Escalation In the Caucasus?

After a week of fighting in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh which has seen considerable casualties, gains by Azerbaijani forces, and international calls for a ceasefire, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia appears on the verge of escalating. The two nations have become increasingly dependent upon ballistic missiles, and artillery to reach each other. Saturday’s Azeri attacks on separatist forces in the Karabakh included ballistic missiles. The Armenians responded with a missile attack on the Azeri city of Ganja. This marks the first time that Armenia has directly targeted Azerbaijan. Until this weekend the fighting has been limited to Nagorno-Karabakh. “Azerbaijan will destroy military targets directly inside Armenia from which shelling of its population centers is taking place,” presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev stated, even though Armenia denies having launched any sort of attack on Azerbaijan. The Armenian and Azeri governments have traded accusations and claims which are difficult for third-party sources outside of the region to confirm or deny.

As the conflict now seems to be escalating, it remains uncertain what the next phase will be. Armenia and Azerbaijan might find value in targeting strategic targets of the other side with ballistic missiles. Both nations possess respectable amounts of missiles able to strike targets hundreds of kilometers away. The Armenian inventory of ballistic missiles is made up almost entirely of Russian models, while the Azerbaijani stockpiles includes an eclectic mixture of earlier model Russian, and more modern Western weapons.

Another direction the conflict could now take is, ironically enough, one of mediation and ceasefire. Now that the two nations have lashed out at the other with missile strikes, it might be a signal that they are willing to explore an end to the fighting. Armenia has  reportedly considered requesting Russian peacekeepers, an act which could see the creation of yet another Russia-Turkey proxy conflict similar to Libya; Turkish-supplied Syrian mercenaries on the Azerbaijani side, and Russian troops under the guise of peacekeepers with the Armenians. This would inevitably chipping away at Azeri, and Armenian sovereignty much the same as we have seen happen in Libya, and to a lesser degree Syria in recent years.  

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