Frozen Conflicts Still in Danger of Thaw: Nagorno-Karabakh Leaks Back into the Spotlight

With Azerbaijan’s upcoming elections, much of the world’s attention is focused on the country’s future governance. (The criticism of the government in advance of those elections jumps over the almost incomprehensibly dysfunctional nature of the opposition, who after years of infighting and bickering came together to nominate for the presidency a man constitutionally barred from office because he holds dual citizenship in Russia.) This is a classic horserace error, because most international journalists understand elections, and they understand wars, but despite growing up in the Cold War, most have no idea how frozen conflicts work.

Here is how they work:

The European Union Special Representative for South Caucasus, Philippe Lefort, traveled to Baku this week to meet with Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister and others to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh occupation by Armenia. According to APA, he also spoke about the matter to assembled reporters:

“Armenia’s aggressive policy was condemned in the decisions and resolutions adopted by several international organizations. It was demanded to withdraw Armenian armed forces from our occupied territories and to restore the right of the refugees and IDPs to return home. Unfortunately, Armenia ignores the demands of the international community. All these demands are simply on the paper,” he said.

“This conflict is a serious problem not only for Azerbaijan, but also for the whole region. EU is ready to help solve the conflict in the short run,” he said.

M. Lefort is undoubtedly a very earnest and sincere man, and he no doubt intends to hold several meetings on the matter.

Out of which, very little will happen. Instead, eventually, Azerbaijan will realize that its military is orders of magnitude more advanced and more capable than Armenia’s, and that the outside world little cares what has happened to over a million ethnically cleansed Azerbaijanis. Armenia will work to further its puppet state in Nagorno-Karabakh, and countries will begin to accept the status quo as a fait accompli.

And then there will be a war.

It is very hard to extricate Azerbaijani domestic issues from its occupied territories, when Baku has spent billions merely caring for its refugees, and one in ten people are refugees or internally-displaced from the Armenian invasion.

This is the truth of frozen conflicts: they are interwoven with everything they touch, and so when they thaw, they are all the harder to end.

That this is too complicated for most of the international media to understand does not change its essential truth.