As the author of the material, James Stavridis, notes, the danger of the conflict in the Caucasus lies in the fact that Turkey and Russia actively support opposing sides.
According to the publication, the "frozen conflict" between Armenia and Azerbaijan will have significant consequences for regional security, energy markets and the ambitions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to the author, who visited both Armenia and Azerbaijan during his service in NATO, serious friction between the military departments of the two states was felt back in the 1990s. “No one wanted or was going to retreat a single step, both literally and figuratively”, - Stavridis notes.
In the 1990s, during the confrontation in Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of Azerbaijan inhabited mainly by Armenians, the war claimed 30 thousand lives. Azerbaijan has lost control over Karabakh and has still not been able to regain it.
During the four years that he served in NATO, Azerbaijanis more than once launched indecisive offensives in Nagorno-Karabakh, which the Armenians easily stopped.
“According to our intelligence, if it came to serious clashes, the Armenians would almost certainly win. The Russian Federation supplied weapons and trained the military on both sides, and the Russians actually had some calming effect on them. But we know that when Putin plays as a peacemaker, it does not bode well".
After the conflict between the countries escalated again since September 27, both sides, as usual, claim that the enemy attacked first. Most countries do not get involved in the conflict. However, the biggest danger is that Turkey and Russia actively support opposing sides.
“Turks do not like Armenians and are on the side of their Azeri Muslim co-religionists. (In Armenia, the memory of the atrocities of the Ottoman Turks a century ago remains an important factor in the national consciousness.) Russia has an official defense treaty with Armenia, and it maintains close ties with it in the military sphere”, - Stavridis recalls.
Now that the US is busy with the presidential elections, and the EU is absorbed in the outcome of Brexit and the growing tensions between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, there is little chance of a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
As a "first step" the author offers a gesture of symbolic return of the land to Azerbaijanis.
“The two countries could make a commitment to renounce the use of firearms and explosives (as China and India did after the recent minor conflict on the 'line of control' in the Himalayas). Then one could proceed step by step with the opening of the border. By the general belief, there is no particular hope for this”, - Stavridis said.
In his opinion, now any compromise on the settlement of the Karabakh issue seems much less likely than a small war with big consequences.