Staunton, February 14 – Azerbaijan is discovering what many other countries have: a major military triumph is not just the cause for celebration but also a source of new problems that challenge both the government and the population and require careful management lest they grow and call into question the fruits of victory.
Aleksey Naumov, a political observer for Moscow’s Kommersant, says that this “last shock for the victors” involves not just the challenges of reintegrating all the territory and population points Baku has recovered but also those arising from changes in the ways Baku and Azerbaijanis see themselves in the wake of the victory (kommersant.ru/doc/4692040).
Azerbaijanis are putting up both pictures of their heroic soldiers and the flags of their country, Turkey and even Pakistan in unprecedented numbers, Naumov says; and they are focused on reintegrating de facto what was always their de jure – 7500 square kilometers and 600,000 people on territories Armenia had controlled for more than 20 years.
The Azerbaijani government has set up numerous structures to promote this re-integration and the return of Azerbaijanis to lands they were earlier forced to flee, but the costs of doing all this may be far greater than Baku can afford. According to some experts, achieving its goals will cost Baku more than the country’s annual GDP.
Nazim Imanov, head of the Institute of Economics of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, restoring the situation to the pre-1991 state will cost 60 billion US dollars, a quarter more than the country’s current GDP of 48 billion and thus take longer and require more international assistance than many now think. That is especially true if Baku hopes to return one million Azerbaijanis to these lands.
Azerbaijani officials suggest the costs will be much less. Economics Minister Mikhail Dzhabbarov says that Baku has budgeted 1.5 billion US dollars for this task in 2021 and believes that it can develop the country through a government-private partnership involving tourism, mining, agriculture and transit systems.
But the destruction that Baku must address is also affecting Azerbaijanis, who if anything feel more negative toward Armenians for what they did now that it is on such public view. And that makes the process of overcoming the sources of the conflict more difficult for a long time to come, Naumov suggests.
The Moscow journalist, however, does not address what may be the most important consequence of the war for Azerbaijan. He focuses on the way in which it has elevated Baku as a regional power able to pursue its own goals by playing other powers off against one another, something Azerbaijanis can be proud of.
But he says nothing about the fact that peoples who have won a victory expect things from their government that they did not demand earlier because of the belief that winning the war was more important than anything else. Now, that argument has fallen away, and Azerbaijanis are going to want to see changes at home.