Armenian children hiding from Azeri soldiers

Azerbaijan Waited for Its Opening on Nagorno-Karabakh. This Week It Found It.

September 25, 2023
David Ignatius

This is a summary of an article originally published by The Washington Post.

The author, a foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post, writes: 

  • For Armenians, who live in the long shadow of the 1915 Ottoman genocide, the plight of an estimated 120,000 ethnic Armenians in Karabakh has been haunting. Lacking the military power to rival Azerbaijan—and without protection from Russia, the United States or even Armenia itself—the Karabakh Armenians were forced to surrender in two days. 
  • At least 200 Karabakh Armenians died in the fighting that began Tuesday, according to local reports, as Azerbaijani artillery pounded Karabakh's small military force and Baku's commandos seized strategic high ground. Armenian social media carried wrenching stories about families searching for missing children and thousands gathered at the airport in Stepanakert, the region's de facto capital, hoping to flee. 
  • Global power politics overlay this week's dramatic events. The Karabakh turmoil results in part from the vacuum in the region caused by Russia's preoccupation with Ukraine. … Armenia, which has relied for a century on Russian protection, had begun doubting Moscow and started pivoting to the West this year, hoping for more reliable allies.  
  • Armenia's pivot West was probably badly timed. It alienated the Russians without bringing reliable Western help. The Armenians, especially in Karabakh, were isolated and vulnerable—waiting for foreign deliverance that never came. In that respect, it was a cruel recapitulation of modern Armenian history. 
  • Azerbaijan began a slow strangulation of Karabakh in December, when a government-backed organization closed the road to Armenia, known as the "Lachin Corridor." Karabakh was gradually starved of food and fuel—and by this month, basic supplies of flour and other essentials were said to be exhausted. That's when Aliyev struck militarily. 
  • The Biden administration's policy now is to prevent the ethnic cleansing that Armenians fear. Blinken is said to have urged Aliyev to grant what amounts to amnesty to the Karabakh Armenians and provide reliable guarantees for their security. The United States also hopes that a lasting accord between Armenia and Azerbaijan will be possible now that the Karabakh issue has been resolved at gunpoint. But that overlooks the deep mistrust and anxiety felt by Armenians, which will only increase after this week's armed takeover. 

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