Theoretical and Conceptual Bases of the Victory in Karabakh or the Triumph of Realpolitik

The great questions of the time are not decided by speeches
and majority decisions, but by "Iron and Blood".
Otto von Bismarck

On November 10, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin signed a statement on the end of the military operations and a ceasefire in the Second Karabakh War. The main principles of this statement are as follows:

1. A complete ceasefire and end to all hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from 00:00 Moscow time on 10 November 2020. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, hereinafter referred to as the parties, stop at the current territorial positions they occupy.

2. Agdam District returns to the Republic of Azerbaijan by 20 November 2020.

3. Along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor there will be a peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation with 1960 military personnel with small arms, 90 armoured personnel carriers, 380 military vehicles and other special equipment.

4. The peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation shall be deployed in parallel with the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces. The peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation shall be deployed for a period of five years with automatic extension by further five-year periods if none of the Parties declares six months before the expiration of the period of its intention to terminate the application of this provision.

5. In order to increase the effectiveness of control over the implementation of the agreements by the Parties to the conflict, a peacekeeping centre shall be deployed to exercise control over the ceasefire.

6. The Republic of Armenia will return the Kalbajar District to Azerbaijan by 15 November 2020 and the Lachin District by 1 December 2020. The Lachin corridor (5 km (3.1 mi) wide) which will provide access from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia remains under the control of the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation. The town of Shusha located within the corridor will remain in Azeri possession. By agreement of the Parties, a construction plan will be determined in the next three years for a new route of movement along the Lachin corridor, providing a link between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia with the subsequent redeployment of the Russian peacekeeping contingent to guard this route. The Republic of Azerbaijan guarantees the safety of the movement of citizens, vehicles and goods along the Lachin corridor in both directions.

7. Internally displaced persons and refugees return to the territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent areas under the control of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees .

8. The exchange of prisoners of war and other detainees and bodies of the dead shall be carried out.

9. All economic activity and transport links in the region shall be unblocked. The Republic of Armenia guarantees the security of transport links between western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in order to organise the unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and cargo in both directions. Transport control shall be carried out by the bodies of the Border Guard Service of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia. By agreement of the Parties, the construction of new transport communications linking the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic with western regions of Azerbaijan shall be provided[4]. This statement can be characterized, first of all, as an act confirming the victory of Azerbaijan and the complete defeat of Armenia. After the liberation of the strategically and morally important city of Shusha on November 8 and the loss of 71 villages, 1 town and 8 strategic heights, the next day the Armenian army had to throw in the towel and thus, the 44-day war ended in victory for Azerbaijan. During this campaign the Azerbaijani army liberated in total 5 cities, 4 towns, 286 villages and many strategic heights from the Armenian occupation [5]. With this statement, Azerbaijan, which has been implementing the resolutions of the UN Security Council on its own, forced Armenia to accept the new reality created by Azerbaijan and the conditions arising from this reality. At the same time, Azerbaijan forced Armenia to implement the Basic Principles put forward by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. According to the statement, the Azerbaijani army, which liberated 4 regions on the battlefield, will reclaim Agdam, Kalbajar and Lachin by December 1 without any casualties. It should also be noted, that the deadline for the liberation of Kalbajar was extended from November 15 to 25, based on the humanistic position of Azerbaijan. In fact, this statement is a key indicator that Azerbaijan is gaining a more favorable position than the political implications stipulated in the basic principles. As in the case of the Basic Principles, this statement also provides for the liberation of lands, the return of IDPs and the deployment of peacekeepers, but unlike the Basic Principles,this statement does not touch upon the status issue at all. At the same time, the inclusion of the Turkish forces in the peacekeeping contingent along with the Russians is important in terms of creating a balance in the region. The restoration of the communication lines between Nakhchivan and the western regions of Azerbaijan and, thus, providing a connection between the long-isolated Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan through Armenia can be considered a great success from the point of view of the national interests of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Factors influencing the causes of the onset of the Second Karabakh War can be grouped as


1. Armenias occupation of 20% of Azerbaijans lands and its intention to maintain this occupation.

2. Armenias policy of ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijan and the expulsion of 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of this policy.

3. Armenias disregard for the basic norms and principles of international law, including 4 UNSC resolutions.

4. Armenia unconstructive position and departure from basic principles during the long-running negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.

5. Failure of international organizations, including the UN and the OSCE, to exert the necessary pressure on Armenia and turn a blind eye to maintaining the status quo.

6. The willingnes of the Pashinyan regime to change the format of the talks by making unconstructive statements such as Karabakh is Armenia, Karabakh should be a separate and etc.

7. Continuation of the aggressive stance of Armenia, which recently adopted the military doctrine New Wars for New Territories and the implementation of provocations against

