They do not constrain themselves in the statements of the media of the two states, calling for the start of the war as soon as possible. There are reports that mobilization has already begun in the numerous Armenian and Azerbaijani diasporas. And on the confrontation line of the Azerbaijani and Armenian troops, firefights regularly occur, resulting in casualties and accompanied by mutual accusations of violating the truce.
In this regard, it is interesting to consider the balance of forces of the parties to the Karabakh conflict.
After the collapse of the USSR, both Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic became owners of a certain share of the “legacy” of the Soviet army. More precisely, they took to themselves precisely that part of it that was on their territory. Only a few winged and rotorcraft are powerful enough aviation the group stationed in the former Azerbaijan SSR managed to overtake to Russia.
Meanwhile, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, dividing the Soviet quota established by the Treaty on the Limitation of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), received their own quotas for weapon and military equipment. For example, all three countries of Transcaucasia were allowed to have 220 tanks, 220 armored combat vehicles, 285 artillery systems, 100 combat aircraft and 50 attack helicopters.
In reality, after the collapse of the USSR, Azerbaijan got 436 tanks, 947 BBM (558 BMP and 389 BTR), 388 artillery systems, 63 aircraft, 8 helicopters. In Armenia, at the beginning of 1993, there were only 77 tanks, 189 BBM (150 BMP and 39 BTR), 160 artillery systems, 3 aircraft, 13 helicopters. At the same time, however, Nagorno-Karabakh was a kind of “gray zone”: the local Armenian formations took possession of a small amount of weapons from the abolished Transcaucasian Military District, moreover, some unaccounted weapons and equipment were transferred to Stepanakert Yerevan.
Despite the fact that the figures characterizing the state of the NKR troops at the beginning of the Karabakh war are not precisely known, there is no doubt that the newborn Azerbaijani army had a very significant superiority in numbers and technical equipment over the enemy - just as recently appeared in the world parts of the armies of the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, many units of the Armenian armed forces had to protect the borders with Turkey, which fully supported Azerbaijan (only the presence of Russian troops on Armenian territory prevented Ankara’s direct intervention in the conflict on the side of Baku).
Despite the clear advantage in manpower and equipment, the Azerbaijanis were defeated in the 1992 – 1994 war. Not only almost the entire former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region of the AzSSR, but also the adjacent areas of Azerbaijan itself came under the control of the Armenians. If before the war, Karabakh did not come into contact with Armenia, now between them at the expense of the captured Azerbaijani regions there was a common border, and a rather long border. And the positions currently occupied by the NKR troops are very convenient for defense. In addition, for the 16 years that have passed since the cessation of active hostilities, they were well fortified, which was greatly facilitated by the mountainous terrain.
When there was a lull on the front line, it turned out that the sides had suffered considerable damage during the war. Thus, Armenia recognized the loss of X-NUMX tanks T-52, 72 BMP, 54 BTR, six guns and mortars (which the troops of the NKR lost, is unknown). Azerbaijan was missing 40 tanks (186 - T-160 and 72 - T-26), 55 BMP, 111 BTR, seven SAU, 8 guns and mortars, five MLRS, 47 – 14 aircraft, five to six helicopters. In addition, shortly after the conclusion of a truce, the 16 tank victims (including the 43 T-18), the 72 BMP, the 83 BTR, one ACS, the 31 guns and mortars, and eight MLRS had to be written off.
True, the Azerbaijanis managed to repel more than two dozen T-72, 14 BMP, one SPG, eight guns and mortars from the Armenians. However, a lot of equipment lost by the Azerbaijani troops fell into the hands of the enemy, either in full repair or with minor damage.
Of course, in the first half of 90's, the newly created army of Azerbaijan still didn’t look like regular troops, much more like guerrilla formations (albeit with tanks, artillery, aviation). But it is impossible to explain failure only by this circumstance. Just because the same can be said about the enemy.
