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Endgame in Karabakh – Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Utility of Land Power in the 2020s

Endgame in Karabakh – Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Utility of Land Power in the 2020s Endgame in Karabakh – Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Utility of Land Power in the 2020s
Aziz Karimov, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Description: “Azerbaijani soldiers fighting in Karabakh in trenches, 2023.” Image is free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.
To cite this article: Anglim, Simon, “Endgame in Karabakh – Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Utility of Land Power in the 2020s,” Military Strategy Magazine, Exclusive Article, March 2024.


Strategy is the process of turning geopolitical policy aims into geopolitical facts. For all the talk over the past twenty years of the end of conventional warfare, we now have compelling evidence that this process still hinges, ultimately, on establishing those facts on the ground by securing territory that you or your opponent cannot do without. Since February 2022, Ukraine and Russia have fought a major conventional war right on the edge of Europe with land battles over key territory being the major episodes; in October 2023, the Israel Defence Force launched a conventional assault on the terrorist group, Hamas, in its stronghold in Gaza following Hamas’ atrocities in southern Israel at the beginning of that month. Hard land power is undergoing a bloody renaissance.

Nevertheless, in the United Kingdom, current defence doctrine appears driven by a highly visible ‘conventional land warfare is extinct’ lobby driving agendas across the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the ruling Conservative Party and even within the British Army. This goes to the very top: the former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, stated on the record in 2021 that the days ‘of fighting major tank battles on the European continent…are over’ and argued the UK should invest instead in new capabilities, most prominently ‘cyber’; almost concurrently, the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, was forced to deny rumours he favoured scrapping the British Army’s tank fleet but has since dismissed those calling for more spending on troops and hardware as playing ‘Top Trumps’ rather than facing hard realities.[i] The British Army will soon be at its smallest in 200 years – despite the Ukraine war and UK government aspirations to retain its leading role in NATO – and even some of its own officers suspect it of giving up on conventional warfighting.[ii] Even with the evidence of the fighting in Donbas, post 2014, and the largely conventional response to ISIS in Iraq, a previous UK Chief of the General Staff (CGS – official head of the British Army) General Sir Nicholas Carter, saw the 21st century as a new age of ‘hybrid’ conflicts contested via ‘information manoeuvre’ in which ‘strategists and tacticians [sic] would be encouraged to think of allies and adversaries as “audiences” to be influenced while the use of traditional “hard power” would feature far less’ in an environment where ‘”victory” and “defeat” [are] things of the past’ while others within the Army have suggested that ‘weaponised information’ should be the UK’s first resort in ‘a multi-dimensional struggle to influence global demographics’.[iii] General Carter’s successor as CGS, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, presented an alternative vision in which kinetic action still features, but is delivered remotely via unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), missiles and crewed aircraft in support of proxy local actors and coordinated by the UK’s world-class Special Forces.[iv] The 2021 Integrated Review of Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, the first major public statement of UK foreign and defence policy, post-Brexit, announced new spending on artificial intelligence across the armed forces as Messrs Johnson and Wallace were cutting the Army’s armed strength while the latest such document, the Ministry of Defence Command Paper of 2023, suggested a key lesson of Ukraine was that mass of soldiers and firepower – a staple of land warfare for the last 400 years – was now less important than the ‘cunning’ of people applying new technology.[v]

This flies in the face not only of what we see from Ukraine or Gaza but of one example, from the past three years, where smart use of conventional land power brought decisive victory for one side in an apparently intractable, decades-long international conflict.[vi] Azerbaijan’s 2023 victory in Nagorno-Karabakh demonstrates that land power can still turn policy into facts in the 2020s, if directed at clear geopolitical aims and delivered via a coherent campaign aimed at establishing those facts on the ground in such a way that the opponent and the world cannot dispute them. It happened because Azerbaijan converted a typically ramshackle post-Soviet army into a well-trained, highly lethal 21st-century force, combining new with old technology, able to carry out two successful ground offensives, re-occupying the area around Karabakh in September 2020 and the remainder of the region two years later. The author published previously on Azerbaijan’s strategy, shortly after the 2020 Karabakh War, concluding that Azerbaijan’s success indicated that conventional land power has a present as an instrument of strategy, so probably has a future, too.[vii] Since then, Azerbaijan has gone further, using its land power to alter the course of its history and that of its region. This paper examines this process and what it might tell us further about the utility of land power in the 2020s and beyond, starting with the outcome before looking at how it came about.

