Τετάρτη, 20 Απριλίου 2016

Thoughts on the four day war of 2016 - Spring, 2016


Thoughts on the four day war of 2016 - Spring, 2016

It is said that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time-to-time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Armenia's tree of liberty was watered amply this spring. I salute those who gave their lives in the defense of our homeland with the words of Garegin Njdeh - Մահ չիմացեալ մահ է, Մահ իմացեալ՝ անմահություն: Our martyrs are now immortal and our tree of liberty has just grown a bit stronger.


Now, with that said, I would like to express additional thoughts on the four day war that took place between April o2 and April o6, 2016. I will most probably state things that will not be appreciated (or comprehended) by a vast majority of my Armenian readers. Knowing that talking to Armenians about geopolitics is like talking to a five year old child about the meaning of life (i.e. pointless), I would like to askthose of you who think that the war was a great victory for Armenia; or that this war proved that Armeniacan go it alone in the south Caucasus; or that this war proved Russians are anti-Armenian backstabbers; or that Armenia now needs to seek security guarantees from the West, to please refrain from reading the rest of this commentary and just go back to your silly little fantasy world where everything is black and white; where evil doers are punished and good people are awarded; where Armenians are an invinciblesuperpower when united; where Armenia's allies enthusiastically go out of their way to make Armenia happy all the time; and the where politics is like a street fight or a bar brawl.


What happened in Nagorno Karabakh (Arm: Artsakh) was a short but violent war that shocked the world. The global community realized that there was yet another hot spot in the world that could ignite a world war. Although confined to border areas of the yet unrecognized Armenian enclave, the clash between Armenian and Azeris troops saw the utilization of newly developed attack drones, special forces, combathelicopters, main battle tanks, heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers. About one hundred Armenianlives were lost. Armenia is a small nation. Life is therefore precious for Armenians. I hope to see theirdeaths serve a greater purpose for the motherland. Ultimately, that purpose would be the recognition ofArtskah's independence or its unification with Armenia. Not officially recognizing Artsakh's independence (or its reunification with Armenia) made political sense as long as the ceasefire was maintained between the two sides and the region avoided a war. Despite periodic ceasefire violations, Yerevan's grand plan worked for a long time. But it's not working anymore. Baku is desperate. Turkey is desperate. Western powers may be seeking to create a new hot spot on Russia's southern border. For its part, Moscow may now be ready to finally settle the festering dispute and in doing so increase its footprint in the strategic region. Yerevan needs to recognize that the status quo which worked so well for Armenia during the past twenty years is gradually coming to an end. The south Caucasus stands on the verge of a new chapter. There will be a new calculus at play. It's time for official Yerevan to formulate a new approach.

Times like this is when the quality and depth of Armenia's alliance with the Russian Bear comes to the forefront. This is why I have been calling for closer, deeper Russian-Armenian relations for over a decade.

What happened on April 02 was not or should not have been a surprise to anyone who has been observing developments in the region during the past few years. In fact, many observers were predicting this kind of an escalation by Baku. We knew Baku was violating the ceasefire all along Armenia's and Artsakh's border with Azerbaijan on a regular basis; we knew Azerbaijan was spending billions of dollars on weaponsacquisitions from around the world; we knew Baku was growing increasingly desperate as a result of falling oil prices; we knew Baku's spiritual partners in Ankara were growing increasingly belligerent; wespeculated that due to their defeat in Syria, anti-Russian interests in the region may attempt to bring problems closer to Russia's borders in the south Caucasus; there was increasing chatter that 2016 was to be the year when the dispute over Artsakh got resolved. In hindsight, Aliyev may have also been seeking to divert public attention from the so-called "Panama Papers". We therefore had been waiting for something like this to happen for some time now.

There are also subtle indicators that Baku's most recent aggression against Armenia was agreed to or even planned by not only Ankara but also by Western powers. The intent may have been to punish Yerevan for its close military ties with Russia and, as noted above, to divert Moscow's attention from Syria. After all, there had been a flurry of anti-Armenian and anti-Russian rhetoric coming out of Western capitols in recent months, and the tiny country called Armenia was being described as a threat to NATO. I personally think that the seeds of this most recent bloodletting in the south Caucasus can be found in thecontents of the following articles -
Radio Liberty: Experts Cast Doubt On Yerevan's Claims Over Nagorno-Karabakh:http://www.rferl.org/content/armenia-nagorno-karabakh-army-synergy/27656532.html

Turkey’s Lobbyists Seek U.S. Help By Calling Tiny Armenia A Big Threat:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/turkey-lobbyists-armenia_us_56fd85a6e4b0a06d58054b16
We therefore knew Baku, Ankara and Washington were conspiring and all three conspirators were in Washington the week before the Azeri offensive against Artsakh. Merely two days before Azerbaijan'smilitary incursion into Artsakh, Kerry and Aliyev had a meeting at the US State Department with the quite noticeable absence of President Sargsyan who was also in Washington at the time -
Secretary Kerry Meets with President Aliyev of Azerbaijan:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pFp0BJvKr8

Russian experts on Aliyev-Kerry meeting in absence of Sargsyan:http://rusarminfo.ru/russian-experts-on-aliyev-kerry-meeting-in-absence-of-sargsyan/
However, because Russian officials were perceived to be somewhat silent and a lot of the military hardwareAzeris utilized in their assault were Russian made (although their Israeli made weapons seemed to havemade a greater impact on the battlefield), Western-financed mercenaries and Soros-funded organizations like LragirFounding Parliament and the rest of the Western-led political opposition in Armenia have begun a full scale campaign to convince Armenians that Russia was behind this most recent assault against Armenian of Artsakh. And encouraged by President Sargsyan's ill-advised criticism of Moscow's arms sales to Baku - done from Western-occupied Germany nonetheless - the anti-Russian hysteria has reachednew heights in Armenia. Russia is now being accused of blatantly taking sides against Armenia. Russia is now being accused of backstabbing Armenia. They are also screaming, "Russians stopped the Armenian counteroffensive to save Azerbaijan!" Needless to say, had Russians not stopped the fighting, they would have been screaming, "Russians allowed the fighting to continue so that more Armenians would die!" There is no winning with them. They have an agenda to push after all. Professional Russophobes embedded inside Armenian society are behind all thisSpeaking of professional Russophobes, please listen to the words of Igor Muradyan, one of Armenia's top Western agents today -
Ռուսաստանը վերմակն իր վրա է փորձում քաշել և միայնակ զբաղվել ԼՂ հակամարտությամբ: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38DL_tTaVDU
Agent Muradyan, much like his ideological partners agent Gary Kasparov and agent Paruyr Hayrikianclaims Russia is a defeated nation; claims Russia is a dangerous aggressor nation; claimsRussia does not have the power to negotiate anything anymore; and claims Russia can no longer keep its promises about not allowing a war to happen in ArtsakhAgent Muradyan goes on to make the outrageous claim that Turkey ionly interest in the region is peace and that the region's only problem is RussiaIn my opinion, agent Muradyan's attempt to convince Armenians that Russia and not Turkey was behind Azerbaijan's aggression actually suggests that Baku's aggression was indeed ordered by anti-Russian interests. In my opinion, agent Murdyan's words are evidence that Azerbaijan's latest aggression against Armenia was a test not only for Armenia but also for the Russian Federation.Nevertheless, Western mercenaries will now do all they can, including the dissemination of false news, to make Moscow look like an accomplice in Baku's aggression against Armenia in an ultimate attempt to lead our naive sheeple to the slaughterhouse once more. Armenians are once more being manipulated and led astray.

Smut-peddlers want us to believe that Russia is the enemy

In the eyes of many, the enemy right now is Russia. The hysteria being whipped up inside Armenia Western agents (with the tacit approval of Armenian officials) has gotten unprecedented numbers people these days thinking Russia has back-stabbed Armenia and some are now even shouting Ռուսաստան սիկտիր(Translated: Russia get the f#@k out). Yes, Armenians are telling Russians to get the f#@k out, in Turkishnonetheless. Ok, let's play that game. Let's say Russians heeded Armenian demands and shutdown their army base in Gyumri and air force base in Yerevan and indeed got the f#@k out... but continued to sell weaponry to Azerbaijan but stopped providing weaponry to Armenia, and maybe even decided that Armenians can do without cheep Russian natural gas and benzine. And since Russia did not have an Armenian ally in the region anymore, it simply decided that the best way to keep the region in control was to embroil it in a perpetual state of inter-ethnic war. Then what?! 

What's going to deter Turks from venturing into Armenia? Who is going to pay the billions of dollars for the weaponry and training Armenia will need to keep military parity with Azerbaijan? How about the already near-dead Armenian economy? Who is going to put up the money to operate Armenia's nationalinfrastructure? How about the hundreds-of-thousands of Armenian citizens that make their living in Russia? Do these people shouting stupid slogans realize that Armenia is located in southern Caucasus... or do these idiots think they are living in southern California? How stupid are these f#@king people?!Shouting, "stop selling weapons to Baku" is one thing, but "Russia get the f#@k out"?!?!?! It makes no sense.What these people are doing isn't political activism, it isn't protesting, it's sheer madness. What they are doing is actually psychotic and suicidal behavior. They are probably too stupid to know it but they are actually advancing an old Turkish plan. Getting Russians to leave Armenia is actually a Western and Turkish political agenda -
George Friedman: “Russian presence in Armenia is bad for Turkey”:http://theriseofrussia. blogspot.com/2010/11/arye-gut- israeli-jewish-expert-in.html
Turkish Advice: Armenian diaspora, focus on Russia rather than Turkey!http://www.hurriyetdailynews. com/armenian-diaspora-focus- on-russia-rather-than-turkey
Russian General Leonid Ivashov: Turkey Seeks Separation Between Russia and Armenia: http://news.am/eng/news/36696. html
USA trying to break up Armenian-Russian military relations, general says:http://www.eurasianet.org/ resource/a...0005/0040.html
Westerners and Turks know (obviously a lot better than some Armenians) that Armenia simply can't survive without Russia. They know that once Russia is forced out of Armenia, Armenia will be fully at their mercy. This is essentially why all kinds of politicians, activists and news agencies are tasked by Western powers to disseminate anti-Russian rhetoric throughout Armenian society. Due to unique Armenian traits (that are also better recognized by Armenia's enemies), Armenians are proving very susceptible to manipulation and self-destructive behavior. There might be yet another factor. I hate to say this, but the recent battlefield victory we had may have given our idiots in Yerevan a false sense of security and illusions of grandeur. Again I see the cat looking in the mirror and seeing a lion. This cat better not go out to play in the wild without the accompaniment of the bear. If Armenians insist on acting psychotic and continue recklessly playing with the life of the republic - in a Turkic-Islamic environmental nonetheless - I would much rather Armenia become a province within the Russian Federation. Times like this remind me that we Armenians may not yet be ready for statehood.

A few additional words about today's Western-funded anti-Russian community: It is quite common to hear from thethat serious changes will be taking place in the world in the next ten years or so and that Russia will be destroyed in the end. Like brain-dead members of an evil cult, our professional Russophobes are convinced of it. They claim therefore to want to save Armenia by making Yerevan break its ties with Moscow... that is, before Russia is finally destroyed. Well, that the world is heading toward uncharted territory and that we are in the midst of a world war today is well known. What's obviously not known however is whether Russia (or the West for that matter) will be destroyed in the end. I am pretty confidentRussia won't be the one destroyed. Russia has faced much tougher challenged in the past and it has come out stronger every time. It is the Western world that is in decline today, which is why they are setting fires around the world. Besides, all this talk about "Russia will fall" is a moot point because Armenia does not have a choice in the matter. Armenia has no choice but to remain within Russia's orbit. Armenians better realize that if Russia is forced out of the south Caucasus, the south Caucasus will turn back into a Turkic/Islamic cesspool regardless of whether or not Armenia has good relations with the West. 

Armenians also better take a good look at Cypriots, Serbians, Ukrainians, Kurds andGeorgians to name only a few and realize that the West can never-ever be a securityguarantee for ArmeniaWhen it comes to matters pertaining to its national security, Armenia's only option is to firmly maintain its strategic alliance with Russia; better understand the geopolitical calculusof the region; and be better prepared militarily for a worst case scenario. Yet, due to our people's political illiteracy we are constantly getting distracted and mislead by our enemies. Speaking of Western psy-ops targeted at Armenians, take a look at the following two articles. One is by the CIA-affiliated Stratfor and the other is by Soros-funded Open Democracy. One is trying to drive a wedge between Moscow and Yerevan, the other is trying to foment a color revolution in Yerevan. Their rhetoric sounds exactly like what our Western activists in Armenia  say all the time -
This is Western psy-ops at its worst. The premise of both articles are based on lies and half-truths. The truth is that the CSTO (and we are primarily talking about Russia here) is under treaty to come to Armenia's aid and not Artsakh's, and even then only after Yerevan officially requests it. But I have no doubt that Moscow would also militarily intervene if Artsakh was seriously threatened. They have even hintedas such. Please note that the most recent Azeri incursion into Artsakh was not an attempt by Baku to "restore jurisdiction" over Stepanakert. What happened was not a full-scale war and Artsakh was never inserious danger. Azerbaijan is simply not large enough or militarily powerful enough to actually threaten Armenia or Artsakh. Yerevan has never felt the need to ask for military intervention by Russia. Moreover,by covering Armenia's western border with Turkey, Moscow provides Yerevan with the freedom toconcentrate its limited resources on keeping Azerbaijan in check on Armenia's eastern borders. ThatArmenian officials are squandering the task of properly fortifying Armenia's border with Azerbaijan by graft and embezzlement of financial resources is all together another topic of discussion. Nevertheless, what happened on April 02, 2016 was a test or a warning but not a full scale war. The following is a very recent Armenian language article that talks about CSTO's actual responsibilities -
ՀԱՊԿ–ն կարձագանքի, եթե Հայաստանը դիմի:http://sputnik.co.am/armenia/20160402/2698538.html
People working at places like Stratfor and Armenia's Western activists always fail to ask: How did Artsakh, a tiny piece of territory that has no real economy to speak of, come to acquire so much weaponry in the first place? Is it because of the military assistance an economically depressed and cash broke Armenia provides, or is it a result of cheep (often free) Russian arms supplies to Armenia slowly trickling down to Artsakh? A lot of the weaponry that Russia has provided Armenia throughout theyears has gone to Artsakh, with Moscow's knowledge. That's a fact. Also, why can't the people at Stratfor and Armenia's Western activists just say, Russia is covering Armenia's western border with Turkey so that Yerevan can concentrate all its resources on a more manageable threat coming from Azerbaijan? 

Major powers see the world on a grander scale

It was inevitable that Western intelligence services and their lackeys throughout Armenian society would waste no time in taking a very complex matters like what's going on in Artsakh and grossly twist it to fit their narrative. And that narrative, a poisonous cocktail, is then fed to the sheeple. Therefore: Russian arms sales to Baku does not mean Russia is abandoning Armenia (Moscow would sooner occupy Armeniathan abandon it). Russia is not taking sides against Armenia. Had Russia taken sides against Armenia, we would not have an Armenia today. Remember that we are talking about a tiny, impoverished and blockadednation that would not be able to defend itself against any of its predatory neighbors had it not been for the military and economic support it receives from Russia. The same actually applies to Artsakh. Had Russia actually been against Artsakh being under Armenian control, the situation there would have been a whole lot different today. This is the bottom line: Oil rich Baku has the money to purchase whatever it wants from whoever it wants. Armenia does not have that luxury. Russia has been the only reason why an impoverished Armenia has been able to maintain military parity with an oil rich Azerbaijan. Russia is theonly reason keeping Turks on their side of the border, thereby allowing us Armenians to concentrate ourlimited resources on the Azeri threatMinister Dmitry Medvedev's comments recently were revealing, but were Armenians listening? -
"If we imagine for a minute that Russia has given up this role (of arms seller), we well understand that this place will not stay vacant... They will buy weapons in other countries, and the degree of their deadliness won't change in any way... But at the same time, this could destroy the existing balance of forces (in the region)"
The Russian Prime Minister basically said: If Moscow broke its ties with Baku, then Western, Israeli, Turkish and Islamist interests will inevitably fill the void; the region will not be lessmilitarized; and Armenia will not be able to maintain its military parity with a wealthyAzerbaijan. In other words, PM Medvedev is saying Moscow would lose control of the situation in the region if it stopped dealing with Baku.

From an emotional perspective, I don't like the thought of our allies in Moscow selling weapons to our enemy. From a political perspective, however, I fully agree with the comments made by the Russian prime minister. I think the situation with Baku could be much worst had Russia not been in the picture in Azerbaijan. In my opinion, Moscow is executing a very sophisticated political approach to the very complex dispute in question. And Western-activists, like the filthy smut-peddlers that they are, are exploiting Moscow's political predicament and vulnerability to incite Russophobia inside Armenia.

None of what I'm saying here is rocket science. People with normally functioning brains should be able to understand all this. Apparently, not us Armenians. It's simply amazing for me to see just how politically illiterate we as a people are. At the end of the day, and despite its dealing with our enemies, Russia remains Armenia's one and only ally and Russia remains the only nation on earth that would militarily intervene to save Armenia from being overrun by Turks and/or Islamists. Armenians therefore need to stop seeing the world in black and white terms; Armenians need to stop believing what Western propagandists say;Armenians need to stop being maximalistic in their desires; Armenians need to more accurately assess their capabilities; Armenians need to better understand the game of politics and how its played; Armenians need to control their emotions; and Armenians need to stop thinking only in the short-term and start developing some foresight.

Moscow is neither an angel or a demon. Moscow is a superpower. And all superpowers tend to formulate geostrategy and implement them cautiously, systematically and professionally. There is no room for emotions or knee-jerk reactions in politics.

We vividly saw Moscow's pragmatic restraint and strategic foresight in the wake of the downing of theRussian military plane over Syria. A Russian aircraft was ambushed and shot-down and a Russian pilot was murdered.  The typical human reaction would have been to immediately repay in kind. But that is not how it works in politics. We saw Moscow execute a highly sophisticated statecraft in Ukraine, where the ethnic Russian community there was encouraged by Moscow to rise up against Kiev. But we also saw that Russia did not directly intervene to liberate Ukraine's rebellious Russians due to political considerations. Moscow's primary intent was to ruin Kiev's EU/NATO plans and distract Ukraine's attention from the Crimea, and Novorossiyans were doing just that. Moreover, while the Western-backed military junta in Kiev was waging war against Novorossiyans, Moscow was supporting the ethnic Russians there while at the same time continuing certain trade deals with Kiev. Was Moscow backstabbing Novorossiyans? Of course not. Has Moscow abandoned Novorossiyans? Of course not. Simply put: The liberation of Novorossiya does not fit Moscow's geopolitical calculus, at least for now. IncidentallyI didn't see Novorossiyans, who thus far have gotten the short end of the stick, organizing street protests and angrilyaccusing Moscow of backstabbing them. Are Slavs more politically aware? Perhaps. We more recently saw Moscow doing similar things in Syria. Russia intervened to save the Alawite community there from an inevitable genocide. But as we have seen since, Russia's military intervention in Syria did not mean Moscow will agree to every single demand made by the Assad government. Do Syria's Alawite community have political maturity? We'll have to wait and see. That said, the following article that just appeared in the New York Times shows the kind of flawless statecraft Moscow is executing -
Moscow behavior in places like Ukraine, Syria and Armenia, is not stupid, duplicitous or backstabbing. Moscow behavior is superpower behavior. When a major nation makes a simple error, it can cause a world war. This is why high level policymakers in major nations are always calculating and they are always cautious when it comes to foreign policy, with the notable exception of Neocons in the US. This calculus, caution and pragmatism is the reason why Russia has not invaded easternUkraine; the reason why it has not hit back at Turkey; and it is also the reason why Moscow is doing its best to maintain ties with Baku. Russia is a nation that borders Europe, the Caucasus, central Asia, east Asia and all of the Arctic. Russia is a massive nuclear power. Russian officials, like their Americancounterpartstend to see things on a grander scale. Moscow has to have a grand view of the world. Russians officials have centuries of diplomatic expertise and have cultivated impeccable foresight when it comes to geostrategy. Russians have also suffered calamitous wars all too often. Therefore, the execution of Russian politics is by nature cautious, calculating, systematic and meticulousIn short: Russia is a superpower. Moscow therefore thinks as a superpower. And the following are the thoughts of Russian politician, activist and writer, Nikolai Starikov -
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict explained by Nikolai Starikov:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ANqaJzxX3k
Moscow will look at a matter like Artskah, Syria or even Novorossiya not from an emotional, cultural or historical perspective as we Armenians love to do, but from a legal, political and geostrategic perspective as all major powers prefer to do.

