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 even 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 ask those of you who think that war fighting is a zero sum game; or that this war was a great victory for Armenia; or that this war proved that Armenia can go it alone in the south Caucasus; or that this war showed that Russians are anti-Armenian backstabbersor 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; evildoers are punished and good people are awarded; Armenians are invincible when united; Armenia's allies enthusiastically go out of their way to make Armenia happy all the time; Armenia's has political choices when it comes to picking allies; and the where politics is like a domestic dispute, a street fight or a bar brawl.

Now, 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 major 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, combat helicopters, main battle tanks, heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers. About one hundred Armenian lives were lost. Armenia is a small nation. Life is therefore precious for Armenians. I hope to see their deaths serve a greater purpose for the motherland. Ultimately, that purpose would be the recognition of Artsakh'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 war zone near 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.

Nevertheless, Yerevan needs to recognize that the status quo which worked so well for Armenia during the past twenty years is now gradually coming to an end. The south Caucasus stands on the verge of a new chapter. There will be a new geopolitical calculus at play. It's time for official Yerevan to understand all this and thus 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 Russian-Armenian relations for over a decade.
 
What happened in early April 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 weapons acquisitions 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; Ankara and Baku were developing closer military ties; we speculated 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". W
e 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 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, landlocked and blockaded 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 the contents 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
Paul Goble:  ‘Russia has De Facto Occupied Armenia,’ Yerevan Expert Says: http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/10/russia-has-de-facto-occupied-armenia.html
Western and Turkish rhetoric regarding Armenia and Artsakh was becoming rigid and increasingly bellicose. We knew Baku, Ankara and Washington were conspiring against Armenians and we also knew that all three conspirators were in Washington the week before Azeris started their offensive against Artsakh. As a matter of fact, merely two days before Azeri 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/
There are Armenian and Russian observers that suspect Ankara's and Washington's hand in Baku's latest aggression. However, the power and reach of Western propaganda is so great that Western operatives embedded throughout Armenian society have maliciously spun recent developments to fit their narrative. Because Russian officials were perceived to be somewhat silent and a lot of the military hardware Azeris utilized in their assault were Russian made (although their Israeli made weapons seemed to have made a much greater impact on the battlefield), Western-financed activists like David Sanasaryan, propaganda outlets like Lragir, politicians like Raffi Hovannisian and groups like Founding Parliament have begun a full scale campaign to convince Armenians that Russia was somehow 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 a Western capitol nonetheless - the anti-Russian hysteria has reached new heights in Armenia.

From television to radio, from print news to internet political discussion forums, anti-Russian rhetoric is becoming widespread among Armenians. Consequently, Russophobia is slowly becoming mainstream in Armenia. Western activists are accusing Russia of blatantly taking Azerbaijan's side and backstabbing Armenia. They are demanding that Armenia curbs its ties with Russia and increase its ties with Western powers. They are 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 working inside Armenian society - at the behest of Armenian officials - are behind all this disinformation and uproar. Speaking of professional Russophobes, please listen carefully 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 , agent Richard Giragosian and agent Paruyr Hayrikian, claims Russia is a defeated nation; claims Russia is an aggressor nation; claims Russia does not have the power to negotiate anything anymore; and claims Russia can no longer keep its promise about not allowing a war to happen in Artsakh. Agent Muradyan goes on to make the outrageous claim that Turkey's only interest in the region is peace and that the region's only problem is Russia. In 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 Muradyan's words are evidence that Azerbaijan's latest aggression against Armenia was a test not only for Armenia but also for Russia. Western-funded mercenaries posing as journalists, analysts, politicians and activists, 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.

Western financed smut-peddlers want us to believe that Russia is the enemy

Long ago, Western powers realized that when trying to subjugate a foreign nation that had an uncooperative or a hostile political system, it was more effective to concentrate efforts on winning the hearts-and-minds of the targeted nation's sheeple instead. Thus was born Western psy-ops and propaganda. When economic blackmail and/or financial aid (i.e. bribes) fails to subdue a targeted governmentWestern powers resort to using tools such as "news media" outlets and "political activists" to encourage the nation's sheeple to think a certain way or to take to the streets in protest.

Despite Armenian pride and arrogance, Armenians remains one of the world's most easily mislead sheeple. The power of Western propaganda in Armenia is so great (largely thanks to Yerevan's complimentary politics) that Western assets planted throughout Armenian society today can take any political matter and effortlessly spin it to fully fit their self-serving political narrative - and Armenians will accept it as the truth.

Example: Although we know that Western powers and their Turkic/Islamic allies are the ones causing serious trouble throughout the Middle East and the south Caucasus; although we know that the entire Caucasus region is one bad incident away from turning back into a Turkic/Islamic cesspool once again; although we know that a Russian defeat in the south Caucasus will spell disaster for Armenia - almost all the talk we are hearing recently is about Russia "backstabbing" Armenia; Russia giving Baku the green light to attack Armenia; and about the need for Armenia to distance itself from an unreliable Russia. Armenia has become a showcase displaying the overwhelming power of Western propaganda.
Consequently, Armenians are once again being manipulated and led astray.

Knowing that Armenians are emotional and politically illiterate, they are making a direct play on the sheeple's blinding emotions and well as its nationalistic sentiments.

I have been regularly monitoring political debates and discussions on Armenian television and radio for many years. Seeing the depth of our people's political ignorance and lack of foresight was always a matter of concern for me. Since the latest clashes in Artsakh, the political discourse in Armenia has been downright frightening for me. The situation we have is the direct result of Armenia's professional Russohpobes who have come to dominate the political landscape in the country in recent years. And this is the direct result of Yerevan's "complimentary politics" which has allowed the free growth of anti-Russian interests in Armenia during the past twenty-five years. Consequently, in the eyes of many if not most Armenians today, Russia is also an enemy. We are continuing to make the mistakes of our incompetent forefathers going back centuries.

 The hysteria being whipped up inside Armenia by Western agents (with the tacit approval of Armenian officials) has gotten unprecedented numbers Armenians today questioning Russia's military presence on Armenian soil and some are now even shouting, "Russian occupation out of Armenia" and "Ռուսաստան սիկտիր" (Translated: Russia get the f#@k out). Yes, Armenians are telling Russians to get the f#@k out, in Turkish nonetheless, and demanding that Russians stop their "occupation" of Armenia.

Ok, let's play their mentally-ill game. Let's say Russians heeded to Armenian demands and shutdown their army base in Gyumri and air force base in Erebuni and indeed got the f#@k out of Armenia, and shortly thereafter stopped providing weaponry to Armenia, continued selling weaponry to Azerbaijan and gave Baku the green light to take Artsakh. Maybe Moscow even decided that Armenians can also do without the provision of cheep Russian natural gas. And since Russia did not have an Armenian ally in the region anymore, maybe Moscow decided that the best way to keep the region in control was to embroil it in a perpetual state of inter-ethnic warfare.

Then what?! Who or what is going to deter Turks from doing to Armenia what they have done to Cyprus and what they are currently doing to Iraq and Syria? Who will deter a full scale war in Artsakh? Who is going to stop hundreds of thousands of Armenians from fleeing the country? Will Western powers rush to Armenia's aid? Of course not. Will the mighty "Diaspora" come riding to the rescue? Of course not. Will the assholes who were protesting in Yerevan be the ones protecting Armenia's border with Turkey and purchasing the modern weaponry Armenia needs to protect itself? Of course not.

So, who is going to make sure Turks stay on their side of the border? 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 national infrastructure? How about one of the lowest natural gas rates in the world that Russia provides Armenia? How about the hundreds-of-thousands of Armenian citizens that make their living in Russia? Do these stupid 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 no matter how you look at it. What these people are doing isn't political activism and it isn't protesting. What they are doing is sheer madness. What they are doing is actually suicidal behavior. These people are too stupid to know it but they are actually advancing a very old plan. Getting Russians to leave Armenia is actually a well established 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
Growing alliance between Russia, Armenia troubling: US ads: http://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2016/04/20/growing-alliance-between-russia-armenia-troubling-us-ads
Paul Goble: ‘Russia has De Facto Occupied Armenia,’ Yerevan Expert Says: http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/10/russia-has-de-facto-occupied-armenia.html
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
Richard Giragosian: My work with the Turkish government is in support of normalizing relations: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2cz9vw_adnan-oktar-s-live-discussion-on-a9-tv-with-richard-giragosian-director-of-the-armenian-think-tank-r_news
Lragir: Russia and The Armenian Genocide: http://www.lragir.am/index/eng/0/politics/view/35244
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 at their mercy. They also know that Armenia's "independence" from Russia means Armenian dependence on Turkey. That said, it must also be said that Moscow has less control over Yerevan than Washington has over Europe. But again, these protesters are too stupid to realize any of this. This common knowledge among high level policymakers in Ankara and the West is essentially why many politicians, activists and news agencies in Armenia are encouraged - and funded - to disseminate anti-Russian rhetoric throughout Armenian society. The power of Western propaganda in Armenia is so great (largely thanks to Yerevan's complimentary politics) that Western operatives planted throughout Armenian society can take any political matter and effortlessly spin it to fit their self-serving narrative - and the Armenian sheeple accepts it as truth. Despite Armenian pride and arrogance, Armenians remains one of the world's most easily manipulated and mislead sheeple. 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 in explaining the irrationality we see today in Yerevan. I hate to say this, but being able to repel the recent Azeri attack without much difficulty may have given our sheeple 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 environment nonetheless - I would much rather Armenia become a province within the Russian Federation instead. Times like this remind me that we Armenians may not be ready for statehood. Fortunately, there are some voices of sanity in Armenia. The following intellectual is one of them -
21-րդ դարում մեր սահմանը մնացել է բանկա-բութուլկայի մակարդակի, անհարմար է չէ՞: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQZzpJz6jik
I reiterate: Armenia's "independence" from Russia means Armenian dependence on Turkey. That said, it must also be said that Moscow has less control over Yerevan than Washington has over Europe, but Armenia's Russophobes are too stupid to realize this.

A few additional words about today's Western-funded anti-Russian community: It is quite common to hear from them that 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 confident Russia 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 and Georgians to name only a few and realize that the West can never-ever be a security guarantee for Armenia. When 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 calculus of the region; and be better prepared militarily for a worst case scenario.

Yet, due to our political illiteracy and blinding emotions, 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. Which begs the question: Who learns from who? -
This is Western psy-ops at its worst. The premise of both articles are actually 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. Russian officials have even hinted as such in the past. More recently, CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha has made some reaffirming comments. Nevertheless, 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 in serious danger. Azerbaijan is simply not large enough or militarily powerful enough to actually threaten Armenia or even Artsakh. Yerevan has therefore never felt the need to ask for military intervention by Russia. Moreover, it is important to understand that by covering Armenia's western border with Turkey, Moscow provides Yerevan with the freedom to concentrate its limited resources on keeping Azerbaijan in check on Armenia's eastern borders. 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 military responsibilities when it comes to Armenia's security -
ՀԱՊԿ–ն կարձագանքի, եթե Հայաստանը դիմի: http://sputnik.co.am/armenia/20160402/2698538.html
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. I'll just add this: While Russia has been giving billions of dollars worth of weapons system to Armenia during the past twenty-five years, Armenian officials have been robbing Armenia of billions of dollars during the past twenty-five years, and hiding their stolen wealth in Western banks. Russians know this and they don't like it one bit.

Nevertheless, 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 the years 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

Russian arms sales to Baku does not mean Russia is abandoning Armenia (Moscow would sooner occupy Armenia than 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 blockaded nation 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 the only reason keeping Turks on their side of the border, thereby allowing us Armenians to concentrate our limited resources on the Azeri threat.

That said, it was inevitable that Western intelligence services and their lackeys embedded throughout Armenian society would waste no time in hijacking a very complex matter 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 Armenian sheeple. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's comments about this matter 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 less militarized; and Armenia will not be able to maintain its military parity with a wealthy Azerbaijan. 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 enemies in Baku. 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, that does not apply to many Armenians. It's simply amazing for me to see just how politically illiterate we Armenians 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.

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 superpower politics. In short: Major powers like Russia see the world on a grander scale than small ethnic groups like Armenians.

We vividly saw Moscow's pragmatic restraint and strategic foresight in the wake of the downing of the Russian 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. Moscow has responded and will continue to respond to Ankara's aggression in other ways. 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 ethnic 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 nowIncidentally, I didn't see Novorossiyans, who thus far have gotten the short end of the stick, organizing street protests and angrily accusing 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 in Syria -
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 eastern Ukraine; 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 American counterparts, tend 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 meticulous. In 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 issue like Artsakh, Syria or even Novorossiya for that matter 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. Major powers see the world on a grander scale.

