By Paul Goble
For most of the year following the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020, problems in and between them appeared to dominate both the internal lives of these two countries and in the geopolitical situation of the South Caucasus. But at the end of 2021, things moved stabilized significantly, Irina Dzhorbenadze says.
Over the last several months, the Rosbalt observer says, a sense grew that new life was beginning across the region and that “a stable system of security in the region” was emerging, one in which all the parties involved have a vested interest in not seeing overturned anytime soon (rosbalt.ru/world/2022/01/02/1937648.html).
Negotiations regarding the opening of transportation corridors are “still not complete but, as Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has said, ‘there is now a possibility of reaching agreement with Azerbaijan on this point” and he has overseen confidence-building measures like returning prisoners and handing over maps of minefields.
One sign of just how much improvement has occurred, Dzhorbenadze says, is Turkey’s willingness to engage in talks with Armenia about the normalization of relations. Those negotiations won’t be easy or quick, of course; but they wouldn’t have begun if there had not been the start of a normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations.
As for Armenia, the year 2021 was “financially poor, morally difficult and politically extremely unstable.” The opposition continued to try to oust Pashinyan but failed. However, “in principle, the situation in Armenia both politically and economically after the war could have been much worse.”
Some economic growth resumed. Nearly one million tourists came, a dramatic recovery from 2020. And Russia continued to supply Armenia with gas and with investment. Consequently, the situation in these areas too appeared to stabilize albeit at a lower level than many hoped for.
Azerbaijan in contrast has seen its economy respond vigorously, despite the decline in oil prices and the pandemic. But there has been one major shift, Dzhorbanadze says. “If earlier in Azerbaijan, Western countries were the main investors, now, under the influence of the pandemic, globalization is being displaced by regionalization.”
The relative stability both within the two countries and between them suggests that investments from the outside will increase in 2022, given that money loves quiet and big money especially. But these investments, the Moscow analyst says, will add to the stability seen over the last several months.