Ilham Aliyev is prepared to recover Karabakh

Agency WPS
May 17, 2004, Monday


SOURCE: Izvestia (Moscow), May 14, 2004, p. 1

by Maxim Yusin


Azerbaijan intends to resume a dispute over Nagorny Karabakh. This is
the essence of a statement made by President Ilham Aliyev of
Azerbaijan at a ceremony of opening of a new military unit in

Aliyev stated: “The Azerbaijani people and the army may at any moment
make moves aimed at restoring the territorial integrity of the state.
International laws let us do this. Azerbaijan will try to solve the
Karabakh conflict by means of negotiations. If we see that the
dialogue is fruitless we will liberate occupied territories at any

Aliyev announced these threats on May 12, the tenth anniversary of
cease-fire agreements between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In addition,
Aliyev knew that Armenian President Robert Kocharyan would visit
Moscow on Friday. Baku sent a signal to Moscow and Yerevan:
Azerbaijan is not satisfied with the progress of settling of the
Karabakh conflict.

Are Aliyev’s threats serious?

Is Azerbaijan prepared for resuming a war for Karabakh? Such
prospects are unlikely despite Ilham Aliyev’s bellicose statements.

The majority of experts state that the Azerbaijani Army is not
prepared for defeating Armenian units. Of course, the ratio of force
has changed over the past ten years. Azerbaijan has been spending a
substantial part of oil export revenues on the modernization of its
army. At present it’s much stronger than in 1992-1994. Meanwhile, no
one can guarantee that it can win a victory in a war against Armenia.
It is evident that Armenia will use all reserves to help Nagorny
Karabakh. The point is that Armenian President Robert Kocharyan was
born in Stepanakert and headed the state defense committee in Nagorny
Karabakh in 1992-1994.

No one needs this war

It is hardly likely that the war will break out because Azerbaijan
does not need it.

A new armed conflict will be disastrous for the regional economy.
Azerbaijan’s oil sector will become a victim of this war. Foreign
investment will go down. The war will pose a threat to oil pipelines.

It would be advantageous for Ilham Aliyev to unleash this war if
something threatened his positions, and the army and the special
service were unreliable. A “small victorious war” would unite the
nation and improve the leader’s popularity.

However, all this does not concern Aliyev. His regime is very stable.
This means that it’s senseless to run such risk. It shouldn’t be
forgotten that Ilham Aliyev’s predecessors (Ayaz Mutalibov and
Abulfaz Elchibei) were dismissed because of military failures.

Baku’s demarche is a sign for Moscow

To all appearance, Aliyev’s statements in Nakhichevan are a
propagandistic shot in a verbal war. Baku is dissatisfied with the
performance of the Minsk OSCE group, which consists of Russia, France
and the US, and plays the role of an intermediary in settling of the
Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan is sure that it plays its role

The government of Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated that the conflict
has not been stopped, negotiations do not advance, and seven
Azerbaijani regions remain under Armenia’s control. This means that 1
million refugees from the conflict zone cannot return home. Baku
thinks that the conflict has not been settled yet because of Russia’s
passivity. It seems that Moscow is satisfied with the current state
of affairs.

Ilham Aliyev hints that Azerbaijan cannot put up with such a
situation. If the process of negotiations does not move off dead
center he is prepared to start a diplomatic attack.

Armenian Army

50,000 servicemen, $79 million (4% of GDP)

The Ground Force has four motorized infantry brigades, ten detached
infantry regiments, one artillery brigade, two anti-aircraft
brigades. In addition, the Armenian Army has air, anti-aircraft,
reconnaissance and military engineering units.

Azerbaijani Army

70,000 servicemen, $140 million (2.6% of GDP)

The Armed Forces of Azerbaijan are stronger that the armies of
Armenia and Georgia. They consist of the Ground Force, the Navy and
the Air and Anti-Aircraft Force. The Azerbaijani Army has a huge
arsenal of ammunition inherited from the USSR. The Azerbaijani Army
received 230 tanks, 360 armored personnel carriers, 200 artillery
complexes, combat helicopters, 11 Su-25r assault planes, five
MiG-25RB interceptors and one Su-25 assault plane from arsenals of
the 4th army of the Soviet Armed Forces. Military experts think that
Azerbaijan seeks to create the strongest army in the region. The
command is prepared to deploy troops consisting of 125,000 to 165,000
servicemen in wartime (including reservists).

The Army of Nagorny Karabakh

25,000 servicemen (20% of GDP)

Nagorny Karabakh has ground, tank, missile-artillery, anti-aircraft,
reconnaissance and special battalions created on the basis of the
National Guard.

Translated by Alexander Dubovoi