What may happen if Azerbaijan launches a new attack against Armenia?

While many in Armenia seek to overcome the shock from the violent demise of the self-proclaimed Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Republic and support around 101,000 forced displaced persons who entered Armenia in the past ten days, experts and politicians are taking steps to assess the geopolitical implications of the recent events for the South Caucasus. Some anticipate a significant weakening of Russia’s position in the region. The absence of Armenians in Artsakh may result in the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the area, if not now, then at least after November 2025. Meanwhile, the destruction of the republic triggered additional anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia, leading civil society representatives to publicly demand the withdrawal of Armenia from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), pushing out the Russian military base and border troops from Armenia. According to this logic, the destruction of Artsakh may also facilitate the signature of a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which will pave the way for normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations. Normalizing relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey will make it easier for Armenia to start moving away from Russia, as Yerevan will not fear additional Turkish and Azerbaijani attacks.

However, as some begin to imagine a peaceful South Caucasus free of the Russian presence as a result of the destruction of Artsakh, many argue that the tragic end of the 35-year struggle by Armenians to live in their homeland without intimidation and fear will only bring more conflicts and suffering to the region. Many Armenians in Armenia and abroad are fed up with the second humiliation in three years, and they will do everything to stop the continuing demise of Armenia and reverse course. Azerbaijan and Turkey will not be satisfied by the destruction of Artsakh and will put all their efforts into gaining additional concessions from Armenia. The list of Azerbaijani demands is vast – enclaves, routes to connect Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan and Turkey via Armenia, and others. According to this scenario, the next primary target of Azerbaijan will be Armenia, and Baku will consider new incursions into Armenia similar to what happened in September 2022, or even to a greater extent, to force Armenia to accept its demands. 

September 2020 in Syunik, the road between Kapan and Kajaran (Photo: Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan)

Assessing when and how Azerbaijan will launch its next attack against Armenia is challenging. However, if and when Azerbaijan decides to attack Armenia, it will have profound implications for regional geopolitics.

Assessing when and how Azerbaijan will launch its next attack against Armenia is challenging. However, if and when Azerbaijan decides to attack Armenia, it will have profound implications for regional geopolitics. Azerbaijan will attack either the Syunik or Vayots Dzor regions, threatening to reach Nakhichevan and effectively splitting Armenia in two. In this case, only Russia and Iran will have a real possibility to take any actions on the ground. Neither the U.S. nor European countries have any troops deployed in Armenia, and they have zero political desire, will or logistical capacities to send troops to Armenia to fight against Azerbaijan. The EU has a civilian mission deployed in Armenia. However, in the event of a launch of large-scale hostilities, the observers cannot do anything and would be evacuated to Yerevan or perhaps out of Armenia. The EU and the U.S. may use extensive diplomacy, including phone calls, statements and threats of sanctions. However, the recent behavior of Azerbaijan proves that more is needed to have a tangible impact on Baku’s decision-making process. 

Russian troops are in Armenia, and some are deployed in the country’s southern region. Will Russia intervene militarily to protect Armenia, which, despite a growing bilateral relations crisis, is still a de jure ally of Russia? It is challenging to provide a definite answer, but given the ongoing war in Ukraine and Azerbaijan and Turkey’s importance for Russia, Moscow probably would like to mediate diplomatically, seeking to organize another summit of leaders in Russia to send a message to everyone once again that Russia still calls the shots in the Caucasus. Russia would like to use the situation to finalize its vision of restoring communications in the region, convincing Armenia to accept the control of Russian border troops over the transportation routes passing from Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan via Armenia, as was envisaged by the November 10, 2020 statement.

In case of an Azerbaijani attack, Iran may intervene militarily, seeking to prevent the creation of the “NATO – Turan” corridor, the term Iranians use to refer to the so-called “Zangezur corridor.” Iran has the necessary military capabilities to do that. However, direct military intervention may create the danger of a military clash with Turkey, which signed a strategic alliance agreement with Azerbaijan in June 2021. It is also unlikely that Iran will launch military actions in the South Caucasus without Russia’s consent, and Russia has no interest in seeing an Iranian military presence in the South Caucasus. Iran’s most likely response would be supplying weapons to Armenia and possibly signing an Iran-Armenia agreement of defense cooperation.

Thus, the most probable outcome of a new Azerbaijani incursion against Armenia will not be more anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia, the start of the actual process of leaving CSTO, the removal of the Russian military base and border troops from Armenia and the increase of Western influence in the region. On the contrary, it will result in more Russian and, potentially, Iranian influence over Armenia and reduced Western presence.

Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan
Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan is the founder and chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies and a senior research fellow at APRI – Armenia. He was the former vice president for research – head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense Research University in Armenia. In March 2009, he joined the Institute for National Strategic Studies as a research Fellow and was appointed as INSS Deputy Director for research in November 2010. Dr. Poghosyan has prepared and managed the elaboration of more than 100 policy papers which were presented to the political-military leadership of Armenia, including the president, the prime minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Poghosyan has participated in more than 50 international conferences and workshops on regional and international security dynamics. His research focuses on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and the Middle East, US – Russian relations and their implications for the region, as well as the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. He is the author of more than 200 academic papers and articles in different leading Armenian and international journals. In 2013, Dr. Poghosyan was a Distinguished Research Fellow at the US National Defense University College of International Security Affairs. He is a graduate from the US State Department Study of the US Institutes for Scholars 2012 Program on US National Security Policy Making. He holds a PhD in history and is a graduate from the 2006 Tavitian Program on International Relations at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.