Baku should remain within the Russian orbit 

When Armenians stop approaching politics from an emotional or personal perspective they will begin to better understand the political world and that in turn will help them better maneuver politically. In other words: Armenian need to see the bigger, geostrategic picture. And in the bigger, geostrategic picture, a Baku that is within the Russian orbit is less of a threat to Armenia than a Baku that is under the total influence of Ankara and Western powers. I understand this is not ideal. Unfortunately, Armenia once againfinds itself facing two choices: One is a bad choice and the other one is a worst choice. That said, we must recognize that Russians are right now operating in full realpolitik mode. For Moscow, everything right now is pure calculus. Moscow knows that there is an active agenda by the Anglo-American-Jewishalliance and their Turkic/Islamic friends to surround and isolate Russia. Moscow knows that the entire Eurasian continent is one bad incident away from a third world war. Moscow is therefore doing its best to manage the very complex, very volatile situation we currently have in the world, and what I see many of us Armenians doing is acting like typical mountain dwellers.

Once more I implore you to think: If Russia was to stop selling arms to Baku, it would essentially be asymbolic measure because Baku has the money to purchase modern arms from elsewhere. Baku has already purchases billions of dollars of arms from countries other than Russia. If Moscow stopped sellingarms to Baku, all of the money Baku has allocated for arms purchases will thereafter go to Turkey, Israel, Ukraine, Pakistan, China and Western powers, and these powers will come to have more leverage inside Azerbaijan. Will that be better for the region? Will that be better for Armenia and Artsakh? Moscow knows that pan-Turkism and Islamic extremism have been Western power tools for a long time. Moscow knows that Western powers have used and continue using pan-Turkism and Islamic extremism against the Russian nation. Russian official are doing their best to stay in the game in Azerbaijan essentially becausethey realizes that if they breaks their close relationship with Baku, Azerbaijan is highly susceptible to turning into a center of pan-Turkic and Islamic activities. Yes, we all know that American, British and Israeli interests already exist in Baku. We also know that Grey Wolves and ISIS also operates inside Azerbaijan. But the aforementioned are not espoused officially and they are not yet mainstream.

Without Russia in the picture in Baku, Azerbaijan has the strong potential to become hotbedof pan-Turkism and Islamic extremism. Azeri officials in fact use these factors in Azerbaijan as a threat to make Russians remain closely engaged with Baku.

So, as you can see, Azeri officials are not as stupid as we would like to think they are. The stupid ones are in fact us. Look at it this way: Armenians that call on Russia to stop dealing with Baku are essentially calling on Russians to turn Azerbaijan into an even worst threat for Armenia and Artsakh. Those of us that wantMoscow to break ties with Baku are actually asking Moscow to sowing the seeds of a major war in the region. Yes, Russia needs to be ready for a war. But at the same time, Russia must also do everything in its power to avoid one. The same applies to Armenia. Turkic peoples, Islamic peoples can afford wars, we Armenians can't. It is very worrying for me that a lot of this rationale is escaping most of our people today.The better we Armenians understand all this, the better will be be able to navigate the perils of superpower politics and the coming storm.

I reiterate: Russia is Armenia's one and only ally. Russia is not abandoning Armenia (or even Artsakh). If there are problems or flaws in Moscow geostrategic vision towardsArmenia or Artsakh, Armenians need to stop throwing temper-tantrums like little emotionalchildren and figure out ways to work with their Russian counterparts to fix the problems. Our leaders cannot do what I just suggested by running off to Western capitols and complain about Moscow every time Moscow says or does something that Armenians don't happen to like. In other words, we as a people yet have to mature politically.

Sadly, talking to Armenians about geopolitical nuances is like talking to a five year old child about themeaning of life. If our overly emotional and always politically naive sheeple fall for the highly sophisticated manipulations and machinations of Western powers and ruin Armenia's relations with Russia as a result, Armenia will once again be erased from the world map. Our idiots in Yerevan better realize this because we have made the same mistake all too often. Despite what patriotic Armenians want to believe, Russia's hand over Armenia is the only thing keeping Armenia in existence today. This may be difficult for "proud" Armenian (especially in the Diaspora) to accept but this is reality. If Western powers manage to convinceour people that Russia's hand is a hand that is not needed or worst, a hand that is hurting Armenia, Armenia will be dangerously exposed in a very dangerous environment. We as a people need to understand that we are in the early stages of a world war. We as a people need to understand that Western powers look at Turks and Islamists as geostratetgic assets. We as a people need to understand that the defeat of Russiais one of the ultimate goals of the Anglo-American-Jewish world order in this war. Armenians better wakeup and realize that if Russia is defeated, Armenia will face another genocide regardless of whether or not Armenia has good relations with the West - and all the big talking Armenian Diaspora will be able to do is hold demonstrations in Western capitols in support of Armenia.

Once more: Armenia is not even on the list of Western priorities. Western powers will never come to Armenia's aid under any circumstances. At best, the West will take in a number of Armenian refugees and some Western officials will make some emotional speeches in favor of Armenians. That's it. The ONLY nation on earth that would be adversely impacted by Armenia's demise is Russia. The ONLY nation on earth, besides Armenians, that would be willing to spill blood for Armenia is Russians.

Artsakh proved its mettle in combat, its our diplomats' turn
The Turkish/Western defeat in Syria on one hand, the worsening socioeconomic situation in Azerbaijan on an other hand and the Anglo-American-Jewish bloodlust for Russian blood on yet another hand, something bad was bound to happen - either in Novorossiya or in Nagorno Karabakh. Unfortunately, it was our turn this time. It seems Baku was seeking to quickly occupy some Armenian held territory and inflict serious losses on Armenians as a stern message to Yerevan that is was now serious about resolving this festeringmatterI suspect Baku did not risk a full scale invasion of Artsakh and made sure to keepthings quite along Armenia's border because it feared Russian retaliation. Nevertheless, whatever it was that they had wanted to do, it didn't fully work as hoped. Armenians instinctively rallied around the national flag, Armenian troops held firm and the advancing Azeris were thrown back without much difficulty.

This mini war may have been a test for Armenia and Russia. They may have wanted to see Armenia's military performance and Yerevan's political resolve and Russia's reaction. If so, and if viewed strictly from a political perspective, I believe both passed the test. Russia did not have to militarily react essentially because Armenian forces in Artsakh performed well on the battlefield and Armenia was never under any threat. All Moscow therefore felt was needed was condemnation of Baku's actions, a symbolic troop buildupon the border with Azerbaijan, and it waited for the right time - when Armenian troops had liberated lands (with one exception) that had been initially lost in the fighting - to step in and call a ceasefire. Nevertheless,Armenian troops in Artsakh performed their tasks very well even in face of lethal, Israeli made  weaponsthat were introduced in combat for the first timeIn fact, Armenian troops performs so well that military units stationed in Armenia didn't even need to get involved in the fighting. The thousands of enthusiastic men and women that poured into Artsakh from Armenia were all volunteers and veterans of the previous war. Even in Artsakh, most of the available combat units seemed to have been held back in reserve. Therefore, a relatively small number of Armenian troops were able to repulse a major militaryincursion into Artsakh and inflicted heavy losses on themArtsakh proved its mettle in combat and the world noticed. The following powerful words was written by a Russian lawyer -
Artsakh has once again made us proud. Artsakh continues to be the place where Armenians worldwide draw a red line. From a tactical military perspective, however, it must also be said that this battle revealed some technical and tactical flaws. Perhaps more about that in a future blog commentary. That saidI think this short but violent war was a timely wake up call for all Armenians. While I am deeply saddened for the lives we lost on the battlefield, I think this was a very necessary battle to prove our resolve, as well as a battle to remind us Armenians of who the real enemy is. Unfortunately, we Armenians are one of those troublesome people that have to be reminded from time-to-time that the enemy is the Turk and not the Armenian government.

Azeri atrocities were a timely reminder for us all about who our enemy is. Made no mistake about it, Turksand Azeris remain barbarians. They are capable of despicable acts. Armenians need to wake up from their Western-inspired fantasies about "democracy" and "civil society" realize that Armenia is surrounded by predators that would not hesitate even one moment to devour it. Armenians need to end their political illiteracy and finally recognize that Armenia's only problem today is its geographic location and its blockade by Azerbaijan and NATO-member Turkey. For all its flaws - both real and perceived - Armenia's leadership today is the leadership we have, it's the leadership we deserve and it's the leadership we need to learn to work with for the benefit of Armenia. Our democracy obsessed idiots both in the homeland and in the diaspora therefore need to use their energies to figure out a way to fight for Armenia instead of fighting"corruption" in Armenia.

Time to heed to Garegin Njdeh's advice: "The motherland must be loved regardless of her political regime and our political convictions". And loving the motherland means beingresponsible and thoughtful towards her, especially during times of war.

But, because we are Armenians, we will always have people who will see the Armenian government as themain enemy. A little over a year ago, the Western-funded freak show called Founding Parliament tried to bring their color revolution into Artsakh; they called on the diaspora to join their revolution; they threatened to raise arms against the Armenian state; and their affiliates were caught planningassassinations of Armenian officials. Remember that they were doing all this at a very volatile time in the region and at a time when Armenia was facing the threat of a war. Well, where are these "nationalistic"clowns now? I have not seen a single one of them on the fontlines in Artsakh, but I have seen them in front of the Russian embassy protesting courageously!

Nevertheless, recent events have also served to remind us Armenians that a nation without a capable military and the eager willingness to fight for its existence does not deserve statehood. If we want to come out of our one thousand year old gypsies-like existence - we have to fight. It's that simple. If we prove ourselves in politics and in war, others, as well as our Russian allies, will begin taking us more seriously.
Back in the 1990s I recalling reading an article about a memoir written by some British journalist during the First World War. While I don't remember details of the article, I do remember what in the document made the greatest impression on me. The journalist, most probably his government's eyes and ears, wrote about his observations of the Armenian independence struggle in the Ottoman Empire. In his writings he noted that Armenian fighters were disorganized and that Armenians in general were not united behind their war effort. The communications he sent back to London basically said: We cant rely on Armenians. This, in political parlance, essentially meant we better put our emphasis on striking a deal Turks. To me, the memoir was evidence that the British was assessing Armenians from early on, and that we had failed to pass the test because we were perceived as not being serious about nation-building. The time period in question was during the late 1910s, when Ataturk was on the rise in Turkey. At the time, Western powers were allied to us Armenians and they had promised us heaven onearth, if we only helped them defeat the Turks. In fact, Armenians were not only fighting Turks, they were also fighting Bolsheviks - hoping that Western powers will eventually come to Armenia's aid. But, as always, realpolitik got in the way. Making a deal with Turks became much more important for Western powers. The British and the French therefore completely abandoned Armenians as soon as the war ended.

This is what I am getting at: We need to look at what's going on in Artsakh quite literally as a test. And make no mistake about it, we are being closely watched and assessed not only by our enemies but also by our friends. This is a test to see where we stand as a people. This is a test to see if we will cave in under pressure. This is a test to see if we are serious about ArtsakhGod rest their souls, I think our most recent martyrs helped us pass this test. I think the Armenian military lived up to its expectations, and the Armenian people instinctively rallied around the flag like it had not since the early 1990s. I think The big powers including our Russian ally will assess what happened and will hopefully come to the conclusion that we Armenians are serious when it comes to Artsakh.

One of the unwritten rules of humanity is that a people that is not willing to collectively fight for its existence, is a people that does not deserve statehood. If the latest war in Artsakh was indeed a test, I think we passed. And I hope that by passing this test we have lessened the possibility of a larger, more destructive test in the future. But, as noted above, times are changing, Baku is desperate and we can expect anything from them. Another round of fighting is therefore a real possibility. Our work therefore is not finished.

We have to build on our battlefield success. Eventually, perhaps this year, we may have to sit at a negotiations table. If Armenians want to be taken seriously and be seen as a viable political/military factor during such negotiations,Yerevan will have to make all know, including its Russian allies, that Armenians will fight for Artsakh. It's that simply. In fact, this is what the metaphor of the Iron Ladle is all about. Moreover, when the Armenian president walks into the negotiations room, all those present need to know full well that behind him stands the entire Armenian nation. If we are to therefore build on our most recent battlefield success, we will need national unity, political foresight and military resolve.More importantly, the Armenian president needs to come out of the negotiations process with the recognition of Artsakh's independence or its unity with Armenia. This must be top priority.

At the end of the day, we need to also recognize that geopolitics is a game of chess. Superpowers like the Russian Federation are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to advance or protect one geostrategic interest or another. We see Moscow executing statecraft and acting like a superpower. Armenians will have a difficult time wrapping their minds around how Russians see the political world, but it is best we learn, and learn quickly. Moscow is our ally. There are absolutely no doubt about that. Moscow will militarily intervene to protect Armenia if need be. There is absolutely no doubt about that. But Moscow is also a massive superpower with a lot of problems to deal with and it therefore can at times do things we will not like. To avoid unpleasant surprises and extract maximum benefits from our relationship with the Russian Bear, we, as the smaller, weaker partner in the strategic alliance, need to better understand the ways of the Kremlin and use our God-given talents to figure out a better, more effective way to promote Armenian interests within the halls of the Kremlin.

Is Moscow preparing the path for Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh?

I am inclined to think that the Turkish government and Western interests were somehow behind this latest aggression by Baku. I am inclined to think that the aforementioned opponents of Russia and Armenia may be seeking to ignite a new hot spot on Russia's southern borders, if only to divert Moscow's attention from Syria or punish Armenia for its close military alliance with Russia. For his part, Aliyev may also be seeking to divert the attention of his people from the so-called "Panama Papers". That said, I did not see Moscowforcefully scolding Baku for its blatant aggression. I think that there is more to Moscow's restraint in this regard than simply wanting to look impartial in the conflict.
 

Therefore, a question rises: Could Moscow be looking for a controlled or limited escalation to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and if so why?

We know that the Russian Federation has always (since 1991) wanted deeper involvement in the strategicsouth Caucasus
It is no secret that through the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) Moscow wants to develop its very own financial/economic network. It is also no secret that Moscow wants to develop the CSTO as a front against NATO. Needless to say, the Caucasus (both north and south) is strategically vital for Moscow.From a Russian perspective: The unsettled dispute over Artsakh is hindering the development of the EEU and CSTO and is keeping the region volatile - and thus susceptible to war and the spread of Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. Sometime around 2013, Moscow began signalling that it was serious about putting an end to the dispute. There were also clear signals that Moscow wanted station Russian troops in the region. The desire to base Russian troops in Artsakh is essentially part of Moscow's "defensive depth" strategy. Moscow, or the Bear's lair if you will, seeks to surround itself with buffer states as a protection against would-be invaders and also as a market for its goods. Eastern Europe, south Caucasus and Central Asia are therefore seen by Russian officials as Moscow's first line of defense.


To achieve this buffer in the south Caucasus, Moscow needs to do two things: 1) Settle thedispute between Yerevan and Baku; 2) Bring Tbilisi back into its orbit. If Moscow managed to do the former, the ladder would be much easier to do. With its victories in Syria and Ukraine (both are now buffers), Moscow may feel this is the best time to try something in the south Caucasus. 

Some of you may recall that couple of years ago I said that the Kremlin may one day make Armenians and Azeris fight a limited war and then step in to settle matters and play peacemakerI am therefore willing to entertain the thought that Moscow could be seeking to put pressure on Yerevan (and Baku) to force it to abandon its ties with the West and allow the stationing of Russian troops in Artsakh. These are two things that Yerevan would rathernot see happen. It can therefore be surmised that a certain level of hostility between Armeniaand Azerbaijan can fit Russia's strategic agenda.

From Moscow's perspective: Russia already controls the situation on Armenia's western border with Turkey, why not do the same on Armenia's eastern border with Azerbaijan. Moscow wants a larger and stronger Russian presence in the south Caucasus as a part of their defensive depth strategy and as a measure to ensure that Western powers, Turkey or Iran do not encroach on the region. One way it can do this is if it can lure Baku fully into its orbit, after which it would be Tbilisi's turn. If the region's three nation-states, however, are unwilling to go along with Moscow's wishes, Moscow may seek to create conditions that will help it realize its ultimate goal. Therefore, when Azeris attacked was Moscow hoping to see how it could exploit the situation? In other words: Is Moscow slowly preparing the path for Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh?

Sooner or later we Armenians may be faced with some important questions: Do we want to be in a constant state of war with our neighbor to the east, or do we want a real peace settlement with them? How far are we willing to go to achieve peace? How far are we willing to go in a war? Are we willing to negotiate the fate of the territories we currently control? Is having Russian troops stationed between Armenians and Azeris a good thing or a bad thing? AreArmenians willing to break Armenia's alliance with Moscow if need be? Are we doing enough lobbying in Moscow? These questions needs to be discussed.

Greater Russian involvement in the region is nevertheless the crux of the matter, and this is where Western funded agents throughout Armenian society are actively doing their best to exploit by sowing confusion, disinformation, fear and distrust inside Armenian society. Every time this matter is discussed in Armenian society, loud shouts of "treason" is heard from our traitors in the Western camp. Every time this matter is discussed, loud shouts of "never" is heard from war veteran unions. According to such voices, once Russian troops get stationed in the region, they will eventually make a deal with Azerbaijan at Armenia's expense and simply abandon or "sell" Armenia to Turks/Azeris. They of course bring up 1921 and 1991 as proof that this will definitely happen. Founding parliament and Hetq recently featured commentaries about this very matter -
Մենք թույլ չենք տալու, որ օտար զորքը ոտք դնի մեր մարտական ընկերների արյան գնով ազատագրված հայրենի հողի վրա: http://himnadir.am/մենք-թույլ-չենք-տալու-որ-օտար-զորքը-ոտք/ 
I look at this matter quite differently. Moscow does not have an agenda to place Artsakh under Baku's control, nor does it intend to abandon Armenia. The only problem I foreseehere is Moscow's attitude towards the territories taken outside of Artakh proper. This is where we Armenians need to draw some red lines.  This is when the powers that be have to be made to understand that Armenia is willing to go to war over Artsakh's territorial integrity. And this is where backroom meetings with Russian officials will prove most effective.

That said, ultimately, I also know that Armenia needs peace and stability in the region to develop economically. I also know that Russia is the only political entity today that is keeping Armenia from being run-over by her Turkic neighbors. I personally think that a powerful Russian presence in the south Caucasus will mean the end of the tug-of-war between the great powers of today. And in the big geostrategic picture I always like to talk about, that is a good thing for Armenia. With all due respects to Armenia's fighting men and women, I am under no illusions about our fighting abilities. I know that Armenia cannot fight a prolonged war in the region with anyone, let alone without Russian support. Wetherefore have a lot of thinking to do.

But frightening Armenians by saying Russian troops in Artsakh will inevitably side with Azerbaijan is a dangerous scare tactic. We must reject Western smut-peddlers. We must reject the idea that Armenia can survive the region without direct Russian support. We must also understand that  we cannot become a political factor in Moscow if our people are led down the dangerous path of Russophobia. Russian troops based in or near Artsakh wouldn't need to fight Armenians because Azeris are more than willing to fight. If it wants, Moscow can enable an Azeri war without being anywhere near Artsakh. I therefore don't see how Russians in Artsakh can be a problem for Armenia. Time periods need to be assessed within the geopolitical context of their times. The Bolshevik takeover of Armenia in 1921 had its unique geopolitical factors that led to what happened. The Soviet Union's support for Azerbaijan in 1991 had its unique geopolitical factors that led to what happened. None of those geopolitical factors exist today. Moscow is not seeking to occupy Armenia. Moscow is not seeking to strengthen Azerbaijan at the expense of Armenia.

I personally don't have a problem with the stationing of Russian troops between Artsakh and Azerbaijan as long as Armenia keeps Artsakh proper and all regions west of it and official Yerevan makes it known to all, including Moscow, that Armenia is ready to fight anyone, including its Russian allies, to keep those lands within Armenian possession. This is when we will need unity, foresight and political acumen.

