Thursday, October 14, 2021

A War you never heard about, but (maybe) an important one

So there is a long running war, with occasional bursts of a cold peace, between Armenia and Azerbaijan. For most of recent (say 1600s onward) both Armenia and Azerbaijan were part of the Ottoman empire, then the Russian Empire. In 1917, they were incorporated into the Soviet Union. Through a long and tangled history, this might result in Turkey acquiring US nuclear missles.

Ethnically Armenia and Azerbaijan are very different. Armenia is Orthodox Christian. In fact it is the oldest Christian nation there is. It embraced Christianity before before 350AD and the does not adhere to the official reduced book of gospel as degreed by Rome in 453.

On the the other hand, Azerbaijan is a muslim nation, whose people are ethnic Turks. In fact, these people (spread through northern Iran as well) are the largest group of ethnic Turks, after Turkey itself.

Originally (say 1980s), the bright orange was part of Armenia, and the yellow in the southwest was (and still is) part of Azerbaijan. The dark brown has been "ruled" by Armenia since the 1990s.

So, right off the bat, there is both an ethnic and religious divide. Worse both countries, during Soviet rule, were granted pieces of non contiguous territory inside the other's borders due to the ethnic populations. When the Soviet Union broke up, the borders were left intact. That is Armenia controlled the bright orange of the map above in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan controlled the yellow in Armenia's territory.

The first war broke out the year the Soviet Union collapsed (1988). There has been low level fighting ever since, with major conflicts in 1994, 2005, 2016 and 2020. The most recent, and the simmering tensions that have followed, added a major international element to the fight.

For the first time since the Ottoman Empire, Turkey inserted itself. They supported Azerbaijan along with Russia. Turkey and Armenia have had a strained relationship since 1914 when Armenians in Istanbul and Ottoman Turkey were massacred - in the first oficial genocide

In 2020, after multiple attempts by Congress, President Trump officially recognized this as genocide, infuriating Turkey. Many many Armenian-Americans celebrated.

So Turkey, with no reason to hold back now, lent its support to Azerbaijan. With Turkey and Russia on its side, Azerbaijan overwhelmed Armenia. A super fragile peace has been imposed by Russia and Turkey, which is sporadically broken by both parties.

Why is this a big deal? Well, it is the second time that Turkey, our ally and NATO member, has aligned with Russia in an international conflict despite the express wishes of the USA. (The first was in the Syrian Civil war, a few years earlier.) As Turkey and Russia find common interests, the United States has become less important as an ally. Still, this might not be a big deal, except the United States actually has nuclear attack missiles in Turkey at an American base.

And, during a tiff with Trump, Turkey actually closed the base's access. Which is a pretty big deal, and something we would definitely go to war over. We don't want a anti-US faction in Turkey to take control of nuclear weapons - particularly ours.

And so, almost a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, we find ourselves in the middle of another intractable war in the mid-east (adjacent).

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