Russian President Vladimir Putin is following a very astute China policy. He is not putting any obstacles before the free world’s campaign to end the Chinese Communist Party. But the Kremlin doesn’t want to go as far as destroying China with its own hands. Putin is, however, ensuring that the world’s attention does not get diverted from China, and he is cooperating with the free world countries from India to Japan and even the Trump administration in the United States of America.
Putin is, therefore, ensuring that Russia doesn’t hog any limelight while the world is punishing China. Take the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict for example where Turkey-backed Azerbaijan has launched an offensive against Armenia-administered parts of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh. It was being expected that Russia would militarily rescue its ally, Armenia. But Putin doesn’t want to let the spotlight shift from China to Russia and therefore, he might have decided to sit out the Azerbaijan-Armenia hostilities.
Armenia is a part of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). CSTO is the Eurasian counterpart of NATO, which means that Russia can come out all guns blazing in case anyone attacks Armenia. But on the issue of the ongoing hostilities, Putin seems to be making it clear that the CSTO doesn’t apply in case of Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to Eurasian Times, the Russian President said, “As you know, Armenia is a member of the CSTO, we have certain obligations to Armenia within the framework of this treaty. Combat operations, to our great regret, are still ongoing, they are not being conducted on the territory of Armenia. As for Russia’s fulfillment of its treaty obligations within the framework of this Agreement, we have always fulfilled, are fulfilling and will continue to fulfill our obligations.”
🇷🇺 #Президент #России #Владимир #Путин: «Боевые действия ведутся нe на территории Армении».#Russian #President #Vladimir #Putin: “The #war is not conducted in the territories of #Armenia” pic.twitter.com/8rEtnVstHq
— Ramin Hakimov (@RaminHakimov) October 7, 2020
Meanwhile, Turkey-led Azerbaijan claims to have made some inroads. Last month, Azerbaijan’s Presidency said that Azerbaijani forces captured a strategic mountain in Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian rebels. The mountain is said to be a key feature in controlling transport movements between Yerevan and the Armenia-held enclave.
Last week, Azerbaijan President said that Azerbaijani troops have captured several villages in the ongoing hostilities over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Russia itself is worried about how Turkey is sending Syrian jihadists to Azerbaijan for launching an offensive against Armenia. The South Caucasus abuts Russia and Azerbaijan even shares a border with Russia. Therefore, Moscow is worried that the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory could become an Islamist militant stronghold.
Moscow’s Foreign Intelligence Chief has also apprehended that the region could become a launchpad for Islamist militants to enter Russia. The Kremlin, therefore, perceives an internal security threat in Ankara-led incursions into Nagorno-Karabakh. Yet, Putin has decided not to jump into the conflict. He wants the situation to resolve by itself, and Russia has rather preferred to issue statements and pressurise Turkey to work on a ceasefire.
It is not as if Moscow cannot put the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his place. Putin has a history of beating back Turkish aggression in conflict zones like Syria and Libya. But at that time the Russian President’s intent was to fill in the vacuum left behind by the Trump administration’s Middle East policy of reducing American intervention and presence. However, times have changed now and so have Moscow’s ultimate objectives.
Filling in the vacuum left behind by the US is not as big a priority for Moscow now, as maintaining a low-profile and looking at China get demolished by the free world countries like India, Japan, Australia and the United States. Therefore, Russia is holding back from playing an active role in Nagorno-Karabakh and waiting for the situation to diffuse itself.
Russia knows that any intervention in South Caucasus on its part could steal the limelight falling upon China, therefore it is not letting Beijing getaway. Putin continues to maintain a low-profile and let free world governments focus on the other authoritarian giant- China.
As for Russia, it has not been making any direct provocations against China. But it is making moves that hint how Moscow is eager to weigh down the paper Dragon. Putin is taking on Chinese threats in the Russian Far East for example where the Kremlin is stepping up military presence in response to China’s recent claims over Russia Far East city of Vladivostok.
Putin has also shown willingness to engage his American counterpart, Donald Trump and explore the scope for rapprochement. In fact, the Russian President is going as far as seeking a non-interference pact with the US. In the Indo-Pacific, Russia is also looking ready to come together with India and Japan, much to Beijing’s chagrin.
And then Russia is also not antagonising the free world for mounting a relentless assault on the paper Dragon. It seems like Putin wants China destroyed and he is even letting the free world do it, but not by his own hands.