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Turkey has perfected a new, deadly way to wage war, using militarized ‘drone swarms’

By Scott Ritter | RT | November 29, 2020

From Syria to Libya to Nagorno-Karabakh, this new method of military offense has been brutally effective. We are witnessing a revolution in the history of warfare, one that is causing panic, particularly in Europe.

In an analysis written for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel, a senior policy fellow, argues that the extensive (and successful) use of military drones by Azerbaijan in its recent conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh holds “distinct lessons for how well Europe can defend itself.”

Gressel warns that Europe would be doing itself a disservice if it simply dismissed the Nagorno-Karabakh fighting as “a minor war between poor countries.” In this, Gressel is correct – the military defeat inflicted on Armenia by Azerbaijan was not a fluke, but rather a manifestation of the perfection of the art of drone warfare by Baku’s major ally in the fighting, Turkey. Gressel’s conclusion – that “most of the [European Union’s] armies… would do as miserably as the Armenian Army” when faced by such a threat – is spot on.

What happened to the Armenian Army in its short but brutal 44-day war with Azerbaijan goes beyond simply losing a war. It was more about the way Armenia lost and, more specifically, how it lost. What happened over the skies of Nagorno-Karabakh – where Azerbaijan employed a host of Turkish- and Israeli-made drones not only to surveil and target Armenian positions, but shape and dominate the battlefield throughout – can be likened to a revolution in military affairs. One akin to the arrival of tanks, mechanised armoured vehicles, and aircraft in the early 20th century, that eventually led to the demise of horse-mounted cavalry.

It’s not that the Armenian soldiers were not brave, or well-trained and equipped – they were. It was that they were fighting a kind of war which had been overtaken by technology, where no matter how resolute and courageous they were in the face of the enemy, the outcome was preordained – their inevitable death, and the destruction of their equipment; some 2,425 Armenian soldiers lost their lives in the fighting, and 185 T-72 tanks, 90 armored fighting vehicles, 182 artillery pieces, 73 multiple rocket launchers, and 26 surface-to-air missile systems were destroyed.

A new kind of warfare

What happened to Armenia was not an isolated moment in military history, but rather the culmination of a new kind of warfare, centered on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones). Azerbaijan’s major ally in the war against Armenia – Turkey – has been perfecting the art of drone warfare for years, with extensive experience in full-scale modern conflict gained in recent fighting in Syria (February-March 2020) and Libya (May-June 2020.)

Over the course of the past decade, Turkey has taken advantage of arms embargoes imposed by America and others which restricted Ankara’s access to the kind of front-line drones used by the US around the world, to instead build from scratch an indigenous drone-manufacturing base. While Turkey has developed several drones in various configurations, two have stood out in particular – the Anka-S and Bayraktar.

While the popular term for the kind of drone-centric combat carried out by Turkey is “drone swarm,” the reality is that modern drone warfare, when conducted on a large scale, is a deliberate, highly coordinated process which integrates electronic warfare, reconnaissance and surveillance, and weapons delivery. Turkey’s drone war over Syria was managed from the Turkish Second Army Command Tactical Command Center, located some 400km away from the fighting in the city of Malatya in Turkey’s Hatay Province.

It was here that the Turkish drone operators sat, and where they oversaw the operation of an integrated electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) warfare capability designed to jam Syrian and Russia air-defense radars and collect signals of military value (such as cell phone conversations) which were used to target specific locations.

For every $1 in losses suffered by Turkey, Syria lost approximately $5

The major systems used by Turkey in this role are the KORAL jamming system and a specially configured Anka-S drone operating as an airborne intelligence collection platform. The Anka-S also operated as an airborne command and control system, relaying targeting intelligence to orbiting Bayraktar UAVs, which would then acquire the target visually before firing highly precise onboard air-to-surface rockets, destroying the target. When conducted in isolation, an integrated drone strike such as those carried out by Turkey can be deadly effective; when conducted simultaneously with four or more systems in action, each of which is capable of targeting multiple locations, the results are devastating and, from the perspective of those on the receiving end, might be likened to a deadly “swarm.”

The fighting in Syria illustrated another important factor regarding drone warfare – the disparity of costs between the drone and the military assets it can destroy. Turkish Bayraktar and Anka-S UAV’s cost approximately $2.5 million each. Over the course of fighting in Syria’s Idlib province, Turkey lost between six and eight UAVs, for a total replacement cost of around $20 million.

