NEW DELHI: Armenia and Azerbaijan are blaming each other for air and artillery attacks on each other’s forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region that began on the morning of September 27. As both of them have “rearmed with highly sophisticated military hardware over the last 15 years, they can strike at targets deep inside each other’s territories,” says Laurence Broers, the Caucasus programme director at London-based peacebuilding organization ‘Conciliation Resources’. Speaking to StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi, he said there is the “prospect of a full-scale war” if the conflict is “not contained in four or five days”. With 20 years of experience as a researcher of conflicts in the South Caucasus and a practitioner of peacebuilding initiatives in the region, Dr Broers feels “if one side appears to be losing, then outside powers (Russia and Turkey among them) might intervene and we would have a broader conflagration”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “particular brand of nationalism, shoring up domestic legitimacy by coming to the assistance of a fellow Turkic nation (Azerbaijan) against Armenia with whom Turkey has a conflicted historical relationship and developing his defence industry is a key objective.” Dr Broers said about “Ankara’s more visible role as one distinguishing feature of this escalation”. There are reports, he added, about “Turkish drone technology in use” and unconfirmed stories of “pro-Turkish mercenary militias from Syria” being sent to help Baku.
The conflict is bringing out a “new Russia-Turkey dynamic,” the author of ‘Armenia and Azerbaijan: Anatomy of a Rivalry’ said, pointing to Ankara’s “increased involvement” being a “challenge to Moscow’s perceived role as a security guarantor for Armenia and the arbiter of peace. “The co-editor of ‘Armenia’s Velvet Revolution’ feels Azerbaijan is seeking to “undermine the Russia-Armenia alliance” and “demonstrate to Moscow that it has more benefits from being more sympathetic to Baku’s position in the conflict with Yerevan”. But Dr Broers pointed to Russia’s treaty with Armenia like Turkey has with Azerbaijan so it is “the external stakeholder with the greatest stake in preventing large scale conflict.”
This is “a wake-up call for the umpteenth time”, he says, adding that “there’s a pandemic, U.S. elections and a fractured multipolar world in which coordinating international action for an obscure conflict is that much harder”. If the conflict is protracted, the co-editor of the ‘Routledge Handbook of the Caucasus’, says “there will be a lot of commentary about the geopolitics of energy security, about blocking Azerbaijani oil and gas exports to Europe” but the key is to stay focused on “domestic factors and on national level factors that are driving this escalation”.