Over the past period, the armies of both (more precisely, all three) parties to the conflict have undergone a great evolution towards becoming regular armed forces. After the war, they, of course, actively equipped. For Armenia, Russia was the most important source of imports of military equipment; something was acquired in Eastern Europe. In addition, Yerevan has become the only buyer of the Chinese MLRS WM-80 (four installations are delivered), which was copied in the Celestial Empire without a license from the Russian “Smerch”.
Thanks to oil revenues, Azerbaijan has been much more energetic in modernizing the Armed Forces: after all, its military budget is four times more than in Armenia. Kiev claims to be the main supplier of arms to Baku, but in general it was purchased in many countries, including Russia, which in 2006 sold 62 second-hand T-72 tanks to Azerbaijan.
As a result, Azerbaijan turned out to be the only 30 member of the CFE Treaty country that exceeded its contractual quotas, moreover, in two classes of armaments - tanks (381 unit on 1 January 2010, by the way, less than Britain or Holland, Belgium and Norway combined) and artillery (425 artillery systems). In addition, Baku recognizes the presence in its army of 181 BBM, 75 combat aircraft and 15 attack helicopters.
As for Armenia, judging by the data it provides on the CFE Treaty, the quantitative parameters of its armed forces remain stable for many years and are increasingly inferior to the Azerbaijani armed forces. On 1 January 2010, Yerevan reported, the Armenian army consisted of 110 tanks, 140 armored vehicles, 239 artillery systems, 16 airplanes and 8 helicopters.
At the same time, of course, the same “gray zone” of Karabakh did not disappear anywhere. According to Azerbaijani sources, the armed forces of the unrecognized republic have 316 tanks, 324 armored vehicles, 322 artillery systems. Moreover, the surprising constancy with the presence of military equipment in the Armenian army indicates that at least part of the weapons and military equipment purchased by Yerevan is transferred to Stepanakert.
Our business is non-interference
If we talk about the main strategic ally of each of the parties, then for Yerevan this is Moscow, and for Baku it is Ankara. However, Azerbaijan does not border Turkey, but it has Russia as its northern neighbor. In Armenia, the situation is exactly the opposite: it is separated by hundreds of kilometers from Russia, but the neighboring state from the south is Turkey.
However, the remoteness of the Russian Federation is compensated for by the Russian 102 military base located in the city of Gyumri (it is in the past - Aleksandropol and Leninakan) - our largest military group abroad. It was created on the basis of the 127 th motorized rifle division, and it has about 100 tanks, up to 300 BMP and BTR, roughly according to 20 SAU and MLRS. The grouping also includes 18 fighters MiG-29 (at 3624-th airbase in Erebuni) and an anti-aircraft missile brigade C-300В (in Russia itself only four brigades are equipped with these very powerful air defense systems).
Yerevan not only does not demand a rent from Moscow for the base, but in fact he pays for its maintenance. In addition, a significant number of Armenians who have Russian citizenship serve in the Russian grouping. It is clear that if something happens, they will defend their fellow tribesmen with a wall and will probably fight for them no worse than the Russians.
Armenia is a member of the CSTO. Consequently, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are obliged in the event of war (at least if Azerbaijan starts it) to come to her aid. However, there is almost no doubt that in reality this will not happen. Due to oil and gas problems that do not allow Moscow to seriously quarrel with Baku (as mentioned above, it even supplies offensive weapons to Azerbaijan), and simply because of the unwillingness to get involved in a large-scale conflict, the Russian leadership will refer to a “good reason”: Azerbaijan does not attack Armenia itself, and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which de jure does not seem to exist. It will be immediately "forgotten", as a completely analogous behavior of Georgia in 2008, the attack on South Ossetia, which is not recognized by anyone, Moscow declared as a perfidious aggression. To imagine that other CSTO states will come to the aid of Armenia is so absurd that it makes no sense to discuss this issue.