Baku should be placed within Russia's 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 again finds 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-Jewish alliance 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 a symbolic 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 selling arms 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 because they 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 hotbed of 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 want Moscow 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 towards Armenia or Artsakh, Armenians need to stop throwing temper-tantrums like little emotional children 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 Russia every time Moscow says or does something that Armenians don't like. Armenians have the need to better understand politics and Armenian officials have to get serious about their responsibilities to our nation. In other words, we Armenians as a people yet have to mature politically. Speaking of political maturity, the political analyst in the following interview explains it well -
Թարմ ուղեղով՝ Երվանդ Բոզոյանի հետ: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6zBNIMlkcU
Speaking about the war, the political analyst basically puts the blame on Armenian officials, saying they knew there was a serious danger coming out of Baku since 2014 but they did not take it seriously and failed to properly fortify the border with Azerbaijan. He also went on to say, Russians can only do so much for Armenia, the rest is our responsibility. He is 1000% right. Russia is Armenia's strategic ally, meaning Russia will not allow Armenia to be overrun by Turks or Azeris or anyone else for that mater. Armenia's tactical needs, however, is our responsibility. In other words: Russia will give us the tools for survival but Russia will not spoon feed us. Alarmingly, we have two types of Armenians today: One type sits back and expects Russians to serve Armenia on hand and knees and then ends up cursing Russia for not doing so; the other type hates everything that is Russian and wants to see Armenia out of Russia's obit. Both are ignorant. Both are dangerous. Both can lead the country to ruin.

Sadly, talking to Armenians about geopolitical nuances is like talking to a five year old child about the meaning 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 convince our 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 geostrategic assets. We as a people need to understand that the defeat of Russia is one of the ultimate goals of the Anglo-American-Jewish world order in this war. Armenians better wake up 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, it's 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 lust for Russian blood yet on 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 festering matter. I suspect Baku did not risk a full scale invasion of Artsakh and made sure to keep things 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 buildup on 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  weapons that were introduced in combat for the first time. In 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 military incursion 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 said, I 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, Turks and 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 being responsible towards her, especially during times of war.

But, because we are Armenians, we will always have people who will see the Armenian government as the country's main 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 an armed uprising against the Armenian state; and their affiliates were caught planning assassinations 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 "nationalist" clowns now? I have not seen a single one of them at the font-lines 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. It is also very important to show the world that Armenians are united behind their government. Major powers only respect power and resolve, not victim-hood and whining.

Which reminds me of a story: 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 on earth, 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 Artsakh. God 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 Moscow forcefully 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 strategic south 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 essentially needs to do two things: 1) Settle the dispute 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 peacemaker. I 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 rather not see happen. It can therefore be surmised that a certain level of hostility between Armenia and 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? Are Armenians 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. The following are 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/
No Quick Fix For Karabakh Conflict, Says Yerevan: http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/27686827.html
Nobody will ever allow bringing Russian troops to zone of Karabakh conflict: http://news.am/eng/news/323237.html
Paul Goble: Russia wants to deploy peacekeeping forces in Karabakh: http://news.am/eng/news/290706.html
Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh: An unlikely and unwanted scenario: http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1429:
It would be needless to say that I look at this matter quite differently. In my opinion, it's down right silly to think that Moscow has an agenda to place Artsakh under Baku's control, nor does Moscow intend to abandon Armenia in any shape or form. The only problem I foresee here is Moscow's attitude towards the territories taken outside of Artsakh proper. This is precisely where Armenians need to draw 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. We therefore 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 during Czarist 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 ancestral homelands. 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 essentially why 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.

Complexities of settling the Artsakh dispute

Although Western powers want the Armenian sheeple to think that the West is still a major factor in the Caucasus, the fact is that Moscow has taken all the initiative in the south Caucasus since the summer of 2008. The dispute over Artsakh will therefore eventually be settled in Moscow - under what Russian officials hope will be their terms. And when the time comes to negotiate a final settlement, those who have the deepest roots in the Kremlin will extract the most benefits. And this is when we may realize that Yerevan's "complimentary politics" has actually hurt Armenia. After all, 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, politicians, activists, news organizations and NGOs?

In its burning desire to maintain close relations with Western powers, Yerevan has totally neglected lobbying efforts in Moscow. In start contrast to this, 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 Moscow -
Արթուր Բաղդասարյան (watch from 48:30): https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=GARDQ9WCcko
Speaking of geopolitics, lobbying and Armenian incompetence -
As you can clearly see, Armenians are no where in sight even in Armenia's second most important neighboring country. Yerevan's foolish fetish with the Western world is making it neglect its very own neighborhood.

This is a very serious problem that is strategic in nature. It seems as if our officials are simply hoping for bad relations to develop between Moscow, Tehran and Baku as they place their emphasis on developing ties with Western powers. It does not work that way. Yerevan needs to be active in Moscow and in Tehran. Yerevan needs to embark on a serious effort to convince Moscow in particular 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 Russia's geopolitical 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. To have the best possible outcome, Armenians better mature and learn how the game of politics is really played. 

Nevertheless, 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 some of 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 we give in exchange for peace) is up to Armenian officials to help decide. Russians are macro-managing the situation in the south Caucasus. The micromanagement that needs to take place regarding Artsakh is ultimately our responsibility. Moscow's primary concern is 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 that territories under question will be fought for even if Moscow would prefer their return to Azerbaijan. And Armenian officials need to also make their Russian counterpart know that Armenia will do all this while remaining 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 help Armenia or Artsakh in any way. Once more: 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 global community that Armenians are united behind their leadership and that the entire population of Artsakh is fully mobilized and ready for war. 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 that Armenians 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 embedded throughout Armenian society are leading us astray.

Distrust in politics works both ways

It is well known that Russians, Russian officials to be exact, see Armenia as part of the Russian world. Recent developments in Armenia has shown that due to Yerevan's shortsighted "complimentary politics", which has allowed Western agents a free hand in Armenia, an increasing numbers of Armenians are seeing Armenia as part of the Western world. In other wards, although Armenia exists today in an Turkic/Islamic landscape like the south Caucasus essentially because it is safely in Russia's orbit, increasing numbers of Armenians are looking westward. There is bound to be problems with this disconnect. In my humble opinion: I would much rather Armenia become part of the Russian Federation than see it risk its existence by trying to enter the Western orbit. It would only take a quick look at Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Cyprus and Greece, to see what can happen nations in the Western orbit. A nation like Armenia, a nation that has no direct access tot he outside world and a nation that is surrounded by two hostile Turkic powers, wouldn't survive the process. Armenians need to grow up and realize that at the end of the day, Armenia's independence from Russia will only mean Armenia's dependence on Turkey - as the Western world is in reality thousands of miles away and when things get difficult for it, it will simply abandon the region.

But, Armenians will be Armenians, and Armenians will play with fire. Armenian traits - political illiteracy, arrogance, pride, blinding emotions, materialism, shortsightedness, individualism, stubbornness - are once again bringing Armenia closer to the abyss.

Let's be honest with ourselves and realize that the only thing keeping Armenians in the Russian camp is the Turkic threat. Russians know this all too well. Had Armenia not had problems with Turks or Azeris, Armenia, like Georgia, would have been in than alliance with Turks and Azeris against Russia. In fact, culturally and genetically, Armenians are a lot closer to Turks and Azeris. We see this vividly throughout the Russian Federation, where Armenians tend to have better community relations with the country's Turkic/Muslim peoples than with its native Christian Slavs. What I am saying may be uncomfortable for the reader, but they are absolute truths. Moscow knows that the only thing securing Yerevan's allegiance to Russia is the Armenia's problems with Turkey and Azerbaijan. We cannot therefore expect or demand trust from Moscow - specially when Armenia is utterly infested with West-leaning politicians and Western-funded NGOs and activists. In other words: Moscow cannot trust Armenia because of Yerevan's 20-plus years old counterproductive nonsense called "complimentary politics". 

I just want to add here that complimentary politics made some sense in the 1990s when Russian influence in the south Caucasus was very weak and Western powers enjoyed global hegemony. The world however began to change in the summer of 2008, when the Russian Bear was abruptly woken up by the Western-funded dictator in Tbilisi. In a matter of days, a rag-tag Russian force of about ten thousand troops routed the entire Georgian army along with its Western, Turkish and Israeli military advisors. By 2010, Western powers were in full retreat from the south Caucasus as both Tbilisi and Baku began warming relations with Moscow. Since then, we have had major Russian military interventions in Ukraine and Syria. Crimea has been returned to Mother Russia. Syria's Alawites and other minorities in the country have been saved from an inevitable genocide. Moreover, Russia and Turkey are very close to a war. The point is: The Russian Bear today is fully awake and very angry. The geopolitical calculus in the south Caucasus today is therefore very different from what it was in the 1990s - yet official Yerevan is still operating like it's the 1990s. Yerevan continues to give equal treatment to Western powers by allowing Western powers to set deep roots in the country -
Armenia MOD discusses cooperation with Fletcher School and Tavitian Foundation: http://news.am/eng/news/297256.html

NATO cooperation reaches fruition as new university opens in Armenia: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_127688.htm

Armenian Military Details 2014 Drills With U.S. Troops: http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/26820436.html

Second largest one in the world: Goals and tasks of U.S. Embassy in Armenia: http://www.verelq.am/en/node/5628

Armenia has new National Security Service Chief: http://news.am/eng/news/311329.html
Complimentary politics has only served to infest Armenia with Western agents. Because of Yerevan's complimentary politics, Armenia is now hopelessly stuck between two superpowers pulling from opposite directions. Because of Yerevan's complimentary politics, Armenia has neglected to develop its strategic relations with Russia. Because of Yerevan's complimentary politics, Armenia has neglected to develop its relations with Iran. Because of Yerevan's complimentary politics, Moscow has grown distrustful of Yerevan and it realizes it has to keep Armenia on a very short leash.

Just take a moment and reflect: The head of Armenia's security services (Armenia's FSB) was trained in the CIA affiliated institution known as The Fletcher School (this is the same prestigious institution that gave us American agents Raffi Hovanissian, Vartan Oskanian and more recently, Zaruhi Postanjyan); one of the world's largest CIA operations offices also known as US embassies is located in Armenia; a majority of Armenian's political opposition is Western-funded; and the number of Western-funded NGOs in Armenia is one of the highest in the world. Let's also recognize that all layers of Armenian society, from the Armenian street to the highest offices of Armenian government, host Western operatives. How else can one explain the following absurdity -
 https://scontent-lga3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xat1/v/t1.0-9/12573906_835626216547712_4116432139053759547_n.jpg?oh=9aa14523e77705f5a6b46bb710e5bd9a&oe=57BCE4B4

This is photo from a recent NATO military drill in Georgia. Take a moment and reflect on it. Folks, this photo does not reflect diplomatic pragmatism, it reflects diplomatic confusion, indecision and incompetence. Think about this: We are participating in NATO drills aimed ostensibly against Russia and we are doing so alongside Turks and Ukrainians. Who is making these insane decisions? We are in the year 2016. There are NATO-instigated destructive wars waging in Libya, Ukraine and SyriaWestern powers have laid waste to the Middle East and north Africa. Fascismpan-Turkism and Islamic extremism are the weapons of choice in their global rampage. West's ultimate intent is to weaken Israel's potential enemies and encircle and isolate Russia in order to break it apart at a later date. There may even be a grander agenda to pit Saudi Arabia against Iran and Turkey against RussiaConsequently, the entire south Caucasus region today is one bad incident away from igniting into a bloody inferno because of Western meddling. Armenia is surviving these times due to its strategic alliance with Russia, yet Armenian troops - along side troops from Turkey, Georgia and Ukraine - are participating in NATO drills?

I reiterate: Armenia survives in the south Caucasus because of its alliance with Russia, yet official Yerevan has turned Armenia into a playground for Western interests. As a strategic ally, Moscow has catered to every essential need Armenia has - from helping Armenia run the atomic power plant to providing free or affordable weapons system and military training, from providing very cheep natural gas to allowing billions of dollars in trade, from protecting Armenia's border against Turkey to allowing hundreds of thousands of Armenian to work in Russia and send money back to their families in Armenia - yet official Yerevan has done all it can to antagonize Moscow for the past twenty-five years. 

What idiot was it that said, Armenia is occupied by Russia?!

We all know that in politics there are no friends or enemies, only interests. We also know that there is no trust in politics. While Yerevan has the right to pursue Armenian interests (that they are doing things in the best interest of Armenia is altogether another matter), Yerevan must understand that Russia has the right to pursue its interests as well. While Armenians are right not to trust Russians, Armenians must also understand that Russians have the right not to trust Armenia either. Distrust in politics therefore works both ways.
 
