Keghart.org Editorial, by Khajag Aghazarian, 25 September 2021
It is beyond any doubt that Armenians suffered a major loss in the Total War unleashed by Azerbaijan upon the Republic of Artsakh on 27 September of 2020. Dangers facing the physical existence of Armenians on their historical lands are still active and serious. Fighting ended on 9 November 2020 yet Armenians are still in the unknown as to what happened and why. Confusion and fear seemed to lead the framework of analysis in the early post war stages. After almost a year the question whether Artsakh will remain Armenian, and whether it will be able to sustain another military assault, persists. The well-being of Armenia and having a bright future is under serious doubt, not to say the broken morale of a nation that survived yet another existential threat in the 21st century. While waiting for official enquiry and a thorough scientific analysis of the Second Artsakh War and its outcomes, we will try to give answers to some of the main ambiguous results through the following observations recorded during the aftermath of the Second Artsakh War:
- Azerbaijan assault began on 27 September 2020 after at least one decade of preparations, planning, and escalation in rhetoric. This offensive didn’t take local nor foreign observers by surprise, it was expected to happen.
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a US based security and political research center, published a report on 8 December 2020, according to which the “tipping point” was the fleet of 9 different types of Israeli UAVs that Azerbaijan had stockpiled for 14 years as of 2007. The fleet included intelligence and what is known as “suicide drones” which inflicted the highest amount of harm on the Armenian servicemen, military equipment and ground positions and played a decisive role in determining the course of events during this war. The Turkish Bayraktar UAV had its share as well, but it was subordinate to the Israeli UAVs.
- The Armenian military demonstrated fierce resistance inflicting serious harm on the Azeri forces. Officially Azerbaijan reported 2,879 deaths of its servicemen however, since November 9 ceasefire, information has leaked through reliable sources suggesting staggering higher figures. By reviewing Azerbaijan’s military propaganda, we can confirm that they systematically downsize their losses to one third of the actual figures. Since 1991, Azerbaijan had not officially declared its military losses. That behaviour changed during the April 2016 escalation when Azerbaijan announced that only 90 servicemen had been killed. At that time US State Department based on intelligence information showed that Azerbaijan lost more than 260 soldiers during the 2016 clashes. Following this pattern, Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense announced the death of only 12 servicemen during July 2020 military escalation along the frontline, however, US and other Western governments confirmed the death of around 38 Azerbaijani servicemen. Based on this propaganda pattern, expert analysis and information released by Western diplomats, Azerbaijan lost at least 8,700 servicemen during the 2020 war. Some sources confirm as high as 12,000 deaths. The number of wounded servicemen exceeded 15,000. In other words, almost 36% of Azerbaijan’s army, consisting of 65,000 active troops, was neutralized after 44 days of combat. This is a very heavy toll on a regular army. Aliyev could not afford to sustain additional losses. It is also safe to assume that Azerbaijan is cautious in getting engaged in a new war with the Armenian side knowing its deadly outcome on his troops.
- “Victory” hailed by Azerbaijan is controversial and debatable. Aliyev had mobilized intensely since 2011 his country’s weak economy, military capabilities, and profits, gathered from available resources such as oil and gas, for this war of “liberation.” However, in fact he fell short of achieving that. The tab of this venture exceeded $35 billion besides the gross human casualties that Azerbaijani people had to sacrifice and still the case of “Nagorno-Karabakh” is far from being closed. As such, Azerbaijan failed in achieving their main objective of September 2020 war.
- Contrary to popular belief the 2020 Artsakh War did not result in a ‘Total Loss’ for Armenians (i.e. capitulation). More than 55% of the Artsakh territory – what is legally known as “Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Republic” – remains and is controlled by the Armenian side. This unrecognized republic still has one of the main components for seeking international recognition that is, defined territory. This is a very important factor in its legal battle for independence.
Armenians lost lives, land and resources but have not lost Artsakh. They continue to hold the elements of statehood namely permanent population, defined territory, government, and capacity to engage in relations with other states. All these components are crucial to gather international support for the next phase of this conflict that is, the final settlement of the status of Artsakh.
On various occasions, government officials of both Artsakh and RoA reiterated their historical demand of independent Artsakh. This should be developed and positioned at the core of RoA and Artsakh diplomacy, as well as Diaspora’s lobbying agenda. The cause of Artsakh should take legal and diplomatic coherent paths. Time is not on the side of Armenians, hence all the resources of the nation should be invested to serve this central aim.