World View: Concerns Grow that Azerbaijan Plans Armenia Invasion from Nakhchivan Enclave

Armenian flags (Harout Arabian / Flickr / CC)
Harout Arabian / Flickr / CC

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Tensions grow between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nakhchivan enclave
  • Concerns grow that Azerbaijan plans Armenia invasion from Nakhchivan enclave

Tensions grow between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nakhchivan enclave

Azerbaijan. The disputed enclaves are Nagorno-Karabakh in mid-Azerbaijan, and Nakhchivan (Naxçivan), in the southwest corner of the map, separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory. Not shown on the map, Turkey has a 10 km border with Nakhchivan. (CIA World Factbook)
Azerbaijan. The disputed enclaves are Nagorno-Karabakh in mid-Azerbaijan, and Nakhchivan (Naxçivan) in the southwest corner of the map, separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory. Not shown on the map, Turkey has a 10 km border with Nakhchivan. (CIA World Factbook)

Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been rising quickly in the last month as the result of the movement of Azerbaijan military forces in the enclave of Nakhchivan closer to the border with Armenia.

In recent years, most of the military tension between the two countries has been related to Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of Armenian citizens in the midst of Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan were both part of the Soviet Union empire, but the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to a bloody war between the two countries. The war ended in a ceasefire, with the Armenians in control of several Azerbaijani regions, including Nagorno-Karabakh.

In April 2016, the continuing low-level conflict between the two countries spiraled into a major clash, the worst since 1994, with tanks, heavy artillery, and helicopters. ( “3-Apr-16 World View — Armenia-Azerbaijan escalating conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh threatens the entire region”) Although that clash ended once again in a ceasefire, low-level violence has been almost continuous since then, with each side typically accusing the other of hundreds of ceasefire violations every week.

The new increase in tensions is not in Nagorno-Karabakh, but in Nakhchivan (Naxçivan), an enclave shown in the southwest corner of the above map. Nakhchivan is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by part of Armenia.

Both of the enclaves Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhchivan were created by Soviet leader Josef Stalin, but supposedly for similar reasons: to maintain tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia so that Russia could use its time-tested approach of divide and rule. More important, Stalin wanted to deprive Turkey of a direct land bridge to Azerbaijan and Turkic Central Asia while giving Armenia an external Soviet border to Iran.

Starting in 1993, after Turkey and Azerbaijan closed their borders with Armenia, a railway connecting Kars, in far eastern Turkey, to Central Asia to the Caucasus was proposed. Since October 2017, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway has been transporting goods between Kazakhstan and central Europe, with plans to increase its capacity. Jamestown (12-June) and Vice (8-May-2013) and EurasiaNet (29-June)

Concerns grow that Azerbaijan plans Armenia invasion from Nakhchivan enclave

Some Russian analysts are raising concerns that Azerbaijan is about to invade Armenia from Nakhchivan, based on movements by Azeri troops. If that happens, it would not be long before other countries in the region would begin choosing sides.

During the 1800s, Azerbaijan was a province of Iran, and there is a large Persian population in Azerbaijan, which is particularly heavy in Nakhchivan.

Iran would be able to exert a great deal of control over Nakhchivan if the invasion takes place. Iran controls the only land bridge between Nakhchivan and the rest of Azerbaijan, and so limits the supplies being sent to Nakhchivan. Furthermore, Iran supplies much of the water and electricity to Nakhchivan and could shut them off if desired. However, Iran might support the invasion in return for concessions from Azerbaijan, particularly ending support for the separatist ethnic Azerbaijanis in northern Iran.

Turkey has close relations with Azerbaijan because of the latter’s large Turkic population. Turkey also has a long, bitter history with Armenia, especially after the slaughter and displacement of millions of Armenians in Turkey during World War I. So Turkey might support an Azeri invasion of Armenia.

However, despite the love-fest between Turkey and Russia in Syria in recent years, Turkey and Russia are bitter historic enemies, with centuries of crisis wars in the southern Caucasus, and that enmity would quickly be revived in the case of a new Caucasus war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

On the other hand, Orthodox (Armenian Apostolic) Christians in Armenia are culturally linked to Russian Orthodox Christians, and so Russia would choose the side of Armenia against Azerbaijan.

In the case of an Azerbaijan attack on Armenia, Armenia could invoke a 1997 mutual defense treaty with Russia, and as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Russia’s version of Nato for the former members of the Soviet Union, Armenia has the right to request assistance of any kind, including direct military, from the entire bloc or from its individual member countries. Russia has also promised to provide Armenia with air-defense radars and missiles.

Furthermore, the “Armenian-Russian United Group of Forces,” formed after April 2016 clash, could enter the war. A Russian analysis provides a vitriolic response to complaints from Turkey and Azerbaijan when this force grouping was formed in 2016:

For example, it is widely known that the creation of the Armenian-Russian grouping of troops from the very first days was sharply criticized by Turkey and Azerbaijan, whose policies agitated Moscow to abandon this idea and see exclusively “devoted allies” in Ankara and Baku. It seems that considering all the “knives in the back” that the Turks of Russia have stumbled upon (from the shot down planes in Syria, the murders of pilots to the brazen act of terrorism against the Russian ambassador to Karlov in Ankara) from 2015-16, the hypocrisy of the opponents of creating and operating the Armenian- Russian groupings of troops are more than noticeable. As well as the fact that Moscow was not and does not intend to listen to the pharisaic calls of Ankara and Baku.

The statement alludes to Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane in Syria in November 2015, and the assassination of a Russian diplomat in Ankara in December 2016. Jamestown and Regnum (Russia, 28-June) (Trans) and EurasiaNet (3-July) and Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense

Related Articles:

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Nakhchivan, Naxçivan, Soviet Union, Josef Stalin, Russia, Turkey, Kars, Iran, Collective Security Treaty Organization, CSTO
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