Nevertheless, ask yourselves: How is collaborating with Western powers benefiting Armenia? Showing Russia that Armenia has "options"? Who is stupid enough to believe that Armenia has options? Let's for the sake of argument say Armenia does have options. Well, in that case, we must also realize that Russia also has options, and one of those options is to enable Baku to recapture Artsakh. Wake up folks, Russia has been the real reason why Baku has not attempted a full scale war against Artsakh. If Yerevan was genuinely trying to curb its relations with Moscow for closer relations with Western powers, what motivation would Moscow have in stopping a major war in Artsakh?

Anyone with a normally functioning brain would immediately recognize that Armenia has no real options when it comes to national security matters. Our tiny, impoverished, remote, landlocked and blockaded country is dependent on Russia for survival, and there is no one but Russia that can guarantee that survival. Our "nationalists" may not like it but that's a fact. Another fact is that the Western world has never and will never be in a position to guarantee Armenia's security. Many Armenians may be ignorant of all this, but Russian officials know all this well. Official Yerevan needs to recognize these things and put an end to its shortsighted stupidity. Armenian officials need to begin to formulate means and methods of better promoting Armenian interests inside the Kremlin. Armenians around the world need to put aside their Qaj Nazarian bravado and accept the notion that for well into the foreseeable future Armenia will have to be fully within the Russian world. In fact, I sleep better at nights knowing that it is.

There are those that say, we can't have all our eggs in one basket.

Well, then why are we complaining that Russians are also thinking similarly when it comes to Armenia and Azerbaijan? Nevertheless, in the big picture, we need to realize that having eggs in the Western basket will ultimately do us Armenians no good. If the proverbial shit hits the fan, no Western country will come to our aid. One must be an utter fool to believe otherwise. Therefore, an Armenians egg in the Western basket is worthless. In fact, it's actually one egg less to use to tilt the Russian scale in further in our favor. The Armenian government during the first republic had a similar situation but in reverse. The fools at the time had put all their eggs in the Western basket, stubbornly refusing to come to terms with the region's Bolshevik reality. So when war broke out in the region once again and Western powers were no where in sight, Armenia suffered and Bolsheviks still took control of Armenia. Wouldn't it have been better if we had the foresight and pragmatism to make a deal with Bolsheviks instead?

What we need today is not eggs in the Western basket but a pan-national effort to deepen our relations with Moscow - but it not happening because Armenians are also dazzled by the multi-ethnic decadent theme park known as the Western world. This situation is a consequence of allowing Western led activists, Western funded officials and Western financed NGOs the freedom to do as they please in Armenia.

Folks, we are repeating the same mistakes our ancestors made before Armenia was partitioned between Persia and Rome in the 5th century. We are repeating the same mistakes Armenia made before our ancestors surrendered the Armenian kingdom to Byzantium in the mid 11th century. We are repeating the same mistakes Armenia when our ancestors allied themselves with distant Crusaders and neglected developing ties with Byzantium and neighboring Muslim powers. We are repeating the same mistakes our ancestors made between 1918 and 1921 when they failed to come to terms with the Bolsheviks - because they thought they had genuine friends in the Western world. 

Folks, wake the hell up! We cant afford repeating these mistakes over-and-over again.

Politics is a chess game, and in the bigger picture, we Armenians must humbly understand that we are not even one of the main players. The best we can do is to become one of the important pieces on the global chess board, and pick a player (i.e. a political side) that we can trust in the long term. The only reliable player that has any interest in our existence is Russia. Those who play the game well will live, those who don't will die or be enslaved. We need to better understand how the game is being played. I think the latest clash in Artsakh may have given Armenians a false sense of security and strength. The last thing we need right now is empty bravado and an overestimation of our abilities. And the most dangerous thing we can do as a people is to see Russia as one of our enemies.  Russia has been and will remain Armenia's only and only ally. But we must also understand that Russia has serious geostrategic problems to solve. Moscow is therefore playing a cold, hard game of chess.

Since the summer of 2008, Moscow has been in full realpolitik mode, a mode totally devoid of niceties and pretenses. Moscow's approach to various geopolitical challenges around its incredibly long periphery is mechanical and by the book. No one can blame it because it has no choice in the matter. Russian policymakers understand that if Moscow's statecraft is not relentless and superior, Russia will suffer immensely, as it has in the past. Moscow is therefore in full realpolitik mode and it won't come out of it in the foreseeable future. Armenians better understand this and better try to maneuver within this reality. But we are not doing so because we are an emotional and politically illiterate people and Western powers via their servants within our society are more than eager to exploit these traits of our. If this is allowed to continue it will not bode well for our nation.

Those standing in the middle get run over, there are no soup kitchens in politics

Besides the fact that politics is an exact science, which is why there are a number of prestigious institutions around the world that teach it, politics is also a game. As noted above, those who play the game well live and prosper, those who don't either die or simply become enslaved. Armenians, as a collective body, are thus far failing to understand how the game is played. If official Yerevan's idea of playing the game simply means using its relationship with Western powers against Russia and vice-versa, the game is going to end up very costly for Armenia one day. Moreover, due to Yerevan's complimentary politics, Armenia's landscape has come to be completely infested with Western agents. Consequently, instead of putting all emphasis on developing deeper and stronger bonds with its two most important neighbors, Russia and Iran, Armenia's attention is constantly being drawn westward.

One of the strongest criticisms I have had about President Serj Sargsyan has been his desire to make all sides happy. 'Appeasement for all' has unfortunately been his modus operandi - domestically and internationally - since 2008. What the president fails to realize, however, is that when you try to make everyone happy, no one is really happy, including yourself. Although President Sargsyan is himself pro-Russian, he is politically weak, he has no political foresight and he is surrounded by money-grubbing jackals. President Sargsyan's administration is also infested by Western operatives. Character flaws within modern Armenians is also a major determining factor in all this. The burning desire for personal glory is the primary reason why high ranking Armenian officials are working closely with Western powers today. But this approach to politics will be getting more and more difficult and dangerous as the situation in the south Caucasus gets more and more tense.
 
I think it was Britain's Margaret Thatcher that once said: Those who stand in the middle of the road get run over.
I think this is now beginning to happen to Armenia. Yerevan's complimentary politics is keeping both Moscow and the West unhappy with Yerevan, and Armenia may begin to feel their unhappiness.

I understand the political reasoning behind why Yerevan had to take the middle of the road approach during much of the past twenty-five years, but Yerevan has to understand that a lot has changed in the world since the 1990s. A new, multipolar world is slowly coming into existence. Russia has reemerged as the Caucasus region's sole power broker. The political West, which was never really even friendly towards Armenia, is now clearly in decline and is therefore in the process of setting fires around the world to retard its descent. 

If due to our political illiteracy we are unable to interpret these signs we will at the very least lose Artsakh. It's important to emphasize here that Moscow needs an Armenia that is dependent on Russia. We therefore have no choice but to operate within the Russian orbit. Instead of bitching and complaining like troubled children, it would be much better to figure out ways to properly exploit Armenia's strategic standing in Moscow.

Why should Russians blindly trust Armenians? Do Armenians blindly trust Russia? Has anyone taken a good look at Armenia's Russophobic political opposition in Armenia? Has anyone taken a good look at Armenia's money hungry officials? Has anyone taken a good look at just how many Western trained officials there are in President Sargsyan's government? Has anyone looked at how hopelessly Westernized the Armenian diaspora is? Has anyone noticed how Western political agendas are gradually gaining momentum inside Armenia in recent years? Has anyone noticed how the influential American-Armenian community is promoting Westernization in Armenia? While Moscow may be controlling Armenia's head, Western interests are gradually beginning to exert control over the rest of the Armenian body. In other words, Moscow is working on the top, while the West is working from the bottom up. If this continues, pretty soon the head and the body will be going very separate ways.

The reality of the matter is that Armenia's alliance to Russia is hinging on a very few individuals in Armenia. Armenia's political landscape today is infested with Western mercenaries. Had it not been for the so-called Karabakh clan, Armenia would have been turned into a Western brothel servicing regional Turks and Islamists a very long time ago. I don't blame Moscow for not trusting Armenians - because I myself do not trust Armenians when it comes to serious political matters.

I reiterate: Those standing in the middle of the road get run over. To which I would only add: There aren't any soup kitchens or free meals in politics. By controlling Armenia's national infrastructure, Moscow secures Yerevan's dependence. By becoming one of Azerbaijan's largest trade partner, Moscow secures Baku's favor and keeps Azerbaijan from drifting further into the Turkic/Islamic world. By arming Armenia, Moscow keeps Baku at bay. By arming Baku, Moscow keeps Yerevan at bay. Moscow is macro-managing the situation in the south Caucasus. We as a people need to recognize how the game is played in order to better understand how to participate in the game. 

One of the ways to understand the game and participate in it effectively is to recognize that Russia is Armenia's strategic partner. What do I mean by strategic partner? Russia will come to Armenia's aid if Armenia's existence was in danger, like it did in Abkhazia, like it did in south Ossetia, like it did in Novorossiya, like it did in Syria. Strategic partner means Russia will not cater to our every whim and it will not spoon feed us either. In other words: All tactical aspects pertaining to Armenia have to be handled by Armenians. In other words: Russia will give us the means to protect ourselves and begin the process of nation building, but we Armenians have to do the actual protecting and nation building. It is up to us Armenians to get our home in order.

We cannot expect Russians to rush to our aid every time Azeris fire a shot on the Armenian border. Let's just be happy that Russians are keeping Turks at bay and giving us the freedom to concentrate our limited resources against Azerbaijan. Besides, what happened to our boasting and pride? Every time Azeris fire a shot, we cry for Russian help? It's funny that those of us who most vociferously want independence from Russia are the ones who vociferously demand Russian protection every time Azeris fire a shot

We Armenian are like troubled little children. We demanded independence back in 1988. Now, we don't know what to do with it. We better realize that Armenia is now an independent nation-state and with independence comes a lot of hard work and responsibility. Yes, Armenia has a strategic alliance with Russia that protects  it in the event that its existence is threatened, but it is we Armenians that have to toil for Armenia, it is we Armenians that have to fight and die for Armenia. It is very pathetic of us to expect or demand Russian intervention every time we have a problem. 

Is Armenian life more precious than the lives of Russians? Yes? Why, because we are a small nation? 

Well, one thousand years ago Russia was much smaller than Armenia. While Armenia gradually shrunk under the feet of traversing empires, Russia gradually grew by fighting and defeating every empire that came its way. In short: Russians fought, Armenians didn't. In other words: True to their Viking and Iranic pedigrees, Russia has been a warrior nation, and we Armenians are a nation that loves pursuing the good life - wherever that may be. This is more-or-less why we are where we are. Armenians need to understand that powerful and prosperous nations are built by establishing strategic alliance with powerful neighbors, unconditionally rallying around the national flag and willingly spilling blood in both defensive and offensive wars. This is a requirement for all successful nation-states, especially those located in troublesome regions. If we can't do any of this then we can't expect to have an independent, powerful or prosperous nation in the south Caucasus.

Unfortunately, official Yerevan today is like a rudderless boat, aimlessly drifting on a stormy sea. Unfortunately, Armenian society is money oriented, disorganized, overly emotional and politically illiterate. Our Western agents are wasting no time in taking advantage of this unfortunate situation by exploiting every little flaw that exists (both real and perceived) in Armenia's relationship with Russia in an attempt to drive a wedge between Yerevan and Moscow. With our attention constantly being drawn Westward, we are failing to properly develop our relationship with the Russian Bear.

We are not properly developing our relationship with the Russian Bear

In closing, I like to reiterate a few fundamental concepts we Armenians need to be mindful of: Russia is a superpower. Russia is the largest nation on earth and its contains virtually limitless amounts of natural resources. Yet, Russia is also surrounded by major powers who have a history of invading it. With its western and eastern flanks being encroached on by Western powers and their allies in recent years, Moscow has earnestly begun to fortify its standing within its near-abroad. To effectively protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Moscow has always sought to create buffer zones around Russia (i.e. defensive depth) for protection against dangers emanating from its western, southern and eastern flanks. Theoretically at least, CSTO and EEU are meant to serve this purpose. This however will be an extremely difficult process for Russia essentially because Western powers and their propagandists embedded throughout former Soviet territory are diligently working to undermine Moscow's effort at every single turn.

Nevertheless, there are essentially two ways Moscow realizes it can create buffer zones around it: One way is to bring a nation that is willing to enter into an alliance with it into its political, economic and military orbit. The other way is to create a managed conflict within a nation, through which it can then have leverage and control. Moscow normally uses this measure against a nation that is unwilling to enter an alliance with Russia. There is also a drastic measure known as "scorched earth", but this is normally used as a last resort and/or in times of full scale war.

