What recent escalations in Artsakh and Armenia can tell us about Azerbaijan’s post-war strategy

Azeri president Ilham Aliyev visits military in occupied Shushi, November 8, 2021 (Photo: Official website of the President of Azerbaijan)

One year after the 2020 Artsakh War, tensions are still high in Artsakh and along Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan. Despite numerous statements of the Armenian government to bring about an era of peace and stability to the region and willingness to normalize relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, peace is as remote a possibility now as it was on November 10, 2020. Since the end of the 2020 war, Armenia has made significant concessions to secure peace. In mid-December 2020, Armenia’s Armed Forces withdrew from their positions near Syunik, yielding 21 kilometers of the Armenia–Iran interstate highway to Azerbaijan. It was done in clear violation of the November 10, 2020, statement, which articulated that all forces should remain in their positions except the modalities concerning the regions of Aghdam, Lachin and Kelbajar. Armenia did not prevent the incursion of Azerbaijani forces into Syunik and Gegharkunik regions back in May and has not taken steps to expel Azerbaijani soldiers from Armenian territories.

After winning the early parliamentary elections of June 2021, the current government used very vague language on Artsakh in its new program, not using the term Republic of Artsakh and not clarifying its position on the status and fate of the territories taken by Azerbaijan as a result of the 2020 war. In recent months, the Armenian government constantly spoke about its willingness to normalize relations with Turkey and mentioned some mysterious positive signals received from Turkish counterparts. During his UN General Assembly speech, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan did not say a single word about Turkey’s involvement in the 2020 war and did not mention the Armenian Genocide.

Given the actions and attitudes of the current Armenian government, it might seem that Azerbaijan should do whatever is necessary to reciprocate and improve relations with Armenia. However, we see a different approach from the Azerbaijani government. Since the end of the 2020 war, Azerbaijan has launched a two-prong strategy in Artsakh – to contribute to the exodus of Armenians and bring Azerbaijanis into the territories of the former Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) currently occupied by Azerbaijan, in particular Shushi and Hadrut. Azerbaijan’s calculations are straightforward: to do everything possible to have equal numbers of Armenians and Azerbaijanis in the former NKAO as soon as possible. After reaching that goal, Azerbaijan may offer to organize an expression of will about the future status of Karabakh to close the issue finally. Simultaneously, Azerbaijan may try to convince Armenians living in Artsakh about the bright prospects if they agree to accept Azerbaijani citizenship and forget about self-determination and independence. This policy may start by offering potential new Azerbaijani citizens higher salaries, pensions and other privileges without demanding to leave Artsakh immediately. However, the ultimate goal of Azerbaijan in Artsakh is clear – to prevent even the slightest possibility of having an independent Artsakh, change the region’s demography and push out Armenians.

Azerbaijan has a clear-cut strategy for its relations with Armenia too. Since the end of the 2020 war, Azerbaijan has blackmailed, threatened and forced its way into trying to establish a land corridor with the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic and Turkey through the Syunik province. Azerbaijani leadership uses the term “Zangezur corridor” but is ready for any other word in line with its strategy. Azerbaijan’s vision is clear; Azerbaijani citizens and goods should pass through Syunik without any passport, customs or border control implemented by the Armenian side. The best case scenario for Azerbaijan is to have no control, the worst-case scenario – to have only Russian control – creating a so-called “Lachin Corridor 2” in the Syunik province. The long-term strategy envisages the growing Azerbaijani and Turkish presence in the Syunik region, a gradual change in demographics and the establishment of at least de facto control over Syunik. Thus, the uncontrolled passage through the province of Syunik is the only first step toward the ultimate goal of at least de facto cutting the province from Armenia.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has successfully implemented the so-called “salami tactics,” taking slices of Armenian territory. Azerbaijan promised Armenian leadership that Armenian citizens would have no problems while using parts of the Armenia–Iran interstate highway, which Armenia handed over to Azerbaijan in mid-December 2020. However, on November 11, Azerbaijan established customs control along that highway, effectively closing it for Armenians. Meanwhile, despite all statements from the Armenian government about its readiness to launch an era of peace in the region and normalize relations with Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani troops encroached into the Armenian territory in May and again earlier this week. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his Ministry of Foreign Affairs have reiterated that Azerbaijani troops were deployed in sovereign Azerbaijani territory, declaring parts of Syunik and Gegharkunik region as Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has a clear strategy – to take as much territory from Armenia as possible, to force Armenia to provide Azerbaijan routes to Nakhichevan via Syunik without any Armenian control, and in the long run, to establish at least de facto control over Syunik. The current actions of the Armenian government are insufficient to protect vital Armenian national interests. All talks about positive signals from Turkey, a willingness to usher in an era of regional peace, declaring sections of the Armenia–Iran interstate highway as Azerbaijani territory and refusal to articulate a clear position on the future status and territories of Artsakh are parts of an appeasement policy towards Azerbaijan. However, both history and the past year’s developments have proven that appeasement and constant willingness to sacrifice national interests do not pave a path toward peace and development, but rather create a recipe for national disaster.   

Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan

Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan

Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan is the founder and chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies. He was the former vice president for research – head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense Research University in Armenia. In March 2009, he joined the Institute for National Strategic Studies as a research Fellow and was appointed as INSS Deputy Director for research in November 2010. Dr. Poghosyan has prepared and managed the elaboration of more than 100 policy papers which were presented to the political-military leadership of Armenia, including the president, the prime minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Poghosyan has participated in more than 50 international conferences and workshops on regional and international security dynamics. His research focuses on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and the Middle East, US – Russian relations and their implications for the region, as well as the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. He is the author of more than 200 academic papers and articles in different leading Armenian and international journals. In 2013, Dr. Poghosyan was a Distinguished Research Fellow at the US National Defense University College of International Security Affairs. He is a graduate from the US State Department Study of the US Institutes for Scholars 2012 Program on US National Security Policy Making. He holds a PhD in history and is a graduate from the 2006 Tavitian Program on International Relations at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

17 Comments

  1. Armenia took its eye off the ball after 1994 and was caught off guard in 2020, leading to defeat and appeasement. It’s time to make a stand and seek diplomatic and even military assistance to discourage further aggression.

  2. It seems Pashinyan is the one common denominator for all this loss is he not? Of course he is. He needs be rid immediately. Hes a proven loser and a major liability to Armenia’s security and future.

  3. Seek Iran’s Intervention. Iran has more in common with Armenia than Russia. It is in Armenia’s interest to seek temporary presence of Iranian forces in its borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Pashinyan should fly to Tehran, Athens, Paris and Washington, in this order. There is nothing more important than sovereignty nd defending Countries borders.

    • Then Azerbaijan should seek Israel, Turkish and Pakistan’s interventions. All nuclear power. All hate Iran. Damn conclusion. Instead of peace this journalist creates more fire.

    • The USA and France have nothing in common with Armenia. Turkey is their NATO pet and they are responsible for creating this monster over the course of decades. Iran and Russia have an increasingly closer relationship and we would do well to seek their cooperation on this.

  4. American author Eric Hoffer pointed out in his writings that “The only index by which to judge a government or a way of life is by the quality of the people it acts upon. No matter how noble the objectives of a government, if it blurs decency and kindness, cheapens human life, and breeds ill will and suspicion- it is an evil government.”
    Any government that “Cheapens human life” by casually sacrificing 5000 soldiers, to satisfy the greed of a money hungry, former defence minister David Tonoyan (crony of PM Pashinyan) and a bunch of incompetent army Generals is an EVIL Government. One more EVIL act to add to the list- territorial concessions to appease a Petro Dictator (Aliyev) and throw Artsakh under the bus. Pashinyan thinks that the price Armenia is paying to protect Artsakh is too steep. The dignity of a Nation means nothing to a myopic leader willing to place on the auction bloc every sacred value we defended with courage since 301AD.

  5. I look at the accompanying photo with this article with disgust.
    And I take to task our incompetent leadership.
    As he walked smugly on our Shushi soil, it would simply be the perfect opportunity to take out that bastard. Instead all we do is acquiesce and retreat.

  6. Their longterm goal is the complete elimination of the Armenian race, always has been. The Armenian genocide isn’t just something that happened from 1915-1923, it is an ongoing project dating back to the initial Seljuk Turk invasions to today.

  7. Taking out cartoon faced Aliyev seems to be an impossibility, at least from our side. Time is running out fast. Can Putin be fully trusted, no, he cannot, seems like he plays all sides. The arms industry is a very lucrative industry indeed, there is no loyalty. Time is fast running out for Our Armenia. Go to the West, join NATO, like the other bastard (Er dog an) did. This is like a bad, reoccurring dream, do they, (we) not see what is happening here. Get the European Community involved, get the US involved and do it Now. Deeds are more important than words, and we do have lots of words. That is our last chance. May God help us.

    • Joining NATO is what Turkey did in the 1950’s, not because of Erdogan. NATO has not, and will not help Armenia. I have no idea why you keep worshipping them. They are responsible for creating this mess and are notorious for playing both sides.

