By Grigor Hakobyan
While the American mainstream media was busy discussing the fly on Mike Pence’s head during Vice Presidential Debate, the Armenian-Turkish conflict entered the second week of violence across the entire line of contact (LoC) between the Republic of Artsakh and Azerbaijan as many regional and extra-regional powers have taken a neutral stand and watch attentively from the sidelines. An attempt by Azerbaijani-Turkish and ISIS-linked formations to encircle Artsakh by taking over its strategic communication highways with the Republic of Armenia while carrying out devastating blows against the Artsakh’s Defense Army in a new and enhanced blitzkrieg strategy has failed dramatically. The Anti-Armenian coalition led by Turkish generals got bogged down in the north and south of Artsakh as the scale of the attack begins to whimper and exhale its last breath. Armenian churches, towns and villages now bear the brunt of a losing barbarian who willingly sacrifices the lives of his own citizens to sustain his bloodthirsty rule in Baku.
In the meantime, Armenia is making waves on the diplomatic front by joining the coalition of states fighting a global war against the international terrorism. This war couldn’t have come at a worse time than presently, when the world is still reeling from the global pandemic of Covid-19 and the economic turmoil caused by nationwide lockdowns that it has precipitated. Although many aspects of this conflict may appear to be clear and well-known there are other aspects of this conflict that haven’t been seriously analyzed and continue to remain mute. This conflict like many others has many twists and turns to it and perhaps it is time to take a closer look at a bigger picture that very few realize. For anyone who is well-versed in global history and world politics it is no brainer to figure out that random events of regional and global implications are very few and far in between. Everything starts with an end in mind and everyone involved is a rational actor. As such, what is driving this conflict and what is going to be its likely outcome ?
Within the first two weeks of battles that were carefully planned and managed by Turkish generals against the tiny Armenian republic of Artsakh for many weeks if not months Azerbaijani-Turkish militaries and their adjunct terrorist mercenaries from Syria and Libya failed to accomplish their main objectives. Specifically, they failed to take over any region of Artsakh (there are seven of them) and began to lose their initiative after three days of heavy battles in the north and south of Artsakh. The failure to make progress prompted the government of Azerbaijan to transfer the command and control of the war to Turkish generals. By October 9th, 2020, the loses of the combined anti-Armenian coalition exceeded 4,000 soldiers, over 500 tanks and armored vehicles, nearly 200 combat UAVs, 17 combat jets, 16 combat helicopters and 9 MLRS. In the meantime, thousands of civilian homes and important pieces of Artsakh’s regional infrastructure are being destroyed by Azerbaijani-Turkish air force and rocket artillery systems. Dozens of Armenian civilians, among them children and hundreds of Armenian soldiers found their end under the hail of bombs and missiles rained down upon them by the brutal regimes of Aliyev and Erdogan. Despite the odds, combined Armenian armed forces continue to stand their ground.
The war itself started only a few days after large scale Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises ended while the Russian-led CSTO military exercised named Kavkaz-2020 were still in full swing. Even though the military exercised ended for Turkey and Azerbaijan, Turkey didn’t withdraw any of his soldiers (over 3,000 of them) or any of its military equipment (hundreds of them, including F-16 combat jets). According to Azerbaijani-Turkish planners the attack was supposed to have been a surprise attack yet it wasn’t which explains the difficulties encountered by the enemy on the ground. The Armenian military intelligence had full knowledge about the main directions of the attack which allowed the Armenian side to better prepare themselves to fight off Azerbaijani-Turkish aggression against them. Before the war even began photo and video evidence began to pour into Armenian and Russian media outlets from Kurdish and Syrian sources indicating that Turkish military was actively involved in recruiting Syrian and Libyan jihadist fighters and transporting them to Azerbaijan for the upcoming offensive against the Armenians. After a week of battles corresponding Russian, French and U.S. sources confirmed the presence of ISIS-linked jihadist fighters in Azerbaijan and their active involvement in the aggression against the Republic of Artsakh.
Tactical retreats carried out a few days ago by the Armenian armed forces in the north and south of Artsakh led to unsubstantiated euphoria among Azerbaijani-Turkish troops who for a moment thought that they were winning the war; only to find out later that they were lured into a trap that closed on them so suddenly that only a few managed to escape leaving behind numerous casualties on battle fields along the Araxes River in the south and the mountains of Shahumyan region in the north. Hundreds of pieces of military hardware worth more than a billion dollars found their end in battles against the Artsakh’s Defense Army. The Israeli and Turkish made UAVs have been falling off the sky all over Armenian-Azerbaijani LoC like droplets of water in a rain storm. As Russia, United States and France confirmed the presence of ISIS-linked terrorist groups from Syria and Libya among the Azerbaijani-Turkish formations the war took a different turn by getting out of its sub-regional context and forcefully entering into a greater regional and global context, where a number of nation-states are waging wars against the web of international terrorism hiding under a false guise of religious piety and the end times fatalism.
