October 2, 2020

Nagorno-Karabakh

“Armenia and Azerbaijan accused one another on Tuesday of firing directly into each other’s territory and rejected pressure to hold peace talks as their conflict over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh threatened to mushroom into all-out war… Further stoking tensions between the two former Soviet republics, Armenia said a Turkish F-16 fighter jet had shot down one of its warplanes over Armenian airspace, killing the pilot.” Reuters

“The two former Soviet states have clashed over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-controlled enclave internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, for three decades… The enclave’s ethnic Armenians declared independence in 1991 [after the Soviet Union collapsed]. War erupted between Azerbaijan, which insisted on the inviolability of its borders, and the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, who received support from Armenia itself. By 1994, the Armenians had succeeded in driving the Azerbaijani army from the enclave and large surrounding swathes of land…

“The United Nations still recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan’s territory; no country considers the enclave an independent country — not even Armenia, which also hasn’t formally annexed it but supports the region financially and militarily. Since then, the two countries have hunkered down on either side of a line of control marked by landmines and snipers.” Politico

“Armenia says that on Sunday morning, Azerbaijan launched air and artillery attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh, while [Azerbaijan] says it was conducting a ‘counter-offensive in response to military provocation.’ As the fighting turned deadly, Armenia declared martial law and general mobilization. Azerbaijan announced a state of war in some regions.” Politico

“The web of foreign ties in this story is complicated. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, eager for any opportunity to boost his popularity and shift the subject from his country’s struggling economy, fully backs his fellow Turkic Muslims in Azerbaijan. While others call for talks, Erdogan insists that ‘Azerbaijan must take matters into its own hands’ to end Armenia’s ‘occupation’ of the disputed region. Vladimir Putin’s Russia has maintained good relations with Azerbaijan and sold weapons to both countries, but Russia has a military base in Armenia and is bound by treaty to defend Armenia in war. This means that, as in Syria and in Libya’s ongoing civil war, Russia and NATO-member Turkey have opposing interests here…

If the current clashes explode into full-blown war, the damage could be much greater than in the 1990s. This war would be waged with 21st century heavy weapons provided by Russia and Turkey. Erdogan vows his country will only become more involved. There are more than 100,000 civilians caught in the current crossfire. Europe and the United States will again call for a halt to the fighting, but both are distracted with bigger problems closer to home.”
Ian Bremmer, Time

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From the Left

The left is skeptical that US-led mediation would be effective.

“Again, Turkey and Russia find themselves on opposing sides of a febrile front line. Like in Syria and Libya, their proxies -- mercenaries or allied armies -- are battling for control of parts of a Middle East, or Caucasus, where a lighter US footprint has imbalanced the delicate distribution of power…

“Four years of Trump's disengagement, the pandemic, Russia's increased confidence and Turkey's bold regional posturing have created a new dynamic where the old norms can be discarded and destructive opportunities sought. Even if diplomacy suddenly shuts the fighting down in the coming hours, the renewed vigor of rhetoric on both sides means this could flare up again soon.”
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN

“President Donald Trump has expressed a desire to ‘see if we can stop it.’… [but] previous American efforts at mediation don’t allow for any optimism that Trump might succeed this time. In 1997, the U.S. became co-chair of the ‘Minsk Group’ of countries that have been trying to resolve the dispute. Although this was during the zenith of American power and prestige, these efforts, which included the personal interjection of President Bill Clinton, came to naught…

“Russia has had much more success in policing the Caucasus. In 1994, it was Moscow, then at its historical nadir, that persuaded both countries to accept a cease-fire. In 2016, it was Russian pressure that prevented border clashes from turning into a full-bore war. Now Moscow is once again minded to mediate, and President Vladimir Putin is in a much better position than Trump to talk his Armenian and Azeri counterparts back from the brink… The U.S. should stand ready to provide counsel in this effort and, if it comes to that, humanitarian assistance. An American vote — or veto — may be necessary if the dispute is again brought to the United Nations. Beyond that, a more assertive U.S. presence is unlikely to help matters.”
Editorial Board, Bloomberg

From the Right

The right calls for US/EU-led negotiations and diplomatic pressure on Turkey.

The right calls for US/EU-led negotiations and diplomatic pressure on Turkey.

“The scale of the attack suggests that substantial preparation lay behind it and it is unlikely Azerbaijan would have initiated the fight without Turkish guarantees of support. Erdogan does, in fact, have something to prove on the international stage — despite aggressive rhetoric accompanying August’s tensions between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey quietly climbed down when the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Israeli hinted that their support lay with Athens… Armenia, however, represents a far easier target…

“Perhaps the only way in which diplomacy can prevail is if international pressure is put on Turkey — only Ankara has the political and military muscle to force an immediate ceasefire, but it has little to lose by worsening the conflict. The west has an opportunity to reestablish its credibility and assert itself. But it will need to do much more than express ‘grave concern’ if it is going to be taken seriously by its rivals — rivals who understand that it is not western strength that is lacking, but western resolve.”
Tim Ogden, Spectator USA

“It is time for an international peace effort to move to a different platform than the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group, which is co-chaired by a country with vested interests in maintaining the conflict: Russia. By blocking a resolution, the Kremlin tries to keep both Armenia and Azerbaijan off balance and within its orbit. Moscow has been selling weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, in effect fueling the war…

A peace-negotiating format led by the U.S. and the EU must be promptly established — not merely to facilitate a ceasefire, but to push for a lasting resolution in which territorial integrity and full ethnic rights are recognized by both sides. Otherwise, the greater the casualties, the more difficult will it become to achieve a lasting peace.”
Margarita Assenova & Janusz Bugajski, Washington Examiner

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