In the first night of fighting in Syria, Turkey claims (and Russia does not dispute) that it destroyed large numbers of heavy equipment belonging to the Syrian Army, including 23 tanks and 23 artillery pieces. Overall, Turkish drones are credited with killing 34 Syrian tanks and 36 artillery systems, along with a significant amount of other combat equipment. If one uses the average cost of a Russian-made tank at around $1.2 million, and an artillery system at around $500,000, the total damage done by Turkey’s drones amounts to some $57.3 million (and this number does not include the other considerable material losses suffered by the Syrian military, which in total could easily match or exceed that number.) From a cost perspective alone, for every $1 in losses suffered by Turkey, the Syrians lost approximately $5.

Turkey was able to take the lessons learned from the fighting in Idlib province and apply them to a different theater of war, in Libya, in May 2020. There, Turkey had sided with the beleaguered forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which was mounting what amounted to a last stand around the Libyan capital of Tripoli. The GNA was facing off against the forces of the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), based out of Benghazi, which had launched a major offensive designed to capture the capital, eliminate the GNA, and take control of all of Libya.

How to capture half a country

The LNA was supported by the several foreign powers, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia (via Wagner Group, a private military contractor.) Turkey’s intervention placed a heavy emphasis on the integrated drone warfare it had perfected in Syria. In Libya, the results were even more lop-sided, with the Turkish-backed GNA able to drive the LNA forces back, capturing nearly half of Libya in the process.

Both the LNA and Turkish-backed GNA made extensive use of combat drones, but only Turkey brought with it an integrated approach to drone warfare. Observers have grown accustomed to the concept of individual US drones operating freely over places such as Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan, delivering precision strikes against terrorist targets. However, as Iran demonstrated this past May, drones are vulnerable to modern air-defense systems, and US drone tactics would not work over contested airspace.

Likewise, the LNA, which made extensive use of Chinese-made combat drones flown by UAE pilots, enjoyed great success until Turkey intervened. Its electronic warfare and integrated air-defense capabilities then made LNA drone operations impossible to conduct, and the inability of the LNA to field an effective defense against the Turkish drone operations resulted in the tide of battle rapidly shifting on the ground. If anything, the cost differential between the Turkish-backed GNA and the LNA was greater than the $1-to-$5 advantage enjoyed by Turkey in Syria.

The big players – the US, Russia & China – are playing catch-up

By the time Turkey began cooperating with Azerbaijan against Armenia in September 2020, Turkish drone warfare had reached its zenith, and the outcome in Nagorno-Karabakh was all but assured. One of the main lessons drawn from the Turkish drone experiences in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh is that these conflicts were not fought against so-called “poor countries.”

Rather, the Turks were facing off against well-equipped and well-trained forces operating equipment which closely parallels that found in most small- and medium-sized European countries. Indeed, in all three conflicts, Turkey was facing off against some of the best anti-aircraft missile defenses produced by Russia. The reality is that most nations, if confronted by a Turkish “drone swarm,” would not fare well.

And the multiple deployment of drones is only going to expand. The US Army is currently working on what it calls the “Armed, Fully-Autonomous Drone Swarm,” or AFADS. When employed, AFADS will – autonomously, without human intervention – locate, identify, and attack targets using what is known as a “Cluster Unmanned Airborne System Smart Munition,” which will dispense a swarm of small drones that fan out over the battlefield to locate and destroy targets.

China has likewise tested a system that deploys up to 200 “suicide drones” designed to saturate a battlespace and destroy targets by flying into them. And this past September, the Russian military integrated “drone-swarm” capabilities for the first time in a large-scale military exercise.

The face of modern warfare has been forever altered, and those nations that are not prepared or equipped to fight in a battlefield where drone technology is fully incorporated in every aspect of the fight can expect outcomes similar to that of Armenia: severe losses of men and equipment, defeat, humiliation and the likely loss of their territory. This is the reality of modern warfare which, as Gustav Gressel notes, should make any nation not fully vested in drone technology “think – and worry.”

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

November 29, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Conflict in Caucasus Is Erdogan’s Revenge for Syria

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | 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 [as well as Israeli] 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.

October 18, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Influx of foreign fighters to Nagorno-Karabakh could lead to region wide conflict

By Paul Antonopoulos | October 5, 2020

The war in Artsakh, or more commonly known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is becoming increasingly internationalized as foreigners are arriving to fight on both sides of the conflict. Artsakh, despite being internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan, has had a de facto independence since 1994 when Armenian forces won a decisive victory. On September 25, it was first revealed that Syrian militants were being transferred to Azerbaijan via Turkey. This was denied by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on the same day. It must be noted that the war in Artsakh began only two days after it was exposed Syrians were being transferred. Yet, despite photographs, videos, documents and testimonies made by Syrian militants themselves, the Azerbaijani government maintains the position that there are no foreign mercenaries fighting alongside the Azerbaijani army and that it is Armenian propaganda. All major international outlets have reported that these Syrians are not motivated by jihad, but rather money.