January 2024

7 December 2023 brought a joint statement from the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, announcing they would seek a permanent peace treaty between their two countries and normalisation of relations, even offering to assist each other in certain policy areas.[viii] Nine weeks before, the main cause of the bitter armed standoff between Azerbaijan and Armenia – a standoff punctuated by three wars, in 1988-1994, 2020 and 2023 – vanished as Samvel Shahramnayan, President of the ‘Republic of Artsakh’ – according to the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and every other important international body, the illegal ethnic-Armenian statelet occupying the territory of the Azerbaijani province of Nagorno-Karabakh – ordered all governing bodies of ‘Artsakh’ to cease functioning and proclaimed that ‘Artsakh’ itself would dissolve on 1 January 2024.[ix] The apparent outbreak of peace in the South Caucasus was welcomed by world leaders ranging from the Pope – who visited Azerbaijan in 2016 and had called for negotiation for several years – via the President of the European Council to Armenia’s erstwhile ally, President Putin. Following the joint announcement the British government promised to encourage investment in reconstruction in the previously Armenian-occupied regions of Azerbaijan surrounding Karabakh and a deal with Israel was announced that the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) will assist in prospecting new oilfields off Israel’s coast north of the existing Leviathan Field.[x]

Compare this with the situation before September 2020. For thirty years, the facts on the ground were Armenian, ‘Artsakh’ existing because Armenia established these facts by superior force in the early 1990s war, which left ethnic Armenian forces in command of Nagorno-Karabakh – what became the territory of ‘Artsakh’ – and the seven Azerbaijani regions around it. Armenia received extensive military backing from Russia, and the war ended via the Bishkek Protocol, a ceasefire agreement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, ‘Artsakh’ and the protocol’s broker, Russia, on 5 May 1994. 30,000 people were killed, at least 600,000 Azeris were forced out of Karabakh alongside thousands more expelled from Armenia since the late 1980s, these Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) lived as refugees in Azerbaijan for the next thirty years; concurrently, thousands of ethnic Armenians living previously in Azerbaijan left for Armenia or further. By 2020, ‘Artsakh’s’ population was just below 149,000, around 99% ethnic Armenian, courtesy of the war and expulsions.[xi]

Control on the ground mattered because legally, the Armenians didn’t have a leg to stand on: as noted already, Karabakh was classified as Azerbaijani sovereign territory by every major international organisation including the UN, ‘Artsakh’ was never recognised by any UN member state – not even the Republic of Armenia – and, indeed, relations between ‘Artsakh’ and the Armenian government became increasingly complicated over the years, particularly since Mr Pashinyan was elected PM in 2018, after leading street protests against the growingly authoritarian presidency of Serzh Sargsyan. The UN passed several resolutions calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, with negotiations centring on the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, co-chaired by France, the USA and Russia and consisting of representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Finland and Belarus. The Group aimed at convening a conference settling the Karabakh issue once and for all, a conference which, presumably, will now never meet. Azerbaijan seems to have had more faith in the process than Armenia, which remained rigidly intransigent up to the 2020 war – indeed, the Armenian constitution calls explicitly for the unification of Armenia and Karabakh, meaning as long as ‘Artsakh’ existed, it could be a potential Trojan Horse for annexation.[xii] Consequently, the Minsk process was highly sporadic, with major fighting along the line of control around Karabakh in 2008, 2016 and early 2020 and many smaller incidents in between alongside Armenia’s closure of all land routes into Nakhchivan, an enclave in Azerbaijan’s far southwest separated from the rest of the country by a fifty-mile wide strip of Armenian territory.[xiii]

Azerbaijan builds the means

Azerbaijan’s main external policy aim for thirty years was restoring Karabakh to Azerbaijani sovereignty, preferably peacefully via the Minsk process but by force if this looked like failing.[xiv] It built considerable means for pursuing the latter, accelerating the process following the 2016 border fighting. Since 1994, Azerbaijan has become very rich, courtesy of exports of oil and natural gas, with an estimated 7 billion barrels of oil and 1.3 trillion cubic metres of gas in reserve, mainly in fields below the Caspian Sea, with pipelines to the Black Sea via Georgia giving the capacity to export nearly 2 million barrels of oil per day, mostly to EU countries but also, increasingly, to Israel.[xv] Azerbaijan is now a classic ‘rentier’ state, Mr Aliyev using revenues from energy exports for development and raising living standards and per capita GDP; he has also used that wealth – GDP in 2023 of $158billion in a country of just over 10 million people, with a defence budget of just over $3billion – to build some formidable military capabilities.

