Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei

November 27, 2020

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei

While this press conference contains a shorter Belarus update, it has a wider context and is posted to illustrate Foreign Minister Lavrov’s clear expression of irritation with the west, which he now covers in each of his routine press conferences.  In this one, he handles among other topics, protests across the world, Heiko Maas, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE), International agencies, including the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner being silent and not doing their jobs, as well as strategic stability.

Joint session of the collegiums of the Russian and Belarusian Foreign Ministries, November 26, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have held a joint session of the collegiums of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. By tradition, it took place in a confidential and truly friendly atmosphere.

Using this opportunity, I would like to thank again our Belarusian friends for their traditional hospitality and excellent organisation of work. We highly value these annual meetings in the format of members of the collegiums and other representatives of the two ministries’ top management. They allow us to discuss in detail the most urgent international issues that involve the interests of our countries and need to be addressed.

Despite the complicated epidemiological situation, we managed to meet offline and talk face to face. We had four items on our agenda: relations of our countries with the European Union, participation in UN peacekeeping missions (in part, in the context of the prospects of the CSTO’s involvement in the UN peacekeeping activities), cooperation in the EAEU on forming the Greater Eurasian Partnership and ways of ensuring international information security.

We achieved specific agreements on all of these issues. They are reflected in a resolution that we signed in addition to the plan of consultations between our foreign ministries in 2021. We also spoke about broader cooperation in international organisations, including the CIS, CSTO, EAEU, UN and OSCE.

We and our Belarusian colleagues had to state that unfortunately our US-led Western partners continue persistently promoting their narrow selfish interests in a bid to preserve their hegemony in the world arena. They are using the concept of the “rules-based” world order, setting it directly against universal, commonly recognised standards of international law, including the UN Charter.

We are concerned about the attempts by the Western countries to establish control over international organisations, up to and including privatisation of their secretariats. When this fails, they try to replace collective work in universal formats with private get-togethers where all those who agree with the Western policy make decisions that are later presented as multilateral and binding. It is hardly possible to make us follow these rules. The overwhelming majority of countries are firmly committed to the old, tried-and-tested principle – respect for international law, primarily the UN Charter.

We noted numerous facts of crude interference by the US and those who follow in its wake (I am referring to some European capitals) in the internal affairs of sovereign states. The dirty methods of colour revolutions continue to be used. These include manipulation of public opinion, instigation and support of overtly anti-government forces and contribution to their radicalisation. We are seeing how these methods are being applied to the Republic of Belarus. We spoke about this in detail today both with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who received us before this meeting.

We were informed in great detail about the current developments in Belarus. We are not indifferent to them. The Republic of Belarus is our ally and strategic partner and also a fraternal nation. We are interested in a calm and stable situation in that country. This will be facilitated by the Constitutional reform that was launched by the Belarusian leadership as a major transformation of the political, economic and legal systems.

We believe the Belarusian people are wise and always act in a balanced manner. They are capable of resolving their problems without any outside prompting or obtrusive proposals on unwanted mediation. It is obvious that attempts to jeopardise normalisation are being made. There are many examples of this: a desire to radicalise the protesters, encouraging people to engage in subversion and high treason, which are made, in part, from abroad.

Today we again reviewed in detail the entire range of our ties and ways of protecting the interests of each of our countries, as well as the interests of the Union State of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation.

I would like to emphasise again that we are content with our joint discussion. We will carry out everything we have agreed on today.

Question (addressed to both ministers): On November 18, 2020, your German counterpart Heiko Maas accused the authorities of Belarus of violently suppressing peaceful protests. Having said this, he urged the Council of Europe to use its instruments for monitoring the situation even in those European countries that do not want to join the organisation. Could you comment on this, please?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Vladimir Makei):  We took note of how Germany took over the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE). German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas first made a speech at a closed CMCE meeting and then held a news conference. His speech was unconventional for the presidency of this pan-European body because the main goal of the Council of Europe, which is recorded in its statute, is to promote greater unity of all European countries. By definition, the President, all the more so in the Council of Europe, must focus on enhancing unity in his future work rather than stir up confrontation.

It is no secret that at the CMCE meeting prior to that news conference, Heiko Maas presented his programme for the next sixth months in a politicised vein and unacceptable tone, in a crude, undiplomatic manner. He made a number of Russophobic statements. He had grievances not only as regards the Republic of Belarus but also made groundless Russophobic accusations in respect of Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and southeastern Ukraine. His opinion on the Nagorno-Karabakh agreement also sounded rather strange.

At the news conference Mr Maas urged everyone “to respect the rules-based order.” Our Western colleagues are not going to respect international law as a matter of principle. He did say that the principles of the Council of Europe must be imposed by using relevant instruments, including on those countries that are not members of the Council of Europe. I consider this absolutely unacceptable.

It is indeed strange that of all countries it is Germany that has recently decided to act as a driver of aggressive approaches to the countries that are not NATO or EU members.

Those who are objective and pay attention to double standards will note that neither Mr Maas, nor other Western representatives or UN human rights agencies have said a word about rather serious incidents in France and Germany. There were protests by yellow vests in France, demonstrations against COVID restrictions in Germany and some other countries, and protests against a ban on abortions in Poland. They were dispersed in a very tough manner.

International agencies, including the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, stayed silent. Human rights champions in France covered the yellow vests protests in a completely different manner than they cover events in Russia and Belarus. Only in the beginning did they cautiously urge the sides to overcome their differences. But later the yellow vests began to encounter a tough police response. In the estimate of French human rights activists, almost 15,000 rubber bullets were shot at the protesters; 2,500 people were wounded and 12,000 detained, including 2,000 who were sentenced, in part, to real prison terms. But nobody speaks about this. This is considered normal because these are their compatriots. It is necessary to get rid of this attitude, especially for those who head the Council of Europe.

About a month ago, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric asked us in Moscow about our assessments of the events in the Republic of Belarus. She received our answers and inquired whether the Council of Europe can contribute to normalisation there in some way. We promised do convey her wish to those concerned. She emphasised that this will be possible only if the Republic of Belarus makes this request itself. But as you can see, the German Presidency has different plans in this respect. This is regrettable.

We will try to compel the Council of Europe, all the more so under the German Presidency, not to forget about the issues that the West is trying to hush up in many different ways. This applies to discrimination against Russian speakers in the Baltic states, the disgraceful lack of citizenship, and the so-called reforms in the field of education and language in Ukraine that are aimed only against the Russian language, as distinct from the languages of other national minorities because they are EU languages. We will not accept the efforts of the Council of Europe (or some of its members) to hush up the facts of the purposeful harassment of the Russian media, not to mention the glorification of Nazism. The German Presidency must remember all this and must not divert the Council of Europe to the discussion of issues that are more comfortable for the West and justify its positions, while ignoring the problems that have become chronic for our Western colleagues.

Question: What are the prospects for concluding new strategic stability treaties with the United States once the new administration is in office? Last year, President Trump mentioned a new trilateral document involving Russia, the United States and China. What will happen now?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a long-standing matter. True, the Trump administration was consumed (I can’t come up with any other word) by a desire to involve the People’s Republic of China in disarmament talks. Initially, they talked about the need to include the PRC in the START Treaty which is still in force, although this is impossible by definition. Then, they proposed creating a new treaty and not renewing the current one, because it’s outdated and bilateral, whereas they would like to take a step towards multilateral disarmament and arms control. Their position was erratic. As a result, they came up with a proposal to extend the treaty for another year, but on the condition that we recount each other’s warheads and put in overseers at the defence plants’ checkpoints. Counting warheads and ignoring carriers and innovative technologies that directly affect strategic stability is a frivolous and unprofessional approach.

Earlier this year, we made proposals to our US colleagues about structuring our future dialogue on arms control and non-proliferation. They stood their ground and insisted on warheads alone. They have long been interested in Russian tactical nuclear weapons, hence their interest in warheads at the expense of everything else. We say we will be ready to discuss non-strategic nuclear weapons, including warheads, when the Americans withdraw their tactical weapons from other countries. In Europe, these weapons are deployed in five NATO countries. Also, NATO structures conduct training in handling nuclear weapons for military personnel from non-nuclear countries in flagrant violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

With regard to the People’s Republic of China, President Putin has repeatedly stated that we have nothing against it, but the decision is up to the PRC. China has officially and publicly stated on several occasions that it is not going to join the talks with Russia and the United States, since its nuclear arsenal is an order of magnitude smaller than the corresponding arsenals of Moscow and Washington. We respect this position. If and when the Americans persuade China to join multilateral talks, we will have no objection to that. We will be willing to participate in them if the PRC agrees to this of its own accord. But we are not going to persuade Beijing to do so just at the whim of the Americans. But if and when a multilateral format in disarmament and arms control talks is created, we will push for France and the United Kingdom to join it as well.

When we told the Americans about this, they told us that these counties are their allies and they vouch for them. Precisely because they are allies of the United States, we would like to see them at the negotiating table, if the talks become multilateral. Washington’s absolutely hostile doctrine towards Russia cannot but raise questions about the motives of the US allies, whether in Europe or Asia. When they enter into a military alliance with a country that declares us a hostile state, we must draw our own conclusions regarding these allies.

I don’t see how we can seriously discuss anything related to the continuation of the arms control process with the Trump administration. We do not know yet what kind of administration will move into the White House or what kind of policy it will conduct. The voting results have not yet been announced officially, but there’s already an understanding that the change-of-command process is underway. Let’s wait and see what kind of assessments will eventually form in the minds of those who will shape the US strategic stability policy after January 21, 2021.

Question (addressed to both ministers): Popular protests have been growing around the world for various reasons, including political ones. The law enforcement reaction is the same everywhere, going as far as the use of force and special equipment. At the same time, such events in Belarus are receiving heightened attention from foreign politicians. What do you think is the reason?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already cited examples of protests being suppressed in France. Those drastic figures are rarely revealed to the general public. Human rights agencies in the UN system, as well as numerous human rights rapporteurs are trying their best to avoid any topics that are uncomfortable for Western representatives.

Speaking of the protests in Paris, there is a huge wave of protest against the global security bill, which includes a ban on photographing, filming or otherwise identifying law enforcement officers. I can imagine the kind of racket a bill like that would have sparked if it were proposed in Russia or Belarus. The French public and human rights groups are concerned, yet we can see no reaction from international bodies. The police used water cannons and noise grenades during rallies against the bill. The protesters, too, provoked the police, using stones and sticks. One police officer was injured. And yet, I repeat, this does not prevent the West from lecturing anyone who is not their ally.

Voting processes in Russia and Belarus have been scrutinised through a magnifying glass. When a similar story happens in the United States, it is declared “normal, it’s democracy, and everything is just fine.” Though, even respected and influential think tanks in the United States openly write about “the problems with the US electoral system.” To put it mildly, that system does not fully comply with the principles of democracy or the rule of law. They write these things themselves, but our international partners prefer to ignore them and concentrate on the countries whose “regimes” they find undesirable.

When UN rapporteurs, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, describe violent clashes in Western capitals, they urge everyone to find a solution through dialogue. When they criticise us or Belarus, they demand a change of the system. This difference is visible to the naked eye. We have long lost any illusions about what kind of standards the West is promoting and how they use double standards. We will fight, and will defend our position at the UN bodies, where these issues should be considered. We will not allow the vices that the Western community is demonstrating to be forgotten.

Question (addressed to both ministers): How can you comment on Pavel Latushko’s last interview, where he spoke about the possibility of unofficial contacts with Moscow?

Sergey Lavrov: Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has just shown me part of that interview. Not only did he mention the possibility of unofficial contacts with Moscow – he said such contacts were underway and were coordinated. He shamelessly declared he could not cite any names, but mentioned “contacts at a sufficiently high level.” He speculated whether I will be allowed to tell my Belarusian friends about it. I will answer briefly: this is a blatant lie, and it once again says something about those trying to make some kind of career with foreign handouts.

Understanding the outcome of the war for Nagorno-Karabakh

THE SAKER • NOVEMBER 11, 2020 • 3,100 WORDS • 

A lot has happened very rapidly in the past two days and I will begin this analysis by a few bullet points summarizing what just happened (not in any particular order, including chronological):

  • The war which has just ended was a real bloodbath and it has seen more casualties (counting both sides) than what the Soviet Union lost in 10 years of warfare in Afghanistan
  • This war is now over, Russian peacekeepers have already been deployed along the line of contact. So far, neither side has dared to resume hostilities (more about that below).
  • There have been two days of celebrations in Baku where President Aliev has declared that the war was a triumph for Azeri forces and that Pashinian got nothing. He is right.
  • The Azeris are now declaring that they want compensation from Armenia.
  • There are now Turkish forces in Azerbaijan and Russian and Turkish forces have created a joint committee to coordinate actions.
  • Erdogan has insisted that he wanted Turkey to send in peacekeepers, but Putin has categorically rejected this demand: like any other state, Azerbaijan has the undisputed right to invite foreign forces on its territory, but these forces will not have the status and rights of a peacekeeping force.
  • Violent riots have broken out in Erevan where violent mobs have stormed government buildings, beaten officials and sacked the Parliament.
  • Seventeen Armenian opposition parties have declared that they want a committee of national salvation and the resignation of Pashinian.
  • Nobody knows where Pashinian is hiding, but he seems to still be somewhere in Armenia.
  • These mobs also destroyed the Soros offices in Erevan and they are now looking for Pashinian “the traitor” to lynch him.
  • Pashinian has complained on Twitter that his offices were sacked, that a computer, his driver license and, I kid you not, a bottle of perfume (poor perfumed baby!) were stolen.
  • The Russian peacekeeping force will be constituted of subunits of the 15th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade which itself is part of the 2nd Guards Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District. It will include about 2000 armed soldiers, APCs and IFVs, specialized vehicles (EW, C3I, etc.), drones and air defense systems.
  • Russians peacekeepers will stay deployed in this area for no less than 5 years.
  • Russia will now control both the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) corridor and the Nakhichevan corridor.

