3C Report (Claims, Conflicts, and Capital)

Team: Jackson Malmgren and Arlinda Xhuveli, CRIME Team

Week of: October 5, 2020

Geographical Area; Continent | Europe

Countries within the Geographical Area | Armenia, Azerbaijan

Bordering Countries Affected | Turkey, Russia, Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (self-declared)

Map of Nagorno-Karabakh territorial dispute- Armenia and Azerbaijan Conflict[1]

Summary: Border clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia have recently escalated into a war over two aspects: territorial control in the region and the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region comprising a mostly Christian ethnic minority group. An estimated 150,000 people are struggling from this disruptive and sudden standoff between Armenia and Azerbaijan.[2] Tensions have only worsened following Turkey’s backing of Azerbaijan and Russia’s support of Armenia.    

Areas of High Security Concern: Human Right Violations, Widespread Crime, Terrorism, Cyber-attacks, Civil Unrest, Infrastructure Threats

Current Claims: Armenia and Azerbaijan both claim the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh

Current Conflicts: War between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Human Rights Oppression in Nagorno-Karabakh

Groups Involved in Conflict: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia, Nagorno-Karabakh fighters

Major Capital Industries: Electronics, Mining, Gold and Chemicals, Metal

Potential Industry Concerns: As a result of the war, all sectors, especially tourism, agriculture, and finance, are currently being rocked by economic instability, severely impacting the countries. On the other hand, natural resource reserves on which Armenia relies on, may be destroyed throughout the conflict. If such a thing did occur, Armenia would be in a precarious economic situation. Widespread damage, particularly in Armenia and the associated conflict zone, may result in a total destruction of local industries. Armenia and Azerbaijan will not only face economic instability locally, but will have to deal with the macroeconomic effects that will follow; most notably potential economic trade issues with nearby post-Soviet countries. This will not only worsen the economic situation of many Armenians, but might also result in a growing movement to strengthen ties with Russia.

Areas of Caution:

  • Geographical Hazards

  • Further escalation of the war could lead to environmental concerns in the enclave, including air pollution due to explosions and demolitions along with possible disasters relating to the destruction of oil pipelines. The second point rings especially true since Nagorno-Karabakh is known for its gas and oil industry.

  • As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, infection rates may increase as militaries move from region to region and civilians seek to relocate or flee the conflict zone. Domestically, hospitals and public health in general could see decreases in supply reserves or disruptions in receiving new supplies due to the demands of the military and the high inflows of injured civilians.

  • Drone strikes pose another concerning issue.[3] While typically, drone strikes are used as a measured and careful way to prevent terrorism, Armenia and Azerbaijan are using drones as both an offensive and counteroffensive response.[4]

  • Political Risks

  • The slowly-simmering nature of the conflict and the failure to resolve the territorial dispute over the years put Armenia and Azerbaijan on a political collision course. The presence of major regional powers, such as Russia, has had a major influence on the conflict. Russia in particular plays an ambiguous role in the region and has previously supplied both countries with weapons and ammunition.[5]

  • While Russia and Turkey have gotten involved, one major global power has been noticeably silent. The absence of the United States in diplomatic talks to resolve the dispute peacefully is concerning, as it is in the U.S.’ interest to work as a mediator between all involved parties and prevent further bloodshed.[6] It is suspected that since Russia and France are extremely influential in the international community and somewhat involved in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, this prevents the U.S. from intervening outside of diplomatic channels out of concern for upsetting these other major international players. This would not be in the interest of the US since it might break relations with Russia as a major superpower. Humanitarian intervention is not enough reason for the US to prevent this war.

  • Immediate international involvement is needed to lessen chances of violent escalation during the coming weeks and months.[7] Many countries would be economically affected by a drawn out and violent conflict since the region plays a major role in the global energy sector.[8] Due to the fact that the pipelines that connect Azerbaijan with Turkey pass close to Nagorno-Karabakh border, this conflict might cause major effects in the distribution of oil and natural gas supply to Europe and the global market.

  • Religious Risks

  • The call-to-arms nature of the conflict and widespread violence may increase the risk of radicalization and extremist activities in the area.

  • The religious nature of the conflict might encourage the perpetration of hate crimes or even a genocide because of the inherent religious and ethnic undertones of the conflict. As Turkey backs Azerbaijan (both predominantly Muslim nations) and Russia backs Armenia (both predominantly Christian nations), questions over racial disparities, ethnic discrimination, and religious concerns may intensify what was initially a territorial argument.