We therefore saw Moscow successfully pull Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan into its political, economic and military orbit. We also saw Moscow successfully managing conflicts in Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. It should be added here that Baltic states were lost to NATO very quickly and very early on. Moscow has for now all but written them off. But through the brilliant execution of statecraft in more recent years, the rest of the former Soviet republics have been made part of the Russian orbit, of course in varying degrees. Nevertheless, Russia's footprint in the south Caucasus and beyond has been gradually increasing in recent years.

Due to its plurality of ethnic groups and Muslim majority, the Caucasus region remains arguably Russia's most complicated flank. The south Caucasus is therefore one of the most important strategic buffers Moscow needs to establish. Russia therefore needs to incorporate Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan into its political, economic and military orbit. With Armenia is already in, Moscow is now trying to bring Azerbaijan in. And Russian officials realize that if they do manage to bring Baku into their orbit, their work in Georgia will become that much easier.

But bringing Baku in will prove very difficult. Besides Russian, Baku also hosts Western, Turkish and Israeli interests. Moscow cannot afford to lose Baku. Moscow has to have a close alliance with Armenia. Consequently, the situation is very complicated. Although Armenia is allied to Russia, Moscow uses the Artsakh conflict to secure Armenia's allegiance. Although Azerbaijan has close relations with Russia, Moscow uses the Artsakh conflict to secure Azerbaijan's allegiance. As a result, Moscow needs to maintain the military parity between the Yerevan and Baku and also keep other powers away from the region. We must be mindful here that oil rich Baku has the money to purchase anything it wants from whoever it wants. Yerevan does not have that luxury. Russian officials also realize that if they do not sell arms to Baku, there are a number of other nations - like Israel, Turkey, Ukraine and China to name a few - that will. Moscow therefore sells to Baku what Baku wants and it essentially gives to Yerevan what Yerevan needs. More importantly, Moscow wants to keep other political interests powers out of Baku because Moscow knows that Azerbaijan can easily turn into yet another hotbed of pan-Turkic and Islamic extremism right on its border. In the big picture, maintaining Russian influence in Baku is also in Armenia's long-term interests.

Many indicators suggested that this year may be the year Moscow finally tried to settle the festering dispute over Artsakh. There are also strong indicators that Moscow may be seeking to station troops in the region and may eventually expect Yerevan and Baku to make concessions in exchange for peace. It is now increasingly looking as if the clash that took place in Artsakh during early April was a Western/Turkish attempt to sabotage Moscow's agenda because, as I have already pointed out, they do not want to see the establishment of Pax Russicana in the region.

For their part, both Yerevan and Baku are not ready for concessions either. President Sargsyan may or may not have been made aware of this Western/Turkish plan while he was in Washington the week prior to the attack. FM Lavrov's statements from Yerevan suggested that the attempt to derail Moscow's initiative may have succeeded, at least for now. Moscow will wait a while longer before it resumes its efforts. Since official Yerevan (and Armenians in general) is unwilling to settle the dispute by ceding any amount of territory to Baku, Armenian officials have therefore set loose the country's Western agents to act as a canard. Consequently, Western agents in Armenia have successfully hijacked the political discourse and the narrative, and the country continues to get seeded with a toxin called Russophobia -
Pro-Europe activists in Armenia demand end to ties with Russia: http://www.armenianow.com/en/news/politics/2016/04/21/armenia-karabakh-paruyr-hayrikyan-khzmalyan-protest-russia-petition/1418/

“By Adhering to Russia, We have Lost Other Partner States and Reputation”: http://en.168.am/2016/04/19/5902.html

Karabakh Challenges Armenian-Russian Alliance: https://iwpr.net/global-voices/karabakh-challenges-armenian-russian-alliance

Armenians Protest Against Russian Arms Sales To Azerbaijan: http://www.rferl.org/content/armenia-protest-russian-arm-sales-to-azerbaijan/27673173.html
Russia’s Lavrov to be met with massive protest rally in Armenia: http://www.panarmenian.net/eng/news/210638/
After April Violence in Karabakh, Armenia’s Distrust in Russia Keeps Growing: http://www.jamestown.org/regions/thecaucasus/single
We as a people are not properly exploiting our relationship with the Russian Bear because our Western activists are constantly drawing our attention Westward. Official Yerevan has created this situation. Consequently, an army of Western activists seeding the current generation with Russophobia. The seeds in question are the seeds of Armenia's destruction.

My ultimate worry is the weakening of Russia's political and military position in Armenia. As long as there is no Pax Russicana in the south Caucasus, Armenia will continue facing existential threats. We can't just sit back and assume that Russia will never leave Armenia. We can't just sit back and assume that Russia will remain forever strong in the region. The south Caucasus is one bad event away from turning back into a Turkic/Islamic cesspool. We need to see the bigger picture in front of us. We need to work more closely with Moscow to solve regional problems. None of this is happening essentially because there is no political foresight in Yerevan. This lack of vision and proactivity on the part of official Yerevan is the reason why President Sargsyan finds it much easier to run to Western capitols when Moscow is perceived to be doing things that Armenia does not like. The situation is now getting really critical because Armenian officials have unleashed their Western mercenaries as a canard (to delay a peace settlement in Artsakh) and as a smokescreen (to conceal their incompetence and corruption). We now have an entire country that is desperately dependent on Russia for survival, yet the majority of the people in that country either hates Russia or thinks Russians are backstabbers. Yerevan's incompetence has created a very fertile ground for Western/Turkish intelligence agencies to operate on.

We must never forget that the Caucasus region, both north and south, has a Turkic/Islamic majority and one bad incident away from having a Turkic/Muslim ownership. The Caucasus region needs a powerful hand over it. From an Armenian perspective, that powerful hand has to be Russian.

A Russian victory is the only way to pacify the south Caucasus and allow the region to maintain a Christian/Armenian presence. I call this Pax Russicana. As long as the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance and their Turkic/Islamic allies have a foothold in the region, Armenia will be one bad incident away from another man made calamity. The 25 years old tug-of-war over the region between Russia and the West needs to end with a Russian victory, that is if we are to have an environment in the south Caucasus that will support Armenian life.

We are in the preliminary stages of a world war. The unipolar political order of the post-Soviet era is gradually coming to an end and a new multipolar one is in the process of being born. They are trying to encircle Russia. They are in the process of redesigning the Middle East. The tools of their agenda are Turks and Islamists. Consequently, major powers are clashing through proxies, thus far. Our tiny, impoverished, remote, landlocked and blockaded homeland is on the front lines of this historic global conflagration. The dispute over Artsakh pales in comparison to what may yet come to the already troubled region. We Armenians therefore better be ready and up to the task. Decisions we make today will be felt by Armenia for many decades to come. Bad decisions may result in the destruction of Armenia once again. 

Unfortunately, the signs are not all that encouraging. Official Yerevan has turned Armenia into a rudderless boat, and the already turbulent sea that this boat is on is due to experience a major storm. Armenia simply won't survive the coming storm without the Russian Bear at its side. That's a fact.

I am seriously concerned about Russophobia setting deep roots in Armenian society. Armenian Russophilia has traditionally kept Armenia in Russia's regional game plan since the late 18th century. Armenians have been an integral part of Russia's geostrategic calculus for the region essentially because Armenians have played a very visible role throughout Russian society for the past two hundred years. If we, due to our blinding emotions, political illiteracy and lack of foresight, allow Russophobia to set deep root inside Armenia, Armenians will eventually lose Artsakh - at the very least.

With the prevailing geopolitical climate in the south Caucasus region, I'm afraid the only thing that will save Armenia at this point is Russia's powerful hand in the country. This hand must be maintained in the country at all costs. The problem in the region is on a global scale. What we are seeing is a clash between superpowers and civilizations. The south Caucasus is one of the battlefields where Russia (and to a lesser extent Iran) are fighting the Anglo-American-Jewish world order and its Turkic/Islamic allies. Armenia's life will depend on the quality of Yerevan's relationship with Moscow and on whether or not Russia will be victorious in this war. We all therefore need to pray that Russia comes out standing once this nightmare is over. Armenians therefore better put an end to their petty nonsense and begin seriously thinking about Armenia's long term security. 

At the end of the day, it is best we keep in mind that Russia is not abandoning Armenia (or even Artsakh) and Russia continues to be Armenia's one and only ally. If there are real problems or flaws in Moscow 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 giving Armenia's Western operatives freedom of movement in the country or by running off to Western capitols to complain about Moscow. We need to embark upon a serious effort to lobby Russian officials. We better realize that the Western world will never provide Armenia with the kind of security it desperately needs. We better realize that the West can never be an alternative to Russia. We as a people have the urgent need to wake-up and understand all this and quickly figure out ways to more efficiently exploit our relationship with the Bear. In other words, we as a people need to mature politically. I'm afraid maturing as a people may be a very long and bumpy road for us. I just hope we don't lose our statehood once again along the way.

Arevordi
Spring, 2016


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

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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.


Why Do Neo–Cold Warriors Want Another Proxy Fight With Russia?

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The recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is a case study in how anti-Putin rhetoric obscures what is really going on

Earlier this month, intense fighting erupted between Azerbaijan and the Armenians of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, who are supported by Armenia. The conflict dates back to 1988 when the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, then an autonomous region of Soviet Azerbaijan, used Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost to petition for the transfer of their region to the Soviet Armenian Republic. Large demonstrations were held in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, and in Yerevan, the capital of Soviet Armenia. Clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis ensued, and after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the conflict exploded into a full-scale war. It ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire in 1994.

Regional observers scrambled to make sense of the most recent violence in Nagorno-Karabakh. Most presented balanced and reasonable analyses of the clashes. However, there were also those who failed to take into account the historical and regional dynamics and instead relied on unfortunate Cold War-style anti-Russian rhetoric. They maintained that the recent hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh were nothing less than a plot personally cooked up in the Kremlin by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Such analyses have recently appeared in the media and unfortunately obscure the reality of a very complex part of the world, making it harder for the genuinely curious American observer to understand what is going on.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, analyst Svante Cornell asserted that Putin instigated the recently hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. Putin, he argued, sought to use the conflict “to try to undermine” the government of Azerbaijan. “Controlling that artery [Azerbaijan] is essential to Mr. Putin’s imperial project,” wrote Cornell, adding that the Russian leader “benefits from reminding both parties (and the West) of his ability to wreak further havoc in a region already marred by conflict, lest they toe his line.”

Similarly, in The Washington Post, Matthew Bryza, the former US ambassador to Azerbaijan, contended that Putin was “exploiting the situation” and “laying the foundation for future crises, while Washington watches.” He also implicitly alleged that Putin may have prodded a “local military commander” in Nagorno-Karabakh to “reignite the conflict in pursuit of narrow political interests.” This is an interesting theory from a man who, according to The Wall Street Journal, encouraged Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in the lead-up to the 2008 war in Georgia. Notably, Saakashvili joined Cornell and Bryza in arguing that the recent hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh “strongly resembles a trademark Russian provocation.” Not surprisingly, the beleaguered Saakashvili, who is wanted on criminal charges in Georgia and Russia, accused Putin of being personally responsible for the flare-up in Karabakh. “I always knew that Putin would use a lame duck status of the US administration for stirring up a major trouble,” he maintained. “Moscow had been preparing for the unfreezing of the Karabakh conflict for quite some time already.”

The allegation that Putin personally fomented unrest in Nagorno-Karabakh is far from reality. However, despite all this rhetoric and intrigue, does Moscow really want to wreak havoc in Nagorno-Karabakh? The answer is simply no. To the contrary, Russia has a strong interest in maintaining stability in the region, not undermining it. A conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has the ability to throw the entire Caucasus into a state of chaos, creating serious problems for Russian state security. Furthermore, it could potentially bring Russia into a direct confrontation with Turkey, and, consequently, NATO. The allegation that Putin personally fomented unrest in the distant mountain valleys of Nagorno-Karabakh is far from reality. This assertion not only fails to take into account real security concerns of the Russian state, but it also implies that no real internal politics exist in Russia at all. In fact, Putin does not make decisions alone. He consults with both liberals and hardliners within his administration. He may be a strong leader with authoritarian tendencies, but he is certainly no Stalin.