Not surprisingly this war broke out in the middle of Covid-19 pandemic and nation-wide lockdowns caused by this pandemic, amidst large number of unemployed and on the backdrop of racial, ethnic and religious tensions around the world which have paralyzed concerted international responses to regional challenges including the war in Artsakh. Present international situation is reminiscent of the situation during WW-1 when Armenian Genocide took place while the rest of the world was busy fighting each other. However, unlike WW-1, the Armenian community around the world is much stronger than before and unlike the time of WW-1 the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh are better prepared to defend themselves against existential threats in a very hostile geopolitical environment. Presently the combined Armenian armed forces are better trained and better equipped than ever before which allows them to retaliate against Azerbaijani-Turkish attacks in a very effective manner, causing significant damages to enemy troops and materiel on the ground. This war is unlike the wars of 1988-1994 or 2016.
While the war is ongoing it is worth to take a moment and consider a number of events that preceded the war in order to better understand what is happening right now. Specifically, last month the Republic of Armenia began negotiations with the United States of America over establishing a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries. Sometime in the middle of October they were going to sign this agreement after finalizing different points of the proposed cooperation. However, the war broke out two weeks before the agreement was going to be finalized. Definitely, either one country or a group of countries didn’t want to see a growing American influence in the region and for them resuming war in Artsakh was beneficial, especially when they weren’t going to be directly involved in this conflict. The weakening of Armenia and Azerbaijan was to their advantage as that would allow them to push forward with their own agendas that serve their own national interests at the expense of both sides bleeding out in this conflict. Regardless which side would win in this war the original objective by a number of regional and extra-regional powers to destabilize the region and benefit in the process would be accomplished nonetheless.
It is also worth mentioning that the war followed after a major agreement between Armenia and China a few months before which envisioned the construction of a smart city in Armenia at the cost of $12 billion dollars provided by China within five years. The Armenian-Chinese agreement was taking place within the context of Belt and Road Initiative meant to build road and railroad links across Eurasia to deliver Chinese goods to world markets. Within the same context, about a week before the war in Artsakh the Chinese construction company resumed its work on North-South highway that was going to connect with China-Iran highway traversing across Central Asia within a short period of time. One of the routes under the Belt and Road initiative was going to go through Azerbaijan and another route was going to go through Armenia. Furthermore, the war in Artsakh began in a few days after the largest Chinese embassy in the world opened in Yerevan. At about the same time riots and protest demonstration broke out in Kirgizstan, a country in Central Asia that borders China and which is part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative as well.
To general populace these events may appear to be random and totally disconnected, however to experienced political observers the resumption of war in Artsakh within given context above may not appear to be random at all. It is meant to keep out new major powers from entering the region while driving out at least one of the traditional powers from the region. If history is any guide a series of major events is anticipated to happen in a near future as this is just the beginning, the tip of an iceberg. What would make their outcomes positive or negative for Armenia will depend on how Armenia reacts to it. Similar events have happened before such as the rise and fall of Roman and Byzantine empires, the rise and fall of Russian, Ottoman and Persian empires, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, the beginning and end of the Cold War and so on. For Armenia to survive for another hundred years and forward it must place its hopes upon itself, follow its intuition, strengthen itself at all cost and never forget that it is not only a country, a nation-state but also a civilization that gave rise to other civilizations, and unlike them it continuous to stand strong on its feet, five thousand years after the defeat of its arch-enemy, the ancient Babylon.
This war is the beginning of a larger war that looms on the horizon. Just like the Artsakh Liberation War set the stage for the significant changes on the global scene such as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the removal of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Yugoslavia and the end of Cold War, similarly this war is the beginning of a series of significant changes that will take place both regionally and globally that very few may realize. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. This is the end of the post-Cold War era and the beginning of the new world order where a number of countries and international structures will lose their significance while some of them will face their own demise. This conclusion should not be a surprise to any as it is the way of human kind. Interactions among nation-states and coalition of states be that positive or negative are always in a constant flux as the new powers come to replace the old powers while old powers do their best to continue remain in power. The strong countries will survive and the weak will go into the dustbin of history like many that came before them.
The Armenian-Azerbaijani/Turkish war is characterized by the clash of more than two major powers in a very small region yet too significant for its own size. This war is not only a violent clash between Armenian and Azerbaijani/Turkish-ISIS linked forces, but also it is a violent clash between the East and the West, between Shia Islam and Sunni Islam; it is a clash within Shia Islam and within Sunni Islam. It is also a clash between multiple civilizations and a number of competing nation-states and supra-national structures; it is a clash between the past and the future taking place in the present. Only the strength in unity of all Armenians around the world and the fate in its own capabilities which allowed Armenia to exist until this very day will allow the Armenian nation to continue on for another five thousand years against all odds and regardless which country would like to see its demise, be that Azerbaijan, Turkey or anyone else. The Armenian victory in this war is inevitable because there is no other choice.