Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Dreams Of Ottoman Dominance

The current situation playing out right now in Armenia and Azerbaijan with the war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region is not something that should be considered out of place or extraordinary. That region, as it is the crossing ground between Europe, Central Asia to the Far East, and the rest of southwestern Asia/Mediterranean Sea regions/Africa is naturally going to be a place where people will fight for control over their particular political interests. This conflict is greatly exacerbated by the presence of oil in the region, which is something that dates back to ancient times with the fire temples of Azerbaijan, as oil was so prevalent that it would naturally float on top of the water.

The Ateshgah, or fire temple, a place of ancient Hindu pilgrimage in Azerbaijan

In modern times, and really since about 1849, Azerbaijan has been a small “petropower” because her location plus oil concentration and the fact that oil was first industrially extracted and refined in her nation makes her a popular place of interest to major world powers.

But what is Azerbaijan? The small nation is ethnically Persian, linguistically Turkish, is a close Turkish ally, mixes elements of both Persian and Turkish culture into her life, and has been heavily influenced by the Slavic Russians for arguably five centuries, but in particular for the previous two with the movement of the Russian empire into her direct political sphere. From a technical standpoint, it is good to remember that there was no “Azerbaijan” nation-state until the early 1920s. Historically, Azerbaijan is just a territory in northern Iran that borrowed its name from their Iranian neighbors. In ancient history, the territory of the new 20th century republic was known as Atropatene or Adurbadagan before the advent of Islam. Artsakh, the historical name of Nagorno-Karabakh, has a historical presence of Armenians but for political purposes was forcibly annexed to Azerbaijan by Stalin in 1923, and following the fall of the USSR, has been in question ever since as to whose domain it falls under.

A photo of early oil wells in Baku. The small country makes up for her size with her oil power.

Consider also the oil sands of Baku, as they are referred to (noting the capitol of Azerbaijan) and how they are a very important source of oil so much that as I have noted here at, they were one of the main reasons for the horrible Siege of Stalingrad, why Germany marched in both World Wars I and II towards the Caucasus, why two million soldiers were sacrificed at Stalingrad, and why there is fighting in Ukraine today as well as, not surprisingly, the war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Oil is not just for money, but power and in the case here, world power, because he who controls the flow of oil keeps, in a military situation, the tanks moving, the humvees driving, the machines that produce the arms producing, the farm equipment moving, and ultimately, decides the winner of a war. has been very clear- we strongly believe that the historical currents point toward a third world war in the future, and that the current decade is a decade of radicalization leading up to this conflict. Given the lessons learned now twice at Stalingrad and the importance of oil, how Turkey has played a key role in NATO operations, how Turkey is a historical enemy of Russia, how a third global conflict will necessarily involve the Russians, and how the role of oil will again determine the victor, it is critical to examine how tiny Azerbaijan could shape something much larger than one could ever even begin to imagine.

The Siege of Stalingrad. It was the most horrible battle of World War II, and decided victory to the Allies over the Axis powers.

If we look closely at the conflict, we can distill Baku’s main argument in favor of the Azeri side to the contention that Armenia is blocking the formation of a single, contiguous, Azerbaijani nation save for her exclave with the Turkish-Armenian-Iranian border, due to the fact that southwest Azerbaijan is de facto split all the way to the Iranian border. Into this we have Armenia, which is- and with all respect to the Armenians -a democratic nation with a history of instability and poor economic foundations as opposed to Azerbaijan. This is not to say that Azerbaijan is or always has been run well, but since Azerbaijan has been ruled by the Aliyev family, beginning with Ilham’s father Heydar, and given the flow of income from oil and her close ties to Turkey, one can say that Azerbaijan has done comparatively better, and likewise, while Azerbaijan may have been a former Soviet territory, she is wholly submissive to Turkey’s requests, while Armenia is not and has maintained relations with both NATO as well as Russia, although in recent years, and especially under the current Armenina PM Nikol Pashinyan, he has been very pro-NATO. Indeed, Armenia, like Georgia, is not exactly a “pro-Western” nation (if one can even use that term), but neither want to go back to the days of the USSR, which Putin in Russia has yearned for and has openly intended through his afifliations with men such as Aleksandr Dugin that he wants to strive for.

Pashinyan has been heavily involved in NATO-linked activities

Turkey considers, for all purposes, the Azeris almost like brothers. They are very close, while the Turks hate the Armenians. The passage of oil from Baku and Turkmenbasy (in Turkmenistan by way of pipelines under the Caspian Sea) via the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline that leads to a network of pipelines which pass to Europe is also critical to consider. Finally, there is the fact that while Armenia and Azerbaijan both have militaries, the Azeris have received help from the Turks, which possess the eighth strongest military in the world and the second largest army in Europe after Russia.

Now who started the conflict is anybody’s guess, but in a case such as this, with Turkey openly expressing a desire to renew her past empires and the current Turkish President Erdogan acting more aligned to the behavior of a sultan than a president, this situation is ideal, NATO or not, for manipulation. Indeed, if Azerbaijan did start a conflict, it is very unlikely that she would do so without direction from Turkey giving her permission or outright telling her to start it, making it all the more interesting how Anakara and Baku held joint military exercises in August 2020 in light of this conflict.

Armenia is really the one here in the worst situation, since her place between Russia and NATO as well as the utter hatred that Turkey has for her, Turkish power, and the oil pipelines in the area combined with the landlocked structure of her nation give her few options. If Armenia attacked the oil pipelines, attempted to seriously bring Russia into her by way of the CSTO agreement that Armenia is a part of, or possibly even if Azerbaijan complained too much, then Turkey might militarily intervene, not only escalating tensions, but possibly bringing the force of NATO in against Russia as well.

Ankara is also aware of the advantage she has and is exploiting it well. has noted that there are concerning reports of Turkey bringing in thousands of terrorist militants and using Baku as a “stepping point” for them to pass into Central Asia, which is not only a major source of pipelines but also major railroads that go around Russia and also have large oil reserves. Given the Turkic history of Central Asia and the desires of Ankara to support a contemporary form of “pan-Turkism”, a rebellion in Central Asia would serious undercut not just Russian influence in the area, but the ability of Russia to survive since her power draws, per Mackinder’s theory, from the control over Central Asia and Central Siberia out of which many world empires have come.

Put simply, this is a nightmarish scenario for Russia taking place since not only does it threaten their Caucasus region, but their control over most of Russia that could eventually provoke further bouts of nationalistic impulses or rebellions and separate Russia east of the Urals from the Western part, reducing her to her pre-1550 status as essentially a vassal state on the European plains.

So far, Russia arguably has been outplayed in the sense that they had been able to play off Armenia against Azerbaijan and vice versa, helping to mediate talks that went nowhere, preserving the status quo that effectively favored Armenia but without sufficiently pacifying the Azeri side and fueling their ties with Turkey and thus to no real effect in the Russian favor.

So what does Azerbaijan get from this war? At the current time, it is arguably in the interest of Azerbaijan to continue fighting and to grab as much territory as possible in Nagorno-Karabakh before the “international community” (basically the United Nations) demands a ceasefire, in which case no matter what happens, there is a high chance as part of a settlement that Azerbaijan will end up with gains and Armenia with losses of territory.

A second factor that is yet to be seen, but could greatly help Turkey and Azerbaijan, is how the Azeris would treat Armenians in territories captured or ceded to them. This is because while the Armenians were indeed mistreated by the Turks and Azeris, there is a lot of grief in Azerbaijan over the treatment of Azeris by Armenians, particularly because of forced deportations of Azeris from Armenian controlled regions. If Azerbaijan gains territories and does nothing to the Armenians living there, they could present themselves a a sort of benevolent liberator to the world community, and there is little that Armenia could complain about it or that Russia could criticize, and with the backing of Turkey and NATO, it only favors them.

In such a case, Russia cannot do anything. Moscow is thus forced to walk on the edge of a geopolitical cliff, needing to exercise restraint and invest in a carefully calibrated balancing act between Armenia and Azerbaijan, lest Russia jeopardize the Russia-Turkey strategic partnership while also being alert to all possible US divide-and-conquer tactics she may try to pull. In the meantime, Turkey can establish a firmer presence in Baku with military bases and economic investment to help give the nation a cash influx to help with the current crisis Turkey is facing of high inflation amid currency devaluation through oil and gas revenue. Essentially, what happened to Azerbaijan in the Soviet era could repeat, except that she would be absorbed by Turkey instead and thus further cements Turkey’s claims of leadership over the Turkic speaking world as well as that of Islam.

When we consider these circumstances and the possibilities, it is not an accident that the RAND corporation wrote a report discussing how the US may want to “encourage Armenia to move fully into the NATO orbit”, because if she is not pulled in, while she is supported by Russia, her ties with NATO and the fact that Turkey is rising in power may be one of the only ways to prevent a possible repeat of the nightmare of the twentieth century and what happened in Armenia.

But not all is simply in Turkey’s favor, for the fighting right now has so far not crossed into Armenia proper. If this happens- and Erdogan knows this is a line he cannot cross -Russia would have a justifiable reason to apply the CSTO agreement with Armenia and step in, and NATO could likely not help her.

Likewise, Turkey still purchases considerable amounts of gas from Russia, and if Russia ‘turned off the gas’ to Turkey, it would cause serious internal problems. To that, Moscow could simply build up her presence in Armenia, and use it as a ‘thorn’ in Turkey’s side, supplying the nation in the same way that West Berlin received routine flights of goods from Western Europe even though she was surrounded by East Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Yet while Russia is occupied with the current drama in the Caucasus, remember that Turkey is also acting in other areas for their own interests such as in Syria, Libya, and even Greece allows the Ottoman to sink his influence further into the Middle East while Russia is consumed with her already growing domestic issues and now the current Nagorno-Karabakh situation. If anything, it could fall to Erdogan to use his own “political card” to call for peace by way of negotiations with the Russians, and still to the benefit of Azerbaijan and herself while continuing to expand her own interests and balance her power against the influence of the Russians.

In other words, the balance of power is favoring the Sultan, and he is making sure that all goes full ahead towards helping him make what is just now an Ottoman dream into a reality.

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