Winds of War

By Editorial Board , 26 October 2010

One doesn’t have to be uber-military strategist Karl von Clausewitz or Marshal Hovhannes Bagramyan to know that Armenia shouldn’t seek war with Azerbaijan, but acting reluctantly is not unusual for states, just as it is for individuals. For example, is it a good idea to launch a pre-emptive war when your enemy is getting stronger by the day, and keeps making threatening noises, in addition to provoking you and probing your border with incursions and small-scale sneak attacks?

By Editorial Board , 26 October 2010

One doesn’t have to be uber-military strategist Karl von Clausewitz or Marshal Hovhannes Bagramyan to know that Armenia shouldn’t seek war with Azerbaijan, but acting reluctantly is not unusual for states, just as it is for individuals. For example, is it a good idea to launch a pre-emptive war when your enemy is getting stronger by the day, and keeps making threatening noises, in addition to provoking you and probing your border with incursions and small-scale sneak attacks?

It’s no secret that Azerbaijan is investing huge amounts of money to strengthen its military. In mid-October President Ilham Aliyev stated that his country’s military expenditure will total $3 billion in 2011. Armenia’s military expenditures was about $360 million–one-ninth of Baku’s military budget. Although Armenia most probably receives special military aid from Moscow, the disparity in military expenditures between Yerevan and Baku are too jarring not to be concerned.

In recent years Baku has bought weapons from 18 nations–from Ukraine to Israel. Azeri soldiers have also received training from Turkish and Israeli officers. The latter have also upgraded Baku’s intelligence and electronic warfare capabilities. It’s a well-known fact that Israel has one of the most sophisticated military-electronic infrastructures.

Azerbaijan itself has a burgeoning military industry, which manufactures weapons and delivery systems. Perhaps because of the bloody nose it received 16 years ago, Baku wants to be 200% certain that it would win the war before attacking Armenia-Artsakh.

So far, Armenia has avoided being drawn into an unnecessary war with its noisy and sword-brandishing neighbour in the east. But on the other side of the coin there’s another important question: Why hasn’t Azerbaijan engaged in a full-scale war with Armenia-Artsakh? Is Baku all bark and no bite?

Here are 9 reasons for Baku’s "self-control":

1. Turkey, for its own reasons (and there are many of those reasons), has told Azerbaijan not to blunder into war against Armenia-Artsakh.

2. Russia, for its own reasons (and there are many of those, too), has told Azerbaijan not to start a war with Armenia-Artsakh.

3. Global petroleum corporations, which have invested billions of dollars in the extraction, refinement, and transport of Azeri oil, have cautioned Baku that they are not prepared to see their investments end up in smoke as a result of an Armenian/Azeri war. After all, Baku’s oilfields are a mere 200 kms, as the bird flies, from Artsakh’s easterly border.

4. The United States, for its own multiple reasons, has told Azerbaijan not to jump into a reckless adventure.

5. Recently Russia and Armenia signed a military pact. It will prolong the presence of Russian troops stationed in Armenia for a substantial period. The troops will have not only "functions stemming from the interests of the Russian Federation," but also "protect Armenia’s security together with Armenian Army units." It also commits Russia to supplying its regional ally with "modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware."

6. More than ever before, international public opinion is important in warfare. Gaining the hearts and minds of the public and the media is vital. No matter how justified, the aggressor invariably gets tarred by the war-mongering tag and is denounced at international forums such as the United Nations. Azerbaijan, through its constant provocations of Armenia-Artsakh might be hoping that Yerevan-Stepanagerd might take the bait and attack.

7. Azerbaijan might believe that it can win the war hands down, but realizes the cost (the destruction of its petroleum industry–the country’s economic mainstay) too high a price to pay. The resulting economic crisis might create social and political upheaval which could topple Sultan Aliyev and his cronies. After all, what’s paramount in the minds of the Azeri ruling clique is maintaining power.

