For more than a month now, the long-simmering skirmishes between Azerbaijan and the Armenians have broken out into open conflict. This development is largely being driven by the fact that the conflict has essentially turned into a proxy war. Azeri forces are sporting plenty of new Turkish hardware and are being bolstered by militias believed to be composed of some of the Turkish tyrant Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s thugs. All of this activity has had the region on edge, bringing back memories of the Armenian genocide.
But as of yesterday, things may be in the process of cooling down. Maybe. A ceasefire has been arranged, not by the two warring parties, but by Russia. The Russians have long backed the Armenians, while Turkey has sided with the Azerbaijanis. But this wasn’t just a matter of simple diplomacy. The terms of the agreement call for thousands of Russian troops to be stationed in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave (where most of the fighting is taking place) to keep the peace by force if required. But the agreement comes at a price that the Armenians don’t seem eager to accept. (Associated Press)
Armenia and Azerbaijan announced an agreement early Tuesday to halt fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan under a pact signed with Russia that calls for deployment of nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers and territorial concessions.
Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a 1994 truce ended a separatist war in which an estimated 30,000 people died. Sporadic clashes occurred since then, and full-scale fighting began on Sept. 27…
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Facebook that calling an end to the fight was “extremely painful for me personally and for our people.”
While the rest of the world would like to see an end to this bloody stalemate, any sort of lasting peace is hardly assured, even with the presence of Russian troops. The agreement calls for the Armenians to concede significant portions of the territory they have occupied for generations, including the city of Shushi which was overrun by the Azeri forces this weekend. Armenians flooded the public square in Yerevan last night, chanting “we won’t give up our land.” The Armenian Prime Minister may find his career in trouble if he sticks to this agreement against the wishes of his people. Fighting the Azerbaijanis is pretty much the defining characteristic of the current generation of Armenians at this point and expecting them to simply give up and go home would be out of character.
But it’s not just the Armenians who are unhappy. Mere hours after the agreement was announced, Azeri forces shot down a Russian helicopter on the other side of the region that was flying near the Iranian and Turkish borders. Two Russian military personnel were killed.
Azerbaijan said Monday that it shot down a Russian military helicopter that was flying over Armenia. Two Russian servicemen were killed.
The helicopter was shot down as it flew near the border with the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, which is surrounded by Armenia, Iran and Turkey. The area is distant from Nagorno-Karabakh, the region where Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have been fighting heavily since late September.
Shooting down a Russian aircraft that wasn’t even near the disputed region where most of the fighting has been going on seems like a significant escalation of hostilities. And we can’t rule out the possibility that Azerbaijan was using some of their new Turkish hardware to pull it off. This situation definitely appears to be edging closer and closer to a full-scale proxy war between Turkey and Russia. That would be something of a surprise, because Erdogan has been cozying up to Vladimir Putin for the last couple of years, going so far as to sign contracts to purchase missile systems and fighter jets from Moscow. The last thing the world needs is yet another war breaking out, but this very old fight is clearly drawing in new combatants and complicating the situation in the region considerably.