Sunday, Jan 23, 2022

Conflicts of Nagorno-Karabakh - Armenia and Azerbaijan

by Nicholas Dawson, Forecast International.Armenia–Azerbaijan border. Image – – Wikimedia CommonsHistorically there have been multiple regions that..


by Nicholas Dawson, Forecast International.

Armenia–Azerbaijan border. Image – – Wikimedia Commons

Historically there have been multiple regions that have been contested by various powers. Such examples include Alsace-Lorraine between Germany and France as well as Kashmir Province between India and Pakistan. In Eurasia, there is a conflict that has brought about a regional rivalry which has led to multiple armed conflicts. In 2020 there was recently a major conflict again in the region, which has led to an Azeri victory and Armenia’s forces receiving heavy losses. This November tensions between the two have grown again as Azerbaijan has begun using its territorial gains from the 2020 conflict to create more outposts and checkpoints which has hurt transportation of supplies and citizens. This has led to aggression between both forces as Azeri soldiers have moved and taken Armenian outposts while Armenian dissenters have attacked Azeri checkpoints and even used explosives against them.

Before observing the current conditions of the conflict, it’s important to understand why this all started and the importance of Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh is located in south-western Azerbaijan and is the home of both Armenians and Azeris. The region has been suffering from ethnic tensions between the two groups which eventually led to their first conflict. The first event that would lead to disagreement on the region would be the fall of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. This disagreement led to the first war which took place in 1920. At this point, the First Republic of Armenia warred with the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and were at the time newly formed nations.

The war started when Armenian secessionists tried to declare independence which put the Azeri population on high alert. The Armenians would have the advantage throughout the war, but eventually, an intervention by the British would start negotiations on a potential agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The plan was to have an initial deal for a ceasefire with continued negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference. The delay between the negotiations led to the Shusha massacre conducted against the Armenians, killing between 500 to 20,000. The attack was done after the Armenian half of the police force killed the Azeri half during holiday celebrations. During this time the Soviet Army had beaten the White Army in Russia and marched down to Azerbaijan. Since the war would weaken both nations severely, communists would take over both countries and have them become Soviet satellite states in 1920. Nagorno-Karabakh would be assigned and demarcated to Azerbaijan by the Soviet Union, despite the majority Armenian population. The region would eventually be an autonomous region within communist-run Azerbaijan.

Right before the Soviet Union’s collapse, the two rivals would go on to start another war in 1988 over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh once again. At first, there was once again another peaceful protest and resistance with the Enclave voting to unite with Armenia after a parliamentary referendum. This was boycotted by the Azeris in the region who instead wanted independence. The resulting protests and discrepancy between the ethnic groups would eventually escalate to ethnic cleansing, despite initial attempts by the Soviet Union to work the issues out and find a compromise. Full-scale fighting would begin in 1992 and escalate due to the Soviet MVD’s withdrawal from Armenia and Azerbaijan. This withdrawal led to large amounts of munitions being left and given to the countries, heavily arming both sides. By the end of the war, Armenia had a clear path to Baku after several major victories which led Azerbaijan to seek a ceasefire using the new Russian Federation to help mediate. It would be successful and in 1994 the Bishkek Protocol, which was a provisional ceasefire agreement was signed. While the first war was more of a stalemate between the two powers, this conflict was a complete Armenian victory that resulted in significant territorial gains as well as a de facto unification of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Nagorno-Karabakh suffered multiple attacks and ethnic targeting, sometimes the violence nearly broke out into war, including the period of 2008 to 2010 which saw 74 soldiers killed on both sides as stated by a policy briefing by the International Crisis Group. The United Nations during this time also demanded that Armenia withdraw their occupying forces from Nagorno-Karabakh since at that time Nagorno-Karabakh was known as the Republic of Artsakh and declared itself independent, albeit very close to Armenia in geopolitics. More soldiers and civilians would be killed up until the war in 2020, with hundreds of soldiers dead over that time for both sides. Everything would boil over into the recent 2020 conflict which would last for six weeks, with the ceasefire being signed in November.

The war started as an Azerbaijani offensive looking to take back territories lost from the 1988-1994 war, using the reasoning that those territories are internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. What started as artillery bombardments between both sides would later become a bloody six-week war that would be an outstanding Azerbaijani victory. This would be due to the success of new Bayraktar TB2 UAVs being used by the Azeri Armed Forces which were easily able to avoid the older air defenses in Armenia, which were still using older Soviet weapons. Azerbaijan would be able to regain its lost territory but also control the region around Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Military Balance for 202, Armenia has far less manpower than their rival Azerbaijan, with an estimated 44,800 troops compared to Azerbaijan’s nearly 67,000 troops. Defense spending is also in the Azeri’s favor, as between 2020-2021 the Azeris spent an estimated $966 million in defense while the Armenians only had $600 million. This discrepancy in spending and manpower allowed Azerbaijan to have the upper hand.

