What was the purpose of the Russian peacekeepers and why did they leave?

The recent initiation of the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the Nagorno-Karabakh region has sparked speculation and analysis surrounding the motives and implications of this strategic move. Amidst diplomatic statements and expert commentary, a nuanced narrative emerges, shedding light on the complex geopolitical dynamics at play.

Confirming the commencement of the withdrawal, Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of Russian President Vladimir Putin, affirmed the decision, echoing statements made by Hikmet Hajiyev, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan. Hajiyev underscored that the joint leadership of both nations had resolved to expedite the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Azerbaijani territory, a decision aligned with the trilateral statement signed in November 2020.

Central to understanding this development is the context provided by political commentator Shujayat Ahmadzade n the program "A difficult Question". Ahmadzade's insights illuminate the historical backdrop of Russian involvement in the Karabakh conflict, tracing its roots back to the era of Boris Yeltsin. Russia's role as a traditional ally of Armenia and its proposed peacekeeping presence in the region have long been contentious issues for Azerbaijan, reflecting broader geopolitical tensions.

However, Ahmadzade contends that Russia's regional policy underwent significant shifts following the 2016 April War and the subsequent formation of an Azerbaijani-Turkish alliance. This realignment prompted Russia to reevaluate its stance, culminating in a newfound interest in fostering peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Ahmadzade argues, served as a turning point, facilitating a convergence of interests between Russia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey.

The resulting trilateral statement of November 10, 2020, marked a milestone in regional dynamics, positioning Russia as a key arbiter of peace in the South Caucasus. The deployment of Russian peacekeepers was emblematic of this newfound influence, signaling Russia's status as the preeminent power in the region.

However, the landscape shifted once again with Russia's incursion into Ukraine, diverting resources and attention away from the South Caucasus. This recalibration prompted a reassessment of Russian policy towards its neighboring countries, including Azerbaijan.

Ahmadzade identifies the unexpected exodus of the Armenian population from Karabakh as a pivotal turning point, precipitating the early withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers. With diminishing justifications for their continued presence, particularly in light of anticipated pressure from Azerbaijan and Turkey in 2025, Russia opted for an honorable exit.

In essence, the departure of Russian peacekeepers from Karabakh reflects a convergence of geopolitical realities and strategic recalibrations.

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