Two months ago, Azerbaijan attacked Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, violating the 2020 ceasefire agreement. Analysts and witnesses alerted the world about a potential second Armenian genocide, disguised as anti-terror operations by Azerbaijani forces.
The world leaders and international institutions expressed their usual default statements, calling for de-escalation of the conflict, protection of human rights, and how they monitor the situation with great concern. A month later the world forgot about the thousands of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, who under a new hostage agreement that they signed with the Azerbaijani side, will see the Republic of Artsakh, as it’s known among Armenians, dissolved and erased by January 1st, 2024.
It is important to shed light on the situation in the region, a region that has been in turmoil for decades. To uncover the truth behind Azerbaijan’s victory and shifting geopolitical tensions, it is essential to analyze the history, conflicts, and recent attacks on Armenians over the past three years.
An endless bloodshed
The enclave in southwestern Azerbaijan, surrounded by Azerbaijan’s recognized territory, has been the subject of numerous controversies for a long time. The Republic of Artsakh has always been at the center of violence since the early 19th century when tensions between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis were a daily phenomenon. However, tensions eased when the Soviet Union took control of the area, establishing an ethnic population of Armenians inside the territory of Azerbaijan.
The Soviet system of control, together with their promotion of an international proletarian spirit that ignored religion, seemed to have been efficient enough to stop any ongoing bloodshed. However, tensions were resurrected again in the 80s, when the grip of the Soviet Union on the region was loosening. Without Soviet control, the region became a field of human loss and tragedy as tens of thousands of people from both sides lost their lives. From 1988, until the peace treaty agreement in 1994, this mountainous region in Azerbaijan had experienced, firsthand, the bloody aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Almost three decades later, the conflict restarted in 2020, with both sides accusing each other of attacking first. After weeks of fighting, the Russian Federation negotiated a peace treaty between the two sides by establishing Russian peacekeepers to monitor the area. In addition, the Lachin corridor was to be established and controlled by the Russians, to ensure the safety of a passage between Armenia and the disputed area in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Three years later, in September 2023, Azerbaijan launched a supposed anti-terror operation, aiming to disarm and neutralize any Armenian military presence in the area. Almost 200 people lost their lives. In the following days, Azerbaijan had complete control of the region. With the fall of the Republic of Artsakh, thousands of ethnic Armenians fled to Armenia, warning the international community that a second Armenian genocide would be underway.
The total control of Nagorno-Karabakh by the Azerbaijanis and their crimes against the Armenians has been purposely ignored by the majority of the world. What’s interesting are the factors and political games that have allowed Azerbaijan to act this way, persecuting Christian Armenians and ignoring international rules of combat. Azerbaijan, an artificially made state, created by the Soviet Union, has risen in the political arena. Analyzing their success and the failures of Armenia is critical to have a clearer view of the rapidly shifted geopolitical outlook of the area.
The Failures of Nikol Pashinyan: The Shift Toward the West
Since 2018, Nikol Pashinyan has emerged as the leading figure for the nation of Armenia. For years, he has been advocating for closer ties with Moscow, a logical approach since Moscow has been a close ally of Yerevan. However, for the last couple of years, Pashinyan has lured Armenia to make the same mistakes that the country of Georgia had made years ago. Turn to the West for help. By implying that Russia is incapable of being a security guarantor for the region, Pashinyan condemned the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh to flee their homeland and become persecuted refugees. In a matter of a few years, Pashinyan managed to bring the relations between Russia and Armenia to a cold level, foolishly believing that the shift towards the West would be beneficial for his country.
Ignoring the common security concerns between the two states and choosing to consult the West for help, while at the same time pointing the finger at Russia, show the incapabilities of Pashinyan to lead his country. Inviting U.S. soldiers to stage joint drills with Armenian soldiers and withdrawing its representative from the CSTO military bloc, would have never achieved anything positive for Armenia. However, short on options to save his political position, Pashinyan gambled that the West would back him up after witnessing his anti-Russia rhetoric. On the contrary, his actions only managed to waste precious time in peacefully resolving the conflict and ensuring the safety of the ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pashinyan’s visits to Prague and Brussels months before the resurrection of the conflict proved to be wasteful and harmful. By choosing to follow newly agreed declarations of the past, Pashinyan completely ignored several trilateral agreements that have been in place since 2020. For example, the deployment of a CSTO observer mission to areas bordering Azerbaijan was not brought into existence, simply because they were never signed in the first place by the Armenian leadership.
The implementation of the trilateral agreements of 2020 between Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, were completely stalled because of this Armenian shift towards the West. By acknowledging the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan but at the same time choosing not to address and guarantee the safety of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Nikol Pashinyan showed the world how little he and his pro-western government cared for an actual ceasefire and a resolution guaranteeing the safety of Armenians in the area.
Today, after the one-day war defeat of the ethnic Armenians, Pashinyan is mostly focused on his internal government failures and the major protests that are being formed all over Armenia. Even now Pashinyan continues to use Western rhetoric regarding the protests, labeling them as Russian-led groups, seeking to disturb peace. However, no matter how much he wants to portray these reactions against his failures as Russian-backed “color revolutions”, his accusations have no basis in reality. What matters is that in reality, thousands of people lost their homes, their lives, and in a way their own identities, by relying on a man who had no desires other than saving his political image and position of authority over Armenia.
