The Hamas attack on Israel on the 7th of October took the world by storm. Both political institutions, media coverage, and the general public shifted their attention to the Middle East and put a spotlight on the age-old Israel – Palestine question. Time did not pause, however, and conflicts across the world continued to develop, even with less international focus on them. In turn, two international conflicts will be discussed. At first the Ukraine – Russia war will be discussed, as the war in Israel is shrinking budgets and shifting the loyalties of the international community. Moreover, the Nagorno–Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan will be analysed, as rapid developments in the situation are likely to shake the region.
Ukraine – Russia war
While the world is preoccupied with declarations in favour or against Israel, Ukraine has been struggling to ensure that the West will remain loyal to its financial and military support.
Since January 2022, Ukraine has received over $350 billion from the United States and European countries . The outbreak of war in Israel has raised concerns about whether aid will continue to flow to Ukraine, as the majority of Western nations have pledged support for Israel. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has claimed that artillery delivery has slowed down, something which they relied upon the United States to deliver . While on October 20th, the Biden Administration pledged to send $61 billion in aid to Ukraine, including military, intelligence, and humanitarian funding, the upcoming 2024 budget decision will likely end in the bill not passing, as Republican-controlled Congress has expressed disinterest in renewing a bill for Ukrainian aid   . United States’ financial support for Ukraine is still in the air, but the European Union has affirmed that it will continue supporting Ukraine. The Council of the European Union expressed the continuation of the Ukrainian Assistance Fund for 2024 and the training of soldiers, which by the end of the year will amount to 40,000 soldiers .
In terms of the conflict itself, neither Russia nor Ukraine made significant advancements in the territory they held since the start of the year. While Ukraine is making progress in the East, the war effort is far from over.
Ukraine cannot fight the war by itself, and Zelenskyy continues to plea for support from its allies.
He does so by aligning cautiously himself diplomatically with the West on the Israel – Hamas conflict and is making key institutional reforms on the Ukrainian judiciary to meet accession standards for the European Union. Von der Leyen has expressed that Ukraine is making excellent progress in their accession effort, which will formally be negotiated in the upcoming December .
The next few weeks will prove crucial for the Ukrainian war effort. The year is coming to an end, and budget revisions are being made by both those with support and oppose Ukraine.
A potential jumpstart to EU accession negotiations can be a glimmer of hope, but unfortunately, one that is unlikely to manifest any time soon.
The situation between Israel – and Hamas will continue to affect the Ukrainian conflict, both directly through Russia’s interference in the Middle East, but also indirectly through the decisions taken by key international stakeholders financing both conflicts.
Nagorno – Karabakh territory dispute
A long and violent history over the territory had come to a head on the 19th September 2023, when Azerbaijan launched a military offensive against the breakaway state of Artsakh (Nagorno – Karabakh). A blockade had also been in place since December 2022, resulting in shortages of food, electricity, and necessities, and trapping over 120,000 ethnic Armenians in the territory. In order to avoid furthering the humanitarian crisis, just a day later on the 20th September 2023, a ceasefire agreement was reached between the two sides, with Russian peacekeepers acting as the mediators. A week later, the president of Artsakh signed a decree stating the dissolution of the state by January 1st 2024 .
While the international arena condemned the actions of Azerbaijan and warned for attempts of ethnic cleansing and genocide, the outrage was promptly diverted towards the Israel – Hamas War once it began. This is not to say that it is surprising that attention shifted to the Middle East, after all, the survival of Israel diplomatically, economically, and militarily has huge global implications, more so than a small Azerbaijani territory. However, it is the moral obligation of scholars and journalists to report upon and emphasise the developments in Nagorno – Karabakh, as over 100,000 Armenians fled the region, and accusations of ethnic cleansing have been levelled by the European Parliament, and former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court  .
On November 17th, the International Court of Justice called for Azerbaijan to allow the safe return of Armenians to their territory, free from intimidation and prosecution.
However, the state will not exist as it used to, suggesting that any Armenians returning will be subjected to a nation which does not represent them.
As of writing this article, Azerbaijan has not responded to the decision by the ICJ. I doubt that they will hesitate to facilitate the return of the few Armenians who decide to go back. While the blockade and military operation were a direct way to get Armenians to flee, indirect means of intimidation and exclusion are likely to be employed to ensure the homogenization of the territory.
The complexities of self-determination are great and highlighted in this conflict. While the territory is internationally recognised to belong to Azerbaijan, calls for sovereignty by the majority Armenian population have persisted for decades. The Nagorno–Karabakh territory is also an enclave, meaning it is surrounded by the territory of Azerbaijan. A similar situation can be seen in the calls for self-determination by the Catalan independence movement in Spain. While the Catalan question is still largely at play, the situation is clearer for Armenians. The territory of Nagorno–Karabakh is now fully controlled by Azerbaijan, and if humanitarian concerns are upheld, lasting peace across the whole border is the only way forward.
Armenia is alone in this conflict, as Russia and Turkey, the two most powerful countries in the South Caucasus region, side with Azerbaijan. Now that the Nagorno–Karabakh question is functionally over, both sides acknowledge that peace needs to be achieved to further their mutual prospects .
The two countries were present at the Tbilisi Silk Road Forum on October 26th, showing positive signs for diplomatic negotiation and reconciliation.
The future will be determined by the humanitarian response by Azerbaijan, the degree of compromise by Armenians, and the interplay of other powerful actors in the area.
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