  1. As Vladimir Putin the president of Russia the key member of the CTSO is now legally subject to arrest should he enter Armenia, it’s self evident that Armenias membership is a dead letter and it’s membership is in a zombie state indeed it’s an open question whether the alliance is viable anymore given Kazakhstan distancing from Russia and Tajikistan and Krgystan clash recurrently with eachother. As the Armenian population of N-K has functionally vanished under the watch of the Russian peacekeepers it’s extremely unlikely that Azerbaijan which reluctantly agreed to their presence in 2020 will allow them to stay beyond November 2025. Indeed it’s quite possible that it will withdraw beforehand actually. It’s true that NATO members are unlikely to deploy to Armenia to protect against Azerbaijan and it’s own member Turkey the black sheep tartar of the alliance in a way it’s never been before. France has moved to supply weapons which has prompted petulance from Azerbaijan in refusing to attend the Granada summit. Obviously Ukraine is seen as a priority for weapons dispatch. Whilst Turkey can block NATO countries under the NATO aegis it can’t prevent private arrangements between NATO countries and Armenia. In addition since Russia is much diminished since the November 2020 tripartite agreement it’s ability to knock heads as it could in those days is most questionable. Also in the event of an attack on Armenia by Azerbaijan and or Turkey they can simply avoid targetting the Russian bases to avoid contention with Russia.

  2. This talk of ” normalising relations ” between the surrounding 2 Turkic states and Armenia is pure fantasy. When Erdoğan and the dynastic dictator Aliyev is no longer in charge, then MAYBE relations can improve, but surely not for at least a decade. Probably better to allow the 2 Russian bases, even though Russia will come up with another limp excuse not to defend Hayastan.
    There is no reason to surmise that the obscessed lunatic Aliyev will stop now, why should he, International Laws mean zero to this rabid dog.Armenia should leave the CSTO or not, it’s not working , anyone can see that.Aliyev probably has another 500 or so Artsakhians he can use as hostages with the other possible 200 from the 2020 attack and recent nonsense.Armenia also needs to get rid of Pashinian, he has had 3 full years to rearm with modern materiel but has done nothing. Armenians may have to rely on Iran helping them to survive, as it is perfectly obvious that they have very little desire to learn to FIGHT. They live in a tough neighbourhood, so they need to toughen up , SOON.

  3. Armenians need to choose their friends carefully; and choose their enemies much more carefully. Last two centuries of history of Armenians is a tastement of choosing wrong friends who made Armenians choose wrong enemies to serve their objectives. This is the transition of Millet-i Sadıka from what they were to what they become today.

    Armenians can not live comfortably with far away purported friends and neighbor enemies. This needs to be reversed. And this requires a lot of attitude change, which is not easy at all.

  4. I still haven’t gotten over the shock that Armenia neglected its armed forces, intelligence gathering and diplomatic initiatives to such a degree to experience the humiliating defeats in 2020-2023. Didn’t any one learn anything from the historic genocide, defeats and betrayals from 1895- 1923? The current situation is like a recurring nightmare. Yes, things will get much worse unless Armenia fights back. Peace treaties , international criminal court rulings, UN resolutions are no substitute for a country defending itself; there is no cheap easy fix.

  5. Russian soldiers have been protecting the border of Armenia and Turkey for the last 30 years. This has actually prevented war from spreading. Now if Armenia wants all Russians out, it also means it will face Turkey in any future attack against Azerbeijan.Its much better for Armenia to have peace with its neighbors and start trading. Depending on Armenian diospora is not a viable option long run. Armenia should decouple from Russia slowly while building peace.

  6. There is a lot of discussion on a potential attack by Azerbaijan on southern Armenia to force an opening between Azerbaijan and its exclave Nakhichevan. My thinking is that such an attack will be far more widespread and violent than just on Syunik. I base this on the observation that Azerbaijan military strategy in 2020, 2022 and in 2023 has been to use overwhelming force and “shock and awe” tactics to disorient and confuse Armenians. Firstly they will take out air defenses and gain air superiority. It is possible that Yerevan will be hit with missiles to cause mass panic. No helicopters will be able to fly in Syunik ( remember that Azerbaijan shot down a Russian helicopter on the last day of 44 day war) . Then special forces will land from both Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan and stop all traffic in Syunik; it is already difficult to move through that mountainous region. Separately Turkey will hold “exercises” in Kars opposite Gyumri, and also in Nakhichevan to dissuade Iran. The Russian base will not be touched and Russia will do nothing. Before Secretary of State Anthony Blinken or President Macron can finish saying “ We respect the territorial integrity of Armenia” , Azerbaijan will have secured southern Armenia or even more. Even if 10% of this scenario comes to pass, it means that Armenia must take preventative measures BEFORE Azerbaijan/Turkey move. Unfortunately Armenia today has no geographic strategic depth which Karabakh gave it before it fell.

  7. Armenians will be destroyed by Turkey and Azerbaijan, no matter what fool’s document Pashinyan and Erdogan may sign. Russians claim that Armenians betrayed them, and Armenians claim that Russians abandoned them. While I understand that we are not your first choice of ally, it would seem that Armenia has no other option than to integrate as closely as possible with Iran.

    Armenians (along with Assyrians, Greeks, Jews, and other minorities) once lived very good lives in Pahlavi Iran, which had the strongest military in the region. I only hope that once Khamenei dies this can be restored with some new leader, and a more just system. Otherwise not only will Armenia be destroyed, but so will every border province of Iran. And Turkey will become invincible.

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