Karabakh is landlocked and mountainous: were force needed, it could only be secured by a land campaign by the Azerbaijan Army. This remains, superficially, a Soviet/Russian legacy force, 380,000 strong with around 65,000 active service – mainly conscripts – and using a lot of Soviet/Russian equipment, its 410-strong tank pool consisting of T-72s and T-90s, for instance, while the BM-30 Smerch multi-barrel rocket launcher featured extensively in operations in 2020 and 2023.[xvi] Its principal opponent in 2020 and 2023 was the Artsakh Defence Army (ADA), estimated strength 30,000 with 186 tanks and 140 artillery pieces, all ex-Soviet models supplied by Armenia. Azerbaijan would therefore have the attritional advantage in any fighting, but Karabakh’s mountainous terrain and ADA skill in using it would make that attrition slow and bloody indeed. It took some astute alliance-building and spending of those oil revenues by Mr Aliyev to convert the Azerbaijan Army into the 2020s-standard force which retook Karabakh, its main external benefactors being Turkey and Israel.

The relationship between Turkey and Azerbaijan was summarised by Heydar Aliyev, Ilham Aliyev’s father and predecessor as president, as ‘one country, two states’: both are Turkic cultures speaking similar languages, both are nominally Muslim although now largely secularised, and they have geopolitical rivals in common.[xvii] They signed agreements on military training cooperation in 1992 and 1996 and a treaty on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Assistance – a de facto alliance – in 2010 and President Erdogan has been a regular visitor to Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, over the past fourteen years.[xviii] While cooperation has become demonstrably closer since Mr Erdogan became president, Turkey provided the Azerbaijan armed forces with financial support long before, beginning during the first Karabakh war, and in 2001, Azerbaijan set up the Training and Education Centre for the Armed Forces, at which some 7,000 officers and soldiers have been trained to NATO standard by mainly Turkish instructors; the Turkish and Azerbaijan armies exercise together regularly, officer cadets from the army now train at the Turkish Military Academy in Ankara and since 2020 pilots from the air force have trained to fly F-16s at Turkish airbases.[xix] Turkey also helped Azerbaijan develop an indigenous arms industry, now producing Azerbaijani-designed assault and sniper rifles and mortars, and is a major external arms supplier, with the Azerbaijan Army now operating forty Turkish Sakaya MRLS alongside its thirty Smerches, over forty Turkish-manufactured mobile air defence systems and a range of electronic warfare equipment supplied courtesy of Mr Erdogan.[xx] However, the highest-profile import by far consists of the fifty TB2 Bayraktar unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) featuring so prominently in 2020 as we cover below.[xxi]

Azerbaijan’s other major international partner is Israel. The common denominator here is Iran, a country with close relations with Armenia that Israel views as an existential threat. Consequently, there is extensive intelligence-sharing and Israeli arms exports to Azerbaijan dwarf even Turkey’s, rising to 69% of the share in 2016-2020 in the buildup to the second Karabakh War. Israel has provided yet more MRLS, anti-tank missiles and air defence systems (Azerbaijan may be a future customer for Iron Dome) while the Israeli defence manufacturers Elbit and Rafael have upgraded many of the army’s T-72 tanks to T-72 Aslans, with improved sensors, fire control and explosive reactive armour.[xxii] Azerbaijan has also bought Israeli UCAVs, using the Harop loitering drone to great effect in 2020 and now has the capacity for long-range strikes courtesy of Israel Aerospace Industry LORA ballistic missiles.

Compare this with the opposition. Interestingly, Armenia, a democracy with a proudly open society and often lively elections was, for decades, an ally of President Putin’s Russia via membership of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) a commitment it apparently took seriously, judging at least by the deployment of an Armenian contingent to Russia’s ‘stabilisation’ mission to Kazakhstan in January 2022.[xxiii] Although it has bought equipment from France and India since 2020, Armenia’s forces still use largely Soviet/Russian equipment, much of it now elderly, and what was passed onto the ADA was distinctly second-hand and second-rate.[xxiv] Consequently, the ADA was outmatched not only numerically but technologically, too. Russia has sold twelve SU-30 fighters and 25 Iskander ballistic missile systems to Armenia, granting capability to strike all over Azerbaijan, but both systems remained conspicuously unused in 2020-2023; however, the ADA certainly did use the Russian Scud ballistic missiles supplied by Armenia, firing several at the Azerbaijani city of Ganja during the 2020 war, killing 23 civilians and wounding at least eighty more.

