Escalation In the Caucasus?

After a week of fighting in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh which has seen considerable casualties, gains by Azerbaijani forces, and international calls for a ceasefire, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia appears on the verge of escalating. The two nations have become increasingly dependent upon ballistic missiles, and artillery to reach each other. Saturday’s Azeri attacks on separatist forces in the Karabakh included ballistic missiles. The Armenians responded with a missile attack on the Azeri city of Ganja. This marks the first time that Armenia has directly targeted Azerbaijan. Until this weekend the fighting has been limited to Nagorno-Karabakh. “Azerbaijan will destroy military targets directly inside Armenia from which shelling of its population centers is taking place,” presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev stated, even though Armenia denies having launched any sort of attack on Azerbaijan. The Armenian and Azeri governments have traded accusations and claims which are difficult for third-party sources outside of the region to confirm or deny.

As the conflict now seems to be escalating, it remains uncertain what the next phase will be. Armenia and Azerbaijan might find value in targeting strategic targets of the other side with ballistic missiles. Both nations possess respectable amounts of missiles able to strike targets hundreds of kilometers away. The Armenian inventory of ballistic missiles is made up almost entirely of Russian models, while the Azerbaijani stockpiles includes an eclectic mixture of earlier model Russian, and more modern Western weapons.

Another direction the conflict could now take is, ironically enough, one of mediation and ceasefire. Now that the two nations have lashed out at the other with missile strikes, it might be a signal that they are willing to explore an end to the fighting. Armenia has  reportedly considered requesting Russian peacekeepers, an act which could see the creation of yet another Russia-Turkey proxy conflict similar to Libya; Turkish-supplied Syrian mercenaries on the Azerbaijani side, and Russian troops under the guise of peacekeepers with the Armenians. This would inevitably chipping away at Azeri, and Armenian sovereignty much the same as we have seen happen in Libya, and to a lesser degree Syria in recent years.  


Fighting between Azeri and Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh has continued into a fifth day with the intensity of the clashes increasing. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has stated the war will only end once his nation’s territorial sovereignty is restored. In other words the Azeri drive into Nagorno-Karabakh will not be coming to a halt in the near future. Armenia continues to resist and there are rumors circulating that the Armenian government is contemplating an official recognition Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. This might be viewed as a desperate move but with the fighting going decidedly in Azerbaijan’s favor so far, the Armenians might have little choice.

On the international front, Armenia has withdrawn its ambassador to Israel as a protest over Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani government has openly admitted using Israeli-made drones in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Both Azerbaijan and Armenia have defied international calls for a ceasefire. The United States, France, and Russia have condemned the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. In a joint statement, the leaders of the three nations have called for an immediate end to the fighting. “We also call on the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately commit themselves to resume negotiations on the substance of the settlement in good faith and without preconditions,” the statement read. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went against the grain stating that a ceasefire was only possible when Armenia ended its ‘occupation’ of Azerbaijani territory. Erdogan’s comments were made shortly after France accused Turkey of transporting Syrian mercenaries to join the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied reports that Ankara has sent fighters to the Southern Caucuses.

Azerbaijan-Armenia Update: 28 September, 2020

Apologies for not getting the update published sooner but today grew busier than expected.

Fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces continued into its second day, feeding worries about the conflict escalating to a full-blown war that will draw in a number of regional powers. Casualties have been reported by both sides, and according to various third-party sources a high number of civilians have been killed or wounded so far. Azerbaijani defense officials have released video purportedly showing Azerbaijani drone strikes on Armenian air defense vehicles. The Armenians released their own video yesterday supposedly of Azerbaijani tanks and other armored vehicles coming under fire and exploding. There is no way right now to confirm the authenticity of either side’s videos, but it would not be outside the realm of possibility for some, or even all of them to be less than authentic.

The increasing concern about this conflict touching off a regional war is not hyperbole. Russia has maintained close economic ties with Azerbaijan and Armenia since the breakup of the Soviet Union. But Armenia is deeper inside of the Russian sphere, holding membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and Collective Security Treaty Organization. Azerbaijan is a member of neither. Azerbaijan’s closest ally is Turkey. Having these two major powers on opposing sides has raised some eyebrows. There is a possibility that an expanded conflict could bring Russia and Turkey into the fighting, however, at this point the chance of that happening is minimal.

Unconfirmed reports have been circulating about Syrian mercenaries in Azerbaijan preparing to join the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. Earlier reports claim that Turkey has brought the Syrians to Azerbaijan.

Clashes Break Out Between Armenian and Azerbaijani Forces In Nagorno-Karabakh

Tensions over between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region have spilled over into open conflict. Fighting has broken out in the region today. According to reports, Azerbaijani forces launched air and artillery attacks into the Nagorno-Karabakh region and followed up with ground forces moving in. Casualties have been reported on both sides and among the local populace and there are unconfirmed reports of a helicopter and tanks from both sides being destroyed.

Armenia blamed Azerbaijan for the fighting on Sunday and has declared martial law and a general mobilization in response to the clashes.

Azerbaijan, predictably, placed responsibility on Armenia. Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, stated  that “The first fire, including artillery fire, was opened by Armenia, and the first victims were Azerbaijani servicemen.”

The situation is still very fluid. Upon the start of hostilities a flurry of diplomatic activity commended aimed at establishing a cease fire before the fighting escalates.

Later tonight and tomorrow as more news becomes available I’ll post it.