On November 10th the official ceasefire agreement was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The resulting consequence is the withdrawal of Armenian troops while Nagorno-Karabakh will remain within Azerbaijan.
When comparing the military budgets, airpower, land force, logistics and even international support, Azerbaijan clearly holds a dominant position. The only advantage that Armenia held was the ethnic Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh. This comparison is important in answering the question of why this conflict even happened and who stands to gain from its result. The official statements from both sides accuse one another of starting the conflict. However, it is clear that Azerbaijan had the upper hand and a window of opportunity to settle the dispute. On the other hand, Armenia had a lot to gain from this conflict but not nearly enough means to be successful.
Analyzing the international context leads us to two important actors. Turkey supported Azerbaijan in this conflict offering logistical and even military support. Azerbaijan became the number one exporter of natural gas for Turkey and key pipelines pass through Nagorno-Karabakh. Even if we set aside the religious aspect of this support, Azerbaijan is the key factor in lowering Turkey’s energy dependency on Russia. On the other hand, Russia is seeking to maintain its influence over the conflict and the region. Considering that the (pro-European) Armenian government is blamed for the loss, Russia might be using the conflict to appeal to the Armenian people. By brokering a peace agreement, Russia managed to fulfill Baku’s ambitions while saving what little pride is left for Yerevan.
What happens now? Russia’s and Turkey’s peacekeeping forces are to be deployed in the region to maintain stability in the aftermath of the conflict. Two scenarios are possible from this point on, both of which depending on the movement the Armenian population in the disputed region. Losing the war, being subject to Azeri rule and presence of peacekeepers may further undermine the legitimacy of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic), forcing discouraged people to leave their homes. If the Armenian population in this region decreases drastically it will further weaken Armenia’s influence over this region and will benefit Azerbaijan in establishing its full territorial integrity. The other option would entail that the given factors will not cause the Armenian population to leave, thus making room for some diplomatic activity. Depending on this factor, we stand to see what the future holds.
Who won? History will remember Azerbaijan as winning this conflict by sheer military volume deployed to secure Nagorno-Karabakh within its territory. Baku is celebrating while Yerevan is protesting against its government. In reality, there are no winners. Casualties in this conflict count thousands – that’s how many times both sides lost. Wars break out because diplomacy fails and for the same reason people lost their lives. There is no justification.