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Armenia-Azerbaijan War of 2022: What Should America Do?

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden, joined by First Lady Jill Biden, delivers remarks on the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Heavy fighting continues along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is but the latest round of high-intensity conflict between the neighboring nations. The last one, the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, was a game-changer in Azerbaijan’s favor. It ranks as one of the most impactful wars of modern times that most people have never heard of

Donald Trump was the U.S. president at the time. In response to the fighting, he did mostly nothing. And that was the right thing to do. 

Indeed, until quite recently, there was little U.S. interest in engaging in the South Caucasus. The obstacles looked overwhelming. Across the former Soviet space, many issues bedeviled cooperation. The ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Russian occupation of Georgian territory made this a dicey arena for engagement. The collapse of Afghanistan’s government precipitated by the shambolic U.S. withdrawal in 2021 only exacerbated the difficulties. 

But in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war and Vladimir Putin’s threat to cut energy deliveries to the West, interest in engaging with the region is now growing. Americans and Europeans are reconsidering the possibility of developing a so-called middle corridor that would connect new sources and routes for oil and gas to Europe. The Southern Gas Corridor, too, has renewed interest in the Caucasus and Central Asia as potential sources of energy, global transport, and logistics, as well as potential partnerships in manufacturing and trade. The South Caucusus could also serve as a strategic buffer between Iran, China, and Russia – all the more reason to try to foster stability in the region.  

Obviously, the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan creates only more instability. The question is: What should the U.S. and Europe do about it?

Some in Washington can’t seem to wait to wade in and take sides. Cementing her self-appointed role as global crisis ambulance chaser, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday dispatched herself to Armenia, where she condemned Azerbaijan for what she called “illegal and deadly attacks.” Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) introduced a non-binding resolution condemning Azerbaijan.  

These initiatives likely have less to do with a studied conclusion about which belligerent is right or wrong and more to do with the active and aggressive lobbying effort from the Armenian diaspora in the U.S. If you have any doubt the Armenian regime and its loyal contingent here heavily lobbies for political support, just try tweeting something supportive of Azerbaijan. You’ll be assailed by more trolls than ever appeared in The Lord of Rings.

To be honest, this is not a white hat/black hat conflict. Let’s go back to the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. When the fighting stopped, Azerbaijan had retaken much of the territory that Armenia had captured and held for decades. 

I recently visited the liberated lands and found that all the Armenians had sowed in decades of occupation were millions of landmines. They left most of the region looking like the remnants of Carthage. The Azeris have pledged to rebuild. They have already made significant investments, clearing mines, building roads and airports, and setting conditions for hundreds of thousands of people to return to their homeland. 

Nor is Armenia as bad as some would paint it. It is not a puppet state of Putin’s Russia, as some have claimed, although that is not far from the truth. Armenia hosts thousands of Russian soldiers and at least two Russian military bases.  When Russia invaded Ukraine this year, Armenia did nothing. The Armenian regime is also a firm friend of the Iranians. So, just to recap, Pelosi rushed to console and comfort a close ally of both Russia and Iran. Interesting.

In contrast, following the Russian invasion, Azerbaijan opened up its natural gas supplies to Europe through the southern gas corridor. Those supplies will help get Europe through the tough winter ahead. The Azeris have done nothing to help the Russians. They keep the Iranians at arm’s length. And they have been wary of Chinese investments. 

From the Western perspective, Azerbaijan is increasingly important for the long-term stability of the region. So, what’s the best way forward to end this destabilizing war?

At this point, it is not clear the Armenians have that much fight in them. The Armenian domestic scene is a disaster, and its biggest supporters – their Russian overlords – are a tad busy elsewhere. But admitting defeat would further undermine an already dreadful regime. The fighting will never stop until Yerevan and Baku reach a formal joint agreement to stop it. 

In 1992, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, now the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, created the Minsk Process “to find a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” Co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States, the process has achieved little in the last three decades. With Putin now a global outcast, it is time to declare the process as dead as the 2014 Minsk Agreements, which were supposed to settle the dispute between Ukraine and Russia over Donbas.  

The Azerbaijani ambassador to the UN called for an end to fighting and direct negotiations between the two parties. This seems the appropriate way forward. The Minsk process is dead, and the U.S. should abandon efforts to revive it. 

Rather, U.S. political leaders should rethink the wisdom of inserting themselves in the conflict. Here, less is more. The U.S. should stand by, calling for a bilateral negotiated settlement that delivers a cease-fire and respects the territorial integrity of every state in the region.

Meanwhile, the U.S. should increase engagement in the South Caucasus, particularly with Georgia and Azerbaijan. Washington should look to increase security cooperation with both, as well as continue providing support for demining efforts in the region.

Expert Biography: Dr. James Jay Carafano, a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges, is the vice president of Heritage’s Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy and the E. W. Richardson Fellow. Carafano is also a 19FortyFive Contributing Editor. 