2020-2023 – the Way: Azerbaijan’s land power in action

Azerbaijan ended the Karabakh conflict via two highly coherent land campaigns, three years apart, which retook all its lost territory and altered the facts on the ground beyond recognition – the very epitome of decisiveness. There was little of the meat-grinding attrition characterising post-Soviet warfare elsewhere: Azerbaijan deployed strength against weakness throughout both campaigns and the 2020 campaign had some notable manoeuvre elements, its key operation aiming at seizing a key geographical centre of gravity and dislocating the whole of ‘Artsakh’ once it succeeded.

Turkey’s part in planning this is unclear: suffice to say some Azerbaijani senior officers rose via the Soviet military education system and two generations of its officers are now trained to NATO standards by the Turks and others so awareness of operational art and Western ideas on manoeuvre warfare can be presumed.[xxv] This becomes more evident from the offensives of 2020 and 2023; Mr Aliyev’s stated aim in 2020 was liberating the seven regions under Armenian control and in 2023 the objective seems to have been the final dissolution of ‘Artsakh’ itself.[xxvi] Timing seems to have been deliberate, the 2020 offensive being launched in late September with the world preoccupied with the COVID pandemic and the impending US Presidential elections, the September 2023 one with global attention focused on Ukraine, where Armenia’s principal ally and insurance policy, Russia, was now bogged down comprehensively. Serious campaign development is just as evident: the September 2020 operation began with three days of intense electronic warfare, missile and UCAV attacks – mainly Bayraktars but Harops featured also – on ADA air defences, armour and logistics along with a methodical westward advance through the mountains on the line of control between Azerbaijan and Karabakh. This resulted in the Azerbaijan Army seizing positions overlooking Stepanakert, the capital of ‘Artsakh’ (known as Khankendi to Azeris) from the east. From there its artillery – including Smerches – barraged the town and pinned ADA forces there, assisting the manoeuvre element, a ‘Hail Mary’ left hook to the south, a mechanised thrust through the Armenian-occupied Azeri regions along the border with Iran, followed by a hook north to capture Shusha, a mountain town of enormous cultural and historical significance to Azeris which also dominates the single road along the Lachin Corridor, Karabakh’s only land route to Armenia.[xxvii]

‘Artsakh’s’ position was rendered untenable by Azerbaijan securing this key ground and the offensive was terminated by an armistice brokered by President Putin leading to Russia inserting a brigade-sized ‘peace keeping’ force into Karabakh and the Lachin Corridor, Azerbaijan regaining the seven regions around Karabakh lost in 1994 – Mr Aliyev’s key stated aim – and Armenia being allowed road access to Stepanakert/Khankendi via the Lachin Corridor; Mr Aliyev also floated the idea of a ‘Zangezur Corridor’, a land route to Nakhchivan passing through Armenian territory.[xxviii] The peace was tenuous, and in September 2022, Azerbaijan began a month of artillery barrages of targets inside Armenia following allegations that Armenian ‘saboteurs’ were crossing the border and mining roads in the liberated territories and of Armenians in Khankendi/Stepanakert moving vital resources into Armenia along the Lachin corridor; in December, Azerbaijan set up security checkpoints along the Lachin corridor road, controlling all access into Stepanakert/Khankendi and leading to Armenian accusations of ‘blockade’.[xxix] Nevertheless, May 2023 brought a bombshell announcement from Mr Pashinyan: he was willing to recognise Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh if Mr Aliyev guaranteed the rights of the Karabakh Armenians, this also being Russia’s stance, to judge from statements from President Putin and despite Mr Pashinyan’s concurrent announcement that Armenia was withdrawing from the CSTO.[xxx]

This was the political background to Azerbaijan’s second offensive, launched on 19 September 2023, and designated a ‘counter-terrorist operation’ based on further allegations of gun-running. The 2023 offensive consisted of a drive up the Lachin Corridor from the south, towards Khankendi/Stepanakert, capturing a succession of villages overlooking the route, alongside further shelling of the town itself; the Armenian Republic did not intervene and the ‘Artsakh’ authorities asked for an armistice after just over 24 hours, leading to the political developments described above.

