Arrogant Nancy Pelosi’s Caucasian Weekend

Why is the Speaker of the US Parliament going to Armenia?

Author Andrey Nikolaev

After a successful summer provocative tour to Taiwan, Nancy Pelosi flies to another hot spot in every sense – sunny Armenia. But if, in the case of China, the intention of the United States was clear, then who should be angered by the current visit of an elderly American politician to Armenia?

It is unlikely that the arrival of such a distinguished guest can impress at least someone in the Caucasus. Except for Armenia itself. And the declared purpose of the visit? A demonstration of support for the people of Armenia in the face of the so-called “aggression” of Azerbaijan. It looks like a rather on-duty mission. Or not?

Maybe the US is failing to realize its plans? With the arrival of Pelosi, Washington wants to give its role additional political weight.

This is quite possible if we assume the following course of events.

The West is represented by various players so far. The United States tried in every possible way to pull over the process of a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Participants in the negotiation process, including Russia and Azerbaijan, did not fundamentally object to different platforms for discussion. Moscow and Baku understood that such a blur could eventually lead to Armenia refusing the route map defined in the agreement on November 9, 2020.

The information that Yerevan could take such steps became known in Baku after the visit of the co-chair of the Minsk Group from the United States, Philip Reeker. It seems that during the meeting with Pashinyan, the American diplomat conveyed ultimatum demands to pedal the peace talks.

No news demands by Baku

Realizing that the peace agreement implementation was drifting away into an unpredictable distance, Aliyev decided on a military scenario. Further waiting could again stretch for years. Meanwhile, Baku did not put forward any new demands. Baku only demanded the implementation of earlier agreements.

Judging by Aliyev’s actions, he might not have known what instructions Philip Ricoeur gave to the Armenian leadership. And, perhaps, he acted based on his political logic, like a sentry on duty, opening fire on a warning. It is no coincidence that a ceasefire was announced the next day, September 13. Baku was waiting for a reaction.

But then Philip Ricoeur went to Baku. And here, Aliyev realized that he was not mistaken in his assumptions. Military activity continued.

In the arguments of the experts, the scenario of crossing the Armenian border by Azerbaijan was assessed as impossible. After all, Armenia is a member of the CSTO, if there is external interference, then Russia will be obliged to intervene.

But this scenario suits Azerbaijan quite well. After all, Baku is also an ally of Moscow, according to the declaration signed by Putin and Aliyev on February 22, 2022. Just two days before the start of the special operation, which is very symbolic.

Activating CSTO Mechanism

Military activity on the Armenian border in the Zangezur region will activate the CSTO mechanism. At the same time, only the 102nd base of the Russian Federation in the Armenian city of Gyumri, as well as units of the Border Guard Service of the FSB of Russia, which, by agreement with Armenia, participate in the protection of the Armenian-Turkish border, can be the most quickly reacting component of the CSTO in this zone.

Russian units will take control of the territory of the Zangezur corridor, and this will suit Azerbaijan quite well, as it is fully consistent with the agreement of November 9, 2020, which states:

The Republic of Armenia guarantees the security of transport communication between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic in order to organize the unhindered movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions. Control over transport communications is carried out by the Border Guard Service of the FSB of Russia.

By agreement of the Parties, the construction of new transport communications will be provided linking the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan.

Such a course of events will lead to a result that has long been agreed upon and agreed upon with Armenia in principle. But Yerevan cannot take this step because:

  • The active objections of the opposition and a significant part of society.
  • Behind-the-scenes games of Western sponsors.

Washington needs to squeeze Russia out of the Transcaucasus. And at the same time, prevent Turkey and Azerbaijan from creating transport communications.

The scenario of transferring the corridor under the control of the CSTO, read Russia, seems to be playing against the United States. However, one should not underestimate the ability of American policy to Jesuit logic.

