The Armenian conflict mimics global battles



Opinion Columnist Mohammed Rawwas evaluates the recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.


As of Nov. 10, a peace agreement has ostensibly been reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In essence, it seems as though the Azerbaijani offensive to take control of disputed territories through military invasion have resulted in too many casualties on the Armenian side. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has elected to surrender control of territories gained by Azerbaijan during the course of the conflict, as over 1,000 Armenians have died in this brief conflict.

This has led to an eruption of protests in Armenia over what the protestors perceive to be the prime minister’s surrender to Azerbaijan, and it does seem as though this sets a dangerous precedent for countries willing to aggress, as gaining territory through war is currently illegal under international law. However, what we will focus on are the geopolitical implications of this conflict.

Turkey supported Azerbaijan in this conflict, which is unsurprising given Turkey’s history with Armenia, perhaps most notably the Armenian genocide, carried out by the Ottomans from 1914-1923. To this day, the official government of Turkey denies the Armenian genocide, and refuses to acknowledge responsibility for the atrocity. In fact, Erdogan’s right-wing AKP party will often accuse Armenia of meddling in its internal affairs as a politically expedient scapegoat. The conflict between Turkey and Azerbaijan, and the conflict with Armenia have both ethnic and religious dimensions. 

However, Turkey’s geopolitical positioning on the world stage is complicated. In recent decades, they have turned to the West in order to form allyships, and have unsuccessfully bid to enter the EU. Turkey is also, crucially, a NATO member.

Many view Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan in this latest conflict as an attempt to weaken Russia’s influence in the region. The fact that Israel supplied arms to the Azerbaijanis during this conflict only cements the fact that the Azerbaijani side of this conflict is indeed the Western-aligned one.

As for Armenia, their weapons were supplied by Russia, only solidifying the conception that this conflict also fits into the broader geopolitical conflict that has defined our modern politics for decades, just as Syria also turned into a mere proxy war between the U.S. and Russia.

This makes Western media coverage of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict all the more interesting to inspect, considering the fact that the Azerbaijanis were clearly the aggressors in this scenario, but U.S. allies such as Israel were on their side. The New York Times, for example, as the supposed “paper of record,” mostly relegated itself to a sober telling of events as they unfolded. An Oct. 21 piece entitled “In Azerbaijan, Pain and Loss Drive War Fever” frames the conflict from the perspective of Azerbaijan, noting that “clashes broke out three weeks ago,” rather than what was clearly a conflict instigated by Azerbaijan. It is unclear whether such biased readings were also afforded to the Armenian side of the conflict.

Regardless of the specific details regarding the conflict, what is clear is that other geopolitical actors such as Turkey and Israel have attempted to use this conflict to further their own foreign policy goals. However, Russia was able to step in and mediate the conflict in order to produce the peace treaty, even if the conditions of the treaty seem unfavorable for many Armenians. For now, the conflict is over, and we will see what happens to the region in coming years.