Conclusions – decisive effect and its aftermath

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict ended because in 2020 the Azerbaijan Army occupied key ground allowing them to dominate Karabakh and providing a strong starting point for a second offensive, two years later, securing the rest of the disputed territory. This involved hard fighting: whatever their deftness strategically and operationally, the mainly conscripted Azerbaijan forces were on a steep learning curve tactically against brave opposition in mountainous terrain, with the 2020 offensive seeing some 5.000 soldiers killed on both sides.[xxxi] Facts were contested, then changed on the ground because it is only there that they can be changed – a lesson for Whitehall.

‘Addressing the global audience’ had zero impact on these facts despite intense media campaigns waged globally by both sides and their diasporas.[xxxii] Indeed, some Western commentary on the 2020 campaign indicates filtering through existing local agendas, dwelling heavily as it did on the ‘decisive’ impact of the UCAVs, influenced, possibly, by the many ‘snuff videos’ of the flaming destruction of ADA tanks and other vehicles posted online by Azerbaijan government sources.[xxxiii] New technology and electronic warfare certainly played their part, but as enablers of hard land power by shutting down the ADA’s communications and air defences and wearing down their ground power – a second lesson for Whitehall. Moving onto 2023, the small but noisy Artsakh lobby in the USA and Europe ran an energetic media and social media campaign centring on the narrative of a plucky little Christian enclave facing ‘genocide’ at the hands of Muslim Tatar hordes.[xxxiv] While predictably resonating on the political right in the UK and Europe and among Beltway neoconservatives, this had no effect on policy and probably undermined itself with the shrillness of some of its tone: the Azerbaijani regime can be criticised on many counts, but claiming they are jihadis, Bashar al Assad allies or even Hamas supporters is, frankly, ludicrous, given Azerbaijan’s ever-closer cooperation with Israel and certain Western powers, culminating in Mr Aliyev’s invitation to the 2024 Munich Security Conference, where he held several bilateral meetings including with President Zelensky, Chancellor Scholz and Secretary Blinken, and Baku now hosting the UN Climate Security Conference in December 2024.[xxxv] The ending of the Karabakh confrontation demonstrates that all the spin in the world is irrelevant if you cannot control the vital ground under contention – a third, and possibly the most salient lesson for Whitehall.


Whatever the narratives and interpretations, few can deny that the Karabakh conflict has been a geopolitical tragedy in which the main victims have been civilians.[xxxvi] Sadly, then, it seems that the late 2023 outbreak of cordiality may not last: as we write, Nakhchivan remains isolated, shots and accusations are flying across the frontier and the Zangezur Corridor is seemingly turning into a new flashpoint.[xxxvii] It may be that Azerbaijan’s decisive use of land power in Karabakh has ended that confrontation but created a new one in doing so.


Acknowledgments: My thanks to Dr Mark Baillie, Dr Hillary Briffa, Lt Colonel Sean Cronin-Nowakowski and Miss Kamilla Mamedova for reviewing previous drafts of this paper.


