America’s Annual Worldwide Threat Assessment Considers Karabakh

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The U.S. intelligence community has published its annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, which Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats presented in the Senate on January 29.

As in years before the report’s Russia and Eurasia section contains a brief reference to the Karabakh conflict. This year it is just a single sentence stating that: “Tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region remains a potential source for a large-scale military conflict that might draw in Russia.”

A similar sentence was included in last year’s assessment, but overall the Karabakh paragraph was reduced from 78 to 23 words, reflecting the fact that U.S. government’s consistent but cursory interest in the long-standing issue is focused more on potential for Russia’s involvement than the conflict itself. Unusually, this year’s report also eliminated any reference to Georgia and its conflict with Russia.

In the assessment published two months before the April 2016 escalation, then National Intelligence Director James Clapper predicted that “Baku’s sustained military buildup coupled with declining economic conditions in Azerbaijan are raising the potential that the conflict will escalate in 2016.”

Clapper further argued that “Azerbaijan’s aversion to publicly relinquishing its claim to Nagorno-Karabakh proper and Armenia’s reluctance to give up territory it controls will continue to complicate a peaceful resolution.”

Separately, the annual Preventive Priorities Survey published by the Council on Foreign Relations which at the end of 2017 still qualified the Karabakh conflict as “worsening,” dropped any references to it in its summary report published last month.

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