Armenian serviceman observing Azerbaijani positions. Image courtesy of CivilNet.
Armenian serviceman observing Azerbaijani positions. Image courtesy of CivilNet.

In “Looming Dangers One Year after Nagorno-Karabakh Escalation,” the International Crisis Group’s Magdalena Grono notes the seemingly irreconcilable deadlock in Karabakh negotiations and, considering Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s military capacities, persistent risks of fighting on “deadlier scale” than in April 2016.

Speaking on March 25 in Karabakh, Armenia’s president Serzh Sargsyan warned that in the case of another Azerbaijani attack he would order the launch of recently acquired Iskander surface-to-surface ballistic missiles against Azerbaijan’s “vital infrastructure… if needed.” The modern Iskander missiles, as well as the older Soviet-era Scud missiles also in Armenia’s arsenal, have the ranges to attack targets throughout Azerbaijan.

In response, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry repeated its threat to target Armenian population centers with its long-range artillery. Azerbaijan’s arsenal includes long-range multiple-launch artillery systems capable of reaching both Stepanakert and Yerevan (latter, if targeted from Nakhichevan), the two cities Azerbaijani military officials have threatened to attack last year.

To prevent such scenarios, the ICG paper recommends renewed European Union focus on the Karabakh peace process and implementation of cease-fire strengthening mechanisms agreed in principle after the April war, but that Azerbaijan has since refused to implement.

Writing for the ICG report “Nagorno-Karabakh: Risking War,” published 10 years ago, Magdalena Frichova (now Grono) warned that “the international community needs to take the threat of war within a few years seriously.”

The report she co-authored in 2007 noted that while an “all-out war” was unlikely in a near future, the risk of war “may reach a new level around 2012, however, when Azerbaijan’s oil revenues are expected to begin to decline… At that point, Baku might be tempted to conclude that the balance of power was at its most favorable and that an appeal to extreme nationalism could counteract popular disenchantment with the regime.”