2020 keeps getting more powerful as the clashes in July have suddenly crescendoed with reports of large-scale Azeri attacks on the Artsakh frontlines and Azeri shelling of the Armenian enclave’s capital of Stepanakert.
This now seems to be a bigger thing than your typical serious border scuffle, which happens once every few years and kills a dozen to a few dozen soldiers (as in 2016) on each side.
The past few days have been accompanied by feverish war propaganda in Azerbaijan and Turkey, with allegations that the PKK is sheltering in Armenia and training their troops (LOL). Turkey was also reported to have transferred over some FSA mercs to Azerbaijan a few days ago. One video floating around on Telegram claims to now show them in Azerbaijan. I am not a region expert, nor do I know Arabic, so I can’t vouch for any of this.
In more verifiable news, a general mobilization has been declared not just in Artsakh, but in Armenia too. Turkey has expressed its open support for Azerbaijan.
Information is coming in fleetingly, but casualties easily number in the dozens, with at least 19 killed Armenian conscripts. The Armenians say they destroyed 20 UAVs, 3 helicopters, and 30 tanks and IFVs. There are already videos of seemingly incompetently utilized Azeri tanks getting blown up.
In terms of the military balance, I don’t think that much has drastically changed since 2016, when I wrote a large post in the wake of a previous set of clashes. The Azeris did very badly during the war with Armenia immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, incurring a loss ratio as high as 1:5. However, since then, oil wealth has enabled Azerbaijan to get a great many more shiny toys – for a long time, its military budget was larger than Armenia’s entire state budget. It has also increased its demographic advantage over Armenia. Whether that can make up for higher Armenian military competence and 25 years worth of reinforcing their positions remains to be seen.
This is assuming this clash doesn’t end in a whimper like the previous one, which also remains a possibility, even if the level of escalation is beyond what happened in 2016. However, IF there is a big Armenia vs. Azerbaijan war, and if Azerbaijan loses again, then I expect the clock will begin ticking on Aliyev’s hold on power. The Azeris might be ultra-nationalists who want and demand war (“End the quarantine, start the war!” was an actual slogan during their anti-Armenian protests this July, which at least had the dubious honor of being far more based than the Belorussian ones) but presumably they want to win it, not lose it ignominiously.
At this stage, fevered talk of a clash between NATO and Russia/CSTO are remote scaremongering. Russia has no obligations to defend Artsakh, those obligations only kick in if Azerbaijan (or Turkey) invade Armenia proper. And obviously NATO has no obligations to Turkey in a war of its own choosing.
I don’t really see any point in making further predictions or conclusions while so many things remain shrouded by the fog of war so for now I’ll just open it up to general discussion.