They may well use their defeat for their own purposes, presenting Russia in the eyes of the Armenians as the main manipulator and beneficiary. And then the formal alliance of Russia with respect to Armenia will be presented as actual deceit and hypocrisy.

Quite complicated attitude towards Russia

In Armenia, the attitude towards Russia is already quite complicated. Many believe that Moscow could do much more for Armenia than introducing a peacekeeping contingent and patronage in peace negotiations. And on such fertile ground, the anti-Russian narrative can yield results.

But so far, the Armenian opposition is not promoting the anti-Russian agenda. Protesters in Armenia are trying to recruit one of the former presidents of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan, as their leader. He enjoys great prestige and respect in Armenia. Himself a native of Karabakh, a war hero of the early 1990s, and he is considered a friend of Russia.

The anti-Pashinyan sentiments of the opposition, with the work of Western sponsors, will be able to turn the country against Russia, making the latter guilty for all the troubles of Armenia. In this case, Armenia’s withdrawal from the CSTO will only be a matter of time. And a very short one. Then a tactical victory for Russia in Transcaucasia could become a strategic defeat.

China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan Link

Proposed Corridor Would link Afghanistan to South Asia and the INSTC 

Uzbekistan has proposed the launch of a new Central Asian “China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan” transport corridor. It is according to Uzbekistan’s national railway company Temir Yullari.

This initiative was discussed during a meeting between the acting chairman of the board of Uzbekistan Temir Yullari, Khusnutdin Khasilov, and the heads of the railways of Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.

The meeting was attended by the Director General of Kyrgyz railway company (Kyrgyz Temir Zholu), the Director General of the Afghan Railways, as well as representatives of the Chinese Wakhan Corridor logistics company. The Wakhan Corridor is a narrow strip of territory in Afghanistan, extending to the border with China and separating the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan from the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

According to the Uzbek side, the key point in organizing a new corridor is to create mutually beneficial conditions for cargo transportation. And most importantly, to introduce competitive tariffs.

It is planned to transport goods along this corridor from the Kashgar railway station in China to the Osh railway station in Kyrgyzstan by road. And then from the Osh station to the Hairatan station in Afghanistan by rail.

To date, the annual volume of cargo transportation is 3,500 containers. Plans are to increase this to 60,000 containers per year. The parties agreed to discuss the issue of tariff discounts and to present an updated tariff rate at their next meeting.

To help reconstruction of Afghanistan

The development of such a corridor would help with the reconstruction of Afghanistan and assist with the transformation from a nation at perpetual war to production and peace. Afghanistan is a key part of Central Asia,

bordered by Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, Tajikistan to the northeast, and China to the northeast and east. This position marks it out as a Central Asian hub, which could connect with ocean ports via Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, which would also assist landlocked Uzbekistan reach markets in South Asia and to Europe. Iran has recently announced it intends building rail connections through to Herat, which would provide access to the INSTC.

Beijing has previously announced it is prepared to support the development of trans-Afghan railways.

Russia and Turkey – partial pay for gas in rubles

Presidents of Russia and Turkey Putin and Erdogan agreed on partial payment of gas in rubles

Presidents of Russia and Turkey, Putin and Erdogan, agreed on partial payment of gas in rubles during their recent meeting.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said that Turkey promised to partially pay for Russian gas in rubles, Interfax reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on this with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan during talks in Sochi.

We are gradually switching to payment in national currency, part of the supplies will already be paid in Russian rubles. This is indeed a new stage that opens up new opportunities, including for the development of our monetary and financial relations.

Alexander Novak

Novak stressed that today Russia annually exports about 26 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey.

According to him, the heads of state also discussed the financial and banking bloc and reached a number of agreements in these areas.

Today, within the framework of the talks, crucial decisions were reached, which are reaching a new level of development in our trade relations, economy, and almost all sectors.

Alexander Novak

The Deputy Prime Minister added that earlier Putin and Erdogan agreed to achieve a trade turnover of $ 100 billion a year. He noted that companies and citizens of both countries should be able to pay in national currencies during tourist trips and in the process of commodity turnover.

