Azerbaijan Has A Lot To Lose Should It Unleash A War: Guardian


There is a sense that the situation over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
might be changing, writies british newspaper Guardian.

"Would the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, go to war for
Karabakh? It is a big question. The defence minister, Safar Abiyev,
spoke in February of the growing likelihood of a "great war" with
Armenia. Azerbaijan has a lot to lose if it does so. It has got rich
quick due to its energy resource development and is the only CIS
country that sustained positive economic growth during the financial
crisis,"reads the article.

The state, according to the author Anna Matveeva, "started to build
roads, rehabilitate schools and resettle its displaced people. The
newly found prosperity conveyed a "feel-good" atmosphere, but it also
brought a new confidence that finally "the game is ours." It cannot
let 15% of its territory be lost for ever without making an earnest
effort to win something back. Any leader with a sense of history
would be mindful that future generations would not forgive him this."

"So Azerbaijan builds up its military capabilities, procures modern
weaponry and trains troops. It also unleashes bellicose rhetoric on
Azerbaijani TV channels, both in the Azeri language and in Russian.

Whether this propaganda is aimed at preparing society for war is
unclear, but it certainly instils trepidation in the Armenian public
of a threat of an imminent attack."

"The military build-up and aggressive rhetoric is a pressure tactic of
presenting a credible threat, if Armenia does not move. It is effective
in projecting a fear that the war, fresh in the memory, can restart,
but ineffective in forcing a will for concessions. The public attitude
is that because so much has been sacrificed to gain these lands,
giving them back would be a betrayal of the memory of heroes who died
for them. Following this line of reasoning, the destiny is to continue
to sacrifice development for the sake of defence, even if the price
could be economic stagnation and social depression," writes the author.

Further Matveeva writes that Azerbaijan’s leadership is risk-averse
and not prone to impulsive moves to suit a nationalist agenda. It does
not need a war to boost its popularity, because it is already popular.

Rationally speaking, the war is unlikely. But military games and
sabre-rattling have a tendency to get out of hand. Armenia’s internal
political problems can give rise to a "now or never" attitude: since
the adversary appears weak, the time for a decisive push has arrived.

"If it comes to it, the crucial issue is what Russia would do. There
is a fashionable belief that Moscow holds the key to a Karabakh
settlement, but a scenario in which Vladimir Putin calls the Armenian
president, Serzh Sargsyan, and orders him to withdraw from Karabakh
seems truly fantastic. In the current stalemate, Russia cannot do
more than the US and France, the other Minsk group co-chairs. However,
if fighting were to start, Moscow would be presented with an awkward
choice as to whether it defends Armenia militarily."

According to her, on the one hand, Armenia is a member of the
Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which, like Nato, operates
on the collective defence principle: an attack against one member is
regarded as an attack on all members.

"On the other hand, Moscow does not have the same problems with
Baku as it has with Tbilisi: the political relationship is good,
trade is rampant, Azerbaijan benefits from Russian investment and
the two states co-operate in combating terrorism. In the case of
deterioration, diplomatic rather than military pressure would be
Moscow’s most likely option.

"Voices of the Azerbaijani intelligentsia standing against the war
are unpopular, as peacebuilding is equated in public wisdom with
surrendering Karabakh to the Armenians. Those who advocate peace
need to see a readiness from the Armenian side to make steps towards
compromise – otherwise "peacebuilding" amounts to an acceptance of
defeat. Such signs of compromise are yet to emerge. The danger is
that it might be getting too late for them to be noticed."