Fighting broke out between Azeri and Armenian forces on the night of September 12–13, as Azeri forces crossed the border with Armenia and attacked Armenian positions around the towns of Vardenis, Goris, Sotk and Jermuk. Clashes continued yesterday between the two former Soviet republics, after the immediate breakdown of a ceasefire brokered by Moscow on September 13.
Yesterday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan reported that 105 Armenian servicemen had been killed so far in this month’s fighting. Azerbaijan reported 50 dead among its troops.
On September 13, Armenian and Azeri officials blamed each other for starting the conflict. The Armenian Defense Ministry reported “heavy shelling” by Azeri troops as well as drone attacks, announcing, “Armenian forces have launched a proportionate response.”
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry for its part accused Armenia of “large-scale subversive acts” along their common border and claimed that it was repelling an Armenian attack.
Armenian civilians reported that heavy fighting had prevented them from evacuating the area, as well as extensive damage to civilian infrastructure. “The whole village is shelled, we can’t even evacuate the children, we only managed to evacuate part of them,” a resident of Geghamasar village told Radio Free Europe. “The fire is very intense in the area, the roads are also under shelling, we are hiding.”
Sevak Khachatryan, who lives in Sotk, posted a report on Facebook with photos of burned buildings which stated: “After the night shelling in Sotk, the community building was damaged, several houses burned down, roofs and windows are damaged. . The full extent of the damage remains uncertain. Currently, the fighting continues.
Although Moscow brokered a ceasefire, which by most accounts was initiated by Turkey-backed Azerbaijan, US officials have tried to blame Russia for the conflict. “Whether Russia is somehow trying to stir the pot, to distract from Ukraine is something that always concerns us,” said US Secretary of State Antony. Blinken.
At the same time, the US State Department released a statement stating, “We urge immediate action to reduce tensions and prevent further escalation.” State Department spokesman Ned Price reported that Blinken called Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, stressed his “deep concern” and urged Aliyev to “cease hostilities” against Armenia. Price said Blinken called Pashinyan to tell him that Washington “would push for an immediate end to the fighting and a peace settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
French President Emmanuel Macron released a statement saying he had contacted Azeri President Ilham Aliyev asking him to “end hostilities and return to respecting the ceasefire”. Macron also said he spoke to Pashinyan to emphasize French support for “respect for the territorial integrity of Armenia”.
The resurgence of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict underscores the growing danger that NATO‘s war against Russia in Ukraine could spill over into a wider war across the Caucasus and the Middle East.
Yesterday, Pashinyan called on Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to intervene militarily against Azerbaijan. “We have requested CSTO support, including military support to restore Armenia’s territorial integrity and ensure the withdrawal of Azerbaijani armed forces from Armenian territory,” Pashinyan told the Armenian parliament.
Pashinyan also spoke with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who said another war would be “unacceptable” and called for ensuring that Iranian trade routes with Armenia remain open.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a belligerent statement of support for Azerbaijan yesterday. “We hope that Armenia will turn away from this wrong path as soon as possible and devote its time and energy to strengthening peace. Of course, this attitude will have consequences for the Armenian side,” he said.
The current fighting is the poisonous product of Stalin’s dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, as well as the eruption of NATO wars in the region over the past three decades. Fighting broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1988 over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh inside Azerbaijan, but which had a majority Armenian population. The fighting turned into a full-scale war after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent and Armenia seized Nagorno-Karabakh.
This fratricidal war between forces that until then were all Soviet citizens lasted from 1992 until a precarious ceasefire in 1994, killing 30,000.
NATO’s wars in the Middle East, and in particular its war for regime change in Syria that began in 2011, have shattered the precarious balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan. While ethnically Turkish Azerbaijan has forged ties with Turkey, Armenia has relied on close ties with Iran and support from Russia, which has a military base in the Armenian city of Gyumri. Tensions flared amid NATO’s war in Syria, as Turkish troops clashed with Iranian and Russian troops fighting to prevent the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as Azeri forces reconquered most of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. It claimed the lives of nearly 7,000 people, with Azerbaijan reporting 3,006 dead including 100 civilians and Armenia reporting 3,910 dead including 85 civilians. Azerbaijan’s dispatch of Turkish Bayraktar drones, which now play an important role in Ukraine’s battles against Russia, has helped tip the balance in Azerbaijan’s favour.
After the 2020 war, Russia deployed a contingent of several thousand peacekeepers along the front lines between Armenian and Azeri troops. These forces have failed to stop repeated Azeri incursions into Armenian-held territory that have intensified since the outbreak of the NATO-Russia war over Russia’s “special military operations” in Ukraine.
Several officials in Europe have linked the new outbreak of fighting in the Caucasus to the war in Ukraine. The French daily Le Figaro wrote: “Two factors seemed to have motivated Azerbaijan. First, the Russian defeat at Kharkov. “Russia is less able to deter Azerbaijan,” said Florence Parmentier, secretary general of the Center for Political Research at the Paris Institute of Political Studies. Second, there is Europe’s dependence on natural gas imports.
In July, the President of the Commission of the European Union (EU), Ursula von der Leyen, visited the Azeri capital, Baku, to negotiate an agreement to obtain Azeri gas as a partial replacement for Russian gas that EU countries refuse to pay during war in Ukraine. The Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict is now intertwined with disputes within the EU over how to handle massive energy shortages and a likely economic collapse in Europe this winter.
“I think there is a feeling in Azerbaijan that now is the time to deploy its power, its military edge and extract the maximum it can get,” said Laurence Broers of the Chatham House think tank in London. . “I think the risk is the creation of a kind of new buffer zones, safety zones, a kind of fragmentation of at least the southern part of Armenia and a powerlessness of external actors to prevent this from happening. happen,” he added.
The very real danger that NATO’s war with Russia in Ukraine could escalate across the Eurasian landmass should be taken as a warning by workers not only in the Caucasus but around the world. The only way forward to prevent such an escalation is the revolutionary mobilization of the working class internationally against the drive of capitalism towards war. This in turn necessitates a return to the Marxist-internationalist traditions of the October Revolution of 1917, championed by the Trotskyist movement against Stalinism, which led to the founding of the Soviet Union a century ago.