In what have been some of the worst clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan in years, sixteen soldiers and one civilian were killed in the last two weeks. Armenia has threatened to bomb an Azerbaijani reservoir. Azerbaijan has threatened to destroy an Armenian nuclear plant. These may be empty threats, but they speak to the level of tension between the two countries.
If Israel, unilaterally or with support from the United States, attacks Iran to disrupt its nuclear program, it could have the unintended consequence of destabilizing the Caucasus and emboldening Russia.
Last week, the European Union Monitoring Mission in the area reported a “buildup of Russian Federation armed personnel” along the South Ossetian border with Georgia. The former Georgian province, which has a majority ethnic Russian population, seceded in 1990 and was recognized as an independent state by Moscow after a brief war in 2008.
A minor incident could cause the frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to turn hot, threatening European oil supplies, the regional balance in the Caucasus and Anatolia as well as increasing the European Union’s dependence on Russia.
The border dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could flare up again, as recently demonstrated by an alleged ambush of Armenian troops by Azerbaijani forces. The incident, taking in place in Armenia proper, not the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh, is viewed as an escalation of tensions. Conflict is now more likely due to Azerbaijan’s petrofueled growth of its military capabilities.
A small incident could spiral into a full-blown conflict. While a conflict would threaten European interests — i.e., threaten oil supplies and increase Europe’s dependance on Russian energy — the European Union is expected to do little under such circumstances except condemn Azerbaijan and continue to offer free trade and visas to Armenia. Read more “Accidental War Waiting to Happen on Europe’s Periphery”
While changes began in the foreign policy domain right from the onset of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, it was only in his second term, and after the nomination of Ahmet Davutoğlu, that Turkey’s foreign policy acquired a more “independent” flavor. Davutoğlu has been lauded for his “zero problem neighborhood” vision, but, as things stand today, there seems to be little merit for that praise.
Foreign affairs is one of those portfolios with peculiar pros and cons: there can be plenty of popularity gains for a foreign minister, who gets to socialize with international leaders and opinionmakers, but there is also the inherent uncertainty of securing results as diplomacy depends on at least two interlocutors and the government he belongs to is but one of them.
That said, it is one thing for a particular diplomatic initiative to founder into political oblivion; it is another altogether to turn a would-be close ally into a soon to be mortal enemy, as was the case recently in Turkish-Syrian relations. Read more “The Problem with “Zero Problem Neighborhood””