Azerbaijan’s Political Maneuvers: The Hidden Hand of Israel
Over the last few years, Azerbaijan has been benefiting from its close alliance with Israel. For someone who might not be involved in the geopolitics of the Caucasus area, this alliance might seem very random. However, both states have been benefiting from each other, and with the current victory of Azerbaijan, and the ongoing war of Israel against Hamas, this alliance might grow even stronger. Israel has enjoyed the imports of oil from Azerbaijan and in return, Azerbaijan has received much-needed weaponry. Weapons and military technology that were critical to their victory in Nagorno-Karabakh.
It has been reported that at least 60% of Azerbaijan’s weapons purchases came directly from Israel. Tactical and intelligence drones in particular, that provided an advantage over the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh, were critical in the victory of Azerbaijan. By supplying weapons to Azerbaijan, Israel managed to get access to a steady oil supply and be within proximity of its archenemy, Iran. This discreet alliance between Baku and Tel Aviv has allowed Israeli forces valuable access to Azeri infrastructure and airfields. Reports from within the country show Mossad agents operating near the borders with Iran. It is speculated that the border region between Azerbaijan and Iran is a vital area for the ongoing spy network of Israel against Iranian forces.
Antagonizing Iran is the main driving force behind this alliance. However, supporting Azerbaijan against Armenia has also various economic results for Israel. Thousands of Armenians have fled their lands, leaving behind the vast lands needed for development. Azerbaijan has announced the promotion of lucrative investments in the stolen lands of what was once been the Republic of Artsakh. As a result, this has attracted the attention of Israeli companies that cannot wait to get their hands on these investment opportunities. These investments are mostly focused on the renewable energy, health, and agriculture sectors.
The Role of The Big Players
A war between two states affects not only the nations fighting but also a plethora of various states seeking to benefit by siding and supporting the right side. One such nation is Erdogan’s Turkey. Since the resurrection of this conflict back in 2020, Turkey has been a close ally of Azerbaijan, providing it with weapons, resources, and valuable political security against Armenia. The unconditional support of Turkey towards Azerbaijan brought numerous benefits to Turkey. Primarily, it guaranteed a steady flow of oil towards it, which allowed Turkey to diversify from its energy dependency on Russia. In addition, apart from its energy security concerns covered, Turkey can also benefit economically from Azerbaijan’s win. With the war over and the Nagorno-Karabakh area cleared of ethnic Armenians, Azerbaijan can focus on building valuable infrastructure in the area, focusing on creating a road towards its exclave Nakhchivan, which can be a significant economic boost for trading between both nations.
Apart from Turkey, the U.S., E.U., and Israel can be more than happy to see Azerbaijan dominate in the area, as that means that Azerbaijan can potentially replace Russia as a reliable energy partner. Of course, the support of the U.S and the E.U countries towards Azerbaijan has been labeled as hypocritical as we listen every day on the news platforms how they denounce violence and worry about the protection of human rights, yet they purposefully ignore the crimes that Azerbaijan has committed.
How else could someone describe their behavior if not hypocritical, when they have allowed Azerbaijan to desecrate one of the world’s oldest Christian communities? There have already been reports about the destruction of Christian monuments and churches. This systematic destruction of cultural heritage will only get worse, as thousands of Armenians flee from the area fearing for their lives. Not to mention the numerous acts of barbarity committed by the Azerbaijani forces. Torture, beheadings, and executions of Armenian soldiers, the use of cluster and phosphorus munitions against civilians, psychological and physical violence against women and children, and many more horrific actions committed by the armed forces of Azerbaijan. Yet, we see no condemnation from the West, we do see however leaders praising Azerbaijan as a strategic energy partner, sacrificing every inch of integrity left in them just to go against Russia in the hopes of weakening the country.
Lastly, a state that was mentioned already a few times in this conflict is Russia. The Russian Federation has been the de facto political actor in the area and the conflict. Unlike other countries that seek to choose a side, Russia has been trying to achieve a balance between both fighting sides, as it is vital for it to remain as neutral as possible, hoping to bring stability to the area. Russia has deep historical ties with Armenia due to a common religion and common strategic ambitions. However, Russia needs to treat Azerbaijan with the same mutual respect, as it risks losing its sphere of influence in the Caucasus to Turkey and the West.
While some would suggest that the defeat of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh could pose a setback for Russia, they will be undeniably mistaken. With the defeat of Armenia, the noose is getting tighter on Nikol Pashinyan and his pro-western government. Massive protests erupted in Yerevan and other major cities in Armenia, calling for the resignation of Pashinyan and dissolution of the government. Something like that could only benefit Moscow, as a shift towards a pro-Russian stance in the internal affairs of Armenia will guarantee Russia’s grip on the region.
No matter who gains more from Azerbaijan’s victory, one thing is for certain. Thousands of people lost their lives and homes over the past three years. Thousands of people found themselves as refugees in their land. They have been witnesses to the barbarity of Azerbaijan’s forces and their hatred towards Christianity. They have seen the international community failing them and close allies turning their backs on them. In the end, another proxy war has ended, with all the different players involved gaining different things. Cruelty and barbarism from the Azerbaijani side have masqueraded as a just war, while ignorance from the West has been labeled as a strategic partnership. Three years later, peace has been labeled as a massive exodus for the Armenian people and the destruction of the Christian community.