Putin-Erdogan talks

The meeting of the two leaders in the Sochi sanatorium “Rus” lasted more than four hours. The talks were planned to touch upon the topics of cooperation, the effectiveness of the mechanism for the export of grain from Ukrainian ports, as well as the state of affairs in Syria and Ukraine.

The politicians discussed the key importance of trusting relations between Moscow and Ankara for achieving international stability. “On regional issues, the leaders stressed the key importance of sincere, frank and trusting relations between Russia and Turkey for achieving regional and international stability,” the two leaders said in a statement following the talks.

Putin and Erdogan also confirmed the need for full compliance with the grain deal’s conditions, including lifting sanctions on the part of the food and agricultural exports from Russia.

The need to ensure the full implementation of the Istanbul package deal in accordance with its spirit and letter, including the unimpeded export of Russian grain, fertilizers and raw materials for their production, was emphasized.

Kremlin

The politicians also confirmed the will to develop bilateral relations further based on. “Despite the current regional and global challenges, the leaders reaffirmed the common will to further develop Russian-Turkish relations on the basis of respect, recognition of mutual interests and in accordance with their international obligations,” the document says.

Gas for rubles

At the end of March, Putin announced his intention to transfer payment for Russian gas supplies to European countries to rubles. Later, the government published a scheme for which payment would take place. According to it, buyers will open accounts in Gazprombank in rubles and euros, and the credit institution will independently purchase rubles in the domestic market from foreign currency payments for gas.

Subsequently, the authorities of some countries, as well as individual companies, refused to comply with these conditions. It caused Gazprom to stop deliveries to Poland, Bulgaria, Finland and the Netherlands.

In June, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Western companies that refused to pay under the new rules had already been disconnected from Russian gas supplies.

Russia opens doors for Iran’s Eurasian integration

The January meeting between Raisi and Putin may have seemed disappointing, but now Russia is opening the door for Iran’s Eurasian integration.

On January 20, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi traveled to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The purpose of developing bilateral relations between the two countries at the highest level.

Among the topics for discussion by the two leaders were their common regional and international issues. As well as the Vienna talks on Iran’s nuclear program, and regional cooperation in Eurasia.

Contrary to expectations and positive statements made before the meeting, the visit did not end with the announcement of a grand strategic agreement. Unlike the one between China and Iran a year ago.

However, the visit brought the negotiations between the two sides to a higher level and promoted Iran’s economic integration into the Russian-Chinese Eurasian architecture.

Big hopes, not grandiose announcements

In recent years, both improving relations between Tehran and Moscow and focusing on strategic partnership have become particularly important tasks for Iran.

Additionaly to working to build up trade and economic ties, which is a priority for Iran, which is under sanctions, an additional impetus may be given to the development of military-political cooperation in the future.

October 2021 – Interfax, citing Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, announced that Tehran was ready to establish a strategic partnership with Moscow and that both sides were expected to sign documents on an agreement in the coming months.

According to the agencyTASS , both sides were close to completing work on a document on comprehensive cooperation for a period of 20 years.

Timing is important for both countries. Mojtaba Zulnur, chairman of Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, told Mehr news agency that in order to overcome US sanctions, Iran seeks to conclude a partnership agreement with Russia. Similar to the agreement between Tehran and Beijing.

However, contrary to expectations and some statements made prior to the Iranian leader’s trip to Russia, the visit of President Raisi, at least for the moment,did not lead to a major breakthrough on this front. This process may take some time and may, at least for Moscow, be related to the outcome of negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.

However, two recent events involving Russia and Iran have had significant resonance. First, the joint Russian-Chinese-Iranian naval exercises in the Indian Ocean. Second, Iran’s relationship with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) along with the implementation of the North-South International Transport Corridor (ITC).

Will Iran join the EAEU in the near future?

