The war between Azerbaijan & Armenia is taking place over “Nagorno-Karabakh” which is a disputed territory but is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Even though it is declared as independent by the people of the area, but Armenia provides all kind of assistance to the de-facto regime. After recent conflict between the two countries, the conflict will pull in more countries especially Turkey and Russia. This is going to have implications beyond the security and energy. Historical, cultural, Geo-political, Geo Strategic & economic factors are turning this into a cold between Turkey & Russia.
Russia recently conducted two Military exercises “KavKaz 2020” (Armenia) “Slavic brotherhood” (Belarus). The situation building up in Belarus & Armenia is favorable for Russia considering Russian expansion in Georgia 2008, Ukraine 2014. Both countries can call on direct Russian military intervention under Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Interestingly just like Syria Russian military base in Armenia makes the whole game very complex.
Russia considers Armenia to be a strategic partner in the South Caucasus region, Russia is top gas and arms exporter to Armenia. Armenia means whole Caucasus region Plus connectivity with Central Asia. Russian wants to secure the Western Flank via military presence in Armenia. But the only obstacle in this is idea of Pan-Turkic state across the central Asia. Due to historical reasons these central Asia countries consider themselves close to Turkey. This conflict is the new battleground for the cold War between Russia and Turkey. After middle East and North Africa its reaching Central Asia. Russia will not allow Turkey to expand its influence.
Russian Bases in Armenia
Erebun Airbase, Armenia (Russian 3624th Air base) hosts 18 MiG-29s fighter aircrafts and 18 Mi-24 attack helicopters while S-300 air defense system are also deployed at the base. While a Russian 102nd Military Base is in Gyumri, right next to Turkish Border. Overall, roughly 5000 Russian Troops are present in Armenia.
Turkey and Azerbaijan also have conducted Joint Military drills While Nakhchivan base in Azerbaijan is home to Turkish forces. With alleged active participation of TAF F-16 & UAVs in the conflict it is raising the level of concerns regarding the intensity of the conflict. Even though Azerbaijan army has advantage over Armenia in terms of High-Tech but strategically Armenian forces hold peaks of mountains giving them Strategic edge over Azerbaijan. In worse case Russia/Armenia can stop the South-Caucasus pipeline, Azerbaijan-Turkey.
Role of NATO
This is interconnected with Belarus & what is happening in Middle East and North Africa. The role of NATO is very relevant let us see how NATO responds, will NATO stand with Turkey to contain Russia or is this the final nail in the coffin of NATO.
Role of Pakistan
Pakistan was among one of the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan. Due to Historical cultural religious grounds both countries enjoy good relations. But the most significant connecting between both countries is that both are dealing with a similar dispute, Pakistan is occupied with Kashmir dispute while Azerbaijan is having this dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. The case is similar to what is unfolding across the LOC (India-Pak Kashmir), This conflict provides good case study on how to deal with India across the LOC. Pakistan can learn the model applied by Azerbaijan to form strategy to deal with the crisis with India at LOC, especially use of UAV’s & Modern warfare.
Meanwhile this is great opportunity to enhance military cooperation. Pakistan can supply Azerbaijan JF-17 Thunder which will give them Air superiority in case of further escalation.
Role of Iran
This is interesting case for Iran Pan-Islamist foreign policy. Even though both Iran and Azerbaijan are Shia dominated countries, traditionally both countries relation not remained very good. Iran covertly supported Armenia during Turkish and Azerbaijan economic sanction after Nagorno-Karabakh crisis (1994), which pushed Azerbaijan to establish ties with other countries including Israel. Azerbaijan imports arms from Israel while Iran exports hydrocarbons & gas to Armenia. Just like Turkey and Azerbaijan- Armenian-Iranian railway line and gas pipeline bring both Iran and Armenia together and more importantly the Russian umbrella which helps both countries to deal with International diplomatic isolation. Iran will officially offer mediation, but will Iran again covertly support Armenia this is the real question.
Author: Talha Ahmad (Editor in Chief PSF)
About Author: Talha Ahmad is a Freelance Journalist. He is an independent Geo-Political Analyst, commentator, and keen observer of International relations. Talha Ahmad opinions have been featured in different News-websites like Daily times, Pakistan Today, Global Village Space, Morning Mail. He can be reached on twitter @talhahamad967.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Pakistan Strategic Forum.