Nevertheless, a powerful Russian presence in the south Caucasus will ultimately help bring peace, stability and economic prosperity to the struggling region, not much unlike what the region's people enjoyed duringCzarist and Soviet periods. What we are essentially talking about here is Pax Russicana. It was during the Czar's Pax Russicana that an Armenian nation began to resettle en masse in their ancestralhomelands. It was during the Soviet Union's Pax Russicana that Armenia became a modern republic with fully functioning national institutions. Armenia's terrible economic and political situation will improve only under another Pax Russicana. As long as Pax Russicana is delayed in the south Caucasus, so will the arrival of peace and stability. Needless to say, Western powers do not want to see the establishment of Pax Russicana in the region. Western interests would rather see the region remain as is: Politically unstable, economically stagnant and militarily volatile. Isolating Russia and Iran and exploiting regional energy reserves is after all why Western powers are meddling in the region in the first place. For its part, Moscow's long-term strategy is to bring the entire south Caucasus into its orbit. This is essentiallywhy the two sides, Russia and the West, are clashing in the region and this is why the tiny Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh is such a crucially important piece in the region's geopolitical puzzle.

Settling the Artsakh dispute

Although Western powers want the sheeple to think that they are still in the game, Moscow has taken the initiative in the south Caucasus. The dispute over Artsakh will eventually be settled in Moscow, under Russian terms. And when the time comes to negotiate a final settlement, those who have the deepest roots in Moscow will extract the most benefits. And this is when we may realize thatYerevan's "complimentary politics" has actually hurt Armenia. Why should Russian officials cater to every single Armenian demand? Because Yerevan hosts one of the world's largest US embassies?Because governmental departments in Armenia are staffed by Western trained personnel? Because Armenian troops participate in military drills with NATO? Because NATO has opened a center in Armenia?Because Armenia is saturated by Western-financed political organizations, politician, activists, news organizations and NGOs?

In its desire to maintain close relations with Western powers, Yerevan has neglected lobbying efforts in Moscow. Azerbaijan (and until very recently Turkey) has been relentlessly lobbying Russian officials.Amazingly, Armenia, a nation that is desperately dependent on Russia for survival, is not engaging in any form of organized lobbying efforts in Moscow. In the following two television interviews we see Chairman of Union of Armenians in Russia Ara Abrahamyan and former Armenian National Security Council Secretary Arthur Baghdasaryan raising the alarm about the lack of Armenian lobbying efforts inside Moscow and the inability of official Yerevan today to efficiently exploit its strategic relationship with Russia -
Արթուր Բաղդասարյան (watch from 48:30): https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=GARDQ9WCcko
This is a very serious problem that is strategic in nature. It seems as if our officials flirt with Western powers and  simply hope for bad relations to develop between Moscow and Baku. It does not work that way. Yerevan needs to be active in Moscow. Yerevan needs to embark on a serious effort to convince Moscow that a bigger and stronger Armenia is in Russia's best interests. Armenians need to convince Moscow that a bigger and stronger Armenia is a natural bulwark against Turkic and Islamic expansion.We need political foresight in Yerevan and political activism in Moscow. Alarmingly, I do not see much of an effort being put into this vital strategic matter. On one side, we have Western mercenaries doing their best to spread Russophobia and on the other side we have subservient chobans-in-Armani-suits sitting back and expecting Russian officials to decide everything for Armenia. 

Because there exists no serious lobbying efforts by Armenians inside Moscow, everything that Moscow does with regards to Armenia is essentially a by-product of Russian calculations. Thus far we have been lucky.But politics is not about hoping or being lucky. We simply cannot sit back and expect - or demand - that Russians to do the right thing for Armenia. Armenians need to embark on a collective, cohesive, pan-national effort to make a case for Artsakh's territorial integrity. None of this was done by Yerevan and as far as I know, no serious effort was made to resolve this matter behind closed doors in Moscow. Worst yet, I suspect no one in Yerevan wants to even deal with this matter. President Sargsyan was most probably hoping that the next president would have to face making hard choices. While the status quo served Moscow's interests, Yerevan got its way. Now that things are changing, Yerevan may have no choice but to begin thinking about settling the dispute.

We might witness another limited scale war to convince both sides to come to the negotiations table and finally settle the Artsakh dispute. As a final negotiated settlement with Baku, Yerevan may be expected to return the "seven regions" taken outside of Artsakh proper. Baku may be expected to recognize Artsakh's independence or its reunification with Armenia. I do not have much concerns about the fate of the territories west of Artsakh. What concerns me are the other territories.

Ultimately, the territorial future of Artsakh (what territories we keep, what territories wegive in exchange for peace) is up to Armenian officials to help decide. Russians are macromanaging the situation in the south Caucasus. The micromanagement that needs to take place in Artsakh is ultimately an Armenian responsibility. Moscow's primary concernis keeping both Armenia and Baku within its orbit, details, such as how borders should be drawn in Artsakh, are of secondary importance to the Kremlin

It is therefore up to Armenians to embark on an serious effort in the Kremlin to convince Russians thatterritories under question will be fought for even if Moscow would prefer their return to Azerbaijan. AndArmenian officials need to also make their Russian counterpart know that Armenia will do all this while being a steadfast ally of Russia, ultimately because this is an internal matter between to close allies. Running off to Western capitols to whine like little children will not helpArmenia or Artsakh in any way. The degree and depth of the concessions that would be expected from Yerevan is therefore ultimately up to the diplomatic acumen of Armenian politicians and the lobbying efforts of our political activists in Moscow. It is also crucially important to show the world that Armenians are united behind their leadership and that the entire population of Artsakh is fully mobilized and ready for war.

I reiterate: Armenian officials need to make it clear to all, including Moscow, that Armenia is ready to fight anyone, including its Russian allies, to keep Artsakh within Armenianpossession.

Major powers only respect power and resolve, not victim-hood and whining. Over a century ago, one of our most beloved patriarchs informed us Armenians about the paramount importance of Iron Ladles. This proverbial Iron Ladle is as important for Armenia today as it has ever been. In today's Armenia, however, this Iron Ladle should looked at from the context of Armenia's alliance with Russia. Yerevan therefore cannot even think about weakening its alliance with Russia. But Yerevan has to make Moscow realize thatArmenians will fight for every square meter of Artsakh. I want to repeat once more that the primary responsibility of holding on to every bit liberated Artsakh falls upon the shoulders of Armenian politicians,Armenian activists and Armenian soldiers. Instead of complaining and fear-mongering and threatening closer relations with Western powers, as some of our idiots tend to do when things don't go our way with Moscow, we Armenians need to draw on all our national assets and make a strong case for Artsakh within the walls of the Kremlin. Thus far, this is not being done because Western agents deeply embeddedthroughout Armenian society are leading us astray.

Oil rich Baku has the money to purchase anything it wants from whoever it wants. Yerevan does not have that luxury. Moscow wants to keep leverage over Yerevan and Baku, as well keep the military balance between the two. Moscow will therefore sell Baku what Baku wants and give Armenia what Armenia needs. Russian officials also know that if they do not sell arms to Baku, there are a number of nations - like Israel, Turkey, Ukraine and China - that will. In fact, Israeli-made weapons proved most destructive during the four day war. Moscow wants leverage over Baku. Moscow wants military parity in the region. Moreover, Moscow is trying hard to keep Baku within its orbit essentially because it does not want to see Azerbaijan turn into yet another hotbed of pan-Turkic and Islamic extremism right on its border. In the big picture, this is in Armenia's long-term interests.

Russia is not abandoning Armenia (or even Artsakh). Russia continues to be Armenia's one and only ally. Russia continues to protect Armenia's borders with Turkey, allowing Armenia to concentrate its resources its border with Azerbaijan. That Armenian officials are squandering the task of properly fortifying Armenia's border with Azerbaijan by graft and embezzlement of financial resources is all together another topic of discussion. That said, if there are problems or flaws in Moscow geostrategic vision towards the region, Armenians need to stop throwing temper-tantrums like little emotional children and figure out a way to work with their Russian counterparts to fix the problems that may exist. Our leaders cannot do this by enabling Armenia's Western operatives or by running off to Western capitols to complain about Moscow. Armenians need to embark upon a serious effort to lobby Russian officials. Armenians better realize that the Western world will never provide Armenia with the kind of security it need. Armenians better realize that the West can never be an alternative to Russia. Armenia will not survive the south Caucasus alone. Armenia therefore needs Russia. We as a people therefore need to wake-up and understand all this and figure out ways to more efficiently lobby Russian officials. In other words, we as a people have the desperate need to mature politically. I'm afraid maturing as a people may be a long and bumpy road for us Armenians. I just hope we don't lose our statehood along the way.

Arevordi
Spring, 2016


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The Nagorno-Karabakh Story the US Does Not Want You to Know

http://www.aljazeera.com/mritems/Images/2016/4/7/1aa8182fcf8647d98719c34b9fe33a43_8.jpg

In the early morning hours of April 1-2 Azerbaijan launched a major military offensive into the disputed region Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) that’s been controlled and defended by NK Armenian forces since the Russian brokered truce ended a bloody three year war in 1994. While Azeri President Ilham Aliyev was flying back to Baku after meeting 24 hours earlier with John Kerry in Washington who claimed “an ultimate resolution” had been reached, Azerbaijan was already once again at war with the NK Armenians. The surprise element combined with the full scale major military operation spearheading a three pronged attack on Nagorno-Karabakh contact line from the southern, southeastern and northeastern directions resulted in the Aziri army seizing at least five Armenian villages and several strategic elevated heights inside the disputed territory with heavy loss of life reported on both sides including Armenian civilians whose home were shelled by Aziri artillery mortars and rockets. Though a ceasefire three days into the heavy fighting was brokered by Russia, repeated ceasefire breaches and continued combat operations have been observed.

Evidence that you’ll never see in Western MSM coverage is now surfacing from Armenian press documenting not only is the Azeri military still daily violating Tuesday’s ceasefire but far more significant and alarming is that the Azeris have been attacking villages inside the Republic of Armenia, not just in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. On Friday April 8 the press secretary of the Armenian Republic Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan disclosed that Azeri forces have been shelling civilian settlements with 120mm mortar fire in the villages of Karmir, Ttujur and Baghanisin within the Armenian provinces of Tavush and Gegharkunet. Fortunately there has been no reported casualties as yet. But when the first victims do get reported, the consequences for Azerbaijan could become far reaching.

By committing an act of war killing Armenian civilians on a second warfront by shelling civilian targets within the Republic of Armenia, the Azeri government is showing that its unilateral aggression remains unfazed, attacking an allied nation holding a mutual defense pact with Russia that stipulates if Armenia is attacked, Russia is compelled to come to Armenia’s aid and defense. Azerbaijan’s artillery shelling may force Russia to shift from acting as prime mediator in the Azeri-Armenian conflict to being drawn into the escalating war against Azerbaijan. The implications of such an expanding war are so serious it could destabilize not just the immediate region but trigger a rippling effect globally. This potentially grave development of course feeds right into the sinister hegemonic plan that the neocons behind US Empire have been fiendishly hoping and working towards for some time, to tie up Russia directly involving Putin in fighting yet another war on his doorstep that could quickly unravel to ignite World War III.

Obviously prior to firing artillery shells into residential villages inside Armenia, the Baku government was fully aware of the risks involved in committing such acts of war against the Russian bear’s defense ally Armenia. Because the precedent of launching artillery volleys into Armenian villages have occurred largely unnoticed and unaccountable before as three civilians were killed last September from Azeri shelling, Baku appears willing to take the calculated risk that Moscow will again not respond. Upping the aggression ante also suggests that Azerbaijan has full support not only from its closest, war-zealot Turk ally but also at least US-NATO’s tacit approval as well. And if this is the case, it confirms the US Empire continues to recklessly throw all caution to the wind, constantly baiting and provoking an all-out West versus East military showdown heading in only one direction – world war.

With a population close to 10 million possessing land that holds some of the world’s largest oil reserves, the Azerbaijani government has been busily buying up the deadliest weapons its oil-rich money can afford from Russia ($4 billion), Israel ($1.6 billion) and the US among others just to seek revenge against Armenians living in Nogorno-Karabakh, the de facto autonomous enclave the Azeris maintain was stolen from them in the war they lost in the 1990’s. So from 2004 to 2014 Azerbaijan has increased its military spending twenty-fold. In contrast, the NK target that the Azeris are wanting so badly to vanquish and destroy by brute military force is a population of little more than 150,000 that receives no big arms deals from any major power. Instead they are totally dependent on the economically strained Republic of Armenia for its sole military support and supplies

The unbroken will of this small Armenian population to defend its ancestral homeland that it’s inhabited far longer than Azeris ever became a Turkish offshoot as a nation or ethnicity is the same reason why 20,000 Armenian soldiers outfought and defeated 64,000 Azeris. And the Azerbaijani military actively recruited mercenary foreign nationals from Turkey’s Grey Wolves, Chechen militants and al Qaeda terrorists back in the 1991-1994 war. In recent years ongoing skirmishes at the contact line along the NK as well as Armenian borders with Afghanistan have increased with last August and September flurried gunfire exchange an example of the growing intensity of border flare-ups.

Spokesman for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic David Babayan stated several days ago that evidence is emerging that strongly points to Azerbaijan once again being joined by the unsavory likes of Turkish Grey Wolves and even Islamic State terrorists fresh from the Raqqa, Syria battlefields. Firsthand accounts from witnesses in the overrun NK village of Talish claim that Armenian families and soldiers are being beheaded and brutally executed with ears cut off that confirm the pattern of barbaric foreign mercenaries fighting alongside the Azeri army. Babayan also added that townspeople from surrounding Azerbaijani villages have recently fled for their lives while terrorists looting their homes have even been reported to murder and rape local Azeri citizens. Other accounts based on military sources also reveal that an Aziri ISIS brigade has rushed from Syria to fight another war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Finally the Iranian ARAN agency has published that ISIS has had a special training ground reserved for Azeri Islamic State recruits located on the Iraqi-Syrian border that is now fighting against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. With the media blackout in Western nations, you will never hear that ISIS terrorists are now fighting and committing atrocities against civilians in the Armenian enclave.

Already calls for Hague war crime tribunals are sounding as officials in the Republic of Armenia are beginning the lengthy process to gather eyewitness testimonials and accounts documenting war crimes that the Azeri military has committed against civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Vice President of the National Assembly of the Armenian Republic Eduard Sharmazanov was actually speaking to the Armenian Diaspora:
 
We must use all the platforms to show the civilized world that Azerbaijan, that takes military actions against civilians, must be punished for violating the norms of international law and of the Geneva Conventions.
Ever since the 1994 truce, the Azeris have been plotting revenge for losing the Nogorno-Karabakh War. Their agenda has always been as soon as they gain a military advantage with all its bought advanced weaponry, they will invade and retake the small enclave by force. Impatient over “the frozen conflict” after twenty years of OSCE Minsk Group’s utter failure to resolve the conflict, recently spurred on by fellow Turk Erdogan’s “fight to the end” rhetoric and backroom pressure along with US Empire’s tacit approval meeting with Kerry 24 hours ahead of the latest incursion, combined with continued record low oil prices that created domestic unrest and public protest in Baku in recent months, a week ago Azeri President Ilham Aliyev chose to rally his nation behind the Azeri “wag the dog” flag launching the biggest military offensive into Nagono-Karabakh since the war ended 22 years ago.

While the deranged Erdogan was in Washington last week, he met with high powered lobbyists Mercury LLC he has hired to push the absurdist propaganda that Armenians are the biggest threat to everyone’s national security since their military alliance with Russia is rapidly building. As the Armenian genocide remembrance day April 24thapproaches, Erdogan as Aliyev’s “big brother” is on the warpath to finish the job not completed a century ago and it’s no accident that a day after he railed on about the threat Armenians pose to the world, little brother launched his military campaign against the NK Armenians. The Russians are fully aware of Erdogan’s antagonism as vice speaker of Russia’s State Duma recognized the Turkish president as “a third force” behind the NG violence.

Yet another behind the scenes culprit to unrest and violence in this world is Israel. It’s just been learned that Azerbaijan has given Israel full use of its airfields near the Iran border. Israel’s sophisticated advances in unmanned drone technology changing modern warfare and the Jewish State’s increasingly close relationship in recent years give both Iran and Armenia pause for concern. That on top of recent sales of Israeli drones as part of a 2012 $1.6 billion arms deal package procured by the Azerbaijani military have been widely deployed in recent days for both enemy surveillance and kill purposes in Artsakh (the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh). One UAV was shot down the other day spying over the Artsakh capital city of Stepanakert while OSCE officials were meeting below with NG leaders. Another Israeli-made kamikaze drone hit and demolished a bus killing seven Karabakh volunteer soldiers inside. Alleged accusations have been made that the drones are being remotely piloted by Israelis. As an aside from that Minsk Group meeting, the Russian co-chair announced that representatives from Artsakh will finally earn a place at the negotiation peace talk table.

On numerous occasions the Azeri dictator Aliyev who inherited the job from his father in 1993 has sworn to “wipe Armenia off the face of the earth.”  Holocaust scholar Yair Auron commenting on Israel’s sale of such high powered weapons to Azerbaijan stated: The sale of weapons to a government committing genocide is like the sale of weapons to Nazi Germany during World War II.

As a parallel process example of how the Baku aggression has been ramping up in recent years, the Azeri army upped both the ammo charges and killing radius of its Howitzers from 60-82mm in December 2014 to 120mm as of March 2015, the same shelling that’s now ravaging homes in Armenia as well. Meanwhile, while Baku keeps buying bigger, more lethal weapons from Russia, Israel and America, on Saturday Prime Minister Medvedev reasserted it will continue selling arms to Azerbaijan (and Armenia) in its unsubtle attempt to lure Baku away from the West’s undue influence. Russia supplies 85% of Azerbaijan’s weapons. Last year the cozy relations US Empire was nurturing with Azerbaijan suddenly went sour when criticism over Baku’s human rights was levied, which resulted in Baku cancelling its prelim dance to EU membership.

According to the latest International Democracy Index rating, Azerbaijan scored amongst the highest in the world for authoritarianism with a score of 6.68 out of a possible 7 being worst, cited for multiple major human rights violations chief amongst them intolerance toward dissent and freedom of press, undemocratic electoral process (score of 7) along with rampant corruption. The recent Panama papers exposing off shore fortunes indicate how the Aliyev family have made their secret billions sidestepping the law. Of course the US government’s hardly in a position to criticize as it’s certainly no beacon for democracy anymore. In contrast, despite not being formally recognized by the international community, the European Free Alliance (EFA) cited Nagorno-Karabakh as having demonstrated one of the highest democratic evaluations amongst post-Soviet nations.

The Soviet Union never recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as a separate sovereign entity from the Azeri state it originally gifted Baku three quarters of a century ago. But for that matter, neither has Artsakh’s biggest supporter and ally the Republic of Armenia. A Russian peacekeeping force could be introduced but a peaceful outcome that all parties can live with satisfactorily seems unlikely. It appears all positions are intractable while Russia takes the lead in working on an amicable resolution that includes Iran much to the chagrin of US Empire and Israel. The South Caucasus as the ancient East-West Silk Road passageway is presently coveted by the most powerful global forces on earth, all vying for strategic chessboard turf that’s ground zero for civilization crossroads.

Armenia on the other hand is a landlocked, economically depressed, geographically tiny nation without oil, flanked on each side by its enemies’ closed borders which has further led to Armenia’s isolation. Even a loan of $200 million from Russia was necessary just for procurement of a first installment of arms shipments that can’t compete with Baku’s near $5 billion a year military budget alone that’s near twice as much as Armenia’s total national budget. In comparison with the newer advanced killer power weaponry that big oil money buys, Armenia is stuck with last century weapons used in the 1990’s Nagorno-Karabakh war. Though Moscow has pledged arms parity, they remain undelivered. The truth is Armenia is at the mercy of Russia for its very survival. Oil money, advanced arms and big business rule the world, whether it’s the Western or Eastern worlds.

The dire circumstance that Armenians in both Artsakh Republic and the Armenian Republic presently face in this latest round of war with Azerbaijan, Turkey and US Empire appears rather bleak. Though it may capture appeal in its underdog role in the modern day version of David versus Goliath amongst nations, and already has the Armenian Diaspora in cities like Los Angeles and around the world mobilizing support for its cause, it has powerful enemies that would be happy to see both Armenia and Russia go down in flames. The planet is in peril, and Nagorno-Karabakh might be the archduke of the latest world war.

Joachim Hagopian is a West Point graduate and former US Army officer. He has written a manuscript based on his unique military experience entitled “Don’t Let The Bastards Getcha Down.” It examines and focuses on US international relations, leadership and national security issues. After the military, Joachim earned a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and worked as a licensed therapist in the mental health field with abused youth and adolescents for more than a quarter century. In recent years he has focused on his writing, becoming an alternative media journalist. His blog site is at http://empireexposed.blogspot.co.id/


Nagorno-Karabakh War 1.5

Troops in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

The conflict also saw the first use in anger of the Israeli Harop “kamikaze” drone by the Azeris, which was remotely steered into a bus carrying Armenian volunteers, resulting in seven deaths. As has become familiar from the War in Donbass, official and unofficial casualty figures differ by an order of magnitude. Oficially, there had been to date 35 Armenian military deaths 37 Azeri deaths, although each side claims 300-400 enemy casualties. I suspect it is closer to around 50-75 for the Armenians (especially once the 28 listed as MIA, most of which usually end up dead in the end, are accounted for) and up to 150 for the Azeris. Thephotographic evidence appears to show a lot more Azeri than Armenian troops, and in any case it stands to reason since it was the Azeris who were assaulting well-fortified positions.