Those supporting the “Russian instigation” thesis also overlook the agency of the other countries in the region. The narrative that Russia provoked the violence to undermine US–Azerbaijani relations implies that Moscow influenced Yerevan, its closest partner in the Caucasus, to attack Azerbaijani positions. However, the facts indicate that it was the Azerbaijani side that launched the attack against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, not vice-versa. This is not surprising, given the fact that the fall in global energy prices has pummeled Azerbaijan’s petro-economy. Observers of the region assert that Azerbaijan’s autocratic president, Ilham Aliyev, was only too eager to turn the public’s attention away from the deteriorating domestic situation in the “Kuwait on the Caspian.” Moreover, the Azerbaijani attack was vocally encouraged by Turkey, which unlike the US, EU, or Russia, never explicitly called for a cessation of hostilities. It is no secret that Ankara has sought closer ties with Baku in light of the broader Russo-Turkish confrontation over Syria and the Kurds. It has also used its lobbyists to convince Washington that Russia has been “weaponizing” Armenia against Turkey and NATO. These factors led to credible allegations of Turkey’s involvement in stirring up tension in the region. Indeed, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev recently suggested that Ankara had “add[ed] fuel to the fire” in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry also apparently took the allegations of Turkish involvement seriously. After an extended phone conversation, both Kerry and Lavrov “condemned attempts by certain ‘external players’ to whip up the standoff around Karabakh.” This clearly contradicts Cornell’s assertion that “the Obama administration apparently believes the Armenian–Azeri conflict exists in a vacuum, isolated from regional tensions” and that it “doesn’t take the region seriously.” It also belies Bryza’s argument that there was a “lack of cooperation” between Washington and Moscow on the issue. Both Cornell and Bryza further dismissed Iran’s potential role as a mediator and a constructive player in the region. In fact, Tehran has been understandably concerned about a possible spillover of the conflict, especially after the accidental firing of missiles by Azerbaijani forces into Iranian territory during the most recent hostilities. This concern has prompted Iranian officials to call for an immediate cease-fire, aligning Tehran with Moscow, Washington and Brussels.

Overall, these commentators condemned Washington for failing to see that “America’s interests are fundamentally opposed to Mr. Putin’s” and that Moscow is “part of the problem, not the solution.” However, by virtue of history and geography, the reality is that Russia is part of the solution. It was Russia that brokered the 1994 cease-fire on Nagorno-Karabakh, and it was Russia again that brokered the April 5 cease-fire, which ended the most recent clashes. The reality is simply that Russian and American interests on global security do overlap, not only in Syria or Iran, but also in Nagorno-Karabakh. No amount of lobbying or “caviar diplomacy” from Ankara or Baku can change that.

Source: http://www.thenation.com/article/why-do-neo-cold-warriors-want-another-proxy-fight-with-russia/


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.


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.



Fighting in Nagorno Karabakh: A Headache for Moscow

Troops in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

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 elsewhereIt 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.

Source: http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/fighting-nagorno-karabakh-headache-moscow/ri13720

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 Gore presiding 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 Asia until 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

“This situation was created to spoil the relations of Russia with Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

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According to the Russian State Duma Deputy, Yaroslav Nilov, Turkey using the Karabakh conflict is trying to provoke Russia

“Whatever was implemented was provoked by Turkey. Turkey laughs at us, Turkey laughs at you, it laughs at the Cypriots,” said the Russian State Duma deputy, also Deputy Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Yaroslav Nilov, in an exclusive interview with “Aravot”. He thinks that the war waged by Azerbaijan on the Karabakh-Azerbaijani border in the last days is provoked by Turkey to subjugate Russia to provocation.

Our interlocutor reminded that Russia is Armenia’s strategic partner but since the very first day of the tension of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia’s statements from official circles were very neutral towards both sides: Yerevan (and not let’s say, Stepanakert) and Baku. We asked what to expect from our strategic partner. “The issue is very delicate and not so easily resolved. Do you understand that this is done to provoke Russia? Therefore, Russia runs a very careful, thoughtful and balanced policy, at the same time taking into account the friendly relations with its neighbors, – says Mr. Nilov, adding, – “For us, it is important that there are no shootings causing people’s death and civilians to suffer. Therefore, everything possible is done by the political leadership – the Foreign Ministry and other agencies – to resolve the problem and blow down the tension.”

Russian State Duma deputy pointed out that the Russian leadership visits both countries: Yerevan and Baku, in the framework of the NK peace process, trying to find reconciliation and not giving in to the provocations, “Because this situation was created to spoil Russia’s relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan,” – again reiterates our interlocutor, reminding that when last year, on April 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin had arrived in Armenia for the centenary of the Genocide, Turkish President Erdoğan did not like it. According to our interlocutor, Turkey is using the Karabakh problem in this region for solving its political problems.

Russian MP notes that the negotiation process aimed at the solution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict does not have great success, and as to what it necessary to change the format, he finds it difficult to answer, “Our party leader, Zhirinovsky, said that the problem can be solved if Armenia and Azerbaijan become a part of Russia. For the rest of the cases, the problem will be difficult to be resolved because each side will present its hypotheses and facts while our task is to stop the bloodshed in this issue,” says Yaroslav Nilov.

Source: http://en.aravot.am/2016/04/08/175479/

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.

Analyst: No interest for Russia in all-out war in Karabakh, Russia preparing for another war

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A full-blown war in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not in the interest of Russia, which is preparing for another war, according to a Yerevan-based political analyst. Sergey Shakaryants believes that Russia as well as another major regional player, Iran, are now more preoccupied with preparations for a likely war with Turkey.

“If Iran is amassing a large number of troops at the border with Turkey, if Russia from year to year beefs up its military bases in Armenia, Abkhazia and elsewhere in the region, it is not being done for a re-conquest of the South Caucasus and reestablishment of its empire, but is being done for a war in Turkey’s territory,” the analyst contended.

Shakaryants did not elaborate on how exactly Russia or Iran could war against NATO member Turkey, only mentioning the Kurdish factor inside Turkey and stressing that they should be ready for “all sorts of complicated developments”. Relations between Russia and Turkey dramatically worsened last year amid Moscow’s military operations in Syria apparently annoying Ankara. It followed the downing of a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border by Turkey’s air force.

When four-day hostilities were raging in Nagorno-Karabakh earlier this month killing scores on both sides a lot of inside and outside observers pointed an accusatory finger at Turkey, a key ally of Azerbaijan, suspecting that this way it tried to engage in a proxy war with Russia that would be, in this case, represented by the latter’s political and military ally in the region, Armenia. Some, however, also saw Moscow’s hand, or at least its “green light”, behind Azerbaijan’s aggression, considering that Russia supplies modern weaponry to both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh ground to a halt on April 5 after Russia’s mediation effort as senior military officials from Armenia and Azerbaijan verbally agreed on a ceasefire at a meeting in Moscow. Despite sporadic gunfire and skirmishes at the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and the restive Armenian-Azerbaijani border, the ceasefire largely holds today. Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on Thursday that the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh should be resolved through peaceful negotiations, by way of compromises.

“That’s a very sensitive issue, and it seems to me that we have to treat it very carefully, being guided by the well-known principle of medics – do no harm,” Putin said, adding that Russia will continue to work within international bodies and engage with Armenia and Azerbaijan bilaterally to promote a solution to the problem.


Russia slams Turkey’s position on Karabakh clashes

Russia slams Turkey’s position on Karabakh clashes

Russia on Friday denounced Turkey’s position on the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorny Karabakh region after a Russian-mediated ceasefire ended the worst clashes in decades in the breakaway enclave. “Statements made by Turkish leaders are totally unacceptable for one simple reason - they are calling not for peace but for war,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference in the Armenian capital of Yerevan. Turkey pledged its full support to its traditional ally Azerbaijan after the latest deadly clashes erupted in Karabakh between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces on April 2. “Unfortunately, we have already got accustomed to such quirks from the current Turkish leadership,” Lavrov added.

In a war in the 1990s that claimed some 30,000 lives, separatists backed by Yerevan seized control of the mountainous region inside Azerbaijan that is home to a majority of ethnic Armenians. More than 100 people have been killed on both sides in fierce clashes that ended with a Russian-mediated ceasefire on April 6. The outbreak sparked fears of a wider conflict that could drag in regional powers Russia and Turkey, which have been at loggerheads since Turkey shot down a Russian warplane in Syria in November. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared that “Karabakh will one day return to its original owner” while his prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, vowed to stand by Baku “until the apocalypse.”

Moscow has sold arms to both Armenia and Azerbaijan but has far closer ties to Yerevan, where it has a military base. Azerbaijan and Armenia have never signed a peace deal despite a 1994 ceasefire and sporadic violence on the line of contact regularly claims the lives of soldiers on both sides. Energy-rich Azerbaijan, whose military spending exceeds Armenia’s entire state budget, has repeatedly threatened to take back the breakaway region by force.
 


CSTO Secretary General: Armenia has not used its potential to the full

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Armenia did  not apply to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for help during the escalation of the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh, CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha told reporters today, RIA Novosti reports.  Bordyuzha added that he understood from contacts with the Armenian leadership that “Armenia had not used its potential to the full,” therefore, no requests followed.  Asked whether the CSTO would come to help only in case of assault against the internationally recognized borders of Armenia, the CSTO Secretary General gave a positive answer.  At the same time he noted that the situation in Nagorno Karabakh is of great importance for ensuring security in the area of CSTO responsibility.  “In case of recurrence of hostilities, we’ll witness an active and direct armed confrontation that will “explode” the whole Caucasus. Many countries will get involved in the conflict, and it will affect many peoples in the Caucasus. It’s very serious and ensuring peace in Karabakh is a must today, otherwise a very large-scale war will burst in the Caucasus. I’d not like to see that,” Boryuzha declared.

Source: https://www.armradio.am/en/2016/04/26/armenia-has-not-used-its-potential-to-the-full-bordyuzha/

Why Russia's hopes for a peace deal in Nagorno-Karabakh may be fading

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Even with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shuttling between Baku and Yerevan to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it appears that both sides – Armenia and Azerbaijan – are hardening their positions.

Back in 2013, Foreign Policy magazine’s editor-in-chief Susan Glasser called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “Minister Nyet,” likening him to Soviet statesman Andrei Gromyko, who was legendary for his firmness in conducting negotiations with the American side during the Cold War. Lavrov will need all of this firmness and resolve in attempting to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. After the breakout of unprecedented armed hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh on Apr. 2, Russia’s “hard-drinking, hard-charging, relentless and smart negotiator” has been engaged in bringing about a durable ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. His goal has been to reconcile the positions of Yerevan, Baku and Stepanakert [the capital and the largest city of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic] to enable a breakthrough in stalled negotiations.

On Apr. 22 Lavrov had another face-to-face encounter with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in Yerevan, the second since the four-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The meeting shows that getting Armenia and Azerbaijan to agree on anything is going to be a nearly impossible challenge. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s initially hopeful statement about the availability of “all necessary elements” for a negotiated solution transformed into a request “to move forward in the political process even a little.” Armenia suggested that even this might not be possible, claiming that the Azerbaijani offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh, which killed at least a hundred combatants on each side, has created new realities on the ground.

Russia – the default peacemaker in the Caucasus – is navigating between two very difficult positions in the mountains of Karabakh. Russia’s real negotiating power, as well as its perceived power to resolve the conflict by the local parties - has been weakened for many reasons. Back in 2013, Foreign Policy magazine’s editor-in-chief Susan Glasser called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “Minister Nyet,” likening him to Soviet statesman Andrei Gromyko, who was legendary for his firmness in conducting negotiations with the American side during the Cold War. Lavrov will need all of this firmness and resolve in attempting to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

After the breakout of unprecedented armed hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh on Apr. 2, Russia’s “hard-drinking, hard-charging, relentless and smart negotiator” has been engaged in bringing about a durable ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. His goal has been to reconcile the positions of Yerevan, Baku and Stepanakert [the capital and the largest city of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic] to enable a breakthrough in stalled negotiations.

On Apr. 22 Lavrov had another face-to-face encounter with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in Yerevan, the second since the four-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The meeting shows that getting Armenia and Azerbaijan to agree on anything is going to be a nearly impossible challenge.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s initially hopeful statement about the availability of “all necessary elements” for a negotiated solution transformed into a request “to move forward in the political process even a little.” Armenia suggested that even this might not be possible, claiming that the Azerbaijani offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh, which killed at least a hundred combatants on each side, has created new realities on the ground. Russia – the default peacemaker in the Caucasus – is navigating between two very difficult positions in the mountains of Karabakh. Russia’s real negotiating power, as well as its perceived power to resolve the conflict by the local parties - has been weakened for many reasons.

All this, in Lavrov’s words, had been part of a negotiating deal on the table “three or four years ago.” It remained on paper because of the maximalist position of Baku. To make things even more difficult, Azerbaijan has allegedly revoked its signature from the 1994 ceasefire agreement in a written communication to the UN Security Council on Apr. 14. This, according to the worldview in Baku, relieves it from obligations of the non-use of force – something that has nothing to do with principles of international law.

