Keeping the Caucasian Cauldron Boiling: Why War in Ngorno-Karabakh Now?

The brief war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Armenian super-majority enclave of Ngorno-Karabakh of 2016 seems winding down almost before it began. Or is it?

With hundreds of troops killed and wounded over little ground gained or lost, it would appear the Azeris lost while the Armenian backed but internationally non-recognized Republic of Artsakh (also known as the Ngorno-Karabakh Republic or NKR) won by repulsing the attacks. But in Moscow's eyes, there can be no winners from this war but 'big brother' overseas, and the deeper game of trying to set Russia's periphery on fire goes on...

From the Irish Times comes the story that Moscow is trying to maintain a shaky ceasefire between the warring sides, both of which it has armed at various times, and in order to maintain Russia's close economic ties with both Baku and Yerevan. The Islamic Republic of Iran, ethnically close to both sides but Shi'a Muslim like the Turkic Azeris, is in a similar awkward position when it comes to any war between two countries with whom it maintains friendly relations (and has since their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991):

Russia is taking the leading role in moves to calm the flashpoint Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh where a ceasefire between Azeri and ethnic-Armenian troops was holding on Wednesday despite some violations.

The worst fighting since 1994 between Azeri forces and Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed separatists erupted last Friday night. Three days of clashes killed at least 60, injured more than 100 and stoked fears of all-out war in a strategic and volatile part of the world.

Nagorno-Karabakh borders Iran, lies near a major transit route for oil and gas being pumped to Europe from the Caspian Sea, and the clashes came at a time when Russia and Turkey – the main backers of Armenia and Azerbaijan respectively – are at loggerheads over the conflict in Syria.

Moscow sells arms to Muslim Azerbaijan and Christian Armenia, but has much closer ties with the latter, and maintains an army base and an airbase on Armenian territory, close to its closed border with Turkey.


Above Ruptly video from Summer 2015: Vladimir Putin joins the President of Armenia in mourning the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by the Turks

Russians translation site Vox Populi Evo has the commentary of Armenian analyst Philip Ekoyants speaking about the origins of the Ngorno-Karabkh conflict and why it is being reignited now after being a 'frozen conflict' in the post-Soviet space for over two decades. Not surprisingly, Mr. Ekoyants sees Washington's hand behind the renewed fighting between two Caucasian nations that, aside from Azerbaijan's now-squandered 2000s decade surge of oil and gas revenues, have little spare economic capacity or real interest in prolonged warfare.

In this subtitled video, Mr. Ekoyants suggests at the four minute mark that the presidents of both Azerbaijan and Armenia are being blackmailed, possibly with threats to their lives if not to their political offices and financial holdings. It's noteworthy that this video was recorded shortly after the so-called #PanamaPapers began to trickle out with reports alleging Vladimir Putin had hidden $2 billion in offshore accounts held by a childhood friend turned musician, without any real proof linking the Russian President to the money. 

Relatives of Azeri President Ilham Heydar Aliyev are named in the so-called 'leaks' that began to be published this week from files of offshoring firm Mossack Fonseca, and the Soros and USAID (read: CIA) funded Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) names Aliyev's daughters Arzu and Leyla as co-owners of the family's "gold mining empire" and other businesses.

In addition to legitimate opposition to the ruling Aliyev oligarchy's corruption and the strong ties it has forged to the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israel, Mr. Ekoyants suggests more opposition in the historically Turkic Shi'a Muslim nation of 9.5 million people is being stirred up by Washington with the ultimate target being -- who else? -- Russia and Armenia's orientation towards the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the CSTO/SCO military alliances.

In the video Mr. Ekoyants also cites the failed #ElectricYerevan colored revolution in the summer of 2015 as another motivation for Washington, as the Soros NED/NRI machine realized that most Armenians would not budge from the country's historic, pro-Russian and ancient Orthodox Christian orientation in favor of the now proven-hollow promises the EU made to Ukraine (more on that, including the results of Dutch voters rejecting Brussels' association agreement for Ukraine, in a separate post).

Instead of destabilization from the streets, more militaristic methods of hybrid warfare would have to be applied alongside the usual blandishments and brandished threats to the Armenian and Azeri political elites to play ball with what D.C., and to a lesser extent, Ankara want them to do.

Another factor in the sudden outbreak of fighting for Ngorno-Karabkh, according to Russian-American writer Anatoly Karlin at The Unz Review, is a sort of 'use it or lose it' attitude towards Azerbaijan's military modernization on the part of Baku's generals. Until the recent collapse in the price of oil and gas, hydrocarbons-rich Baku was spending more on 'defense' than the entire national budget of Armenia, which has three times less people, landlocked borders and, no major oil and gas deposits. What Armenia does have is a very successful Diaspora in the United States and Russia, where in the latter case millions of people have some Armenian blood or relatives including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

However, the advantages of a prosperous and active Diaspora for Yerevan (which from Australia to Europe to the Americas, outnumbers the Armenians left in the homeland) have certainly been overrated both by Ankara and Azeris complaining about the Armenian Lobby pushing Putin and the U.S. alike to condemn the WW1 era Armenian genocide by the Turks. Being intelligent people, most Armenians are realistic enough to say, that if it weren't for Kim Kardashian writing #PrayforArmenia on her Facebook page, 99% of Americans would probably have no idea there was a war going on in the Caucasus at all!

