USA trying to break up Armenian-Russian military relations - 2007

Two very interesting and quite candid commentaries regarding the Caucasus and Armenian-Russian relations coming from a world that existed in the pre-September 11, 2001 era. I had printed these articles from the internet when they were first published back in 2000. Now is a good time to give them some exposure again. In my opinion, reading these older news reports and political commentaries are essential in helping the interested reader visualize and better comprehend the evolution of current global affairs and Armenian-Russian relations.



USA trying to break up Armenian-Russian military relations, general says

General Leonid Ivashov (left) with journalist Christopher Bollyn from American Free Press
Note: General Leonid Ivashov was the Chief of Staff of the Russian armed forces when the September 11, 2001, attacks took place. This military man, who lived the events from the inside, offers an analysis which is very different to that of his American colleagues. As he did during the Axis for Peace 2005 conference, he now explains that international terrorism does not exist and that the September 11 attacks were the result of a set-up. What we are seeing is a manipulation by the big powers; this terrorism would not exist without them. He affirms that, instead of faking a “world war on terror”, the best way to reduce that kind of attacks is through respect for international law and peaceful cooperation among countries and their citizens.

May 22, 2000

Russia has to ensure that Armenia has the means to defend itself from threats in the Transcaucasus region, Russian Col-Gen Leonid Ivashov said in an interview published in the Armenian newspaper 'Ayots Ashkar' on 16th May. The USA and NATO countries want to prevent the military cooperation between Armenia and Russia, and "if we are weak it will be easy to rule us", the general said. The two countries have to forge still closer military relations, remembering the fact that many Russian and Armenian officers served together. Ivashov also said that Russia will keep its military bases in Georgia for the time being, until an agreement can be made on their withdrawal which would not entail something like "a retreat". The following is the text of the interview from `Ayots Ashkar' by Vahan Vardanyan entitled "Russian-Armenian strategic cooperation is a fact"

[Q] General, how can you evaluate the present stage of Armenian-Russian cooperation in the context of Russia's new military doctrine? In this case what is the role of the Russian military base located in Armenia?

[A] Today is the eighth anniversary of the signing of the CIS collective security pact. Armenia is one of the active country members of that pact and conducts the kind of policy that will ensure that the collective security pact is an effective mechanism for averting any aggression towards country members. Armenia also actively participates in the creation of an air defence system. Russian-Armenian bilateral relations in the military sphere are successfully developing. We don't make a secret of the fact that we are interested in the guaranteeing of Armenia's security. I can say that within the framework of bilateral relations meetings between Russian and Armenian military servicemen often take place. They meet every month on a high level and have the aim of finding new prospects for cooperation and improving our countries' defence. I would like to emphasize that it is not directed against any other country, everything is done within the framework of international obligations.

[Q] Can Armenian-Russian military cooperation be considered an existing fact or is a further deepening of relations possible?

[A] Yes, it may be established that Russian-Armenian strategic cooperation is an existing fact. But there is still an inner force for improvement. Armenian military staff are being trained in Russia, we are strengthening the military base located in Armenia by modernizing the military equipment. Whenever we have the chance we also support the Armenian armed forces. We have only the task of maintaining the necessary level of defence. Unfortunately, the situation in the Caucasus is not stable on the whole, and the armed forces and the balance of military potential are also a guarantee for averting conflicts.

[Q] It is often written in the military press that Armenian-Russian relations are dependent on individuals. In your opinion is it really so?

[A] The agreement on friendship, cooperation and mutual support is of course the strategic line of our two countries. Of course, it will be fulfilled more effectively if more than simply institutional relations are created in different structures. Many Russian and Armenian officers served together. How can that military brotherhood be broken? Do you suppose that we don't notice how often the US military servicemen try to put a wedge into our relations? NATO's military servicemen organize seminars where they speak only about Russian-Armenian military cooperation. It is not profitable for them. I can say that the USA and NATO countries actively work with the goal of preventing our consolidation. If we are weak it will be easy to rule us. Wherever real integration is observed, our transatlantic guests immediately intervene.

[Q] But sometimes we have the impression that because of a change of this or that official the relations between the countries also change. Is it really so? And what can you say about speculation that Russian generals are involved in the recent processes in Armenia and have their own interests?

[A] Undoubtedly the policy is being implemented by specific individuals. If those persons serve the strategic line of Armenian-Russian relations, in that case our military and political and allied relations will go on. A change in the state's political line may become a reason for our anxiety. As for the Armenian military servicemen, they are devoted to Armenian-Russian military cooperation. But it is not true that we military servicemen intrude in political processes. Yes, Russia has direct interests in Armenia. The essence of them is to maintain our strategic relations, so that Armenia is stable and strong from the strategic as well as the economic point of view, so that it is a friend and colleague for Russia. These are our interests. The speculation means that somebody does not like the fact that Russia assists Armenia. The US embassy is more active than we are. But that activity is directed towards breaking up our relations. The USA has managed to achieve quite serious success in relations with the other countries of the Transcaucasus, including in the military sphere.

