Is Russia Cultivating ‘Symmetric Separatism’ in Karabakh?

By Eduard Abrahamyan

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 83

The article was published on Jamestown.org

Moscow’s mistrust of the Armenian government headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan dates all the way back to his rise to power last year in the so-called “Velvet Revolution.” And that mistrust has persisted despite Pashinyan’s various foreign policy gambits designed to win Russia’s confidence (see EDM, March 21). At the same time, Pashinyan’s domestic agenda—specifically, his determination to dismantle the previous regime’s oligarchic/kleptocratic order, including by prosecuting former president Robert Kocharyan for abuses of power—seems to be increasingly irking Moscow as well. For years, Russia has fostered numerous collaborationist “deep state” assets in various levels of the decision-making apparatuses in both Yerevan and Armenian-backed Stepanakert, the capital of the province of Karabakh, which broke away from Azerbaijan in 1991. As a result, Moscow is able to benefit politically from the current deepening rift between certain segments of the Armenian political elite. Karabakh (or “Artsakh” as it is known in the Armenian historical designation), the political status of which has long been disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to date is the only ethno-political conflict in the post-Soviet space where Russia possesses neither boots on the ground nor explicit direct control. Nevertheless, for years, Moscow has periodically sought to use the local authorities in Karabakh as a proxy tool of coercive diplomacy against both Baku and Yerevan.

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