Now let’s look at the position of the parties at the end of this war and compare them.

Armenia: there is no doubt that Armenia is the biggest loser in this war. Pashinian and his gang of russophobic Sorosites has brought a real calamity upon his people. Since he came to power his anti-Russian actions included almost totally eliminating any Armenian participation on the CSTO, he completely ceased any collaboration with Russia (including in the intelligence and security domains), he purged the Armenian military and security forces from all the supposed “pro-Russian” elements, he banned Russian language schools. In contrast, Armenia has an absolutely huge US embassy with about 2000 personnel (as much as the entire Russian peacekeeping force!) and when the Azeris attacked, Pashinin refused to ask Russia for help for a full month. He did ask Trump, Merkel and Macron for help instead. Needless to say, they did exactly nothing once the crisis erupted.

Truth be told, the Armenians had absolutely no other option but to accept the Azeri terms. The Armenians have suffered huge losses while the Azeris have taken Shushi, the key strategic city which controls both the capital of NK Stepanakert and the corridor between NK and Armenia. Had Pashinian not signed, the surrounded Armenians would have been slaughtered by the Azeris (in this war, both sides reported having almost no prisoners. Why? Because almost all were all executed, often after gruesome tortures by both sides). Russian analysts also say that Armenia was simply running out of supplies very fast (a fact also mentioned by Pashinian).

Simply put: Aliev’s plan worked, the blind arrogance of the Armenian leaders, along with their suicidal polices have almost cost Armenia the complete loss of NK and, possibly, even the existence of their own country. With all the best Armenian officers removed (including heroes from the first Karabakh war, which Armenia won), what was left were delusional clowns who promised that Armenia, without any help including without Russian help, could win the war and drive its forces to Baku (yes, they did sound just as delusional as some Ukie leaders).

Turkey: the next big loser in this war is Turkey whose objectives of bringing all Turkic nations under one neo-Ottoman empire have, predictably, crashed. Again. Erdogan is a world class megalomaniac and trouble maker, and he has involved Turkey in wars (or quasi wars) with Syria, Israel, Iraq, Greece, Libya, Iran, Russia and even (to some degree) NATO. And let’s not forget the bloody operations against the Kurds everywhere. He is a bona fide megalomaniac and that makes him very, very dangerous. Russia has intervened militarily in Syria, Libya and now Azerbaijan to deny Turkey its wannabe empire status and each time we saw that Turkey, as a country, simply does not have the resources to try to build an empire, especially since Erdogan simply does not understand that simultaneously opening conflicts on several fronts in a recipe for disaster.

There is also pretty strong likelihood that it was the Turks who shot down the Russian Mi-24 right inside the Armenian air space: their goal was to force Russia to stop seeking a negotiated solution and to impose a continuation of hostilities. Thank God for Aliev’s superb strategic skills which made it possible for him to do something very smart: he took the blame for what he called a tragic mistake and offered all sorts of compensations and excuses. Aliev’s decision to take the blame probably came after he and Putin (who are close friends) had what diplomats call a “frank exchange of views”.

The Turks are making a big deal out of the fact that the Azeris have invited Turkish forces into Azerbaijan. But let’s be honest here: the Azeris and Turks were always close and there was no outcome which could have prevented the Azeris from legally inviting Turkish forces into Azerbaijan. The real issue is what these forces can do. I submit that while we should never discard the toxic potential of any Turkish force anyway, there is little this force will be able to do than to a) monitor the situation and 2) coordinate with the Russians to stay out of each other’s way. But what these forces won’t be able to do is to attack, or even threaten to attack, Armenian and/or Russian forces (see below why).

Russia: Russia is the only true winner of this war. I know, there is a powerful Armenian lobby in the USA, in Europe and in Russia, and they are trying to present their defeat as a defeat for Russia. Frankly, I understand their bitterness and I feel sorry for them, but they are absolutely wrong. Here is why:

First, Russia has now established herself as the sole power in the Caucasus which can bring about peace. 2000 US personnel in Erevan did absolutely nothing for years to really help Armenia, all they did is force suicidal russophobic policies on Armenia, that’s about it. The same amount of Russian soldiers literally brought peace overnight. Here I have to explain a little something about the units which was sent Azerbaijan: 15th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (15IMRB).

The 15IMRB is not a peacekeeping force in the western meaning of the world. This is an elite combat force which specializes in peacekeeping and peacemaking (“coercion to peace” in Russian terminology) missions. It’s personnel is 100% composed of professionals, most of whom have extensive combat experience: they participated in the coercion to peace operation against Georgia in 08.08.08 and in Syria. These are top of the line, well trained, superbly equipped forces who, on top of their own capabilities, can fully count on the support of the Russian forces in Armenia and from the full support of the entire Russian military. Those who say that this force is a lightly armed token force simply do not understand these issues.

The entire theatre of operations of this war is very much inside the (conceptual) under 1000 kilometers from the Russian border which the Russian military wants to be capable of domination escalation should a war break out. To repeat, the Russian military is not organized the way the US military is: the Russian military doctrine is purely defensive, this is not propaganda, and it relies for this defense on its ability to very rapidly deploy high readiness mechanized forces anywhere inside Russia and within about 1000km from the Russian border and the ability to destroy any force entering this zone. Russia also relies on advanced weapons systems capable of unleashing a lot of firepower in defense of its deployed task forces forces. In other words, while the 15IMRB is only a brigade sized expeditionary force, it is trained to hunker down and hold a position until the reinforcements (personnel and/or firepower) are deployed from Russia. You can think of this as something similar to the Russian task force in Syria, only much closer to Russia and, therefore, much easier to support if needed.

Coming back to the shooting down of a Russian Mi-24, this action will not go unnoticed or forgotten, of that you can be sure. The fact that Putin (and the Russian military) don’t act like the US would and immediately initiate reprisals does not mean that the Russians don’t care, have forgotten or are afraid. There is a Jewish proverb which says “a good life is the best revenge”. I would paraphrase this by saying that Putin’s motto could be “an advantageous outcome is the best retaliation”: this is what we saw in Syria and this is what will happen in Azerbaijan.

Another sweet spot for Russia is that she can now (truthfully) declare that color revolutions inevitably result in territorial losses (the Ukraine, Georgie and now Armenia) and political chaos (everywhere).

Next, please look at the following map (in Russian, but that is no problem):

Please look at the two thick blue lines: they are showing corridors between Azerbaijan and the Azeri province of Nakhichevan and the corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. These two corridors are absolutely vital for both of these countries and they will now be under the control of FSB Border Guards (Russian border guards are light, mobile and elite units comparable in terms of training and capabilities to their colleagues from the Airborne Forces. Again, don’t assume that they are anything like the US or EU border or customs officials). They are very tough elite units which are trained to fight a much superior force until reinforcements come in.

What that means in strategic terms is that Russia now has an iron grip on what is a vital strategic artery for both Azerbaijan and Armenia. None of the parties are willing to comment very much on this, no need to humiliate anybody, but those in the know realize what a fantastic pressure capability Putin has just added to Russia in the Caucasus. You can think of these two corridors as a lifeline for both states as long as you also realize that these corridors are also strategic daggers in Russian hands pointed at the vital organs of both states.

The usual Putin-hating choir which has been singing the “Putin lost control of the near abroad” mantra should now be both ashamed of their lack of understanding, and livid at what “Putin” did to their hopes, but that kind of magical thinking won’t change reality on the ground: far from losing anything, Putin secured an immense strategic Russia victory at the cost of 2 dead soldiers, one wounded and one helicopter.

From now on, Russia will have permanent military forces in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Georgia has been effectively neutered. The Russian Caucasus is mostly peaceful and prosperous, both the Black Sea and the Caspian are de facto “Russian lakes” and the Russian “underbelly” is now much stronger than it ever was before.

Let’s when any western power achieves a similar result 

Conclusion:

This war is now only frozen and, like in Syria, there will be provocations, false flags, setbacks and murdered innocents. But, like in Syria, Putin will always prefer a quiet strategy with minimal losses over one with a lot of threats, grandstanding and instant retaliations. There is also what I call the “Putin use of force rules”: never use force where expected, always use force when least expected and always use force in a way your enemies do not plan for. Still, let’s not see all this in rosy colors, there will be setbacks for sure, Erdogan is angry and he still wants to play a role. Putin, in a typical Russian manner will give him exactly that “a role”, but that role will be minimal and mostly for internal Turkish PR consumption. Erdogan, far from being a new Mehmed The Conqueror and “The Great Eagle”, will go down in history as Erdogan The Loser and the “Defeated Chicken”. Megalomania might be a prerequisite for an empire builder, but that alone is clearly not enough.

🙂

What comes next?

Pashinian will be overthrown, that is pretty sure. What matters most for Armenia is who will replace him. Alas, there are anti-Pashinian nationalists out there who are just as russophobic as the Pashinian gang. Furthermore, considering the hysterics taking place in Armenia, there is a real possibility that a new government might annul the ceasefire and demand a “fight to the end”. This could be a major problem, including for the Russian forces in Armenia and the peacekeepers, but it is also likely that by the time the Armenian people really understand that 1) they have been lied to and 2) they have suffered a crushing defeat these calls will eventually be drowned out by more sane voices (including those of the currently jailed pre-2018 leaders).

There is also a huge Armenian immigration in Russia which will hear all the reporting and analyses produced in Russia and will be fully aware of the reality out there. These immigrants represent a huge ressource for Armenia as they are going to be the one who will push for a strong collaboration with Russia which, frankly, Armenia now needs more than anything else. Right now, judging by what pro-Armenian Russian analysts are saying, the Armenians and their supporters are absolutely horrified by this outcome and they are promising that the Turks have now penetrated deeply inside the Russian sphere of influence. To them sane voices reply that this so-called “move” into the Russia sphere of influence will be mostly PR and that it is far better for some Turkish forces to move inside the Russian sphere of influence than for some Russian force to be deployed inside the Turkish sphere of influence. In other words, when these Armenia supporters say that Erdogan has moved deeply inside the Russian sphere of influence, they are also thereby admitting that this is a Russian, not Turkish, sphere of influence. They just don’t realize what they are saying, that’s all.

Frankly, the Armenian diasporas in Russia, the EU and the USA are superbly organized, they have a lot of money, and they currently control the narrative in the EU and the USA (in Russia they tried and miserably failed). Add to this the fact the Aliev was the one who started that war and that he is deeply enmeshed with Erdogan’s Turkey and you will see why the magnitude of the Armenian defeat is systematically underplayed in the western media. That’s fine, let a few months go by and the reality of the situation will eventually convince those currently in denial.

Right now, this is exactly the process which is (violently) taking place in Erevan. But sooner or later, looting mobs will be replaced by some kind of government of national unity and if that government wants to put an end to the horrendous losses and wants to rebuild what is left standing, they will have to call the Kremlin and offer Russia some kind of deal. Needless to day, the immense US embassy, and the hundred of Soros-sponsored “NGOs” will oppose that with all their might. But with the USA itself fighting for survival, the EU in total disarray and the Turks failing at everything they try, that is simply not a viable option.

Russians used to joke that it takes 2 Jews to cheat 1 Armenian, meaning that Armenians are possibly even smarter than Jews (who, in all fairness, are not that smart at all, that is mostly self-serving and self-worshiping propaganda). I tend to share this admiration of the Armenian people: Armenians are an ancient, truly noble and beautiful nation and culture, who deserve to live in peace and security and who have suffered many horrors in their history. They deserve so much more than this CIA/MI6 stooge Pashinian! Right now, the Armenian nation is definitely at a low moment in its history, comparable to the “democratic” 90s in Russia or the current “liberal” horror taking place in the USA. But, as Dostoevsky liked to say, “one should never judge a nation by how low it can sink, but by how high it can soar”.

The best thing for Armenia, objectively, would be to become part of Russia (which Armenia was in its recent past). But that is not going to happen: first, Armenian nationalism is as blind and as obtuse as ever and, furthermore, Russia would never accept Armenia into the Russian Federation, and why would she? Armenia has exactly nothing to offer Russia, except a difficult to protect territory with potentially dangerous neighbors. No, Russia never lost Armenia – it was Armenia which lost Russia. Now the most the Kremlin will offer to Armenia is 1) protection against all neighbors and 2) economic help.

As for the rest, let’s see if the next Armenian government re-joins the CSTO not only in words (as was the case for the past couple of years), but in actions (like resume intel exchanges, military collaboration, joint security operations, etc.). That would be a great first step for Armenia.

Russian and Belorussian Defense Ministers Give Important Update on Belarus

Via The Saker

Translated by Sasha and subtitled by Leo.