[i] Mr Johnson shared his thoughts at the House of Commons Liaison Committee on 17 November 2021. He seems to have changed his opinion since February 2022. For Ben Wallace, see ‘Defence Secretary denies British Army is scrapping tanks’, Guardian 12 September 2020, ; see ‘Defence Secretary says there are currently more F-35s than pilots’, Forces.Net 1 November 2022 for on of several instances of Mr Wallace utilising the ‘Top Trumps’ attack.
[ii] See, for instance, ‘RLC Alex’, ‘The Army isn’t serious about War Fighting’, The Wavell Room 24 August 2022 - The Wavell Room is a blogsite and online discussion area on which serving officers can post anonymously, its content at any one time providing a good indicator of prevailing issues. The author has had numerous conversations with officers and British military commentators suggesting there may be something in the article’s title.
[iii] Sam Jones, ‘”Victory” and “Defeat” things of past, says top UK general’, Financial Times, 17 February 2015, ; Martin Crilly, ‘A post-digital British military – the new influencing arm of the state’, Wavell Room, 28 July 2023, General Carter raised 77 Brigade, a formation specialising in ‘narrative control’ as the Army was cutting both people and hardware.
[iv] Con Coughlin, ‘Britain risks becoming a liability unless we keep up with the US, says Army Chief’, Daily Telegraph, 28 May 2021, The new CGS, General Sir Roland Walker, like General Carleton-Smith a former commanding officer of 22 SAS, is said to share this view.
[v] See CP 901 Defence’s Response to a more contested and volatile World (Crown Copyright 2023), pp.28, 32
[vi] A conflict going back over 100 years and rooted in the decision by the Bolsheviks in 1921 to assign the Armenian-majority region to the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic perhaps on the basis it had belonged previously to a Muslim Khanate which had ruled much of the region. Nagorno-Karabakh remained an autonomous region within the Azerbaijan SSR until the breakup of the USSR in 1991 when its attempts to break away, with overt support from the nationalist Armenian government of Levon Ter-Petrossian, precipitated the first Karabakh War.
[vii] Simon Anglim, ‘Azerbaijan’s Victory: Initial Thoughts and Observations (and caveats for the ‘innovative’), Military Strategy Magazine Volume 7 Issue 3, Summer 2021, pp.10-17
[viii] Barbara Tasch, ‘Armenia and Azerbaijan to work towards peace deal’, BBC News 8 December 2023,
[ix] Christian Edwards, ‘Nagorno-Karabakh will cease to exist from next year: how did this happen?’, CNN 28 September 2023
[x] The UK has close business and trade ties with Azerbaijan, British Petroleum (BP) for instance, still managing much of the oil industry laying at the heart of Azerbaijan’s booming oil economy and offering its assistance to President Aliyev’s recently announced policy aim of expanding green energy production. For 2023, see James Dowsett, ‘UK encourages British investment in Azerbaijan’s reconstruction of Karabakh’, EurasiaNet, 13 December 2023, ; Ariel Cohen, Israel-Azerbaijan energy deal strengthens strategic partnership’, Forbes, 13 December 2023
[xi] By way of introduction to this human tragedy, see Cory Welt and Andrew S Bowen, ‘Azerbaijan and Armenia: The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict’, Congressional Research Service 7 January 2021, p.6; ‘Report on the humanitarian situation of the refugees and displaced persons in Armenia and Azerbaijan’, Council of Europe 14 February 1995
[xii] This is not to suggest that any recent Armenian government saw it this way and, indeed, Mr Pashinyan wants to ditch the claim on Karabakh as part of a wider programme of constitutional reforms, see, for instance, Ashaluis Mgdesian, ‘Armenian PM’s new constitution proposal face uphill battle’, Eurasianet 7 February 2024
[xiii] OSCE ‘Who We Are’, ; Welt and Bowen, Op.Cit, pp.6-8. The Aliyev family came originally from Nakhchevan.
[xiv] For a good introduction to the policy background, see Elizabeth Fuller, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Policy and the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict (Rome: Instituto Affari Internazionali 2013)
[xv] See International Energy Agency, ‘Azerbaijan Energy Profile: Energy Security’,
[xvi] To compare and contrast, by the mid-2020s the British Army will have 72,000 active service personnel and 148 main battle tanks, if the current government’s plans come to fruition.
[xvii] Turkey and Armenia do not currently have diplomatic relations courtesy of differing official views of the Ottoman Empire’s bloody purging of its Armenian population in the First World War, the Karabakh conflict and the status of Nakhchivan. The border between the two countries has been closed since 1993 and Turkey threated to intervene directly in the first Karabakh War if Armenia made any moves on Nakhchivan, at one point firing artillery over its border with Armenia by way of warning. For more, see Welt and Bowen, Op.Cit, p.10
