"Yerevan's armed provocations could start a new Armenian-Azerbaijani war"
    Alexei Khlopotov's forecast on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  06 February 2023 - 10:10

    Vadim Mansurov

    More than two years after the 44-day war, Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to be on the verge of a new confrontation, or to be more precise, a new war. This is how authoritative think tanks, such as the International Crisis Group, assess the current situation between the two countries. Its researchers recently predicted in their report that "the new war will be shorter, but no less dramatic than the conflict of 2020" for Azerbaijan and Armenia.

    We can take different views on such statements, but nevertheless, we must admit that the current position of Yerevan is far from a peaceful agenda, it is full of aggressive revenge towards Azerbaijan, moreover, it directs the situation in the South Caucasus towards a renewed escalation. One way of translating all this into reality for the Armenian side has been to persistently lure "EU civilian missions" into its territory, possibly with the aim of pitting them against Russian military personnel from the peacekeeping contingent, and then to use the conflict factor to initiate a new war.

    Clearly, the appearance in Armenia of extra-regional forces, especially under the leadership of France, which aspires to world leadership, threatens to upset the fragile balance, which is already precarious because of Armenia's aggressive rhetoric. Recent statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who are convinced that the paramilitary mission in Armenia will seriously exacerbate the situation in the South Caucasus and "push it to geopolitical confrontation", are a telling sign that the situation is heating up. Russian diplomats also warned that Russian border guards "will react to the behaviour of EU observers, taking into account developments on the ground".

    Meanwhile, in their report, experts of the International Crisis Group noted that Baku has further strengthened its position after the six-week war. "The Azerbaijani army is several times superior to the Armenian army, it is much better equipped," the study says. Armenia, on the other hand, according to the same experts, has not replenished its troops and armaments for the past two years because Russia, its traditional arms supplier, "lacks reserves".

    Analysts close to the subject have also spoken about the likelihood of a new war in the South Caucasus. According to Russian military expert Alexei Khlopotov, a new war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is almost inevitable. He told Caliber.Az that this is due to the fact that the reasons for the escalation have only further revealed themselves.

    "The war is predetermined by the fact that the territory of Karabakh has never been completely liberated from the Armenian occupants, by the revanchist mood of the Armenian elites, by the unwillingness of the Armenian leadership to negotiate the terms of a peaceful settlement and further neighbourly coexistence. The only question is 'when'? Previously, I had projected 2024 or 2025 as a reasonable period - the transfer of power to Russia and the end of the Russian peacekeepers' tenure. However, with the start of Russia's SMO in Ukraine, everything has changed. Moscow has automatically lost its status as the guarantor of peace in the South Caucasus.

    The Pashinyan regime will try to use the EU mission as a witness to Azerbaijan's 'aggressive' intentions, presenting Armenia as an 'innocent victim'. The scenario for a resumption of hostilities by Armenia will therefore be the same - it will start with a repeat of armed provocations. However, the EU mission, and France in particular, have their own objectives here. It seems to me that France will first try to push Russia out of the region entirely," the military analyst suggests.

    For this purpose, he believes, early termination of the Russian peacekeeping mission and even closure of the military base in Gyumri are possible. Armenia's withdrawal from the CSTO is also very likely, which would be followed by a complete breakup of the bloc.

    On the whole, Khlopotov has no doubt that France will try to form a kind of "second front" against Russia in the South Caucasus.

    "But again I would like to warn the Europeans - whatever agreements they have with Armenia, they should understand that it will deceive them. It will simply take advantage of them. On the other hand, Pashinyan, too, makes a big mistake, thinking that by getting the status of 'victim' he can secure for himself the same support from the international community as Ukraine has today. The fact is that all resources of the so-called 'united West' have been thrown to this very place," he stressed.

    Therefore, Khlopotov believes, no one will help Armenia in a new war against Azerbaijan, and in this sense, the situation is extremely favorable to the coalition of Azerbaijan-Türkiye-Israel.

    "In the event of a new war, Azerbaijan, with the support of Türkiye, should not hesitate to occupy the entire territory of Armenia and dictate its conditions from the position of the winner, from the position of strength. There are all chances for this," the Russian expert urges.

    And Iran's attempts to interfere in this conflict on Armenia's side, in his opinion, "will be just as deadly for Iran itself".

    Khlopotov predicts that Iranian aggression will be deterred by the same Türkiye, supported by Israel, and very possibly by direct US military intervention.

    "There are all conditions for the Americans: hydrocarbons in Iran, a long sea border and ports along with a long-standing American desire to put an end to the regime in Iran and return this country to the democratic path of development, and, of course, to eliminate in principle the threat to Israel from this side. Alas, Russia began to remake the political map of the world by armed means without realizing the consequences. The main consequence of this is the removal of the taboo on the use of military force in international politics in principle. And many people see this as a 'window of opportunity' today," the military expert summed up.


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