Iranian political analyst and former editor-in-chief of the Fars news agency Mostafa Khoscheshm instead says that Russia appears to be pushing for Iran to join the EEU. “Negotiations,” he says, “are already underway . “

In 2019, the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), signed between Iran and the EAEU in 2018, came into force.

The agreement provided for lower tariffs on 862 types of goods. 502 of them were Iranian exports to the EAEU. As a result, trade increased by more than 84 percent between October 2019 and October 2020.

According toVali Kaleji , an Iranian expert on Central Asia and Caucasian studies, this trade volume was achieved at a time when the US under former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 and followed a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran .

In October 2021, Iran and the EAEU started negotiations on the transformation of the SPT intoFree Trade Agreement (FTA). If this is achieved, it will lead to a significant increase in the volume of trade between Iran and the EAEU, also known as the Union.

Both Moscow and Tehran have reasons to insist on further integration of Iran into the Union.

Both sides have reasons to support further integration

For Iran, this opportunity will provide improved access to Eurasian and European markets. It will also provide EAEU member states with greater access to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. For this reason, Moscow may be thinking one step ahead.

Moscow views the signing of an FTA agreement with Iran as a decisive step for Iran’s accession to the Union.

Russia has concerns that if Iran reaches an agreement with the US on its nuclear issue, there could be positive shifts in Iranian policy towards the West. This may not serve Russian interests in Western Asia, especially in Syria.

For Russia, a nuclear Iran is preferable to a pro-Western one. For this reason, Russia would be happy to accelerate the integration of Iran into the Eurasian regional institutions.

Iran’s entry into the nine-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) should be viewed from this perspective. Moreover, with the accession of Tehran to the EAEU, neighboring and friendly countries such as Iraq and Syria may follow.

On December 27, 2021, Iran and Iraq agreed to build railroad linking the two countries. The 30-kilometer railway will be strategically important for Iran. It will connect the country to the Mediterranean Sea via the Iraqi and Syrian railways.

It would be a win-win situation for both China and Russia. The situation in which China, as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and Russia, as part of itsThe North-South International Transport Corridor would have direct rail access to the Mediterranean.

Preventing Turkey access to the Caspian Sea

This route will also compete with India’s Arab-Mediterranean Corridor. One that is connecting India to the Israeli port of Haifa via various UAE, Saudi Arabian and Jordanian railways.

Thus, for China and Russia, strengthening the geopolitical and geo-economic position of Iran in the region is an important step. From Russia’s perspective, having a direct land route through the Levant to the Mediterranean would bolster its strong base in Syria.

It is for this reason that Iran acted prudently in response to the recent Azerbaijani provocations on the border with Armenia. Tehran feared that Turkey would gain direct access to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia through a possible “corridor” from southern Armenia.

For Iran, this would be tantamount to expanding NATO into the Caspian Sea and further towards China. Consequently, the west-east trade route would pose a serious threat to Iran and Russia and isolate them in Eurasia.

According to Khoscheshm, “The hostility from the Western bloc has brought Iran and Eurasia closer to each other, and this has given the Russians and Chinese a strong motivation to accelerate Iran’s entry into the Eurasian bloc in order to strengthen joint economic and geopolitical cooperation and prevent US infiltration into the region.”

Thus, Iran’s accession to the EAEU is a win-win situation for both Moscow and Tehran. Russia would strengthen its geo-economic and geopolitical position in the Middle East, while Iran would have rail links with Russia and Europe and further expand Moscow’s influence in the region.

However, this ultimate goal may still take time to achieve and will face challenges from the US and its allies in the region.

Confidence in the face of uncertainty

The possible entry of Iran into the EAEU will attract investment from neighboring countries in the underdeveloped rail link between Iran and Russia in the Caucasus region.

The opening of communication channels between Armenia and Azerbaijan as part of a tripartite statement dated November 9 will facilitate trade and cargo transportation in the region within the North-South transport corridor.