Written By

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, James Jay Carafano, a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges, is the vice president of Heritage's Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy and the E. W. Richardson Fellow.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. babak

    September 20, 2022 at 12:19 pm

    MR Carafano,

    How much Azeris dictator lobbyist deposited in your bank after this this article. When are you going to get a real job.

  2. Old Desert Coyote

    September 20, 2022 at 1:06 pm

    The American writer H. L. Mencken wrote that “Peace is that period of time between wars necessary for the Identification of Enemies.”

    Personally I don’t think we have had enough time for the Identification of our enemies!

  3. Arash P

    September 20, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    Both Russia and Iran have always recognized the Armenian genocide. They also support Armenian’s right to exist as it is surrounded from both sides by Turkish regimes that seek to exterminate it.

    This is why Armenia is close to both Iran and Russia.

  4. peace to all

    September 20, 2022 at 2:32 pm

    James Jay Carafano, …exchange for money!

    You right, Armenia is a puppet state of Putin’s Russia. (azerbaijan isn’t?)

    Armenia doesn’t not have many options, No oil, No gas, landlocked country, serenaded by 1 billion Muslims, went through multiple massacres and the Genocide….., but what is you excuse to be a puppet writer of Dictator President Ilham Aliyev’s Azerbaijan!?
    What is next, writing about his wife, Vice President Mehriban Aliyev or maybe how great Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is, double the money and you can write about Putin”s patriotic war or Kim Jong-un, there are too many opportunities for writer in your status.

    You just name your price!

    Last but not least, “Whatever thoughts or energy you put out, you get back”!

  5. xheavy

    September 20, 2022 at 6:37 pm

    Nothing.

    The State Department can send underlings to mew about how its a bad treatment of one side or another. But those two Nations hate each other.

    Let em have at it. Settle this mess and move on to the next one.

    Absolutely nothing. Its right on the Iranian Border and near the Caspian Sea which RU absolutely owns. Let RU take care of that mess. Not our problem.

    Oil? Resources? Trade? Meh whatever. When one nation absorbs another and the fighting is over and done with permanently they can get back to work digging, drilling or whatever.

    The problem with this whole mess is there is a Turk at the bottom of the pile. Not our problem.

  6. 403Forbidden

    September 20, 2022 at 7:02 pm

    America doesn’t possess the moral fiber to do what’s right for the armenian-azeri conflict.

    America only has ability to do all the wrong things abroad. THE HELL WITH AMERICA, the babylon of our time.

    When half its citizenry has been identified as a THREAT to its own soul by no less than the president himself, what can the country do.

    Screw up in every thing it touches and unfortunately, america is too fond of poking its finger in every pie all around the globe.

    THE HELL WITH AMERICA, the great babylon.

    To confront america and its massive army of minions, countries need to arm themselves with nuclear weapons like sarmat & poseidon and send these devils to hell.

  7. GhostTomahawk

    September 20, 2022 at 7:49 pm

    Trump did nothing during the last conflict and that was the correct move. This was also the same move we needed to make regarding Ukraine.Its not like Ukraine is a blossoming country. It’s the poorest nation in Europe while being rich in natural resources.

    It’s also the correct move here.

    If Europe can’t solve its self made energy crisis then, maybe it shouldn’t have decommissioned their nuclear power plants and shunned their own domestic energy sector in favor of windmills.

    Don’t get involved in someone else’s war because you’re too stupid to keep your own electricity going.

  8. Colonel Dolma

    September 20, 2022 at 7:55 pm

    what a puff piece from a clueless goomba…did the laundromat make it’s deposit to you or your goofball institution?

  9. xheavy

    September 21, 2022 at 4:44 am

    The Article presented here is not a “Puff” piece.

    It tries to summarize using things that has happened there in the past which I recognize from previous paying attention to previous wars between the two.

    Even further back to Georgia and even the overthrow of Boris Yelsin with the Civil War inside Russia decades ago. Georgia was a interesting case. There is three major tunnels that were not blown. Two had I think 15 minutes notice to blow them up and lock the Russians out until they can build a new set a couple of years later. But arrived 5 minutes before they can blow the things.

    Georgia did fight with what little they had on hand. Two of their battle tanks gained everlasting glory holding off the whole host for a long time before finally being destroyed outright.

    As far as the Muslims against the Christians in those two nations fighting each other now, thats been going on for Millennia. It will never stop.

    You can imagine that Europe cannot pay anymore to feed and house the lice ridden migrants from Islamic Lands that have flooded the whole of that Continent by the millions each year since the Arab Spring Incident.

    At some point this winter the original Europeans are going to kick off some fighting of their own to destroy the infectious arabs trying to breed them out.

    Theres alot that will be settled by this time next year one way or another. These articles are useful in some ways. Not just puff.

  10. cobo

    September 21, 2022 at 4:38 pm

    This is a good article. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but just looking at it with a little history, Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. So the Azeris need to do what they need to do, no negotiated settlements, no support for a forward deployed military outpost of the Soviets posing as an exclave.

