a double standard when it comes to standing by its defense agreements

Russia's Angry President

Elected on an anti-corruption platform in 2018's democratic "Velvet Revolution," Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan was reelected in 2021.


Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan

and former president Robert Kocharyan

Russia dislikes democratic leaders. They're harder to arm-twist and bribe. True, Pashinyan has been somewhat friendlier to Western nations than Armenia's earlier leaders. Yet, post-independence (since 1991), Yerevan has maintained excellent political and economic relations with the European Union, the United States and NATO. In 2005, America built one of its largest embassies in the world under president Robert Kocharyan, a Putin favorite.

Regardless, Putin hated Pashinyan, barely spoke to him and never gave him a chance.

European–Armenian relations go back thousands of years. A strong United States–Armenian friendship dates to the 19th century. This is natural for an ancient Christian nation speaking an Indo-European tongue. Armenia has, nevertheless, allied itself with Russia for historical reasons and as security against genocidal Turkey and Azerbaijan. A more reliable Russian ally doesn't exist.

Yerevan and Pashinyan certainly made mistakes before and during the war. But Putin's angry betrayal of Armenians has been undeserved and irrational.

Pashinyan never oriented Yerevan away from Moscow — he couldn't.

Moscow's Grip

Russia supplies nearly all its ally's gas, oil and weapons; controls much of its energy infrastructure (including the Metsamor nuclear power plant); and has two military bases in Armenia. The Kremlin's imperialist attitude towards small allies is this: "You wouldn't exist if not for Russia, so be eternally grateful. Otherwise, we'll punish you even if it severely damages Russia."

Indeed, due to Putin's grudge war against the Armenians, Turkey and NATO are now embedded deeper than ever in Azerbaijan and the Caucasus — militarily, politically and economically. Plus, Russia's foremost ally, Armenia, is lost. This is clearly not in Russia's interests.

And the neocon U.S. State Department and NATO know that. They're not upset about the outcome of the 2020 war. That's why their condemnations of Turkish and Azerbaijani aggression have been generally low-key.

News Report: Armenians Under Siege

True, Russia may now have more control over Armenia and has deployed 2,000 troops in Artsakh. But Russia could have gotten these things without the war. Instead, the Kremlin chose anger and war over sound judgment.

Ironically, though livid at Pashinyan's mild Western outreach, Moscow seems fine with Turkey's Western military, economic and political memberships (NATO, E.U. Customs Union and scores more). Similarly for Azerbaijan — the United Kingdom has invested $100 billion, the European Union is a major trade partner, and American investment is massive.

Moscow prefers to bully and betray its best ally.

Western money helped build Azerbaijani energy pipelines that avoided Russia, going instead through Moscow's adversary, Georgia. Even Donald Trump attempted to build a $200 million hotel in Baku.

But no, Moscow prefers to bully and betray its best ally. Is Armenia really an important ally?

The Turkish/NATO Threat to Russia

Were Armenia to somehow exit Moscow's camp, Turkey and NATO would rapidly displace Russia from the Caucasus. After all, Azerbaijan, a Western source for gas and oil, has long sided with Turkey — not Russia. And Georgia is supported by the West, links Turkey and Azerbaijan, and is, in effect, a NATO candidate. Since Azerbaijan has a long shoreline along the Caspian Sea, the latter would become a NATO/Turkic lake. 

Moreover, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Turkey's pan-Turkic aspirations lie just across the Caspian. Russia would face a future grimmer than the problematic one NATO in Europe poses.

Is Russia Reliable?

Besides Moscow's recent treachery, Armenians remember Moscow's gifting Artsakh, Nakhchivan and western Armenian territory to Azerbaijan and Turkey in the 1920s. Russia's growing weakness also makes Armenians question its reliability.

For example, Russia has lost most of Eastern Europe to NATO. Despite territorial gains in Ukraine and Georgia, Moscow may eventually lose them (and Belarus) unless it invades some or all of them, which is possible but risky. Central Asia looks shaky due to Turkish, Western and Chinese inroads.

News Report: Shadow of the Cold War

Without allies in the Black Sea, Russia worries about NATO exercises such as Sea Breeze 2021.

Turkey poses other problems for Russia. Over Putin's protests, for instance, Turkey sells Bayraktars and other weapons to Ukraine. Ankara demands that Crimea be returned to Kyiv. President Erdoğan has threatened Russia with a Muslim uprising and declared that Turkey is ascendant in Central Asia. Russia still can't oust Turkey from Syria. Influenced by Russia's Eurasianist theorist Aleksandr Dugin, Putin thinks he's luring Turkey away from NATO. Erdoğan is unlikely to fall for that trap.

Armenia's Dilemma

Suppose Yerevan could escape the Russian bear's grip. Joining NATO would not guarantee its security. Turkey, which has murderous plans for Armenia, would vastly outweigh it. Turkey threatens Greece, Cyprus and others, invades whichever countries it pleases and supports ISIS and other international terrorists — while the United States, NATO and Europe look the other way.

Kowtowing to Turkey for 100+ years has destroyed the West's credibility. The Caucasus' future is hard to predict, but some major things — unlikely as they seem now — could reshape the region in the medium and long terms.

To create a permanent Caucasus base, Russia may strong-arm Armenia into the Russian Federation and even, perhaps, make it Russia itself. Russia, enchanted by Eurasianism, could sell Armenia to Turkey and Azerbaijan in pursuit of a Russo–Turko alliance.

Russia may strong-arm Armenia into the Russian Federation.

At great political cost, Russia could shut down the entire NATO/Turkish eastward adventure by invading and occupying Georgia and Ukraine. 

As for Armenia, it must maneuver between the region's competing powers — as it has for 3,000 years.

David Boyajian's primary foreign policy focus is the Caucasus. His work can be found at
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