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PM Pashinian blamed the recent success of the Azerbaijani offensive on the failure of Russian peacekeepers.

On Thursday, in a televised address, the Armenian Prime Minister accused Russia, a contingent of which has been deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh since the last war in 2020, of having failed in its peacekeeping mission in the disputed territory. [...]

However, if UN peacekeepers' mandates are taken as standard, I'm incredulous that it was the Russian's peacekeepers' job to keep the Azerbaijani forces out. So, have any of the deals/treaties been made public that detail the jobs/goals of the Russian peacekeepers in the region?

Of course, in difference to the UN, Russia has some kind of military alliance with Armenia [CSTO], so the jobs of the Russian peacekeepers could have been a bit different, in this case, although IIRC Russia specifically considered Nagorno-Karabakh as outside Armenian territory. Not really that related to the Q, but Russian media has returned the favor and blamed Pashinian exclusively for the state of affairs. And so did some Russian officials, like Medvedev.

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    Neither Russia nor Armenia recognize Artsakh as anything other than Azerbaijan so the options are limited here. A good question is whether Russian peacekeepers had a stated goal of allowing free unhindered passage through Lachin corridor between Armenia and Artsakh.
    – alamar
    Sep 22, 2023 at 18:10
  • Not sure why are you surprised that it was russian's job to keep Azerbajan out. For a very long time russia was considered very strong and that is by itself a huge deterrent. So it was able to dictate it will to weaker countries. You can think about it as an analogy of a crime syndicate which is known for ruthless killing. It can just decide that from now on here is "my turf" and a smaller gang needs to take it to account. You do not need to have forces there, you being strong is a force. Now word saw that ruthless gang is very weak, so you do not take it seriously. Expect to see more of this Sep 23, 2023 at 18:18
  • @alamar: There's a map from the Russian MoD of the area of deployment of Russian peacekeepers at the bottom of this BBC article. It's like 2/3 of Nagorno-Karabakh, so certainly wider than the "Lachin corridor". Also, according to the piece, the Russian troops are still there, even as the Azeri ones moved in. Sep 24, 2023 at 12:57
  • @Fizz Lachin corridor was the only place outside then-contemporary Artsakh borders when they are deployed. They are there by multilateral agreement so they stay put with deployments acting as civilian evacuation hotspots.
    – alamar
    Sep 24, 2023 at 15:06
  • "...western officials believe the inaction of the 2,000 Russian peacekeepers deployed to the region suggests that a side deal was reached between Moscow and Baku", Guardian wrote, though they do not specify how would Russian peacekeepers' action look like.
    – alamar
    Sep 26, 2023 at 21:34

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The problem with "stated goals" of the Russian peacekeeping force in Nagorno-Karabakh is that there were a lot of statements from concerned parties regarding them, but not a lot of actual agreements that would empower them to actually do something.

The ceasefire was flawed from the start - the ceasefire agreement (official Russian version) states:

  1. A complete ceasefire and all hostilities in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are announced from 00:00 Moscow time on November 10, 2020. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, hereinafter referred to as the Parties, stop at their positions [note: in Russian version it is more clear that the positions in question are the ones held at the moment of the ceasefire].

but:

  1. The peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation is being deployed in parallel with the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces. The duration of the stay of the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation is 5 years, with automatic extension for the next 5-year periods, if none of the Parties declares 6 months before the expiration of the period of intention to terminate the application of this provision.

Of course, Armenia interpreted this as "our forces stay where they are, and Russians will see to that", and Azerbaijan, on the other hand, just as obviously expected Armenian forces to be removed from Nagorno-Karabakh, and replaced with Russian forces - who, as Baku was keen to remind everyone willing to listen, were only there temporarily. This clearly demonstrated that both sides of the conflict saw the ceasefire as only a prelude to round two.

And - this agreement has absolutely zero directions on what the peacekeepers are supposed to do when "round two" actually starts and one of the sides does break the ceasefire.

But the actions of Russian forces were also dictated by the presidential order of November 10, 2020 №695 “On measures to enforce peace in Nagorno-Karabakh” (in Russian), and following Resolution on usage of military unit of Russian Armed Forces in Nagorno-Karabakh (likewise) by the Federation Council (translation mine):

  1. Grant agreement for the President of Russian Federation to deploy to Nagorno-Karabakh on November 10, 2020 a military unit of Armed Forces of Russian Federation with necessary armament, military and special vehicles in accordance with common statement by the President of Republic of Azerbaijan, the Premier-Ministor of Republic of Armenia and the President of Russian Federation of November 9, 2020 with the goals of compliance to agreements on cessation of fire and other hostile activities on Azerbaijanian and Armenian sides, of avoidance of mass death of population of civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, and avoidance of inflicting significant damage to civilian infrastructure.

To sum the above up, Russian peacemakers were to:

  1. Make Armenians and Azerbaijanis comply to the trilateral ceasefiree agreement. Somehow. Preferrably without offending either;
  2. Prevent as much civilians from dying as possible;
  3. Prevent damage to civilian infrastructure.

And they still get no directions on the scenario where the ceasefire loses the "cease" part. So the troops attempted to walk the line between the two belligerents without taking any side, which predictably led to a rain of critique from both sides. Considering the first (and arguably - main) goal was undermined by the very wording of the agreement - it is safe to say the outcome was predictably abysmal, with peacekeeper outposts acting as evacuation zones for the civilians when the ceasefire finally broke down.

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  • Is there any reason russian troops were empowered for 3 years and suddenly they lost the empowerment? Because it seemed like for a pretty long time they didn't have any problems showing their dominance, but then something happened. Sep 25, 2023 at 22:27
  • @SalvadorDali I wouldn't say they were "empowered for 3 years", but rather "unchallenged" - as long as belligerents were willing to respect the status quo, the number of violations was relatively low, but as soon as Azerbaijan started applying pressure in 2022, it became quite clear that the peacekeeping force has no effective leverage to influence the situation in any meaningful way. Sep 26, 2023 at 3:35

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