Furthermore, the NKR’s tally of how many tanks it lost – some fourteen of them – are virtually the same as Azeri claims of how many tanks it destroyed. In contrast, Azerbaijan implausibly acknowledges the loss of only one tank, whereas the Armenians claim they destroyed 29 tanks. Since it is harder to hide hardware losses, this suggests an NKR-Azeri combat loss ratio of 1:2. Apart from this, the Azeris have also lost several APCs, 1-2 Mi-24 helicopters, and tons of Israeli UAV’s (one of them was apparently downed by a hunter with a rifle! Not very good PR for Israel’s defense export industries).

All in all, it’s safe to say that at least so far, this has been a comprehensive defeat for Azerbaijan, regardless of how earnestly President Ilham Aliyev prevaricates on Twitter and the rather unconvincing assertions of Azeri propaganda. Their purely military gains were insubstantial, and attained at the cost of much higher losses in personnel and equipment than the worse-armed but far more motivated, skilled, and dug in NKR Army. This was accomplished without any reinforcements from Armenia proper. Any hopes for a blitzkrieg campaign have been dashed. Consequently, if the Azeris also intended to test the limits at which Russia would start moves to intervene, they failed at that as well through their failure to achieve any major military successes against NKR in the first place.

Political Aspects 

The Azeris also lost the information war. Although this flareup elicited very little European or American official commentary, it was clear that public opinion outside Turkey and Azerbaijan itself – at least as gauged by social media on Twitter and Reddit – was overwhelmingly on Armenia’s side. This was especially so after evidence of Azeri war crimes began to crop up, including the execution and mutilation of three Armenian civilians in Talish and the ISIS-style parading of the decapitated head of a Yazidi soldier from the NKR ranks (note that both links are probably NSFW). While the provenance of the former is uncertain, the latter appears to have definitely happened, appearing on a pro-Azerbaijan military Vkontakte page. There were also claimsfrom pro-Armenian media sources that many Azeris in the ranks of Islamic State were turning to Azerbaijan. There is reason to be skeptical about this since it is unlikely that the sorts of Azeris who would go off to Raqqa would return to fight for a secular Shi’ite state.

If the intent was to use military assault to catalyze the diplomatic process, that too must be considered a failure. Apart from Erdogan’s boorish but entirely predictable expression of unconditional support for Azerbaijan, nobody else followed suit. Instead, everybody from Russia and Iran to NATO and the US issued formulaic injunctions to observe the ceasefire and resolve the issues through the OSCE Minsk Group (i.e. back to the status quo of doing nothing).

Even the US was noncommital, with a State Department spokesman saying that the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh will be determined on the principles of “non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity of states, and the equal rights and self-determination of people.” The second and third points are of course self-contradictory in this case, but the reference to “threat of force” might have been a veiled rebuke against the Azeri Defense Minister for his threats to bomb the NGK capital Stepanakert. The only countries of note apart from Turkey to assume a decidedly pro-Baku position were PakistanGeorgia, and Ukraine – but this ghost of the GUAM alliance is not really a diplomatic triumph by any stretch of the imagination.

There was however one Azeri success, though. Or rather an Aliyev success. In Azerbaijan’s current economic circumstances, one might think the ruling dynasty could certainly do without is the media quacking about its offshore network of secret holding companies revealed by the Panama Papers. And unlike with Putin, Aliyev’s family members are directly mentioned as owners. It is worth noting that Mossack Fonseca had informed its clients of the data breach several months in advance, and they would have been aware of the approximate dates of its publication.

Is there a conspiracy theory here? Who knows. It need not have been a decisive factor, since the mainstream media doesn’t have the freedom to talk about such things anyway, while foreign journalists can be fobbed off with the always reliable “[the children] are grown up and have the right to do business” excuse. Even so, it might well have been a significant contributory factor. After all, it is better to have people rhapsodizing about a “short victorious war,” or failing that at least about “our heroic shahids,” than grumbling about the plummeting currency and the offshore secrets of the elites.

A Final “Optimistic” Note

As I pointed out in my last post, this year represents the likely peak of Azeri military power relative to Armenia for at least the next decade. With Baku getting engulfed by financial crisis in the wake of the collapse of oil prices, it is cutting its military budget by 40% this year, in addition to already substantial cuts in 2015. This means its military modernization efforts will crawl to a stop. Those hi-tech toys its been “testing” these past few days are probably not going to be replaced anytime soon. Meanwhile, while the Armenian economy is hardly booming either, it can at least expect to maintain spending at similar levels or even increase them further considering the rising incidence and fierceness of its clashes with Azerbaijan.

This means that for Azerbaijan, it is a question of now or later… where later might either be decades down the line, or even more likely, never.

On the other hand, though these skirmishes were a far cry from what a real large-scale war would look like between Azerbaijan and Armenia-NKR, they were exceedingly useful from a calibration point of view in that they allowed the Azeris to get a good gauge on the actual combat effectiveness of their rebuilt army. They might well have concluded that the oil-splurge spending of the past decade didn’t automatically translate to much higher proficiency or combat effectiveness, with all that it entails for the prospects of a future large-scale operation to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh (even putting to the side the issue of Russian intervention). In this sense, the continued bellicose rhetoric of the Azeris – and the Turks – regardless, the chances of a serious war in the future for Nagorno-Karabakh may well have actually diminished in the past few days.

EDIT 2016/04/06: Now that the fog of war has cleared up, it has become clear that the Azeris even failed to retain the village of Talish. What a debacle.

Source: http://www.unz.com/akarlin/nagorno-karabakh-war-15/


Nagorno-Karabakh: This ‘frozen’ post-Soviet conflict is heating up and fits right in with current global chaos

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When Muslim Azerbaijanis and Christian Armenians went to war between 1992 and 1994 over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, about 30,000 living in a territory the size of Prince Edward Island died and as many as one million were displaced from there and from Azerbaijan. The savage fighting there presaged the intensely personal communal violence that was about to tear apart the Balkans, Chechnya and, eventually, Eastern Ukraine and now nearby Syria and Iraq.

Round two of this obscure, intractable battle for the remote, predominately ethnic Armenian mountain enclave within Azerbaijan may have begun last week with an Azeri offensive that retook some of the territory it lost the first time around. With more than 60 deaths during four days of renewed hostilities, one of the many “frozen” post-Soviet conflicts — Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea, Transnistria — may have suddenly became unfrozen. Both the Azeris and the separatist Armenians have issued dire ultimatums to each other to stand down. Or else.  Azerbaijan warned that it was prepared to launch an attack on Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert. The Armenians vowed to reclaim the land they held for 22 years and have just now lost.

Perhaps remembering the ruthless pogroms and ethnic cleansing that took place then and during the Bolshevik Revolution, the two sides announced an immediate truce Tuesday that has not yet been tested. The earlier iteration of this conflict in a breathtakingly beautiful but impoverished corner of the Caucasus was where I witnessed deeply rooted ethnic hatred up close for the first time. When I drove out from the Azerbaijan capital, Baku, to the Azeri side of the front near Stepanakert, there was a Second World War-vintage railway carriage converted into a hospital where surgeons were hacking off limbs in appalling conditions. Other coaches were packed with the cries, whimpers and stench of the maimed and the dead.

It was a mystery to me how the Armenians won a crushing victory in the post-Soviet. The Azerbaijanis outnumbered them by more than three to one. The Azeris also had lots of oil. The landlocked Armenians were far poorer and had a much lower standard of living. After several decades of high energy prices and no longer having to share the lucre with Moscow, the Azeris have been rearming themselves specifically so that they can get Nagorno-Karabakh back. It is a development that may have already shifted the military balance forever. As always, though, it is more complicated than that. Turkey, which has had interests in the region for decades, has strongly aligned itself with the Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan. Moscow has sold weapons to both sides, but Orthodox Russians have naturally sided with their Orthodox Armenians co-religionists. Muslim Iran and Christian Georgian are keenly interested in tilting the situation to their advantage, too.

It has often been said that much of the current tribal turmoil in the Middle East is the result of borders imposed by such imperial powers as Britain and France because it suited their interests at that time. In same way a major reason for the troubles between Azerbaijan and Armenia stem from the fact that Vladimir Lenin arbitrarily decided that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh must be part of the republic of Azerbaijan at a time when the two sides were fighting amid the ruins of Turkey’s collapsing Ottoman Empire and British diplomatic and military intrigues. It is also little different from how Nikita Khrushchev arbitrarily decided one night — while rumoured to be on a drinking binge — that the Russian majority in Crimea was to be part of the Ukraine, creating grave tensions that still exist today.

With so much already on his plate in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere from Black Sea and the Caucasus to Russia’s borders with the former Baltic states and Poland in the north, Vladimir Putin may have strong-armed the two sides into agreeing to this ceasefire. But with Turkey saying Baku must rule the enclave, it is an open question whether the truce can last. Armenia wants a buffer between its kinsmen in Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azeris, and still controls a chunk of Azeri territory outside the enclave. The Azeris want all of that land back, plus what Lenin gave them in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1920.

A further complication is that several hundred thousand Armenians were forced to leave their homes in Baku during the 1990s. The latest twist is that some Armenian refugees from the war in Syria have recently settled in Nagorno-Karabakh, which has as its thin lifeline a twisty mountain road back to Armenia. With the Kremlin and Ankara already dangerously angry with each other over Syria, Bashar al Assad’s regime and Turkey’s downing last November of a Russian warplane, the Turks and Kurds slugging it out in northern Syria and southern Turkey, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighting just about everyone in Iraq and Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh is another perfect 21st-century mess with consequences far beyond the tiny enclave’s fragile borders.


Stratfor: Armenia's Isolation Laid Bare

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The tension in Yerevan was palpable. Overnight April 1, just a few days before I arrived in the city, fighting had broken out in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, home to a quasi-independent statelet backed by Armenia known as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The line of contact where Karabakh fighters clashed with Azerbaijani soldiers was around 300 kilometers (186 miles) away, but in Yerevan it felt much closer. I found myself in the city amid the breakdown of a cease-fire that had largely held since 1994.

Walking the streets, I caught snatches of nervous conversation – again and again I heard people mention "Azerbaijan" and "Artsakh," the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh. The emotional attachment on the part of the capital city's residents to the small breakaway republic was clearly strong. Large groups of men huddled around taxis and on street corners to listen intently to news of the conflict being played on the radio. Taxi drivers could speak of nothing else. Everyone seemed to have at least one relative or friend living in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The fighting proved to be short-lived, and within three days a cease-fire was back in place. Just like that, the conflict gave way to the uneasy peace that has predominated for over two decades. Or had it? The question still remained: Why did the conflict break out in the first place? It may have been just another historical blip, or it could presage a larger conflict to come, perhaps one involving regional heavyweights Turkey and Russia, or even Western powers. And what was the role of those powers in the current fighting?

I discussed these questions with anyone I could — government officials, political analysts, journalists and ordinary people. Their opinions varied in the details, but they generally agreed on three things. Most of them blamed Azerbaijan for initiating the fighting because the status quo is favorable to Armenia but detrimental to Baku's interests. Many also believed (correctly) at the outset of the conflict that the fighting was unlikely to spark a larger war. They noted, with anxiety, that Armenia stands alone in Nagorno-Karabakh, with no one to turn to for help.
These are all, of course, simply opinions. Moreover, they are informed by fear and national bias. But they do provide some insight into the mindset of the Armenian people. The last of them, Armenia's isolation, is particularly noteworthy because it has grounding in Armenia's current geopolitical position. The nation is located in the unstable Caucasus region, along with Georgia, Azerbaijan and the volatile Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan. The region is surrounded by Russia, Turkey and Iran – three massive powers with diverging interests. Tiny Armenia clearly occupies a tough position and, because of it, must navigate a complex web of relationships. Yerevan is hostile toward Azerbaijan because of Nagorno-Karabakh, and it also has a tense relationship and closed border with Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan. Georgia also cooperates closely with Azerbaijan and Turkey on energy and security matters. Iran is not a major geopolitical player in the Caucasus, at least for now.

To survive in such a volatile environment, Armenia has chosen to strategically align itself with Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, joining both the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Armenia hosts nearly 5,000 Russian troops in the 102nd military base in Gyumri, and Russia is responsible for guarding Armenia's border with Turkey. Russia owns much of Armenia's strategic infrastructure, including energy pipelines and telecommunications firms, and the country's economy is closely tied to that of Russia.

But this loyalty is not always reciprocal. Whereas friendship with Russia is a top priority for Armenia, the relationship is not the only interest for Moscow, and Russia needs to weigh it against other strategic considerations. Its response to the recent outbreak of conflict demonstrated this. Rather than backing Armenia militarily or politically in the hostilities, Russian officials instead called for calm. Armenians were quick to point out that Russia is a major supplier of weapons to Azerbaijan, some of which were used by Baku in the recent escalation. Moscow has taken an evenhanded political approach with Yerevan and Baku, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev visited both capitals in succession on April 7 and April 8.

Russia's balanced response may seem odd given Armenia's loyalty and Azerbaijan's often confrontational attitude toward Moscow. Baku's strategic partnership with Ankara makes it seem even stranger. Most Armenians I spoke to, however, put forward theories about Russia's response (or lack thereof). Some thought Moscow wanted hostilities to escalate in Nagorno-Karabakh so that it could intervene later and extend its influence over both Armenia and Azerbaijan. They believed Russia's military presence in Armenia was less a security guarantee in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh than a check on the power of Turkey and the West. Others saw Russia in a more positive light but admitted that Moscow's larger struggles with Turkey over Syriaand with the West over Ukraine manifest in the Caucasus and exacerbate conflicts, sometimes to the detriment of Armenia.

The latest conflict is just another reminder of Armenia's unenviable geopolitical position. Its valuable alliance with Russia has not helped in the last few days amid a flare-up in greatest threat to Armenian security. But Yerevan has no one else to turn to: Turkey is allied with Azerbaijan, and the West is not willing to risk a confrontation with Russia, as shown by its inaction in Georgia. Armenia's commercial and political ties with Iran might later prove valuable, but at the moment Tehran is in no position to play a meaningful role in the Caucasus or to challenge Russia in any capacity. Someday, though, that could change.

For now, Armenia must to a great extent fend for itself in Nagorno-Karabakh. Unless the simmering tension boils over into a full-blown conflict on par with the war of 1988-1994, the attitudes of Russia and other regional players will likely remain the same. The next steps are unclear, but the truce is shaky at best, meaning violence may flare up in the region. When it does, Yerevan will find itself unsettled and anxious once again, with little help from its allies.


Stratfor: Armenia's Fair-Weather Allies

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As fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region tapers off, the efficacy of various alliance structures in the former Soviet territories is coming under scrutiny. When the conflict began five days ago, Armenian leaders turned to the country's largest backer, Russia, and to its primary military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Since then, the media throughout the Caucasus have been abuzz with questions over whether the CSTO and Russia would intervene to support Armenia in the conflict. But so far, neither has even considered it.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the CSTO military bloc emerged to facilitate security cooperation among its members. Then, in the mid-2000s, Moscow used the bloc to expand its influence among member states and promoted the CSTO as an alternative to NATO. Though membership has shifted over the decades, the organization currently includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In some areas, such as conducting joint military training and exercises and interlinking air defense systems, the CSTO has been effective in its aims. Additionally, in 2009 the CSTO created a Rapid Reaction Force, which was considered a demonstration of the alliance's commitment to its members' collective defense.

Like NATO's Article 5, two articles in the CSTO agreement describe the bloc's collective defense policies. According to the articles, an attack on one member equates to an attack on all. But despite numerous opportunities to enforce the policies — for example, in regional conflicts between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, or Armenia and Azerbaijan — the CSTO has never used collective military intervention. And in 2010, the CSTO amended the articles: The "collective defense" policy became a "cooperative defense arrangement," giving CSTO members more discretion in responding to regional conflicts.  

So when Armenia appealed to the CSTO for assistance in the latest clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh, its fellow member states were already distancing themselves from any involvement. On the first day of fighting, Belarus' Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling for peace under the United Nations Security Council resolutions. Because the council's resolutions recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as within Azerbaijani territory, Armenia took umbrage at the statement. Belarus further asserted that its current defense policy prohibits Belarusian soldiers from fighting outside its borders. In turn, Armenia criticized Belarus for renouncing its military and economic ally, citing the countries' ties through the CSTO as well as the Eurasian Economic Union. Kazakhstan responded much as Belarus did, reiterating the need for a peace settlement. Moreover, the Eurasian Economic Union summit has since been rescheduled and moved to Moscow after Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov refused to travel to Armenia on Thursday for the event.

Although Armenia is a loyal ally to Russia as well as a CSTO member, it has little recourse in the matter. The CSTO isn't required to support the member country in the current conflict since Nagorno-Karabakh is technically outside its borders. And because the organization is certainly not an alliance of equals, Armenia has little weight to compel the bloc, or any of its members, to action. The alliance's largest member, Russia, could probably rally support for an Armenian intervention if it felt so inclined. But Moscow has gone out of its way not only to advocate for a cease-fire but also to keep an evenhanded approach to Yerevan and Baku.

In fact, Russia has become a force for calm in the dispute. On April 5, the announcement came that a tenuous cease-fire agreement in the conflict had been reached at a meeting in Moscow between Armenia's and Azerbaijan's military chiefs. In the coming days, Moscow will divide its diplomatic attention between the two countries: Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev is headed to Armenia on Thursday and Azerbaijan the day after. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Baku today and will meet with his Armenian counterpart on Friday in Moscow.

For now, Russia sees maintaining its relationship with Azerbaijan as a greater priority than supporting its small ally, Armenia. Moscow knows Yerevan does not have any viable alternative relationships it can call on to aid its situation. Conversely, Azerbaijan could call on increased support from its own ally, Turkey. Keeping the peace will allow Russia to forestall Turkey's involvement in the matter. Furthermore, promoting peace in Nagorno-Karabakh provides good press for Russia among the Europeans and Americans — with whom Moscow has been in constant contact during the conflict.

All of this suggests that the CSTO may be a fair-weather alliance whose functions and membership, in the context of the current clashes, are at odds with Russia's interests. For Yerevan, this means its primary military alliance is above all an alliance of its partners' convenience.

Encirclement of Russia: the War for Ngorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan

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Encirclement of Russia: the war in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan: April 3, 2016: There have been military clashes between the armed forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan since the night of Friday to Saturday. Many deaths are reported. The strong fighting is reported between Martakert and Hadrut on the front line. The Armenian army based in Nagorno-Karabakh, mainly populated by Armenians,** reportedly shot down two drones, tanks and two helicopters according to sources of the Armenian news agency. Baku announced that the Armenian army has lost a number of soldiers.

Plan U.S.A.?

Is it because Armenia refused to become a NATO base? According to the NATO website*** dated March 10, 2016 Armenia would be a basis for the establishment of partnerships. NATO would, therefore, try to support Armenia in its intent to keep Nagorno-Karabakh and to infiltrate the lines of Russian diplomacy? NATO has, in any case, the desire to open a new front against Russia, since, according Azernews article dated as of March 10, 2016, as on the NATO website, we clearly see NATO’s attempts to obtain agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan to encircle Russia. Azerbaijan, which has been trying for years to distance itself from Russia has finally agreed to become the NATO base against Armenia since 10 March 2016. Azerbaijan, as an ally to Turkey including on the Armenian genocide issue and as a NATO partner, would attack Armenia to injure an ally to Russia, which refused to support NATO%?

In any case, the war between NATO and Russia is resuming in Karabakh while NATO threatens Russia in Ukraine and in the Baltic countries. Since 2014 strong NATO troop movements have been observed in Central Europe. Night-time movements of NATO military convoys have been seen by people in Germany, Latvia, Estonia, Poland. In 2017 NATO must consolidate its troops in countries of the European Union border with Russia. With new fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh the threat of a Third World War is getting closer and NATO’s intent to encircle Russia is confirmed. The Russian President, as ever, calls for ceasefire!