  8. A well written article asking many sensible questions we would all love to get answers for. There is no doubt that the former leaderships left us all very vulnerable to a constantly increasing and obvious Azeri threat. There are many instances of corruption and self enrichment from former leaderships and tales of incompetence about the current PM. One thing is very clear, the fact that Putin is playing his own game despite a defence agreement with Armenia and would not step in to help us but would gladly want to control our border with Iran. Joining NATO will be suicidal as NATO has not stepped in to help any new applicant but used them to agitate Russia at great expense to themselves. This would also ruin any possible help from Russia and would in fact have the opposite effect. Iran is a natural ally and can be relied upon for material help but would not physically get involved and endanger itself because of a large internal Azeri population and danger of upsetting Turkey (NATO member) and inviting reprisals from Israel (ally of Azerbaijan) itching to strike Iran and of course drag in the US into the equation. Nevertheless, the Iran option should be persued vigorously. The only sensible option is to re-arm with modern weapons and stop the Azeri aggression. Russia would love this as she will be selling arms to both sides. We need to put aside our divisionism and criticism of fellow Armenians who might legitimately have different ideas. We need to concentrate on the real enemy outside. Unity of purpose is essential for our survival. The diaspora can help by digging deep into our pockets and organising political support from outside. Where are our experts in the diaspora who can advise and make our own weapons internally in Armenia? Where are our nationalist leaders from internal political groups? from Diaspora political parties? from our various religious leaders? Why don’t they put selfishness aside and think of the syrvival of the nation and homeland and preach unity to their followers? No nation can survive in these toxic times without unity. Our divisionism is being exploited by our enemies for their own good. We need to wake up to this fact. And SOON.

    • Defending Armenians in Armenia and Armenians in Iran is Iran’s solemn duty. We feel a sense of responsibility about security and safety of our brothers and sisters in Armenia. Yes, we have about 10-15 million Azeri speaking population in Iran, and we have Kurds, Baloochs, Persians, Arabs, Armenians, Georgians, Gilakis, etc. We are all sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters of Cyrus. we have spoken different languages, chosen different lifestyle and religions, but we have lived in harmony under one banner for millenniums as a united nation and shed blood to defend our motherland. Armenia should capitalize on this sense of comradery and brotherhood. It is worthwhile to remind the author and readers that Iran went to defence of Oman’s governors in Shah era, and all sect of Iranian people, including Armenians shed blood to defend the mother land against the aggression of a dictator (like Aliyev) about 40 years ago. In Qajar era some parts of our motherland were separated by Russia, but our responsibility to maintain peace and harmony within the historical borders and our sense of kinship toward our brothers and sisters remained unshaken.

  9. Isn’t it funny how Armenians incessantly badmouth Russia/Russians in peacetime, and then cry and beg for Russian help in wartime? Isn’t it funny how even when Armenia is defeated and defenseless in front of the enemy, Armenians still try to act tough and make demands?

    But fret not, Armenia is NOT being invaded. What’s going on is simply part of the process to convince the Armenian side to delineate and demarcate the borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Azeri side is basically saying, if you do not recognize our internationally recognized borders we will not recognize yours. It’s a pressure tactic to bring Armenians to the negotiations table and finally establish an official border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is something that the entire international community, including Russia, wants Armenia to do. Nevertheless, I reiterate: There will not be an invasion of Armenia as such a thing will trigger a world war.

    In any case, this is a situation we got ourselves into with our political incompetence and shortsightedness.

    Had we done way with our Western fetish and “complimentary politics” and fully embraced the Russian Bear, at least starting in the summer of 2008, we would not be where we are today. Had we invited Russian troops into Artsakh after 1994, we would not be where we are today. Not only did we not concentrate our lobbying efforts in Moscow, by pursuing “complimentary politics” and flooding Armenia with Western activists and NGOs, we did everything possible to alienate Russia. And our crowning achievement in this regard was putting into power a Western-financed, pro-Turkish regime in 2018. And here we are.

    And we still have dubious characters calling on Armenia to abandon Russia.

    No more feeling bad. No more shedding tears. No more providing help. Armenians need to suffer the consequences of their arrogance, jealousy, tribalism, shortsightedness, irrationality, political illiteracy, Russophobia, Western fetish, “democratic” choice and last but not least abandoning Artsakh. After the spring of 2018 – after June 20, 2021 in particular – we Armenians deserve everything coming to us.

    The fundamental problem with Armenia is its “democratically” elected leader, who is a Western-financed, pro-Turkish degenerate but one that still enjoys great popularity throughout Armenian society. Just couple of days before the latest fighting, the people’s choice sacked the acting defense minister and replaced him with one of his lemmings, someone with NO MILITARY EXPERIENCE. This begs the question: Was Nikol expecting this latest round of fighting? Moreover, Nikol once again did NOT mobilize the nation’s armed forces in face of Baku’s aggression, and instead called on Russia to intervene militarily knowing full well that the fighting on the border does not warrant a military intervention by Moscow. Was this just another attempt at blackmailing Russia? And the final, million dollar question: Why hasn’t there been a popular uprising against Nikol’s incompetent and destructive regime?