In given testimonies, a Syrian militant said “Jihadi, I swear by Allah don’t come, […] we have been deceived, everything is a lie. This is not a war, this is a meat grinder, people are dying, they cannot get the corpses.” Another Syrian militant said “Two days after the start of the war, everybody wants to return but they do not let us and […] they make us stay here.” This was in reference to Turkish military handlers lying to the transferred Syrian militants about the situation in Artsakh and forcing them to stay and fight.

At the same time though, Armenians from across the diaspora, including those in Greece, the Netherlands and the U.S., have already left or a preparing to go and fight in Artsakh, meaning that citizens of Western countries will be embroiled in this conflict. This also comes as it was revealed that ethnic Greeks are volunteering to go and fight in Artsakh, with one source telling Greek City Times that the first batch of volunteers amount to 30 men, while a former non-commissioned officer claimed to Sputnik Hellas that the number is as high as 500. Whatever the truth may be, it is being widely reported in Greek media that tens if not hundreds of volunteers from Greece are going to Artsakh, motivated by religion and solidarity with Armenians, and without receiving a salary. It has also been revealed that the Greek minority in Armenia, mostly descendants of Greek Genocide survivors, are fighting alongside the Armenian army.

This sets a dangerous precedent as this war is becoming increasingly internationalized and threatens to embroil the entire region in conflict if it cannot be contained. The First Artsakh War (1988-1994) saw Greek and Russian volunteers fight alongside the Armenians. Chechens, Afghan Mujahedeen’s, Turkey’s Gladio Gray Wolves, Ukrainian Far Right militants fought on the side of Azerbaijan in the First War. Foreign fighters in Artsakh is not a new phenomenon. With Armenian-Greeks and ethnic Greeks fighting in Artsakh against Turkish-sponsored Syrian militants and the Azerbaijani military, Athens could potentially be dragged into the conflict unwillingly.

Hikmet Hajiyev, aide to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, told reporters on Friday that Greeks were fighting in Artsakh, describing the volunteers as “mercenaries.” The Greek government has not responded to the statement made by Hajiyev and most likely will not as relations between the two countries remain tense. While accepting the credentials on September 4 from Greece’s newly appointed ambassador to Baku, Nikolaos Piperigos, Aliyev directly told the diplomat:

“I can tell you, and it is no secret, that Turkey is not only our friend and partner, but also a brotherly country for us. Without any hesitation whatsoever, we support Turkey and will support it under any circumstances. We support them [Turkey] in all issues, including the issue in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

The comments by Aliyev are unprecedented when considering the usual formalities of a head of state accepting the credentials of a new ambassador. With these diplomatic tensions already existing between Athens and Baku weeks before Azerbaijan began its offensive against Artsakh, it is unlikely that Greece will try and prevent volunteers from going to Armenia. Some Greek sources claim that many of the volunteers are ex-special forces, meaning it is likely that the Greek military will be indirectly involved to some extent. This also comes as Greek and Cypriot Members of the European Parliament are leading efforts to try and impose sanctions on Azerbaijan for launching a war.

The internationalization of the Artsakh War because of the influx of foreign fighters, especially the Syrian militants, would be a major concern for both Iran and Russia who would be feeling uncomfortable having such radical forces on or close to their borders. The internationalization of the war has the potential to spark conflict across the Caucasus as militants from North Caucasia, particular Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, could travel to Azerbaijan to fight, and gain invaluable experience to take with them on their return to Russia. Although Russia and Iran have called for a ceasefire and an end to hostilities, they have not made strong efforts to try and end the war, which if not contained and ended soon, could potentially spill over into the North Caucasus or Iran’s northern provinces which is overwhelmingly ethnic Azeri.

The war could also potentially become a part of the wider Greek-Turkish rivalry that already exists in the East Mediterranean, Cyprus and Libya. Greece will not be directly militarily involved, but it is highly probable that there would be constant communication between the Greek military and the volunteers. This comes as Turkey is directly involved in the Artsakh War, not only by transferring Syrian fighters and arms to Azerbaijan, but also using its air force when we remember one of its F-16 fighter jets downed an Armenian Su-25 aircraft last Tuesday.