Armenian-Azeri Tensions: Washington’s “Reverse Brzezinski” Strategy against Russia and China

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The Reverse Brzezinski Unleashed

The Stratagem: The author published an analytical research paper in June 2014 whereby he expounded upon the geostrategic concept of the “Reverse Brzezinski”, which is basically the return to the US’ 1980s Afghan-style strategy of engineering debilitating quagmires for Russia but which can also be applied against other Great Powers such as China. The American perspective is that certain geopolitical destabilization scenarios can be whipped up around the post-Soviet rim which could take a tempting conventional Russian military intervention to quell, although this in turn would actually be a predetermined trap set by the US in order to tie Russia down in a needless war which would then bleed it of its physical, material, economic, and strategic capital. The three most likely Reverse Brzezinski battlefields are Donbass, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Fergana Valley, and it’s no surprise that all three of them have seen a pitched uptick in violence over the past week. Not counting the obvious and discussed-about situation surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic warned last week that a significant deterioration was occurring along the Line of Contact with the Kievan forces, and Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan just pulled back from the brink of a border standoff that threatened to quickly grow into a larger conflict. These three examples of post-Soviet peripheral destabilizations and their near-simultaneous outbreak cannot be seen as incidental, but instead are part of what the author had initially forecasted almost two years ago about the US’ ultimate Reverse Brzezinski scenario against Russia.

Identifying The Culprit: Out of the three ‘probes’ that the US had launched in gauging the viability of the next Reverse Brzezinski battlefield, the one in Nagorno-Karabakh quickly became the scene of the largest-scale fighting and the conflict with the greatest potential to rapidly escalate into an all-out war. It’s unclear which side fired the first shot that led to the latest spate of ceasefire violations, and ultimately, while this is very important from a normative and legal perspective, it will likely never be known 100% for sure owing to the completely different and contradictory narratives coming from both the Armenian and Azeri camps. There’s a convincing case being made that Azerbaijan started it in order to assist Turkey and the US in the New Cold War, but all of the aforementioned evidence of hitherto close Russian-Azeri cooperation and dwindling Azeri-Western ties draws the superficially simple explanation into question (although it doesn’t discount it entirely). From the other side, Armenia has nothing at all to gain by trying to lure its Russian ally into a renewed Nagorno-Karabakh continuation war and would likely draw Moscow’s sharp and immediate public consternation if it was even suspected in any sense of probability that this was truly the case. With both the Armenian and Azeri leaderships obviously not having anything of objective self-interest to gain in stoking the flames of a new war that could predictably involve Russia, all eyes once more return to the US in pondering the question of “cui bono”.

The Fog Of War: To repeat what was just mentioned above, it will probably never be ascertained without a single shred of reasonable doubt which of the two sides’ forces fired the first start that sparked the worst outbreak of violence since the 1994 ceasefire, but it’s exceedingly likely that a provocateur or group thereof on one or both sides took advantage of the fog of war in instigating the present hostilities. Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan has full and total immediate control over their frontline forces, and the edgy state of near-war tension that they’ve both been exposed to for over the past two decades (and especially recently with the latest September 2015 shelling) means that a ‘jumpy’ and/or easily provoked serviceman or two could effortlessly be manipulated into a militant response that generates a disproportionate reaction by the opposing forces. In fact, judging by the long list of ceasefire violations even before this latest incident, it seems highly likely that this has been the case many times before and might even have been tested out and perfected well in advance of what could actually have been a preplanned Reverse Brzezinski geopolitical sabotage attempt by the US. With both sides restraining themselves for the time being and President Putin calling on each of them to step back from the brink, it certainly looks like neither one really knows who started the fighting first and that all sides are scrambling to figure out what’s going on and prevent it from unwittingly getting out of control and damaging all of their interests before it’s too late.

Broking Peace In Beijing: It’s not known which direction the latest hostilities can go in, but it’s clear that their intensity and scope are unprecedented for any time since the 1994 ceasefire. The OSCE Minsk Group conflict resolution party that was created in the mid-1990s and is co-chaired by Russia, the US, and France has pitifully failed to make any significant progress in improving the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan in its more than two decades of existence and has proven itself by the latest events to be absolutely irrelevant in calming the present situation. For that reason, a new format must be immediately spearheaded in order to increase the effectiveness of conflict resolution mechanisms and prevent the uncontrollable escalation of violence between the two sides. The author wrote a three-part series almost exactly a year ago about this topic and how the SCO, in which Armenia and Azerbaijan are now officially dialogue partners, can substitute as the most effective replacement forum for the outdated OSCE Minsk Group and inject the peace process with the much-needed impetus by China’s totally neutral participation. For the specific details of this plan, the reader is strongly encouraged to read the author’s articles about “The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: The OSCE Minsk Group Is Obsolete”, “SCO Will Be The New Framework For Resolving The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict”, and “How The West Plans To Prevent The SCO From Mediating In Nagorno-Karabakh”, but the following paragraph will succinctly summarize the most relevant aspects of this series as they pertain to the present article.
 
Unlike Russia which various domestic Armenian and Azeri voices falsely accuse of being “biased” one way or another, China has no such accusative baggage and is generally regarded by both countries and their citizens as being completely neutral in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. As a rapidly rising Great Power with the impressive capability of exerting out-of-regional full spectrum influence, China is uniquely qualified to diplomatically play a prime role offering its stereotypically pragmatic guidance in pushing forward a win-win solution for everyone. China’s only interest is that stability can be preserved so that its myriad New Silk Road networks can succeed in spanning the globe and integrating as many of its corners as possible, and Beijing is astutely well aware that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could disrupt its vision for the Caucasus and even disastrously evolve into a larger conflagration that destabilizes more than its immediate warfighting participants. For all intents and purposes, China is much better configured to neutrally negotiate between Armenia and Azerbaijan than either the US or France, two of the three existing co-chairs of the failed OSCE Minsk Group, and in the interests of Eurasian solidarity and multipolar New Silk Road win-win benefit, it’s clear to see how much more preferable it would be for China to replace its Western counterparts in the negotiating process and complement Russia’s positive role via the already proven world-changing dynamics of the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership.

Concluding Thoughts: The most recent and unprecedented outbreak of violent hostility over Nagorno-Karabakh has taken many international observers by surprise, but had they been fully cognizant of the US’ Reverse Brzezinski stratagem and Washington’s ambitions to destabilize Russia at all costs, then the latest events wouldn’t’ have been too unexpected. They occur at a significant geopolitical time when Russia has impressively flexed its muscles in outwardly defying the US’ unipolar vision for global hegemony by partaking in the wildly successful albeit physically limited anti-terrorist operation in Syria, and it’s reasonable to consider whether the US provoked the heated clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh as a form of asymmetrical ‘punishment’ for this historic development.

While there are many theories swirling around about who is to blame for all of this and what their ultimate goals are, the conventional explanation that Azerbaijan is behaving as a completely controlled puppet of the West has yet to be proven in this instance and is largely exposed as being a superficial stereotypical reaction when the recent geopolitical trajectory of Yerevan and Baku is taken into account. There’s no ignoring that Azerbaijan has very close relations with proven troublemakers such as the US, Turkey, and Israel, but it’s premature to jump to the conclusion that they ordered their partner to do this when all existing evidence up until this point proves to Baku moving noticeably closer to Moscow over the past year and equally further from the West. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it can be completely discounted that Azerbaijan was put up to do this by its unipolar partners or alternatively that Armenia is guilty for everything, but that the situation is infinitely more complicated that the prevailing alternative media narratives largely make it out to be and is likely attributable to the US exploiting the dangerous fog of war that and decades-long tensions that had settled along the Line of Contact in order to provoke a Reverse Brzezinski scenario for its ultimate gain and each parties total expense.

Additionally, Russia’s position is also a lot more complex than simply providing CSTO assistance to Armenia, since like what was mentioned earlier, this mutual defense guarantee does not extend to the Armenian-populated areas of Nagorno-Karabakh. Moscow still formally maintains that this territory is legally part of Azerbaijan, though with the key qualifier of understanding being this is the position for now and could theoretically change due to developing circumstances much as its previous positions about Georgian and Ukrainian territorial integrity changed in 2008 and 2014 respectively on a case-by-case basis. With this being considered, Russia does not want to see Armenia and Azerbaijan conventionally go to war with one another, although it would unquestionably protected its CSTO if it were attacked on its home turf, with the key qualifier being that this relates only to its internationally recognized borders and not to what it legally views for the time being as Azerbaijan’s “occupied” region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The quandary that an Armenian-Azeri War would provoke for Russia is immense and it would certainly throw Moscow into a geostrategic dilemma whereby it’s forced by circumstances beyond its control to make what amounts to a zero-sum Catch-22 decision about whether or not to support Armenia’s forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

While there has yet to exist to a peace proposal that satisfies both the Armenians and the Azeris, it’s unquestionable that the existing OSCE Minsk Group process has unequivocally failed in its stated objective of mitigating tension between the two sides and resolving their heated dispute. This means that a fresh, bold, and new alternative must be undertaken in order to inject the process with a renewed impetus, and the most likely possibility for this to occur is for the two recent SCO Dialogue Partners to request China’s mediation in their spiraling dispute. It’s not known how effective this would be in practice, but seeing as how the present model has miserably underperformed in reaching any of its founding objectives, there’s nothing to be lost by removing the unipolar states of the US and France from the conflict resolution process and replacing them with multipolar and pragmatic participation of China in hopefully harnessing the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership and preventing another recurrence of the Reverse Brzezinski.

Andrew Korybko is the American political commentator currently working for the Sputnik agency.
Fighting in Nagorno Karabakh: A Headache for Moscow

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News of a flare up in fighting in the Caucasian territory of Nagorno Karabakh will cause the Kremlin serious worry. Nagorno Karabakh is a small territory which before 1988 was largely Armenian but which is now entirely so. For complicated historical reasons, whilst the USSR was in existence, Nagorno Karabakh, despite being predominantly Armenian, instead of being incorporated in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (one of the 15 constituent republics of the USSR) was incorporated in the Azerbaijanian Soviet Socialist Republic instead.

There is much argument about the reasons for this, with the Azeris claiming that Nagorno Karabakh was always historically part of their territory, the Soviet authorities in Moscow saying it was done out for pragmatic reasons to develop a small and poor region by attaching it to the richer of the two Caucasian republics (Azerbaijan) rather than the poorer (Armenia), and some scholars saying it was the result of Stalin’s divide and rule policy. I do not have the necessary knowledge of Caucasian history to say who is right.   What I will say that what I have heard is that Nagorno Karabakh was incorporated in Azerbaijan rather than Armenia not by design but by accident - and I strongly suspect that is the truth.

The territory was apparently occupied by the Red Army and administered from Bolshevik controlled Baku (Azerbaijan’s capital) during the Russian Civil War before the Red Army conquered Armenia - which enjoyed a brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution. This arrangement was then left unchanged even after Armenia was forcibly incorporated into the USSR because of bureaucratic inertia.  This was true even during the period of the Transcaucasus Soviet Socialist Republic when all these territories (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh and also Georgia) were supposedly administered jointly.

That is not to say that there were not other factors.  Over time it became politically increasingly difficult to change the arrangement because of hardening Azeri opposition to any change.   Apparently there were also objections to any increase in the USSR’s Armenian administered territory from Turkey’s leader, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk. Kemal was one of Moscow’s few friends during the inter-war years and the Soviets were unwilling to offend him. What I have also heard is that after the Second World War, following Armenian complaints, Stalin decided shortly before his death to revisit the whole issue, and was prepared to look into the possibility of having Nagorno Karabakh transferred to Armenia from Azerbaijan.  Supposedly he appointed the powerful Central Committee Secretary Georgy Malenkov to carry out an inquiry to look into the question and to report back to him.

By this point relations between Russia and Turkey had all but broken down after Turkey joined NATO, so the need to appease Turkey no longer existed. Stalin however died before a decision was made.  This removed the one person with the power and authority to solve the whole problem by transferring Nagorno Karabakh from Azerbaijan to Armenia at the stroke of a pen. Following Stalin's death Malenkov’s inquiry was left to lapse.  With the situation in the Caucasus firmly under control the Soviet leaders in Moscow were far too absorbed in their own power struggle to worry about a local dispute in the far off trans Caucasus.

Though Azerbaijan and Armenia for the remainder of the Soviet period remained constituent republics of the same country - the USSR - the Armenian inhabitants of Nagorno Karabakh continued to resent their rule from Baku and still hankered for union with Armenia. Though the fact is sometimes denied, I have no doubt that the quarrel between Armenians and Azeris over Nagorno Karabakh has at least at some level also been coloured by the greater quarrel between the Armenian people and Turkey. Azeris are a Turkic people speaking a language similar - though not identical - to the Turkish spoken in Turkey, though unlike the Turks of Turkey - who are Sunni - the Azeris are Shia.

Though the Azeris were not involved in the Armenian Genocide, Armenians in my experience tend to conflate them with Turks, and it is in fact the case that relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey have become very close since Azerbaijan achieved independence after the USSR dissolved in 1991. Turkey has sided strongly with Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia and has imposed an economic blockade on Armenia to support Azerbaijan in the conflict. The conflict exploded in 1988 when the local authorities in Nagorno Karabakh voted to secede from Azerbaijan and to join Armenia  The action triggered protests in both Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as in Nagorno Karabakh itself.  It also led to the ugly murder of a large number of Armenians by an Azeri mob in the town of Sumgait in Azerbaijan.

As the protests in Azerbaijan became increasingly violent they triggered a mass exodus of Azerbaijan’s previously large Armenian population to Armenia and Russia.  Most of the small Azeri population of Nagorno Karabakh in turn fled to Azerbaijan. The protests eventually led to fighting and outright war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which Azerbaijan eventually lost. Nagorno Karabakh has been under Armenian control ever since, though it is not formally incorporated in Armenia and Azerbaijan continues to claim it. Though the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is now a largely forgotten part of the story of the USSR’s collapse, I will here state my own personal view, which is that Gorbachev’s failure to end it by reasserting Moscow’s control was a major cause for the collapse of his authority in Moscow.

The conflict has festered ever since with attempts by the Russians and other parties to broker a solution getting nowhere and with Azerbaijan investing much of its oil wealth in an arms build-up that has the Armenians understandably worried and which they see as intended to put Azerbaijan in a position where it can reverse the outcome of the war. In the meantime relations between Russia and Armenia have grown steadily closer, with Armenia joining the Eurasian Union and positioning itself as Russia’s key ally in the Caucasus. This builds on a very long history of intense cultural interaction and friendship between the Russian and Armenian peoples, with each traditionally harbouring strongly positive feelings towards the other.

Armenia is now also the host of an important Russian air base, which the Russians have recently reinforced with MiG29 fighters. Azerbaijan for its part has been careful not to break its ties with Moscow completely. Though the Azeris have on occasion tilted towards the US, and have flirted with the various gas and oil pipeline schemes intended to reduce Europe’s energy dependence on Russia (the subject of the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough), they have up to now shown a keen understanding of the local geopolitical realities, and realise that Russia is and will remain for the foreseeable future the dominant power in the Caucasus. The steady build-up of Russian naval power in the Caspian Sea, and the network of Russian air bases in Armenia and in the northern Caucasus, have effectively sealed Russia’s overwhelming military advantage.

It is this overwhelming Russian power that in the end makes it unlikely the present fighting will escalate into all-out war. With Armenia in firm alliance with Russia - which would come to Armenia’s aid in the event of an all-out war - Azerbaijan knows it would quickly lose such a war, and that is a powerful deterrent against Azerbaijan deciding to start one. As for Armenia, it has no claim on Azerbaijan and merely seeks to preserve the status quo in Nagorno Karabakh and elsewhere.  It therefore has no interest in starting a war. Since neither side (probably) wants a war why is fighting taking place now?

Reports suggest the latest bout of fighting was started by Azerbaijan. Most probably the Azeris want to remind the Russians that the Nagorno Karabakh conflict remains unresolved, though it is possible that the Azeri government - under severe domestic pressure because of the oil price fall - is using the fighting to strengthen its popularity in Azerbaijan. There is also always a possibility in this sort of conflict that the fighting is the work of local commanders acting on their own initiative.  The area is heavily mountainous, communications are poor and it is not impossible that the political leaderships have a less than complete control of the situation on the ground.

Lastly it is not impossible that Turkish meddling has played a part.  With Turkey now under severe pressure from Moscow it is not inconceivable that the Turks have used their influence in Azerbaijan to stir up trouble for Moscow in its Caucasian backyard.  It is important to say however that there is at present no evidence for this and any theorising to this effect remains for the moment pure speculation. Though it is unlikely the fighting will escalate further, the fighting nonetheless serves as a pointed reminder to the Russians that the situation in the Caucasus remains fragile and that peace there cannot be taken for granted.

Though Russia’s alliance with Armenia is not in doubt, it is in Russia’s interests to retain at least a dialogue with Baku. Russia does not want to lose Azerbaijan entirely, as it might do if matters were allowed to get so bad that Russia was obliged to come to Armenia’s rescue. The Kremlin’s diplomats in the Caucasus will be working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.

 Face Off: The Coming War between Armenia and Azerbaijan

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Another day, another deadly battle [4] between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the southern Caucasus mountains. This time at least three people were killed. There is a lot of attention-grabbing, armed conflict in the world these days. Diplomacy is barely keeping the lid on [5] a conventional war in Ukraine; from Nigeria to the Fertile Crescent war is about as common as peace. But to make accurate predictions about tomorrow’s conflicts, we need to look away from the preoccupations of the moment and turn our attention to the places that trouble is festering unnoticed.

To that end, let me introduce readers to my choice for 2015’s sleeper hotspot: Nagorno-Karabakh [6]. This obscure enclave in the Southern Caucasus is heating up, and the possibility of military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is increasing. Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous region of western Azerbaijan. In the early 1990s, ethnic tensions between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azeris in the area resulted in a war that in many ways resembled the simultaneous and better-known wars in former Yugoslavia.

Hundreds of thousands were displaced, but the Armenians were eventually victorious. Nagorno-Karabakh has been de-facto independent since the end of the war between the then-newly independent nations of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The mostly Armenian population of the disputed region now lives under the control of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a micronation that is supported by Armenia and is effectively part of that country. Despite a Russian-brokered ceasefire, the war never officially ended, and Azerbaijan still vigorously disputes the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, to put it mildly.

First, there is virtually no room for compromise between the two sides: Azerbaijan refuses to settle [8] for anything less than full control of the entire area, while Armenia will not countenance [9] anything more than a purely symbolic restoration of Azeri sovereignty. It is difficult to imagine Azerbaijan surrendering its claim to almost one-fifth of Azerbaijan’s official territory for any reason.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev continues to assert Azerbaijan’s claim [10] with increasing forcefulness. Armenia is also unlikely to relinquish any land, because Nagorno-Karabakh effectively increases the size of Armenian territory by one-third, which is very valuable for a small, thin and landlocked nation with little strategic depth and historic enemies on almost all sides. The Karabakh conflict is a zero-sum game.
Secondly, the dispute is only growing more militarized and dangerous. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have professionalized and rearmed their forces significantly since the first war.  The Azerbaijani Army and the Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army face each other along over a hundred kilometers [11] of a fortified, land-mined and impassable border. Elaborate trenches, bunkers, revetments [12] and artillery positions abound on both sides of the disputed line of demarcation and the forward positions of the two sides are often less than one hundred meters apart.

Since the ceasefire, hundreds have died in frequent raids and exchanges of fire across the lines that always contain the possibility for escalation. Raids and skirmishes are increasing in frequency and intensity. Since the summer of 2014, these limited but dangerous clashes have taken place almost daily, although they only attract international attention when someone is killed. Azeri forces shot down an Armenian Mi-24 helicopter in November [13] and there was fighting on the ground as the Armenians attempted to recover bodies from no-mans land. Most recently, on January 31 of this year, the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army “launched a preemptive attack [14]” on several Azeri positions and killed a number of Azeri soldiers.

Both countries have strong incentives for taking military action in the next few years. Azerbaijan’s leaders know the military power balance is shifting in their favor. Since the mid-2000s, Azerbaijan’s military has spent tens of billions of dollars on a large arms buildup. The Azeri Land Forces took delivery of $1 billion worth [15] of armored vehicles and artillery from Russia in 2013 and 2014 alone, and that pace of acquisitionsshows no signs of slowing [16], even with the current decline in oil prices.

Azerbaijan’s arms purchases are clearly designed to increase the ability of the Azeri Land Forces to wage a campaign to reclaim Karabakh. They are focused on acquiring modern mobile artillery and rocket systems that would be necessary to pound Armenian infantry out of rugged, fortified terrain and escape counter-battery fire from Armenian artillery. Azerbaijan recently acquired two batteries of fearsome Tos-1A Buratino thermobaric heavy rocket artillery systems from Russia. If deployed en masse, these systems would be ideal for opening a general offensive by blasting a gap in Armenia’s frontline trenches on the largely flat Agadam plain that forms the geographic center of the disputed border.