However, Turkey is also not eager to participate in hostilities. Firstly, due to a noticeable improvement in relations with Armenia (although the process of rapprochement between Ankara and Yerevan stopped halfway), and secondly, because of the risk of a direct military clash with Russia (after all, there is a grouping of the RF Armed Forces in Armenia). Turkish leaders will cite the fact that Azerbaijan has “brewed porridge”, and this is very bad.
Iran during the previous Armenian-Azerbaijani war clearly showed what a chimera is “Islamic solidarity”, supporting not Muslim (moreover - Shia) Azerbaijan, but Orthodox Armenia. This was due to Tehran’s extremely poor relations with Ankara, the main patron of Baku. Now the Iranian-Turkish and Iranian-Azerbaijani relations have improved markedly, but the Iranian-Armenian relations have not deteriorated either. There is no reason to doubt that Tehran will maintain neutrality, perhaps only more balanced than in 90's.
Of course, we must not forget about the West. His position will be influenced by two opposing factors - the powerful Armenian diaspora (especially in the United States and France) and the exceptional importance of Azerbaijan for numerous oil and gas projects, alternative to Russian plans to retain the status of the main supplier of hydrocarbons. It is difficult to make a choice here. However, US military intervention, not to mention European countries, is absolutely excluded. The West will surely begin to violently demand that Yerevan and Baku immediately end the war. And together with Russia.
And unbearable, and "itching" ...
Accordingly, like a decade and a half ago, if a war breaks out, it will go with a probability very close to 100 percent, only between Azerbaijan on the one hand, and Armenia and the NKR - on the other.
As was shown above, today Azerbaijan has achieved almost fourfold superiority in tanks over Armenia, double - in artillery and attack helicopters, fivefold - in combat aircraft (50-multiple in fighters). True, the NKR AF are not included here. There is reason to suspect that the Karabakh army is at least not less than the Armenian ground forces. Therefore, the advantage of Azerbaijanis on earth, if there is, is very insignificant. At the same time, geography plays on the side of Armenians. The quality of armaments is the same: the armed forces of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and NKR are equipped almost exclusively with Soviet equipment. Consequently, for a successful offensive (full return of lost territories), the Azerbaijani potential is completely insufficient. If luck smiles on Azerbaijani units, they will advance several kilometers, after which they will simply have nothing to fight.
Only in the air Azerbaijan has a great superiority. The only Armenian MiG-25 is rather a curiosity (there are no more states in the world whose Air Force would have ONE fighter). Azerbaijan has the same 32 MiG-25. Although there is not much more benefit from them than from one Armenian. The fact is that the MiG-25 is a very specific aircraft. In the Air Defense Forces of the USSR, it was designed to fight US strategic bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, and not to maneuver air battles. It is not suitable for solving tactical tasks. In addition, the MiG-25 is simply very outdated, in Russia it was removed from service in the early 90's.
But on the battlefield, the Su-25 attack planes work wonderfully, which opponents have in 15 units. Azerbaijan also has five Su-24 front bombers capable of striking ground targets, and as many old, but very sturdy, Su-17 attack aircraft. And five ancient, but quite suitable for this theater of operations MiG-21 and 13 relatively new MiG-29 purchased in Ukraine can lead those maneuverable air battles. The Armenians, in addition to the curious MiG-25, have nothing. Naturally, the Azerbaijani Air Force easily neutralizes the Armenian Su-25, which does not have fighter cover, allowing its bombers and attack aircraft to fly freely. And on attack Mi-24 helicopters, Azerbaijan has almost double superiority (15: 8).
But still the strike power of the Azerbaijani Air Force (40 bomber, attack aircraft and helicopters) is not so great as to make a decisive change in the fighting on the ground. In addition, Armenia and NKR have ground defense (at least 20, Osa, 40, Igla, an unknown number of Krug, C-75, C-125, Strela-10, air defense missile systems, Strela-2 ", ZSU" Shilka "), which can be very effective in the mountains. During the first war, Armenians shot down two dozen enemy aircraft and helicopters.