Without being contained and the front lines having an influx of foreign fighters, there is a real possibility that the internationalization of the conflict through these forces could set the entire region into conflict if a ceasefire agreement is not made quickly.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

October 5, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

‘We were deceived’, says Syria mercenary fighting in Azerbaijan

MEMO | October 1, 2020

A Syrian fighting in Azerbaijan’s disputed Nagorno-Karabkh region has spoken to BBC Arabic and claims he, along with others, were deceived when being recruited by the Turkish-backed “Syrian National Army”, formerly known as the Free Syria Army.

The fighter using the nom de guerre “Abdullah” is among hundreds of Syrians aged 17 to 30 who arrived last week “with the knowledge of the Turkish army the SNA”. However he was under the impression that he was recruited for a job paying $2,000 a month.

“Last week, Saif Abu Bakr, the commander of the Hamza Division of the opposition Syrian National Army, suggested that we go to Azerbaijan to guard military points on the border with a monthly wage of up to $2,000,” said Abdullah.

“There was no war at the time, and we were transferred from Northern Syria to the village of Hor Kilis, and there we have stripped us from the opposition Syrian National Army of all our money, phones and clothes, so that our identity is not recognised.”

Days after arriving, the untrained Syrians were forced to fight on the front lines as the fighting broke out between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the disputed region.

“They loaded us into troop carriers, we were wearing Azeri uniforms, and each of us was armed with a single Kalashnikov weapon. Most of the people here are poor civilians who wanted the money, not soldiers, stopped the car and we were surprised that we were in the line of fire. We did not even know where the enemy was.”

Abdullah and others later said they wanted to return to Syria, but were prevented and threatened with long prison terms if they refused to fight “We are almost exiled”, he said.

Both Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied the accusations that Syrian fighters have been sent to fight for Azerbaijan. However, according to the Guardianat least three Syrian opposition fighters have been killed in Nagorno-Karabkh.

On Monday, Armenia’s ambassador to Moscow said that Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria. France today also weighed in on the accusations, the office of President Emmanuel Macron said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the issue and both “share concern about the sending of Syrian mercenaries by Turkey to Nagorno-Karabakh”.

Turkish media outlets have claimed that Armenia is recruiting Kurdish PKK terrorists in their ranks, although critics argue it is using the reports to justify military intervention and that no evidence has been provided.

Turkey has previously sent Syrian fighters to Libya despite denials by the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Turkish claims that the PKK is operating in Artsakh set dangerous precedent

By Paul Antonopoulos | September 28, 2020

Conflict sparked up again yesterday in Artsakh, or more commonly known as Nagorno-Karabakh, when Azerbaijan launched an offensive against Armenian forces. Although the Republic of Artsakh is not recognized by any state, including Armenia, and it is still internationally recognized as occupied Azerbaijani territory, it achieved a de facto independence in 1994.

As acting Commissar of Nationalities for the Soviet Union in the early 1920’s, future Soviet leader Joseph Stalin granted the Armenian-majority region of Artsakh to the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic. The Azeris, the dominant ethnic group of Azerbaijan, are cultural and linguistic kin with the Turks. It is said that the Turks and Azeris constitute “one nation in two states.” The defining difference is that Azeris are Shia Muslims unlike Turks who are mostly Sunni. The Soviets had hoped that by granting Artsakh to Azerbaijan instead of Armenia, they could court the newly founded Republic of Turkey to closely align with Moscow, or perhaps even become a Soviet Republic, by appeasing their ethnic Azeri kin.

In 1921, it was estimated that Artsakh was 94% Armenian. However, according to the 1989 census, Artsakh’s population was approximately 75% Armenian and 25% Azeri. Former Soviet Azerbaijani leader Heydar Aliyev, father of current President Ilham Aliyev, said in 2002: “I tried to change demographics there […] I tried to increase the number of Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh and the number of Armenians decreased.” The collapse of the Soviet Union unsurprisingly led to the Artsakh War, which only ended after a ceasefire in 1994 when Armenian forces achieved a decisive victory.

Despite Azerbaijan’s defense budget ($2.267 billion) being about five times larger than Armenia’s, they have failed to capture Artsakh on numerous attempts, particularly during the 2016 April War and another major attempt in July of this year. Azerbaijan’s resumption of hostilities yesterday could be passed off as just another skirmish that will subside in a few days. However, the current conditions are far different and much more dangerous than in previous situations.