Meeting took place on October 27, 2020.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu:

Good day, dear colleagues. The Republic of Belarus was and remains our closest neighbour, reliable ally and strategic partner. This is particularly important under the current conditions of international instability, when the mistrust in relations between countries is growing, when attempts are made to undermine the basis of the international law and interests of sovereign states are ignored. Using the ‘colored revolution’ technologies, the United States and its satellites purposefully pump up tensions and undermine the internal political situation in a number of countries.

Very recently, an attempt to change the government in the Republic of Belarus was made with the political and financial support from the West. Among other goals, this was done in order to frustrate the Union State integration process, and to fracture the Russo-Belorussian relations. We decisively condemn such actions and see the meddling in the internal affairs of other countries as unacceptable. The situation along the Western borders of the Union State remains tense, where we must increase our forward presence.

In the immediate vicinity of our borders, the Alliance is developing military infrastructure and stockpiles material and technological means, military equipment and weapons. The segment of the American so-called anti missile defense system whose launch pads can be used for attack weapons is being increased. Despite the pandemic, the intensity of the Bloc’s military exercises is not being reduced. In the conditions of the current political-military situation in the region as well as of the new challenges and threats first of all from the international terrorism, the Defense Ministry of Russia regards guaranteeing the military security of the Union State as one of the priority tasks.

The most important coordinating mechanism for this task is the joint collegium of Defense Ministries of Russia and the Republic of Belarus. Today we are holding the first ever meeting using video communications. I am sure however that the quality of our work will not suffer because of that. I note that the pandemic induced restrictions were not able to reduce the intensity of the military cooperation between our countries. We continue forming the single integrated defense area within the borders of the Union State. The common military doctrine has been adopted, the regional military groups and the united air defense systems are functioning. We’ve set up joint military planning. Our principal attention is directed towards the armed forces training. It includes joint staff exercises, the joint group command on the strategic level, military war exercises ‘West’ and ‘Union Shield’, joint exercises of different types of armed forces and special forces.

In the end of September, Belorussian military personnel took part in the ‘Caucasus 2020’ exercises in the Kapustin Yar training ground. While the Russian paratroopers units, together with Belorussian special operations forces, conducted a joint exercise the ‘Slavic Brotherhood 2020’ in the Republic of Belarus. Additionally we worked out tasks of operational and combat preparation for the international organizations formats, that of the CSTO in the first priority. Thus lately we concluded the peace keeping training ‘Inviolable Brotherhood 2020′, which showed the increased level of our troops’ training and cooperation. Within the framework of respective programs of the Union State, the military infrastructure is being improved and the systems for technical protection of railways and regions are being developed. I believe the level of Russo-Belorussian military cooperation is optimal. I am sure today’s meeting will be constructive and conducive to the further deepening of our military cooperation and to the strengthening of the defense capabilities of our Union State.

Belorussian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin:

Distinguished Sergei Kuzhugetovich, distinguished members of the Joint Collegium and the participants of this meeting, allow me to greet you in my name and in the name of the Belorussian participants of the Collegium. I am sure that today’s event, as always, will allow the advancing development of Belorussian-Russian cooperation in the military sphere. I wish to stress that the events of the current year have become a real challenge for the international community in the view of the aggravation of the political and economic contradictions between the subjects of the international law, the existing unresolved regional conflicts, the attempt to carry out ‘color revolutions’, as well as the difficult epidemiological situation caused by COVID-19. The events taking place in our country since last August are the salient example of this. Various destructive forces, stirred up by the leaderships of a number of countries, attempted at unconditional regime change.

Only thanks to the coordinated actions by the state’s governing bodies and the Belorussian people we managed to save the country from the lawlessness and arbitrary rule. I particularly wish to express my deep gratitude to the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation for its position and help it rendered to the Republic of Belarus during this difficult time. The unsuccessful attempt to organize a ‘color revolution’ has been replaced by a hybrid war and unprecedented measures of diplomatic and political and economic pressure. Neither does the military component fall behind. During the recent years, NATO’s rotational forces in the neighboring countries have grown seventeen-fold and reached 10,000 troops. Military equipment and personnel, including that of the United States, are being concentrated in the immediate vicinity of our border.

The amount of large scale multinational military exercises of the NATO countries which are held on the territories of our neighboring countries is increasing. The devaluation of the international weapons control system, triggered by the unilateral actions by the United States with support from its NATO allies, is ongoing. The evidence of this are the denunciation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the refusal to ratify the adopted treaty on conventional weapons in Europe, the denunciation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and finally the concluding procedures of exiting the Open Sky Treaty. All this are links in one chain of actions directed at undermining the international and regional security and securing the legal field for militarization of the European continent by way of the American presence. This is happening at our common borders of the Union State.

We as institutes of our states that are responsible for military security, must react accordingly. We have an integrated regional grouping of troops, as well as common outlook on the military threats in the Eastern European region and on the issues of ensuring security. We, along with our Russian colleagues, set the goal of today’s meeting to, first of all, organize practical actions towards building and strengthening of the required common military potential in order to countermeasure the challenges and threats of a military nature directed against the Union State. In the interest of the support for the regional military group of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation, the Union State continues implementation of programs in connection with development and improvement of the joint system of infrastructure facilities for its intended joint use. I am convinced that the decisions made as a result of our joint work will become effective guidelines for our defense forces in the questions of ensuring security of the Union State.

Why Conflict in Caucasus Is Erdogan’s Revenge for Syria

Why Conflict in Caucasus Is Erdogan's Revenge for Syria - TheAltWorld

Finian Cunningham

October 17, 2020

Turkey’s outsize role in fueling the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is becoming more apparent. That’s why a peace deal will be hard to cut and indeed the conflict may blow up further into a protracted regional war. A war that could drag Russia into battling in the Caucasus on its southern periphery against NATO proxies.

In a phone call this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly backed Moscow’s efforts at mediating a ceasefire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Notwithstanding, Erdogan appeared to deliver an ultimatum to his Russian counterpart. He said that there must be a “permanent solution” to the decades-long territorial dispute.

Erdogan and his Azerbaijan ally have already made it clear that the only solution acceptable to them is for Armenian separatists to relinquish their claim to Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey and Azerbaijan – bound by common Turkic culture – have long-called the Armenian-held enclave an illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territory since a border war ended in 1994.

When hostilities flared again last month on September 27 initial reports suggested the clashes were of a haphazard nature with both sides trading blame for starting the violence. However, it has since become clear that the actions taken on the Azeri side seem to have been a planned aggression with Turkey’s full support.

Following a previous deadly clash on July 12-13 involving about a dozen casualties among Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, there then proceeded massive military exercises in Azerbaijan involving 11,000 Turkish troops beginning on July 29. For nearly two weeks into August, the maneuvers deployed artillery, warplanes and air-defense units in what was evidently a major drive by Ankara and Baku to coordinate the armies from both countries to fulfill joint operations. Furthermore, reports indicated that Turkish forces, including F-16 fighter jets, remained in Azerbaijan following the unprecedented military drills.

Alongside the drills, there was also a dramatic increase in military arms sales from Turkey to Azerbaijan. According to Turkish export figures, there was a six-fold increase in weapons deals compared with the previous year, with most of the supply being delivered in the third quarter of 2020 between July and September. The armaments included drones and rocket launchers which have featured with such devastating impact since hostilities erupted on September 27.

A third factor suggesting planned aggression was the reported transport of mercenary fighters from Syria and Libya by Turkey to fight on the Azerbaijani side. Thousands of such militants belonging to jihadist brigades under the control of Turkey had arrived in the Azeri capital Baku before hostilities broke out on September 27. The logistics involved in organizing such a large-scale deployment can only mean long-term planning.

Armenian sources also claim that Azeri authorities had begun impounding civilian vehicles weeks before the shooting war opened. They also claim that when the fire-fights erupted on September 27, Turkish media were present on the ground to give live coverage of events.

It seems indisputable therefore that Turkey and Azerbaijan had made a strategic decision to implement a “final solution” to the protracted dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

That’s what makes Russian efforts at mediating a cessation to hostilities all the more fraught. After marathon talks mediated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a ceasefire was introduced on October 10. However, within hours the truce unravelled with reports of resumed exchange of fire and shelling of cities on both sides. The main violations have been committed by the Azerbaijani side using advanced Turkish weaponry. Armenian leaders have complained that the Azeri side does not seem interested in pursuing peace talks.

More perplexing is the widening of the conflict. Azerbaijan air strikes since the weekend ceasefire broke down have hit sites within Armenia, extending the conflict beyond the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan has also claimed that Armenian missiles have hit cities within its territory. Armenia flatly denies carrying out such strikes, which begs the question: is a third party covertly staging provocations and fomenting escalation of conflict?

What is challenging for Russia is that it has a legal obligation to defend Armenia as part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (1992). With Armenia coming under fire, the pressure will be on Moscow to intervene militarily.

This would see Russia being embroiled in another proxy war with NATO-member Turkey. But this is not in Syria. It is the Caucasus region on Russia’s southern border. There are concerns among senior Russian military figures that such a scenario is exactly what Turkey’s Recep Erdogan is aiming for. Turkey was outplayed by Russia in the proxy war in Syria. Erdogan and NATO’s plans for regime change in Damascus were dealt a bloody nose by Russia. It seems though that conflict in the Caucasus may now be Erdogan’s revenge.

Moscow may need to seriously revise its relations with Ankara, and let Erdogan know he is treading on red lines.

Short Armenia vs Azerbaijan war update

Short Armenia vs Azerbaijan war update

October 15, 2020

The Saker

As was predicted by many, in spite of the agreement signed in Moscow, thing on the ground in the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan  have escalated: the Armenians have claimed that Azeri drones have attacked Armenian tactical ballistic missiles on Armenian soil and the Azeris have confirmed this, saying that this was both a warning and a preemptive attack to protect Azeri civilians.

Bottom line is this: Azerbaijan has now officially attacked Armenian soil (as opposed to Karabakh soil) and Armenia now has the right to appeal to the CSTO.  So far, the Armenians have not done so, but now they can and, I believe, probably will do so.

Another interesting development is that the USA has accused Turkey of being involved in this war.  This means that by now all three countries Russia, France and the USA are now declaring that the Turks (and or their “good terrorist” proxies from Syria) are involved.  Aliev is outraged and accused everybody of lying.

Finally, Azeri and Turkish outlets have claimed the Kurds are now fighting on the Armenian side.  However, there have been no verifiable sources for this probably false rumor.

As for the Armenian leader Pashinian, he has accused Aliev of being “Hitler”.

What does all this mean?

Well, for one thing, it was inevitable that the very first ceasefire agreement would be broken.  In such situations, they typically are.

The real risk now is that Russia will have to intervene.  There are three most likely scenarios for such an intervention:

Peacekeeping operation: that would only be possible if all sides to the conflict agree to such an operation.  At this point in time, this is still unlikely, but that could change fairly quickly.  However, Russia will only send peacekeepers if the parties agree on a long term political solution to this conflict.  Right now, they prefer fighting down to the last bullet, but this will soon change for both parties.

Peacemaking operation: for this to happen, the UNSC should agree to give a mandate to Russia under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.  While it appears that Turkey currently has no backer in the UNSC, the US and UK hate for everything and anything Russian will probably secure a double veto (with a possible French veto to boot!) just to avoid Russia succeeding at anything, including bringing peace to the region.

CSTO military intervention: in other words, Russia would strike at Azeri forces and assets to stop the Azeri aggression on Armenia.  This is something Russia absolutely will avoid, if at all possible since Russia has absolutely no desire to destroy her excellent partnership with Azerbaijan and her very tenuous and unstable partnership with Turkey (say, in Syria).

It is obvious what Russia will do next: using overt and covert means, she will try to affect the situation on the ground in such a way as to basically force both sides to agree to a Russia-led peacekeeping operation.

The main problem right now is Erdogan who is spending most of his time making inflammatory statements and who is demanding that Turkey be included in any negotiations.  The way the Turks want this is to have Turkey negotiate on behalf of Azerbaijan and Russia negotiate on behalf of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.  So far, Russia has categorically refused this option.

So where do we go from here?

Well, things are probably going to get worse before they get better.  Either that, or they will get worse before they get MUCH worse.  I hope for the first option, but if Turkey and/or Azerbaijan continue to strike at Armenia or if Armenia recognizes “Artsakh” then all bets are off.  We better pray that cool heads prevail on both sides and that Russia can make Erdogan an offer he won’t be able to refuse.  For example, the Russians might declare that the Russian contingent in Armenia will now protect the Armenian airspace with Russian air defense systems (ground or air based).  If, for no apparent reason, Azeri and/or Turkish start falling out of the skies, Erdogan might reconsider.

We shall soon find out.

Related Posts

Turkey Allied with Azerbaijan Against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, October 15, 2020

Months of planning preceed preemptive wars.

Since July, Turkish and Azeri troops participated in joint air and ground military exercise.

Most often these type drills are defensive. They’re conducted to prepare for possible attacks on the territory of participating nations.

Azeris launched war on Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK below), its campaign for control of the enclave backed and likely encouraged by Ankara.

The same likely holds for the US and UK, supporting the agenda of one country over another and their own interests.

Most often when conflicts erupt, their fingerprints are all over them, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Why would the US and Britain support Turkey over Armenia? One reason could be to draw Moscow into the conflict.

Along with Russia and four other regional countries, Armenia is a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) state.

If the territory of any CSTO member state is attacked by a foreign power, other alliance members are obligated to provide military support.

