The Nagorno-Karabakh War is remembered for its surprise victory of the underdog, Armenia, over the perceived winner, Azerbaijan. There are many reasons as to why: Azerbaijan has large oil reserves to feed its war machine, Armenia does not. Armenia has to contend with the possibility of Turkey entering the war and fighting on a Second front, Azerbaijan has no such worry of a Second Front.
But yet, not only was Azerbaijan defeated in the war of 1992 – 1994, they were defeated decisively, losing not just Karabakh but the whole of Kelbajar. In order to understand this defeat, one must look at the internal politics of Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani “Game of Thrones”, if you will.
While Armenia only had one ruler during the entirety of the war, Azerbaijan had five. Furthermore, Azerbaijan had ousted their leaders every time the suffered a setback, first following the Khojaly massacre, then the fall of Shusha, and finally, the Kelbajar offensive. Eventually, the military stepped in and launched a coup, diverting attention away from the war and in favor of domestic suppression. All this paved a clear way for the Armenians to win with relative ease. By the time the Azerbaijanis regrouped, the Armenians had taken control over the entire southwest quarter of Azerbaijan, forcing Azerbaijan to respond by launched a series of failed human-wave attacks, further depleting their manpower and making it easier for the Armenians to march on Baku.
So, what has happened to both Baku and Yerevan since the end of the war?
Well, the tables have turned, where Azerbaijani leaders were engaged in constant infighting, now Armenians are, with the April 2018 revolution ousting Serzh Sargysan proving it. Baku, on the other hand, has used its oil reserves to revitalize its economy, now they have become a regional economic powerhouse, and have called for building a Trans-Caspian pipeline bypassing Russia all together. The Four Day War in April 2016 proved the changing circumstances, that Azerbaijan was able to recapture territory in the South from Armenian troops.
Ultimately, though, Armenia must rethink its strategy to deal with a resurgent Azerbaijan.
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