Azerbaijan is carrying out a substantial military buildup in the exclave of Nakhchivan, as the territory’s strategic significance increases for both Baku and its foe, Armenia.
Nakhchivan is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a slice of southern Armenia, and it does not border Nagorno-Karabakh, the focus of the ongoing conflict between the two states. But it is the closest part of Azerbaijani territory to Yerevan and other strategic Armenian targets. Accordingly, with the prospect of a renewal of total war appearing to increase, Nakhchivan is becoming a flashpoint.
Another strategic consideration for Azerbaijani planners is that Nakhchivan is the ancestral home of President Ilham Aliyev’s family.
Azerbaijan has set up a new unit, known as the Combined Army Unit (Special Forces), based in Nakhchivan. It also has sent new air defense systems to the territory, as well as rockets and artillery, including Smerch, T-300 Kasirga, and T-122 Sakarya multiple-launch rocket systems. And it now holds annual joint military exercises in Nakhchivan with Turkey.
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Zaur Shiriyev is an Academy Associate at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House).