The allure of short-term parochial gains from the prism of long-term losses
By Orkhan Amashov
If you were to ask as to which policy imperatives directed the exacerbated French keenness to lead the global charge against Azerbaijan, I would be hard-pressed to find a more satisfactory answer than one suggesting that, in the penumbra of the present conjuncture in the South Caucasus, Paris views the line of emboldening Yerevan’s negotiating stance vis-a-vis Baku as necessary to detach the latter from Russia’s orbit, and as corollary to its wider confrontation with Türkiye. It is this sense of purpose that has rendered France excessively beastly, even by the Parisian standards guided by pro-Armenian favouritism, in particular, after the Second Karabakh War that largely shaped the present geopolitical landscape.
In an attempt to pin down what President Emmanuel Macron is currently driving at, one may think of a plethora of other considerations. My modest attempt at an answer presents only one slant which, for all its presumed propensity for entailing what is essential at the present juncture, inevitably falls short of omniscience. Nevertheless, let us think of this slant, for our current purpose, at least as a snippet of rising French disdain for Azerbaijan and establish its means of manifestation, objectives and merits, given the long-term vision pursued by Official Paris in the region.
However much the French government may argue that the 15 November vehemently anti-Azerbaijani recommendatory resolution by the Senate that traversed all boundaries of propriety is not its official line, it cannot also hide its delight, thereby revealing its complicity and interestedness. Macron’s own interview, given to France 2 TV on 12 October, was essentially in conformity with the logic of the Senate and, in many ways, appeared to be a coda to the same script, albeit replete with his sly barbed darts aimed at Baku, dressed up with language less unpalatable.
What was adopted by the Upper House of the French legislature presents an extreme Armenophile stance, in comparison with which Yerevan’s own official negotiating position appears more progressive. This is the very same Senate that recognised the illegal Armenian entity located in Khankendi back in November 2020, and this time its resolution demands the independence of the self-same illegal concept to be viewed as the basis for future Azerbaijani-Armenian negotiations, the establishment of a humanitarian office in what is now currently under the temporary control of the Russian ‘peacekeeping’ contingent, the withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces from the positions held after the recent border skirmishes, the imposition of diplomatic and economic measures, sanctions against the export of Azerbaijani hydrocarbons and seizure of the property of Azerbaijani authorities and many other steps imbued with mendacious arbitrary whim.
The resolution of 2020 spawned no practical result, other than significantly deteriorating Baku-Paris relations. This one, in all probability, will not result in anything drastically different, save for Azerbaijani reciprocity, which, as can be ascertained from the statement of the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament), promises to be robust on a tit-for-tat basis. The question that begs to be answered is how this new lowest ebb with Baku will serve French interests in the South Caucasus. Although it is understandable that France was predisposed to tilt towards Yerevan after the disastrous 2020 campaign and express its support in a more assertive way, what remains shrouded in uncertainty is how this presently unreservedly pro-Armenian stance of Paris will assist in its desire to be a mediator in the peace negotiations.
Extricating Yerevan from Russian dominance may sound like a long-term game plan, but doing so at the expense of alienating the most influential nation of the region – Azerbaijan – in the short term, with far-reaching consequences, appears to be marred with a myopic outlook. Macron may think that the machinations of his administration are akin to rolling the pitch assiduously, so as to test the limits of his proactive involvement in the Baku-Yerevan peace process, where he comes down firmly on the side of the latter. He may also view the Senate’s resolution as a dormant weapon that he can only utilise through the exchange of compromises from Baku at best, with such a probability being based more on hoary thinking rather than any real likelihood.
Neil Watson, British Journalist, took a more holistic view: “This move is ultimately counterproductive. As Russia cannot play any serious role in peace talks, the EU has stepped into the breach and achieved some traction. France is a preeminent member of the EU, and this pro-Armenian, manifestly anti-Azerbaijani, perspective could derail these deliberations. Furthermore, any sanctions against the export of Azerbaijani oil and gas would ultimately favour Russia, which wants to hold vast swathes of South-East Europe to ransom ad infinitum.”
This worrying disconnection between today’s gains and long-term consequences is what should prey on the minds of French policy-makers. But what about Armenia? Pashinyan is in the state of falling over himself in gratitude, as are many in Armenia who are recumbent in the reverie of learning that anti-Azerbaijani imperatives are swaying in the wind with a discernibly augmented force in Paris.
In a bid to reassert itself in the South Caucasus, France has embarked on the path of bolstering its support for Armenia on an unprecedented scale. One issue is that there are limits to the assertiveness of Paris, which ultimately is bound to grind to a juddering halt, as was the case on 10 November 2020 when Macron issued his acceptance of the deal that was, in real terms, a capitulation for Armenia. Another significant issue is that, by increasing its role in Armenia, Macron has subjected his nation to a self-inflicted wound resulting from the loss of influence over the whole South Caucasus. His methods will find no favour with Baku. Like Madame Guillotine herself, the consequences will be swift, robust and grave.
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