Accidental War Waiting To Happen On Europe’s Periphery


May 21, 2012

View of Mount Ararat in Turkey from Yerevan, the capital of Armenia,
November 18, 2004 (Scott LaPierre)

View of Mount Ararat in Turkey from Yerevan, the capital of Armenia,
November 18, 2004 (Scott LaPierre)

A minor incident could cause the frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to
turn hot, threatening European oil supplies, the regional balance in
the Caucasus and Anatolia as well as increasing the European Union’s
dependence on Russia.

The border dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could flare up
again, as recently demonstrated by an alleged ambush of Armenian
troops by Azerbaijani forces. The incident, taking in place in Armenia
proper, not the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh, is viewed as an
escalation of tensions. Conflict is now more likely due to Azerbaijan’s
petrofueled growth of its military capabilities.

A small incident could spiral into a full blown conflict. While a
conflict would threaten European interests-i.e., threaten oil supplies
and increase Europe’s dependance on Russian energy-the European Union
is expected to do little under such circumstances except condemn
Azerbaijan and continue to offer free trade and visas to Armenia.


The military solution is not in the interest of either country.

Armenia is feeling its military weaknesses and aware that it would
need Russia to come and help it.

The price to pay for a military conflict could be a further loss of
independence for both countries, including political and military

Azerbaijan does not want to have Russia any closer to its borders
and will never undertake substantial action without a green light
from Turkey.

The costs of war, for the economy and state budgets, will not be
a positive factor. For both countries, though, a conflict would
galvanize and unite the people beyond the current leadership.

Turkey would likely try to herald a deal between the parties in
order to promote its role as a stabilizing power in its neighborhood
vis-a-vis Europe and the United States. Brokering a deal with Armenia
might solve the national dispute between the two countries but it
could also upset Azerbaijan, which shares the same people, culture
and language with Turkey.

Russia would end up with a greater say in Caucasus affairs and after
having established military posts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,
it might do the same in the contested regions.

Oil and gas flows would be only partially affected as there are no
major pipelines crossing through the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

For now, a total war between the two countries is to be excluded as
Azerbaijan will try to make all it can to keep a constant and regular
income for its development programs and investments. Price will rise
in the short term but the shock would be easily absorbed.

Wikistrat Bottom Lines


Turkey and its Western allies can test Russian assertiveness against
one of its former republics. Any player will be better able to monitor
the situation in Iran via the information flux from the Caucasus.


The creation of a new state with limited authority and severe problems
in terms of economic development and autonomy is possible.

Although the conflict may not escalate, the violence will create
necessary tensions which can easily protract or even escalate it.


National political agendas and diverging priorities for elites and
political parties in Armenia and Azerbaijan can cause internal and
external conflict in the countries.

Turkey might abandon its “zero problems with neighborhood” policy in
favor of a more proactive one.

Marinko Bobic, Finn Maigaard, Graham O’Brien and Miguel Nunes Silva
contributed to this analysis.