How are sustainable peace and negotiations even possible in a crisis where one of the parties drives the situation to the brink of war and outside players have extremely limited leverage? This is the challenge facing the diplomats across the line of contact, as well as in Washington, Moscow and Paris. For now, hawks and other irrational players are running the show – and that’s what makes the situation so dangerous.

Source: http://www.russia-direct.org/opinion/why-russias-hopes-peace-deal-nagorno-karabakh-may-be-fading

 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 acquisitions shows 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] or not [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

Financial Times: Russia senses opportunity in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

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As one of Europe’s most intractable conflicts teeters on the brink of war, Russia has gone into diplomatic overdrive. Fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh left more than 100 dead earlier this month and plunged a two-decade-old multinational peace process into crisis. In response, Russian president Vladimir Putin sprang into action, brokering a ceasefire at talks in Moscow and dispatching some of his most senior lieutenants to the region. Analysts and diplomats say Moscow’s move to act as peace broker could allow it to increase its already substantial influence in an energy-rich region that is a key focus of EU plans to diversify gas supplies from Russia.
“Strategically, when the US has been so silent, Putin has filled a vacuum that leaves the impression in Baku and Yerevan that they are alone, that he’s the only game in town,” says Matthew Bryza, a former US ambassador to Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh — a mountainous region roughly the size of Luxembourg — lies within the borders of Azerbaijan but is populated by ethnic Armenians. The conflict began in the dying days of the Soviet Union, and expanded into a bloody war that left more than 20,000 dead and 1m displaced. The region has run its own affairs with support from Armenia since a ceasefire in 1994. When the worst fighting since that ceasefire broke out on the night of Friday April 1, Russia’s foreign and defence ministers were making calls to their Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts within hours. A few days later it was in Moscow that a truce was hammered out — at a trilateral meeting between the Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani army chiefs. Days later, the Russian foreign minister and prime minister were in Baku and Yerevan. Moscow’s energetic diplomacy overshadowed the work of the OSCE Minsk Group — a multilateral body, co-chaired by the US, France and Russia, that since 1994 has been working to find a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The group did not meet until Tuesday April 5 — by which time Moscow had already brokered a ceasefire agreement. “It took me by great surprise that it took the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs a considerable length of time to convene,” says Tahir Taghizadeh, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to London.
When the US has been so silent, Putin has filled a vacuum that leaves the impression in Baku and Yerevan that they are alone, that he’s the only game in town - Matthew Bryza, former US ambassador to Azerbaijan
Armenia’s foreign ministry, in a written response to questions from the FT, said: “We are grateful for Russian efforts so far and we are hopeful that they will continue until a final resolution is reached.” Mr Taghizadeh criticises the west’s lack of engagement: “The whole situation with the ceasefire regime not holding any more [ … ] is a direct consequence of the inability or unwillingness of the international community to act on this conflict.” Indeed, US diplomats privately concede that there is little appetite in Washington to launch a new diplomatic push on Nagorno-Karabakh in the waning days of the Obama administration, according to people briefed on their thinking. One western diplomat ruefully recounts requesting satellite images of the Nagorno-Karabakh front lines when the fighting broke out, only to be told that all of the satellites in the region were pointing to Ukraine and Syria. Still, Nagorno-Karabakh, located at the seam of Europe, Russia, Iran and Turkey, has the potential to destabilise the entire Caucasus region, say analysts. The EU has tried to forge closer ties with former Soviet states in the region, which is also strategically vital to the bloc as an energy supplier. The main oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey at one point runs less than 30 miles from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Reconstructing the events of the four-day war is a challenge: there was little or no independent reporting from the front lines during the fighting, and the conflict is the focus of heavy propaganda domestically and internationally for both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Each side accuses the other of starting the fighting. But as Thomas de Waal, an expert on the Caucasus at Carnegie Europe, says, exchanges of fire across the line of contact have become commonplace: “It’s not really the question who fired the first shot, the question is who escalated and why.” The escalation appears to have been driven by Azerbaijan, which advanced beyond the line of contact to seize new land in the form of a few “strategic heights” — an escalation unprecedented since the 1994 ceasefire. Mr Taghizadeh confirms as much. Using a metaphor of a homeowner defending his house from squatters, he argues that “you will have to take up the shotgun at some point”. The result is an increasingly dangerous simmering conflict. “If this isn’t a wake-up call what is,” Mr de Waal says. “This could happen again any time.”

Russia has looked to strengthen economic and political ties with both countries in the wake of the flare-up. In Yerevan last week, Gazprom agreed to extend a gas supply contract with Armenia and cut already low gas prices. In Baku, Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, discussed a proposed railway line from Russia to Iran via Azerbaijan. Moscow even appeared to briefly put aside its dispute with Turkey to push for de-escalation: the OSCE Minsk Group, which consists of nine permanent members including both Russia and Turkey, condemned the violence — marking the first time a statement has been issued by the entire group, and not just the co-chairs. Nonetheless, Russia is not a wholly stabilising influence. Moscow will continue to sell arms to both sides — it is overwhelmingly the largest supplier to both the Azerbaijani and Armenian militaries — deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin said this week. And people who have worked on the settlement process say that neither side would have faith in a lasting peace brokered by Moscow alone. As Mr Bryza, who served as US ambassador to the Minsk Group for three years, says: “The key to resolving this is to get the two presidents to have sufficient trust in each other, and Russia is not going to be able to do that.”


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 Syria and 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.


International Business Times: Armenia-Russia Ties Under Question Amid Fighting

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At a recent thousand-strong demonstration in the capital of Armenia, Davit Sanasaryan took out a couple of eggs and threw them at the Russian Embassy. The gesture provoked both ridicule and approval in this small landlocked country that traditionally values very close ties with its large northern neighbor. “Our protests are not against Russia but against Russian policy and Putinism,” activist and politician Sanasaryan said in an interview with International Business Times last week. A similar rally took place Thursday as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov flew into Yerevan for a two-day visit. This time, protestors delivered a Molotov cocktail to embassy staff. 

Explicit anti-Kremlin protests are a new phenomenon in Armenia and come amid a wave of instability in the Southern Caucasus, which is flanked by Russia, Iran and Turkey. This month over 100 people were killed when the mountainous territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan, saw its most deadly outbreak of violence in 22 years.

The volatility appears to be part of a ripple effect from Syria’s persistent civil war and a new jostling between old regional foes Russia and Turkey. Moscow’s relationship with Ankara collapsed last year after a Turkish fighter shot down a Russian jet operating near the Syria-Turkey border in the Kremlin’s continuing military intervention in the Syrian civil war. 

“Armenia is clearly feeling nervous and somewhat unsure of Russia’s game plan … Some will be asking whether Armenia is Russia’s sacrificial lamb herein in the greater game being played out in the region and globally with the West,” Timothy Ash, an emerging markets strategist at Japanese financial holding Nomura International in London, wrote in a note to investors last week.

Protestors in Yerevan, many of whom are inspired by popular uprisings in Ukraine and neighboring Georgia against pro-Russian regimes, are particularly angered by Russia’s role in the so-called Four-Day War that erupted at the beginning of April in Nagorno-Karabakh and saw the use of tanks, heavy artillery and drones by both sides. The conflict has largely been frozen since a ceasefire in 1994, but Nagorno-Karabakh remains a fiercely important territorial dispute among Armenians and Azeris.

There is disappointment among the protestors over a lack of reaction from Moscow to small advances by Azeri forces and anger over Russian sales of sophisticated weaponry to Baku, the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan. “Lots of people think that Russia is a military ally and a friend, but a military ally and friend cannot sell arms to our adversary,” activist Sanasaryan said. And there are allegations in Armenia that Moscow is deliberately making concessions to Azerbaijan to woo it away from Turkey, a natural partner given the countries’ shared ethnicity and common Islam faith, and draw it closer into Russia’s economic and political orbit. 

“Armenia is a toy, a mechanism for Russia to contain Turkic countries and regulate its relationship with them — the same as it has been for hundreds of years. Nothing has changed,” said Manvel Sargsyan, director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, a think tank founded by former foreign minister and now opposition politician Raffi Hovannisian. “Russia is on the verge of losing Armenia as an ally,” he added.

While public hostility toward Russia is generally confined to a small group of well-educated people in Yerevan and poses no immediate threat to the political establishment, it is another well of discontent that could strengthen domestic opposition to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, who has been in charge of the 3-million-strong, largely Christian country since 2008. 

“Above all we have to demand something from our own government … I don’t accept Putin as my president, so why should I ask something of him?” said Maksim Sarkisyan, 28, an activist who played a key role in mass street demonstrations, known as Electric Yerevan, which engulfed the Armenian capital last summer after tariff rises precipitated by a Russian energy company. “It’s not important whether it is Russia or the European Union but just that our country has the chance to develop normally,” Sarkisyan said.

Russia has firmly rejected calls for it to stop selling weapons to Armenia and Azerbaijan, maintaining that its policy ensures a balance. And top Russian officials have accused third parties of provoking a war in order to promote their regional agendas.

“Events in Nagorno-Karabakh bear witness to another effort by forces hostile to Russia to shatter peace between the Armenian and Azeri peoples and create yet another hotbed of war,” the head of Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin said in an interview last week. Strident statements of support for Azerbaijan issued by Turkey during the fighting were fiercely condemned by Moscow, and Russian officials accused Ankara of warmongering.

But there are few signs Russia is about to turn its back on Armenia, which is one of only four former Soviet states to join the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union. Russia provides training for Armenian troops and has a large military base in Gyumri, the country’s second-largest city. The Kremlin played a key role in ending the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, with a ceasefire agreed by the Azeri and Armenian chiefs of general staff during a meeting in Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have both visited Yerevan this month.

The pressing issue of its day-to-day security gives Yerevan little room for maneuver and appears to trump Armenia’s close economic and cultural links with Europe. Armenia’s number one trading partner is Germany not Russia and its Christian heritage and role in the Antique world gives the country a tradition of closer ties to Europe than the Slavic world.

Experts point out that Armenia has few other possible allies even if it were to seek to replace Russia. After a Russian-sponsored separatist rebellion in Ukraine when the country saw a pro-Europe uprising, it is unlikely the United States or the European Union would be able to offer any meaningful security guarantees to Armenia. Neighboring Iran has few ambitions in the South Caucasus and Yerevan has no diplomatic relations with Turkey because of the mass killings of Armenians in the then-Ottoman Empire in 1915 that Ankara refuses to recognize as genocide.

“If we don’t get weapons from Russia, where will we get them from? Fighting with sticks doesn’t work out too well,” said Alexander Iskandaryan, the director of the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan. “Those kids with eggs on the street see it in 'either or' terms… Armenian could become a member of the EU, of NATO, of whatever the hell it wants but Russia will still be nearby and will still play an important role in the region,” he said.


 Guess Who's Funding Anti-Russian Protests in Armenia?


Armenian activist David Sanasaryan with Mikheil Saakashvili

April 28, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "NEO"- Another day, another protest in Armenia. And if we were to simply believe the Western media regarding this ‘other protest,’ we might get the impression that the Armenian people are upset with Russian policy and “Putinism.” In reality, the protests are led by the same verified US-proxies exposed at the height of the “Electric Yerevan” protests mid-2015 which sought to undermine and overthrow the current government of Armenia in favor of a pro-Western political front more to Wall Street, London, and Brussels’ liking. The International Business Times in their article, “Armenia-Russia Ties Under Question Amid Fighting, Anti-Moscow Protests,” would report regarding the recent protests that:
At a recent thousand-strong demonstration in the capital of Armenia, Davit Sanasaryan took out a couple of eggs and threw them at the Russian Embassy. The gesture provoked both ridicule and approval in this small landlocked country that traditionally values very close ties with its large northern neighbor. “Our protests are not against Russia but against Russian policy and Putinism,” activist and politician Sanasaryan said in an interview with International Business Times last week.
Davit Sanasaryan (also spelled “David Sanasaryan”), among other things, is an opposition politician with the Heritage Party who helped lead the previous US-backed “Electric Yerevan protests in mid-2015. He is also an associate of the Armenian-based National Citizens’ Initiative (NCI), revealed in the NCI’s own news bulletin titled, “NCI Focuses on Armenia’s Mining Sector,” which reports (emphasis added):
NCI associate Davit Sanasarian welcomed the audience with opening remarks. “The exploitation of the Teghut mine is an actual matter and it calls for serious discussions and proper suggestions prior to the undertaking of this project,” he said.
This bulletin alone seems innocuous enough, however, another NCI bulletin would reveal itself to be coordinating with and receiving aid from the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The bulletin titled, “NCI Partakes in a Civil Society Meeting,” states (emphasis added):
The National Citizens’ Initiative (NCI) representatives attended, between 14 and 15 April 2011, the conference entitled “Assisting Armenia’s Civil Society Organizations.” This event was an initiative of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) organization and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Yerevan Office, and it was organized with the assistance of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The objective of the conference was to contribute in developing the capacity of Armenia’s civil society organizations by way of cooperation and exchange of know-how with Central and Eastern European civil society associations.
Of course, considering that the US NED is chaired by pro-war corporate-financier representatives, “developing the capacity of civil society organizations” in Armenia was not actually on the agenda. Instead, creating a proxy front with which to control Armenia on behalf of foreign interests was, merely couched behind “civil society.” Sanasarian’s “association” with the NCI in this context, is troubling to say the least.

