BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 7. On March 5, another unnecessary provocation of Armenian forces took place. Azerbaijan’s military received information about an arms smuggling mission from the territory of Armenia to the Karabakh via the Khalafali dirt road, bypassing the main Lachin-Khankendi road.
The latest occurrence in a series of events reinforces the point that Yerevan is pursuing destructive policies in the region. This is not news, as Yerevan’s proclivity to escalate in a situation where it has limited opportunities to achieve a favorable outcome was noticeable for a long time.
From an intelligence perspective, Armenia’s continuous attempts to transfer personnel, weapons, and ammunition to Azerbaijan, constitute neither tactical nor strategic surprise. The government of Azerbaijan said many times that visual control over the territory is established, as evidenced by the video proof provided after the latest provocation.
Some analysts look at the event through the lens of an isolated incident, which is an incorrect approach because it distorts our view and makes us unable to make generalizations regarding the Armenian policy toward Azerbaijan.
Provocation based foreign policy: a major threat for the region
It is imperative to realize that Armenia continues its provocation on the territory of the sovereign state, which instantly makes such steps illegal from the perspective of international law. This argument alone would be sufficient to stop the analysis in an ideal world, however, in the modern age international law is rather flexible, and provides no real protection. It is for this exact reason that Yerevan is ready to continue its provocations, as this offers high potential rewards with little potential risks involved.
There is, however, a lack of understanding of how states react to such acts is noticeable in the case of Yerevan. Ruling elites in Yerevan demonstrate bounded rationality when it comes to the possible responses of Azerbaijan. From the perspective of an observer, it is obvious that Baku will not remain indifferent to a threat to its domestic and foreign policy.
There is another issue that is crucially important. To this day, Armenia has a limited understanding of the possible implications of illegal weapons and personnel smuggling on the establishment of peace in the region. It is obvious that the steps of the Armenian government do very little to contribute to peace due to their militaristic nature. A politically wise move, in this case, would be to discuss the terms and conditions of future peace. However, the fact that Armenia has not done so in more than two years gives us grounds to suggest that an outbreak of violence justifies the maximalist goals of Armenia.
It is looking increasingly likely that the lack of desire in Armenia to forge a peace deal, and the continuation of the weapon smuggling, are all a part of a larger plan. By transferring weapons to Azerbaijan, Armenia carries out preparations for one, or several provocations. Several possibilities can be considered at this moment.
Armenia gathers military supplies on the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan to carry out provocations against Azerbaijan. These military provocations would be carried out against the citizens, as well as servicemen of Azerbaijan. This risk would be unacceptable for Baku, and it would not be surprising to have decisive action taken against a possible provocation.
Another possibility, which would be too dangerous to disregard, is the potential false flag attack against local ethnic-Armenian residents of Karabakh. This step could be aimed at tarnishing the reputation of Azerbaijan, threatening the economic link between Azerbaijan and other states, as well as uniting Armenia and the global diaspora around the idea of “modern-day genocide”.
Both possibilities are extremely dangerous for the region in general, and Armenia in particular. It is very important to ensure that the Armenian government makes a rational decision and does not escalate the situation in pursuit of dubious goals, which are unlikely to be achieved.
Self-sabotaging foreign policy narrative
It is very interesting that the efforts of Armenia to smuggle illegal weapons to Azerbaijan did more to destroy the Armenian propaganda machine than any other method. Armenia claims that the alleged “blockade” of the route under the temporary control of Russian peacekeeping force is being blocked for months by dozens of protesters, which prevents vital resources from being transported in and ensures the survival of the ethnic-Armenian population of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh.
Now, here are several big questions that come up. How can the “blockade” be carried out, when there is a road being used? And another question is why was this route used for illegal weapon smuggling when the population of Karabakh is being starved due to the “blockade”?
These two questions challenge the narrative that the Armenian propaganda machine carefully crafted over the previous several months in a bid to distort the global perception of Azerbaijan.
Logic suggests that if there is a possibility to smuggle weapons, then the same opportunities are available to transfer important goods. However, it looks more likely that Armenia is more interested in maintaining its victimhood image and creating a false narrative to harm Azerbaijan.
Armenia lacks judgement
Armenia operates on the premise that provocation is a feasible strategy to improve the potential outcome of Yerevan vis-à-vis Azerbaijan, which would allow Armenia to improve its bargaining position.
While this may sound logical on paper, this will not lead to any real results due to a combination of factors. First, this approach is a very risky step to take, as the provocations would be dealt with by Azerbaijan by any means that political and military leadership see fit.
Second, Armenian provocation-driven foreign policy creates grounds for launching escalatory responses in the region, as it threatens the vital interests of Azerbaijan. Setting in motion tit-for-tat or spiraling escalatory mechanisms poses significant dangers for Armenia, as the country still has not recovered from the devastating defeat suffered during the second Karabakh war.
It is baffling to see Yerevan try to escalate relations with Baku, considering that Armenia possesses limited tools at its disposal to threaten the existing balance of power. Armenian efforts to escalate are looking like a moot point that will only lead to more misery for Armenia and its international perception. After all, Armenia is trying to carry out illegal operations on the territory of Azerbaijan, and no country can do anything to prevent Azerbaijan from protecting its legitimate interests within its borders.