April 5, 2016

Who Ignited The Latest Armenia-Azerbaijan War?

An excerpt from, "Why the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is a no-win situation for Moscow" By Vladimir Mikheev, Russia Beyond The Headlines, April 4, 2016:
Baku seems to have been emboldened by the gradual build-up of its armed forces, capitalizing on the steady flow of oil revenues. Under the presidency of President Ilham Aliyev, which has lasted for more than a decade, the Caspian Sea state’s annual military spending has surged by almost 30 times. Last year, defense expenditures totalled some $3.6 billion – a figure that exceeds the entire Armenian state budget.

Since 2010, Azerbaijan has purchased modern tanks, combat helicopters, air-defence systems, and other military hardware from Russia, spending some $4 billion in the process.

Occasionally, Aliyev has boosted the nationalist feelings of his compatriots by claiming he would recover the “occupied lands,” i.e. Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding Armenian-controlled territories. Today, it looks like he wants to honor this pledge.
Trying to identify the main culprit in the re-eruption of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, that is, who fired the first shot, could well be futile. However, the opinion of Thomas de Waal of Carnegie Europe should be duly noted.

“It is more likely that one of the two parties to the conflict – and more likely the Azerbaijani side, which has a stronger interest in the resumption of hostilities – is trying to alter the situation in its favor with a limited military campaign,” De Waal wrote in a blog posting.

“The dangerous aspect to this is that, once begun, any military operations in this conflict zone can easily escalate and get out of control,” he stressed.

A serious danger may lie in the provisions of the 2011 Agreement on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Support between Turkey and Azerbaijan. The parties pledged to render support to each other using “all possible means” in the event of an attack or aggression against one of them. Getting involved in yet another conflict would buy additional time for President Erdogan as it allows him to further stoke ultra-nationalist feeling at home.

No less worrisome is that the conflict is acquiring religious connotations. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has condemned “the attack by Armenian forces on the borders of occupied Azerbaijani territories” and Yerevan's “disrespect of the (unilateral) ceasefire” announced by Baku. Azerbaijan is a member of the OIC, and is receiving support specifically as an Islamic nation.

However, the international, both regional and global, context makes the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh not just a risky adventure but a geopolitical mistake for the warring parties.

Reignited conflict in a region plagued by an intensified yet inconclusive war against the jihadists of ISIS comes at the most inopportune moment. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the archenemies to return to peace talks under the auspices of the OSCE, and has reiterated that there is “no military solution to the conflict.”

Actually, this is the crucial riddle. Why? Neither side is naïve or reckless enough to believe that the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute has a military solution. Why would Azerbaijan and Armenia take up arms? For them it is a lose-lose situation. Just as it is for Russia, which is unhappy with the continuous animosity and squabbling in its soft underbelly.