But Sanasarian’s association with the US NED extends far beyond this. He is also on the board of trustees of the Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs (AIISA), an alleged think-tank that is directly funded by the US NED. His position on the board of trustees is revealed in an AIISA bulletin titled, “AIISA’s Third Evening DemSchool: “Challenges to Democracy,”” which claims:
In partnership with the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the third 11-day evening DemSchool was launched at the Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs with “Challenges to Democracy” heading.
It also stated:
Certificate award ceremony was held on the DemSchool 11th day. David Sanasaryan, member of AIISA Board of Trustees, young politician and activist, also participated in it.
Added to this, is Sanasarian’s role in the US-backed 2015 protests. It was revealed in mid-2015 that the so-called “Electric Yerevan” protests were in fact led entirely by US-funded and directed nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Sanasarian’s involvement then, again implicates him in coordinating with and receiving aid from a foreign government in a bid to undermine his own government. At the time, US State Department-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) would report in its article, “Armenians Say They’ll Restart ‘Electric Yerevan’ Protest,” that:
At a Yerevan rally attended by several hundred activists on July 17, Rise Armenia leader and opposition Heritage party city councilor Davit Sanasarian said a new campaign against the electricity price hikes would take place from July 27 to July 31, with demonstrators blocking the central streets of Yerevan and other cities around the country. “We continue our fight. We will be distributing leaflets from door to door,” Sanasarian said. “We will be successful.”
RFE/RL would inadvertently admit that the protesters were simply using electricity prices as a pretext to come out into the streets and that their next move would be of a more political nature, targeting Armenia’s sitting government. In other words, it was a US-funded color revolution couched behind legitimate concerns regarding utility prices. Considering these extensive ties to US-backing, Sanasarian’s role leading the current anti-Russian protests portrays him not as a ‘politician’ or an ‘activist,’ but as a foreign-funded proxy, and the protests themselves as foreign-engineered meddling, not legitimate dissent. Claims that he is fighting against Russian influence, while all along he is serving as a conduit for Wall Street, London, and Brusssels’ influence touches upon the sort of hypocrisy seen again and again amid engineered protests targeting the many enemies of Western hegemony worldwide.


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.

Source: https://hetq.am/eng/news/67263/opinion-moscow-intends-to-deploy-peacekeepers-in-nagorno-karabagh---6-facts.html

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.
 


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

http://cdn.timesofisrael.com/uploads/2016/04/Azerbaijan-Armenia_Horo-2.jpg

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

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


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.


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

What's Israel's Role in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict?

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With the decades-long Azeri-Armenian conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region burning out of control for four intense, blood-soaked days at the beginning of this month, questions have emerged over the secretive role played by Israel in the conflict.

Late last week, commenting on the recent escalation of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman blamed Armenia for provoking four days of clashes which left over a hundred dead and dozens wounded. Azerbaijan, Lieberman said, had "no reasons for escalating the conflict," despite extensive reports confirming that Azerbaijan was the party that launched offensive operations to regain control of territory in the Armenia-backed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

For its part, the Azeri Defense Ministry called the operation, which resulted in the taking of several strategic heights and settlements, a successful 'counteroffensive' launched in response to Armenian shelling. Lieberman's words would be echoed by retired Israel Defense Forces general Ephraim Sneh, who emphasized in a Friday op-ed for Al-Monitor that Azerbaijan is Israel's "strategic ally," and that at the moment, Baku "needs all the diplomatic help [Israel] can muster." Sneh slammed Tel Aviv for "staying silent" in Baku's hour of need, explaining that Azerbaijan is one of Israel's only friends in the Islamic world, and adding that Israel needs Azerbaijan to ensure its energy security, with Baku providing the Jewish State with some 40% of its oil. Russia's mediation of the conflict, Sneh suggested, has been disastrous for Baku, with the "status quo" that emerged in 1994 following the six-year war which began in the late 1980s "convenient for everyone, except for Azerbaijan."

Blaming Armenia for violations of the ceasefire (and absolving the Azeris of their own violations), Sneh candidly admitted that Baku started the latest bloodshed, and suggested that Azerbaijan's challenging of the status quo may actually work in its favor. Saying that the current Moscow-brokered ceasefire, is "tenuous at best and not expected to last long," the general says that he is hopeful that "now that Azerbaijan has proved its military superiority, there is a chance for real diplomatic negotiations that could lead to an agreement between the two countries," i.e. for the ethnically Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to give its territory. In this sense, Sneh says, the Azeris could take a lesson from Tel Aviv and negotiate according to a formula of "land for peace," which Israel used in the late 1970s in negotiations with Egypt to return the Sinai Peninsula.

This time, Sneh argues, the Azeris should do the same, but in reverse, promising Armenia peace in exchange for Nagorno-Karabakh. "Armenia's weak economy could stand to benefit from such an agreement." Moreover, "improved economic relations with Turkey are just one important economic benefit that Armenia can be assured of as soon as it withdraws from the occupied Azeri territories." "Meanwhile, Azerbaijan needs much more robust diplomatic support than it is receiving today." Unfortunately, Sneh complains, Baku hasn't been getting it from Israel.

But just how silent has Tel Aviv actually been? To begin with, hints of the extensive military cooperation between the two countries emerged in the first days of the conflict, indicating that Israeli 'suicide drones' were being used by Azeri forces in the course of their offensive. The Harop unmanned aerial vehicle, which acts as a 'kamikaze' capable of destroying targets by ramming into them, is produced by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI). ​According to French intelligence newsletter Intelligence Online, in addition to drones, Israel also provides Baku with advanced radar systems, control and command posts, and other intelligence-collection equipment, and has even entered a bid to provide Baku with a $150 million observation satellite. Israel has refused to confirm or deny its sale of drones, or other weaponry, to Azerbaijan. However, Meretz party chairwoman Zehava Galon came out publically warning that Israel intends to send more drones to Baku. In a letter addressed to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Galon urged that the Israeli government should stop weapons deliveries to the Azeris until it could be assured that Baku would halt the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.

At the same time, Israeli security and intelligence specialist Yossi Melman says that Israel has a massive, but highly secretive, defense footprint in Azerbaijan. In his analysis for The Jerusalem Post, Melman explained that Israel and Azerbaijan enjoy annual trade which is "$5 billion larger than between Israel and France." Moreover, he said, "most of the content remains confidential, and consists of Azeri oil sold to Israel and Israeli weapons and intelligence technologies purchased by Azerbaijan." From modest beginnings in the early 1990s, Azerbaijan has grown to become "the second-biggest market in Asia, after India, for Israeli weapons," with Israeli defense companies enjoying literally billions of dollars in sales in the Caucasian state. At the same time, Melman indicates, "the best promoters of the military sales and ties are Israeli ministers and officials who visit the Caucasian nation."

"This week," the analyst recalls, "The Washington Post enabled the world to have a peeping window into the secret relations [between the two countries] when it published a photo of an Israeli-made 'suicidal drone' exploding itself on a bus leading Armenian combatants to the front lines. Seven people were killed, and the Armenian government protested to Israel."

"A few days after the incident, military journalists visited Israeli Aerospace Industries facilities and were briefed on the various products, from drones to satellites, which the company has to offer. An IAI spokeswoman was asked if the company was behind the Washington Post revelation. She refused to answer but openly smiled when one reporter commented that such a photo is good for business and promotes sales of products that can be labeled 'battle proven'."

In addition to military ties, Melman notes that the two countries also have strong intelligence ties, with Mossad given permission to set up a large station in Azerbaijan, taking advantage of the region's geography to run operations throughout the North Caucasus. Both Russian and Iranian officials have previously accused Azerbaijan of allowing Mossad to use their territory for espionage activities, the latter indicating that the Israeli missions included everything from "recruiting and planting agents," to "communication interception and aerial reconnaissance," Melman explained. Moreover, he added, "more than a year ago Iran claimed to have shot down an Israeli-made drone," claims which Israeli officials have refused to comment on. Pointing to the secretive nature of political, defense and intelligence cooperation between the two countries, the analyst noted that "it was [Azeri President Ilham] Alieyev himself who was quoted in a WikiLeaks cable sent from the US Embassy in Baku [saying] that 'bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Israel are like an iceberg. Nine-tenths are below the surface.'"

Ultimately, Melmen notes, "seemingly, Israel and Azerbaijan are an odd couple, not meant to be with each other," with the Caucasian nation not really serving as a model of Western democracy, being run by the same family since 1991, and facing issues including corruption and the suppression of free media. "On the other hand, Israel is not too selective in choosing friends when it comes to weapons sales and national interests. A quick look at the map," showing that Azerbaijan borders Iran, Israel's sworn enemy, "can explain Israeli priorities."

 Nagorno-Karabakh Witnesses Debut Of 'Kamikaze Drone'

Harop After Launch

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 .


U.S. embassy in Yerevan denies accusation of fueling anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia

The U.S. embassy in Yerevan issued a statement today denying the allegation that appeared recently in Russia's Izvestia media resource that the United States directly finances opposition parties in Armenia for fueling anti-Russian sentiments.  «In an article published recently in Izvestia the paper claims that alleged sources in the Russian Embassy in Yerevan and in Armenian diplomatic circles say the U.S. is directly sponsoring pro-opposition parties, particularly to advance an anti-Russian narrative in Armenia,» the embassy says in its statement.    «We have just one thing to say to that: нет ('no' in Russian). The surreal claims in the article could not be further from the truth. The Embassy and USAID proudly – and transparently – provide funding to various civil society organizations, giving them the tools and resources to strengthen democratic institutions and make life better for the average Armenian.»   «We’re proud Armenian civil society remains one of the strongest, freest, and most vital in the region. Maybe Izvestia should look at the state of civil society in Russia and compare?

Source: http://arka.am/en/news/politics

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 mile border 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. 


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.


Estranged From Russia, Turkey and Ukraine Join Forces

Turkey Ukraine

Moscow’s intervention in Syria may have achieved its objective of bolstering the Assad regime, at least temporarily, against various opposition groups in Syria’s civil war, but it has complicated its strategic position in the Black Sea by poisoning relations with Ankara. Moscow’s repeated violations of Turkish airspace in its Syria campaign, the Turkish shoot-down of a Russian warplane, and the Kremlin’s economic sanctions and threats of retaliation have spoiled a decades long successful effort by Moscow to court Ankara. In the process, it has spurred Turkish security cooperation with Georgia and especially Ukraine. During the Cold War, Turkey was NATO’s strong southern anchor against the Soviet Union.  Even in the 1990s, Ankara continued to treat Moscow with suspicion, evident, for instance, in its refusal to consider easing limitations for Russian conventional force deployments in the south during negotiations of the Conventional Forces Europe Flanks Agreement at that time.

Yet, following Ankara’s refusal to permit American forces to enter Iraq through Turkey in 2003, Moscow saw an opening and began a careful campaign to cultivate better relations with Turkey.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rise to power and his pursuit of policies in the Middle East that, at times, clashed with Washington’s own in the region, provided fertile grounds for Putin’s efforts. So too did the growing Russian-Turkish economic relationship, with major Turkish construction projects and the prospects of Russian gas flowing to Turkey through Turkish Stream.

The advantages of this courtship for Moscow were evident following its annexation of Crimea in the spring of 2014. Ankara has always maintained a special relationship with the Tatars of Crimea, a remnant from the Tatar Khanate that ruled the peninsula under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire until Moscow took it after defeating the Ottomans in the late eighteenth century.  The Tatars who returned to Crimea in the 1990s after Stalin forcefully resettled them in Central Asia during World War II, have been staunch Ukrainian patriots ever since.  Representing at least 13 percent of the population of Crimea, they have opposed Moscow’s seizure and annexation of Crimea.  As a consequence, Crimean leader Mustafa Djemilev has been banned from returning to Crimea and the Tatar community has been subject to severe repression.

