Letter From the Editors

…And I will tell you who you are, says an old Russian proverb. After all, the company we keep says a lot about who we are. This week, Armenia must be struggling with its identity. After clashes erupted with Azerbaijan, both sides blamed each other for the escalation – the biggest since the 2020 war. At the same time, notes RBC Daily, for the first time Azerbaijan is striking Armenia proper instead of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan appealed for help to the CSTO (which Armenia currently chairs, incidentally). But instead of a Kazakh scenario, Yerevan is more likely to get the cold shoulder, says Central Asia expert Arkady Dubnov: “Russia remains Armenia’s only ally in the CSTO, apart from Belarus. All other member countries of the organization are very loyal to Azerbaijan, based on either religious or ethnic kinship. This was evident during the 44-day war.” But even Moscow’s support so far has been strictly moral – Vladimir Putin called on Azerbaijan to stop hostilities, but what’s done is done. Russia is spread too thin with its Ukraine “special operation” anyway, says Dubnov, so it cannot increase its number of peacekeepers.

Meanwhile, Baku is leveraging its friendship with Turkey to essentially show the world it can resume hostilities any time it wants. “Baku has indicated that it is ready for a very brutal response that goes beyond the diplomatic methods of resolving the problem,” Dubnov said in summary.

The leaders of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia were slated to meet at the SCO Summit in Samarkand, but Pashinyan backed out, citing the difficult situation at home. This made the meeting between Putin and Xi Jinping the summit’s main event. Their talks were being closely monitored by Washington, as well, writes Rossiiskaya gazeta: After all, the US has designated “Russia as its main adversary and China as a long-term strategic rival.” And, of course, everyone knows that Putin sent troops into Ukraine shortly after his last meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the Olympics. This time, Putin once again stressed that Russia and China support a multipolar world order “based on international law and the central role of the UN.” He also thanked Beijing for its “balanced stance” on Ukraine.

In addition to meeting with his Chinese counterpart and announcing that Russia-China trade turnover was growing, the Russian leader also met with the heads of Iran and Pakistan, which clearly shows that Moscow’s focus has shifted toward Asia.

For its part, the US continues to build its China containment policy, leaning increasingly heavily on its Asia-Pacific allies, writes Viktor Pirozhenko. The goal is apparently to “bind its participants with obligations to limit cooperation with China in regional supply chains for the most important kinds of products, and thus push China to the periphery of the global market.” To that end, Washington is cobbling together the Chip 4 Alliance. The goal is to reduce the US’s dependence on foreign-made microchips. Yet these efforts are going to hurt the bottom line of a lot of companies, the expert says: “Leading microchip manufacturers such as Apple, Intel, Samsung and Taiwan’s TSMS would be unable to modernize their production facilities in mainland China, which means that despite their huge capital investments, they would not be able to manufacture inexpensive goods and would therefore suffer great losses.” But what’s a few billion between friends?

Yes, it seems that fence-sitting is no longer an option in today’s world. Alliances – and friendships – matter more than ever as competition and even hostilities heat up. The trick is, of course, choosing your friends wisely.