NK is not Armenian territory, so conflict there doesn’t require other CSTO countries to aid Yerevan militarily.

Turkey is a NATO member.

Despite uneasy relations between Ankara and the West, notably the US and UK, alliance Article 4 calls for members to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any” is threatened.

Article 5 considers an armed attack (real or otherwise) against one or more members, an attack against all. Collective self-defense is called for.

Based on what’s now known, Turkey helped Azerbaijan prepare for preemptive war on Armenia in NK.

Preparation included training, supplying Baku with heavy weapons, providing command and control involvement, along with deploying jihadist fighters to aid Azeri troops.

If Turkish commanders are harmed by ongoing fighting, accidentally or otherwise, Ankara could retaliate against Armenia militarily.

Azerbaijan borders Russia. Iran borders Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The US and maybe Britain would very much like to draw Iran into the NK conflict.

If fighting spills into its territory, its forces might respond in self-defense, giving the US and UK a pretext to terror-bomb Iranian targets.

On Wednesday, Armenia’s Defense Ministry accused Azerbaijan of striking military equipment in its territory.

Saying Armenian forces reserve the right to respond in kind against an Azeri military facility risks expanding conflict to the territory of both countries.

Under this scenario, Russia could get involved to defend its CSTO partnered state — potentially drawing the US, UK, and other NATO countries into the conflict, Turkey as well more directly.

The above is a nightmarish scenario Moscow and Tehran very much want avoided.

During a Wednesday interview on the NK conflict, I was asked what more can Russia do resolve it.

Major differences between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the one hand, Yerevan and Ankara on the other, are longstanding.

Resolving them to halt fighting might be beyond the diplomatic skills of any negotiator.

I responded to the question, saying Sergey Lavrov’s strategy may be to keep talking to his counterparts and leadership of both warring sides — in person as much as possible, otherwise by phone, urging a halt in fighting.

Protracted conflict in NK assures losers, not winners, he understands.

With Turkish help, Azeri forces could gain an advantage over Armenia’s military.

Baku perhaps could drive Yerevan out of NK partially or entirely.

If fighting continues for weeks or months, mass slaughter and destruction in the enclave will leave no prize for either side to claim.

The prevailing side, if things turn out this way, will have countless numbers of corpses to bury and likely billions of dollars needed for reconstruction.

On Wednesday, Lavrov proposed deploying Russian peacekeepers to monitor things along the line of control in NK.

He clarified his proposal, saying “not even peacekeepers (should participate in the verification mechanism), but military observers that would be sufficient.”

“We believe that it would be perfectly correct if these were our military observers, but the final word should be with the sides (of the conflict).”

“Of course, we proceed from the fact that both Yerevan and Baku will take into account our amicable relations, relations of strategic partnership.”

Stressing his country’s close ties to Turkey, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said Baku, Yerevan, and Ankara would have to agree on Russia’s involvement this way.

On October 14, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Azerbaijan wants total control of NK, calling the situation on the ground “very difficult.”

He claimed Baku and Ankara do not want “to stop their aggression.”

NK defense forces accused Azerbaijan of “violat(ing) the humanitarian truce, targeting peaceful settlements,” adding:

“In addition to shelling the city of Martakert, the enemy (Baku) also employed air force (warplanes) in the northeastern direction.”

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry accused Armenia of shelling the town of Tartar, causing at least seven casualties.

It’s unclear if they’e civilians or military personnel.

Lavrov criticized Turkey’s involvement in the fighting.

Calling a military solution unacceptable, he said “(w)e do not agree with the position voiced by Turkey, that was also expressed several times by (Azeri) President Aliyev,” adding:

“It is not a secret that we cannot agree with a statement that a military solution to the conflict is permissible.”

International Committee of the Red Cross director for Eurasia Martin Scheupp called on both sides to halt fighting.

“We project that at least tens of thousands of people across the region will need support over the next few months,” he stressed, adding:

“Civilians are dying or suffering life-changing injuries.”

“Homes, businesses and once-busy streets are being reduced to rubble.”

“The elderly and babies are among those forced to spend hours in unheated basements or to leave their homes for safety.”

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu spoke to his Armenian and Azeri counterparts, urging them to observe ceasefire.

Conflict is in its third week with no signs of either side backing down.

Russia continues trying to get them to halt fighting and discuss differences diplomatically.

Ceasefire agreed to by their foreign ministers in Moscow didn’t take hold.

On Tuesday, Armenia’s Defense Ministry said Azeri forces launched attacks in “three to four directions, and battles continued throughout the day.”

“Particularly intense fighting occurred in the northern sector.”

“It was probably among the most difficult battles in this war.”

Fighting could continue for weeks if Russia’s best efforts fail to get both sides to observe ceasefire agreed to last Friday.

*

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2020

A New Wall For A New Cold War?

Source

12 OCTOBER 2020

A New Wall For A New Cold War?

The head of the prestigious Munich Security Conference warned late last month against efforts to “build a new ‘wall’ between Russia and the West” in light of the Navalny incident and the many other disagreements between both sides, and while it’s unrealistic to expect another Berlin Wall-like physical division of Europe, there’s no denying that their different governing models have created a sharp split across the continent.

Welcome To The New Cold War

Last month will probably go down in history as the moment when the New Cold War became impossible to deny. The US has been attempting to rekindle its fading unipolarity since the onset of its coordinated Hybrid War “containment” campaigns against Russia and China in 2014, which only intensified in the aftermath of Trump’s election. The leaders of all three countries addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA) by video in a series of speeches that laid bare these two sides’ contradictory assessments of contemporary global affairs and related visions of the future. Their keynote speeches were preceded by UN Secretary General Guterres warning the world that “We must do everything to avoid a New Cold War.” Trump obviously didn’t listen to him, which is why the head of the prestigious Munich Security Conference (MSC) followed up that global representative’s warning with his own at the end of that historic week cautioning that “It will result in nothing if we now try to build a new ‘wall’ between Russia and the West because of Navalny and other sad and terrible events.” It’s his dramatic words that form the basis of the present article.

The US’ Hybrid War On Russia

There are many angles through which the ongoing global competition can be analyzed, but the prospect of a new wall of some sort or another accompanying the New Cold War in Europe is among the most intriguing. The MSC head presumably isn’t implying the creation of a 21st-century Berlin Wall, but seems to be speaking more generally about his fear that the growing divisions between Russia and the West will soon become irreversible and potentially even formalized as the new status quo. The author wrote last month that “The US’ Hybrid War On Russian Energy Targets Germany, Belarus, And Bulgaria”, pointing out how even the partial success of this latest “containment” campaign will greatly advance the scenario of an externally provoked “decoupling” between Russia and the West. That would in turn help secure American grand strategic interests in the continent. This “decoupling” would reverse the progress that was made in bilateral relations since the end of the Old Cold War up until the Ukrainian Crisis. Taken to its maximum extent, the spiritual return of the Berlin Wall seems almost inevitable at this point.

Governing Differences

It’s true that the border between the NATO countries and Russia’s CSTO (which importantly includes Hybrid War-targeted Belarus) represents the modern-day military equivalent of the “Iron Curtain”, but the situation isn’t as simple as that. While military divisions remain (albeit pushed much further eastward over the past three decades), ideological and economic ones are less apparent. Russia no long ascribes to communism but follows its own national variant of democracy within a mostly capitalist system, thus reducing the structural differences between itself and its Western counterparts. Unaware observers might wonder why there’s even a New Cold War to begin with when considering how much both sides have in common with one another, but that overlooks their contradictory worldviews which lie at the heart of their mutual suspicions. Russia strongly believes in safeguarding its geopolitical and domestic socio-political sovereignty so it accordingly follows a more conservative path whereas Western countries mostly submit to the US’ authority and generally regard their liberal position on many social issues as universalist.

The End Of The “Great Convergence”

The reason why the thaw in Russian-Western relations failed to achieve the “Great Convergence” that Gorbachev originally hoped for was because the US wanted to impose its will onto Russia by treating it as just another vassal state that would be forced to follow its lead abroad and accept extreme liberal social mandates at home instead of respecting it as an equal partner. Nevertheless, this policy was actually surprisingly successful all throughout the 1990s under Yeltsin, but its fatal flaw was that it went much too far too quickly by attempting to dissolve the Russian Federation through American support for Chechen separatist-terrorist groups. That inadvertently provoked a very patriotic reaction from the responsible members of Russia’s military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) who worked together to ensure their motherland’s survival in the face of this existential crisis. The end result was that Putin succeeded Yeltsin and subsequently set about to systematically save Russia. This took the form of stabilizing the security situation at home in parallel with reasserting Russia on the world stage.

The “Russian Model”

Putin, though, was always a liberal in the traditional (not post-modern) sense. He never lost his appreciation for Western civilization and sincerely wanted to complete Gorbachev’s hoped-for “Great Convergence”, though only on equal terms and not as a US vassal. Regrettably, the Russian leader’s many olive branches were slapped away by an angry America which feared the influence that a powerful “moderately liberal” state could have on its hyper-liberal subjects. All of Putin’s efforts to take the “Great Convergence” to its next logical step of a “Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok” failed for this reason, after which an intense information warfare campaign was waged to portray Russia was a “radical right-wing state” even though it was never anything of the sort. This modus operandi was intended to prevent Europe’s indoctrinated masses from ever countenancing whether a “moderate” alternative exists whereby they’d preserve their domestic and international sovereignty despite remaining committed to traditional liberal values, just like the “Russian model” that Putin pioneered. Understandably, this would pose a serious threat to American strategic interests, hence the campaign against it.

The Rise Of America’s Russian Rival

As time went on, the “Russian model” was partially replicated in some of the countries of Central Europe such as Poland and even within the US itself through Trump’s election, though this wasn’t due to any so-called “Russian meddling” but was a natural result of the ideological interplay between radical and “moderate” liberals. It just so happened that Russia was the first country to implement this model not because of anything uniquely “Russian” within its society, but simply as the most pragmatic survival plan considering the extremely difficult circumstances of the 1990s and attendant limits on the country’s strategic maneuverability during that time. It was considered by the patriotic members of Russia’s “deep state” to be much too risky to reverse the direction of post-Soviet reforms, hence why the decision seems to have been made to continue with them, though doing all in the country’s power to regain control over these processes from Russia’s Western overlords in order to protect national geopolitical and domestic socio-political interests. This struggle led to Russia becoming an alternative pole of influence (in the governance sense) within the “Greater West”, rivaling the US.

Hillary & Trump: Same Anti-Russian Strategy, Different Infowar Tactics

With this insight in mind, the New Cold War was inevitable in hindsight. Had Hillary been elected, then the infowar narrative would have focused more on Russia’s different “values”, seeking to present its target as a “threat to the (hyper-liberal) Western way of life”. Since Trump’s America interestingly enough shares many of the same values as contemporary Russia does, however, the focus is on geopolitical differences instead. From the prism of International Relations theory, Hillary’s angle of attack against Russia would have been more liberal whereas Trump’s is more realist. Either way, both American leaders (theoretical in the first sense and actual in the second) have every reason to fear Russia since it challenges the US’ unipolar dominance in Europe. Hillary would have wanted to portray Russia as being outside of the “Western family of nations”, though Trump can’t convincingly do that given his much more high-profile provocations against obviously non-Western China, hence why he’s basically competing with Russia for leadership of the “moderate” liberal model of Western civilization, ergo accepting their structural similarities but instead over-hyping their geopolitical differences.

Post-Soviet Russia’s Irreversible Impact On Western Civilization

Taking all of the aforementioned into account, it’s understandable why the US wants to build a “new wall” in Europe by “decoupling” its NATO-captive subjects from Russia through a series of Hybrid Wars, though the genie is out of the bottle since some Central European countries like Poland the even the US itself under Trump already implement elements of the “Russian model”. This means that while the physical separation of Russia and Europe along military, geopolitical, and soon perhaps even economic-energy lines is practically a fait accompli at this point, the ideological-structural influence emanating from Moscow is impossible to “contain”. No “wall” will reverse the impact that the “Russian model” has had on the course of Western civilization, though it should be remembered that the aforesaid model wasn’t part of some “cunning 5D chess plan” but an impromptu survival tactic that was triggered in response to American unipolar-universalist soft power aggression on post-Soviet Russia. It’s not distinctly “Russian”, which is why the hyper-liberal Western elite fear it so much since they know very well that it could take root in their countries too, just like in Poland and the US.

Concluding Thoughts

The typical Western mind is conditioned to think in terms of models, especially historical ones, which is why they imagine that the New Cold War will closely resemble the Old Cold War simply because of the effect that neuro-linguistic programming has on their thought process. This explains why the MSC head warned against the creation of a “new wall” between Russia and the West even though no such scenario is realistic. No physical barrier like the Berlin Wall will ever be erected again, and even though the geopolitical, military, and perhaps even soon economic-energy fault lines between them might become formalized through the impending success of the US’ “decoupling” strategy, this will not address the root cause of the New Cold War which lies with Russia’s “moderately liberal” model of state sovereignty in contrast to the US’ (former?) hyper-liberal universalist one of state vasselhood. It’s this difference that’s primarily responsible for every other dimension of their competition since it placed Russia on the trajectory of supporting a Multipolar World Order instead of the US’ hoped-for Unipolar World Order.By Andrew KorybkoAmerican political analyst

Can and should Russia stop the war in the Caucasus?