Israel has been one of Azerbaijan’s strongest defense partners [17] for several years now, and as a result of this quiet relationship, the Azeri Air Force now fields an impressive array of Israeli drones. Azerbaijan’s Israeli drone fleet is invaluable for hunting Armenian artillery. With no hydrocarbon resources, Armenia cannot afford to match this level of military spending, so the leaders of Armenia and the Karabakh pseudo-state may foresee a grim military balance in the future and choose to face a conflict on more favorable terms sooner rather than later. Though it has not met the Azeri buildup drone for drone and tank for tank, the Armenian military is also spending as if it predicts a war.

Most notably, Armenia and Russia have meticulously maintained an air of ambiguity about whether [18] ornot [19] Armenia has actually obtained state-of-the-art 9K720 [20] Iskander short-range conventional ballistic missiles from Russia. Iskanders could provide a way for Armenia, which has a very small air force, to hit the superior Azeri Air Force on the ground in Azerbaijan. Since 2012, Armenia has also invested heavily in Russian-supplied upgrades for its large numbers of existing armor and artillery and in domestically-produced drone systems [21]. In general, the alliance with Russia [22] is Armenia’s biggest strategic crutch.

Armenia may be at a slight disadvantage in equipment but more than makes up for that by holding strategic and very defensible terrain. Armenian forces already control all of Karabakh’s main roads, population centers and the sources of water and electricity. To reach them, Azeri forces would have to cross steep, rugged mountains that are heavily fortified by well-equipped local Armenian forces. To the north, the Armenian zone of Karabakh is accessible only via the treacherous Omar Pass over the Murovdag mountain range. Azeri forces entering Karabakh from the east would have to pass through a hole in the mountains that is only about 1.5 miles wide at the town of Askeran in order to reach Karabakh’s main city of Stepankert. Getting past these geographic barriers will not be easy. Karabakh’s water and electricity originate from the hydroelectric dam at the Sarsang Reservoir [23], and the main road to Armenia proper passes through the Lachin corridor, both of which are even farther and more inaccessible for any hypothetical Azeri operation in Karabakh.

The military balance and geographic factors thus dictate that Baku is in the driver’s seat with regard to changes in the status quo. Armenia already controls the territory it wants, and its military options are constrained to the defensive. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev is putting out a steady stream[24] of aggressive rhetoric [25], insulting Armenia and promising that his country will recapture Nagorno-Karabakh [26]. Even without a definite choice to start a war, both sides could escalate one of the frequent border skirmishes, either by choice or because the feel compelled. This could easily be the start of a general conflict, because both Armenia and Azerbaijan have incentives to go to war and they are already on a hair trigger. The frontline in Karabakh is only becoming more dangerous. Readers should watch it carefully.

Source: http://www.nationalinterest.org/feature/face-the-coming-war-between-armenia-azerbaijan-12585

Opinion: Moscow Intends to Deploy Peacekeepers in Nagorno Karabagh - 6 Facts

A Grad missile is fired by Azerbaijani forces in the village of Gapanli, Azerbaijan

The regional military and political events of the recent week raise a number of questions, the most important of which is related to Russia’s intentions. While some try to claim that the recent tensions could have been possible without Russia’s permission and that Baku had attacked Nagorno Karabagh upon its own initiative, the events of the last few years bear witness of a different trend.

In particular, the Russian-Azerbaijani military trade, the fact that till today Armenia has not received the loan amount of 200 million USD (the loan agreement was signed in the summer of 2015) intended for purchasing arms, Azerbaijan’s protest against the loan and the apologizing response of Russian Foreign Ministry’s official representative Maria Zakharova prompt Aliev that he will not run the risk of being scolded by the Russian big brother in case of provoking war. The diplomatic statements of the recent days also testify that Kremlin did not mind such developments. The following events show that Moscow has changed its approach not only in regard with arms sales, but diplomacy as well.  One of the indicators was the act of moving the meeting of the EAEU prime ministers from Yerevan to Moscow by using war as an excuse. In reality, this was a message to Baku implying that the EAEU does not stand by Armenia in this difficult situation. Another indicator was Medvedev’s decision to cut short his visit to Yerevan in order to be able to visit Baku as well.  Moreover, the Russian prime minister also visited the monument dedicated to the so-called martyrs in Baku and laid a wreath in memory of Azerbaijani soldiers who died in the battles against the Armenian forces.

Naturally, Russia’s main aim is the deployment of Russian peacekeeping troops in Nagorno Karabagh. There is no doubt that Nagorno Karabagh conflict is the main lever for Russia to keep its influence in the South Caucasus. Hence, the resolution of the conflict (in favor of any of the sides) is not in the interests of Russia. Whereas the deployment of Russian peacekeepers would solve the issue of submitting Armenia to Russia’s will whenever Armenia would dare not to obey Kremlin. The circumstances mentioned below serve as testimony of such intentions of Russia:  

1. The agreement on ceasing the fire was reached by Chiefs of General Staff of the Armed Forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow on April 5. This means that the agreement is not a diplomatic but a military one because the issue was discussed by Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, not Foreign Ministers. Thus, a question arises… What did the sides discuss during that meeting in Moscow and why was it a secret meeting?

2. On April 7, Armenian President Serj Sargsyan gave an interview to the German Deutsche Welle, in which he stated that Armenia had never objected to the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno Karabagh. Taking into account the fact that Nagorno Karabagh has strongly opposed the deployment of peacekeepers in in its territory ever since 1994, we get the impression that Serj Sargsyan is paving the way for the news to come.   

3. The Russian-Armenian relations have sharply deteriorated during the recent days. It was expressed in multiple ways: starting from the change of rhetoric of official Yerevan when referring to its “strategic ally” and ending with the fact that Dmitri Medvedev was accompanied to the Armenian Genocide Memorial only by Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan. This change may both be related to the fact of arms sales to Azerbaijan and some diplomatic coercion.

4. There is also an activation of discussion about the mystical Kazan Document which was suggested by Russia during the meeting of Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in 2011. Armenia had agreed to accept the document and Azerbaijan had refused. At that time there was speculation that according to that document Armenia had agreed to return part of the regions outside the territory of former Nagorno Karabagh Autonomous Oblast (some speculated about 5 of them, others – about all the 7), and Nagorno Karabagh had to receive a special status. In the first place, it is doubtful whether the document is beneficial for the Armenian side. Nevertheless, an even more doubtful statement was recently made by Sergey Lavrov in Baku. Namely, he had stated that the Russian side has suggestions regarding the conflict settlement and the sides are close to accepting those suggestions. In response to this statement, Spokesman of the Armenian Foreign Ministry Tigran Balayan had mentioned that the Kazan document submitted in 2011 is on the negotiating table. It is unclear what document the sides are close to adopting (the Kazan document or another one). Nevertheless, it is more than clear that if Kremlin forces a suggestion on Armenia according to which part of the territories will be passed to Azerbaijan and the rest will receive a special status under peacekeepers’ control, we will have clear diplomatic evidence that Baku’s last attack was carried out with Russia’s permission or even provocation.

5. There are already political forces in Armenia which are in favor of deployment of peacekeeping troops in Nagorno Karabagh. Particularly, such an opinion has been expressed by head of ANC faction of the RA National Assembly Levon Zurabyan. Head of the ruling party faction has also announced that they would not mind the deployment of peacekeepers.

6. On April 11, we learnt that the “National Guard”, which was created according to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree, will receive authorization of carrying out foreign peacekeeping mission. And though that structure is based on the Russian police forces, it is going to operate beyond the Russian borders and have a “peacekeeping mission”. This means that in case Russian peacekeeping troops are deployed in Nagorno Karabagh, these are going to be the same forces that disperse protests in Russia.

Anna Pambukhchyan (Union of Informed Citizens)

Source: https://hetq.am/eng/news/67263/opinion-moscow-intends-to-deploy-peacekeepers-in-nagorno-karabagh---6-facts.html
Nagorno-Karabakh: Another “triumph” of US diplomacy

A tank of the self-defense army of Nagorno-Karabakh moves on the road in the village of Talish April 6, 2016

Last Thursday US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Azerbaijan’s dictator Ilham Aliyev in Washington and called for “an ultimate resolution” of the decades-old conflict in the disputed province of Nagorno-Karabakh. On Friday, as the hereditary Azeri despot was on the plane back to Baku, Azeri troops were already launching an offensive against the breakaway Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. One of the first casualties was a 12-year-old Armenian boy.

Naturally, the Azeris claim they were attacked first, but this seems unlikely. The front lines in the simmering conflict have been pretty stable since the conclusion of the post-Soviet war between Armenia and Azerbbaijan, which ended in victory for the former and de facto independence for the primarily Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Already in possession of the disputed territory, the Nagorno-Karabakhians had nothing to gain by restarting the fighting —  and it seems more than coincidental that fresh hostilities commenced immediately upon Kerry’s rather absurd pronouncement.

Absurd because the “crisis’ has already been resolved – today Nagorno-Karabakh is an independent state, in spite of the refusal of the United States to recognize it, and it has enjoyed this status since 1994, when the last Azeri troops were driven from the territory. That the Secretary of State would choose to intervene at this point seems, at best, highly suspicious. Did Kerry give the green light to the Azeris? I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. After all, the US has consistently stood with the Azeris no matter which party is in the Oval Office. Washington’s reasons are two-fold: geopolitics and money, not necessarily in that order.

The geopolitical factor involves the US policy of encircling Russia. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, Washington has sought to extend its sphere of influence deep into the territory of the former USSR by courting the Oriential despots, like the Aliyev clan, who rule over these former communist “republics.” Which brings us to the second, albeit no less influential factor: money. The central Asian states like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, etc. are a rich source of Caspian Sea oil, where huge deposits have been discovered. The problem is how to transport the oil to European and US markets – without pumping it through Russian pipelines.

The solution: the BTC (Baku to Ceyhan, Turkey) pipeline. In 1994, Ilham Alivey’s father, Heydar, announced what he called “the Contract of the Century” in a speech to the Harriman Institute in New York City. His government had just signed an agreement with a consortium of oil companies and investment bankers, giving the biggest oil companies in the world – Amoco, Pennzoil, British Petroleum, Unocal, McDermott, Statoil, Lukoil, and the state-owned oil companies of Turkey and the Saudi Kingdom – exclusive rights to Azerbaijan’s oil and gas reserves. A few years later, Aliyev senior was at the White House with Vice President Al Gorepresiding over a ceremony announcing a contract with Chevron, Exxon/Mobil and Azerbaijan’s State Oil Company (SOCAR).

The Clinton administration took up this project with alacrity: in the summer of 1998, Bill Clinton created the Office of the Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State for Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy – a portentous title for what was one of the most brazenly mercantilist US government projects since the Export-Import Bank. Morningstar started off his career as a corporate lawyer and rose to become President and CEO of Costar Corporation, a maker of plastics and other oil-based byproducts. Clinton appointed him to head up the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, another crony capitalist slush fund, and he went on to become Undersecretary of State on Assistance to the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union and US Ambassador to the European Union. His background as a crony-capitalist and committed internationalist certainly suited him for the Caspian Basin gig, during which time billions of taxpayer dollars were doled out to Big Oil and attendant contractors to fund the BTC pipeline. He was appointed US Ambassador to Azerbaijan by President Barack Obama, in 2012, stepping down in 2015 for a job at Madeleine Albright’s Stonebridge-Albright Group.

Morningstar’s career outlines the corporate and political interests that have been manipulating governments and juggling the fate of nations along the so-called Great Silk Road – the southern Caucasus region that promises great riches to whoever can control it. Long a crossroads of conquering armies, it is today the scene of simmering ethnic and religious conflicts that threaten the best laid plans of the most powerful men on earth – the national aspirations of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh being only one of them.

The original – and cheapest – route for the BTC pipeline went through Armenia, but this was vetoed by Aliyev, and so a more circuitous (and expensive) route was charted: Aliyev gloated that Yerevan would be “isolated.” Yet the pipeline snakes just a few miles from Nagorno-Karabakh, and it isn’t hard to see that this fresh outbreak of violence might endanger operations – and the US government’s hefty investment. It’s not hard to imagine the renewed conflict triggering that old standby of the interventionists: “American interests” (i.e. the financial interests of major corporate donors to the war chests of political candidates) are “threatened”!

Washington has consistently sided with the Azeris in their claim to Nagorno-Karabakh. As I wrote in 1999:

“The US State Department’s tilt toward Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was expressed, albeit rather obliquely, in a recent statement: "Armenia’s observance of international law and obligations and OSCE commitments in this respect has been marred by the ongoing conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Karabakh Armenians, supported by the Republic of Armenia, now hold about one fifth of Azerbaijan and have refused to withdraw from occupied territories until an agreement on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is reached." But Azerbaijan is a Soviet fiction, created by Stalin who fixed its border to keep the Armenians down and the Azeris fully occupied. But the idea that the borders of the phony Soviet "republics" are permanent, and represent anything even approximating justice, is absurd. Yet this is the position the US government has taken in the past, and continues to take.”

The US position has been consistent to this day, with the State Department demanding the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and the deployment of Western-backed “peacekeepers” to make sure the Armenians don’t get out of hand with impudent demands for self-determination. The referendum held in 1991 – in which the locals voted for secession from Azerbaijan —  is contemptuously disdained by US officials, just as the Crimean referendum in which voters overwhelmingly chose secession from Ukraine is denounced as “illegitimate.”

Indeed, the Crimean analogy fits Nagorno-Karabakh to a tee. As in Ukraine, which Soviet despot Nikita Khrushchev rewarded with Crimea in 1954, so in the Caucasus, where Joseph Stalin – before his rise to absolute power – handed Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbajian, with Lenin’s approval. As the Soviets marched into Central Asia, subjugating Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Communists decided that it would be better to placate Kemal Ataturk’s regime in Turkey than to allow the Nagorno-Karabakhians the right to set up their own autonomous “republic.” The Stalinist policy of divide and conquer – splitting up the Armenian-populated areas so as to tamp down “anti-Soviet” nationalist sentiment – persisted until Communist rule imploded.

In Ukraine, the US government insists on the legitimacy of Khrushchev’s decision to sever Crimea from Russia and make a gift of it to Ukraine: in Nagorno-Karabakh, they uphold the legacy of Stalin and Lenin, who sought to keep the Armenians in line by making them live under Azeri rule.

Like Lenin and the Bolsheviks, part of Washington’s reason for this latter stance is to placate Turkey, which unequivocally takes the side of their “Turkic” allies, the Azeris. The current conflict is just another dimension of the unfolding Russo-Turkish conflict, which started in Syria and is now being extended into Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenia, for its part, is aligned with Russia). The ultra- nationalistic Turks, whose ideology of “Pan-Turkism” foresees Turkey as a rising superpower expanding its influence all the way across Central Asiauntil it reaches the border of China (!), are involved in this up to their eyeballs. And remember: Turkey is a NATO member. In any conflict between Turkey and Russia, the US is obligated by treaty to come to their defense. Now there’s yet another reason why Donald Trump is right about NATO being “obsolete.”

What did Kerry say to Aliyev Junior that precipitated this crisis? We’ll never know for sure, but of one thing we can be certain: Washington’s meddling in this mess can only result in disaster. Will the April Fool’s War, otherwise known as Kerry’s Provocation, go down in history as yet another blundering intervention by the Americans in a troubled region where they have no business interfering? I’d bet the ranch on it.

Source: http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2016/04/03/nagorno-karabakh-april-fools-war/#.VwJGcpkwO1M.email

Secrets of the Four-Day Karabakh War


Armenian and Azeri chiefs of General Staff signed a ceasefire in Moscow on April 6th and the gunfire stopped. Following the ceasefire, it is necessary to look at the behind-the- scenes secrets of this clash. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a crisis emerged due to the separatist tendencies of Karabakh Armenians and with the state of Armenia’s support this crisis turned into a war. The war started in 1991 and ended in 1994 with a ceasefire. This ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan was signed in Nagorno-Karabakh area between the states. Even if the Madrid Principles—as suggested by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—had been acknowledged by the parties during the twenty-two years of ongoing peace negotiations, there was not an agreement on details of how it would work out.

What was needed in order to start the peace process as suggested in the “Gradual Solution” for Karabakh issue, was the Armenian withdrawal from the 5(+2) regions—Gubadli, Cevrayil, Ağdam, Fizuli and Kelbecer, Lacin—around Nagorno-Karabakh. Later, parties were expected to work on determining the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and reach an agreement. But the parties could not reach that phase. In the end, clashes that had been expected, erupted again.

Azerbaijan’s explanation of the April 2016 clash is because of the Armenian military provocations throughout the year. That is why Azerbaijan developed the strategy of reprisals with small scale operations (Controlled Conflicted Strategy) in Karabakh. But this time, a possibility for arousal of these small scale operations was possible. It was even possible for it to go out of control and to turn into a full scale war. The Azerbaijani army recaptured a few important positions in regions such as Seysulan, Leletepe and Talish around Karabakh.

Retreat of the Armenian army around Karabakh raised serious concerns within the central government. Thus, Armenia tried to recapture their positions by carrying out military operations because this type of loss of territory disturbs the governments both in Armenia and Karabakh and which also created fear. In fact these losses may even cause Sargsyan to lose power in Armenia. After the ceasefire, according to Armenian press, a Talish village was recaptured from the Azerbaijan army.

What is the reason behind all these military provocations?

One plausible answer would be as follows: Azerbaijan and Armenia put pressure on each other and therefore, provoking each other. Every time, before or after the meetings of presidents of the two countries, there have been small scale clashes. “Who started it first” line of questioning seems meaningless. Previously, a one-day conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place on March 4. This conflict lasted only one day and ended with Russia's pressure. Eventually with the initiative of Kremlin and Medvedev, presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a joint declaration resolving the conflict with peaceful means, on November 2, 2008.

Despite this, the conflict did not stop in Karabakh. This created an even more of a chance for this conflict to grow into a war. This time, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gave a warning to both Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan on August 5, 2011, reminding them of the lessons learned during the war of Georgia. Medvedev met with both leaders on January 23, 2012 and made them issue a joint declaration that they would find a peaceful solution to the problem. However, there was no real convergence. In 2015 there was more than 100 breaches of the ceasefire and twelve Azerbaijani soldiers were killed.

Who could be helping to create this conflict? President of Azerbaijan, Aliyev, who was in the security summit in the USA, has given the signals of successful meetings with US authorities about the Southern Gas Corridor. John Kerry clearly stated they support the Southern Gas Corridor and he also pointed out its importance when he met Aliyev. Aliyev also explained the importance of this support and conveyed his appreciation. For the success of the Southern Gas Corridor Project, stability in the region is extremely important. After all these successful meetings, why would they carry out military operations having negative effect on energy projects and cause instability in the region?

There may be two reasons: First, Azerbaijan's worsening economy. Carrying out military operations may be a strategy of distracting the population from their real problems. Second, there may be an agreement between Azerbaijan and Russia that is forcing Armenia to make peace, which also has the effect of showing how powerful Russia can be. Azerbaijan's Controlled Conflict operation is only possible by compromising with Russia. The main outcome is Moscow's motivation to give Azerbaijan the green light to start a war. The real reason, needless to say, is to keep Azerbaijan by its side permanently. Thus, it may be better to think about the outcome of Azerbaijan’s green light.

It is hard to understand Armenia's enthusiasm for these provocations, because maintaining status quo suits the Armenian government quite well. However, it should be noted that there has always has been a tendency to breach the ceasefire at the border. The actual reason of this tendency is to make the Nagorno-Karabakh government come to the table as a third party although it is not a recognized entity.

Another important issue is that, the negative effect of these small scale clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia is not only related to the American energy projects. If Azerbaijan responds to the provocations of Armenians and fails to maintain a controlled war strategy or in other words, if the situation gets out of control and a full scale war starts; Moscow may put pressure on both sides to enforce a Russian Peacekeeping Force in Karabakh. That may be dangerous for both Armenia and Azerbaijan. By intervening in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in this way Russia would become more and more influential in the area. These three parties in Minsk Group (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh) would decline in importance in the region that is already under Russian influence, and would eventually become totally in the Kremlin's control.