Under such conditions, the rail network is very important, since the volume of goods transported by rail is much larger and faster than by land and road routes. However, the implementation of these projects is not yet certain.

The state-owned Russian railways halted their projects in Iran in April 2020 due to concerns about US sanctions. Such a decision would have an impact on other programs within the framework of the Russian-Iranian initiative to create a North-South transport corridor.

Both sides will have to wait to overcome US sanctions, as economic routes are always a win-win situation.

By joining the EAEU and integrating into the Eurasian regional organizations, Iran would strengthen its geo-economic position as a regional transport hub, opening the West Asian gate for Moscow’s railway access to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Russia and China oil supplies through Kazakhstan

Russia and China signed an agreement on oil supplies through the territory of Kazakhstan for 10 years. This became known as a result of the visit of the Russian delegation headed by President Vladimir Putin to Beijing. Rosneft revealed the details of the new agreement.

Rosneft and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) have signed an agreement on the supply of oil to Chinese refineries through the territory of Kazakhstan. It will be valid for 10 years. The press service of Rosneft reported on the results of the visit of a Russian delegation led by President Vladimir Putin to Beijing on Friday.

It is specified that 100 million tons of Russian oil will be sent to refineries located in the northwestern part of China. Also during the visit, agreements were signed in the field of low-carbon development, digitalization and technological cooperation.

Rosneft’s total oil supplies to China since 2005 amounted to 442 million tons of oil. The company occupies a leading position among oil exporters to China. It is annually providing 7% of the country’s total demand for raw materials.

Russia and Mongolia moved on to the stage of designing the Soyuz Vostok gas pipeline to China. It is planned that its capacity will be up to 50 billion cubic meters of gas per year. The gas pipeline will pass through the territory of Mongolia. It will become a continuation of the Russian gas pipeline “Power of Siberia – 2”


China and Russia will strengthen integration cooperation in Eurasia

The leaders of Russia and China intend to intensify integration cooperation in Eurasia. According to a joint statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, published by the Kremlin press service on February 4. Moscow and Beijing have coordinated their positions on foreign policy issues.

Work on linking the development plans of the Eurasian Economic Union and the One Belt, One Road initiative is planned to be strengthened. It is noted that this is necessary to deepen practical cooperation between the EAEU and China, as well as to increase the level of interconnectedness between the Asia-Pacific and Eurasian regions.

“The parties confirm their focus on the parallel and coordinated formation of the Greater Eurasian Partnership and the construction of the Belt and Road in the interests of developing regional associations, bilateral and multilateral integration processes for the benefit of the peoples of the Eurasian continent,” the text says.

The statement also notes that Beijing  treats with understanding and supports” the proposals put forward by Moscow on the formation of long-term legally binding security guarantees in Europe. 

International Law rather than “certain rules developed in a closed circle”

Russia and China intend to jointly oppose attempts to replace international law with “certain rules developed in a “close circle” by individual countries or blocs of countries. “Putin and Jinping also stressed that countries are unanimous in understanding that “democracy is a universal human value, and not the privilege of individual states”. Therefore, attempts by “individual states to impose their” democratic standards on other countries … in fact, represent an example of trampling on democracy and retreat from its spirit and true values.

On the eve of the visit to Beijing for the opening of the Olympic Games, Putin published an article “Russia and China: A Strategic Partnership for the Future”. In that article he stated that Russian-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented level of “comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction.” He emphasized that the foreign policy coordination of Russia and China is based on close, coinciding approaches to solving global and regional problems.

New Great Game in the Caucasus and Central Asia

Players unite and face off so fast Eurasian integration’s chessboard feels like musical chairs prestissimo

By PEPE ESCOBAR

The Eurasian chessboard is in non-stop motion at dizzying speed. Caucasus and Central Asia are in the focus of developments.

After the Afghanistan shock, we’re all aware of the progressive interconnection of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). And of the preeminent roles played by Russia, China and Iran. These are the pillars of the New Great Game.   

