It is a question of months, if not weeks, for Trans-Caucasus to turn into fire.
Trans-Caucasus and not Caucasus because it is a Russian affair. The use of the terms “trans” is a geographical connotation. Literally, westerners use the terms “Caucasus” as such for the three former Soviets, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russians speak of these countries in relation to their location vis-a-vis Moscow, as they are located on the other side of the Caucasus mountains.
The starting theatre of the potentially upcoming conflict it will be Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azeri enclave, landlocked within Armenia. In this case, the belligerent parties, in the first place will be Azerbaijan and Armenia without excluding the involvement of Turkmenistan and other interested parties in South Caspian.
The conflict, according to intelligence sources, is likely to be fuelled by the Kremlin, to restore the “peace and balances” in Trans-Caucasus. For Russians, Azerbaijan, which was a energy-rich Soviet Republic, went too far by keeping equal distances between “East and West” is search of a “Finlandization” status in the Caspian. Now it seems that the Kremlin, decided to restore the “status quo ante” as the potential geopolitical re-shuffle in the area is close to the point of no-return. This is the reason Azerbaijan has gone into a crazy race of arms purchasing, from all possible suppliers.
Reality is that while Finland, in the years of the Cold War, was on the border separating the two blocs, Azerbaijan is the centre of the former Soviet Empire locked between two genuine Russian satellites, Armenia in the west and Turkmenistan in the east.
For years Azerbaijan was building ties with the West. This was a worrying signal for the Russians who consider the Caspian, except Iran, their economic zone. Past efforts to make Baku understand its geopolitical limitations failed. Not even Alexander Lukasenko, the President of Belarus, faithful ally to the Kremlin and close friend of the Azeri Presidential family, was able to convince Ilham Aliyev to reconsider his far-fetched openings to the West.
Russian has a significant penetration in the Presidential Administration, the inner circle of power in Baku. High ranking officials inherited in the Presidential Administration from the father of the President, late Heydar Aliyev Major General of KGB and Member of the last Soviet Politburo, are close to the Kremlin.
An armed conflict of Azerbaijan with Armenia may open another front in the east. The long-standing claims of Turkmenistan over the delineation of the continental shelf separating the territorial waters between the two countries is disputed by Ashgabat. The later claims that Apsheron (it is the Azeri peninsula in the Caspian where Baku is build), must not be considered in the delineation of the continental shelf. Baku is rejecting this claim otherwise its offshore oil fields will come under Turkmen ownership.
On top, there are about 20 million Azeri origin Iranians living in Iran next to the Azerbaijan border. This Azeri minority is double the size of Azerbaijan population and is the nightmare for Baku. Indeed, if for any reason, including Russian pressures, one day Teheran decides to send them back home, Azerbaijan will be totally destabilized.
Finally, under any circumstances, Russians consider Azerbaijan still an intra-Soviet affair in which the United States have neither legitimate nor any other interest to intervene