It is reported that 49 Armenian and 50 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in the clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia that sparked on September 13. The toll may increase. Baku said Azerbaijan was ready to unilaterally transfer the bodies of up to 100 Armenian soldiers to Yerevan.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Ceyhun Bayramov cited Armenia’s “large-scale subversive acts” as the cause of the conflicts. The Armenian Ministry of Defense, on the other hand, quoted “Azerbaijan’s aggressive acts” with artillery and UCAVs fire. If you look at it from both angles, the news do not contradict each other, they almost complement each other.
The spark at Turkey’s Eastern borders comes on top of the fact that its Western borders have already been warming for a while due to friction with Greece for the Aegean. If we count the Russia-Ukraine war in the north and the chronic Syrian crisis in the south, the ring of fire is being completed.
Another significance of the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict in terms of timing is that it coincides with the Shanghai Cooperation Summit to be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on September 15-16. President Tayyip Erdogan attaches great importance to his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukraine war, grain, natural gas and arms deals, Akkuyu nuclear power plant and capital transfer from Russia are on the table. It was even suggested that if Syrian President Bashar Assad comes, there might be a meeting.
The timing is significant: US elections
There is another timing factor, which can be explanatory in combining the tensions escalated by Greece in the Aegean Sea and the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict that sparked in the Caucasus. That is the US Congressional elections to be held on November 8.
It is known that the lobbies of Greece and Armenia are working together to prevent Turkey from renewing the F-16 program, and even asked the US President Joe Biden to impose a condition on Turkey to sell the jets if “Turkey will not use it against Greece”. The ethnic lobby pressure applied to Biden, who is at risk of losing the Democratic majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, is not only about Turkey, but also not only from the Republican Party. Suffice it to remember that Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi left Biden in the opposite corner on China with her Taiwan move.
In summary, ethnic lobbies think that whatever they get from Biden before the election is a profit. Therefore, the escalation of tensions in neither the Aegean nor the Caucasus is a coincidence.
US and Russian intelligence in Yerevan
American intelligence agency CIA’s Director William Burns made a surprise visit to Yerevan on July 15 and met with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Major General Edvard Asryan took office on the same day as the new Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian army, which has been without a general since the Battle of Karabakh (since February 2021) after which Azerbaijan reclaimed its occupied territories. This is the first major test for Asryan, who previously served as the Deputy Chief of General Staff.
Three days before, on July 12, Putin warned the West about new areas of conflict in an article he wrote on the Kremlin’s official website, and in his article he mentioned a number of issues from the Fener Greek Patriarchate to the Caucasus to the Armenians.
Four days after the CIA Director’s visit to Yerevan, on July 19, this time the head of the Russian intelligence SVR, Sergey Naryshkin, went to Yerevan to meet with Pashinyan. After the Karabakh war, a Russian unit was deployed in the region, which was supposed to work in liaison with Turkey to monitor the conflicts.
Who gains from Armenian tension?
After the recent clashes on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, international diplomacy has accelerated. The US, Russia and the EU called the leaders of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, asking them not to escalate the conflict.
At the beginning of the conflicts, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Ceyhun Bayramov, called Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and gave information. Afterwards, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a condolence and solidarity phone call to President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.
So far, neither Turkey nor Azerbaijan have made any further escalating statements. That’s how it should be. There is a possibility that there are elements within the newly regrouped Armenian army that are under the direction of the Armenian lobbies in the USA, France and other Western countries which may have the aim of pulling Turkey into a conflict environment and spoil Ankara’s positive image built by the diplomacy in the Ukraine war, changing it into an “aggressive” one again.
Neither Turkey nor Azerbaijan nor Armenia, which is in the process of normalizing relations with Turkey, can gain from a new tension in the Caucasus. It would be best for the countries of the region to avoid the adventures that will be leveraged in the US Congress elections.