Following these developments, Russia has been increasingly active in solving the Nagorno-Karabakh problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia. After the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Azerbaijan many important messages had been issued. The first message following Azerbaijan visit of Lavrov was the following: “Azerbaijan is not a member of Collective Security Treaty Organization and Eurasian Economic Union. I hope this can change.” The second: “As the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is determined, regions around the crisis zone may be given back to Azerbaijan.” It is known that Azerbaijan has always been against that kind of solution. Azerbaijan rather prefers gradual solution to the problem. These comments clearly have a purpose of assuring Azerbaijan's membership to Collective Security Treaty Organization. After this guarantee is ensured, it is possible to proceed with the principles suggested to Azerbaijan and Armenia by Russia in Kazan in 2011. They will go back to a gradual solution with establishment of Russian peacekeepers. That is why Lavrov emphasized principles of solutions, in particular, suggested by Dmitry Medvedev.

August 8th of 2008, (8/8/2008) is a significant date as a reminder of Georgia example to Azerbaijan and Armenia (it is the date of placement of Russian peacekeeping forces in Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia). It is a process that Azerbaijan saw how Russia showed a “knee jerk reaction” against a small scale clash. Therefore, both countries should question whether Russian peacekeepers ensure permanent peace or not. Nagorno-Karabakh process should be brought back to the table together with OSCE Minsk members and it is necessary to be careful not to leave it to complete Russian control.

Orhan Gafarli a Political Risk Analyst at the Ankara Political Center and also is a contributor analyst at The Jamestown Foundation. He is a PhD candidate of International Relations at Ankara University. Gafarli completed his MA in International Relations at the International School for Caucasus Studies at Ilia State University. He is an author of the book entitled Eurasian Quandary.

Source: http://nationalinterest.org/blog/secrets-the-four-day-karabakh-war-15772

Russian experts on Aliyev-Kerry meeting in the absence of Sargsyan

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met today in Washington with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. During the meeting they discussed bilateral and economic issues, as well as touched upon the Karabakh issue, reports the U.S. State Department. John Kerry expressed concerns about the violence on the contact line between the Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces. “We want to see the final resolution of the Karabakh conflict. The issue should be resolved through negotiations, we have worked on it for a long time,” said the Secretary of State.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is also on a working visit in the United States, but the U.S. leadership hasn’t planned any meeting with him. The meeting between Ilham Aliyev and John Kerry and the absence of such a meeting with Serzh Sargsyan is dictated, first of all, by the United States’ position in relation to Turkey as a NATO member, – says Alexander Gusyev, head of the CIS Center for Strategic Development at the Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences. “Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic bloc, while Armenia is a CSTO member. In this situation, John Kerry chose from one of the two presidents. However, given the specificity of the Karabakh conflict, Kerry should meet with one and another. But self comes to the mind,”- told RUSARMINFO Alexander Gusyev.

This meeting does not mean that the United States prefer Azerbaijan against other countries in the South Caucasus, – says Alexey Martynov, head of the International Institute of the Newest States. “Such conflicts as Nagorno-Karabakh can not be solved unilaterally. After the meeting, the representatives of the United States will hold talks with representatives of Yerevan and Stepanakert, as a third party to the conflict,” told RUSARMINFO Alexey Martynov. Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev have visited the U.S. to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

Source: http://rusarminfo.ru/russian-experts-on-aliyev-kerry-meeting-in-absence-of-sargsyan/

In an Armenian-Azeri War Russia Has Nothing to Gain and Turkey Nothing to Lose

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Clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces in Nagorno-Karabakh have continued for the third day with at least 40 soldiers and half a dozen civilians killed so far. Aside from Armenians and Azeris themselves the people who will be most worried by these developments are the residents of Kremlin. It is the case that in the case of a wider Armenian-Azeri conflict Russia has nothing to gain and much to lose, and worse, its rival Turkey has nothing to lose and much to gain. This is because while Russia has good relations with Armenia and Turkey good relations with Azerbaijan, Moscow also enjoys decent relations with Azerbaijan but Turkey has no Armenia relations to speak of. Therefore if war is rekindled Turkey could back Azerbaijan without reservations and draw it closer to itself, but Russia would see its influence with at least one, or even both of the countries involed diminish.

Background: Azerbaijan

When Azerbaijan became independent in 1991 the two states which rejoiced the most were Turkey and Iran. Iran because it was a Shia, and Turkey because it was a Turkic country. Both looked benevolently on the new country and offered themselves up as a model for Azerbaijan to follow. Azerbaijan chose Turkey. The most visible aspect of this choice was in replacing the Cyrillic alphabet in use until 1991 with a Turkish variant of the Latin script, instead of the Iranian-Arabic script used by the 20 million Azeris of Iran. Despite generally orienting itself towards Ankara and Washington Azerbaijan's Aliyev dynasty, which is weary of a possible "color revolution" against it, has strove to balance these with decent working ties with Russia. For example, unlike neighboring Georgia, Azerbaijan is not seeking to join NATO and has refused to back the Turkish position on Syria - but has instead offered to "mediate" between Ankara and Moscow. 

Background: Armenia

When Armenia regained its independence in 1991 its biggest, and somewhat coincidental, backer was the US. Thanks to the efforts of the powerful Armenian-American lobby Armenia was the biggest recipient of American aid of all the post-Soviet states after Russia. However, discounting the Armenian success in securing financial and moral support from US Congress and state legislatures, Armenia never figured in the geopolitical calculus of Washington which deemed the oil-rich Azerbaijan the far bigger prize and the more desirable partner.

Armenian lobby or not, Washington was simply not going to risk its access to the Caspian oil and its relations to NATO-member Turkey on the account of an isolated and impoverished mountain state of 3 million people. Subsequently Yerevan, pressed between Azerbaijan and Turkey, but with nowhere to turn to eventually linked up with Russia, which in the 1990s was likewise starved for friends and would take them where it could find them. – An alliance with isolated and impoverished Armenia was not much, but for Moscow it was better than having no influence or close friends in the Southern Caucasus at all.

When Erdogan's Justice and Development party first came to power in Turkey it, as part of its "zero policy with neighbors" policy, made an attempt to normalize the Turkish-Armenian relations. However, nothing came of this after Armenians demanded Turkey recognizes the Armenian genocide and Ankara refused. Presently Turkey and Armenia basically do not have a relationship of any kind and the border between the two is sealed – from the Turkish side on the behalf of Azerbaijan.

Today

In the 1990s Russian-Armenian ties were realized because at the time Moscow and Yerevan were each other's only remaining option after other, more desirable partners had paired off with each other. However, since after 2000 Russia has managed to recreate itself as an actually functioning state now Azerbaijan (but not Georgia) also takes note of it. A war however could rapidly change this. In case of a war both Yerevan and Baku would be looking for backers to help them out militarily.

Since Turkey has no Armenia relationship to lose it could back Azerbaijan to the hilt. This would bring the oil-rich country of 10 million people even closer to Turkey. Russia, however, has such close ties to Armenia it can not possibly assist Azerbaijan in any way. Moreover, albeit its Armenia alliance does not cover Nagorno-Karabakh, if Armenians are left to fight on their own and the war goes badly for them they will naturally come to question the value of Russia ties. However, if the war goes badly for Azeris they will suspect that Russia has rendered aid to Armenians even if Moscow does no such thing.

In other words, renewed Armenian-Azeri war is a lose-lose proposition for Russia. The only way Russia can be useful to Baku and Yerevan both is if they desire peace and are looking for a way to de-escalate. Erdogan has shown that he understands this perfectly. Reacting to the news of the clashes he has essentially said that if Azeris want to fight Turkey will back them "to the end". Who will Baku chose to listen to? Turkey which is encouraging it to fight, or Russia which is calling for peace?

Source: http://russia-insider.com/en/armenian-azeri-war-russia-has-nothing-gain-and-turkey-nothing-lose/ri13752

De Waal: Kremlin 'Not Primary Actor' Behind Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

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A noted Western expert on the Caucasus says tensions between Azerbaijanis and Armenians over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh make their dispute one of the most menacing unresolved conflicts from the time the Soviet Union was breaking up in the early 1990s. But Thomas de Waal, a senior associate with Carnegie Europe who specializes in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region, rejects the view that recent fighting has been orchestrated by Moscow as part of a larger Kremlin strategy to hold sway in the region.

Formerly a journalist who covered Russia and the Caucasus region, de Waal is the author of one of the most authoritative books on Nagorno-Karabakh, Black Garden: Armenia And Azerbaijan Through Peace And War. De Waal tells RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that he rejects the conclusion of Western experts who view Moscow as a primary actor behind the recent outbreak of fighting in the disputed region. Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict have brought little progress.

RFE/RL: What are your thoughts about the collapse of the cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh and the resurgence of fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops?

De Waal: This is the kind of really bad incident that a lot of us have been fearing for some time. It looks like a really bad breakdown of the cease-fire. The problem is that the cease-fire line, the line of contact, is so militarized now. There's all this heavy weaponry on either side -- including aircraft and drones and helicopters being used. It is spring, which is also a traditional time when the cease-fire starts to get broken -- in the spring and in the summer. When the cease-fire gets violated, it's usually on political grounds. It's not by accident that there is a strong political chain of command going up from the commanders all the way up to the top.

RFE/RL: There is a tendency for some in the West to see Russia as an instigator trying to manufacture a situation where it can intervene and deploy Russian peacekeepers on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh. Do you think it is part of a game being played or orchestrated by Moscow?

De Waal: Personally, I think it is a mistake to think that Moscow is the primary actor. I think Armenia and Azerbaijan are the primary actors in this conflict. And Moscow is a strong secondary actor, but it is not manipulating everything. It is not running the show. The person who is the most senior diplomat involved in the conflict is [Russian Foreign Minister] Sergei Lavrov. He knows the conflict incredibly well, meets the presidents regularly, and has a new peace plan, we are told, which he has been pushing and seems to involve some Russian peacekeeping element. But the Russian military is a little bit in Armenia and in Daghestan -- but it's not in Azerbaijan. So there's not a lot that the Russian Defense Ministry can do. They can certainly have some influence on the Armenian side but not particularly on the Azerbaijani side. We're talking about Lavrov and, perhaps, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin getting on the phone.

RFE/RL: How would you respond to those who see the hand of Russia behind the collapse of the cease-fire, particularly at a time when the president of Azerbaijan was in Washington to attend the nuclear summit that Russia skipped?

De Waal: I'm skeptical that Russia can organize violence on the cease-fire line [in Nagorno-Karabakh.] Obviously, it looks a bit curious that the president is in Washington and, suddenly, fighting breaks out on the ground -- and then the Kremlin calls for peace. But I think we should be a little cautious about that because both the Armenian and Azerbaijani militaries are very strongly independent. They don't like to be pushed around by Moscow. Traditionally, the side that breaks the cease-fire more is the Azerbaijani side because they don't like the status quo of their land occupied. So they have more reason to break the cease-fire. But once things get going, once the fighting gets started, then that becomes a bit irrelevant because both sides exchange fire and do operations across the front line. So it's incredibly hard to say who started it. And at some point, that becomes irrelevant.

RFE/RL: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has meetings in Vienna on April 4 and 5 to address the cease-fire collapse in Nagorno-Karabakh. Is that something that can make a difference? Or how else can the international community make a difference diplomatically?

De Waal: The OSCE Minsk Group is no longer so powerful as it was. Basically, they work at the pleasure of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. They try to manage the cease-fire. They try to organize things between the presidents [of Armenia and Azerbaijan]. But they are certainly not running the show. The people who can make a difference [in diplomacy] are basically in Washington and in Moscow, in particular. But even there, I think it's actually very hard once a military operation is there on the ground for any third party to stop things on the ground. There are only six OSCE monitors in the region. There are no peacekeepers. The only thing is to do political pressure, which is obviously easier from Moscow. But even there, Nagorno-Karabakh is the No. 1 national issue both for Armenia and Azerbaijan. They don't always listen to Moscow if they think it doesn't suit their national interest.

RFE/RL: Who has the most to gain from the collapse of the cease-fire and what does that tell us about what needs to be done to stop the fighting?

De Waal: I think the Azerbaijani side is quite negative about practicing the cease-fire without any political process because they see that it basically normalizes the status quo in which Azerbaijani lands are occupied. What this proves is that there is a need for a bigger political intervention to try to restart the political process. But to do that, you need the cooperation of Moscow and Washington. You need them to agree on who the peacekeepers will be. And it is much harder for Washington and Moscow to agree on these kind of things now than it was a few years ago.

Number of Armenian volunteers are so great that only the most experiences is accepted

Добровольцы из Армении в Нагорном Карабахе

Press Secretary of the Ministry of Defense of Armenia announced that thousands of volunteers are continuing to apply, even from Diaspora. “The volunteers are kindly requested to apply by groups. It is impossible to reply to individuals. Currently, the number of volunteers is so great that only the most-experienced are being accepted”, Hovhannisyan wrote. Thousands of patriotic Armenians throughout Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora are willing to volunteer and head to the frontline in Nagorno Karabakh, after the large-scale military operations unleashed by Azerbaijan.

The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions between April and November, 1993, calling for “effective and permanent” ceasefire, as well as “immediate implementation of the reciprocal and urgent steps” in that direction. Peace talks between Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan have been facilitated by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe since March 1992 within the frameworks of Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, United States and France since mid-1990s. Ceasefire agreement between Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan, facilitated by Russia's representative to the CSCE/OSCE Minsk Group Vladimir Kazimirov, was signed on May 5, 1994, which had been maintained with only sporadic violations along the Line of Contact and international border till the latest Azerbaijani large scale offensive in the night of April 2, 2016.

Over the last two years Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, the OSCE Minsk Group co-Chairs and over 80 U.S. Congressmen (Royce-Engel bill) proposed concrete measures to de-escalate situation and establish ceasefire monitoring equipments along the borders. Azerbaijan has been repeatedly rejecting these calls. Azerbaijan has unleashed unprecedented offensive military actions in the contact line of Nagorno Karabakh. Due to the timely and professional actions of the Nagorno Karabakh Defense Army, it was possible to take the situation under control, and make the enemy suffer considerable losses. On April 1 and 2, the Azerbaijani forces sustained 200 casualties. Around 20 enemy tanks and 1 “Grad” missile system were destroyed.


BBC: Nagorno-Karabakh: Fighting mood grips Armenians

A picture taken on February 16, 2015 shows an Armenian serviceman guarding an area near the village of Movses, close to the border with Azerbaijan


Stepanakert's central square is a hive of activity after four days of clashes - uncharacteristically for the sleepy capital of Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh. There are men in military uniform, civilians gathered outside the union of war veterans, trucks delivering humanitarian aid from different parts of Armenia, as well as satellite trucks and journalists. Like many other towns and villages in the mountainous Caucasus enclave, Stepanakert has an Azeri name too - Khankendi. I approach a woman who is having an emotional phone conversation with one of her students on the front line. "For 20 years I've been involved in peace-building activities. I used to teach my students that those people who left their homes as a result of the 1990s war have the right to return, but today I denounce my own words," says Zhanna Krikorova, who runs a student theatre at a local university.

"We don't trust anyone anymore, we can only rely on ourselves, on those young men who are fighting there."

The warring sides reached a ceasefire on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after Azerbaijan threatened to attack Stepanakert. But given the level of hostilities of the past few days, in which dozens of soldiers on both sides have died, the ceasefire is being treated with caution. In the veterans' union building Khasnik Mikailyan, who heads an organisation called "Motherland", says Karabakh Armenians have been living in a powder keg for more than 20 years, knowing that war might start at any moment, so the events of the past few days did not come as surprise. On the contrary, it united Armenians.

"This morning a group of schoolboys turned up in my office with their backpacks telling me they were ready to go and fight in the war," says Khasnik, holding a piece of paper with their names and telephone numbers. "Everyone is ready to fight for their motherland. I gave them a hug and a kiss and said that we needed them to study well."

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35970303

Azeri Army Commits Atrocities


As the Nagorno-Karabakh Army launched a counteroffensive on Sunday regaining strategic high ground, heavy fighting raged for a second day between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces. Yet the counteroffensive gave reporters an opportunity to examine the region and report on atrocities the Azeri Army has committed in addition to the documented continuous shelling of border villages targeting civilians within the Nagorno-Karabakh, which has caused the death of 12 year old Vaghinak Grigoryan, who was killed playing in his school courtyard, and seven civilians, among whom were Darbas Mayor M. Mirzoyan and Akhtala Mayor A. Beglaryan, who were killed when a civilian bus was targeted by an Azeri missile. Hetq.am photographer Hakob Poghosyan reports from Talish, a few kilometers inside the Nagorno-Karabakh border with Azerbaijan, which was temporarily overrun by Azerbaijani military units on Saturday. A few residents had remained in town when Azerbaijani soldiers entered the town and executed an elderly couple; Valera Khalapyan and his wife Razmela, in their home and then cut off their ears. Azerbaijani soldiers also executed a 92 year old Marousya Khalapyan. Reports are also coming in from Armenia’s Ezidi community that a 20-year-old Ezidi soldier, Karam Sloyan, from Armenia who was among the casualties was apparently beheaded. Pictures of Azerbaijani soldiers posing with Sloyan´s decapitated head surfaced on VKontakte, a popular social network in Eastern Europe. Soon after, an ISIS-like video emerged on the internet, showing Azerbaijanis holding the severed head of Sloyan like a trophy fish. As many Ezidis have taken refuge in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh to escape ISIS in Iraq, such barbarism brings back horrible memories of atrocities the Ezidi community of Iraq faced at the hands of ISIS terrorists.


Putin Phones Armenian, Azeri Leaders: Russian military begins exercises in Dagestan region bordering Azerbaijan

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Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts on Tuesday to call for an immediate end to heavy fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh that has killed dozens of soldiers from both sides. In a statement, the Kremlin said Putin reiterated his concerns regarding the worst escalation of the Karabakh conflict since 1994 and “urged both sides to urgently ensure a full cessation of hostilities and observance of the ceasefire regime.”
 
“It was pointed out that Russia is taking and will continue to take necessary mediating steps to help normalize the situation,” said the statement. It said Putin also stressed the need to resume Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group co-headed by Russia, the United States and France. “It was agreed that contacts should continue in different formats,” the statement added without elaborating. With official Armenian and Azerbaijani sources giving no further details of the phone calls, it was not clear whether Putin sought to organize a meeting of Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev.

Sarkisian is scheduled to travel to Germany on Wednesday on a two-day official visit that will involve talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The phone conversations were reported several hours after the two warring sides said they have agreed to halt hostilities along “the line of contact” around Karabakh at noon. A spokesman for the Karabakh Armenian army said on Tuesday evening that the intensity of fighting decreased even though Azerbaijani forces continued to shell Armenian positions at different sections of the frontline.

Putin was quick to express through his press secretary serious concern after the Azerbaijani army launched an offensive at different sections of the Karabakh frontline early on Saturday. Despite its close military and political ties with Armenia, Moscow has been careful not to publicly blame Baku for the fighting or pledge support for the Armenian side. The Russian military began on Tuesday five-day exercises in Russia’s southern Dagestan region bordering Azerbaijan. It was not clear whether the drills reportedly involving about 1,000 soldiers as well as dozens of tanks and artillery systems were planned beforehand or are connected with the Karabakh escalation.
Sputnik: How Russia Sees Security Risks South of Its Borders

Frontier Post on Russian-Georgian Border

In addition to Syria and the Middle East, and the smoldering conflict in southeastern Ukraine, the new year will see the Kremlin keeping a close eye on an enormous arc of potential instability to Russia's south, stretching from Istanbul to Xinjiang, writes Expert.ru journalist Gevorg Mirzayan. In his analysis, published in respected business magazine Expert, Mirzayan starts off by suggesting that to a large extent, Russia's ability to maintain stability across this 'southern arc' will depend on finalizing its chosen vector of relations with Turkey.

"Of course, the optimum vector would be for the normalization and stabilization of relations, even if strategic partnership is now out of the question. Nevertheless, good-neighborly relations, the development of economic ties and a certain level of cooperation in the Caucasus and in the direction of Europe are still possible to recover."

"The problem," Mirzayan suggests, "is that interfering with this vector is Turkish leaders' inability to simply apologize for the downed Su-24. Ankara realized long ago that it has committed not just a mistake, but a crime against its own national interests by shooting down the plane, but Recep Tayyip Erdogan's pride prevents him from apologizing."

"The Turks are now trying to show humility and restraint, hoping that Vladimir Putin will rage for a while and then replace anger with mercy. However, judging by his statements at his big press conference last month, the Russian president is looking at the situation very seriously. Apparently, his Turkish counterpart derailed some very important agreements with Moscow."

