It’s the Russians’s fault! It’s the fault of the Turks! No, it is the jihadists who once again want the skin of Christians!
The war in Nagorno-Karabakh, awakened a week ago, is an old conflict of local identity, on territories tragically mixed between two former Soviet republics, yet the poisoned gift of Joseph Stalin.
But it is also a confrontation whose international springs are linked to the most recent developments: American withdrawal (there as elsewhere), neo-
imperial forces of Turkey and Russia, use of mercenaries, not to mention international jihad.
Basically: an enclave with a strong Armenian majority of 150,000 people, officially under the rule of Azerbaijan, but which, with the fall of the USSR, had separated and had requested its reunification with Armenia.
A six-year war followed, between 1988 and 1994, with 30,000 dead and one million displaced or refugees, in both directions.
Sometimes described as a post-era ‘frozen conflict’
Soviet, this clash looks more like a low-intensity war, because outbreaks of violence return periodically: April 2016, July 2020, and again in recent days.
In this face-to-face, Azerbaijan is the local Goliath and Armenia the David who stands up and even wrestles an enclave from his enemy, whom he has held for three decades.
If we widen the geographical perspective, we see on the map a web of influences and proximity: Georgia, Turkey and Iran are at the door; Russia, Iraq and Syria, not far behind.
On the vertical axis, the Russians in the north, and incidentally Iran in the south, are seen as friends, even protectors, of Armenia. But Moscow, under Putin, has always avoided completely siding with Armenia, sparing its relations with the ex-Azerbaijani vassal and pretending to be the arbiter.
Economically, Azerbaijan is not a negligible quantity, with its oil and its maritime openness, a country three times more populated, three times larger and four times richer (in GDP) than Armenia … and whose army, now supported by Turkey (and apparently by Israel!), has recovered.
Moreover, Baku, in this Karabakh affair, can claim international law, as hardly anyone in the world has recognized the secession of Stepanakert (the “capital”).
Culturally, Armenia has a very strong identity and an influential diaspora, estimated at 10 million people, or three times the country’s population. But economically and militarily, it appears today as the poor relation.
On the horizontal axis of the map, Armenia is caught in a pincer movement between Azerbaijan in the east and huge Turkey in the west, historic enemy, genocidal state in 1915.
On Tayyip Erdogan’s side, there are no Putin-style ambiguities here: Turkey fully supports “the brother and friend country Azerbaijan, with all our heart and by all means […], in diplomacy as on the battlefield ”. Linguistic, cultural and religious kinship (Turkish-speaking, Muslim) plays a major role here.
Erdogan seeks – in the Mediterranean against Greece, in Libya against Russia, in Syria and elsewhere – causes to advance. Its regional expansionism is more and more obvious. Ankara has just added to its priorities a “Turkish” (so to speak) reconquest of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In terms of military methods, Russia and Turkey have brought up to date, in recent years, the hiring of private or semi-private militias to lead by proxy wars or guerrillas confessed (Erdogan) or unacknowledged (Putin) .
This is how the famous Russian “Wagner Group” does Putin’s dirty work in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, without Moscow being held to account. While Erdogan does the same with his auxiliaries from northern Syria (Syrian jihadists) that he moves to go and shoot against the Christian “crusaders” of Stepanakert (several hundred, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights). the man).
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: old like the Caucasus mountains, modern like the last kamikaze drones.
François Brousseau is an international news columnist for Ici Radio-Canada.