The neverending story. Azerbaijan and Armenia dig up the hatchet (Polskie Radio, Poland)

The Karabakh conflict was one of the first armed conflict on the territory of the Soviet Union, when he was already on the brink of collapse. Starting as ethical conflict between Azerbaijanis, it turned into a full-scale war. Among all the conflicts in the Caucasus the Karabakh conflict has the greatest strategic and regional importance. It is worth noting that the Karabakh conflict has accelerated the process of creating two independent States — Azerbaijan and Armenia. The years of conflict that claimed tens of thousands of lives, was suspended in 1994 with the signing by both parties of the Agreement on permanent cease-fire. However, until peace was still far away, because was not resolved the main controversial issue and the cause of the war of Nagorno — Karabakh. The conflict between the two countries, then died down, it flared up with new force. In 2016, the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh has resumed and were even called “four day war”.

However, the latest conflict erupted in July 2020. July 12 began to receive the first information about the aggravation of the situation on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, then it became clear that one day this escalation is not limited. Azerbaijani-Armenian artillery duels and skirmishes began on the border in Armenia’s Tavush region and Tovuz region of Azerbaijan. The parties submit contradictory information about the losses. Baku claims that four soldiers were killed, four seriously injured, arguing that the enemy also suffered losses. Meanwhile, in Yerevan, any of the losses referred to misinformation.

About the main reasons of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, the Russian service of Polish Radio said Grzegorz Kucinski, expert from the Warsaw Institute, the governing program of “Eurasia”:

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has a long history. One of the hot and controversial points in the relationship can be called unresolved issue of Nagorno Karabakh status. Want to remind you that in the late 80’s and early 90-ies of XX century, when the Soviet Union held the disintegration processes began a sharp rise of national movements in Armenia and Azerbaijan, has been a local conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, which escalated into full-scale ethnic conflict. The result of this war was the victory of Armenia.

Armenia at the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has had a military advantage over Azerbaijan, which allowed her to gain a strategic advantage and to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions (those which separated Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh). Since the signing of the Bishkek Protocol on ceasefire, the territory of Azerbaijan was occupied by Armenian troops. The result of all these actions was the creation of the self declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It is very closely connected with Armenia, and even some political clans of the unrecognized Republic have played a crucial role in the political life of Armenia.

So the current conflict can be called an exacerbation of an already existing conflict, because the issue of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic remains open. Azerbaijan and further insists on the return of these territories as a consequence, from time to time there are small cross-border skirmishes and conflicts.

Grzegorz Kucinski assessed the strength of the parties involved in the conflict:

In the last few years thanks to the revenues from sales of oil and gas Azerbaijan is able to Finance the modernization and development of the army. In comparison with the situation in the early 90s the balance of power in this conflict has changed considerably. Azerbaijan, with 10 million people and a GDP of 47 billion US dollars has much more potential than 3-million Armenia with less than 10 million dollars of GDP. Azerbaijan’s defence budget is 2.3 billion dollars, while Armenia has only $ 600 million. This leads to the obvious imbalances from the point of view of possibilities of purchasing weapons, and in both cases the main supplier is Russia.

The other important factor, which prevents the end of the conflict, is Russia’s position. Her current situation is most favorable, because of the constant threat of Yerevan simply doomed to cooperation with Moscow. Armenia is geographically located between Turkey and Azerbaijan, two of his opponents, and therefore in the balance of power remains only an Alliance with Russia. Russian military base in Armenia is the guarantor that they won’t begin a full-scale conflict between countries, and may guarantee not interference in the conflict of Turkey.

Therefore, we can say that Azerbaijan and Armenia since the 90-ies are constantly at war with each other.

The expert also noted the influence and interests of other countries in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict:

In Minsk in the format of the Eurasian intergovernmental Council was created by the group for talks between the two countries, which did not succeed. The interests of Western countries are based mostly on the energy issue. To the West is very important for the continuous and stable transportation of oil from the Caspian sea through the Caucasus and further to Europe.

Of course, in this conflict, a significant role is played by the interests of Russia. Despite a military Alliance with Armenia, the attitude of Russia and Azerbaijan in recent years is also improving. Therefore, Moscow begins to play on two fronts. It is worth Recalling that only contract for 2013-2018, the Azerbaijani side has bought in Russia a considerable quantity of weapons for the army of the new production: 100 main tanks T-90S, 118 infantry fighting vehicles BMP-3, 230 armored personnel carriers BTR-82A, 166 artillery systems of various types and calibers. Countries in 2010 agreed on the licensed production of weapons, in particular about the Assembly to 120 thousand AK-74M chambered for 5.45 mm.

Also do not forget about the influence of Turkey in this conflict because of their cultural and ethnic affinity with Azerbaijan. Influenced by the historical conflict between Armenians and Turks. However, I don’t think Turkey will intervene in this conflict, because Azerbaijan has a significant military advantage over Armenia. Therefore, even if this conflict escalates into a larger war between the States, no one from the outside will not interfere in it.

Today the Armenians have established a good defense system in Nagorno Karabakh. A few years ago, the Azerbaijani forces attempted attack on Karabakh, the result of which was the statement about the triumphant conquest of several small hills. Therefore, this issue cannot be solved by military means.

If to speak about new clashes that occurred in July, it is possible to note several new features. The first is that the battles took place in new places. The second is that Russia showed great caution in this matter, so if Armenia was counting on the support of Russia, it miscalculated.