Let’s now focus on some relatively overlooked but no less important aspects of the game. Ranging from the South Caucasus to Central Asia.

Iran under the new Raisi administration is now on the path of increased trade and economic integration with the EAEU, after its admission as a full member of the SCO. Tehran’s “Go East” pivot implies strengthened political security as well as food security.

That’s where the Caspian Sea plays a key role. Inter-Caspian sea trade routes completely bypass American sanctions or blockade attempts. 

Iran’s renewed strategic security anchored in the Caspian will also extend to and bring benefits to Afghanistan, which borders two of the five Caspian neighbors: Iran and Turkmenistan. 

The ongoing Eurasian integration process features a Trans-Caspian corridor as a key node. From Xinjiang in China across Central Asia, then Turkey, all the way to Eastern Europe. The corridor is a work in progress.

Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC)

Some of it is being conducted by CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation), which strategically includes China, Mongolia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the five Central Asian “stans” and Afghanistan. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) coordinates the secretariat. 

CAREC is not a Chinese-driven Belt and Road and Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB) body. Yet the Chinese do interact constructively with the Western-leaning, Manila-based ADB.

Belt and Road is developing its own corridors via the Central Asian “stans”. And especially all the way to Iran, now strategically linked to China via the long-term, $400 billion energy-and-development deal.

The Trans-Caspian will run in parallel to and will be complementary to the existing BRI corridors. There we have, for instance, German auto industry components loading cargo trains in the Trans-Siberian bound all the way to joint ventures in China while Foxconn and HP’s laptops and printers made in Chongqing travel the other way to Western Europe.

The Caspian Sea is becoming a key Eurasian trade player since its status was finally defined in 2018 in Aktau, in Kazakhstan. The Caspian is a major crossroads simultaneously connecting Central Asia and the South Caucasus, Central Asia and West Asia, and northern and southern Eurasia.

It’s a strategic neighbor to the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) – which includes Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and India. While also connecting Belt and Road and the EAEU. 

Watch the Turkic Council

All of the above interactions are routinely discussed and planned at the annual St Petersburg Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. These are Russia’s top economic meetings alongside the Valdai discussions.  

There are also interpolations between players – some of them leading to possible partnerships that are not exactly appreciated by the three leading members of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.  

For instance, four months ago Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev visited Baku to propose a strategic partnership – dubbed 5+3 – between Central Asia and South Caucasus states.

A specific problem is that both Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace – which is a military gig. And also of the Turkic Council, which has embarked on a resolute expansion drive. To complicate matters, Russia also has a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan. 

The Turkic Council has the potential to act as a monkey wrench dropped into the Eurasian works. There are five members: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Pan Turkism or Pan Turanism

This is pan-Turkism – or pan-Turanism – in action, with a special emphasis on the Turk-Azeri “one nation, two states.” Ambition is the norm. The Turkic Council has been actively trying to seduce Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Hungary to become members.

Assuming the 5+3 idea gets traction that would lead to the formation of a single entity from the Black Sea all the way to the borders of Xinjiang, in thesis under Turkish preeminence. And that means NATO preeminence.   

Russia, China and Iran will not exactly welcome it. All of the 8 members of the 5+3 are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace. While half (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia) are also members of the counterweight, the Russia-led CSTO.  

Eurasian players are very much aware that in early 2021 NATO switched the command of its quite strategic Very High Readiness Joint Task Force to Turkey. Subsequently, Ankara has embarked on a serious diplomatic drive. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Aka visiting Libya, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Translation: That’s Turkey – and not the Europeans – projecting NATO power across Eurasia.

Add to it two recent military exercises, Anatolian 21 and Anatolian Eagle 2021, focused on special ops and air combat. Anatolian 21 was conducted by Turkish special forces. The list of attendants was quite something, in terms of a geopolitical arc. Apart from Turkey, we had Albania, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – with Mongolia and Kosovo as observers.

