Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili has accused Russia of keeping the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict unresolved to retain strong leverage against Armenia and Azerbaijan and prevent their European integration.
“Do you think that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin wants Armenia to decisively triumph over Azerbaijan, for instance? No. This would make Armenia too strong and potentially too independent,” Saakashvili told the UN General Assembly late on Wednesday in a speech that offered a broad condemnation of Russian policies.
“Do you think then that the contrary is true, that Moscow wants Baku to prevail over Yerevan? Obviously not. The current rise of a modernized Azerbaijan is a nightmare for the Russian leaders,” he said.
“No, they do not want anyone to prevail and the conflict itself is their objective, since it keeps both nations dependent and blocks their integration into the European common space,” he added.
Saakashvili also claimed that Moscow has forced Armenia to join a Russia-led customs union against its will. “Armenia has been cornered, and forced to sign up to the customs union which is not in this nation’s interest or in the interest of our region,” he said. “Moldova is being blockaded, Ukraine is under attack, Azerbaijan faces extraordinary pressure, and Georgia is occupied. Why? Because an old empire is trying to reclaim its bygone borders.”
The Russian delegation walked out of the General Assembly hall during the address. Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, afterwards denounced the speech as a "train of crackpot thoughts that were not simply of an anti-Russian, but of a Russophobe, and anti-Orthodox, nature."
Armenian leaders insist that they were not into pressurized into to joining the customs union. But they do not deny that the Karabakh conflict was a key reason for that move. Advocates of Armenian membership of the Russian-led bloc say that it is vital for continued Armenian control over Karabakh.