Military Review

Nagorno-Karabakh: sad prospects

Back in February 1988, a session of the people's deputies of the regional Council of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region accepted a petition to resubmit autonomy from the Azerbaijani SSR to the Armenian SSR. Starting within the framework of the Soviet Union, the political and legal dispute soon turned into a stage of fierce armed conflict, the active phase of which ended in 1994 with an armistice with the mediation of the Russian Federation. But the confrontation on the border around the unrecognized republic continues to this day.

The question of the political and legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh is today the key (although far from the only) point of disagreement between Baku and Yerevan, which no “Madrid principles” and “compromise” legal formulations can overcome. In short, after 25 years, the Karabakh issue is still far from being resolved, being the subject of constant “concerns” of the OSCE Minsk Group consisting of Russia, the USA and France.

The policy of active mediation in the settlement of conflicts in the CIS space is fixed in the concept of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation, approved by the President of the Russian Federation 12 in February 2013.

Over the past two decades, the regional balance has undergone significant transformation.


A landmark omen of recent times are the analytical calculations of Western “think tanks”, which have a distinctly anti-Russian and anti-Iranian orientation. Perhaps such conclusions are a reaction to the increased attention of Moscow and Tehran to their (southern and northern), respectively. Nevertheless, the role of Turkey, Georgia, as well as the USA, Great Britain, Israel, the European Union, NATO and, possibly, a number of transnational players is also important. The strength of some of them, including potential means of force, may exceed the capabilities of other nation states. Each of these forces has its own, sometimes significantly different interests. Thus, the nuances of the approaches of various parties, as well as the dynamics of their relationships with each other, as well as each of them - with Baku, Yerevan and Stepanakert, virtually exclude the possibility of a "breakthrough" in resolving the conflict and, therefore, make the task of maintaining the status quo more urgent and the reproduction of the military-political balance of the parties. This is the medium term main guarantee of a fragile peace in the South Caucasus.

Now the advantage of one of the parties, allowing it to count on quick success as a result of a transient military operation, is ruled out. At the same time, armed provocations, accompanied by human casualties, periodically occurred over decades, becoming especially disturbing in the last two to three years. The situation is aggravated by xenophobic rhetoric, a permanent arms race and potential internal instability. This increases the temptation to redirect the internal discontent of the population, fueled by the ghost of the "Arab spring", into the mainstream of the struggle against the "external enemy." The liberation and heroization of Ramil Safarov made a particularly strong resonance in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. And already in 2013 - noisy persecution of the famous writer Akram Aylisli, who touched upon the well-known in his novel "Stone Dreams" historical facts of anti-Armenian pogroms in the Nakhchivan region at the beginning of the last century and in Baku at the end of the 2012th century. All this caused serious damage to the negotiation process and made the key task of establishing trust between the warring parties even more unrealizable. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in November XNUMX, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan emphasized that Azerbaijan was waiting for a convenient moment to resume hostilities.

As a result of the December meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Dublin, Baku and Yerevan did not manage to reach the adoption of a mutually acceptable document reflecting the three basic principles for resolving the conflict, including the principle of non-use of force in resolving controversial issues. It is not difficult to predict that the fate of other initiatives will have a sad character, despite the fact that peacekeeping efforts through civil society, gaining support both in the West and in Russia, can initially have only limited, local success. The military doctrine of Azerbaijan presented back in 2010 to the year reflects the maximalist attitudes of the country's leadership on resolving the conflict according to the principle “all at once”, which does not imply any other way than the use of force. “Owing to the continued occupation of part of the territory of Azerbaijan by Armenia and the refusal to liberate the occupied lands as part of the political settlement of the problem, Azerbaijan reserves the right to use all necessary means, including military force, in accordance with the norms and principles of international law to restore its territorial integrity "- noted in the document. And the words, including the numerous statements of high-ranking officials, obviously do not diverge with deeds.

