What does this war mean in the global imperialist framework?
This war represents the activation of the north-eastern end of the conflict arc between Turkey and Russia. In Libya, Syria and now in Nagorno-Karabakh, both powers support opposing forces and participate directly by sending mercenaries, aviation, supplies, military advisors and some land forces of their own.
Does Turkey help Azerbaijan because they are both Muslim countries?
No. The main route of Turkish penetration and propaganda in the Caucasus and Central Asia has not been religion but alleged ethnic affinity: the existence of a supposedly common cultural environment based on the common origin of Turkic languages. On the other hand, most Azeris are Shi’a, the official religion in neighboring Iran, while Halfi Islam, articulated by the Turkish state, is Sunni. In post-independence Azerbaijan (1992) the main link with Turkey has been the conflict with Armenian nationalism, which has made the so-called Armenian genocide -a massive Turkish ethnic cleansing campaign rather than a proper genocide- its founding epic and the annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) the basis of its own version of the doctrine of manifest destiny.
But doesn’t this war come from much further back?
The conflict between the two states for the control of Nagorno-Karabakh began with the collapse of the Stalinist USSR in the 1990s. The enclave became a symbol of Armenian irredentist nationalism and after the 1994 peace, border frictions have been constant but did not threaten an open war until last July. Then Turkey stoked up the conflict in order to gain trump cards to negotiate with Russia and the US at a time of impasse in Libya and Syria.
Shouldn’t we then look to the United States and the Minsk group?
The Minsk Group was born in 1994 within the OSCE. The OSCE represented an attempt to organize under multilateral forms the set of imperialist interests that at that time were considered the winners of the Cold War and aspired to their pound of flesh in the East. Today the OSCE is an irrelevant zombie and the Minsk group a photograph that turned into a washed-out color. Although the reflex of many media in the face of all war is to look at the USA, the truth is that all members of the group except Turkey (i.e. Belarus, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland) have very little direct regional influence. Of the three presidents (France, USA and Russia) only Russia has significant relations with the two contenders. France and the US are linked to the Armenian bourgeoisie, among other things through the diaspora, but their interests in Azeri oil are minimal.
Will international intervention then be limited to Turkey and Russia?
But just because the members of the Minsk group other than Turkey and Russia are not behind the escalation, it does not mean that they do not have their differences with Russia, Turkey or both and choose to play at resurrecting the old dead OSCE. Turkey’s rivals in Libya like Egypt or in Syria like Iran, are willing to get involved either as mediators or by taking sides.
Another reaction to follow is that of the countries of the Turkic Council, the apparatus with which Turkish imperialism, in Erdogan’s first period, tried to link the Turkic-speaking states of Central Asia (and recently, Hungary). Russia and China have progressively displaced Turkish capital and large civil works enterprises in the region. But many ties remain. The position of the different Central Asian bourgeoisies will give a measure and tell us to what extent the regional pulse between Russia and Turkey is still alive. Erdogan should not expect too much from them.
In any case, as in Libya or Syria, Turkey and Russia will try to keep all mediators away without breaking channels between each other. In fact, the first thing they have done is to start coordinating with each other, while their protégés were starting hostilities.
Could the war spread beyond Nagorno-Karabakh?
According to the Armenian-Russian story, the fight in Nagorno-Karabakh is an attempt at an independent ethnic republic. The Artsakh Republic. The script of the Yerevan government is very similar to the one followed by Russia in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine: decapitation of the opposition the day before the beginning of the attacks, interposed forces and… in case of securing most of the territory, referendum and annexation, as prime minister Pashinyan has already promised.
But Turkey has promised full involvement, and although Pashinyan is asking Russia, the EU and the US to get Turkey out of there, and Harutyunyan -the supposed president of Artsakh- is denouncing that Erdogan was sending Syrian militia, the killing will not stop and it will be very difficult for it not to evolve further.
If Turkey, with a tactic similar to that used in Libya -drones and Syrian mercenaries- manages to reverse the initial Azeri defeats, the war could reach a new armed impasse or … it could become an all-out war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
What consequences can a total war between the two countries have?
It would endanger one of the main gas supply routes at a time when the EU is redoubling its commitment to the green deal… which involves the massive import of gas as transitional energy both for direct consumption and hydrogen production. Both Turkmen and Azeri gas leave through pipelines very close to the front lines. Azerbaijan, aware of its weakness in the face of attacks along the pipeline, threatened Armenia in July with missile bombing of its nuclear power plant. Turkey, once again, would present itself to Europe as the guardian of its gates.