  • Due to historic hostilities between Turkey and Armenia, there is almost no diplomatic relationship between these two countries and the backing of Azerbaijan by Turkey may be a religious threat aimed at promoting conflict escalation.

Predictive Analysis

  • Who: Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia, USA

  • What: Human Rights Abuses, Terrorism, Extremism, Genocide, Conflict, War, Disasters

  • Why: For almost a century, Nagorno-Karabakh has been an ethnically Armenian autonomous region located in Azerbaijan.[9] In the past thirty years, Armenia has attempted to reassert its claim while the region has, at times, declared itself independent; while these have been rare incidents, the sentiments have never disappeared.[10] Now, tensions have escalated again, and resulted in a resumption of violence and fighting over the region.

  • When: Ongoing during pandemic that might even reverse to endemic and manifest in illness rapid spread and lead to extermination of a population. The situation is escalated to war and UN intervention might promote human rights and elimination of the conflict by declaration of state recognition.

  • How: Cultural, ethnic, and political issues have all come to a head in this region. Nagorno-Karabakh has long been a contested area, and anger and the failure to reconcile has propelled what was initially isolated incidents into an international conflict. Without any sort of peace talks or ceasefire agreements, the situations may continue to snowball, becoming worse and worse as time goes on.

CTG Recommendations

Due to prolonged and continuing violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan on both state-vs.-state and unconventional levels with both countries and the international community slow to start peace talks, it is Almost Certain that further regional violence in Nagorno-Karabakh will occur. Wars over territory have been known to decimate towns, properties, and local industry in the area being fought over, and it is hard to believe that the current Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict will be an exception. With much of the world focusing on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, international and intergovernmental organizations have not been the most timely in responding to the conflict. Both states and these international organizations must pay adequate attention in seeking a peaceful and speedy resolution to this conflict. This all begins with connectivity and communication. Right now, the conflict has resulted in chaotic, inefficient lines of communication, only worsened by COVID-19. The United States, in combination with the United Nations and European Union, should reach out to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Russia, as well as potentially representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh to establish appropriate diplomatic channels for discussion. The main priority should be a ceasefire, to prevent further bloodshed, but these channels can be built upon to work towards a peaceful resolution. Furthermore, both international organizations and states should allocate appropriate humanitarian aid to affected communities. Branches of the United Nations as well as other aid organizations should prepare supplies and volunteers for the ceasefire, and it should be clearly agreed upon by all sides that aid workers are not involved in the fight and may not be targeted under any circumstances.

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has a vested interest in continuing to monitor this situation. Considering both the animosity stirred up by this conflict as well as the economic toll this conflict has already taken, terrorist activity both now and in the near future cannot be ruled out. It is recommended that further review and intelligence-gathering be transferred to one of CTG’s respective regional teams which can more appropriately collect and synthesize information, and has a stronger knowledge of the greater area this conflict encompasses. Regardless, CTG will continue to collect intelligence and create actionable analysis that can provide necessary insight necessary for effectively countering terrorism.

[1] Location of Nagorno-Karabakh by Aivazovsky licensed under Public Domain

[2] The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, explained, Vox, October 2020, https://www.vox.com/21502327/armenia-azerbaijan-nagorno-karabakh-war-explained

[3] Drones and Moral Hazard, University of Michigan Press, 2018

[4] The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, explained, Vox, October 2020, https://www.vox.com/21502327/armenia-azerbaijan-nagorno-karabakh-war-explained

[5] The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict explained, Politico, September 2020, https://www.politico.eu/article/the-nagorno-karabakh-conflict-explained-armenia-azerbaijan/

[6] Armenia and Azerbaijan Are at War. Does President Trump Even Know? New York Magazine, October 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/10/armenia-and-azerbaijan-are-at-war-does-trump-even-know.html

[7] Armenia and Azerbaijan: A Season of Risks, International Crisis Group, September 2013, https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/caucasus/armenia/armenia-and-azerbaijan-season-risks

[8] The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict explained, Politico, September 2020, https://www.politico.eu/article/the-nagorno-karabakh-conflict-explained-armenia-azerbaijan/

[9] Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020, https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/nagorno-karabakh-conflict

[10] Ibid.

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