Armenia and Azerbaijan on the brink of war

Fighting has flared between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The territory of some 150,000 people is controlled by Armenia and populated by a majority of Armenians, but lies within the territory of Azerbaijan. A bloody war was fought in 1994, resulting in 25,000 to 30,000 deaths, and a ceasefire agreement from that year in principle remains in effect.

It is not clear how the present clashes began, with each side blaming the other. Turkey strongly supports Azerbaijan, both militarily and politically. Russia has a mutual defense treaty with Armenia and also has a base in that country. Yet Russia also sells arms and equipment to Azerbaijan as well as to Armenia. Turkey is a member of NATO, but also purchases military equipment from Russia, including the advanced S-400 missile defense system.

The risk of large-scale war between the two countries appears to be great.


(1) Nicolas Ruisseau, “Affrontements dans le Haut-Karabakh : l’Arménie et l’Azerbaïdjan au seuil de la guerre; Le conflit gelé depuis près de trente ans dans cette région du Caucase, enclave séparatiste peuplée d’Arméniens mais revendiquée par l’Azerbaïdjan, a viré à l’escalade ce week-end. Avec, en coulisses, les deux arbitres : Ankara et Moscou,” Le Monde, le 28 sptembre 2020 (à 06h36, mis à jour à 15h50.

(2) Andrés Mourenza (Estambul), “Decenas de muertos en el segundo día de combates en el enclave del Alto Karabaj; El presidente azerí Aliyev anuncia una movilización parcial del país para hacer frente a las fuerzas armenias,” El País, 28 de septiembre 2020 (14:31 EDT).

(3) Andrew E. Kramer, “Fighting Between Armenia and Azerbaijan Risks Drawing in Bigger Powers; Escalation on both sides suggests that an extended conflict may ensue in Nagorno-Karabakh, increasing the possibility of involvement by countries like Russia and Turkey,” New York Times, September 28, 2020.(2:54 p.m. EDT).

(4) Anna-Sophie Schneider, “Türkei im Bergkarabach-Konflikt: Und wieder Erdogan; Die Kämpfe zwischen Aserbaidschan und Armenien eskalieren – die Türkei stellt sich deutlich wie nie hinter ihren “Bruderstaat”. Was hat Präsident Erdogan vor?” Der Spiegel, 28. September 2020 (23.36 Uhr).

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.