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National Review

Russia’s New Territories

In November, Russia acquired other people’s territory. It did so not by crossing the border by unknown soldiers, nor by mixed warfare. Instead, it negotiated a full-scale occupation without any issues raised by the United States. The mountains are internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but since the ceasefire in 1994, the Armenians have controlled the area. The conflict broke out again in September. A peace agreement was reached two months later, and Russia became the winner: it brought about a ceasefire and caused the peacekeeping boots on the surface of the Kremlin to fall to the ground. The United States is watching this indifferently. As the traditional protector of Armenia, Russia has the only means to persuade Armenia to sign this ceasefire agreement. By signing, Yerevan gave up its claim for territories occupied in Azerbaijan since 1

994, but got nothing-ceasefire instead of forced surrender. In a slight return to the humiliation of the allies, Moscow received a gift and a presence. In fact-unless the United States is prepared to fully participate in the peace process, Nagorno Karabakh is now Russia indefinitely. The Kremlin ostensibly controlled it for five years. If the three parties to the ceasefire did not object six months before the end of the mandate, the Kremlin will automatically transition to the other five. Of course Russia will not. Now it is the gatekeeper in the center of Europe’s energy diversification (the role of reducing Russian imports). If the region is of strategic significance to NATO, then it is of strategic significance to the Kremlin. Because of its distrust of Azerbaijan, Armenia will want peacekeepers to stay. The brief and brutal conflict has finally proved that Armenia cannot win militarily, so the Armenians must accept the rule of Azerbaijan or the protectorate of Russia. Yerevan is weak and fragmented, and even if he refuses to deny the full victory of an enemy, it is not a shame to accept the Russian teachings of Nagorno Karabakh. But this is a long-term disaster for the Armenians. This means that they are actually trapped in the arms of Russia. They cannot go west or east (whether diplomacy or investment), because the Russians are now in power. Traditionally, Moscow sees Azerbaijan as the “other side” because the United States and the European Union have steadily deepened diplomatic and economic relations with Russia in recent years, partly because of necessity and lack of serious options. However, now, since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia has worn military boots on Azerbaijani territory for the first time, and Moscow’s leverage has become economic leverage: through military guarantees to cross the transport corridors of Armenia that were closed before the ceasefire, with Nakhichevan in Azerbaijan as an example. The base, Russia now controls the long-sought direct land route of Azerbaijan from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean and Europe, and the West will definitely see this coming. This is how it always starts: the toes will soon become footprints. Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, South Ossetia, Abkhazia-the list is endless. Russia’s existence becomes Russia’s control: this is the only logic of Putin’s new tsar’s ambitions. In fact, now, just a few weeks after the deployment of the troops, the Kremlin is starting to do it: the lines on the map are beginning to bend and bend. On the website of the Russian Ministry of Defense, there is a page showing a map that outlines the area where Russian peacekeepers will be stationed under the terms of the agreement and will conduct activities in that area. On December 13, the land they controlled miraculously expanded. Under Azerbaijani diplomatic pressure, it was changed to its original state the next day. However, this activity shows that the Kremlin cartographers are being creative-and in this early intervention. Now, rumors spread the Russian “passport” in Nagorno Karabakh. By granting citizenship to create a new demographic reality locally, it has been used to maintain influence on the internal affairs of other post-Soviet countries. Once the Russians occupy the area, the Russian state must intervene. This is a classic of the Kremlin repertoire. It was before the invasion of Crimea. Before the war broke out, two regions of Georgia took place in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, with Russia being the main beneficiary. Recently, through effective simplification of procedures, a passport system has been actively deployed in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin predicts that by the end of this year, more than one million Russian citizens will carry newly minted documents. In all these cases, Russia’s control is strong. The passport means that a negotiated settlement on the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh-which should have been some form of autonomy within Azerbaijan during the Soviet era-will never be realized. Instead, it will become a protectorate of the Russian passport, giving Russia an excuse-or in Moscow’s dictionary, a legal right to enter the region-any imaginary threat to the rise of its “citizens”. Considering that US-led aid has now flown into Ukraine after Russia’s turmoil, it is surprising that no more preventive measures have been taken in the South Caucasus. The United States still has time to intervene: the ceasefire will make way for negotiations to reach a final peace agreement, many of the remaining decisions. The United States must completely reject passports. American companies should invest in infrastructure and energy projects in the region to limit Russia’s room for maneuver. The United States-led joint investment plan between Armenia and Azerbaijan will help reduce the two countries’ dependence on Russia. It is time for the United States to step up its diplomatic and economic efforts and reintegrate into this process. Otherwise, the Russian Empire will continue to expand without restrictions.


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