Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict: why Turkey’s intervention could turn it into a “proxy war”
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AMY GOOD MAN: This is Democracy now! The quarantine report. I am Amy Goodman, as we spend the rest of the hour watching the ongoing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, where at least 300 people have died since the violence began. two weeks ago – the real death the toll should be much higher. Russia said the two countries had agreed to talks in Moscow, which are expected to take place today, a sign that a ceasefire may be on the table. French President Emmanuel Macron said that – his office said the two countries were, I quote, “heading for a truce … but it’s still fragile”.
Nagorno-Karabakh is inside Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians. It was the site of a bloody conflict following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many fear that this latest peak of conflict, the worst since the 1990s, could spark a regional war, with Turkey openly supporting Azerbaijan and Russia allied to Armenia. The Guardian reports Syrian rebel fighters pledged to work with private Turkish forces in Azerbaijan, and Turkey would provide Azerbaijan with drones and weapons. In an interview with Sky News earlier this week, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Turkey of continuing its genocidal policy against the Armenian people.
FIRST MINISTER NIKOL PASHINYAN: [translated] It is absolutely not inflammatory language when I say that it is Turkey’s policy to prosecute the Armenian genocide. Let’s look at what Turkey is implementing in the Mediterranean, in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq. For me, there is no doubt that this is a policy of continuing the Armenian genocide and a policy of restoring the Turkish empire.
AMY GOOD MAN: Amnesty International reports Azerbaijan has used cluster bombs banned in civilian areas.
Well, to find out more, we go to Concord, Massachusetts, where we are joined by Anna Ohanyan, professor of political science and international relations at Stonehill College. She is the author of Russia Abroad: Driving the Regional Divide in Post-Communist Eurasia and Beyond and Network regionalism as conflict management.
welcome to Democracy now!, Professor Ohanyan. It’s great to have you with us. It’s an area of the world that I think most people in the United States don’t pay much attention to. If you can talk about what exactly is going on, while the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan are now coming to Moscow today, apparently, for peace talks? But what happened? Why has this conflagration grown?
ANNA OHANYAN: Thank you very much, Amy, for covering the developments, the ongoing violence, the Nagorno-Karabakh offensive of Azerbaijan and Turkey, the coordinated offensive.
As you already mentioned, Turkey came, supported Azerbaijan diplomatically before, as well as the formation of the Azerbaijani army. But this particular involvement, the specific type of intervention, the intervention of Turkey alongside Azerbaijan, is very destabilizing in terms of support with the mercenaries, as well as the drone technology. It creates the conditions to transform this conflict into a proxy war.
But there are two main perspectives, which have been applied to analyze what happened. Much of the easier-to-understand, “two-dimensional” geopolitical analysis, what I would call, has been described – has been spread and has explained this conflict as a resurgence of Turkey trying to enter the Caucasus. South as a regional power broker, although Erdogan has self-proclaimed his foreign policy to be neo-Ottoman, essentially challenging Turkish territorial borders recognized by the Treaty of Lausanne. So the geopolitical analysis will also make us think of this as a confrontation between Russia and Turkey.
But I think this narrative is really missing a lot which is very under the radar and has not been picked up as much by international media coverage. And the key development here is the domestic factors that determine the foreign policies of these countries, Turkey and Azerbaijan. In particular, what is missing from the speech is that two years ago Armenia experienced a democratic breakthrough, the Velvet Revolution, which was from the bottom up, led by popular power, a campaign of non-violent disobedience. And it created – was very important for the South Caucasus, because it created a democratic dyad with neighboring Georgia, already being a democratic society. Social science and peace research studies have established that when in a region a democratic pole is strengthened, it creates a cause, it creates pressure on the authoritarian pole – in this case, Azerbaijan – towards democratization.
So this Aliyev regime, which – where President Aliyev inherited his seat from his father and prepares his wife to take over – then Aliyev, for a while, seemed, tried to be much more accommodating . However, within two years the protests in Belarus also collapsed and people kept naming Lukashenko as the last dictator in Europe, which is misinterpreted as Aliyev is in fact probably the last dictator. from Europe. This Aliyev, instead of really trying to go in that direction, shot in Turkey. I think the democratic dyad between change, structure, has strengthened the democratic pole in the South Caucasus, and therefore created an important avenue to alleviate the conflict. This was mainly compensated by authoritarian coordination between Azerbaijan and Turkey.
So the entry of Turkey, I mentioned, changes the structure of the conflict, because by bringing in mercenaries from Syria, it does two very important and unfortunate things. It introduces privatization and privatizes violence in a country. Probably those types of state formation conflicts that you see, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, are already difficult to negotiate through a negotiated settlement, but they are also difficult to win militarily. So to introduce this element, the change of the structure of this conflict by Turkey, is very destabilizing for the region. Also –
AMY GOOD MAN: Now let’s talk about the importance of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan going to Moscow today for peace talks. Of course, Putin, we know, is fundamentally COVID bunker since March, does not see many people. They have to be quarantined for two weeks before they can see it, go through disinfectant tunnels, just like that. But why Moscow? And what do you think will come out of it?
ANNA OHANYAN: I definitely am – any pressure, any diplomatic attention to end hostilities is good news. I think at this point the challenge is to end the violence. Turkey was the only country among the regional powers, the big powers that matter, to push for a militarized solution, which would be – any militarized solution to the conflict would also be a loss for the Azerbaijani people. It would be very difficult for Azerbaijani society to embark on the path of democracy.
The role of Russia, in particular, here I have to say, Russia has been the adult in the play. Russia, contrary to what I referred to, the geopolitical analysis, which would have clashes between Russia and Turkey – obviously there are tensions. Obviously, Russia and Turkey are on different camps in the conflicts in Syria, in Libya. But here it is indeed the historical backyard of Russia since before the Soviet Union. And what’s important here is that Russia played – the Kremlin played a very institutional role. Unlike Turkey, it uses all the regional organizations and institutional channels it has created. The question, then, is whether the Kremlin will have enough leverage to put pressure on both sides. I’m afraid it’s Turkey here, that’s the big factor. That Russia attracts the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan is truly wonderful. It is important. So for now, but I’m not sure, again, how the Turkish factor will be treated.
AMY GOOD MAN: We just –
ANNA OHANYAN: Any –
AMY GOOD MAN: We only have 30 seconds.
ANNA OHANYAN: Sure.
AMY GOOD MAN: But you called Azerbaijan an authoritarian petro-state. And the area we are talking about, Nagorno-Karabakh, is an area of pipelines, of oil. It is this oil-rich region. Why is this important?
ANNA OHANYAN: This is very important, because, again, from a global perspective, The Economist magazine has just published a very important report that global capital markets are moving towards a green energy order. So it will be in the – this report also pointed out, unsurprisingly, that it puts pressure on petro-states to shift towards taxation, taxing their citizens, which will force them to engage and to build representative institutions.
This is a war of diversion from Aliyev’s side, which has been – the internal discontent has been enormous. And Aliyev a – authoritarianism in Azerbaijan was fueled by oil, by pipelines. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan became an independent country and began to control its oil resources. Unfortunately, the –
AMY GOOD MAN: We have five seconds.
ANNA OHANYAN: Yes, this authoritarianism, this militarism has not been questioned, and we see it playing out in Nagorno-Karabakh.
AMY GOOD MAN: And we will, of course, continue to follow that. Anna Ohanyan, thank you very much for being with us, professor of political science and international relations at Stonehill College. His books include Russia abroad.
It does it for our show. Be careful. Wear a mask. Save lives. I am Amy Goodman.