Armenian News-NEWS.am presents an extract from the Long Goodbye: Waning Russian Influence in the South Caucasus and Central Asia by the British Chatham House expert James Nixey.
The South Caucasus, with its potential interstate conflict, presents a complex arena for Russian power. The levers of Russian influence indeed vary, including economic and military influence in Armenia, hardly present in Azerbaijan, and essentially related to negative publicity as well as economics in Georgia. Russia’s influence in Armenia is so great that lack of sovereignty should really concern Armenia.
Russia’s support of Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process has been based on several factors, including limiting Turkish influence, countering a Russophobic Azerbaijan in the early years of independence, and long-standing cultural ties reflected in the large Armenian diaspora in Russia. Russia approaches its mediation over Nagorno-Karabakh as far as its influence matters and is not really interested in a settlement. This is testified by Russian objections to an international peacekeeping force and to changes in the Minsk Group parties.
In case of wide range resumption of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it would jeopardize Russia’s position in Azerbaijan and Turkey, in particular if the Armenians required military assistance. At the same time, Russia granted Armenia a preferential loan in 2010 amounting $500 million to be paid off during 15 years, assisting to resist the financial crisis. The extent to which Russia has acquired actual political gains from energy and infrastructure ownership brings forth debates within Armenia.
Nevertheless, Russia still retains a more multi-dimensional presence in the South Caucasus and Central Asia than any other country, and this may be its greatest asset in the more complex international order.