Although it is well established that the Turkish economy is struggling, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is maintaining a policy of constant crises in the vain attempt to distract the public from the Turkish lira as it continues breaking new record lows to the US dollar and Euro, even as recently as this morning. As the military provocations and rhetoric of war against Greece and Cyprus in the East Mediterranean begins to subside in Ankara, it only took a few days for a new crisis to emerge.

Reports began emerging last week that Turkey was transferring terrorists from northern Syria to Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani leadership in Baku flatly denied the allegations last week and today. However, despite the denials from Baku, it must be remembered that Ankara openly announced its transfer of Syrian fighters to Libya earlier this year and the Azerbaijani’s have undoubtedly used international terrorists from Afghanistan, Chechnya and Turkey during the first Artsakh war in the 1990’s. Photos, videos and voice recordings have emerged that show Syrian terrorists on their way to or already in Azerbaijan. Vardan Toghanya, the Armenian Ambassador to Moscow, said in a statement today that 4,000 militants from Syria already arrived in Azerbaijan, while according to the Armenian intelligence agency, 80 fighters from Syria have already been killed or wounded.

Turkey’s transfer of militants in support of Azerbaijan, which was also done in the 1990’s, is not what makes the current conflict more dangerous compared to previous battles and skirmishes. Starting from last week, Turkey and Azerbaijan have increased their campaign in claiming that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Baku, was operating in Artsakh. Neither Ankara and Baku provided any evidence for their claims. This sets a dangerous narrative as it could be used as a way for Turkey to “legitimize” a direct intervention against Armenia and in support of Azerbaijan.

Erdoğan justified his invasion and occupation of large areas of northern Syria and northern Iraq in 2018, 2019 and this year on the pretence that they were fighting against the PKK. Although Armenia denies PKK are operating in Artsakh, this will be ignored by Ankara and Baku.

However, unlike Syria and Iraq, Armenia is a member state of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), alongside Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. A direct Turkish attack on Armenia could activate the CSTO. This would be a dangerous scenario as in turn this could activate NATO in defense of Turkey. It is highly unlikely that the situation in Artsakh will dissolve into a CSTO-NATO faceoff. But the risk still remains, especially if Erdoğan decides to directly intervene under the guise of expelling the PKK from Artsakh.

Just as Erdoğan unleashed a migrant crisis in February and March of this year against Greece, sent Syrian terrorists to Libya in May, conducted a military operation in northern Iraq against the PKK in June, and created a new crisis with Greece by sending warships into its territorial waters in August and for most of September, it appears the new crisis to dominate headlines for the next few weeks will revolve around Artsakh.

Although it is unlikely that Turkey will directly militarily intervene, a dangerous precedent has already been established by pushing the narrative, without publicly available evidence, that the PKK are operating in Artsakh alongside Armenian forces. With the Turkish economy and lira collapsing, Erdoğan in the future may very well use the narrative that the PKK are in Artsakh to foment public furore and distract them from the declining economic situation.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

September 28, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

South Front | July 18, 2020

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 leaderships of 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 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 pursuing 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.

So, the Armenian chances in a limited military conflict with Azerbaijan and Turkey are 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.

July 18, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Armenian Foreign Ministry Slams Baku’s Threat to Bomb Nuclear Plant as Breaching Int’l Law

Sputnik – 16.07.2020

Azerbaijan’s threat to carry out an airstrike on the Armenian-based Metsamor nuclear power plant (NPP) is in violation of international law, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, calling upon Baku to publicly denounce threats like that.

Earlier in the day, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargyakhly said that Armenia should beware that Baku has the necessary equipment to conduct a precision strike against the Metsamor NPP.

“The actions threatened by the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan are a flagrant violation of the International Humanitarian Law in general and the First Additional Protocol to Geneva Conventions in particular. Such threats are an explicit demonstration of state terrorism and genocidal intent of Azerbaijan,” the Armenian ministry’s statement read.

The ministry emphasized that such statements by Azerbaijan were “a menace to all the peoples of the region, including its own people.”

“We strongly condemn the nuclear threats voiced by Azerbaijan, which demonstrate absolute absence of responsibility and sound judgement from this particular member of the international community. Azerbaijan must publicly denounce such threats at once,” the ministry said.

Clashes broke out in the border area that separates Armenia’s Tavush province and Azerbaijan’s Tovuz region this past Sunday. The escalation is in its fourth day now, a reasonable distance away from the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, where the two sides have waged war for decades.

Azerbaijan has by far reported 11 troops killed as a result of armed hostilities, while Armenia has reported four fatalities.

July 17, 2020 Posted by | Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

Iran Voices Readiness to Help Ease Tensions between Azerbaijan, Armenia

Al-Manar | July 16, 2020

Iran’s Foreign Ministry expressed the Islamic Republic’s readiness to mediate between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the wake of deadly border clashes between the two countries.

“As soon as clashes erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Iran’s diplomatic apparatus got active to mediate and soothe this tension as the region cannot afford another conflict,” ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told reporters in the northwestern city of Ardabil on Thursday.

He further called on both sides to show restraint, voicing Iran’s readiness to help bring an end to tensions between the two former Soviet republics, Tasnim news agency reported.

The clashes broke out on the volatile Armenia-Azerbaijan border on Sunday and have continued over the past days.

At least 16 people, including four Armenian troops, 11 Azeri servicemen and one Azeri civilian, have been killed in the latest outbreak of hostilities between the two neighbors.

July 17, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Turkey supports Azerbaijan to cause instability in the Caucasus

By Lucas Leiroz | July 16, 2020

The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has become increasingly serious. Both countries claim the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and between the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a war between them to decide the control of the region. Tens of thousands of people died in the conflict, which ended in 1994 with a ceasefire agreement, without a winner. The agreement places the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a de facto autonomous republic, remaining de jure as part of Azerbaijan. This agreement gave a break in the massacres but did not prevent the continuation of the territorial disputes between both countries, which until today claim the region, and the situation has worsened even more recently.

On July 12, there was an armed clash in the region, with an uncertain number of victims. Azerbaijani forces accuse Armenia of violating territorial limits. In contrast, the Armenian government blames the opposing country for such violations. Since then, according to Armenian observers, bombings on the border have been reported every 15 to 20 minutes. Data on the dead or injured people remain uncertain.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accuses Azerbaijan of initiating hostilities and says that no violence will go unpunished, promising to react to every move by the enemy country. Data from the Armenian Ministry of Defense points to records of artillery attacks against Armenian territory in the early hours of July 12, when the fighting was recorded. According to the Armenian government, Armenian troops only retaliated against the attacks received. Pashinyan accuses not only Azerbaijan, but also Turkey of involvement in the attacks.

The charges are not unfounded. Turkey has shown support for Azerbaijan in the dispute, encouraging annexation and not a peaceful resolution of the impasse. The day after the clashes at the border, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, spoke in defense of Azerbaijan, saying that this country “is not alone” in the conflict. The statement becomes controversial and dangerous amid an escalation of violence, as it connotes not only support from Ankara, but also an interest in intervening in the conflict. Armenia reacted with severe criticism, blaming Ankara for the return of the violence. According to the Armenian government, Turkey has an interest in destabilizing peace in the region to gain greater control and influence over neighboring territories.

In return, the European Union issued a public note calling on both parties to reduce violence and to avoid the use of force. Likewise, the US State Department classified violence in the region as unacceptable and urged both parties to seek a peaceful solution to the dispute. In the same vein, the Russian government has called on both countries for a peaceful resolution, without showing support for either party. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to an immediate ceasefire and to comply with the terms of the Minsk Group, a committee created in 1992 to manage peace in the region. Since both countries are former Soviet republics, the role of Russian diplomacy in managing the conflict is essential, due to the weight of its influence in the region.

It is important to note the difference in the approach of the Russians, Americans and Europeans to the Turkish stance to the crisis. Demonstrating open support for any party in the current phase of the conflict can be crucial to intensify disputes and encourage an increase in violence. Being a military potency, Turkey’s declared support in a conflict in its early stages may encourage the progress of hostilities. In this sense, it is likely that Azerbaijan, with the support of Ankara and possible Turkish intervention, will continue the bombing, assuming strategic advantage and superiority over its opponent. This is the great danger behind the Turkish pronouncement.

The situation, however, must be analyzed in a complete context. Turkey has shown interest in increasing its regional and international geopolitical relevance and, for this purpose, it has called for bold and provocative acts, such as, for example, its role in the Syrian War and the recent conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, which provoked outcries all over the world for being an unnecessary attack on the memory of Greek Christianity, provoking the resurgence of religious tensions in the region that had not existed for a long time.

In fact, Erdogan has clear plans to constitute a neo-Ottoman geopolitical projection, regaining power and influence at a regional level throughout the territory where the Ottoman Empire, predecessor of the modern Turkish state, operated in the past. Relations between Turks and Armenians, in this sense, do not have a good record and are alive in Armenian memory with the ethnic-religious genocide perpetrated against Christian Armenians in the early 20th century.

In this sense, Turkish interest in creating an area of ​​instability that favors its regional influence can be costly. Russia, as the regional power with the greatest historical influence in the Caucasus, must counterbalance Turkish advances through diplomacy, while Erdogan must be internationally pressured to avoid any intervention in the dispute between neighboring countries.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

July 16, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Germany Can’t Give Up on Cooperation With Russia in Oil and Gas – Merkel

Sputnik – 24.08.2018

Germany has greenlighted the Nord Stream 2 project to bring Russian gas to Europe and is under strong pressure from the US, which warns that the project is making Germany dependent on Russia. Berlin insists that the project is entirely commercial.

A planned sub-sea pipeline that will bring gas directly from Russia under the Baltic Sea will not make Germany dependent on Russia for energy, Chancellor Angela Merkel told university students in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Friday, on the second day of her trip to the Caucasus.

Angela Merkel described continued Russian oil and natural gas supplies to Germany as an important factor in ensuring the country’s energy security.

”We have a decades-long history of economic cooperation with Russia, including on CO2 emissions. We have consistently been reducing our use of coal and we need natural gas coming to us via Belarus, Ukraine and Poland, that’s why we support Nord Stream 1 and 2,” Merkel noted.

She noted that Germany wanted to make sure that Russia continued delivering some gas via Ukraine even after the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was finished.

Mentioning the importance of expanding the so-called “Southern Corridor” for natural gas supplies also from Azerbaijan, she still pointed out that buying gas from Russia was cheaper than buying it elsewhere.

“Europe and Russia, then the Soviet Union, had very close energy cooperation during the Cold War. We can’t afford giving up on cooperation with Russia in oil and gas. Of course, we can have natural gas coming from Azerbaijan, but the truth is that it will not be available at the price we are paying for Russian gas,” Merkel said.

Some countries that are afraid of losing revenues from Russian gas transit, above all Ukraine, are opposed to Nord Stream 2.

The project is also facing opposition from the United States, which has ambitious plans of LNG exports to Europe.

Russia has repeatedly urged its European partners not to perceive the Nord Stream pipeline as an instrument of influence insisting that the project is an entirely economic one.

August 24, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

Is This The Most Important Geopolitical Deal Of 2018?

By Olgu Okumus | Oilprice.com | August 13, 2018

The two-decade-long dispute on the statute of the Caspian Sea, the world largest water reserve, came to an end last Sunday when five littoral states (Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) agreed to give it a special legal status – it is now neither a sea, nor a lake. Before the final agreement became public, the BBC wrote that all littoral states will have the freedom of access beyond their territorial waters, but natural resources will be divided up. Russia, for its part, has guaranteed a military presence in the entire basin and won’t accept any NATO forces in the Caspian.

Russian energy companies can explore the Caspian’s 50 billion barrels of oil and its 8.4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan can finally start considering linking its gas to the Turkish-Azeri joint project TANAP through a trans-Caspian pipeline, while Iran has gained increased energy supplies for its largest cities in the north of the country (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) – however, Iran has also put itself under the shadow of Russian ships. This controversy makes one wonder to what degree U.S. sanctions made Iran vulnerable enough to accept what it has always avoided – and how much these U.S. sanctions actually served NATO’s interests.

If the seabed, rich in oil and gas, is divided this means more wealth and energy for the region. From 1970 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991, the Caspian Sea was divided into subsectors for Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – all constituent republics of the USSR. The division was implemented on the basis of the internationally-accepted median line.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the new order required new regulations. The question was over whether the Caspian was a sea or a lake? If it was treated as a sea, then it would have to be covered by international maritime law, namely the United Nations Law of the Sea. But if it is defined as a lake, then it could be divided equally between all five countries. The so-called “lake or sea” dispute revolved over the sovereignty of states, but also touched on some key global issues – exploiting oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Basin, freedom of access, the right to build beyond territorial waters, access to fishing and (last but not least) managing maritime pollution.

The IEA concluded in World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2017 that offshore energy has a promising future. More than a quarter of today’s oil and gas supply is produced offshore, and integrated offshore thinking will extend this beyond traditional sources onwards to renewables and more. Caspian offshore hydrocarbon reserves are around 50 billion barrels of oil equivalent (equivalent to one third of Iraq’s total oil reserves) and 8.4 trillion cubic meters of gas (almost equivalent to the U.S.’ entire proven gas reserves). As if these quantities were not themselves enough to rebalance Eurasian energy demand equations, the agreement will also allow Turkmenistan to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline, connecting Turkmenistan’s resources to the Azeri-Turkish joint project TANAP, and onwards to Europe – this could easily become a counter-balance factor to the growing LNG business in Europe.

Even though we still don’t have firm and total details on the agreement, Iran seems to have gained much less than its neighbors, as it has shortest border on the Caspian. From an energy perspective, Iran would be a natural market for the Caspian basin’s oil and gas, as Iran’s major cities (Tehran, Tabriz, and Mashhad) are closer to the Caspian than they are to Iran’s major oil and gas fields. Purchasing energy from the Caspian would also allow Iran to export more of its own oil and gas, making the country a transit route from the Caspian basin to world markets. For instance, for Turkmenistan (who would like to sell gas to Pakistan) Iran provides a convenient geography. Iran could earn fees for swap arrangements or for providing a transit route and justify its trade with Turkey and Turkmenistan as the swap deal is allowed under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA, or the D’Amato Act).

If the surface water will be in common usage, all littoral states will have access beyond their territorial waters. In practical terms, this represents an increasingly engaged Russian presence in the Basin. It also reduces any room for a NATO presence, as it seems to be understood that only the five littoral states will have a right to military presence in the Caspian. Considering the fact that Russia has already used its warships in the Caspian to launch missile attacks on targets within Syria, this increased Russian presence could potentially turn into a security threat for Iran.

Many questions can now be asked on what Tehran might have received in the swap but one piece of evidence for what might have pushed Iran into agreement in its vulnerable position in the face of increased U.S. sanctions. Given that the result of those sanctions seems to be Iran agreeing to a Caspian deal that allows Russia to place warships on its borders, remove NATO from the Caspian basin equation, and increase non-Western based energy supplies (themselves either directly or indirectly within Russia’s sphere of geopolitical influence) it makes one wonder whose interests those sanctions actually served?

August 14, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

EU launches new ‘single resource’ website to counter ‘Russian propaganda’

RT | September 12, 2017

An EU agency, specifically tasked with fighting what the West terms ‘Russia propaganda,’ has launched its new website to provide Europeans with “a single resource” to “enlighten” them about alleged “pro-Kremlin propaganda.”

The site was launched in English, German and Russian. It’s part of the ongoing “EU vs disinformation” campaign waged by the EU’s East Stratcom Task Force.

“Today we launch our new website http://www.euvsdisinfo.eu, providing you with a single resource on addressing the challenge of pro-Kremlin disinformation,” a statement on the website says.

“This website is part of a campaign to better forecast, address and respond to pro-Kremlin disinformation,” it says further.

The webpage features a “searchable database of disinformation cases” and “interactive statistics” on the number of alleged disinformation cases, as well as on countries that are most frequently mentioned in what is perceived as “pro-Kremlin propaganda.”

Even though a disclaimer on the page says the Disinformation Review “focuses on key messages carried in the international information space, which have been identified as providing a partial, distorted or false view or interpretation and/or spreading key pro-Kremlin messaging,” it seems to be focusing solely on the latter.

The group also runs pages on Facebook and Twitter that are also aimed at revealing “manipulation and disinformation in pro-Kremlin media.” Its Facebook page called “EU vs Disinformation” was created in June 2016 while its “EU Mythbusters” Twitter page has been active since November 2015.

Both social media pages use a slogan that bears a striking resemblance to RT’s “Question More” catchphrase. “Don’t be deceived. Question even more,” it reads.

The East Stratcom Task Force was formed as part of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in early 2015 to tackle what the EU perceives as Russian propaganda. The EU said the group was tasked with countering disinformation about the Union and its policies in the “Russian language space.”

The EU’s “eastern European partners” – the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – were designated as their target audience.

In early 2017, the group received extra personnel and additional funding. The move came ahead of national elections in several European countries, including France, the Netherlands and Germany.

In November 2016, the European Parliament also adopted a non-legislative resolution which called for the EU to “respond to information warfare by Russia” and listed RT and the Sputnik news agency as one of the most dangerous “tools of hostile propaganda.”

Written by a Polish member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, Anna Fotyga, the report alleged that Moscow aims to “distort the truth, provoke doubt, divide the EU and its North American partners, paralyze the decision-making process, discredit the EU institutions and incite fear and uncertainty among EU citizens.”

The document went even further, placing Russian media organizations alongside terrorist groups such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

President Vladimir Putin said at the time that the EU Parliament’s resolution demonstrates “political degradation” in regard to the “idea of democracy” in the West.

The move was also criticized by the Russian envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, who said the EU tries to “erase the perception of Russia as an indispensable part of the European civilization from the public conscience” and to “create a wall of alienation and mistrust between our peoples.”

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment