The shooting war has ended, thanks to the merciful intervention of Russia to end what became a lop sided victory for the Azeris and a devastating humiliation for Armenia. Videos of the carnage shows that the Armenians left behind many dead and there was evidence of a rout in some places. Most of their armor has been destroyed or damaged and unlike the Azerbaijanis, having very little money, they cannot replace them. Some observers question whether they have any point in doing so as they are isolated in the world political environment, a history of war with the Islamic world, driven out of their homelands in Turkey, and getting only clucking noises of support from former “Christendom”, now totally secular and indifferent to Eastern Christianity. Russia allowed the war to continue for 44 days in order to ensure that Armenia, which had been trying to steer an independent course, is now totally dependent on Moscow.
The first lesson from this is that One of the worst things that can happen to an army is to have won a war against a rather hapless opponent. So it was in the Armenian victory over the Azeris in 1988-1994. in which the Armenians not only defended the Armenian enclave of Artsakh ( Nagorno -Karabakh )but also seized a sizable piece of Azeri territory which they have tenaciously held onto for 29 years. The Armenians assumed this exaggerated sense of military superiority and disparaged the fighting qualities of the Azeris. They believed that their deficit in manpower and equipment would be remedied by the valor of their soldiers. They fought bravely but uselessly. This is a frequent feature of all nations and peoples ( as well illustrated in the book Knowing Ones Enemies)
In the intervening period the the nation of Azerbaijan has gone through an extensive modernization period, especially the military, with the objective of regaining their territory. Look elsewhere for the rights and wrongs and moral high ground on this issue.Ill leave that to the international lawyers..however like most land disputes it is only settled by warfare. In the meantime Armenia rested on its military laurels, allowing the Azeris to get far ahead of them in military preparedness.The Azeris had a huge quantitative and qualitative advantage over Armenia, a factor which owed much to their oil . On the other hand Armenia exists primarily on largess provided by the Armenian diaspora throughout the world, and Russian loans.
The second lesson is that this war is what Samuel Huntington ( The Clash of Civilizations) termed a “fault line conflict,” which tends to be typified by extreme brutality, long lasting , ( with perhaps a time of peace but always returning to warfare) and usually terminated by the complete destruction of one side and ethnic cleansing. The war between the Azeris and Armenians has a long and very bloody history as evidenced by mass slaughter of civilians by both sides dating back to nineteenth century (see my previous blog on the conflict). The modernists, writing on these type of wars, shy away from any mention of culture or religion, evidencing “secular myopia” as Huntington termed it. In this war there are number of allegations of war crimes, killing prisoners, decapitation of the dead, cutting off ears, etc. It was a war over territory, and inevitably, identity.
Some have termed it a war of the drones, which is true to some extent it was. Azerbaijan was well supplied by Israel and Turkey with some of the latest in drones which wrecked a devastating toll on the Armenian armor with anti tank missiles. It was not a matter of comparing kind of tanks since both sides had Russian built T-72’s , T-80’s and some older models against Azeri T-72’s and the newer T-90’s.
As in the immediate aftermath of the 1973 Arab-Isreali war that the “experts” announced the end of armor as the sagger equipped Egyptians infantrymen knocked out many Israeli tanks. But the primary problem was that the Armenians were unprepared for combined arms warfare. Heroics cannot replace training, doctrine, strategy and common sense.Specifically they lacked mobile air defense weaponry which could make short work of the drones. Astute military analysts are advocating that the great powers carefully assess the lessons of this war as there is much to be learned.
In this war the Azeris reclaimed 80% of the land lost to the Armenians in the earlier war. Only the intervention of the Russians prevented the total absorption of Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan. President Ilhan Aliyev of Azerbaijan claimed that his forces destroyed one billion dollars worth of Armenian military equipment. It is a fact that the Western orientation of Azerbaijan was the locomotive for the modernization of Azerbaijan guided by the wise policies of Aliyev who opened lucrative relations with Israel and the West.
So what are the results?. Armenians are demoralized, rightly blaming their government for incompetence, particularly their bull headed president Nikol Pashinian. They are holding on to the more populated parts of Nagorno Karabakh by virtue of Russian “peacekeepers” deployed into the region. Turkey has solidified their relationship with Azerbaijan, another step toward Turkish presidents pan-Turkish scheme of allied turkic solidarity up to the Chinese border. They were tightly won even into the Azeri victory, even importing Syrian Arab surrogates to fight for Azerbaijan, alongside Turkish military training teams.
The Russians have secured a foothold in the ” soft underbelly” of Russia with peacekeepers basically guarding the remainder of the Nagorno-Karabakh
entity in place of Armenia. Azerbaijan has not given up its claim to all of the Armenian enclave, which means the conflict remains unresolved. Moreover Russia alone drove the peace settlement , bypassing completely the earlier Minsk settlement structure composed of France, the U.S. and Russia. The West was totally excluded from the latest treaty.
It is much more complicated with Iran. No doubt their large Azeri population is ecstatic over their fellow Azeri victory in the war.The Azeri victory solidified Azeri ethic separatist inclinations. No doubt quiet a few Persians are happy too, happy that their fellow Shia scored a victory over the Christian Armenians, but the more pragmatic Iranian rulers, fear the idea of the Russians on their doorstep. Russian intervention in Iran dates back over two centuries. One Russian expert opined on twitter that the Russian moves were predicated on putting pressure on Iran.