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Frozen Conflicts Melting in Summer Heat: Border Clashes Between Armenia and Azerbaijan

July 17, 2020

Episode Notes:

Protesters in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, marched through the streets last night, demanding that the government fully deploy the army in response to recent border clashes with neighboring Armenia that have reportedly killed at least 16 people, including two civilians. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a dispute for years over Nagorno Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but controlled by ethnic Armenians. The current fighting is occurring northwest of the disputed territory, near the Tovuz region of Azerbaijan, which borders Tavush in Armenia. Among the Azeri casualties are 11 soldiers, including six officers, the highest-ranking being a Major General. Although Azeri forces claim to have destroyed Armenian fortifications and inflicted hundreds of casualties, Armenian authorities indicate that four soldiers have died, including two officers.

To help us understand the history and implications of this conflict, we are joined by professor Mike Reynolds, of Princeton University. His research areas include Ottoman and modern Middle Eastern history, Russian and Eurasian history, the Caucasus, international relations, empire, nationalism, Turkish foreign policy, and US foreign policy.  He is the author of Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires.


[ 01:39 ] Can you begin by helping us to understand the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and whether or how this current border clash is related?

[ 05:26 ] The last time there was fighting between these two countries was 2016. Was there a precipitating event that sparked this current dispute?

[ 09:16 ] The BBC reports that as many as 30,000 people protested in Baku last night, calling for mobilization of the army.  Some protesters entered the parliament building and police used water cannons to break them up. Does this conflict pose a threat to the stability of the Azeri regime? How will domestic politics likely affect escalation risk in both countries?

[ 12:04 ] What signs should we be watching for in terms of anticipating what happens next?

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