Alwaght- Armenia-Azerbaijan tensions in recent months over the mountainous region of Nargo-Karabakh and Baku’s blockade of Lachin Corridor have brought the foreign powers in this tense region. Although regional countries have repeatedly said that meddling of other actors would not contribute to solution of the decades-long crisis, the European Union is seizing the opportunity to fish in troubled waters. In recent days, the EU announced that it would resume its civilian mission on the border of Armenia to increase boost its awareness of the current situation and help stabilize the two countries’ borders.
The mission, as European leaders have claimed, is meant to promote stability in the border areas of Armenia and try to normalize relations between the two neighbors. The focus of this mission in Armenia is trust building, monitoring and security for the people, informed sources said. The new mission , officially called the EU Mission in Armenia (EUMA), consists of 100 troops, mainly police officers, sent by EU countries. This operational mission is scheduled to be two-year-long and is to be coordinated by February 20.
The EU observation mission officially covers the entire territory of Armenia, but diplomats say the focus should clearly be on the border region. This decision was taken at the meeting of the European Union last week and after the end of the two-month mission period of the previous peace unit.
The troop deployment comes at the behest of Yerevan officials, who believe that they are alone against Baku and need European allies to claim their rights and maintain territorial integrity against Azerbaijan. This new EU border monitoring mission is largely based on an initiative presented by France, which is trying to play a more active role in the contentious region.
European move to Russia’s south
The new European mission comes under the guise of peace and stability but it has hidden goals behind it. After war in Ukraine began, European countries have tried to deal blows to Russia in any region, and the South Caucasus is one of these regions that Westerners have invested in for their anti-Russian agenda. As the guarantor of the 2020 agreements between Baku and Yerevan, Moscow was supposed to deploy about 5,000 peacekeepers in the Karabakh region to prevent rejuventuted tensions between the two neighbors, and at first it managed to establish relative stability, but with the start of Ukraine war and active involvement in this massive conflict, Moscow withdrew its forces and reduced its commitments in Karabakh, and this provided a good opportunity for the EU to take advantage of the security vacuum created in the Caucasus and develop its plans with the aim of dealing blows to Moscow.
Within the format of Minsk Agreements of 1992, the EU in the past years played an important role in Caucasus developments, but as the tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia eased, this political format was put aside and the Europeans were left devoid of a role playing in this region. But renewed tensions and then war in Karabakh and also Ukraine motivated the Europeans to push for restored role in this Karabakh case.
The presence of European forces on Armeniaian border provides the ground for the EU to closely monitor Russia’s movements and obtain a lot of information about its actions. On the other hand, the presence of the Europeans in South Caucasus recuperates the Russian sensitivity to this region and engages part of its energy with it. Actually, inducing Russian focus on the disputed region is the scenario the US and EU are seeking, mainly with the aim of weakening the Russian on the Eastern European front lines.
Having in mind that Armenia is unhappy with Russia and in the past months separated ways from this country, Yerevan’s attraction to the Western camp can help boost the US and EU foothold in Caucasus. As a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Armenia hoped that the military organization would take a firm stance against Baku and offer military assistance to Yerevan, but Armenian officials were frustrated to see CSTO’s inaction. Even with the bloc’s silence, Baku grew more audacious to advance its plans, to the extent that in a move drawing criticism, Azerbaijan blocked Lachin Corridor, the only road linking Armenia to Karabakh. Europeans are trying to build presence in Karabakh to back Armenia.
The Europeans closeness to Armenia has proven worrisome to Azerbaijan which announced that it is monitoring the EU mission in Armenia and demanded that this mission should not be abused to damage the normalization of relations with Yerevan. Emphasizing that the European mission should not be an excuse for Armenia to renege on commitments, Baku said that the abuse of the presence of the European Union against the current dialogue mechanisms is a harmful issue that should be avoided.
Russian anger with European moves
Although the EU is rushing to build influence in South Caucasus exploiting the Russian involvement in Ukraine, Moscow is carefully monitoring the movements of the West in its vicinity and will not allow them to run rampant in the region. The Russian government considers the presence of EU forces in Armenia as interference in its sphere of influence. Russia has said the European Union is trying to undermine peace efforts and expand its influence at Moscow’s expense.
In order to stop European movements in South Caucasus, Russia has announced that it is ready to send troops to Karabakh within CSTO framework. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the Armenian government’s approach to the deployment of European forces in the region, saying: “Any presence of the European Union in the region will have an opposite effect.”
Since the beginning of the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis in 1992, Moscow has played as a mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan and opposed foreign interventions in the South Caucasus. Moscow considers the republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia to be its backyard and deems presence of the West in these areas is a danger to its interests and security, and for this reason, it has repeatedly warned against NATO expansion eastward. Although Russia has reduced its presence in the Caucasus and is focusing more on Ukraine, it will not remain silent to the Western presence on its southern borders, just as the war on Ukraine was waged by Moscow to eliminate NATO threats from its western borders.
The Russians argue that Karabakh problems need to be settled by the involved countries and their neighbors and there is no need for foreign actors. After all, wherever the Westerners get involved, they bring more insecurity and instability.
The presence of European security mission in Armenia which is aimed at providing unilateral support to Yerevan can flare up Azerbaijan-Armenia tensions, since Azerbaijan leaders do not intend to walk back from their controversial plans and, indeed, in this case the foreign pressures would deliver the reverse. Additionally, Russia and Turkey as influential actors in Karabakh do not tolerate the West in the dispute region and would not stay silent to these adventures.