Is Nagorno Karabakh the next global flashpoint? Armenia and Azerbaijan at the brink!
Erevan, the Armenian capital, witnessed heightened tensions on September 19th as protestors confronted the police. Yet, this confrontation is merely a symptom of deeper regional complexities that have emerged, with the focal point being Nagorno Karabakh, an Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan’s territory.
The intensification of hostilities in this region is no surprise. For months, Azerbaijan’s military has been imposing a blockade on Nagorno Karabakh. With the international system grappling with the crisis of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Azerbaijan, sensing an opportunity, is eager to leverage its military advantage. The stakes are high, and the question lingers: can anyone prevent Azerbaijan from overtaking Stepanakert, the capital of the enclave that still houses thousands of Armenians?
The Azerbaijani forces, while justifying their advances as an “anti-terrorism operation” following the demise of six of their police personnel, undoubtedly have the upper hand in terms of military strength. In this geopolitical chessboard, Russia, traditionally regarded as the stabilizing force in the Caucasus, has its attention diverted. It’s worth noting that Moscow, despite having a defense pact with Armenia, allowed it to face defeat against Azerbaijan in 2020. Meanwhile, institutions like the United Nations, though vocal, seem increasingly impotent in affecting tangible change in regional disputes.
Caught in this tumult are the Armenians of Karabakh. Alone and vulnerable, their prospects look grim. Armenia, as a nation, grappling with its challenges, appears incapable of altering the prevalent power dynamics. The situation is so dire that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, having declared the Armenian military’s non-intervention stance, has faced vehement protests in Erevan.
On that fateful day of September 19th, Azerbaijan didn’t just contend with internal protests. The government in Baku, displaying its assertiveness, delivered an ultimatum to Karabakh’s Armenians. The ramifications of this could be significant. It seems that the Azerbaijani military’s minimum objective is to disarm the enclave’s separatists, thereby reclaiming Nagorno Karabakh. But, looking at the larger picture, an even graver threat looms.
A specter of ethnic cleansing hangs over the region. The dire scenario sees Armenians, unwilling to adopt Azerbaijani citizenship, being compelled to leave. This minority group, lacking protection, is within a nation they perceive as hostile. Their fears aren’t baseless. Historically, when Armenia had the reins of the region, nearly three hundred thousand Azerbaijanis were displaced from their native villages, until the tables turned in 2020.
Azerbaijan’s robust response to the aforementioned protests signifies more than just a show of strength. Baku’s confidence is buoyed by unwavering support from Turkey and the nation’s thriving hydrocarbon export business. With these aces up their sleeve, the Azerbaijani leadership believes the balance of power tilts in their favor, setting the stage for potentially explosive developments in the near future.
It’s a high-stakes game, with Nagorno Karabakh as the prize and the fates of thousands hanging in the balance. The international community watches, but with many global players preoccupied, will intervention come in time to prevent a full-blown crisis?