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Between Baku & a Hard Place

Armenia and Azerbaijan have terrible neighbors. Why it matters...

The world is not quite done going to hell in a handbasket, and the next flair up might be on the border with NATO most aggravating member, Turkey. Evidently, only half of Americans can find Ukraine on a map, nowhere near that many can find either Armenia or Azerbaijan. The latter just just expelled some 100,000 ethnic Armenians from Nagorna-Karbakh.

A tiff between Yerevan (Armenia) and Baku (Azjerbaijan) should not really should move the needle in Washington. And it wouldn't except…

Armenia is wedged between Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russian-leaning Georgia. It’s currently facing a build-up of some 3,000 troops on both the Azerbaijani and Turkish side. Armenian get along fine with the Iranians, but that isn't going to do it any good. While the country has a military alliance with Russia, Vladimir Putin hates the its Prime Minister, Nikol Pashiyan, who came to power in 2018 after anti-government protests. Those "color-revolutions" really chap Putin, who has said that Armenia is “turning into Ukraine.” Which doesn't sound good.

Moscow is ignoring its security guarantees to Yerevan, and to hear Pashiyan tell it, is trying oust him from office. Which is probably true. Oil rich Azerbaijan, for its part is allied to Turkey. And a quick look at the map tells you why Pashiyan is in such a twist that his country just bought an new air defense system from France despite the military alliance with Russia. For the record, that gap in air defenses is how the Azerbaijani's got the better in the last war, back in 2020.

Now, a big shooting war going on along the borders of Iran and a Russian alliance would normally be a good thing for Washington to exploit. Except... that one of nasty neighbors, with about a thousand or so of those massed troops, are on the border of NATO member Turkey.

The bright side is that the geopolitics of the thing are so convoluted and hairy that it might keep the everyone coloring within the lines.


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