The war was influenced by three major parties: Russia, Israel, and Turkey. Russia technically had a neutral stance during the war, but multiple times it was seen that Russia was trying to broker peace while also silently assisting Armenia, which would lead to one of Russia’s Mi-24s being shot down by the Azeri Army. More importantly, Turkey was a major factor that led to Azerbaijan’s victory. Turkey helped arm the Azeri Army by supplying them with the Bayraktar TB2 UAV.

Turkey has always been a close ally to Azerbaijan, and even during the previous wars Armenia always guarded their border against Turkish aggression. Part of the hostility between Turkey and Armenia stems from the Armenian genocide during World War I. The TB2s would be devastating against the Armenian forces due to their outdated anti-air defense. The dominance of the UAVs led to many Armenian losses in their tank divisions, artillery, armored fighting vehicles, and electronics. While there are no definitive statistics on their losses, estimated losses include 253 tanks destroyed, 78 armored vehicles destroyed, 83 IFVs destroyed, 275 artillery pieces destroyed, and 17 radars destroyed. This does not count the equipment that was damaged. Armenian losses were devastating and the Azeri Army didn’t lose nearly as much.

Israel has been a major Azerbaijanian ally since 1992, which has recently flared up tensions with Iran due to Israeli influence being close to their border. This relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan is one of the few relationships between Israel and a Muslim majority nation that has led to strategic and economic cooperation. One important development that also helped in Azerbaijan’s overwhelming victory in the recent war was their purchase of Elbit Systems Sky Strikers. This marked the first time Israel sold the Sky Striker as an export to a foreign nation. Along with the Sky Striker, Azerbaijan also purchased the “Harop”, which is a suicide drone made by the Israel Aerospace Industries and uses a warhead that weighs 23kg.

After negotiating a ceasefire with Russia once again acting as the mediator, both sides attempted to start working together to come up with a solution to this issue regarding the region. The price of loss was heavy for the Armenians as many started to distrust their government, and protests erupted in the country. It got so far as the Armenian populace would occupy the parliament, leading to various arrests including a potential assassination plot against the Prime Minister, and resignations from government officials. In Azerbaijan, celebrations took place as the government started planning to return displaced Azeris back to the regained regions.

The peace wouldn’t last long, as during 2021, nearly a year later, violence would once again escalate between both sides. While the governments have been trying to work together, geopolitical problems have led to rising tensions. Azerbaijan and Iran had a major disagreement as Iranian trucks traveled through Azerbaijan to get to Nagorno-Karabakh. Iran has traditionally been friendlier with Armenia than Azerbaijan, and it led to the Azeri outposts arresting and detaining Iranian truckers. As tensions rose between the two, insofar as Iran holding military exercises right on the Azeri border, the Azeris created more outposts and border checkpoints which led to civilians and supply chains being disrupted and harassed. The reason for this expansion is that Armenia is once again being aggressive and that creating these checkpoints are needed. This would lead to more violence, as explosives would be thrown at one such checkpoint in Nagorno-Karabakh, and there are supposedly videos of Azeri troops going into territories and taking Armenian outposts. The skirmishes have been the deadliest since the 2020 war, and both Armenian and Azeri Ministries of Defense have had a war of words.

Once again the region potentially sees conflict, but at this point, both governments have condemned the attacks and are reportedly close to reaching an agreement on demarcating their border while opening up new transportation routes. Additionally, both sides agreed to a ceasefire on the border as they try to de-escalate the situation. This is an important time for both countries as they have a chance to potentially come to agreements that can calm hostilities and potentially lead to the normalization of relations. Such an achievement would greatly help the Eurasian region as a geopolitical hotspot would finally begin to cool down. The main question remains how the regional partners of those countries: Georgia, Israel, Russia, Turkey, and Iran will handle the situation and what they will do in the region. Geopolitics along with ethnic hostilities could once again bring about conflict between the two battered nations. It will be up to their respective governments to ease the scars of war and try to maintain peace, or else there is a potential for continued violence and escalation.


By: Forecast International
Title: The Conflicts of Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia and Azerbaijan
Sourced From:
Published Date: Mon, 29 Nov 2021 13:41:21 +0000

Read More