Karabakh in the news again (2020)

Four and a half years ago, there was a brief outbreak of fighting in Nagorny Karabakh. It had been waiting to happen, I said then, as Azerbaijan had been investing its oil revenues in rearmament and was ready to strike. Not quite, it turned out: that flare-up lasted for just four or five days. Now Azerbaijan has launched a new offensive, backed by Turkey.

This might be one of the rare cases when Russia has a moral obligation to interfere and stop the Azeri-Turkish offensive. The infamous Kars treaty – turning 100 next year – cannot be reversed but Russia should still be able to prevent the Azeri-Turkish forces from occupying and ethnically cleansing Nagorny Karabakh.

The Kremlin, I suspect, might decide to pressure Azerbaijan by making life difficult for Azeri businessmen operating in Russia. That could, in the worst case, degenerate into a general persecution of ethnic Azeris living in Russia – a community possibly numbering in the millions. Recall the mistreatment of Turkish students in the wake of the Su-24 incident in 2015 and the crackdown on Georgian “illegals” during the 2008 war.

These suspicions and apprehensions grow from past experiences. But it’s 2020 and everything is so different in 2020. What if Armenia grows desperate for help and Russia, taking advantage of that desperation, drags Armenia into an interstate union, a confederation?

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