By Claude Salhani- Trend:
Violence erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh last July 31, and scattered fighting has continued ever since. More people have been killed or injured in this outbreak of violence than in any incident since the two countries ended their war over the territory in 1994. Many observers wonder whether a new war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is possible.
Predictions are hard to make in this part of the globe, what with tempers being what they are, no political analyst would venture to make predictions when the situation can turn on a dime.
That being said, a number of foreign observers believe that at this time a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is unlikely because Russia is the guarantor of Armenia's security. In other words picking a fight with Armenia would mean picking a fight with Russia.
Azerbaijan is militarily stronger and financially better off. If it ever were to come to another war, Azerbaijani forces could easily defeat their opponents. But picking a fight with Armenia would also mean picking a fight with Russia. As militarily prepared as they may be, Baku would not want a war with Russia.
"This dynamic has kept the conflict frozen for the past two decades, and Russia has kept this balance of power intact by supplying weapons to both sides, among other actions," states the report.
However, as mentioned earlier, situations can, and at times, do change.
As we have noted in the past few days and weeks, there are a number of questions that remain unanswered, such as who is responsible for the recent spike in violence. Azerbaijan says it's the Armenians, who in turn say its Azerbaijan.
And the second question is why now? And why with such intensity?
The skirmishes between Armenia and Azerbaijan did not just start last week; they have been going on nearly uninterrupted for the past two decades, points out global intelligence analysts, Stratfor.
Firefights along the line of separation between the two sides, called the "Line of Contact,'' periodically flare up. Last year 19 people were killed and the year before, in 2012, 35 people were killed.
What is different this time is the sudden escalation and intensity of the combat. Why this escalation, at this time? A number of reasons have been put forward.
Some are saying that Russia is utilizing the situation to convince Baku to join Moscow's Eurasian Union.
Or perhaps, Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes that if he is able to steward the two Caucasus countries into peace talks, he will make his star shine brighter once again.
The Armenians for their part fear that a Russian re-alignment with Azerbaijan will leave them high and dry.
In all probability however, there is also another possibility; the fact that the presidents of the two countries are meeting next Friday in the Russian town of Sochi, under the aegis of Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
The Stratfor analysts believe the reason behind the sudden escalation of violence is nothing more than a tactical order that simply got out of hand, without a deliberate policy move initiated by either side. As they say in America, "Stuff happens".
As the two presidents are getting ready to meet on Friday, there is a sense of hope - a slim chance but hope nonetheless - that something positive will emerge and it will be the beginning of the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. In any case, peace will not come overnight.Claude Salhani is a political analyst and senior editor with Trend Agency.