Global Insight
January 28, 2011

Armenia Ready for War with Azerbaijan to Prevent Ethnic Cleansing in
Breakaway Region

by: Lilit Gevorgyan

Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan told influential and independently
edited Russian Moscow Echo radio station on 27 January that his
country is ready for war. He clarified that Armenia is against war,
but it is not afraid of it. Sargsyan warned that if neighbouring
Azerbaijan decides to follow up the repeated threats to resolve the
conflict over the Armenian-populated breakaway region of
Nagorno-Karabakh through war, then his country would be ready to
fight. He told the radio station that, "if by some miracle Karabakh
was under Azerbaijani control even for an hour, there would be no
Armenian left there." He concluded that Armenia has to take all
measures necessary to protect its population. The conflict over the
status of Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in 1988 when the region's
majority-Armenian population decided to vote against decision made by
Joseph Stalin in 1923 to join Karabakh to Azerbaijan and give its
mountainous part, densely populated by Armenians, the status of an
autonomous region within Azerbaijan. Between 1998 and 1994, 30,000
people were killed in the conflict which ended with an armistice, but
there has been no final resolution to the conflict

Significance:The low-intensity conflict along the line of contact
between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Nagorno-Karabakh and
Azerbaijan has deteriorated in the past year. Over 20 soldiers have
been killed on both sides as a result of cross-border shootings and
minor incursions into the enemy territory in 2010, while in January
three soldiers--both Armenian and Azerbaijani--have already been
killed in similar incidents. Unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan is seeing a
surge in state income thanks to its energy exports which have helped
the country to boost its defence budget by 50% in 2011 by increasing
its spending, chiefly on rearmament, from US$2 billion in 2010 to
US$3.2 billion this year. Defence spending accounts for 19.7% of the
total budget compared to 10.7% in 2010. This figure dwarfs the
Armenian defence budget which stands at around US$450 million for
2011. The generous defence budget as well as the fact that
Azerbaijan's population is roughly three times Armenia's has boosted
the former's confidence that it can launch a war and force
Nagorno-Karabakh, which has beende factoindependent since 1988, under
its rule. However, the likelihood of war remains relatively low since
it is not in the interest of the current Azerbaijani regime in the
first place. Azeri president Ilham Aliyev is mostly concerned with
consolidating his power in the country and safe flow of oil and gas
exports. A possible war with Armenia may upset both.

From: A. Papazian