As a guest on the weekly Sunday talk show hosted by Hrair Tamrazian, the director of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Armenian Service, RSC Director Richard Giragosian assessed the lingering risk of renewed hostilities over Nagorno-Karabakh, and offered his analysis of developments related to the Karabakh peace process.
Giragosian noted that the threat of renewed fighting remains, pointing to the motivation for Azerbaijan after its April 2016 offensive, which he defined as “a significant achievement for Azerbaijan” by virtue of the fact that “for the first time,” Azerbaijan succeeded in “seizing and securing territory, regardless of how small.” He also expressed concern that a repeat offensive would entail even greater casualties and damage, in light of a new military content. Those military considerations include a new context or threat environment whereby Azerbaijan’s “lack of a similar element of surprise” and the fact that “the forces of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are much better prepared, better armed, and better protected,” suggesting that the “absence of any quick military breakthrough if a new battle starts, means that Azerbaijan will be tempted to deploy heavier weapons systems given the likely stalemate in the opening clash.” He also stressed the “lack of deterrence” preventing a repeat attack, meaning that “from the point of view of Azerbaijan, nothing and no open can prevent or deter a new assault,” which he said was “too tempting for Azerbaijan to not try again.”
According to Giragosian’s scenario analysis of the situational awareness, “new military operations may also cause a deliberate large-scale war and can spiral out of control, to a situation where the regional powers - Russia, Turkey and Iran - will feel compelled to react and respond.” And that danger is magnified by the possible opening of a new front in Nakhichevan, explaining that “in the military sense, there are few changes in the line of contact and no new developments in terms of force posture. In the Tavush region, too, Azerbaijan has often used extensive opportunities for attacks. As the capabilities of these unexpected attacks have been exhausted, Azerbaijan is now trying to find opportunities to launch new, unexpected attacks. And in that sense Nakhichevan is a new stage of potential actions. It is an opportunity to open a new front which, unfortunately, offers opportunities for Azerbaijan. The danger is that Baku may try to prepare a small, limited, diversionary attack from Nakhichevan, which will not only force Armenia to distract attention from Karabakh, but also lead to confrontation with Turkey, due to the security relationship with the exclave as a security guarantor for Nakhichevan. And it is interesting that in the last six to eight months, the Turkish Foreign Ministry is worried about the commitment by Turkey to respond any counter-attack on Nakhchivan.”