8. In recent months there have been credible reports that if the United States and Israel invade Iran, they would use Azerbaijan as launching pad for their attack from the north. Aliyev might be hoping that during that massive international military assault, his invasion of Armenia would go relatively unnoticed or be considered an inevitable adjustment of borders in a relatively remote region.

9. Azerbaijan is hoping that emigration from Armenia will bleed the country to a point where Yerevan would have no option but to agree to Baku’s conditions.

One can indulge in punditry, in entrails-reading, until the cows come home. A nervous Armenian can even speculate that there might be a secret Russian-Turkish-Azeri military pact which would be activated when Azeris attack Armenia. After all, it would not be the first time that Armenians have had that high and dry feeling of being abandoned by so-called friends.

Time will tell whether any of the above scenarios is valid. But credible or not, Armenia has one choice: to prepare for an Azeri war–militarily, economically, and socially. Baku will continue to put pressure on Yerevan. A few months ago, a highly-placed Azeri minister fantasized the disappearance of Armenia within a decade. He was not the first in our long history to have nursed such day-dreams about our fate. But just because previous attempts at eliminating Armenia and Armenians have failed, there’s no reason to assume that future attacks on Armenia would also magically fall short. And let’s remember that from 1375 to 1918 there was no state called Armenia.

  1. In the end we are holding our breath

    In the end we are holding our breath. I wonder what kind of help our friendly Russian army will give us. Something that may be will eliminate the problem of Azerbaijan before they attack Iran and Armenia, and a small lesson to US and Israel not to interfere with Russia?

    Who knows what’s cooking!!!

    Is this what Azerbaijan is affraid of?

  2. Very probable-as great Turkey loses foothold in East & West

    Your Ref.No.1, 6 and 9 are points to ponder upon and discuss.

    1.Republic of Turkey after 33 years of knocking at the EU doors, so far with no Entry.This has ultimately provoked her so much as to try to bend to East, convoking not long ago the Islamic conference there, which again was met with the area mostly arab and also Iranian negative stance. This may have further enraged great Turkey to the point that she now tries to get across to so called little brother Azerbaijan, which again meets with a hindrance….that of Republics of Armenia/Artsakh, thus breaking the thrust North East. An age old Turanistic dream or call it desire, whatever. She definitely is now desperate ,having exhausted all but more cunning diplomacy that of winning over Armenia and gaining peacefull easier access to Azeri riches and perhaps gas from Turkmenistan etc.

    6.This, as the editors have pointed out hardly in favour of Armenian authorities to take the bait.True, last Summer General Tatevossian (Komandos) opined that such quick "harvadz" strike might be in place to counter those Azeri constant incursions. Not approved by the government of RA and put aside, cleverly, since no Big power nation or even lesser so would approve rekindling a war (near oilfields).

    9.This point here is the most important for Armenians in general to ponder upon and seriously plan a Repatriation.How? first establish "national Investment Trust fund" as suggested by this servant of the Armenian people. Indeed first build up Rank & File through "Professional Colleagues Associations" for there we have our slumbering giant."Nirhogh Hsgan" 100,000 strong. Both human resources and Finances reside there. This indeed would be Armenian Diaspora´s response to Azeri/turkish build-ups.

  3. Azeri provocations/incursions

    Azeri provocations/incursions should be answered immediately by the Artsakh forces & in the harshest manner.Lately as a result of these sneak incursions we lost 4-5 of our valuable sons.95% of the Azeri economy is based on oil & that’s where they are getting their billions to invest  on arming ther military.We have to hit where it hurts most.

    Yes Baku oilfields are 200kms away from our eastern borders but the exporting pipelines are mere 50 kms away from the same borders.With every provacation we have to hit these pipelines to put pressure on the corrupt power clinching sultan Aliyev & his clan together with all the parties having interest whether European/US/Turkish governments or international petroleum companies.Pre-emptive strikes are vitally important to avod a full pre-emptive war.

    After all we have won the war with great sacrifices, we hold the upper hand & we have to dictate the events & make the most of it.

