(Panorama.am/Interview) – Recently there has been a marked escalation of hostilities in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone while Azerbaijan’s president has openly threatened Armenia with war. What do you think this is preconditioned by?
Dr. Cory Welt: It is always difficult to say exactly why a new outbreak of hostilities occurs along the line of contact. With each summer’s violence worse than the last, the risk of escalation spinning out of control is very high. Unfortunately, as hostilities die down each year, we tend to forget this risk. It is also hard to understand exactly what the intentions of President Aliyev are, but his speech about war did not seem to be a direct threat. It sounded more like a warning that Azerbaijan has not given up on its lost territories and does not intend to, while serving as a rhetorical way for Aliyev to end this latest round of hostilities. At the same time, Aliyev saw this summer how much the West supported Ukraine in its efforts to fight externally-supported separatism in the Donbas, as well as Israel’s use of force in Gaza. He is surely convinced that Azerbaijan, too, has the legitimate right to use force; it is only a question of whether he can succeed. For now, Azerbaijan’s military success remains a very big question mark, which fortunately helps put a brake on escalation to full-scale war.
Question: Can we say that Europe would be more interested to stop Azerbaijan from waging a war now than it was in 1991 (when no one stopped the Azeri aggression), given the fact that Azerbaijan is now an exporter of gas and oil to Europe, with BP having big shares in the Caspian, which will be endangered in case of the resumption of military hostilities? To what extent can this factor actually constitute a deterrent against possible Azerbaijani aggression?
Dr. Cory Welt: I would like to think that Europeans worry more about the human cost of a full-scale war in the Caucasus than they do about the potential risk to the pipelines, which for now supply relatively little energy to Europe and would, in the worst case, only be down temporarily. I also don’t think the potential European reaction to an attack on the pipeline is a deterrent to Azerbaijan, if it was truly determined to wage war. Those concerned about the fate of the pipeline would likely blame whichever side directly attacked the pipeline, not who started the conflict. […]