October 09, 2020

THE SAKER • OCTOBER 10, 2020 

This war is officially a war between Azerbaijan and the (unrecognized) Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (RNK) aka “Republic of Artsakh” (ROA) which I shall refer to simply as Nagorno Karabakh or “NK”. As is often the case, the reality is much more complicated. For one thing, Erdogan’s Turkey has been deeply involved since Day 1 (and, really, even much before that) while Armenia has been backing NK to the hilt since the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is even worse: Turkey is a member of NATO while Armenia is a member of the CSTO. Thus a war started over a relatively small and remote area could, in theory, trigger an international nuclear war. The good news here is that nobody in NATO or the CSTO wants such a war, especially since technically speaking the NK is not part of Armenia (Armenia has not even recognized this republic so far!) and, therefore, not under the protection of the CSTO. And since there have been no attacks on Turkey proper, at least so far, NATO also has no reason to get involved.

I should mention here that in terms of international law, NK is an integral part of Azerbaijan. Still, almost everybody agrees that there is a difference between NK proper and the kind of security zone the army of NK created around NK (see map)

Can and should Russia stop the war in the Caucasus?

(note: the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic is part of Azerbaijan)

The reality on the ground, however, is very different, so let’s look at the position of each actor in turn, beginning with the party which started the war: Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has been reforming and rearming its military since the Azeri forces got comprehensively defeated in the 1988-1994 war. Furthermore, for President Aliev this war represents what might well be the best and last chance to defeat the NK and Armenian forces. Most observers agree that should Aliev fail to achieve at least an appearance of victory he will lose power.

Armenia would have been quite happy to keep the status quo and continue to form one country with the NK de facto while remaining two countries de jure. Still, living in the tough and even dangerous “neighborhood” of the Caucasus, the Armenians never forgot that they are surrounded by more or less hostile countries just like they also remained acutely aware of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ideology which, sooner or later, would make war inevitable.

Iran, which is often forgotten, is not directly involved in the conflict, at least so far, but has been generally sympathetic to Armenia, primarily because Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ideology represents a danger for the entire region, including Iran.

Turkey has played a crucial behind the scenes role in the rearmament and reorganization of Azeri forces. Just as was the case in Libya, Turkish attack drones have been used with formidable effectiveness against NK forces, in spite of the fact that the Armenians have some very decent air defenses. As for Erdogan himself, this war is his latest attempt to paint himself as some kind of neo-Ottoman sultan which will reunite all the Turkic people under his rule.

One of the major misconceptions about this conflict is the assumption that Russia has always been, and will always be, on the side of Armenia and the NK, but while this was definitely true for pre-1917 Russia, this is not the case today at all. Why?

Let’s examine the Russian position in this conflict.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Armenia (proper, as opposed to NK) is a member of the CSTO and should anybody (including Azerbaijan and/or Turkey) attack Armenia, Russia would most definitely intervene and stop the attack, either by political or even by military means. Considering what Turkey has done to the Armenian people during the infamous Armenian Genocide of 1914-1923 this makes perfectly good sense: at least now the Armenian people know that Russia will never allow another genocide to take place. And the Turks know that too.

And yet, things are not quite that simple either.

For example, Russia did sell a lot of advanced weapon systems to Azerbaijan (see herefor one good example). In fact, relations between Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev are famously very warm. And while it is true that Azerbaijan left the CSTO in 1999, Russia and Azerbaijan have retained a very good relationship which some even characterize as a partnership or even an alliance.

Furthermore, Azerbaijan has been a much better partner to Russia than Armenia, especially since the Soros-financed “color revolution” of 2018 which put Nikol Pashinian in power. Ever since Pashinian got to power, Armenia has been following the same kind of “multi-vector” policy which saw Belarus’ Lukashenko try to ditch Russia and integrate into the EU/NATO/US area of dominance. The two biggest differences between Belarus and Armenia are a) Belarusians and Russians are the same people and b) Russia cannot afford to lose Belarus whereas Russia has really zero need for Armenia.

On the negative side, not only has Azerbaijan left the CSTO in 1999, but Azerbaijan has also joined the openly anti-Russian GUAM Organization (which is headquartered in Kiev).

Next, there is the Turkey-Erdogan factor as seen from Russia. Simply put, the Russians will never trust any Turk who shares Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman worldview and ideology. Russia has already fought twelve full-scale wars against the Ottomans and she has no desire to let the Turks trigger another one (which they almost did when they shot down a Russian Su-24M over northern Syria). Of course, Russia is much more powerful than Turkey, at least in military terms, but in political terms an open war against Turkey could be disastrous for Russian foreign and internal policy objectives. And, of course, the best way for Russia to avoid such a war in the future is to make absolutely sure that the Turks realize that should they attack they will be suffering a crushing defeat in a very short time. So far, this has worked pretty well, especially after Russia saved Erdogan from the US-backed coup against him.

Some observers have suggested that Russia and Armenia being Christian, the former has some kind of moral obligation towards the latter. I categorically disagree. My main reason to disagree here is that Russians now are acutely aware of the disgusting lack of gratitude of our (supposed) “brothers” and (supposed) “fellow Christians” have shown as soon as Russia was in need.

Most Armenians are not Orthodox Christians, but members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which are miaphysites/monophysites. They are also not Slavs.

The ONLY slavic or Orthodox people who did show real gratitude for Russia have been the Serbs. All the rest of them have immediately rushed to prostitute themselves before Uncle Shmuel and have competed with each other for the “honor” of deploying US weapons systems targeted at Russia. The truth is that like every superpower, Russia is too big and too powerful to have real “friends” (Serbia being a quite beautiful exception to this rule). The Russian Czar Alexander III famously said that “Russia only has two true allies: her army and her navy”. Well, today the list is longer (now we could add the Aerospace forces, the FSB, etc.), but in terms of external allies or friends, the Serbian people (as opposed to some of the Serbian leaders) are the only ones out there which are true friends of Russia (and that, in spite of the fact that under Elstin and his “democratic oligarchs” Russia shamefully betrayed a long list of countries and political leaders, including Serbia).

Then there is the religious factor which, while crucial in the past, really plays no role whatsoever in this conflict. Oh sure, political leaders on both sides like to portray themselves as religious, but this is just PR. The reality is that both the Azeris and the Armenians place ethnic considerations far above any religious ones, if only because, courtesy of the militant atheism of the former USSR, many, if not most, people in Armenia, Azerbaijan and even Russia nowadays are agnostic secularists with no more than a passing interest for the “spiritual values which shaped their national identity” (or something along these lines).

One major concern for Russia is the movement of Turkish-run Takfiris from Syria to Azerbaijan. The Russians have already confirmed that this has taken place (the French also reported this) and, if true, that would give Russia the right to strike these Takfiris on Azeri soil. So far, this threat is minor, but if it becomes real, we can expect Russian cruise missiles to enter the scene.

Finally, there are major Azeri and Armenian communities in Russia, which means two things: first, Russia cannot allow this conflict to sneak across the borders and infect Russia and, second, there are millions of Russians who will have ties, often strong ones, to both of these countries.

Though they are not currently officially involved, we still need to look, at least superficially, at the Empire’s view of this conflict. To summarize it I would say that the Empire is absolutely delighted with this crisis which is the third one blowing up on Russia’s doorstep (the other two being the Ukraine and Belarus). There is really very little the Empire can do against Russia: the economic blockade and sanctions totally failed, and in purely military terms Russia is far more powerful than the Empire. Simply put: the Empire simply does not have what it takes to take on Russia directly, but setting off conflicts around the Russia periphery is really easy.

For one thing, the internal administrative borders of the USSR bear absolutely no resemblance to the places of residence of the various ethnicities of the former Soviet Union. Looking at them one would be excused for thinking that they were drawn precisely to generate the maximal amount of tension between the many ethnic groups that were cut into separate pieces. There is also no logic in accepting the right of the former Soviet Republics to secede from the Soviet Union, but then denying the same right to those local administrative entities which now would want to separate from a newly created republic which they don’t want to be part of.

Second, many, if not most, of the so-called “countries” and “nations” which suddenly appeared following the collapse of the Soviet Union have no historical reality whatsoever. As a direct result, these newborn “nations” had no historical basis to root themselves in, and no idea what independence really means. Some nations, like the Armenians, have deep roots as far back as antiquity, but their current borders are truly based on nothing at all. Whatever may be the case, it has been extremely easy for Uncle Shmuel to move into these newly independent states, especially since many (or even most) of these states saw Russia as the enemy (courtesy of the predominant ideology of the Empire which was imposed upon the mostly clueless people of the ex-Soviet periphery). The result? Violence, or even war, all around that periphery (which the Russians think of as their “near abroad”).

I think that most Russian people are aware that while there has been a major price to pay for this, the cutting away of the ex-Soviet periphery from Russia has been a blessing in disguise. This is confirmed by innumerable polls which show that the Russian people are generally very suspicious of any plans involving the use of the Russian Armed Forces outside Russia (for example, it took all of Putin’s “street cred” to convince the Russian people that the Russian military intervention in Syria was a good idea).

There is also one more thing which we must always remember: for all the stupid US and western propaganda about Russia and, later, the USSR being the “prison of the people” (small nations survived way better in this “prison” than they did under the “democratic” rule of European colonists worldwide!), the truth is that because of the rabidly russophobic views of Soviet Communists (at least until Stalin – he reversed this trend) the Soviet “peripheral” Republics all lived much better than the “leftover Russia” which the Soviets called the RSFSR. In fact, the Soviet period was a blessing in many ways for all the non-Russian republics of the Soviet Union and only now, under Putin, has this trend finally been reversed. Today Russia is much richer than the countries around her periphery and she has no desire to squander that wealth on a hostile and always ungrateful periphery. The bottom line is this: Russia owes countries such as Armenia or Azerbaijan absolutely nothing and they have no right whatsoever to expect Russia to come to their aid: this won’t happen, at least not unless Russia achieves a measurable positive result from this intervention.

Still, let’s now look at the reasons why Russia might want to intervene.

First, this is, yet again, a case of Erdogan’s megalomania and malevolence resulting in a very dangerous situation for Russia. After all, all the Azeris need to do to secure an overt Turkish intervention is to either attack Armenia proper, which might force a Russian intervention or, alternatively, be so severely beaten by the Armenians that Turkey might have to intervene to avoid a historical loss of face for both Aliev and Erdogan.

Second, it is crucial for Russia to prove that the CSTO matters and is effective in protecting CSTO member states. In other words, if Russia lets Turkey attack Armenia directly the CSTO would lose all credibility, something which Russia cannot allow.

Third, it is crucial for Russia to prove to both Azerbaijan and Armenia that the US is long on hot air and empty promises, but can’t get anything done in the Caucasus. In other words, the solution to this war has to be a Russian one, not a US/NATO/EU one. Once it becomes clear in the Caucasus that, like in the Middle-East, Russia has now become the next “kingmaker” then the entire region will finally return to peace and a slow return to prosperity.

So far the Russians have been extremely careful in their statements. They mostly said that Russian peacekeepers could only be deployed after all the parties to this conflict agree to their deployment. Right now, we are still very far away from this.

Here is what happened so far: the Azeris clearly hoped for a short and triumphant war, but in spite of very real advances in training, equipment, etc the Azeri Blitzkrieg has clearly failed in spite of the fact that the Azeri military is more powerful than the NK+Armenian one. True, the Azeris did have some initial successes, but they all happened in small towns mostly located in the plain. But take a look at this topographic map of the area of operations and see for yourself what the biggest problem for the Azeris is:

Almost all of NK is located in the mountains (hence the prefix “nagorno” which means “mountainous”) and offensive military operations in the mountains are truly a nightmare, even for very well prepared and equipped forces (especially in the winter season, which is fast approaching). There are very few countries out there who could successfully conduct offensive operations in mountains, Russia is one of them, and Azerbaijan clearly is not.

Right now both sides agree on one thing only: only total victory can stop this war. While politically that kind of language makes sense, everybody knows that this war will not end up in some kind of total victory for one side and total defeat of the other side. The simple fact is that the Azeris can’t overrun all of NK while the Armenians (in Armenia proper and in the NK) cannot counter-attack and defeat the Azeri military in the plains.

Right now, and for as long as the Azeris and the Armenians agree that they won’t stop at anything short of a total victory, Russia simply cannot intervene. While she has the military power to force both sides to a total standstill, she has no legal right to do so and please remember that, unlike the US, Russia does respect international law (if only because she has no plans to become the “next US” or some kind of world hegemon in charge of maintaining the peace worldwide). So there are only two possible options for a Russian military intervention:

  1. A direct (and confirmed by hard evidence) attack on the territory of Armenia
  2. Both the Azeris and the Armenians agree that Russia ought to intervene.

I strongly believe that Erdogan and Aliev will do whatever it takes to prevent option one from happening (while they will do everything in their power short of an overt attack on Armenia to prevail). Accidents, however, do happen, so the risk of a quick and dramatic escalation of the conflict will remain until both sides agree to stop.

Right now, neither side has a clear victory and, as sad as I am to write these words, both sides have enough reserves (not only military, but also political and economic) to keep at it for a while longer. However, neither side has what it would take to wage a long and bloody positional war of attrition, especially in the mountain ranges. Thus both sides probably already realize that this one will have to stop, sooner rather than later (according to some Russian experts, we are only talking weeks here).