  11. International Order

    September 21, 2022 at 9:18 pm

    Armenians have a history of thousands of years, like the Persians. They became Christians in 301 AD. The Ottoman Turkish Empire committed Genocide on the Armenians in 1915 and took away western Armenian territories, today known as the eastern Turkey. Many Armenians fled to safety around the globe making up the 8 million diasporans today. Now, Armenia is a new democracy landlocked with no oil, in a sea of tyranny between Erdogan’s Turkey on one side and Aliyevstan’s dictatorship on the other side. Armenians are continuously fighting for survival at the hands of these regimes, that want to connect their countries but Armenia is in the way. Aliyev’s country does not produce anything. His people have no freedom. Its fortune comes from the oil revenue. This puts the two countries at this time at asymmetrical power. Your article reminds me of things I have read before; oh yes, it sounds like a repetition of Aliyev’s version of history. By the way, Azerbaijan only became a country in 1918. It has no history before that. It is struggling to define itself. The nationalism of that country is based on the hate of Armenians. This hate is inculcated in young people starting from elementary schools. Azerbajan’s government is an opaque political system. For example, Aliyev’s elections victory was announced a day before the actual election day! Azerbajan has no economy, no GDP. All it has is hydrocarbons.

  12. Katama

    September 22, 2022 at 3:20 am

    What a bunch of BS! How much caviar were you paid to push this propaganda? Shame on 1945 for even publishing this crap.

  13. Edna Antonian

    September 22, 2022 at 9:12 am

    Armenians have a long history for thousands of years, like the Persians. Armenians accepted Christianity as their state religion in 301 AD. The Ottoman Turkish government committed a large-scale Genocide against the Armenians in 1915, erasing 1.5 million people from their lands, which expand today into eastern Turkey. Many Armenians sought security by fleeing the region and settling around the globe. This explains the current 8 million Armenian diasporans. Today, Armenia is a new democracy, landlocked and surrounded by a sea of tyranny with Erdogan’s Turkey and Aliyev’s Nakhichevan on the west and Aliyev’s Azerbaijan on the right. These two dictators want to join their countries, but Armenia is in the way. Azerbaijan came into existence as a country only in 1918, thanks to Stalin. The country has no real history. It is an opaque political system. Ilham Aliyev’s winning of the election results in his country was announced one day prior to the actual election day! They have no” western values” as defined by prof. Stephen Kotkin. In the absence of any cultural identity, he defines his nation by the hatred of the Armenians, which is inserted in children’s education starting from elementary grades. Despite Azerbaijan having revenue flow from its oil, Aliyev has convinced the US government that they need financial assistance for “border protection” and through their strong lobbying, they have received $100 million in assistance since 2020. Aliyev’s aggression against the Armenians is dominated by violence and xenophobia. It is both an existential issue and religious. Is it wrong for the Armenians to defend their existence and their historical lands? Azerbaijan has the cashflow from the hydrocarbons to fabricate a different version of the historical “truth” as is repeated in this article. Despite this author’s credentials, he has been misled and his opinion is devoid of factual historical research.

  14. Bedir Memmedli

    September 22, 2022 at 7:52 pm

    Very objective and timely article. Indeed, the visit made by Pelosi and a couple of pro-Armenian legislators is nothing but to keep their Armenian constituents, donors, and lobbying organizations happy. If Pelosi is indeed sincere and fair, where was she from 1991 to 2020 when Armenia occupied 20% of Azerbaijan’s legitimate and internationally (sorry Armenians if your “ancient” history book claims the entire Caucasus Armenian) recognized lands, forced 800 thousand of ethnic Azerbaijanis out of their homes, and committed the Khojaly massacre of civilians that can only be compared to Hitler’s atrocities committed against Jews?

  15. Samantha

    September 23, 2022 at 5:17 pm

    I hear one sober voice in all the choire of either diletants or paid by Armenian lobbyst. Thank you very much for the fair and detailed explanation of situation, thank for giving the right appraisal of the visit of Ms. Pelocy to the region. Thank you.

  16. Samantha

    September 23, 2022 at 5:19 pm

    My friend, you are mistaken. As per media it is Armenian lobby paid 140 mln for Pelocy’s visit. You know better than anyone that how much armenian lobby spends money and efforts in this conflict.

  17. Samantha

    September 23, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    If someone has an honest opinion, it is immediately paid in your opinion. It is well known how strong and how much money Armenian lobby invests in this conflict. People have right to have an honest opinion. Armenia attacked Azerbaijan 30 years with the help of russian army occupied 20 percent of other country’s land. So, now when Azerbaijan deliberated the land that was in Barbarian way destroyed, you are talking about Dictator and money. Don’t be ridiculous. World has eyes. Because of big population of Armenians outside of Armenia, many politicians are bought and depend on the votes of yours. This is injustice.

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