Int'l affairs expert
Azerbaijan has been actively engaged in a propaganda campaign for several weeks, attempting to portray Armenia as preparing for an attack. Typically, in such situations, Baku lays the groundwork for a potential military attack. Furthermore, there is evidence of reservist mobilization in Azerbaijan, and social media is flooded with videos depicting the movements of Azerbaijani armed forces. We discussed the potential Azerbaijani attack on Armenia with two individuals: Tigran Abrahamyan, a military expert and an opposition member of the RA National Assembly, and Armen Petrosyan, an expert specializing in regional affairs.
Tigran Abrahamyan highlights that Baku’s information campaign can be interpreted in two ways: as a method of pressuring Armenia to secure concessions or as a precursor to war. “The situation is such that there are factors working in favor of initiating a war, so to speak, and there are factors favoring the avoidance of a war. During this period, it is challenging to unequivocally determine whether we are on the brink of war or if Azerbaijan is attempting to exert influence over Armenia to secure desired concessions by demonstrating its military strength”-says Abrahamyan. He states that currently, it is difficult to ascertain whether a war is imminent or if this is a form of blackmail, a threat, or a looming specter over Armenia. “This uncertainty arises from our past experiences in similar situations, where we encountered diverse circumstances under similar indicators. State institutions, which possess more comprehensive access to information, may have a clearer perspective. However, what is observable in the political and informational spheres, as well as on the front lines, still fails to provide a definitive answer regarding the likelihood of war”-adds Abrahamyan.
Turning to the question of the potential direction of Azerbaijan’s attack, Abrahamyan states that in both scenarios, there are factors that could lead analysts to believe that the conflict might escalate either in Armenia or Artsakh. “For instance, in the case of Armenia, negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to have reached an impasse. In such situations, when diplomatic negotiations stall, the likelihood of military action tends to increase.Regarding Artsakh, it’s worth noting the presidential elections that took place on September 9. Azerbaijan has issued stern warnings in recent days in response to these elections and has previously advocated for the dissolution of the government system in Artsakh.”,- highlights Abrahamyan.
He believes that these two examples illustrate that the threat could manifest in either direction. “It remains challenging to predict Azerbaijan’s current intentions definitively. Nevertheless, it is evident from the public statements of Azerbaijani leadership that they do not rule out the use of force as a means of resolving these issues’’, states the member of the RA Parliament. The opposition MP firmly believes that to navigate the challenging regional situation, there must be a change of leadership in Armenia.
According to Armen Petrosyan Azerbaijan’s policy serves as a textbook example of military diplomacy. It employs both the overt threat and potential use of force simultaneously to extract maximum unilateral concessions from its adversaries. “This means that Azerbaijan is actively working to advance its own agenda in relation to Armenia and Artsakh by heightening the likelihood of a new war and establishing the essential political and informational groundwork for such an eventuality. Furthermore, even in times of diplomacy and negotiations, Azerbaijan retains the option of implementing its plans through military means”,- says Petrosyan. He highlights that the possibility of a big war persists, but this potential war is consistently delayed due to ongoing backstage diplomacy operating in parallel. “Various mediators are actively engaged in presenting the Armenian side with a revised plan for implementing Azerbaijan’s new demands. Simultaneously, these mediators are employing their limited resources to exert influence on Azerbaijan, with the aim of preventing a new war from erupting. This is the reason why we have seen diplomacy yielding limited results so far, as Azerbaijan continues its extensive campaign of leveraging the threat of force, yet a parallel war has not materialized, but which can break out at any moment”- states Petrosyan.
He mentions that Azerbaijan is actively laying the groundwork for potential actions in both Armenia and Artsakh’s directions. “In the event of a new war, it’s crucial to recognize that the situation extends beyond Armenia and Artsakh alone. Notably, there is a Russian peacekeeping presence in Artsakh, and the potential for a new military operation there also hinges on separate negotiations involving Artsakh, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Regarding Armenia, particularly in the Syunik region, Azerbaijan must consider the stances of Iran and other global players. This multifaceted geopolitical landscape adds to the complexity of the situation, making it quite precarious. Simultaneously, there is the possibility of initiating new military operations in both directions, but at the moment, behind-the-scenes diplomacy appears to be more active. It’s important to note that the war, in whichever direction it starts, naturally also creates an opportunity to open a second front in the other direction”, -says expert. He also underscores that Azerbaijan has received steadfast support, both in the past and presently, from Turkey, further exacerbating the situation.
Regarding how Armenia can prevent a war, Petrosyan highlights the limited tools at Armenia’s disposal. “The primary and most reliable means is Armenia’s military potential, which could deter Azerbaijan from initiating a new war. However, the military balance has not yet been fully restored. Another avenue currently being pursued involves active political steps on the diplomatic front, including intensified negotiations. In recent days, there has been a notable increase in diplomatic efforts, especially on the part of the Republic of Armenia. The Armenian Prime Minister has initiated several telephone conversations, including with the President of Iran, and messages have been dispatched to international organizations and UN Security Council member states. It’s worth noting that there haven’t been active contacts with Russia in this regard, possibly due to recent tensions between the two countries, at least at the propaganda level. However, this situation may also be influenced by Russia’s recent behavior and the perceived ineffectiveness of Russia’s actions during previous escalations. Nevertheless, initiating a dialogue with Russia is important in order to fully leverage diplomatic channels to their maximum extent’’- mentions Petrosyan.
When discussing Armenia’s expectations from its allied and friendly countries, particularly Russia and Iran, the expert highlights the following: “Armenia naturally expects Russia to limit Azerbaijan’s military aggression. However, recent events have shown that Russia has faced challenges in achieving this goal. This is influenced by several factors, including the strong Azerbaijan-Turkey alliance and Russia’s strategic interests in maintaining a balanced relationship with this alliance. Additionally, Russia seeks to avoid escalating tensions in the region and inadvertently, its approach may put pressure on Armenia, leading to concessions.
In the case of Iran, Armenia’s key expectation is for Iran to affirm its position on the inviolability of regional borders and the preservation of territorial integrity. Armenia hopes that Iran will demonstrate its willingness to take concrete steps to promote these principles. Essentially, if Iran consistently advocates for its position, it could significantly deter Azerbaijan’s aggressive actions in the Syunik region as well”.
The situation is such that there are factors working in favor of initiating a war, so to speak, and there are factors favoring the avoidance of a war. During this period, it is challenging to unequivocally determine whether we are on the brink of war or if Azerbaijan is attempting to exert influence over Armenia to secure desired concessions by demonstrating its military strength.
Regional affairs expert
Azerbaijan is actively working to advance its own agenda in relation to Armenia and Artsakh by heightening the likelihood of a new war and establishing the essential political and informational groundwork for such an eventuality. Furthermore, even in times of diplomacy and negotiations, Azerbaijan retains the option of implementing its plans through military means.