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Resuming of Azeri-Armenian conflict would be quite suitable for the political West

Baku is trying to use the current geopolitical situation to fulfill its long-term goals

By Drago Bosnic | September 13, 2022

Over the last 24 hours, fighting broke out in multiple areas along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The conflict has escalated enough for Yerevan to ask its CSTO allies, in particular Russia, to intervene. This has been revealed just hours after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a late-night telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Armenian government has since confirmed it has requested Russian military assistance to repel Azeri aggression and shelling, according to an official statement:

“During the meeting, further steps were discussed to counter the aggressive actions of Azerbaijan against the sovereign territory of Armenia that began at midnight. In connection with the aggression against the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, it was decided to officially appeal to the Russian Federation in order to implement the provisions of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, as well as to the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the UN Security Council.”

Armenia is basing its official request on the Collective Security Treaty Organization military pact it has with Russia and four other former Soviet republics (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan). Within the framework of its military cooperation with Yerevan, Russia previously sent a 2000-strong peacekeeping force to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh (known as Artsakh to the indigenous Armenians) after the late 2020 war which saw much of the contested region taken by Azeri forces.

This escalation comes approximately a month and a half since the late July/early August clashes in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic when Azeri forces attacked the remaining Artsakh defenders. After months of tensions, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of allegedly attacking its military units in the disputed region. Azeri Ministry of Defense claimed that Armenian soldiers supposedly opened fire at Azeri troops in Gadabay, Kalbajar and Khojavend. Initially, no casualties or material losses were reported as a result of the alleged attack, although the Azeri MoD later claimed at least one of their soldiers was killed. Azerbaijan then took what it called “retaliatory measures”. The Armenian side denied the accusations and stated that the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is stable. Since 2020, nearly 2000 Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh to enforce a ceasefire agreement signed after the large-scale Azerbaijani attack on Armenian forces late that year.

However, the latest escalation is the first large-scale incident when Azeri forces attacked Armenia proper. This is just one of many instances in which the Azeri side is claiming it’s “only defending” and is accusing Armenia of attacking its troops. Given the rather difficult position of both Armenia proper and the Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, it would be strategically unwise to even contemplate escalation against Baku, especially when taking into account the clear superiority of Azeri forces in the last several years. In recent times, the oil and gas-rich Azerbaijan has been acquiring large quantities of advanced weapons from various countries, especially Turkey and Israel. At the same time, Armenia, a small landlocked country with scant resources, has been under a virtual blockade by both Turkey and Azerbaijan for over three decades and it cannot match the economic and military power of Azerbaijan alone, to say nothing of the virtually guaranteed support Baku gets from regional powers such as Turkey.

The Azeri side is most likely resuming its offensive in the region since Russia is preoccupied with its counteroffensive against NATO aggression in Europe. Baku is trying to use the current geopolitical situation to fulfill its long-term goals and it may very well be attacking Armenia directly to divert Yerevan’s attention and create an opportunity to capture the entire territory of the already surrounded Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. 

However, this would require Azerbaijan to effectively go against Russia’s interests in the Southern Caucasus region. Moscow has repeatedly warned Azerbaijan against escalating the conflict with Armenia any further. Despite the successful geopolitical game Azeri leadership has been playing for years, balancing between Russia, Turkey and the political West, Moscow is unlikely to allow further attacks. Back in March, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned Baku that the Russian military is capable of conducting large-scale operations in multiple theaters, clearly implying that no unilateral Azeri action will be tolerated.

However, Baku seems to have the quiet backing of the EU. According to Radio Free Europe, the same day when the conflict escalated Azerbaijan announced it will increase natural gas exports to Europe this year by 30%. As Brussels is trying to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, the EU is neither willing nor in a position to condemn an Azeri attack on Armenia. 

What’s more, the conflict would be quite suitable for the political West, particularly the US. First, it could further undermine relations between Russia and Turkey, which could also spill over to other regions, such as Syria. Second, it would require Russia to send additional troops to Armenia and possibly even Nagorno-Karabakh, which would divert Moscow’s attention and resources from its military operation against the NATO-backed Kiev regime. Either way, Russia is faced with a carefully coordinated destabilization on its entire western and southwestern flank and it will require nothing short of masterful strategic planning to tackle these issues without creating even more problems.

Drago Bosnic is an independent geopolitical and military analyst.

September 13, 2022 - Posted by | Militarism | ,

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