[xviii] Despite Mr Erdogan’s Sunni revivalism and Azerbaijan being one of only two states in the world with a Shi’ite majority. See Cavid Veliyev, Azerbaijan-Turkiye Relations in the Shadow of the Negotiations with Armenia (Tel Aviv: Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern and African Studies 2023), p.1-2 Mr Erdogan was guest of honour at the victory parade in Baku in November 2020 following the September Karabakh war and made a speech congratulating the Azerbaijani army on its performance.
[xix] A number of Azeri cadets have also attended the British Army’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
[xx] President Aliyev has announced $600 million of investment in Azerbaijan’s arms industry with the intention of making Azerbaijan a player in the global market, and Azerbaijan is a potential partner in developing Turkey’s indigenous KAAN 5th generation fighter aircraft, along with Rolls Royce of the UK. See ;
[xxi] Veliyev, Op.Cit, p.3
[xxii] Arie Egozi, ‘Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict could impact the Israeli-Russian relationship – especially in Syria’, Breaking Defense 15 September 2022,
[xxiii] Ani Mejlumyan, ‘Armenians Take dim view of deployment to Kazakhstan’, Eurasianet 7 January 2022,
[xxiv] With, for instance, a tank force made up largely of T-72As and Bs a generation behind the T-90s and T-72 Aslans of the Azerbaijan Army as well as outnumbered almost 4-1 even before the Bayraktars began hitting them from above.
[xxv] Azerbaijani officers have attended The UK Defence Academy, which also ran its first short course for Azerbaijani officers and defence managers in Baku in 2020, .
[xxvi] See President Aliyev’s interview with the BBC of 9 November 2020 at
[xxvii] The 2020 war saw several attempts by Azerbaijan to knock down the one bridge between Lachin and Armenia using LORAs, at least one landing inside Armenia.
[xxviii] For a summary of the 2020 offensive, see Anglim, Azerbaijan’s Victory; see also Welt and Bowen, Op.Cit, pp.16-19
[xxix] See, for instance, Polina Ivanova, ‘”People feel let down by Russia”: disputed Caucasus enclave choked by blockade’, Financial Times, 16 August 2023
[xxx] See Georgi Gotev, ‘Armenia’s Pashinyan gives up Karabakh, abandons Russia-led CSTO’, Euractiv 23 May 2023, ; Laurence Broers, ‘Russia concedes Karabakh in return for place in new regional order’ Chatham House 29 September 2023 ; Mr Pashinyan has also sought closer defence ties with some NATO countries: Armenia has purchased air defence systems and armoured vehicles from France and in late summer 2023, 95 troops from the US Army took part in a peacekeeping training exercise in Armenia alongside the Armenian Army
[xxxi] For an impartial estimate, see ‘Nagorno-Karabakh conflict killed 5,000 soldiers’, BBC News 3 December 2020
[xxxii] For a good overview of this, see Dmitry Chernobrov, ‘Diasporas as Cyberwarriors: infopolitics, participatory warfare and the 2020 Karabakh War’,
[xxxiii] See Anglim, Op.Cit. For a more sober assessment of the UCAVs’ impact than most, see Stijn Mitzer and Jakub Janovsky, ‘The Fight For Nagorno-Karabakh: Documenting Losses on The Sides Of Armenia and Azerbaijan’,
[xxxiv] One need look no further than the Wikipedia pages covering the Karabakh conflict and the 2023 offensive in particular, some so re-edited they look like Armenian government press releases, complete with personal attacks on Azerbaijani leaders. For just a snippet of what is being said in Western outlets, see ‘Baroness Cox calls for urgent action to prevent genocide in Nagorno Karabakh’ Barnabas Aid 19 September 2023; Michael Rubin. ‘Azerbaijan’s shift to Hamas shows its cynicism’, American Enterprise Institute 23 October 2023.
[xxxv] Although a potential complicating factor is arising in the form of Mr Erdogan’s inflammatory rhetoric on the Gaza war – including open support for Hamas, threats to Israel and accusations of Mossad plots – and the spread of antisemitism in Turkish political discourse. This has led Israel to withdraw its mission from Ankara and the Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, to suggest it needs to ‘re-assess’ its relationship with Turkey, which has been cordial in the past. Possible implications of this are discussed at Rovshan Mammadli, ‘Azerbaijan walks fine line as Turkey-Israel relations deteriorate’, Eurasianet, 9 November 2023 ; Ayoob Kara, ‘Can Azerbaijan once again help mend Turkish-Israeli ties?’, Jewish News Syndicate 2 November 2023
[xxxvi] We have referred to the mutual exodus of the 1990s already. Following the 2020 war, the population of Stepanakert/Khankendi was estimated at 75,000. After the 2023 offensive, the town was reported as largely empty, much of the population departing for Armenia via ‘humanitarian corridors’ set up by the Azeris, obviously terrified for the future despite President Aliyev’s assurances they would have equal rights as Azerbaijani citizens. No one can blame them for leaving: Armenian historical memories are, understandably, painful and were clearly triggered by the 2020 war and its aftermath. However, claims of ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic cleaning’ remain sub judice and based on circumstances rather than hard evidence.
[xxxvii] See, for instance, Francesca Ebel, ‘After Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan eyes a strategic strip of Armenia’, Washington Post, 11 October 2023, ; ‘Armenian Soldiers killed in confrontation with Azeri forces’, al Jazeera 13 February 2024,