[Q] What is the destiny of the Russian military bases located in the Transcaucasus?

[A] As for the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia, we have finished only the first stage of negotiations and have presented our
approaches. But when we were informed about the terms of all the bases being withdrawn, and they were brief, we drew Georgia's attention to the [OSCE] Istanbul summit. And there was no discussion of a withdrawal of military bases there. Yes, it is necessary to make an arrangement about the direct terms, but it must not be like a retreat. And it must not be a situation where immediately after the end of negotiations we start the withdrawal. So the question is about the maintenance of Russian military bases and facilities in Georgia and we shall continue this policy. As for Gyumri military base, that, according to our common opinion, is a factor of stability in the region, a factor averting aggressive actions towards Armenia.

[Q] Today the necessity of forming a Caucasus-wide security system is much spoken about. What is the position of Russian military servicemen with regard to this matter?

[A] If the question is about regional security, in that case it is necessary to talk about the whole region, and here there are the interests of
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia as well as Turkey. There are fewer US interests. And where there are US troops it will not make the region more stable. We are ready to participate in a discussion concerning the problems of regional security, but only taking into account the interests of all the countries. But the presence of NATO on the territory of the former Soviet republics is not acceptable for Russia.

[Q] Recently Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan stated that the Russian military base located in Armenia is there to prevent danger from a third side and to guarantee stability. Do you agree with this?

[A] Yes, I do. That is really so. It is very important for us so that Armenia is stable. The domestic instability of any country can be exploited by a third force. That is why we have to observe so that the Armenian armed forces are capable of functioning. We must also watch so that the Russian military base corresponds to the level of those dangers which are present in the Transcaucasus today. The sum of the potential of the Russian military base and of our military and political and military and technical cooperation, as well as the stable development of Armenia, will give us an opportunity to maintain peace and stability on Armenian territory.


East meets West in the Caucasus

July 22, 2001

The Caucasus is a region rich in tradition. The faithful offering morning prayers in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, are celebrating 1700 years of Orthodox Christianity this summer. History in the Caucasus is about confrontation too. Armenia is a small Christian nation squeezed for centuries by Muslims in Turkey to the West and Central Asia to the East. Independent Armenia needs Russia. Vartan Oskanyan, Armenia's foreign minister, talks of historically good relations with Russia. "Russia's military presence on Armenian soil is important for our security. Anti-Soviet sentiment did not mean anti-Russian in Armenia's case. There was a confluence of interest in our region," he says.

That common interest is confronting Turkey, NATO's front line, and Armenia's old enemy. For the last ten years, Armenian rebels have been fighting Turkey's ally Azerbaijan for control of Nagorno Kharabakh - just one of several smouldering wars where East is fighting West by proxy in the Caucasus. "Security is a number one priority for Armenia. Kharabakh is a security issue; it's not only self-determination, the right of Kharabakh to existence," says Oskanyan. "Having major power as a neighbour which blockades Armenia, which refuses to normalise ties, which at the height of the Kharabakh conflict threatened Armenia with military intervention; having that relationship with your Western neighbour upsets the balance and makes us pretty nervous. "Turkey's position has complicated the overall balance."

Joint exercise

The Caucasus balance is getting more complicated. A few days ago Turkish troops joined others from NATO for a joint exercise across the Black Sea in Georgia. The amphibious and airborne landing, Operation Co-operative Partner, was described as humanitarian emergency planning. Russia called it a provocation and put its troops on alert. Russian soldiers can be seen on parade at the Gudauta military base further along Georgia's Black Sea coast from where NATO practised its landings. But the Russians should have left the base on July 1st following an international agreement signed two years ago. Whether because of the NATO exercise or not, now they have refused to pull out.

Kaha Siharulidze, from the Georgian foreign ministry, says there is one big difference between 1999, when the pullout deal was agreed by Boris Yeltsin, and now: "Of course the difference is Vladimir Putin. He is stronger, he is a new president. A new attitude to international affairs." Unlike Armenia, neighbouring Georgia has always resented Russian control over the Caucasus. Now they want the Russians out for good. "The agreement given to the Georgian side and to the international community two years ago at the Istanbul summit of the OSCE has been violated by the Russian side," says Siharulidze. "Naturally the big neighbour has its interests in the region. But every country in the world has the right to be independent; to be treated in a civilised way." It's not hard to see why Russia doesn't want to leave. NATO member Turkey's defence minister was in Georgia this month promising to help equip the base when the Russians are gone. Why? Because the West wants to lay profitable oil pipelines through Georgia and Turkey from Central Asia and the Middle East. Energy is Russia's biggest earner; it doesn't welcome competition.

The Great Game

All this bears the hallmark of history - the old Great Game. In the 19th century, that meant commanding the road to colonial possessions. In the 21st century, oil and gas are the reasons for East and West to push for power in the Caucasus. History doesn't repeat itself exactly. But there are empires competing to protect themselves in this region. A new Great Game - and perhaps a new Cold War. A gigantic statue of Stalin still stands in Gori, his birthplace in Georgia. This one was never knocked down, but elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, there are putting them up again. At the Stalin Museum in Gori, Olga, a tour guide, remembers the old days with growing fondness. "There were many positives in Stalin's time. He made lives better for the people. We are proud of him," she explains. For Olga and many others, freedom has meant only the few getting rich. The rest, have got nowhere. This sentiment is echoed by a sunflower-seed seller at the railway station under a big new freshly-painted portrait of Stalin: "He was strong, and our lives were much better. Look at what's happened to us now, it's all chaos. Those were good times, now we can't eat," he says.


In related news:

War Over Karabakh

Azerbaijan prepares to fight for Nagorno-Karabakh. Will there be war? Lieutenant General Seiran Oganjan, commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army and Defense Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh, is the new Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian regular army. His appointment indicates that the government of Armenia is seriously upset by Azerbaijan's militant statements. Otherwise, it would hardly be necessary to transfer a combat general from a familiar region of potential hostilities to the capital of Armenia. Oganjan will be required to focus the Armenian military's "brain center" on planning specific measures to repel a potential attack, and improving combined troops management mechanisms for the Armenian Armed Forces and the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army. Unfortunately, there is still no reassurance for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on that issue.

The newly appointed chief of the General Staff clearly understands what kind of losses may be incurred if forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army are withdrawn unilaterally from the "safety belt" territories and the defense system established in those territories is eliminated. Nevertheless, the view in Yerevan is that Armenia should be prepared to take this step since Nagorno-Karabakh talks have been under way for years but their outcome remains unpredictable. The current front-line configuration is optimal for Yerevan. The southern flank of the Artsakh front is covered by the Iranian border, the northern by the inaccessible Mrava mountain range. To the east, as far as the Araks, Armenian troops are manning a well-fortified border with several lines of defense. Harsh as it may sound, the border is fairly effective.

Azerbaijani military experts claim that almost 5,000 soldiers of the national army died there in episodes of violation of the Azerbaijani-Armenian cease-fire accord (signed in Bishkek on May 12, 1994) and of other causes (explosions of landmines, and so on). The death-toll was particularly heavy between 1995 and 2000 (over 2,000 servicemen and officers). Over 200 soldiers and officers of the Azerbaijani regular army died between 2000 and the present. If the territories of six districts captured by Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh war are returned to Azerbaijan, leaving only he Lachi corridor, the common front-line between the two Armenian states and Azerbaijan, including Nakhichevan, would increase by over 450 kilometers, to 1,100 kilometers. The length of the front-line between Artsakh and Azerbaijan would increase from 150 kilometers to 360 kilometers. What would this imply? In order to provide reliable cover for a substantially longer front-line, Armenia would have to mobilize substantial resources - both human and financial resources. There is a fairly high risk that the Nagorno-Karabakh territories may be returned to Azerbaijan's jurisdiction by force. Several possible scenarios have been considered. The opinion of Azerbaijani military expert Uzeir Jafarov reflects the mood of a large group of Azerbaijani politicians. "If the order to liberate Nagorno-Karabakh by force of arms is issued tomorrow, I don't think it would be too difficult," Jafarov said. "Funding for our Armed Forces in 2007 is equivalent to $1.1 billion, and we should consider how all this money can be spent in a rational way."

Indeed, Azerbaijan's militarization is proceeding at a rapid rate. Azerbaijan has started intensive purchases of long-range rocket and artillery systems. In recent years, it has purchased 12 Smerch multiple rocket launcher systems from the Ukraine. With a range of up to 70 kilometers, these systems can be fired from far in the rear to strike across large areas. In 2002, Azerbaijan purchased 36 M-46 130-mm artillery pieces from Bulgaria. The Ukraine supplied 72 MT-12 100-mm anti-tank weapons, and Georgia supplied six SU-25 ground-strafers in the same year. On March 29, 2007, the Azerbaijani Air Force tested the MIG-29s supplied by the Ukraine. Azerbaijani experts say that the United States has modernized seven military airfields in Azerbaijan. Some T-72 tanks have been purchased from Slovakia and the Ukraine. In 2005, Belarus officially announced the sale of nineteen T-72s to Azerbaijan. If the hostilities move into the mountain areas, this would mean an enhanced role for mortars which are very effective in this terrain. Azerbaijan is striving to build up superiority in these weapons as well. It has bought Nona systems which may be used as howitzers and mortars with a vertical alignment angle of up to 80 degrees.