    1. Retaliatory/Preemptive Pipeline Strike

      It is of no strategic importance to destroy the pipeline. In case of trouble, the flow of oil would be shut off anyway. It is better to get access and control. That way Armenia would have some leverage. Armenia is cultivating an image of a reliable and civilized society. One more dependable than an Islamic oligarchy. If we controlled the pipeline, the West would be far more amenable to seeing our point of view. 

  4. There is another reason

    There is another reason Azerbaijan would not attack.  Losing is not an option for the Armenians.  If we lose, it will be 1915 all over again.  Back in 1994, there was an article in the LA Times, an interview with one of the  commanders of the Armenian forces.  The reporter asked the commander:  "How is it possible that small Artsakh with only 150,000 people defeated a country with over 8 million people?  The commander responded and I quote "about two kilometers behind us, we have our families.  We are prepared to fight and die so that they can live".  So, we can not go back.  We can only go forward.  
  5. Fighting back

    Armenian jet and/or helicopter airstrikes and artillery bombardment against pipelines and pumping stations are quite possible.   So is sabotage.   These would wake the world up.  What would they do about it?  What could they do about it?

    As for Baku’s prefering the status to a war because a war would threaten Azeri leaders’ and oligarchs’ wallets, the other side of that coin is that Armenian leaders may not want a war for the same reason, but if and when a war comes, they at least have the money to go live in LA and escape responsibility.  Is this why some of them have investments in the US?  As a backup?

    If Armenia’s leaders cheat and lie to the people, should they be trusted to defend Artsakh?  I say no.  Until proven otherwise, Armenia’s leaders are no better than any other country’ leaders, and that includes Azerbaijan’s. 

    1. Armenia’s leaders are not any more corrupt than

      Armenia’s leaders are not any more corrupt than in the US or anywhere else for that matter.  Just because there is less money in Armenia it is easier to notice when someone sticks their hand in the proverbial cookie jar.  In richer nations there is much more to go around and the system of corruption has had hundreds of years to become sophisticated.  Armenia’s current president cares a lot more about Armenia than the little sultan of baku does about his country.
  6. Peace

    Can’t we all just get along? There will be no winners if we’re dragged into war, any war.

  7. Getting bolder every day

    Mr Aliyev is proving that he has bigger plans than just the return of captured Azeri land.  He wants to march his troops into Republic Square and plant the Azeri flag in one of the fountains. A pre-emptive action by Armenia may be the last opportunity to save the nation. Time is not on the side of the Armenians.   
  8. Repatriation 1946 Style

    The leaders of  the Armenian OSMOSIS need to develop a new wave of repatriation in the next five years–not with boats but with airlines. If  the communist Armenian republic was successful in 1946, today it would succeed, too. If Armenians worldwide have the guts, they should only fear God.

    Webster’s definition of guys:

    GUTS: fortitude and stamina in coping with what alarms…COURAGE

  9. On Preserving Artsakh Independence

    Who can really trust the great Powers of the world when we, the Armenians, need them to protect our rightfully owned lands of Artsakh?  However, after all what is said, we are still at the mercy of any power who extends a hand to us.  The great defenders of Democracy, the Americans – preoccupied with their own interests at heart – have not been reliable friends. If Russia, our nemesis of the past, having signed a pact with Armenia, will cast a shadow over Azerbaijan, I welcome that.

    The freedom of Artsakh is not negotiable, and if all else fails, a hero’s death is most welcoming than a coward’s life in slavery.


  10. Article Right on the Money

    The article is right on the money, except for the number eight reason. Since Iran is aware of the plan to use Azeri territory for an invasion (which will never happen, and if it does it it will fail badly) and knows the Azeri ambitions to claim Northern Iran (Tabriz area) as their own with the “Gray Wolf” element infestation (soccer hooligans, anti Iranian demonstrations in Iran, brainwashing the young Irani-Azeris, etc.) Tehran is under no illusion what Aliyev is up to, regardless of any Islamic solidarity. Also Iran considers Azeris to be the lost Turkified Iranian Azeris who lived in one of Iran’s northern province once called Azerbaijan. Also deep down, Iran does not recognize Stalin’s borders, hence their stand re Arstakh, regardless of their centuries’ old friendship with Armenia, who they do not consider to be backstabbers.

    Wolf Hunter

  11. Air Strikes on Baku Oil Fields

    Russia will never allow an Armenian air attack on Baku oil fields. This is why Armenia has no effective airforce other than ground support for troops. As well, such an air strike can’t be a direct flight, besides the fact that Baku will be ready for this. The best bet would be for our existing outdated SU-25s to fly the Iranian-Azeri border (maybe even refuel in Iran) and then head up north, hugging the mountains along the shoreline while the Armenian ground troops create a diversionary attack before the aircraft reach their targets. The risks will be great and there’s a good chance the aircrafts may not make it back after their successful mission, but it can be done with the right pilots behind the jets.

    Wolf Hunter

  12. When Survival is at Stake
    When Artsakh’s survival is at stake all targets become legitimate and justifiable– no matter what Russia says or tells.

  13. Best wishes from a Belgian Egyptian


    I am a Belgian citizen (Flemish) , though I am half Egyptian (Coptic) as well . I live in Russia at the moment . I wish the Armenians both in Armenia and Artsakh well. In case of conflict with Azerbaijan, Islamic volunteers will be entering Azerbaijan. If I remember correctly there was a detachment of North Caucasus fighters fighting  alongside the Azerbaijani  army. I think you might find some people who would be willing to join the Armenian side in case of war, perhaps in Serbia, Russia or elsewhere, but I am not sure about the military worth of untrained volunteers; those countries might have previously trained volunteers as well. Obviously, priority should be given to the Diaspora.

    As pointed out, in history things have often gone wrong, and the impossible became possible. I hope that Russia honours its agreement, but be prepared if it does not. Geopolitics are tricky. Don’t count too much on Russian made equipment either. Israeli and Western equipment is usually better, especially at the high tech end of things such as rocketry and airfare. Egypt learned that lesson. But I think it is easier to maintain Russian made supplies in Armenia’s context. They are cheaper more plentiful.

    I’m not sure how international law squares off with foreign volunteers joining the Karabakh Army. As far as I know Karabakh-Artsakh is not recognized by most countries where Diaspora Armenians live. Is it illegal to volunteer for a "non existent" country? The host country would have to figure out that you were in Artsakh in the first place. As for the Diaspora Armenians, I doubt that this technicality would pose a serious problem, and I think  repercussions in the host country would be secondary compared to joining Armenia in time of war.

    Far from [the zone of the conflict], many people have been brainwashed by Panturanic and Azerbaijani PR in the EU, and I don’t think it would look good for Armenia to start a war, even if it is preemptive. You might need the "sympathy" vote for onlookers in foreign media who are sitting on the fence.Though feel free to blow up the pipelines the minute a shot is fired (on camera) towards Artsakh.

    All the best ,

    a sympathetic Belgian ,

    Christopher Montens

    1. Azeri Attack
      Dear Christopher,

      Thank you for your concern, support and advice re an Azeri attack on Artsakh and Armenia. I agree with many of your observations.

      Because most Armenians living in Western Europe and the Middle East have no credible military training, their contribution to a war with Azeris could be in non-combat roles. There should many U.S.-trained Armenians who could support Artsakh/Armenia. However, I don’t know whether the U.S. government would allow such participation. Best support could come from the former Soviet republics, where there are many trained Armenians who can find their way to Armenia and Artsakh.

      A question. Let’s say in case of war Armenia asks for an emergency weapons airlift from Russia. But how would Russia (if it’s willing to help) deliver such weapons and ammunition? Turkey wouldn’t allow overflights. Neither would Georgia and probably not Iran. I would like to hear what other readers think.

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