Furthermore, there are a lot of very dangerous escalations taking place, including artillery and missile strikes on cities and infrastructure objects. If the Armenians are really pushed against a wall, they could both recognize NK and hit the Azeri energy and oil/gas infrastructure with their formidable Iskander tactical ballistic missiles. Should that happen, then we can be almost certain that both the Azeris and the Turks will try to attack Armenia, with dramatic and most dangerous consequences.

This conflict can get much, much more bloody and much more dangerous. It is thus in the interests of the entire region (but not the US) to stop it. Will the Armenian lobby be powerful enough to pressure the US into a more helpful stance? So far, the US is, at least officially, calling all sides for a ceasefire (along with France and Russia), but we all know how much Uncle Shmuel’s word can be trusted. At least there is no public evidence that the US is pushing for war behind the scenes (the absence of such evidence does, of course, not imply the evidence of the absence of such actions!).

At the time of writing this (Oct. 9th) Russia has to wait for the parties to come back to reality and accept a negotiated solution. If and when that happens, there are options out there, including making NK a special region of Azerbaijan which would be placed under the direct protection of Russia and/or the CSTO with Russian forces deployed inside the NK region. It would even be possible to have a Turkish military presence all around the NK (and even some monitors inside!) to reassure the Azeris that Armenian forces have left the region and are staying out. The Azeris already know that they cannot defeat Armenia proper without risking a Russian response and they are probably going to realize that they cannot overrun NK. As for the Armenians, it is all nice and fun to play the “multi-vector” card, but Russia won’t play by these rules anymore. Her message here is simple: if you are Uncle Shmuels’s bitch, then let Uncle Shmuel save you; if you want us to help, then give us a really good reason why: we are listening”.

This seems to me an eminently reasonable position to take and I hope and believe that Russia will stick to it.

PS: the latest news is that Putin invited the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia to Moscow for “consultations” (not “negotiations”, at least not yet) with Sergei Lavrov as a mediator. Good. Maybe this can save lives since a bad peace will always be better than a good war.

PPS: the latest news (Oct 9th 0110 UTC) is that the Russians have forced Armenia and Azerbaijan to negotiate for over thirteen hours, but at the end of the day, both sides agreed to an immediate ceasefire and for substantive negotiations to begin. Frankly, considering the extreme hostility of the parties towards each other, I consider this outcome almost miraculous. Lavrov truly earned his keep today! Still, we now have to see if Russia can convince both sides to actually abide by this agreement. Here is a machine translation of the first Russian report about this outcome:

Statement by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia

In response to the appeal of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin and in accordance with the agreements of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan I.G. Aliyev and Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia N.V. Pashinyan, the parties agreed on the following steps :

1. A ceasefire is declared from 12:00 pm on October 10, 2020 for humanitarian purposes for the exchange of prisoners of war and other detained persons and bodies of the dead, mediated and in accordance with the criteria of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

2. The specific parameters of the ceasefire regime will be agreed upon additionally.

3. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, on the basis of the basic principles of the settlement, begin substantive negotiations with the aim of reaching a peaceful settlement as soon as possible.

4. The parties confirm the invariability of the format of the negotiation process.

AZERBAIJANI FORCES PUSH TO SEIZE LARGEST KARABAKH CITY. DRONES STRIKE TARGETS INSIDE ARMENIA

Azerbaijani Forces Push To Seize Largest Karabakh City. Drones Strike  Targets Inside Armenia - YouTube
Video

On October 2, the Armenian-Azerbaijani war entered its 5th day. Forces of the Azerbaijani military, supported by Turkey, continued their attempts to capture the contested Nagorno-Karabakh Region and to dismantle the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which is overwhelmingly populated by Armenians.

Intense artillery duels and Azerbaijani airstrikes are being reported across the entire frontline in Karabakh, and even near some parts of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border. Nonetheless, the main clashes still take place in the districts of Fizuli and Jabrayil, where Azerbaijan have achieved their main gains capturing several positions from the Armenians. The Azerbaijani artillery together with Turkish-made and Israeli-made combat drones played a key role in the tactical successes of Azerbaijan on the battlefield.

On October 1, the Armenian military even claimed that 4 Azerbeijani combat drones entered Armenian airspace and 3 of them were shot down, allegedly by the S-300 system. Additionally, the Armenian Defense Ministry claimed that its forces had shot down three Azerbaijani fighter jets and two helicopters. The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan dismissed the Armenian claims, calling them “complete nonsense and fake news.”

It insists that the Armenian side uses claims about attacks on its territory in an attempt to trigger the Collective Security Treaty Organization pact and obtain direct military support from Russia in the conflict in Karabakh, which formally is not its territory. What is even more strange, despite the 5 days of open war, the Armenian leadership has still not started the process for the recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic or the official integration of the region into Armenia. Therefore, it has no even theoretical legal grounds to request CSTO help in a conflict on its territory.

Meanwhile, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, known for its anti-Assad and pro-militant stance in the Syrian conflict, reported that dozens of Turkish-backed Syrian militants had been killed, injured or went missing while fighting against Armenian forces in Karabakh. According to the SOHR, 28 of them were killed and 62 others were injured or went missing. The report alleges that at least 850 Turkish-backed Syrian militants were deployed there. It should be noted that, according to Armenian estimates, their number is about 4,000. France and Russia also expressed their concern regarding the moving of militants to the region. In turn, Azerbaijani and Turkish media and officials insist that Armenia deploys members of Kurdish armed groups, considered to be terrorists by Ankara, to the combat zone. Nonetheless, these claims have not so far been supported by any evidence.

The self-styled Neo-Ottoman Empire of President Recent Tayyip Erdogan is on a full-scale propaganda offensive to instigate an Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

On October 1, the United States, Russia and France released a joint statement condemning the violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, calling on the sides to accept a ceasefire and return to the negotiating table. In response, President Erdogan made a fierce statement slamming the OSCE and claiming that Azerbaijan should continue its military push to capture the Nagorno-Karabakh region and thus the war with Armenia.

“I would like to declare that we are together with our brothers in Azerbaijan in their struggle for the liberation of their occupied land. The path to lasting peace in this region lies through the withdrawal of Armenia from all the spans of the Azerbaijani lands occupied by them,” Erdogan said addressing the Turkish Parliament. “Especially the so-called Minsk trio America, Russia, France and their seeking of a ceasefire in the face of this negative situation, which has been reflected these days because they have neglected this problem for nearly 30 years, is above all not acceptable,” he added.

In the best traditions of Turkish public diplomacy, Erdogan simultaneously accused Armenia of triggering the military escalation. Meanwhile, Turkish state media reported that during the recent phone call Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov that Turkey sees no reason for a ceasefire in Karabakh for as long as the region remains in the hands of Armenian forces.

Earlier, the Turkish leadership at the highest level declared that it is ready to provide any help, including military, to Baku. The Armenian side claims that Turkey is in fact participating in the war on the side of Azerbaijan.

Related

What’s at stake in the Armenia-Azerbaijan chessboard

What’s at stake in the Armenia-Azerbaijan chessboard

October 01, 2020

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Few geopolitical hot spots across the planet may rival the Caucasus: that intractable, tribal Tower of Babel, throughout History a contentious crossroads of empires from the Levant and nomads from the Eurasian steppes. And it gets even messier when one adds the fog of war.

To try to shed some light into the current Armenia-Azerbaijan face off, let’s crisscross the basic facts with some essential deep background.

Late last month Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s proverbial “strongman”, in power since 2003, launched a de facto war on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh held by Armenia.

At the collapse of the USSR, Nagorno-Karabakh had a mixed population of Azeri Shi’ites and Armenian Christians. Yet even before the collapse the Azerbaijani Army and Armenian independentists were already at war (1988-1994), which yielded a grim balance of 30,000 dead and roughly a million wounded.

The Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence in 1991: but that was not recognized by the “international community”. Finally there was a ceasefire in 1994 – with Nagorno-Karabakh entering the gray area/no man’s land of “frozen conflict”.

The problem is that in 1993, the United Nations had approved no less than four resolutions – 822, 853, 874 and 884 – establishing that Armenia should withdraw from what was deemed to be roughly 20% of Azerbaijani territory. This is at the core of Baku’s rationale to fight against what it qualifies as a foreign occupation army.

Yerevan’s interpretation though is that these four resolutions are null and void because Nagorno-Karabakh harbors an Armenian-majority population who wants to secede from Azerbaijan.

Historically, Artsakh is one of three ancient provinces of Armenia – rooted at least in the 5th century B.C. and finally established in 189 B.C. Armenians, based on DNA samples from excavated bones, argue they have been settled in Artsakh for at least 4,000 years.

Artsakh – or Nagorno-Karabakh – was annexed to Azerbaijan by Stalin in 1923. That set the stage for a future powder keg to inevitably explode.

It’s important to remember that there was no “Azerbaijan” nation-state until the early 1920s. Historically, Azerbaijan is a territory in northern Iran. Azeris are very well integrated within the Islamic Republic. So the Republic of Azerbaijan actually borrowed its name from their Iranian neighbors. In ancient history, the territory of the new 20th century republic was known as Atropatene, and Aturpakatan before the advent of Islam.

How the equation changed

Baku’s main argument is that Armenia is blocking a contiguous Azerbaijani nation, as a look in the map shows us that southwest Azerbaijan is de facto split all the way to the Iranian border.

And that plunges us necessarily into deep background. To clarify matters, there could not be a more reliable guide than a top Caucasus think tank expert who shared his analysis with me by email, but is insistent on “no attribution”. Let’s call him Mr. C.

Mr. C notes that, “for decades, the equation remained the same and the variables in the equation remained the same, more or less. This was the case notwithstanding the fact that Armenia is an unstable democracy in transition and Azerbaijan had much more continuity at the top.”

We should all be aware that “Azerbaijan lost territory right at the beginning of the restoration of its statehood, when it was basically a failed state run by armchair nationalist amateurs [before Heydar Aliyev, Ilham’s father, came to power]. And Armenia was a mess, too but less so when you take into consideration that it had strong Russian support and Azerbaijan had no one. Back in the day, Turkey was still a secular state with a military that looked West and took its NATO membership seriously. Since then, Azerbaijan has built up its economy and increased its population. So it kept getting stronger. But its military was still underperforming.”

That slowly started to change in 2020: “Basically, in the past few months you’ve seen incremental increases in the intensity of near daily ceasefire violations (the near-daily violations are nothing new: they’ve been going on for years). So this blew up in July and there was a shooting war for a few days. Then everyone calmed down again.”

All this time, something important was developing in the background: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power in May 2018, and Aliyev started to talk: “The Azerbaijani side thought this indicated Armenia was ready for compromise (this all started when Armenia had a sort of revolution, with the new PM coming in with a popular mandate to clean house domestically). For whatever reason, it ended up not happening.”

What happened in fact was the July shooting war.

Don’t forget Pipelineistan

Armenian PM Pashinyan could be described as a liberal globalist. The majority of his political team is pro-NATO. Pashinyan went all guns blazing against former Armenian President (1998- 2008) Robert Kocharian, who before that happened to be, crucially, the de facto President of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Kocharian, who spent years in Russia and is close to President Putin, was charged with a nebulous attempt at “overthrowing the constitutional order”. Pashinyan tried to land him in jail. But even more crucial is the fact that Pashinyan refused to follow a plan elaborated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to finally settle the Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh mess.

In the current fog of war, things are even messier. Mr. C stresses two points: “First, Armenia asked for CSTO protection and got bitch slapped, hard and in public; second, Armenia threatened to bomb the oil and gas pipelines in Azerbaijan (there are several, they all run parallel, and they supply not just Georgia and Turkey but now the Balkans and Italy). With regards to the latter, Azerbaijan basically said: if you do that, we’ll bomb your nuclear reactor.”

The Pipelineistan angle is indeed crucial: for years I have followed on Asia Times these myriad, interlocking oil and gas soap operas, especially the BTC (Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan), conceived by Zbigniew Brzezinski to bypass Iran. I was even “arrested” by a BP 4X4 when I was tracking the pipeline on a parallel side road out of the massive Sangachal terminal: that proved British Petroleum was in practice the real boss, not the Azerbaijani government.

In sum, now we have reached the point where, according to Mr. C,

“Armenia’s saber rattling got more aggressive.” Reasons, on the Armenian side, seem to be mostly domestic: terrible handling of Covid-19 (in contrast to Azerbaijan), and the dire state of the economy. So, says Mr. C, we came to a toxic concourse of circumstances: Armenia deflected from its problems by being tough on Azerbaijan, while Azerbaijan just had had enough.

It’s always about Turkey

Anyway one looks at the Armenia-Azerbaijan drama, the key destabilizing factor is now Turkey.

Mr. C notes how, “throughout the summer, the quality of the Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises increased (both prior to July events and subsequently). The Azerbaijani military got a lot better. Also, since the fourth quarter of 2019 the President of Azerbaijan has been getting rid of the (perceived) pro-Russian elements in positions of power.” See, for instance, here.

There’s no way to confirm it either with Moscow or Ankara, but Mr. C advances what President Erdogan may have told the Russians: “We’ll go into Armenia directly if a) Azerbaijan starts to lose, b) Russia goes in or accepts CSTO to be invoked or something along those lines, or c) Armenia goes after the pipelines. All are reasonable red lines for the Turks, especially when you factor in the fact that they don’t like the Armenians very much and that they consider the Azerbaijanis brothers.”