"However," the analyst continues, "if a policy of cooperation will not be possible, a clear course of confrontation aimed at weakening Ankara to the maximum extent possible would also make Russia's life easier. At the minimum, the Kremlin is developing its strategy to remove Ankara's influence in several regions which are of key interest to Russia – the Caucasus and Central Asia, and will be looking to implement it without regard for any hopes about a renewed partnership with Ankara. By all appearances, the indicator of the strategy will be Russia's bid on the development of close relations with the Kurds –both Turkish and Syrian."

In the Caucasus, Mirzayan notes, there are two possible sources of instability: the frozen Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and the future of Russian-Georgian relations.  "On the first issue, a significant role might be played by Turkey and Turkish interests. It's no secret that Moscow is doing all it can to avoid the 'unfreezing' of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. With this in mind, it is a) negotiating with Baku and Yerevan, and b) attempting to develop measures to deescalate the situation."

Ankara, the analyst warns, may try to convince Azerbaijan's leadership that there is an alternative to the uneasy peace over the breakaway republic, by indicating that "Turkey is ready to abandon its former moderate policy on the Armenian question." If before, "the Turkish government worked not only not to inflame the Karabakh conflict, but on the contrary, attempted to freeze it and even to normalize relations with Armenia, for the sake of cooperation with Russia," now, Ankara "could push Baku toward escalation. Of course, this would be a bluff, and would cause serious problems for Erdogan with his European partners, but it could encourage the Azerbaijani president to cross certain red lines, thus turning a serious problem for Moscow." 

The second issue is Georgia. "Yes, Russian-Georgian relations are now in the process of normalization, but the onset of the Ukrainian crisis and both sides' inability to demonstrate political will to make difficult decisions has led to the stagnation of the process." The danger, Mirzayan suggests, is not one of military conflict, but "that the process of normalization could be derailed."

"After all, this is not just an issue of an attempt to improve relations with a small country with a population smaller than the city of St. Petersburg. It is about setting a possible precedent in forming an effective modus vivendi with a country of the former Soviet Union which has chosen the Euro-Atlantic course."

Finally, according to the analyst, "the most important link among the 'southern arc of instability' is, of course, Central Asia. Yes, today there are no open conflicts requiring an immediate solution (as in the case of Turkey), but the region faces internal processes of erosion," which threaten to give birth to political crises, "complicated by the general socio-economic problems there. Here, the Kremlin will have to deal with two processes at the same time: to freeze the crisis, and to create new foundations for statehood. The task, to put it mildly, is not an easy one."

"The irony," Mirzayan suggests, "is that eliminating the causes of the erosion is not much easier [than dealing with crises after the fact]. Complications in the political situation are caused neither by Daesh, nor by Turkey, with its pan-Turkic ambitions. They are caused by the inefficiency of the region's states. This lies not in their authoritarian tendencies (history knows authoritarian regimes which successfully led their people on the path of progress), but on the inadequacy of local elites. They are afraid of progress because they do not want to or are unable to adapt to their changing societies."

And "the policy of conservation," the analyst warns, "could lead to revolutions, possibly of an Islamist character, given the realities of the region." Ultimately, Moscow, for its part, "will have to engage in stimulating the evolution of Central Asian governments, something which in itself risks complicating relations with them." The Kremlin, Mirzayan hopes, will be morally and politically prepared to take the necessary measures.

Source: http://sputniknews.com/politics/20160111/1032964746/russia-security-risks-caucasus-central-asia.html

 Nagorno-Karabakh Witnesses Debut Of 'Kamikaze Drone'

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For a glimpse into the future of drone warfare, look no further than the battlefields of the South Caucasus. Formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles, drone technology has catapulted forward in recent years as countries see their versatility in everything from surveillance to precision strikes. In the United States, President Barack Obama's administration has made the use of drones central to its campaign to target Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And though U.S. drones are some of the better known in the world today -- think of the models known as the Reaper or Predator -- countries like Israel, Russia, and many others have also pushed hard into developing drones, both for their own military use and for export markets.

For drones geared for an offensive mission, most are outfitted with air-to-surface missiles, such as the U.S.-made Hellfire. Earlier this week, over the battlefields over Nagorno-Karabakh, where an unresolved territorial dispute flared into open fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces, the newest advance in drone weaponry appears to have been deployed: The kamikaze drone. Video footage by  Karen Chilingaryan of RFE/RL's Armenian Service on April 4 in the mountainous enclave captured the flight of a drone that military observers say is likely an Israeli-made Harop model. The footage shows the craft flying through the air, with a distinctive whine heard from many drones, and then diving behind the crest of a hill.

The Armenian Defense Ministry later announced that seven people were killed in what it said was an Azerbaijani drone attack on a bus carrying volunteers to the disputed region. According to IHS Jane's Defense Weekly, the Harop is packed with a 15-kilogram explosive warhead and specifically designed for kamikaze missions. Last year, Harop's manufacturer, Israel Aerospace Industries, announced it was flight-testing the model for an undisclosed customer. IHS Jane's said in a report posted on April 6 that that customer now appeared to be Azerbaijan. A call to Israel Aerospace Industries' North American offices, in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., was not immediately returned on April 6.


"Georgian Legion" Is Ready to Help Azerbaijan "Conquer" Karabakh


The paramilitary formation "Georgian National Legion" is ready to support Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh via its officers stationed in Georgia. This statement was made by the commander of the Legion - Mamuka (Ushangi) Mamulashvili. "The Azerbaijani-Russian conflict was unleashed in Karabakh, which is an integral part of Azerbaijan. We do not support the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and we are all well aware that a collision is provoked by Russia and Putin's regime!", said the national legionary on their social media page. 
 

Resolute commander Mamulashvili, after the adoption of the law on the right of foreigners to serve in armed forces of Ukraine, was one of the first who arrived with his group to participate in the punitive "ATO" against Donbass. Initially, he received a Ukrainian military ID. All members of the Georgian Legion are contracted soldiers of the APU, and became part of the 25th mechanized infantry battalion "Kievan Rus". The Georgian mercenaries have been fighting against the NAF on the territory of Donbass since 2014. 
 

Ukrainian media made it clear that before the legalization of the "Georgian Legion", there was a small sabotage and reconnaissance group of up to 20 people, which operated mainly in the territory of the LPR. In its composition, except Georgians, were French, Italian, and Swiss fighters. However, reliable information on the number of foreigners in "the Legion" and their countries of origin are unknown.


Turkish mercenaries and trainers to help the Azerbaijani army to attack Karabakh


 Turkish instructors and mercenaries will help Azerbaijani armed forces on the contact line of Karabakh, it was first reported in Armenian media. "Informed sources report that on the front line of contact of the south-easterly direction towards helping the Azeri forces of the Turkish military instructors and mercenaries", - transmits, for example, the Armenian news portal ermenihaber.am. We contacted the person who is in the thick of things, and asked him to comment on this information: 

"Turkish instructors here, I confirm", - he told the Rusvesna, as a competent source in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic... Now the clashes are continuing in spite of Azerbaijan's stories about their stopping. Don't believe their words,  battles and skirmishes are in fact continuing, "- said the source for Rusvesna.

Armenian-Azerbaijani tensions and serious battles with the use of heavy equipment continue to remain the focus of Turkish electronic media. In particular, Turkey's state-run news Anadolu agency, citing the Turkish media (Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, HaberTurk) says that afterwards the Turkish President had a telephone conversation with the head of Azerbaijan, who also hosted Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. "Russian Spring" reported The phone conversation heads of states, in which Erdogan expressed his condolences to Ilham Aliyev for the death of the Armed Forces troops of Azerbaijan and Baku, and assured support .

US Ambassador: Putin's Newest Satellite State: Armenia

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Two days before Christmas, as American policymakers were settling into the holidays, Russia quietly signed a sweeping air defense agreement with Armenia, accelerating a growing Russian military buildup that has unfolded largely under the radar. It was the most tangible sign yet that Putin is creating a new satellite state on NATO’s border and threatening an indispensable U.S. ally. The buildup in Armenia has been glossed over in Washington, despite being a key piece of Vladimir Putin’s plan to dominate the region — along with its proxy Syria and growing military ties with Iran. Most importantly, Armenia shares an approximately 165 mileborder with Turkey, a NATO member and the alliance’s southern flank.  Over the last six months — as Russia’s war in Syria and pressure on Turkey has intensified — the flow of its arms and personnel into Armenia has escalated to include advanced Navodchik-2 and Takhion UAV drone aircrafts, Mi-24 helicopter gunships and Iskander-M ballistic missiles. Last July, Putin ordered snap combat readiness checks in Armenia to test the ability of his forces to react to threats to Russia’s interests abroad. Earlier this month on orders of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, Russia began a massive military exercise in its “southwestern strategic direction,” which includes Armenia. The total strength of the regional operation included approximately 8,500 troops, 900 ground artillery pieces, 200 warplanes and 50 warships. The growing Russian military presence in Armenia is but the latest indicator of a worrisome trend: Putin’s threat to NATO and America’s interests in Europe. 

The Armenian-Russian alliance is gaining strength

The Armenian-Russian alliance is gaining strength. Armenia currently hosts an estimated 5,000 Russian military personnel and two Russian bases. In 2010, both countries signed an agreement that extended Russia’s basing rights in Armenia by 24 years, until 2044, and committed Moscow to supply the Armenian armed forces with “modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware,” according to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. The 102nd Military Base in Gyumri, Armenia — nearly 120 kilometers from the capital (and less than 10 kilometers from the Turkish border) — has become a crucial Russian beachhead. A similar Russian deployment on the borders of any other NATO member state would produce an outcry of outrage. Why are we staying silent in the face of this thinly veiled aggression against Turkey? And why are we not speaking up against Armenia for rolling out the red carpet for Putin’s shock troops? Turkey, after all, is a critical ally in the global fight against ISIS and is among the only members of the U.S.-led coalition with bases near strategic ISIS strongholds. In July 2015, Turkey and the U.S. finalized an agreement to work cooperatively to combat Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq, allowing the U.S. to launch air attacks from the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey against Islamic State terrorist networks in northern Syria.

In international diplomacy, geography is everything

We ignore this threat at our peril. And in international diplomacy, geography is everything. Armenia borders three critical U.S. allies: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Russian forces currently occupy Georgian territory. Azerbaijan steadfastly resists intimidation from Moscow and is the linchpin in our efforts to wean Europe from dependence on Russian energy supplies. Make no mistake: The Russian military presence in Armenia represents a dagger pointed at the heart of NATO as the Armenia-Russian alliance strengthens. But while Moscow is rattling its sabers, Washington remains silent. Last August, The Moscow Times reported that President Putin told Turkey’s Ambassador to Moscow to “tell your dictator President he can go to hell along with his ISIS terrorists and I shall make Syria to nothing but a ‘Big Stalingrad.’” Histrionics aside, the intent is clear. Russia views Turkey as a hostile state and it will not back down. The picture that has emerged is unsettling: Armenia is enabling a bad actor, while Russia is using it to threaten our vital interests. America’s leaders must negotiate from a position of strength. Instead, we are acquiescing to Putin’s naked show of force. The history of the 20th century shows us that this will not end well. 

Mr. Ereli is also a former deputy spokesman of the State Department. He was U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain from 2007-2011.


The Russia-Armenia alliance is threatening Turkey, a critical U.S. ally

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) speaks with US President Barack Obama (R) (File)

The Feb. 21 front-page article “For Turkey, high stakes as troubles intensify” highlighted a critical development: The growing military alliance between Russia and Armenia is threatening Turkey, an indispensable U.S. ally and partner in the fight against the Islamic State. The announcement that Russia is sending a new set of fighter jets and combat helicopters to an air base only 25 miles from the Turkish border is just the latest example of this alliance. The two countries’ economic and military ties run deep, bolstered by economic and security agreements and two military bases — including one just outside the Armenian capital. Most significant, Armenia is the only country in the region that shares a border with Turkey and has Russian troops permanently stationed. Although Armenia has welcomed thousands of Russian troops and advanced weaponry, these developments seemed to have escaped the notice of U.S. officials, who were settling in for the holidays while Russia and Armenia signed a sweeping air defense agreement two days before Christmas. It’s time for Washington to assess who our real allies in the region are.

Andrew Bowen, Washington: The writer is senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest.


 'Open Secret': Experts Cast Doubt On Yerevan's Claims Over Nagorno-Karabakh

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The exact relationship between Yerevan and the Armenia-backed separatist military force in Azerbaijan's breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is murky. Independent researchers say it is very difficult to obtain analytically solid details about the exact size of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Army or the source of some of the separatist fighters' weaponry. But the general perception is that there are political, economic, and military links with Yerevan -- and that the Armenian government supports ethnic Armenian fighters who have controlled the territory since the end of their separatist war against Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. Close examination of the separatist force does reveal some military ties with Yerevan, as well as political synergy.

But Armenia's government insists it has not deployed any military subunits on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Both Yerevan and Nagorno-Karabakh's self-declared, internationally unrecognized leadership maintain that the separatist forces solely comprise ethnic Armenian fighters from the breakaway region. But the conclusions of independent Western experts -- including researchers for the British Defense Ministry, the International Crisis Group (ICG), and the British-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) -- cast doubt on those claims.

'An Open Secret'

In a 2008 research paper published by the Defense Academy of the United Kingdom, C.W. Blandy stated that "several battalions" of the Armenian Army were "deployed directly in the Karabakh zone on occupied Azerbaijani territory." Blandy also reported that Yerevan supplied weapons and other military necessities directly to authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh's capital, Stepanakert. He said military training provided by officers from Armenia's armed forces to the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist ranks was "an open secret." Finally, Blandy maintained that, in 2008, more than half of the 20,000-strong Nagorno-Karabakh force comprised citizens of Armenia.

The IISS's Armed Conflict Database currently states that "Armenia continues to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh and seven areas around it, all internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, while Armenian and Azerbaijani forces face off along a 'line of contact' stretching for more than 100 kilometers." Richard Giragosian, director of an independent Yerevan-based think tank called the Regional Studies Center, agrees that military training and education provided to Nagorno-Karabakh's forces by officers from the Armenian Army is "an open secret."

But he says there also is a "careful distinction in the operational command" of the separatist army. Nagorno-Karabakh's separatist forces control the territory and maintain a security belt of occupied Azerbaijani territory under their own independent chain of command -- a command structure that is separate and distinct from the Armenian Army. Giragosian says that command structure is a by-product of the pursuit of independence by ethnic Armenian separatists in the enclave. Even before the 1994 cease-fire deal was reached with Azerbaijan, early attempts to convert local ethnic Armenian paramilitary groups into a unified standing army were well under way. Still, Giragosian notes that Yerevan's state budget officially allocates financial subsidies to Nagorno-Karabakh's breakaway government. The exact amounts and purposes of those subsidies are not transparent.

'A Very Close Relationship'

Key political figures in Armenia also played an important role in the founding of the "Nagorno-Karabakh Army" in May 1992. Among them are Armenia's former President Robert Kocharian, a native of Nagorno-Karabakh who served as the commander in chief of the Nagorno-Karabakh Army and also served as prime minister and president of the territory's self-declared government. Armenia's current president, Serzh Sarkisian, is also a native of Nagorno-Karabakh who played a key role in bringing together disparate local paramilitary forces in the early 1990s to create the Armenian-backed, unified military force. Giragosian says the links between senior Armenian government officials and the Nagorno-Karabakh force are revealing.

"The relationship is based on a bilateral synergy," he says. "[Even] the current defense minister of Armenia is actually the former defense minister of [the self-declared government] of Nagorno-Karabakh. And the formulation of the national security of Armenia takes into account security demands and expectations of Nagorno-Karabakh proper. So there is a very close relationship and synergy."

In terms of military equipment, however, experts say there is not much evidence suggesting that Armenia has been sending modern hardware into Nagorno-Karabakh -- particularly the latest armor and artillery that Yerevan has been purchasing from Russia since Moscow and Yerevan signed a cooperation agreement in 2014, or under a $200 million loan provided in 2015 by Moscow to Armenia so it could purchase modern Russian weapons. Most of the estimated 200 to 300 battle tanks and artillery pieces held by the Nagorno-Karabakh separatists are thought to be refurbished combat vehicles left behind in the early 1990s by retreating Azerbaijani forces. There have been no sightings of modern Russian-built T-90 tanks. However, some of the Soviet-era T-72 tanks used by the Nagorno-Karabakh separatists have been improved with modern upgrades.

An IISS assessment called The Military Balance, which was published in February, says some of the forces' equipment may belong to Armenia's military. The IISS assessment also says the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist force's overall personnel strength remains at an estimated 18,000 to 20,000. But it also is thought to have another 20,000 to 30,000 reservists on standby and prepared for quick mobilization.


Azerbaijan envoy says U.S. help needed to avert regional security meltdown

Ambassador Elin Suleymanov said the U.S. must deal with instability in his part of the world as tensions with Turkey and Russia heat up. (Voice of America)

Azerbaijan’s top diplomat in Washington said the U.S. must do more to deal with rising instability in his region, lest tensions that have already drawn in both Turkey and Russia spiral into more violence like the clashes that rocked the Nagorno-Karabakh region earlier this month.  While Ambassador Elin Suleymanov said that he’s not certain the flare-up between Russia-backed Armenia and Turkey-backed Azerbaijan was directly sparked by the ongoing Ankara-Moscow rift, he believes it “showed how dangerous things can be if they get out of control.”

The worst outbreak in fighting in more than 20 years in Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan, killed dozens of soldiers and sent nerves on edge from Europe to Washington, where concerns skyrocketed over the prospect of a Turkey-Russia proxy war. In a wide-ranging interview this week, Mr. Suleymanov told The Washington Times that the Obama administration has recently shown signs of engaging more deeply with Azerbaijan and toward counterbalancing growing Russian influence in the region as a whole.

But he stressed that far more U.S. attention will be needed to prevent a wider regional security meltdown — and suggested the Obama administration missed a rare chance to exert real influence between Turkey, Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan following the early-April clash. Mr. Suleymanov said it was Russian President Vladimir Putin — not President Obama — who has exploited the situation, portraying himself as the peacemaker and summoning Armenian and Azeri military officials to Moscow to restore a cease-fire over Nagorno-Karabakh.

“It is obvious today that Russia’s profile as a major diplomatic power in the region has risen significantly over the last two weeks,” the ambassador said. “Russia is a very decisive player. We’ve seen it. And over the last two weeks, we’ve seen Russia being even more engaged than before.”

Matthew Bryza, a pointman on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict under both President George W. Bush and Mr. Obama, and the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan from 2010 to 2011, made much the same point about the price of U.S. passivity in an op-ed for The Washington Post Tuesday. Mr. Putin, he wrote, “is exploiting the situation through intensive diplomacy that Obama shows no interest in matching. The White House has failed even to issue an official statement.”

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has for decades been a bone of contention between Moscow and Ankara.
The separatist enclave inside Azerbaijan has been under the control of Armenia’s military and local ethnic Armenians since the two countries waged a war over the territory that claimed some 30,000 lives following the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The conflict has been frozen since 1994, when both sides agreed to a cease-fire that was originally co-chaired by the U.S., France and Russia via the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Despite the cease-fire, the two sides have never signed a comprehensive peace deal. During the years since, Turkey, which already had tense relations with Armenia over charges that Turks engaged in a genocide against Armenians in World War I, has sided with Azerbaijan, imposing a trade embargo on Armenia.

Playing both sides

Russia has sought to exert influence with both sides by providing weapons to both the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis.



Russian lawyer: Artsakh resistance is a challenge for post-modern world order



“Artsakh resistance is becoming not only a strong military power but also a completely unexpected ideological challenge for the post-modern world order, in which a nation is not a nation and a state is not a state, where the ideal man in peaceful times is the Consumer and in harsh times the one who flees – the Refugee. It is exactly for this reason that the world is in a shock and can’t believe its eyes when watching how men with a smile on their faces go to the front to fight for their brothers, for their land, for that boy who has been shot by an asshole artilleryman in the schoolyard... If the Karabakh Armenians had fled, they too would have probably been given a couple of German villages, their feet too would have been washed in St. Peter’s square in Rome, their crying men would have been shown on CNN and BBC too. But they didn’t run! To the contrary – an Armenian millionaire is taking his son out of comfortable Oxford and sending him to the front, and not to some elite unit but to the very frontline, under Russian “Солнцепек”s; because for him it is more important to have a son who is a real man rather than a son who is a leading economist. I am very worried for Artsakh. I am very envious of Artsakh, where in that mountainous air such thick meaning of life is concentrated that you can already eat it with a spoon, like the hot Armenian Spas.”

Source: http://www.panorama.am/en/news/2016/04/05/Russian-lawyer-Artsakh/1557937 

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