Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Georgia-Russia Conflict: Possible Implications for Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh

Part 4 of a 6 part essay on the recent conflict in Georgia, its causes, and its potential implications.

Ukraine, though, should not be as worried about possible Russian involvement in Crimea as Azerbaijan should be about a possible Russian intervention in its breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. This predominantly Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan was able to break away from Azerbaijani rule with the help of the military of the country of Armenia in the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In fact, by the time a ceasefire agreement was reached, Karabakh and Armenian troops were in control of all of Nagorno-Karabakh as well a significant amount of the surrounding territory, including some that bordered Armenia, which allowed for a direct overland connection between Armenia proper and Nagorno-Karabakh.[1]

The Azerbaijanis have naturally been unhappy with the autonomy of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian troops occupying much of its territory, but they have not had sufficient military might to challenge the status quo.[2] Still, tensions have remained high: skirmishes between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops continue to erupt sporadically, and Azerbaijan has steadily invested its new oil wealth into building up its military, seemingly with the goal of eventually being strong enough to retake the enclave by force.[3]

In taking action with regard to Nagorno-Karabakh, though, Azerbaijan must contend not only with Armenia, but also with Russia, which has been shipping arms and natural gas to Armenia and maintains a sizeable military base in the country. As with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia’s support of Nagorno-Karabakh through Armenia has nothing to do with any sympathy towards the Armenian enclave but rather is a means by which to weaken Azerbaijan.[4] Russia certainly has an interest in undermining Azerbaijan: in addition to being one of its bordering countries, Azerbaijan is also the origin of several East-West oil and natural gas pipelines (some of which run through Georgia) that bypass Russian soil, helping to loosen Russia’s hold on European energy markets. [5] In light of its successful, fairly unimpeded operations against Georgia through South Ossetia and Abkhazia last month, Russia may decide to reassert its dominance over Azerbaijan and, by extension, over energy markets by escalating the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.


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1 comment:

bathmate said...

Thank you for posting.
it is really helpful to all.
such a nice topics.