Gajic: Different interests of major powers around Kosovo and Nagorno-Karabakh

Aleksandar Gajić
Source: Kosovo Online

Regarding the military operation of Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, after which official Baku declared victory, Aleksandar Gajic from the Institute for European Studies says that, when it comes to this conflict in the Caucasus region, there are more differences than similarities with the case of Kosovo, adding that there are the different interests of the major world powers on those two issues, which is why international standards are interpreted differently.

"Actually, it is a matter, at least as far as the Western powers are concerned, of a double and hypocritical interpretation of international standards in accordance with what suits them. In the case of Kosovo and Metohija, the Western powers believe that they had the right to self-determination, while in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, they believe that they do not have that right," Gajic told Kosovo Online.

As he states, these are two frozen conflicts that arose in post-socialist areas, after the collapse of complex federal states, where one nationality, which had a majority in the area of an autonomous region, seceded from the respective republic.

However, he states that there is also a difference between the case of Kosovo and Nagorno-Karabakh, and it is reflected in the fact that the Soviet constitution allowed the provinces and the nationalities living in them to have the right to self-determination until secession, while the constitution of the SFR Yugoslavia did not allow this for national minorities, rather it considered that the right to self-determination is only for peoples who have home republics within the SFRY.

The similarities, he says, are that it is an inter-ethnic and inter-confessional conflict.

He states that in the case of Kosovo, the conflict is between Orthodox Serbs and Albanians who are Muslims, while in Azerbaijan, that is, Nagorno-Karabakh, it is a conflict between Armenians, who are Monophysite Christians, and Azeris, who are Shia Muslims.

"These are centuries-old conflicts due to the change of the ethnic structure in that area, caused by the influence of great empires and their geopolitical influences," he said.

Gajic states that another similarity is that both conflict areas are located in a significant geopolitical peripheral area - Kosovo in the central part of the Balkans, which represents the connective tissue between Central Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea, and the Armenian-Azeri conflict is located in the southern Transcaucasia, and the Caucasus is a partition between the Middle East and the Eurasian, or Russian steppes.

"There are also significant influences of major regional powers," Gajic says, whose research is the Caucasus region, and adds that in the case of Kosovo, we see the influences of the EU, Germany, Turkey from the Middle East, Russia from the depths of the continent and the Americans, i.e. the supporters of Atlanticism who rule seas, including the Mediterranean, while in the area of Nagorno-Karabakh, i.e. the Caucasus, the influences of Turkey and Iran clash on the one hand, and the USA and Russia on the other.

"As for the outcome, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is more like the conflict in Croatia, related to the secession of Republika Srpska Krajina, than the conflict in Kosovo. Because, when Azerbaijan wanted to separate from the Soviet Union, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was majority Armenian, did not want to stay in Azerbaijan, but to secede and join the mother Armenia, because at the beginning of the 20th century, during the First World War, the Armenians in that area experienced genocide by the Azeris and the Turks, similar to the Serbs in Croatia, who experienced genocide in the NDH by the Croats and the Ustasha regime," he said.

Gajic points out that these are similarities and notes that the differences between the two cases are still more numerous, as well as that the outcomes are different because in that conflict in the 1990s the Armenians won and created the de facto unrecognized state of Nagorno-Karabakh, which they call Artsakh, while in the case of Republika Srpska Krajina, Croatia destroyed that state creation with the military operation "Storm".

"When it comes to Kosovo and Metohija, it was torn from Serbia's de facto sovereignty by the foreign military intervention of major powers, but according to Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council and international public law, it remained a de jure part of Serbia and only in 2008 did they declare disputed independence. that is, independence where a number of countries recognized an independent Kosovo, while others did not. In the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, the matter is simpler, Karabakh is a self-proclaimed independent territory that practically no one in the UN has recognized, not even Armenia, which was its de facto sponsor," Gajic said.

When asked why the majority in the EU and the US have different positions on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh and on the issue of Kosovo, Gajic says that it is about the different balance of power and different interests in that area.
In the Caucasus, as he repeats, the influence is exerted by two regional powers - Turkey and Iran, which are mutual rivals and have historically different relations with both the Azeris and the Armenians. There, he adds, Russia's influence was dominant in the Middle East and the outcome of that conflict in the 1990s depended mostly on Russian influence.

"However, the difference is that the influence of the great powers on Nagorno-Karabakh changed over time so that Russia came from a pro-Armenian position to a neutral position. Azerbaijan approached Russia in a skillful and wise way on various economic and other issues, and Turkey remained in support of Azerbaijan, while Armenia, in that somewhat lonely position in the defense of Nagorno-Karabakh, began to give up Russia's help and turn to the EU and the USA, which could not provide them with effective help. Because of this, their position was threatened, and again, on the other hand, Iran looked first of all at its own interests, and not so much at the interests of Armenia, so that outcome is different," he said.

In the case of Kosovo, as he says, the positions of the great powers remained unchanged compared to 1999.

On the one hand, the EU and the USA support the secession of Kosovo and consider Kosovo a sovereign independent state, that has the right to join international organizations and the UN, Gajic specifies, and adds that on the other hand, Russia and China and many other regional powers do not recognize that state and consider that, according to Resolution 1244, it is an integral part of the Republic of Serbia under the UN international protectorate.

Gajic says that, considering that the Armenian side, i.e. the troops of Artsakh in Nagorno-Karabakh were militarily defeated and on the verge of capitulation, all they can do is ask for the reintegration of that area into Azerbaijan with the help of mediation, but that the high degree of autonomy and the rights be guaranteed to the Armenian ethnic community, which is the majority in that area, that is, to prevent repression and revanchism by Azeri towards them.

He indicates that Russia is in favor of establishing a truce and that other major world powers have supported it.
He points out that Armenia itself considers that Nagorno-Karabakh is a part of Azerbaijan, that is, it does not show any pretensions to support the sovereignty of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh.