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War In Nagorno-Karabakh Isn’t Over: Russian Forces On Permanent Combat Readiness – OpEd

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Recently the President of Azerbaijan Aliyev announced that the war with Armenia is over, adding that the aim of the war was to restore Azerbaijan’s territorial unity. Did this happen? Was the aim achieved even after signing the peace deal and the arrival of Russian “peacekeepers”? Of course, the answer is no. Aliyev is saying one thing, but thinking something entirely different.

The combat lasted for one and a half months, and for many it began and ended quite unexpectedly. Azerbaijanis were able to surprise the Armenians with their perseverance and efficiency on the battlefield and corner them literally and figuratively.

I must say that I don’t see anything unexpected in the way the Azerbaijanis dealt with the “occupants” of Nagorno-Karabakh. Both sides have long been known to occasionally blast one another with artillery shells, shoot down each other’s aircraft and hold sniper training with live targets.

Some clashes lasted for several weeks with no logical conclusion – they started suddenly and ended suddenly. What I’m trying to say is that the war between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenia) didn’t start on 27 September and end on 11 November – it began a long time ago. And nothing has yet ended because Putin was able to block the doors of Azerbaijan’s victory, thus preventing the collapse of the already completely dysfunctional CSTO.

Now, forces are being regrouped, mistakes analyzed and “diplomatic” talks held because since the nineties Azerbaijan has been able to develop a powerful army equipped with the latest trends in weaponry. Moreover, it receives assistance from its Turkish friends who provide all sorts of help – from organizing joint drills to simply delivering ammunition. Therefore, no one should be surprised about what unfolded in Nagorno-Karabakh and there is no need for dumb questions like – why did the war start?  

Now, experts, researchers and “intelligent” commentators are providing their view on the conflict, but rarely who remembers the fact that on 9 November a Russian Mi-24 helicopter was shot down over Armenia not far from Nagorno-Karabakh. Pashinyan conceded a few days later.

Two perfect reasons for Putin to unleash the full might of the CSTO against Azerbaijan – but he didn’t. Putin did what benefited him the most. After the peace deal was signed, at least 20 Il-76 airplanes arrived in Erevan in the following 24 hours carrying Russian troops who were in full combat readiness the entire time. Currently, they are in Armenia as “peacekeepers”.

I would urge the experts to remember the Kodori Valley in Georgia, where Russian “peacekeepers” were present for some time until they were eliminated, allegedly by “Georgian” forces. Then came the events of 8 August 2008, and now we have two pro-Kremlin enclaves in Georgia – the self-proclaimed “people’s republics” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Aliyev, using common sense, has for now decided to tolerate Putin’s boots in Nagorno-Karabakh because only a mad man would risk engaging in an overly open conflict with Russia. Even though Russia’s weapons are a bit scrappy and the laughingstock of different experts, they are still able to demolish entire cities. We don’t have to look far for examples – there’s Eastern Ukraine and, of course, Syria.

Time will tell what’s what, but for now it seems that Aliyev has been able to maintain common sense and stop the war. He understands that there is no point in jumping into the abyss because “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, i.e. its better to allow Russian “peacekeepers” to wander Nagorno-Karabakh, instead of having “polite little green men” in all of Azerbaijan.

At the same time, the goal of restoring the territorial unity of Azerbaijan has not been reached. Azerbaijan has decided to pause for a bit, while Russian forces in Armenia are in permanent combat readiness. The escalation of the conflict is merely a matter of time.

*Augusts Augustiņš, Reserve Sergeant of the Latvian National Guard

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