In February 2013, the Azerbaijani army conducted regular large-scale exercises near the borders with Nagorno-Karabakh. The practice of such teachings has long been regular. It is worth noting that in October last year, the Armenian side also conducted large-scale exercises in the region. At the same time, the upcoming two-month military gathering of reserve officers was announced in Baku. There were proposals to introduce some kind of “special military regime in limited territories”, in connection with which changes and additions can be made to the Law “On Martial Law”.


At the same time, Baku is trying to use so-called oil diplomacy to resolve the issue in its favor, which, however, succeeds in getting worse and worse. And it is not surprising - it is strange to assume that a relatively small state, even if it possesses certain energy resources - the number and dynamics of extraction of which are also debatable - will be able to use them for a long time as a lever of pressure on countries such as the United States or Russia. Especially against the background of a gradual decline in oil and gas production, which seems to have taken shape in a steady trend. Thus, according to estimates of the State Statistics Committee of Azerbaijan, the corresponding figures, compared to the same period last year, decreased by 2,6% for oil and by 6,2% for gas.

Meanwhile, back in the middle of 90, Heydar Aliyev expressed the hope that the interest of the West in the energy resources of his country would play in the Karabakh issue on the side of Baku. The original strategy of the international consortium, which included American, European and even Russian companies, corresponded to the same strategy. However, hopes for a close link between the development of energy deposits and Baku’s preferred solution to the Karabakh conflict had only a minor effect. Despite individual statements by biased experts, in general, neither the European Union nor the United States increased their support for Baku in the Minsk process. According to some researchers, as the strategy of a diplomatic victory over Armenia decreases with the hands of the great powers interested in oil, Baku’s gaze turned towards Moscow, which became especially noticeable in 2009 – 2011.

Despite the fact that Ukraine was the main partner, Russia also holds a significant share in the procurement of armaments by Azerbaijan. So, in 2010, Russia issued a license to the Ministry of Defense Industry of Azerbaijan to produce 120 AK-74M assault rifles. Back in 2006, 62 were purchased from Russia tank T-72, in 2011 - T-90S tanks, in 2007 - 24 BTR-80A, in 2012 - two Scorpion LSHA armored personnel carriers and two - LSA-B Scorpion armored vehicles, as well as guided anti-tank missile systems of the type " Cornet". In addition, in 2008, Russia and Azerbaijan signed contracts for the purchase of six Mi-17V1 helicopters, in 2009 - two Ka-32A and 40 Mi-17V1, in 2010 - four Ka-32PS, 24 Mi-35M, 20 Mi-17V1 and one Mi-24 helicopter simulator. The total amount of military contacts with Russia is estimated at more than $ 1,6 billion.

A special resonance was caused by the delivery of anti-aircraft missile systems C-300 PMU-2 “Favorit” to Azerbaijan (a multichannel long-range system capable of accompanying up to 100 targets at the same time), which significantly increased the combat capability of air defense systems of this country. According to the estimates of the Armenian side, the leadership of Russia in the person of the then President Dmitry Medvedev and the head of the military department Anatoly Serdyukov did not agree on this deal with the leadership of Armenia or ignored his point of view. In this regard, it is not at all surprising that the negotiations initiated by Dmitry Medvedev and his colleagues from Armenia and Azerbaijan, initiated and accompanied by a noisy public relations (the apotheosis of which was the predictable failure of the Kazan meeting in the summer of 2011) ended in a loud failure. In addition, in the dialogue of Baku with the United States and NATO, which was never interrupted, the “Russian card” was only an auxiliary element, and this fact could be ignored unless the most naive statesmen.


In recent months, some new accents have emerged in the regional dynamics in the form of an emerging warming in Russian-Georgian relations, the consequence of which could be the weakening of the communication blockade of Armenia and the further strengthening of ties between Yerevan and Tehran. Not forgotten and plans for the construction of the railway between the two neighboring countries. Baku seeks to compensate for this by diversifying ties at the expense of some CSTO members: Belarus, a number of Central Asian states, as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (the Organization of the Islamic Conference before 2011) and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Of course, external forces may exert restraining pressure on the Azerbaijani leadership, however, keeping Baku from increasing its military potential is not part of their task, conflicting with the interests of various groups, including geopolitical adventurers who are inclined to experiment. The consequences of one of these undertakings the world watched in August 2008 of the year. By the way, Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia was preceded by a tumultuous “romance” between Tbilisi and Tel Aviv in the sphere of military-technical cooperation. Meanwhile, according to the World Trade Analysis Center weapons, to which one of the Azerbaijani websites refers, only in 2010-2011 did Israeli companies modernize the T-72 tanks and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles in service with the Azerbaijani army. In addition, Baku purchased from Israel nine units of the Links rocket fire system, 120-mm Cardom mortars, Spike-SR / LR MANPADS, unmanned aerial vehicles: 16 Aerostar units, two Hermes-450, 16 Heron-1, 16 Orbiter- 2M, as well as nine Barak-8 systems (75 missiles), two EL / M-2080 Gren Pine air defense systems. On the basis of an Israeli license, 30 drones Aerostar and 30 Orbiter-2M drones.

Strengthening the military and logistic presence of Israel and the United States in Azerbaijan, which has ceased to be a secret in recent years, cannot but worry Moscow not only as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, but also as a country trying to prevent the escalation of tension around Iran. The “prelude” to the “peacekeeping” operation of the United States, which pursues far-reaching goals, may be the aggravation of the situation in the region of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This exacerbation can be used as a pretext for radical US action, perhaps without UN sanction. As far as can be judged, the necessary infrastructure for the operational redeployment of “peacekeeping contingents” already exists in the form of a network of “aerodromes of jumping” and associated logistic infrastructure. In this context, the issue of preparations for the operation of the airport near Stepanakert has also been increasingly raised recently. The exchange of expert groups with NATO and the United States has long been a regular one. Information appears about the design of the base for the Azerbaijani Navy, fully equipped to NATO standards, and some other steps in the framework of the programs for “protecting global energy infrastructures,” including the possible “temporary deployment” of at least some of the NATO troops being withdrawn from Afghanistan in Azerbaijan, ” can not affect the regional balance of power.

Thus, it is not surprising that after Baku refused to prolong the lease agreement for the Gabala radar station on mutually acceptable terms, the Russian side decided to cancel the deal on the sale of the third division of the Favorite system to Azerbaijan. At the same time, steps were taken to strengthen military-political contacts with the Republic of Armenia, which cannot but have a positive effect on the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh. “After the withdrawal of the Qabala radar station, military and political sentiments in Moscow can powerfully prevail over the interests of the defense business, and in Armenia, as well as in Karabakh, more powerful Russian military means can appear. Moreover, taking into account the deployment of Patriot complexes in Turkey, aimed against Iran and Russia, ”said Alexander Knyazev, a well-known Russian political scientist and orientalist, in this regard.

Nagorno-Karabakh: sad prospectsOccasional skirmishes along the front line force the army of Nagorno-Karabakh to be on high alert.


The recent visit to Yerevan of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha is part of the work to implement the protocol on the renewal of the Russian military base in Armenia and the expansion of its area of ​​responsibility. According to the changed tasks of the base and the protocol of the Russian Federation, it should provide the Armed Forces of Armenia with modern weapons. During the visit to Armenia of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov, the state and prospects of bilateral military and military-technical cooperation, as well as issues related to security in the Caucasus, were reviewed. At all meetings, positive dynamics in strengthening cooperation between the defense ministries of the two countries were noted and mutual interest in its further development was expressed. Gerasimov visited the 102 Russian military base located in Gyumri, where he checked the organization of combat training, the condition of the training material base and the infrastructure of the formation, the conditions of service and life of the military personnel. In accordance with the protocol prolonged in 2009 and the expansion of the base’s area of ​​responsibility, the troops must be given corresponding tasks. In particular, they include ensuring the security of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

In Yerevan, it is assumed that a series of visits to Yerevan by key figures of the Russian military leadership suggests that Moscow is ready to be more attentive to its only military and political ally in the South Caucasus region and to listen more to Armenia’s views on planning its military policy in the south. direction. And at the same time it will become a deterrent for hotheads who do not want to part with plans to involve the Caucasus region in large-scale military conflicts and geopolitical upheavals.