Thus, now Azerbaijan has not enough strength to count on a sure victory. Nevertheless, time definitely plays in his favor because of much greater economic power. And that is why they now want the war to break out again, the Armenians. For the time being, they can count on success, on a very significant weakening of the Azerbaijani military potential, which Baku will have to restore in 15 – 20 years. Moreover, it is possible that the Armenian troops will try to make a throw to the north, to the Minchegur reservoir, thereby cutting Azerbaijan into two isolated parts. Or three, considering Nakhichevan. Meanwhile, it can also become the object of a strike and Azerbaijan is unlikely to defend it.
However, this option has big drawbacks. Firstly, the Armenian side does not have any numerical superiority, therefore, such a crushing defeat of the enemy is possible only in case of a complete surprise. What is now a real absurdity (this article itself discussing options for war means that no suddenness is now feasible). Secondly, the political consequences will be very difficult for the Armenians, because they will be the aggressors attacking the territory that belongs to Azerbaijan from any point of view. As a result, the Armenians will lose the support of not only Iran, but almost certainly Russia and the West. And Turkey, in general, can not hold back and strike at Armenia.
Therefore, the most advantageous option for Armenia and NKR is to provoke Azerbaijan to attack first. And the sooner the better. For Baku has very "itching", which is why it may seem that there is enough strength to win today. And since, as was shown above, they are in fact insufficient, the Armenians, defending themselves in well-equipped positions, will be able to solve the main task of the war - they will knock out the offensive potential of Azerbaijan (it will not be necessary to march to the north).
At the same time with the military, the Azerbaijani leadership will tolerate a complete political defeat both in the international arena and in their own country: they themselves started the war and lost again! Moreover, the NKR will then turn from an unrecognized republic into a partially recognized state (let us recall the statement of the Armenian President in Astana).
One should be aware that problems like Karabakh have not yet been solved as a result of the peace accords. The rebel regions never returned voluntarily to the country (let's call it the metropolis), from which they had previously been separated by military means. There may be three other options.
1. Ex-metropolis recognizes the independence of the new state. So far, in this regard, there is only one “full-fledged” precedent: Ethiopia agreed with the existence of sovereign Eritrea. It arose only because Eritrean separatists in 1991 took a direct part in the overthrow of the government in Addis Ababa. Their Ethiopian allies at that time could not refuse to recognize the independence of the Eritreans, and besides, the country simply did not have the strength to keep the province in which the war did not subside. Naturally, for Baku such an option with regard to the NKR is completely excluded today.
2. Metropolis by force restores its sovereignty over the unrecognized state, after which all questions and contradictions are removed. This category includes Biafra in Nigeria, Katanga in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Serbian Krajina in Croatia, and Chechnya in Russia. A similar attempt by Georgia to return South Ossetia turned into a failure.
3. The question "hangs" for a long time. This category includes North Cyprus, Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Kosovo. However, within this latter category, a “subcategory” of partially recognized states emerged - Kosovo (almost 70 recognized by the countries), Abkhazia and South Ossetia (4), Northern Cyprus (1), which also came under very strong military protection (NATO, Russia and Turkey respectively). "Only unrecognized" remained only Transnistria and NKR.
The problem of unrecognized states, as is known, arose because of the intractable contradiction between the two fundamental principles of legal norms designed to regulate relations in the international arena - the inviolability of borders and the right of nations to self-determination. The situation is almost always aggravated by the fact that the immediate cause of the unrecognized state is ethnic and / or religious conflicts, which are irrational in their essence and that is why they are completely irreconcilable psychologically. They are accompanied by mutual extremely cruel repression, and this is not forgotten for a very long time. The Karabakh conflict is one of the most striking examples of this kind. At the same time, there is no mighty patron behind the NKR, like Kosovo or the former Georgian autonomies.
That is why a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict is an illusion. Armenians and Azerbaijanis are well aware of this. They know that there will be war. They really want to quickly. Because waiting is generally painful. For one of the parties, it is also fatal. And for the other - a fatal hurry, but really tired of waiting.