Charles Michel and Emmanuel Macron must feel frustrated as Vladimir Putin seeks to regain control of the South Caucasus region and show that he is not weakened by his difficulties in Ukraine, writes Sébastien Boussois.
Sébastien Boussois is a doctor in political science, researcher on the Middle East, Euro-Arab relations/terrorism and radicalization, teacher in international relations, and scientific collaborator of CECID (Free University of Brussels), OMAN (UQAM Montreal) and SAVE BELGIUM ( Society Against Violent Extremists).
By receiving Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in Sochi on October 31, Russian President Vladimir Putin showed that he still intended to count in the Caucasus and influence his traditional area of influence.
Captured by his war against Ukraine, he had somewhat neglected the South Caucasus region for several months, the very place where Moscow had snatched in November 2020, exactly two years ago, a peace between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, after a particularly deadly 44. – day of war.
This war allowed Baku to restore its integrity and recover the 20% of its territory occupied by Armenia since 1992, which had been condemned three times by the United Nations for violating the sovereignty of Azerbaijan.
This conflict caused nearly 6,000 deaths and Russia allowed a ceasefire in the first instance, and in the second, the presence of an interposition force and rounds of negotiations to reach a peace agreement. final peace.
On the side of Azerbaijan, the file has been closed for two years and Baku wishes to advance this process with Armenia, still torn and embittered at having lost these pro-Armenian separatist territories.
However, since his re-election, the Armenian Nikol Pashinian has multiplied actions and meetings with the Azerbaijani President to make Karabakh a real zone of peace, and settle a number of outstanding issues such as mines, definitive borders, the return refugees, the exchange of prisoners, but also the construction of access roads as well as economic cooperation to energize the two countries.
Since last February, with the start of the war in Ukraine, and while Moscow was cornered elsewhere, incidents have multiplied between the two countries on the ground, despite the leaders’ persistent desire to advance peace.
It was the European Union that then took over with the organization of several meetings chaired by Charles Michel, President of the European Council, to advance the various issues.
Last October, the creation of the European Political Community promoted by French President Emmanuel Macron saw the light of day in Prague and was notably illustrated by a new meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders.
Many saw in this evidence that European mediation was advancing but had also taken advantage of the Russian vacuum.
However, everything could have changed recently.
With the meeting in Sochi in recent days, where Putin has been receiving officials for weeks, the dice are once again cast.
The Russian President’s show of force with the presence of Pashinyan, whose country has remained very close to Russia since the beginning of the war, and Aliyev, who was one of the first to condemn the invasion and bring its humanitarian and material support to Ukraine, revives the dynamics of competition between mediations.
Charles Michel and Emmanuel Macron must be feeling frustrated as Putin seeks to regain control of the South Caucasus region and show that he is not weakened by his troubles in Ukraine.
Against Europe, Putin wants to wield both arms and words, war and diplomacy.
The story of the questioning of the domination of the West, in which the partners and supporters of Russia have engulfed themselves, involves Moscow in all the fields of an unprecedented hybrid war.
Russia’s desire to promote bilateralism (transactionalism, as supporters of Donald Trump would say), and to play hegemony in the Caucasus is a new parameter of the paradigm shift sought by Moscow and all those who want the end of this Western leadership, wherever it is.
Even if it is very far from the geographical and political borders of Europe.