A US think-tank has concluded, that “the inherent weakness and lack of discipline among the frontline units” of the Azerbaijani army along the Contact line with Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Self-Defense Army make the danger of renewed hostilities and escalation more — not less — likely, given the tendency to over-react to incidents and misread the battlefield environment.
The analysis published by Oxford Analytica global analysis and advisory firm, is entitled “Azerbaijan’s frontline weakness raises Karabakh risks.” It says Nagorno-Karabakh is a “serious and immediate challenge” to security and stability in the South Caucasus, which could rapidly expand into a deadly conflict if Russia, Turkey or Iran intervene.
“Potentially even more destabilising than the brief August 2008 Russo-Georgian war, it would disrupt strategic energy transport routes and key military air corridors, set back economic development and stifle foreign investment, and undermine the inherently fragile course of democratisation in the South Caucasus,” Oxford Analytica concludes.
The report looks at military build-up in Azerbaijan, noting how the country’s defense budget “surged from 175 million dollars in 2004 to 3.1-3.3 billion this year, accounting for roughly 20% of the overall state budget,” but concludes, that “Azerbaijan is spending more on arms, but not effectively.” It also looks at the “Force posture and threat perception” in Azerbaijan, which I found to be the most interesting part of the report:
The deployment of Azerbaijan’s armed forces reflects three distinct roles, according to Oxford Analytica:
- Capital and maritime security. In the east, most of the better-trained and best-equipped units are committed to ‘force protection’ in Baku, and participate in maritime security in the Caspian Sea. These elite units receive first choice in equipment and support, and enjoy the highest standard of training.
- Counter-proliferation and counter-insurgency. Reflecting their second-tier standing, units stationed in the south along the border with Iran are assigned to counter-proliferation, while units in the north handle border security and limited counter-insurgency operations in the light of the threat from Islamist groups in neighbouring Dagestan.
- Frontline deployments. The least-equipped force is composed of the frontline units stationed along the borders with Armenia and Karabakh, to the north-west and west respectively. Given lack of equipment, poor conditions and tensions along the frontline, these units suffer from low morale, lack of unit cohesion and poor discipline, each of which has generally contributed to a greater danger of threat misperception. Moreover, almost paradoxically, it is the inherent weakness and lack of discipline among the frontline units that make the danger of renewed hostilities and escalation more — not less — likely, given the tendency to over-react to incidents and misread the battlefield environment.
Read more on the report here (in Armenian).