Lock & Load: Analysis of the Armenia-Azerbaijan War

Since September 27, 2020, hundreds of people have died and thousands have been displaced due to the war being fought between Armenia and Azerbaijan, worsening the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East. Reports have noted the exchange of missiles, ballistics, artillery fire and high-tech drones between the neighbouring countries. Analysts and leaders across the globe have declared the less than a month old war as worse than the previous six-year-long war fought between Armenia and Azerbaijan from 1988 to 1994. 

Fortunately, Azerbaijan and Armenia have, as of October 18, 2020, agreed to a second attempt at a cease-fire. This decision comes a week after their first failed attempt, wherein both parties breached the cease-fire within the first hour of its agreement. 

Unfortunately, it remains to be seen how long it takes for the two nations to violate this accord, considering the morning of their second agreement was rife with news of artillery fire from Armenia. The odds are not in the favour of a long-term peace accord during the second attempt, considering it took six years for them to call a truce the last time these two nations went to war against each other. 

Armenia and Azerbaijan recommenced the fight over the Nagorno-Karabakh region on September 27, 2020, after a decades-long truce. The Nagorno-Karabakh region has been a conflicting issue for the two nations since 1920. A region majorly-populated by ethnic Armenians, Nagorno-Karabakh lies within the geographical borders of Azerbaijan. Having been declared an independent state under Soviet Union rule in the 1920’s, it wasn’t until the collapse of the Bolsheviks that the Nagorno-Karabakh legislature passed a resolution to join Armenia in 1988, leading to an escalation of the conflict. The conflict accelerated into a full-blown war in 1991 leading to thousands of casualties and a refugee crisis. In 1994, Russia finally managed to broker a peace agreement but not until Armenia gathered control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region despite it still being located in Azerbaijan. 

Although the two nations had brokered a peace agreement, this did not stop either side from minor scrimmages and attacks and it was one such attack in July 2020 that resulted in the death of an Azerbaijani general that resulted in  a rising conflict in September 2020. 

A major catalyst of the ongoing war is the involvement of Turkey and Russia. Turkey has been responsible for gathering troops, supplying manpower and highly dangerous technologies to Azerbaijan, whereas Russia has a defence pact with Armenia, which unsurprisingly has not stopped Russia from supplying arms to both Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

The reason for Russian and Turkish involvement goes beyond neighbourly concern for Turkey and economic benefits from arms deals for Russia. Indeed, Nagorno-Karabakh is another notch in the proverbial belt of proxy wars being fought by Russia and Turkey. The fight over the oil-rich region in Libya and regional and political war over Syria are two of the most prominent examples of the proxy wars being carried out by them.

Although the international community including the United States, France, and the European Union have urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to call for a truce, their requests have fallen on deaf ears. 

Whether it be the state of Kashmir or the Israel-Palestine dispute over the Gaza Strip and West bank, innumerable conflicts can be seen arising due to a piece of land. However, consigning any piece of land the relevance of just a geographical location would be unfair. For the people living on that land, it is about home, safety and a sense of belongingness that is of the utmost importance to any society. </p>

And such is the case of Nagorno-Karabakh. The reason behind the war in 1991 was the land located in Azerbaijan’s geographical boundaries and the need for an ethnically Armenian-majority region to merge with the country they felt at home in. However, the war being fought by the two nations now is no longer about the land or the importance it holds for the people of Armenia but has become a matter of pride and perception. 

Both the nations have taken to fighting the war in an ostentatious display of power and arms, as corroborated by the videos being released by the government officials of their impressive drones and high-tech warcraft bombing the enemy soldiers and grounds. According to a recent publication by The Economist, Azerbaijan released a music video starring “khaki-clad singers” juxtaposed with helicopters and tanks in the background to rouse public sentiments and morale. In a truly 21st century style, music videos and engagement on online platforms by citizens of Armenia and Azerbaijan commemorate the war currently responsible for the loss of more than ten thousand deaths since 1991. 

The consequences of this war go beyond the loss of lives and livelihoods. The result of the ongoing tussle will determine the fate of 147,000 people, 95% of which are ethically Armenians. Although there are international committees such as the Minsk Group, established in 1994, formed especially to broker peace agreements, the involvement of international parties such as Turkey and Russia has made it next to impossible to broker an agreement without active military combat. 

Additionally, it seems that political leaderships in Armenia and Azerbaijan are enjoying an increase in public popularity and favour due to the nationalist sentiments, while Russia enjoys increased profits from the arms sale in both the countries and Turkey hopes to use a possible Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia as leverage to gain the upper hand over Russia in its proxy wars. Ultimately for the political leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan,Turkey and Russia, the lives lost are a manageable opportunity cost of the political and economic benefits from the war. 

At this point in time, it is difficult to predict where the victory lies but we can say for certain that it will not be with the people of Armenia or Azerbaijan.


Vidhi Arora

An 80 year old stuck in a 20 year old's body, with a penchant for ranting and reading.

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