Resolving the conflict, in addition to resolving the issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, involves ensuring the security of its people. And this simple thought seems to be taking hold of the minds of intermediaries and all those who are interested in long-term peace and stability in the region. In Stepanakert they emphasize that permanent threats to solve the problem by military means have lost their original character, becoming a kind of ritual for the Azerbaijani leadership, and contradict the calls of mediators to prepare the population of the parties to the conflict for peace. However, the ritual nature of these threats is supported by large-scale purchases of new types of weapons. Back in the spring of 2010, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published an expert report on military spending in the South Caucasus republics. The author of the document, Paul Holt, came to a very definite conclusion: the emphasis of Baku on the acquisition of new models of ground-based equipment and UAVs leaves little doubt about the essence of the preparation of the operation to return "lost territories".

Accordingly, military construction is still an important priority of state policy in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a single space in the security sphere with the Republic of Armenia. In addition to an extensive system of fortifications in the main areas of a possible breakthrough, a multi-level air defense system, some facets of which were represented in the open press, became a means of counteracting offensive arms purchased by Azerbaijan. So, we are talking about several divisions of C-300PT-1 air defense systems around Yerevan, each of which contains 12 launchers with the appropriate infrastructure. At least two large-mobility C-300PS air defense systems cover the eastern borders of Armenia and a large part of Nagorno-Karabakh. And this is not counting a significant number of other types of air defense missile systems and anti-aircraft installations, both received after the collapse of the USSR, and acquired and upgraded in the subsequent period by the forces of the local military industrial complex.

The Osa-AKM complex, designed to counter helicopters and attack aircraft, underwent the most profound improvement. aviation on the front line. It should also be noted that there are two S-300V batteries, which have significant striking power and are an effective air defense system, as well as the air defense system of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a single unit with the Armenian air defense system. Thus, there is no possibility of irreparable damage to the infrastructure of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the serious aviation (multipurpose fighters, fighter-interceptors, front-line bombers, attack aircraft, attack helicopters, drones) and missile (systems "Tochka-U", "Smerch", Israeli MLRS Lynx) threat. And given the tactics of "active defense", which, it seems, will be adhered to by Yerevan and Stepanakert, any attempt to "blitzkrieg" is fraught with unpredictable consequences.


Last year, quite a large-scale and complex work was done in Nagorno-Karabakh, including increasing moral and psychological readiness to repel external attacks, improve management, expand tactical capabilities, and prepare mobilization reserves. Communication ties between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are being strengthened. According to NKR President Bako Sahakyan, special attention was paid to the process of strengthening the front line, creating engineering structures, which allowed servicemen on combat duty to effectively counteract the destructive actions of the enemy.

According to the Karabakh military, the number of ceasefire violations from the opposite side in 2012 by 2 thousand exceeded the same indicator of 2011 of the year. Another surge of tension was recorded in mid-February, on the eve of the presidential elections in Armenia. Something similar has already happened on the eve of the 2008 presidential election of the year. It can be assumed that attempts to influence the internal political situation in the republic in the direction of its destabilization through controlled tension on the eastern frontiers will be made in the future. And therefore, it is quite logical that the military leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh gives the servicemen on an advanced installation “to constantly oppose the enemy and not allow him to be in the role of dominant in any sector”.

Taking into account the correlation of forces, features of the terrain, and some other factors, the Karabakh party cannot afford the “luxury” not to respond to enemy attacks. And such an answer is in any case given - in parallel, the reaction of diplomats, who, according to their duty, should emphasize the need to continue the negotiation process. According to NKR Minister of Defense Movses Hakobian, in 2012, the enemy only in one of seven cases managed to harm the Karabakh military personnel. In the remaining episodes, the intruders were able to find out in time and with losses to reject to their original positions. The number of sniper fire victims has also decreased, so the refusal of the Azerbaijani side to withdraw snipers from the contact line instead of increasing psychological pressure on the Armenian side showed once again who is seeking to strengthen confidence-building measures and who is not.