It’s crucial to remember that in August, Baku and Ankara held two weeks of joint air and land military exercises. Baku has bought advanced drones from both Turkey and Israel. There’s no smokin’ gun, at least not yet, but Ankara may have hired up to 4,000 Salafi-jihadis in Syria to fight – wait for it – in favor of Shi’ite-majority Azerbaijan, proving once again that “jihadism” is all about making a quick buck.

The United Armenian Information Center, as well as the Kurdish Afrin Post, have stated that Ankara opened two recruitment centers – in Afrin schools – for mercenaries. Apparently this has been a quite popular move because Ankara slashed salaries for Syrian mercenaries shipped to Libya.

There’s an extra angle that is deeply worrying not only for Russia but also for Central Asia. According to the former Foreign Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh, Ambassador Extraordinary Arman Melikyan, mercenaries using Azeri IDs issued in Baku may be able to infiltrate Dagestan and Chechnya and, via the Caspian, reach Atyrau in Kazakhstan, from where they can easily reach Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

That’s the ultimate nightmare of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – shared by Russia, China and the Central Asian “stans”: a jihadi land – and (Caspian) sea – bridge from the Caucasus all the way to Central Asia, and even Xinjiang.

What’s the point of this war?

So what happens next? A nearly insurmountable impasse, as Mr. C outlines it:

1. “The peace talks are going nowhere because Armenia is refusing to budge (to withdraw from occupying Nagorno-Karabakh plus 7 surrounding regions in phases or all at once, with the usual guarantees for civilians, even settlers – note that when they went in in the early 1990s they cleansed those lands of literally all Azerbaijanis, something like between 700,000 and 1 million people).”

2. Aliyev was under the impression that Pashinyan “was willing to compromise and began preparing his people and then looked like someone with egg on his face when it didn’t happen.”

3. “Turkey has made it crystal clear it will support Azerbaijan unconditionally, and has matched those words with deeds.”

4. “In such circumstances, Russia got outplayed – in the sense that they had been able to play off Armenia against Azerbaijan and vice versa, quite successfully, helping to mediate talks that went nowhere, preserving the status quo that effectively favored Armenia.”

And that brings us to the crucial question. What’s the point of this war?

Mr. C: “It is either to conquer as much as possible before the “international community” [in this case, the UNSC] calls for / demands a ceasefire or to do so as an impetus for re-starting talks that actually lead to progress. In either scenario, Azerbaijan will end up with gains and Armenia with losses. How much and under what circumstances (the status and question of Nagorno-Karabakh is distinct from the status and question of the Armenian occupied territories around Nagorno-Karabakh) is unknown: i.e. on the field of battle or the negotiating table or a combo of both. However this turns out, at a minimum Azerbaijan will get to keep what it liberated in battle. This will be the new starting point. And I suspect that Azerbaijan will do no harm to the Armenian civilians that stay. They’ll be model liberators. And they’ll take time to bring back Azerbaijani civilians (refugees/IDPs) to their homes, especially in areas that would become mixed as a result of return.”

So what can Moscow do under these circumstances? Not much,

“except to go into Azerbaijan proper, which they won’t do (there’s no land border between Russia and Armenia; so although Russia has a military base in Armenia with one or more thousand troops, they can’t just supply Armenia with guns and troops at will, given the geography).”

Crucially, Moscow privileges the strategic partnership with Armenia – which is a member of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) – while meticulously monitoring each and every NATO-member Turkey’s movement: after all, they are already in opposing sides in both Libya and Syria.

So, to put it mildly, Moscow is walking on a geopolitical razor’s edge. Russia needs to exercise restraint and invest in a carefully calibrated balancing act between Armenia and Azerbaijan; must preserve the Russia-Turkey strategic partnership; and must be alert to all, possible US Divide and Rule tactics.

Inside Erdogan’s war

So in the end this would be yet another Erdogan war?

The inescapable Follow the Money analysis would tells us, yes. The Turkish economy is an absolute mess, with high inflation and a depreciating currency. Baku has a wealth of oil-gas funds that could become readily available – adding to Ankara’s dream of turning Turkey also into an energy supplier.

Mr. C adds that anchoring Turkey in Azerbaijan would lead to “the creation of full-fledged Turkish military bases and the inclusion of Azerbaijan in the Turkish orbit of influence (the “two countries – one nation” thesis, in which Turkey assumes supremacy) within the framework of neo-Ottomanism and Turkey’s leadership in the Turkic-speaking world.”

Add to it the all-important NATO angle. Mr. C essentially sees it as Erdogan, enabled by Washington, about to make a NATO push to the east while establishing that immensely dangerous jihadi channel into Russia: “This is no local adventure by Erdogan. I understand that Azerbaijan is largely Shi’ite Islam and that will complicate things but not render his adventure impossible.”

This totally ties in with a notorious RAND report that explicitly details how “the United States could try to induce Armenia to break with Russia” and “encourage Armenia to move fully into the NATO orbit.”

It’s beyond obvious that Moscow is observing all these variables with extreme care. That is reflected, for instance, in how irrepressible Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, earlier this week, has packaged a very serious diplomatic warning: “The downing of an Armenian SU-25 by a Turkish F-16, as claimed by the Ministry of Defense in Armenia, seems to complicate the situation, as Moscow, based on the Tashkent treaty, is obligated to offer military assistance to Armenia”.

It’s no wonder both Baku and Yerevan got the message and are firmly denying anything happened.

The key fact remains that as long as Armenia proper is not attacked by Azerbaijan, Russia will not apply the CSTO treaty and step in. Erdogan knows this is his red line. Moscow has all it takes to put him in serious trouble – as in shutting off gas supplies to Turkey. Moscow, meanwhile, will keep helping Yerevan with intel and hardware – flown in from Iran. Diplomacy rules – and the ultimate target is yet another ceasefire.

Pulling Russia back in

Mr. C advances the strong possibility – and I have heard echoes from Brussels – that “the EU and Russia find common cause to limit Azerbaijani gains (in large part because Erdogan is no one’s favorite guy, not just because of this but because of the Eastern Med, Syria, Libya).”

That brings to the forefront the renewed importance of the UNSC in imposing a ceasefire. Washington’s role at the moment is quite intriguing. Of course, Trump has more important things to do at the moment. Moreover, the Armenian diaspora in the US swings drastically pro-Democrat.

Then, to round it all up, there’s the all-important Iran-Armenia relationship. Here is a forceful attempt to put it in perspective.

As Mr. C stresses, “Iran favors Armenia, which is counter-intuitive at first sight. So the Iranians may help the Russians out (funneling supplies), but on the other hand they have a good relationship with Turkey, especially in the oil and gas smuggling business. And if they get too overt in their support, Trump has a casus belli to get involved and the Europeans may not like to end up on the same side as the Russians and the Iranians. It just looks bad. And the Europeans hate to look bad.”

We inevitably come back to the point that the whole drama can be interpreted from the perspective of a NATO geopolitical hit against Russia – according to quite a few analyses circulating at the Duma.

Ukraine is an absolute black hole. There’s the Belarus impasse. Covid-19. The Navalny circus. The “threat” to Nord Stream-2.

To pull Russia back into the Armenia-Azerbaijan drama means turning Moscow’s attention towards the Caucasus so there’s more Turkish freedom of action in other theaters – in the Eastern Mediterranean versus Greece, in Syria, in Libya. Ankara – foolishly – is engaged in simultaneous wars on several fronts, and with virtually no allies.

What this means is that even more than NATO, monopolizing Russia’s attention in the Caucasus most of all may be profitable for Erdogan himself. As Mr. C stresses, “in this situation, the Nagorno-Karabakh leverage/’trump card’ in the hands of Turkey would be useful for negotiations with Russia.”

No question: the neo-Ottoman sultan never sleeps.

Related

Russian options in the Karabakh conflict

Russian options in the Karabakh conflict

September 30, 2020

With the eyes of most people locked on the debate between Trump and Biden, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) has received relatively little attention in the West.  Yet, this is a potentially very dangerous situation.  Just think about this: the Armenians are accusing the Turks of shooting down an Armenian Su-25 over Armenia (not NK!).  If that is true, then some would say that this is huge news because this would mean that a NATO member state has committed an act of aggression against the member of the CSTO.

Does that mean that war between two biggest military alliances on the planet is inevitable?

Hardly.

In fact, it seems to me that neither the CSTO nor NATO have much enthusiasm for getting involved.

Let’s take a step back and mention a few basic things.

Check out the huge US Embassy compound in
Erevan and ask yourself:
what are all these guys doing all day long?

One would have imagined that Russia would immediately side with the Christian Armenia against the Muslim Azeris, but this time around there is some evidence that Russians have (finally!) learned some painful lessons from history, especially about Russia’s putatively “Orthodox” putative “brothers”.  The sad truth is that, not unlike Belarus under Lukashenko, Armenia has, since at least 2018 been following the same type of “multi-vector” political course as Belarus.  I would sum up this policy like this: “holding an anti-Russian political course while demanding the support of Russia”.  The Russians did not like this any more in Armenia than they did in Belarus.  But the big difference is this: while Russia cannot afford to “lose” Belarus, she has no real need of Armenia at all, especially an Armenia hostile to Russia.

That is not to say that Russian ought to back Azerbaijan.  Why?  Well, this has nothing to do with language or religion and everything to do with the fact that modern Azerbaijan is a political protégé of Erdogan’s Turkey, which is truly one of the most dangerous countries and political regimes out there, which Russia ought to deal with with the caution of a snake-handler dealing with a particularly nasty and unpredictable pit viper.  Yes, Russia has to engage with both Turkey and Azerbaijan, if only because these two are powerful countries (at least in a regional sense) and because they are almost always up to no good, especially Turkey.

Then there is the issue of the US role in all this.  We can be pretty sure that the US is talking to both sides telling them that as long as they maintain an anti-Russian course they will get the support of Uncle Shmuel.  There are two problems with this:

  • Both sides know that the US is talking to both sides
  • When push comes to shove, the support of the USA really matters very little

I would even argue that any major escalation of the conflict will prove to both parties that the US is long on promises and short on actually delivering on them.  In sharp contrast, Turkey does deliver.  Yes, recklessly and, yes, in violation of international law, but still – Turkey does deliver and they are not shy about confirming this.

Just like in the case of Belarus or the Ukraine, Russia could stop this conflict, especially if the Kremlin decides to use military force, but this would be terrible in political terms and I am confident that Russia will not intervene overtly.  For one thing, this war is a clear case of a zero-sum game in which a negotiated compromise is almost impossible to achieve.

Furthermore, both sides appear to be determined to flight this one to the end, so why should Russia intervene?

Seems to be that remaining a neutral intermediary is the best and only thing Russia ought to do for the time being.  Once the dust settles and once either side fully realizes that Uncle Shmuel is more about words than action, then maybe Russia can, once again, try to offer a regional solution, possibly involving Iran and excluding the USA for sure.  But that can only happen later.

Right now both sides have painted themselves into a corner and both sides seem to be equally committed to a total military victory.

Conclusion: in this conflict, Russia has no allies and no friends.   Right now the Azeris seem to be winning, but if Armenia engages its Iskander missiles or recognizes the independence of NK (both of which the Armenians are now threatening to do), this will get ugly and a Turkish intervention will become possible.  Let’s see how (and even if) the USA will do something to help Erevan.  If not, it will be interesting to see what will happen once the Armenians re-discover a well-known historical truth: Armenia cannot survive without Russia.  And even if the Armenians come to this conclusion, I still would recommend that Russia be very careful in placing her weight behind either side of the conflict (especially since the Azeris have international law on their side).

In other words, I recommend that Russia act only and exclusively in her own geostrategic interest and let the entire region discover how much help Uncle Shmuel can really deliver.  Specifically, I submit that it is in Russia’s national security interest to make sure that:

  1. Turkey remains as weak as possible for as long as possible
  2. The USA remains as weak as possible in the entire region

Right now the Pax Americana is as bad in the Caucasus as it is in the Middle-East.  This is good for Russia and she ought to do nothing which would help Uncle Shmuel.  Only once the US is out of the picture, including in Armenia, should Russia offer aid and support to a peace settlement between the two belligerents.

The Saker

Related

Armenian-Azerbaijani Clashes And Shifting Balance Of Power In South Caucasus

South Front

The Armenian-Azerbaijani tensions have once again turned South Caucasus into a hot point increasing chances of a new regional war.

The key difference with previous military incidents between the two countries is that the point of confrontation shifted from the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border. Clashes first erupted on July 12 in the area of Tovuz and since then both sides have repeatedly accused each other of provoking the conflict, attacking civilians and declared defeats of the ‘enemy’.

According to the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan, the fighting started after Armenian forces opened fire on positions of Azerbaijani forces in the Tovuz district. The fighting which included the use of combat drones, artillery, mortars, and battle tanks continued over the following days, including July 17. The Azerbaijani military confirmed that at least 12 personnel, including Major General Gashimov Polad and Colonel Ilgar Mirzaev, were killed. In turn, Kerim Veliyev, Azerbaijan’s deputy defense minister, said that 100 Armenian soldiers were killed, several fortified positions were destroyed and that a UAV was shot down. Armenia, according to Veliyev, is hiding the real number of its casualties.

Azerbaijani media and top leadership describe the current situation as an act of Armenian aggression, and say that Azerbaijani forces are only responding to it. President Ilham Aliyev even called Armenia a “fascist state” adding that “Armenian forces could not enter Azerbaijan in one centimeter of soil and will never be able to do this”.

