The drums of war are beating louder and louder for anyone willing to listen. The 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan did not end on November 9, 2020. Hostilities were only stopped by a declaration which can amount to a precarious ceasefire at best. Hostilities may resume at any time, under any pretext.
Whatever Armenia failed to achieve in the 1994 ceasefire, Azerbaijan is now trying to achieve. The ceasefire at the end of the first war for Karabakh (Artsakh), which was brokered by Moscow at that time, proved to be inconsequential. Armenia’s inexperienced rulers at that time believed that the ceasefire, which Azerbaijan had signed under duress, was enough to guarantee the future of Nagorno Karabakh, particularly with the argument that the Armenian control of seven regions adjacent to Karabakh in Azerbaijan proper presented a strategic buffer which would prepare Armenia and Karabakh for any eventuality.
No one at that time tried to push the ante further to force the Baku government to sign a definitive agreement recognizing Karabakh’s independence for perpetuity, when that country was on its knees.
Because of that failure, defeat returned to Armenia 25 years later with a vengeance.
In that quarter century, Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev seems to have learned the lessons of history imposed on his father, Heydar, with a little help from his big brother, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Now that Armenia is down, with its army shattered by the coordinated attacks by Azerbaijani, Turkish and freelance Jihadi armies, Aliyev is pushing to extract maximum concessions from Yerevan. He already has warned Armenia not to rearm or seek revenge.
Azerbaijan is building up pressure on Armenia gradually, to the point of rekindling a war once again. Before the latest war, he had promised “the highest level of autonomy” for Karabakh in return for the occupied territories. Today, a victorious Aliyev claims that there is no issue to discuss regarding Karabakh, no case for its status, and that even a geographic area named Nagorno Karabakh does not exist, instead renaming part of it as eastern Zangezur as part of the recent Shushi declaration made jointly with Turkey.
Not only is he asking for Armenia to forget Karabakh, but he is warning that he will take over the sovereign territory of Armenia itself and still there is no protest from the international community, nor from Armenia’s strategic partner, Russia.
Just recently, President Aliyev visited President Vladimir Putin in Moscow; the only talk emanating from the Russian capital was about strengthening the strategic ties between Russia and Azerbaijan, after some lip service to the implementation of the November 9 tripartite declaration.
While expressing satisfaction that the terms of that declaration are being implemented, Moscow conveniently is overlooking the release of Armenian prisoners of war in Azerbaijan, even though the November 9 declaration seeks the return of all prisoners.
Moscow, despite its treaty obligations to Armenia, has assumed the role of intermediary between its ally and enemy. Further concessions are demanded from Armenia, in terms of maps of minefields, rather than offers of help.