Once again, that was Pan-Turkism – as well as neo-Ottomanism – in action.

Watch the new Intermarium

Speculation by Brzezinski nostalgia denizens that a successful 5+3, plus an expanded Turkic Council, would lead to the isolation of Russia in vast swaths of Eurasia are idle.

There’s no evidence that Ankara would be able to control oil and gas corridors. This is prime Russian and Iran territory. Nor to influence the opening up of the Caspian to Western interests. That’s a matter for the Caspian neighbors, which include, once again, Russia and Iran. Tehran and Moscow are very much aware of the lively Erdogan/Aliyev spy games constantly enacted in Baku. 

Pakistan for its part may have close relations with Turkey – and the Turk-Azeri combo. Yet that did not prevent Islamabad from striking a huge military deal with Tehran. 

According to the deal, Pakistan will train Iranian fighter pilots and Iran will train Pakistani anti-terrorism special ops. The Pakistani Air Force has a world-class training program – while Tehran has first-class experience in anti-terror ops in Iraq/Syria as well as in its sensitive borders with both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Turk-Azeri combo should be aware that Baku’s dream of becoming a trade/transportation corridor hub in the Caucasus may only happen in close coordination with regional players.

India and Iran are developing their own corridor

The possibility still exists of a trade/connectivity Turk-Azeri corridor to be extended into the Turkic-based heartland of Central Asia. Yet Baku’s recent heavy-handedness after the military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh predictably engineered blowback. Iran and India are developing their own corridor ideas going East and West.

It was up to the chairman of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, Alireza Peymanpak, to clarify that “two alternative Iran-Eurasia transit routes will replace Azerbaijan’s route.” The first should open soon, “via Armenia” and the second “via sea by purchasing and renting vessels.”

That was a direct reference, once again, to the inevitable International North-South Transportation Corridor: rail, road and water routes crisscrossing 7,200 kilometers and interlinking  Russia, Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, India and Western Europe. The INSTC is at least 30% cheaper and 40% shorter than existing, tortuous routes.

Baku – and Ankara – have to be ultra-savvy diplomatically not to find themselves excluded from the inter-connection, even considering that the original INSTC route linked India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.

Two Camps

Two camps seem to be irreconcilable at this particular juncture. Turkey-Azerbaijan on the one hand and India-Iran on the other. Pakistan in the uncomfortable middle.

The key development is that New Delhi and Tehran have decided that the INSTC will go through Armenia.

That’s terrible news for Ankara. A wound that even an expanded Turkic Council would not heal. Baku, for its part, may have to deal with the unpleasant consequences of being regarded by top Eurasian players as an unreliable partner.

Anyway, we’re still far from the finality expressed by the legendary casino mantra, “The chips are down.” This is a chessboard in non-stop movement.

We should not forget, for instance, the Bucharest Nine. These are: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. That concerns a prime NATO wet dream. It is the latest remix of the Intermarium – as in de facto blocking Russia out of Europe. A dominating team of 5 +3 and Bucharest Nine would be the ultimate pincer in terms of  “isolating” Russia.

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

India on the side of Armenia against Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan

The warnings of some political scientists about the importance of a small piece of land in Armenia called Syunik for the geopolitical coordinates of the countries of the region and large countries – economic and political giants, were ignored by practicing politicians. Russia, in fact, which allowed the 44-day Karabakh war to begin, stood up as a peacemaker and coordinator before the difficult and controversial elections. On both sides of the dividing line, there are countries with which Russia has the closest economic ties.

Having won the war, Azerbaijan set out to break through the so-called “Zangezur corridor” under the pretext of opening communications. He is fully supported by Turkey. In turn, “breaking through” the corridor is accompanied by infringement of the rights of Iranian carriers, since Azerbaijani checkpoints have been erected on the section of the Goris-Kapan road connecting Armenia and Artsakh with Iran, in the territories that came under the control of Azerbaijan.