The Armenian version of events is quite different. According to it, the clashes started after a group of Azerbaijani soldiers violated the Armenian state border in an UAZ vehicle. The defense ministry press service claimed that after the warning from the Armenian side, “the enemy troops returned to their positions”. It added that later Azerbaijani forces attacked an Armenian checkpoint.

As of now, the Armenian military said that it had repelled two ‘offensives’ involving at least 100 soldiers supported by fire of several artillery battalions. These attacks were allegedly actively supported by combat and reconnaissance drones of Azerbaijan. A spokesperson for the Armenian Defense Ministry Artsrun Hovhannisyan said that Azerbaijan lost at least 20 soldiers, a battle tank and other equipment during the clashes. Armenia says that only 4 of its service members were killed.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim that their forces are repelling an aggression of the enemy, which has been attacking it and killing civilians. However, despite the harsh rhetoric, the leadership of the both countries are sending signals that they are not interested in a larger military confrontation.

At the same time, years of war propaganda and historic tensions between the nations push the situation towards a further escalation. A unilateral move towards the cessation of hostilities by leaders of either country would be presented by the other one as a sign of weakness and promoted as an admission of defeat. Taking into account the complicated political and economic conditions in both countries, neither Armenian nor Azerbaijani leaders could afford such a public move. Therefore, de-escalation is possible only through international mechanisms.

The situation is further complicated by the complex diplomatic situation in the region of the South Caucasus. Armenia, alongside with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The CSTO expressed its concerns over the situation and called on the sides to commit to a ceasefire regime. Nonetheless, the Russia-led security bloc, and Russia itself, demonstrated that in the current situation they will focus on diplomatic measures.

Since the 2018 coup, when Nikol Pashinyan came to power in Armenia, the country has been consistently undermining its relations with the CSTO and Russia by persuing a quite weak, but apparent anti-Russian and pro-Western foreign policy course. The bright dream of the Pashinyan government is to sell its loyalty to the United States for some coins and commit itself to the way of the so-called ‘European integration’. The issue with this plan is that Washington and its partners need Armenia only as a tool of their geopolitical gains and are not interested in providing it with any kind of military protection or economic assistance. The Pashinyan government is forced to play a double game in an attempt to simultaneously please its ‘democratic’ masters and receive protection and assistance from Russia. This attitude is not a secret for Moscow.

On the other hand, in the event of a large-scale military confrontation, Azerbaijan will be supported by its main ally Turkey, which also has close bilateral ties with Russia. Ankara already declared that it fully supports Azerbaijan and condemned the supposed ‘Armenian aggression’. Thus, in the event of full-scale military confrontation, Armenia will immediately find itself in a very complicated situation, and direct military assistance from the CSTO and Russia will be unlikely until there is no threat to Armenian statehood.

So, the Armenian chances in a limited military conflict with Azerbaijan and Turkey is at least shaky. Turkey and Azerbaijan fully understand this. By undermining strategic relations with Moscow, and thus the balance of power in the region, Erevan put the entire South Caucasus on the brink of a new regional war.

CENTRAL ASIA’S RACE AGAINST TIME

South Front

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson; Voiceover by Harold Hoover

The Great Game, Part 3

The threat that faces Central Asia is particularly severe since the two sets of actors have asymmetrical objectives. Russia and China are rather interested in the political stability and economic success of the region which they view as essential to their own political and security objectives. It is not in the interest of either country to have half a dozen failed states in their immediate political neighborhood, riven by political, economic, and religious conflicts threatening to spread to their own territories. In addition to being a massive security burden to Russia and China, it would threaten the development of their joint Eurasian integration projects and, moreover, attract so much political attention that the foreign policy objectives of both countries would be hamstrung. The effect would be comparable to that of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on the US political and military establishment. The monetary price of these wars, sheer political distraction, wear and demoralization of the armed forces, and unfortunately frequent killings of civilians amount to a non-tenable cost to the warring party, not to mention damage to US international “soft power” wrought by scandals associated with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and “black sites”. Even as these words are being written, a senior-ranking US Navy “SEAL” commando is facing a court-martial for the wanton killing of civilians in Northern Iraq during the US military’s anti-ISIS operations.

By contrast, this dismal scenario would be enough to satisfy the US foreign policy establishment which, at the moment, is wholly dominated by “hawks” determined to assure the continuation of US hegemony.  Preventing the emergence of a multi-polar international system by weakening China and Russia is their desire.  This sets the stage for another round of great power rivalry in Central Asia. While the pattern is roughly the same as during the 19th and late 20th centuries—one or more Anglo-Saxon powers seeking to diminish the power of Russia and/or China—the geography of the battlefield is considerably larger for it encompasses the entirety of post-Soviet Central Asian republics.  Also included is China’s province of Xinjiang which has suddenly attracted considerable Western attention, manifested, as usual, by concern for “human rights” in the region.  Historically, such “concern” usually precedes some form of aggressive action. Therefore the two sets of great power actors—the US and other interested Western powers on the one hand, with Russia and China on the other—are locked in a race against time. Will countries of the region be destabilized to the point of civil war, or will the integrative projects pursued by the two Eurasian powers induce prosperity and stability quickly enough to forestall this nightmare scenario?

The Belt and Road Initiative

An example of the benefits that may accrue for Central Asian states is already visible in places like the Khorgos-Nurkent pair of cities on the border between China and Kazakhstan, a location which has recently become the world’s largest “dry port”. First opened in 2015, in 2016 it handled 45 thousand containers, a figure that grew to over 150,000 in 2018 and is projected to continue increasing. Job opportunities in the region are such that Nurkent, which barely existed even few years ago, is expected to become one of Kazakhstan’s largest cities in the coming decades.

The success of Khorgos-Nurkent will be replicated in other parts of Central Asia, as the growing volumes of trade necessitate construction of additional infrastructure. The job opportunities thus created offer the countries of Central Asia an opportunity to diversify their economies which, at the moment, are heavily dependent upon the exploitation of natural resources. Furthermore, infrastructure expansion will facilitate the growth of yet another industry hitherto largely missing from the region, namely tourism. The region is dotted with cultural attractions such as the ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, and the beauty of its nature is also likely to attract many tourists.

Yet all of these are fragile developments and highly vulnerable to any negative security developments. The recent uptick in attention focused on Xinjiang cannot help but have an adverse impact on the international perception of the region’s security and stability.

Collective Security Treaty Organization

Thus far the main entity tasked with providing security for the region is the CSTO. The CSTO includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, with Afghanistan and Serbia being non-member observers states. Uzbekistan exited the CSTO for the second time in 2012. The armed forces of CSTO member states’ stage regular joint exercises focusing on combating armed non-state actor formations, followed by peace enforcement and restoration components. Russia’s recent combat experience in Syria is perfectly relevant to the problems faced by the CSTO, given that the openness and low population density of the potential theater of operations mirrors conditions around Palmyra and Deir-es-Zor, while the potential adversary is actually the same—the Islamic State. While ISIS was purportedly “defeated” in Iraq and Western Syria by the US-led coalition, the fact that we have not seen any evidence of these fighters being taken prisoner or, better yet, put on trial for the well-documented atrocities they perpetrated and posted on social media for all the world to see, one should not be overly surprised if these very same individuals start appearing in Central Asia in order to promote chaos in that part of the world.

Another important actor is China. It is evident that China does not appear eager to involve its armed forces in operations outside the borders of its own state and its level of inter-operability with Russian and Central Asian militaries remains very low. Even the large-scale Vostok-2018 exercise, held in September of 2018 in Russia’s Far East where Chinese troops were present, did not demonstrate any great level of inter-operability between these two armed forces. While these factors might change in the coming decades, there may be a political dimension here, in the form of an informal “division of labor” agreement between Russia and China on how to manage their cooperation. It is entirely possible that China is perfectly happy to allow Russia to leverage its superior military experience for the sake of shared economic and political interests. Finally, China’s restraint from sending its military into Central Asia for exercises may be motivated by a desire to avoid a “sphere of influence” rivalry with Russia. There is some concern within Russia about China’s aims in Central Asia, and construction of Chinese military bases in the region would almost inevitably complicate Sino-Russian relations.

European Research Area

The “Russia-centricity” of Central Asia’s security environment is exemplified by the efforts of the “ERA Technopolis”, a military research and development center launched in 2018 in Anapa, on the coast of the Black Sea.  Expected to be completed in 2020, the purpose of the ERA is to promote the military inter-operability of CSTO member states. The military aspect of the potential challenge facing the CSTO is largely the same as was faced by Russian and Syrian forces around Palmyra—highly trained, well equipped, and extremely mobile detachments of jihadists relying on hit-and-run tactics rather than a stubborn defense of urban areas. Dealing with such an adversary places a premium on intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, rapid communications, and, of course, high mobility. In order to ensure that armed forces of CSTO member states are up to the task, their representatives are participating in the development of relevant technological solutions and then incorporating those solutions into their own military and security forces.

Conclusion

All of these collective security measures appear to be intended to provide a deterrent effect which is all the greater thanks to Russia’s demonstrated ability at combating these kinds of threats in Syria. Experience has shown that the Western “regime collapse” specialists are attracted to weakness and shy away from strength. Indeed, as soon as the covert action or proxy warfare component fails, they call for military action in order to salvage the situation.  That is a step that even the Obama and Trump administrations shied away from when confronted with the prospect of an armed clash with Russia and China. The best possible outcome for Central Asia is if the collective security arrangements for the region are perceived as being strong enough that any attempt to challenge them runs the risk of becoming yet another embarrassing failure.

 

The CSTO members build a defensive system – from information and politic to logistics and equipment

The CSTO members build a defensive system – from information and politic to logistics and equipment

http://redstar.ru/eshelony-kollektivnoj-oborony/

Alexander ALEXANDROV for the Red star newspaper

Translation by Scott Humor

 

The upcoming joint operational-strategic exercises of the Joined forces of the Collective Security Treaty organization called “Combat brotherhood – 2019” are intended to demonstrate the unity of the states parties in matters of collective security. During the maneuvers that will unfold on territories of four member states, political and diplomatic tools, combat potential, as well as mechanisms of information and other non-military impact for prevention and settlement of military conflicts in the zone of responsibility of the organization will be tested.

This, in particular, was discussed at a press conference held in Moscow by acting Secretary General of the organization Valery Semerikov via the satellite connection with locations in Minsk, Yerevan, Nur Sultan and Bishkek. However, the administrative head of the Collective Security Treaty Organization began the conference discussing threats of predominantly collective nature.

According to the CSTO Secretary General, the situation in Afghanistan, primarily on the Tajik – Afghan border, and its impact on the region of Central Asia is the focus of attention of the organization’s member states. “Tensions remain in the Caucus region due to an unresolved Karabakh conflict, tensions are also rising due to NATO’s military development on the territory of Georgia,” Valery Semerikov continued.

He also expressed collective concerns about NATO’s regular exercises in Eastern Europe, at the borders with Belarus and Russia. The Alliance’s obvious unwillingness to work with the colleagues from the CSTO, and instead – NATO insistence to cooperate with each of the member states separately, only confirms the conclusions of the Russia’s Security Council about a possible preparation by NATO to stage so-called color revolutions. This was confirmed by attempts of cyber attacks on the national infrastructure of the organization.

To respond to these threats, as the acting Secretary General made it clear, is a responsibility of the Crisis Response Center, whose tasks include information and analytical support of competent structures to combat the “hidden threats” “The CSTO crisis response center is engaged in monitoring military and political situation in the zones of responsibility of the states, identifying the prerequisites for crisis situations and analyzing the appropriate response,” Valery Semerikov explained.

The focus of the organization’s member states is on the situation in Afghanistan, primarily on the Tajik-Afghan border, and its impact on the Central Asian region.

The center was involved in a recent business game, in which a set of political and diplomatic response measures of the organization’s members were worked out in response to the crisis situation in some fictional state. In development, it gave a start to preparation for the operational and strategic exercises of the CSTO Joined forces named the “Combat brotherhood – 2019”.

“In 2019, we will hold six exercises on the territory of four countries: Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, – Valery Semerikov said, answering journalists’ questions. – The total number of forces involved, according to our calculations, will be about 12 thousand”.

During these operational and strategic exercises of the CSTO Joined forces “Combat brotherhood – 2019,” as reported, an entire complex of measures of prevention or deterrent, as well as resolution of military conflict with the subsequent restoration of peace will be worked out in a logical sequence. National contingents of troops will work out different tasks as parts of separate episodes of one untied work-frame of a single military-political situation with a single strategic plan.

For example, the training of anti-drug units of the CSTO “Thunder-2019” in August will take place in Kyrgyzstan. The actions of the intelligence units within the framework of the “Search-2019” will continue with “Interaction-2019” drill of the Joined Rapid Response forces. It is also envisaged that maneuvers of the “Unbreakable Brotherhood” of peacekeeping forces will be held in conjunction with the exercise “Rubezh-2019” of the border guards on the territory of Tajikistan.

All actions of the coalition groups in the East European and Central Asian regions of collective security will be accompanied by deployment of troops within the framework of the exercise of the collective aviation forces “Air Bridge – 2019” and for the first time with a single material and technical support in a course of joint actions of the MTO logistics troops units “Echelon-2019”.

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