The South Caucasus Will Feel the Consequences of the Russian-Turkish Conflict
The deterioration in the Russian-Turkish relations will not turn into a military clash but will have a significant influence on the South Caucasus where the interests of Moscow and Ankara meet. In this situation Armenia should have a cautious and circumspect policy in order to reduce the negative consequences of Russian-Turkish conflict. On the other hand, it is not excluded that Turkey will try to open the second front against Russia by the escalation of NKR conflict via Azerbaijan.

“The war between Russia and Turkey is excluded as it means a clash between a nuclear superpower and NATO. In the North-Atlantic Alliance there are other states that have a nuclear power. So everyone understands that the war will bring a collapse of the world in this case,” RA Former Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutyunyan said and added that though a war is excluded, the conflict between superpowers will have military political consequences. “That’s why Russia will strengthen its positions in the South Caucasus,” Harutyunyan said. 

Vagharshak Harutyunyan, RA Former Foreign Minister Alexandr Arzumanyan and Chairman of RA NA Standing Committee on Foreign Relations Artak Zakaryan participated in the discussion on “The influence of deterioration in the Russian-Turkish relations on the South Caucasus” on December 2 at Media Center. 

The fact of striking Russian SU-24 plane by the Turkish aircraft caused deterioration in the Russian-Turkish relations. Mutual accusations are made on the level of political and military authorities. Accusations have turned into concrete actions. RF President Vladimir Putin signed an order of economic sanctions against Turkey. Ankara limited the access of Russian warships to Bosporus Channel.

Russian Defense Ministry announced about the suspension of military ties with Turkey. Besides, Russia deployed С-300 and С-400 air defense systems in Syria. 

At the same time, “the Armenian factor” is used to make a pressure on Turkey by Russia. It is no coincidence that these days the bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 was submitted to the State Duma.

The situation becomes complicated. Judging by the announcements of the Russian and Turkish high officials the relations of the states continues to worsen. The South Caucasus follows the developments in the region with great interest as it has become a stage for the two superpowers for numerous times as they had 12 wars during 400 years.  

However, Alexandr Arzumanyan considers the situation to be “PR war” of Russian and Turkish authorities. “I agree that the military clash between Turkey and Russia is an improbable scenario. This is mostly a “PR war” in which Armenia should not be involved as on the one hand it is a superpower Russia which is an ally of Armenia, on the other hand it is a regional superpower which has no diplomatic relations with Armenia but is a neighbor,” he said. 

“Armenia should follow the developments of the events and make conclusions instead of getting involved in the process,” Arzumanyan said and added that the situation is rather fragile  for Azerbaijan which has an energetic and trade interests with Russia, is dependent on it in the issue of Karabakh conflict but is an ally of Turkey in the region.

Artak Zakaryan said that though there would not be military clashes, the aggravation of the relations will have its influence on all the spheres – political, economic, humanitarian and so on. This situation is a new challenge for the South Caucasus. “This would be a signal for Russia for the efficient protection of its interests in the region,” Zakaryan added.    

Vagharshak Harutyunyan said that Russia will strengthen its positions in the region in this conflict, in particular in Armenia where 102th military base is deployed. ''Empowerment of  the base will take place, new M-24 and M-8 militery helicopters will be brought, also a joint air defense system will be created. As a result, the Russian military group will become more powerful and quick,» he clarified.

The effects of the Russian-Turkish conflict may go out of the borders of Syria and reach the South Caucasus. Vagharshak Harutyunyan said. “At the beginning of October Turkish military helicopters have violated Armenia’s airspace twice. This was interpreted as a reply to Russia the chasers of which appeared in the airspace of Turkey some days before this incident.” 

It is significant that the violation of airspace was made twice in both cases for several moments. The two sides explained that the reason was the bad weather in both cases.

Harutyunyan thinks that it should not excluded that the worsening of Russian-Turkish relations will have a negative influence on Karabakh conflict.

“It is possible that Turkey tries to use Azerbaijan to instabilize the situation in Karabakh conflict which opens a new front for Russia. This is a strategy in which Turkey is interested as in that case Russia will be involved in Karabakh war and will weaken. But Aliyev will not do that as he knows the consequences,” Vagharshak Harutyunyan said.  

The talks about the repositioning of troops and Russian Defense Ministry Sergey Shoygui’s visit to Armenia were not groundless. “Besides the incidents with Turkey, the aim was to make Azerbaijan take out of the mind the ideas about the war,” former Defense Minister added.  

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”

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