    Armenians are the main authors of the historic tragedy we have been witnessing.

    Just like how anti-Russian Elchibey led Azerbaijan to defeat in 1991, anti-Russian Saakashvili led Georgia to defeat in 2008 and the anti-Russian Ukrainian Maidan led Ukraine to defeat in 2014, Nikol and his Western/Turkish financed regime led Armenia to defeat in 2020. Amazingly, Armenians reelected Nikol in 2021. It is therefore no surprise that Russians have very little respect for Armenians these days, and even less for Nikol and his team. What Russians actually care about is strategic Armenia and their presence inside Armenia. This latest round of fighting on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan will serve to speed-up the border delineation/demarcation process (which Armenia desperately needs today) and it will increase Russia’s political and military role inside Armenia. Therefore, it’s a win-win for Moscow.

    There is a lot of political maneuvering going on between Russians, Azeris and Turks. And Armenia – a failed state run by Western-financed, pro-Turkish imbeciles – is simply caught in the middle.

    The cost of political illiteracy is high, and we have been paying it. It’s no one’s fault but ours. Also, allow me to remind the reader that there are no free lunches in politics. If we are incapable of nation-building and self-defense – in a complicated and violent place like the south Caucasus of all places – we don’t deserve independence. The quicker we therefore give the house keys to Ivan and Natasha (i.e. merge with Russia), the better it will be for Armenia in the long term. The last 30 years proved toxic. We turned a highly developed country into third world wasteland. The only things that developed during the last 30 years were Western financed NGOs, restaurants, casinos and strip clubs.

    Frankly, I no longer care about the plight of Armenians as much of the plight we Armenians suffer are of our making. What I remain concerned about and interested in preserving is Armenia…

  10. Pashinian is playing with fire trying to appease the West and Russia. Him flirting with NATO is why Russia didn’t step in until it was too late. He’s a failure as an MP.

  11. I was just thinking about the book I read last year and I am glad I didn’t give it away because I thought this is something beyond my capabilities and should not think or worry about it. The best I could do. The book is called: “The nest 100 Years-A FORECAST FOR THE 21ST CENTURY” by George Friedman an American Jew, and he is the founder and CEO of STRATFOR. I re-visited the book and I realised that there is a game being played by those who are running the show (the world political show) and for those who are interested or curious to know especially our Diasporan leaders, political organization mainly ARF, that we are being prepared for new surprises and Turkey has a major play in the next one hundred years. If we look back, since Mr Erdogan came to power or brought to power, Turkey has been spending Billions of dolars by buying advanced weapons systems and and…preparing Turkey for new adventures. The question was which way these adventures would be directed? to the West or to the East? it is very evident now, that it is going to be toward east and this means that Armenia is the first country to be eliminated…slowly. George Friedman predicts that Turkey is going to unite with her Turkic brothers and sisters as far as China where more than 20 million Uyghurs live. This very well means, that we as a country, are and will be in trouble, serious trouble. This could be our end or lets say maybe our expiry date has arrived. So, as a simple minded Armenian such as myself can observe and be perceptive and be aware of all those possibilities, how come I never hear or heard from any of our political leaders especially so, from ARF leaders (forget about Armenian leaders in Armenia, because they have sold their souls for 30 shillings and I mean every single one of them) that this is (and was) our time to think about it seriously, because we know that our strength is in our UNITY, and because of this belief we must stop bickering like they (ARF in Armenia and Diaspora) and come together and look and find some answers to our short sightedness, and our misunderstandings between ourselves and come up with solutions. We are not doing anything to prepare ourselves for the present moment and for our future which eventually will be again the present moment. 130 years ago our forefathers believed in exactly what I am talking about, they BELIEVED IN PREPARING FOR THE EVENTS THEY WERE GOING TO EXPERIENCE and they took the initiative and moved on with it and you know what, they created a NEW REPUBLIC called Armenia after 620 years of SLAVERY. We should learn now what the Turks are doing for the last 30 years…they are preparing for war and through war they again are going to acquire and own NEW LANDS, they are going to ENRICH themselves again with the expense of other countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, and now is our turn AGAIN-Armenia what ever is left of it. So the question I am asking is WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US? Truly. What is wrong with us? Why aren’t we negotiating with everyone and taking the initiative. Why don’t we initiate and start the job of preparing for any eventuality. For God sake, are we blind. If we are, then it is OK. Maybe our expiry date has arrived. I fully agree with Mr Gregory Minasian to implement new thinking and new way of working. What we need now is leaders with BIG Balls and not afraid to take us into a new way of thinking and taking action. It is shame really. God bless Armenia and all Armenians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*