Azerbaijan as a result of this policy. (Battle of Tovuz, sending an intelligence sabotage group in August, etc.) Nevertheless, 30 years later, with its victory in the Second Karabakh War, Azerbaijan tilted the reality in its favor in the region. The outcome of this victory was clearly stated in the trilateral statement. The victories in the war have strengthened Azerbaijans positions on the negotiations table too, and today many issues discussed at the previous negotiations have already been resolved. Azerbaijan has already become a party dictating the terms at the negotiating table, forcing Armenia to accept these terms and sign a capitulation agreement. Assessing the current situation, we can easily see that Armenia has lost both militarily and politically. This statement is a clear indication of the change in the status quo in favor of Azerbaijan, the liberation of the occupied territories and the failure of the Armenian leaderships efforts on the battlefield, as well as its “Pleading Diplomacy” in the political arena. Therefore, the political-theoretical substantiation of the tripartite statement elaborated as a result of Azerbaijans successful military-political strategy and the results of this statement, in my opinion, is of great importance in terms of understanding the current reality. In order to carry out a more detailed scientific assessment of the current situation, it is necessary to rely on the theoretical and conceptual approaches of international relations. There are various methods of conducting foreign policy in international relations, among which power and diplomacy are of particular importance. At different times in history, states have achieved their goals by using both force and negotiations in accordance with the situation. Although the use of force is not unequivocal today, many states still apply it to secure their national interests and to establish peace. Examples include the cases of the US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, the war between Britain and Argentina over the Malvinas Islands, and so on. One of the main subjects of debate between the two main schools in the theory of international relations - the schools of realism and liberalism - is the use of force. Realists point out that the international system is anarchic in nature, and that is why states are trying to survive in anarchic conditions. Every state trying to survive in anarchic conditions must increase its power and use it when necessary.(3, p.126) According to Hans Morgenthau, one of the founders of classical realism, power is the most effective mean of foreign policy. According to Morgenthau, states seek to maintain, increase, and demonstrate their power to secure their national interests. (1, p.8) In order to change the status quo, it is necessary to constantly increase and apply power. John Mearsheimer, the founder of offensive realism, states that, power is the most effective way to survive in an anarchic world, that is, to ensure territorial integrity and security. According to offensive realism, the status quo does not satisfy states in any case, and states try to change the status quo in their favor as soon as opportunity arises (2, p.21). Mearsheimer outlines five reasons of states’ pursuit of power: 1. The anarchic nature of the international system 2. An aggressive policy of an opponent. 3. Uncertainty in the international system 4. Ensuring security and territorial integrity is a priority for states 5. States are rational actors. The practical application of these arguments, which is the visual projection of Realpolitik, can be seen in the Second Karabakh War. The anarchic nature of the international system and the inability of the international organizations, including the United Nations, to exert the necessary pressure and mechanisms of influence on Armenia were among the factors promting Azerbaijan to use force. Azerbaijan needed the use of force to change the status quo which favored Armenia, and it was thanks to its military power that Azerbaijan gained a more appropriate position at the negotiating table and ensured its territorial integrity. Moreover, according to realism, states are rational actors and the rational behaviour of Azerbaijan can be seen in the fact that it carried out a large-scale war in time and taking into account the current situation. Azerbaijan, which has been strengthening its economy and military power in parallel with negotiations for 30 years, took necessary measures by correctly assessing the political situation in the region. It is necessary to take into consideration three main factors influencing the formation of such situation: 1. Strong political and moral support of Turkey 2.Deacreased US activity in the region. 3. Russia conflicting relations with the Pashinyan regime. The realpolitik assessments, taking into account these three factors, played a decisive role in Azerbaijan response to the Armenian provocation with a large-scale war. Liberal schools, on the other hand, emphasize the importance of international law, international organizations and negotiations in international relations(6). Although realists also attach importance to negotiations, they consider that the use of force is necessary in order to take a leading position in negotiations. Power can also be a necessary factor for prodiving peace and security in the region. It is worth recalling the phrase vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war), which was often used in ancient Rome[7]. Therefore, the military operations carried out by the Azerbaijani army on their lands can be called a Peace Enforcement Operation. As noted by the famous Swedish political scientist Svante Cornell, the biggest threat to peace and security in the region is Armenia [8]. In our opinion, such an assessment of the political course of Armenia, which has encroached on the lands of Azerbaijan and ignored all the norms and principles of international law, is correct and fair. The current political processes in the region and the change in the status quo once again indicate, that the school of realism is right. Realists say that international law does not function properly, and that power is the most effective means of changing the status quo. In this regard, the determined position of the Azerbaijani leadership against the aggressive rhetoric of the Armenian leadership, which for many years ignored the principles and norms of international law, including four UN Security Council resolutions, and at the same time demonstrated destructive approach to the negotiations process is understandable. It is noteworthy to mention, that the path that Azerbaijan took in liberating its lands with the use of military force in response to another provocation carried out by Armenia on September 27, is based on the principles of Realpolitik. Thus, the effectiveness of military force is manifested against the background of the ineffectiveness of international law. In fact, Azerbaijan, with its counter-offensive operations, has contributed to the maintenance of international law and the establishment of peace and security in the region. In the end, a conclusion can be drawn, that sometimes it is necessary to use force to achieve the main goals of foreign policy. The use of force at the right time and in the right place is one of the main principles of realism, and in practice such policy is called Realpolitik. Realpolitik denotes ensuring national interests taking into account the existing realities [9]. From this point of view, Azerbaijan’s victories on the battlefield and the statement agreed upon as a result of this victory can be called a trimuph of the Azerbaijan’s Realpolitik According to Realpolitik, military victories strengthen the position of a state at a political table, and the signed statement is a clear evidence of this argument. Just as Turkey, which had lost a significat part of its territory under the Treaty of Sevres signed in 1920, after the victories of Ataturk forced the Triple Entente to sign the Lausanne Agreement in 1923, which was much more profitable for Turkey, so Azerbaijan won the Second Karabakh War and forced Armenia to sign this statement[10]. That is why this statement can be called the Victory of Azerbaijan or the Triumph of Realpolitik.

Sultan Zahidov

Baku State University

Senior Instructor at the Department of Diplomacy and Modern Integration Processes



1. Guzzini S. Hans J.Morgenthau and the three purposes of power, Rio de Janeiro: Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro Press, 2018, 36 s.

2. Mearsheimer J.J. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. Nyu-York: W.W. Norton, 2001, 555 s.

3. Waltz N.K. Theory of International Politics. Long Grove: Waveland Press, 2010, 251 s.




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