Moscow’s annexation of Crimea prompted sanctions from the West on Russian officials and businessmen, and the West also threatened sanctions for foreigners conducting their business there. The official Turkish reaction to the annexation was mild.  While refusing to recognize the annexation and calling for the protection of the Crimean Tatars, Ankara chose not to criticize Moscow’s actions. Turkey didn’t impose sanctions on Russia, and Turkish airlines even reestablished flights to Simferopol, the regional capital of Crimea. Putin’s decade-long attention to Ankara and especially Erdogan had paid off.

The fact that Moscow and Ankara were pursuing different policies in Syria was not an impediment to this Russian-Turkish rapprochement. Since the start of civil unrest in Syria in 2011, the Kremlin has firmly backed the Assad regime, and Ankara has supported the Turcoman ethnic group in northern Syria and then various Islamic groups.  But Moscow’s intervention in Syria, last fall, changed the equation for two reasons. First, the Kremlin decided to demonstrate its contempt for NATO by repeatedly violating Turkish airspace during its bombing runs. Second, despite its intention to take the war to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Moscow’s bombing campaign was directed more against moderate opposition groups in Syria’s northwest, including the Turcomans. Moscow violated Turkish airspace three times, despite Turkish diplomatic complaints and warnings. The fourth time, on November 24, the Turks shot down the Russian warplane.

Moscow realized that it had overplayed its hand and tried to downplay the incident in its official reaction. Both Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu denied publicly that the Turks had taken their plane out. But when Erdogan took credit for defending Turkish airspace, the Kremlin reacted sharply with economic sanctions, threats of military retaliation, and the deployment of Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft systems and warplanes to Syria’s northern border with Turkey. Moscow then dared the Turks to act again by sending planes into Turkey’s airspace.

Putin’s declaration of victory in Syria and partial drawdown there has reduced the danger of a direct Russian-Turkish military confrontation. With his prestige high, Putin has less need get even with Ankara for last November’s embarrassment. But the damage has been done. The consequences are evident in the Black Sea. Less than two months after the shoot-down, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov visited Ankara to discuss defense industry cooperation and Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin followed within weeks. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu traveled to Kyiv in early March and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko returned the favor with a stop in Ankara shortly thereafter.

The tangible result of these visits has been the blossoming of  the Ukraine-Turkish defense relationship.  Besides burgeoning cooperation in defense industries, Ukraine and Turkey naval forces conducted joint training in the Black Sea last week to ensure their ability to operate together “in accordance with NATO standards.” This followed an initial naval exercise in the Sea of Marmara in March. At the same time, Turkey’s policy coordination with Georgia and Azerbaijan is growing. All these countries share a major interest in thwarting Moscow’s revanchist policies. Moscow’s unnecessarily provocative policy in Syria has encouraged Turkey to play a much more active role in this enterprise. This certainly satisfied.

Source: http://www.newsweek.com/estranged-russia-turkey-and-ukraine-join-forces-447473

Opinion: «Ankara pulls Georgia and Azerbaijan in Russian-Turkish conflict»

http://en.apa.az/upload/images/news/2016/february/19/big/7f7818450a91aca45498dfdd8097451c.PNG

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, talking to Georgian journalists in Strasbourg, has stressed that he intends to raise the issue of Georgia’s accession to NATO under the accelerated procedure. “Georgia can join NATO without going through the Programme of Action for membership in the alliance. Technically, it is quite feasible. We fully support Georgia’s accession to NATO, and I will put this question at the forthcoming NATO meeting in May,” mentioned the Turkish Foreign Minister. This is an anti-Russian step by Turkey in the framework of the ongoing Russian-Turkish confrontation, – says Mikhayil Alexandrov, leading expert at the Center for Military-Political Studies, MGIMO, doctor of political science. “Turkey’s attempts to speed up the process of Georgia’s membership in NATO will not end successfully, NATO members will not support such an initiative, but the very posing of this question is an open anti-Russian policy,” told RUSARMINFO Mikhayil Alexandrov. According to the expert, Ankara continues to hit Moscow in the Caucasus, strongly encouraging Baku to start a war in Nagorno-Karabakh, and now trying to drag Georgia into the Russian-Turkish conflict, the answer to that will be South Ossetia’s inclusion into Russia. In 2006, the Georgian parliament unanimously voted for Georgia’s integration into NATO. In 2008, Georgia simultaneously with the presidential elections held a referendum, according to the results of which 77 percent of Georgian constituencies voted in favor of Georgia’s accession to NATO.


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.

Source: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/apr/12/elin-suleymanov-azerbaijan-envoy-says-us-help-need/

Armen Ashotyan: Stick with CSTO and Russia for military alliance


The Republic of Armenia relies solely on its own forces, and it shouldn’t despair over other countries’ lack of alliance in the fight with Azerbaijan for Karabakh, Armen Ashotyan, deputy chairman of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), told media Monday. Ashotyan was commenting on current discussions over the passive position of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) – of which Armenia is a member — as well as military ally Russia’s sale of weapons to Azerbaijan.

“The CSTO has a contract, the relevant articles of which have not yet been implemented. Armenia, in respect of these provisions, has not yet applied to the organization, either,” he said, adding that even if Armenia was not a member of the CSTO, it has not yet received any offer for an alternative security system. “We have been an independent state for 25 years, but the West has not offered Armenia an alternative security offer, whereas the CSTO has,” said Ashotyan.

Ashotyan also disagreed with the idea that during the four-day war the myth of Russia’s being Armenia’s strategic ally broke. “Russia remains our strategic ally. You know the opinion of our government about the sale of weapons. There has been no government during the first, the second and the third presidents of Armenia in office, which would call into question the need for a strategic partnership with the Russian Federation,” he said, adding that in foreign policy Armenian authorities should be guided by the overriding interest of the country and society, and the feelings are irrelevant in this case.

Ashotyan assured that Armenia has not exhausted its means of potential assistance from Russia and the CSTO, and he says recent anti-Russian sentiments expressed by some public figures in Armenia are not genuine. The RPA’s deputy chairman also added that at a time when military actions are still going on, certain political forces are trying to create artificial agenda, demanding the resignation of the president and supreme commander.

The fact that Russia sells weapons to the adversary of its alley Armenia and the statements during the four-day war that have not been addressed to a specific side of confronting countries has raised a wave of public anger within different circles in Armenia. There was even an organized protest near the Russian Embassy in Armenia, during which participants of the rally expressed their discontent by chanting different anti-Russian phrases, as well as throwing eggs at the embassy.

Source: https://www.armenianow.com/en/karabakh/2016/05/02/armen-ashotyan-csto-russia-armenia-relations/2406/ 


Heritage: Four New Reasons Why the U.S. Must Stay Engaged in the South Caucasus


Four developments in the South Caucasus merit close attention:
  • Increasing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Armenian-occupied Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno–Karabakh;
  • The upcoming referendum in and possible Russian annexation of the Georgian breakaway territory of South Ossetia;
  • The rise of Iranian meddling in the region; and
  • An increasing Russian military presence in Armenia.
It is therefore in America’s national interest to keep a close eye on developments in the region.

Recent Fighting in Nagorno–Karabakh

The outbreak of fighting between Azerbaijani forces and Armenian military and Armenian-backed militia forces in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno–Karabakh region last month threatens to destabilize an already fragile region even further. Dozens of soldiers from both sides have been killed, and Azerbaijani forces have recaptured some of the territory lost to Armenia in the early 1990s. A cease-fire is in place, but it remains fragile. The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan started in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims on Azerbaijan’s Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. This action resulted in a bloody war that left 30,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands internally displaced. Since 1992, Armenian forces and Armenian-backed militias have occupied almost 20 percent of the territory that the international community recognizes as part of Azerbaijan. Today, Armenia’s occupation of parts of Azerbaijan is no different from Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea in Ukraine or its occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia.

Illegal Referendum in South Ossetia

In August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia, coming as close as 15 miles to the capital city of Tbilisi. Eight years later, several thousand Russian troops occupy the two Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Recently the so-called President of South Ossetia Leonid Tibilov—himself a close friend of Vladimir Putin and a former KGB agent—announced that a referendum will be held to change the constitution, allowing South Ossetia to become part of Russia. The timing of the referendum was left vague, but he said the vote would happen before August 2016. Many of the original inhabitants of South Ossetia have been forcibly removed from their homeland or killed. During the 2008 Russian invasion, many ethnic Ossetians sought to cleanse the region once and for all of the ethnic Georgians living there—all under Russia’s watch. In 1989, South Ossetia had a population of almost 100,000 people. Today, the region has a population of only 30,000, mainly ethnic Russians and Ossetians. The South Ossetia region is internationally recognized as part of Georgia and is occupied by Russia. Therefore, such a referendum has no basis in international law.

Russian Military Buildup in Armenia

In the same way that control of Crimea is important for Russia’s projection of maritime power into the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea, Moscow’s military presence in Armenia is vital for Russia’s force projection in the South Caucasus. Moscow effectively enjoys suzerainty over Yerevan. Armenia is a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). In September 2013, Armenia decided against signing the Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) and instead later joined the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Armenia even voted with Russia in the U.N. General Assembly on Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russia maintains a sizable military presence in Armenia based on an agreement giving Moscow access to bases in that country until 2044. Late last year, Russia and Armenia signed a Combined Regional Air Defense System agreement that essentially allows Moscow to control the airspace in the whole of the South Caucasus. The bulk of the Russian force, consisting of approximately 5,000 soldiers and dozens of fighter planes and attack helicopters, is based around the 102nd Military Base just miles from the border with Turkey—a member of NATO.

Emboldening Iran

Iran is one of the established Eurasian powers and therefore, rightly or wrongly, sees itself as entitled to a special status in the South Caucasus. The deal that was agreed last summer by the international community on Iran’s nuclear weapons program will directly affect Tehran’s policy toward the region in four ways. First, Iran will have more financial resources at its disposal. Thanks to the terms of the Iran deal, Tehran has regained access to $100 billion in unlocked assets. Second, Iran will be less dependent on Russia for diplomatic top cover on the international stage. Now that Tehran is not completely beholden of Moscow for support as it was during the nuclear talks, Iran will have flexibility to compete more aggressively with Russia for influence in the region.Third, Iran now has more confidence on the international stage. In the eyes of the Iranians, the Iran deal was a diplomatic triumph. There is a feeling among those in the government that the experience of the Iran deal can be replicated to advance Iran’s interests in other regions of the world in what Iranian President Hasan Rouhani describes as a “third way” for Iranian foreign policy. Of course, the South Caucasus is included. Fourth, Iran will have more leverage to make economic and trade deals, especially with Armenia, and therefore exert more influence in the region. Before the ink dried on the deal, Iran was talking about massive investment projects in Armenia, especially in electricity and transportation.

Getting Engaged

Moscow continues to exploit ethnic divisions and tensions in the South Caucasus to advance pro-Russian policies that are often at odds with America’s or NATO’s goals in the region. Now that Iran is flush with cash and a new-found confidence, it will be more active in the region. In order to protect its interests, the U.S. therefore needs to:
  • Continue to monitor the situation in Nagorno–Karabakh. Peace talks over Nagorno–Karabakh have been stalled for years, and the U.S. can do very little to bring the parties back to the negotiating table. However, remaining silent on the matter offers implicit approval of the status quo. The U.S. should continue to call for a peaceful solution to the conflict that includes the withdrawal of Armenian forces from all Azerbaijani territories. 
  • Increase targeted economic sanctions if South Ossetia or Abkhazia is annexed by Russia. The U.S. should make it very clear to Russia that annexation of either of the breakaway regions will trigger stronger economic sanctions that target key Russian officials. The U.S. should start now to develop a strategy with its European partners to prepare for this eventuality.
  • Demonstrate a more visible presence in the region. The U.S. needs to be more engaged in the region. Otherwise, a vacuum will be created that is filled by unhealthy Russian and Iranian competition. Occasional Cabinet-level visits need to be followed by regular visits by senior officials from all areas of government, including the diplomatic, defense, economic, energy, and trade sectors.
  • Recognize that Moscow’s support for Armenia is part of a larger Russian strategy. From maximizing diplomatic influence in the region to selling weapons, Moscow benefits in many ways from the “frozen conflicts” around its borders. In addition, Russia’s support for Armenia should be recognized as one part of a larger Russian strategy to undermine NATO member Turkey.

A Grand Strategy

Although the South Caucasus is geographically far away from the U.S., events there can have serious ramifications for the transatlantic community. If the U.S. is to have a grand strategy for dealing with a resurgent Russia