The presidential elections in Armenia were held in an environment of relative stability and predictability, although, of course, the acute socio-economic problems have not gone away and will have to be resolved. But Azerbaijan is just entering the election period, which, apparently, can be very difficult. In his recent speeches, President Ilham Aliyev not only talks about grandiose accomplishments, but also touches on moral issues, criticizing the behavior of individual officials and oh-offs. Last year's riots in Guba and the recent in Ismayilli, the tough actions of the authorities to suppress protests cannot hide the crisis phenomena fueling protest moods, especially in the regions outside of relatively prosperous Baku.

Interesting data is provided by the SCC of the republic: in comparison with 2011, last year import of wheat (by 24,1%), animal and vegetable fats (by 21%), butter (by 17,5%) increased. In addition, imports of fruits and vegetables (by 13,28%), as well as sugar (by 10,4%) flourished. This may indicate a certain stagnation of the non-oil sector of the republic, which is offset by increased imports.

The situation in the army is also becoming the object of close attention from the "profile" non-governmental organizations. Thus, the head of the Association of Reserve Officers Yashar Jafarli in an open letter to members of parliament notes that “despite the fact that large sums were allocated from the state budget for military needs, this factor did not have a positive impact on the negative atmosphere in military units”. The army needs fundamental reforms. The statistics of crimes in the army in recent years has become increasingly depressing. On the other hand, the number of dismissed officers is growing “on their own will” or “due to non-compliance with official duties”. Difficult to solve the problem of providing housing for officers who have served in the 15 army for more than 10 years.

The acute shortage of justice is a distinctive feature of the entire post-Soviet space, and the activation of radical religious organizations and groups can be an additional factor exacerbating the situation. It is they who, as the practice of a number of countries in the Middle East shows, are able to effectively manipulate various strata of citizens who are dissatisfied with the existing state of affairs. All of this, combined with the continued interest in Azerbaijan and the post-Soviet space as a whole, of extra-regional players, actualizes the existing challenges and threats, including the “defrosting” of regional conflicts, which they will definitely try to direct against Russia and its interests.


One can argue for a long time about the crisis of the “American model of the world”, about the progressive and forced peaceableness and almost the “pro-Iranian sympathies” of Obama, Highgel and Kerry. However, it should not be forgotten that Obama’s first term was marked by the Libyan and Syrian tragedies, in which tens of thousands of people died. The death of people continues at the present time. Any politician acts primarily in the interests of his country; his personal attitude to this or that dialogue partner may, of course, leave a certain imprint on his personal foreign policy style, but no more. For example, the personal contacts of the US Secretary of State with the Syrian President do not in any way disavow Washington’s consistent policy of supporting Syrian mercenaries and terrorists, or Bashar Assad’s withdrawal from the chaos and fragmentation of this state.

The observer of the Baku newspaper Zerkalo, Rauf Mirkadyrov, draws attention to John Kerry’s first press conference, which confirms assumptions about the worsening situation around Iran’s nuclear program as the new administration of Obama’s second presidential term is formed. Demanding Tehran to seriously prepare for the upcoming talks, Kerry stressed that Iran "must prove to the world community the peaceful nature of its nuclear program." Otherwise, according to this "pigeon", the US administration does not rule out taking any measures, including the military, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Similar statements can be easily found in the “pro-Iranian” Chuck Haygel and other high-ranking functionaries. The report of the “expert group,” according to which “by the middle of 2014, Iran will have enriched uranium enough to produce one or more nuclear bombs” appeared at the right time.

Consequently, we can safely say that the threat of large-scale provocations against Iran (in which the former Soviet Transcaucasia may be directly involved) did not disappear anywhere. Consequently, Moscow’s efforts to strengthen its presence in the Caucasus, the actualization of complex and multi-level relations with Yerevan and Tehran, the dialogue with the new Georgian leadership, while simultaneously containing destructive forces, will all remain valid for a long time.

A departure from the brink of direct military confrontation would allow the parties to the conflict to redirect much-needed resources to social and economic development, including the creation of prerequisites for unleashing the most difficult nodes through dialogue, rather than through blackmail and threats. Unfortunately, the current dynamics of events gives extremely few reasons for optimism.