We leave RogueMoney readers with a comment left by a Russian lawyer, observing the fighting spirit of the Ngorno-Karabakh soldiers, who broke the teeth of a small Azeri offensive with a modest amount of help from the main Armenian Army and no direct intervention from the Russians, who maintain a base in Armenia proper (but who also, like Yerevan, do not formally recognize the Ngorno-Karabkh Republic).

Apparently the Azeris learned that some numerical and fire superiority plus drones isn't enough to overcome well armed, well-dug in and better motivated locals defending their home soil from attack. This is a lesson any planners in the bowels of the Pentagon or at the Atlantic Council plotting what they think can be a successful Ukrainian attack to retake Donetsk or Lugansk should take to heart. If the NKR can hold the line against the Azeris, the Ukrainian Army is likely to break its teeth on the Donbass resistance again in the next round of major fighting, with the only difference next time being more non-Ukrainian 'volunteers' or NATO Foreign Legionaries sacrificed in hopes of 'killing Russians'. From the comments section at The Unz Review:

A Russian lawyer wrote an interesting article re Artsakh/NKR

With permission, I will paste it below:

Russian lawyer: Artsakh resistance is a challenge for post-modern world order

Russian lawyer, member of the Civic Chamber of Russia, Executive Director of the For the Openness of Justice Public Committee Denis Dvornikov has made the following comment on his Facebook page, against which Azerbaijan has launched a massive military assault these days.

“Artsakh resistance is becoming not only a strong military power but also a completely unexpected ideological challenge for the post-modern world order, in which a nation is not a nation and a state is not a state, where the ideal man in peaceful times is the Consumer and in harsh times the one who flees – the Refugee.

"It is exactly for this reason that the world is in a shock and can’t believe its eyes when watching how men with a smile on their faces go to the front to fight for their brothers, for their land, for that boy who has been shot by an asshole artilleryman in the schoolyard..."

"If the Karabakh Armenians had fled, they too would have probably been given a couple of German villages, their feet too would have been washed in St. Peter’s square in Rome, their crying men would have been shown on CNN and BBC too. But they didn’t run! To the contrary – an Armenian millionaire is taking his son out of comfortable Oxford and sending him to the front, and not to some elite unit but to the very frontline, under Russian “Солнцепек”s; because for him it is more important to have a son who is a real man rather than a son who is a leading economist."

"I am very worried for Artsakh. I am very envious of Artsakh, where in that mountainous air such thick meaning of life is concentrated that you can already eat it with a spoon, like the hot Armenian Spas.”]

"God bless the heroic, indigenous, Orthodox Christian Armenian people of Artsakh/NKR!"

"A Star Called Sun" Звезда По Имени Солнце

[Arshak Gregoriyan cover of legendary rock artist Viktor Tsoi and Kino's song from 1988]

White snow, gray ice,
On a bursting earth.
The cover that is stretched out on it -
A town in the loop of a road.
And clouds are floating above the town,
Covering the sky-blue color,

And above the town there's a yellow smoke,
The town is two thousand years old,
Lived through under the light of the star
Called Sun...
And there's a war over two thousand years,

A war without special causes.
A war – the work of the youth,
A medicine against wrinkles.
Red, red blood

After one hour there's already simply the earth,
After two hours there are flowers and grass on it,
After three hours she's living again
And heated with the rays of the star
Called Sun...

And we know that it has always been like this,
That we like more the destiny
Who's living according to other rules
And who's doomed to die young.

He doesn't remember the word “yes“ and the word “no“,
He doesn't remember neither the deeds, nor the names.
And able to reach the stars,
Not reckoning that this is a dream ,
And falling, scorched by the star called Sun

Белый снег, серый лед,
На растрескавшейся земле.
Одеялом лоскутным на ней -
Город в дорожной петле.
А над городом плывут облака,

Закрывая небесный свет.
А над городом - желтый дым,
Городу две тысячи лет,
Прожитых под светом Звезды
По имени Солнце...

И две тысячи лет - война,
Война без особых причин.
Война - дело молодых,
Лекарство против морщин.
Красная, красная кровь

Через час уже просто земля,
Через два на ней цветы и трава,
Через три она снова жива
И согрета лучами Звезды
По имени Солнце...

И мы знаем, что так было всегда,
Что Судьбою больше любим,
Кто живет по законам другим
И кому умирать молодым.
Он не помнит слово "да" и слово "нет",

Он не помнит ни чинов, ни имен.
И способен дотянуться до звезд,
Не считая, что это сон,
И упасть, опаленным Зведой по имени Солнце...