They are clearly being cunning, since the road has never passed through the territory of Azerbaijan. Simply taking advantage of the defeat of Armenia, Azerbaijani troops advanced a couple of extra kilometers and took control of an almost 20-kilometer section of the road. In response to decisive protests, and then actions to transfer military units and heavy weapons to the Iranian-Azerbaijani border, Iran warned Azerbaijan that it would not allow the redrawing of borders and would not allow obstacles to its trade with Armenia, through which Iran has the ability to bypass tough US and Western sanctions have been dominating Iran for several decades.

Joint military exercises by Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan

In response, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan held joint military exercises, demonstrating the readiness of these countries to resolutely rebuff Iran. Having stood on the side of Azerbaijan during the Karabakh war and provided assistance in the form of weapons and a special forces detachment that reportedly participated in the capture of Shushi, Pakistan, as an ally of Azerbaijan, somewhat changed the alignment of forces, since it possesses nuclear weapons. And if Azerbaijan achieved victory thanks to active Turkish participation, which cannot but irritate Iran, Turkey’s competitor for the right to be a regional leader, Pakistan’s participation caused an immediate reaction in India, which is working with Iran on the North-South project.

For more than 30 years, Indian officials, who had not visited Armenia, unexpectedly visited Armenia in the person of Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on October 12-13. This was the first visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India to the Republic of Armenia.

“India as the largest democracy in the world, a large, fast-growing economy, as well as a peace-loving state can contribute to stability, development and peace in the South Caucasus,” Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said at a press conference.

India stepping in

In this context, the Foreign Minister again recalled the position of Armenia regarding the fact that the use of force cannot be the basis for resolving the conflict, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved through peaceful negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, based on well-known principles.

Ararat Mirzoyan stressed that Armenia highly appreciates the statement of the Indian Foreign Ministry made in May this year on the need to withdraw the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan from the sovereign territory of Armenia. In turn, Armenia confirms its position on assisting India in the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, which are under Pakistani control.

If until recently India was ready to be content with a highway running through Azerbaijan, then in the new realities only the Armenian transit is seen by the Indian side as promising and profitable from a political point of view.

North-South Transport Corridor

Subramaniam Jaishankar fueled Yerevan’s optimism by proposing to make the port of Chabahar a part of the North-South transport corridor and take part in its construction and further operation.

It should be noted that the Pakistani port of Gwadara is located 200 kilometers from the Iranian Chabahar, which, as part of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, is reaching its design capacity.

Since the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India was rather unexpected, let us inform you that Armenia, or rather Armenians with India, have long-standing ties, the Armenians controlled the market of precious stones and metals, enjoyed the right of duty-free trade, as during the time of Catherine II in Russia. Today in Yerevan one can meet a large number of Indian students studying at Armenian universities, mainly at the medical university. Indian students come to study in Armenia with pleasure, because for them the ratio of “quality education” and an acceptable price is ideal here.

Armenia-India relations in the international arena have been marked by serious support. In 2008, India for the first time openly took the position of Armenia, rejecting at a meeting of the UN General Assembly the resolution proposed by Azerbaijan, recognizing “NKR” as an Armenian-occupied territory. Indian diplomats do not avoid using the phrase “Armenian genocide” in official statements and documents. During the 44-day war, the Indian media supported Armenia. The India Today newspaper wrote; “If the Armenians fail to stop the pro-Turkish mercenaries who have arrived in Karabakh, tomorrow they may end up in arms in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.” In May of this year, India officially condemned Azerbaijan’s aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh ..

It is safe to say that India views Armenia as a strategic partner in the South Caucasus against the alliance of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan. And India is ready, together with Iran, to help her resist the pressure and threats of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan.

By joining efforts, Russia, India, Iran and Armenia can completely cancel out Turkey’s ambitious plans to reunite the Turkic states and create the Great Turan, on the way of which the Armenian region of Syunik stands.

By Edward Sakhinov