According to the Stockholm International Institute for Strategic Studies, Azerbaijan currently has 26 Nona systems. Azerbaijan makes multiple rocket launchers and ordnances for them, as well as mortars and some munitions. Certain difficulties are encountered with the repair facilities for armored vehicles. What facilities existed in Soviet Azerbaijan failed to last for long. Azerbaijan has been compelled to enlist the services of the former Russian 142nd Repair Plant of the former Caucasus Military District in Tbilisi or send its armored vehicles for repairs in the Ukraine since the Nagorno-Karabakh war. As a matter of fact, the situation is some other sectors of the military industry is similar. Strictly speaking, the republic cannot expect to develop the ability to produce or repair sophisticated and complicated military hardware in the foreseeable future. For obvious reasons, official data on the military hardware balance between opposing sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area cannot reflect the true picture. According to independent sources, however, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan have a total of 95,000 personnel: 85,000 in the Ground Forces, 8,000 in the Air Force and Antiaircraft Forces and 2,000 in the Navy. Azerbaijan also has a National Guard (2,500 men), Interior Ministry police troops (12,000), and Border Guards (5,000).

The Ground Forces have 292 tanks, 706 armored vehicles, 405 artillery pieces and mortars, 75 BM-21 multiple rocket launcher systems, and 370 anti-tank rocket launchers. The Air Force has 61 combat aircraft and 46 auxiliary aircraft and helicopters. Its main airbases are at Kyurdamir, Zeinalabdin (equipped with a NATO air traffic monitoring system), Dallyar, Gyandzha, and Kala. The Antiaircraft Forces include four air defense brigades, one air defense regiment, and two separate radar battalions. They are equipped with S-200, S-125, S-75 (35 launchers), Krug, and Osa air defense complexes. The Azerbaijani Navy has a brigade of surface combatants (a division of patrol ships, a division of landing ships, a division of minesweepers, a division of the search and rescue services, a division of training vessels), a territorial waters security brigade, a marines battalion, an intelligence and special assignment center, and coast guard units. The Navy has a total of 14 warships and patrol boats and 22 auxiliary vessels but not all of them are serviceable at present due to various technical problems and a shortage of experienced specialists.

How do the Armenian Armed Forces compare? They have a total of 53,500 personnel (56,000, according to other estimates) including nearly 45,000 men in the Ground Forces, approximately 3,900 in the Antiaircraft Forces, and up to 700 in the Air Force. The Armenian Ground Forces have eight operational-tactical rocket launchers, 198 T-72 tanks, 338 armored personnel carrier and infantry fighting vehicles, 360 field artillery pieces, mortars, and multiple rocket launcher systems, around 160 100-mm guns for firing on ground targets, 55 air defense launcher systems (S-75s, S-125s, Krugs, Osas), and two divisions of S-300 antiaircraft complexes. The Air Force has seven aircraft (six SU-25s and a MIG-25), 12 combat helicopters (seven MI-24s, thee MI-24Ks, and two MI-24Rs), and 26 auxiliary aircraft (two L-39s, 16 MI-2s, and eight MI-8MTs).

Like the Armenian Armed Forces, the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army is well-trained and well-equipped. It has between 18,500 and 20,000 officers and soldiers with 220,000 to 30,000 reserve personnel for mobilization. The Ground Forces have up to 16,000 men across eight defense districts. According to various sources, the Ground Forces have between 177 and 316 tanks, between 256 and 324 armored vehicle, 219 to 322 artillery pieces and mortars including up to 26 BM-21 multiple rocket launcher systems. The Air Force has up to 250 personnel with two SU-25s, four MI-24s, and up to five other helicopters. The Antiaircraft Forces are based on air defense weapons transferred from Armenia. The air defense center in Stepanakert has one S-125 system, four Krug launchers, eight OSA-AK systems, and four mobile ZSU-23-4 antiaircraft guns.

Defense experts say that even though the armed forces of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are smaller than the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, they are more combat-capable. This is particularly applicable to the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army which is relatively mobile and compact and whose officers have combat experience. By mobilizing 100% of Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans, it can operate as small autonomous units in mountain terrain. Speaking at John Hopkins University in Washington, US Council on Foreign Relations analyst Wayne Merry noted that Azerbaijan cannot win even though military options for resolving the conflict are being discussed openly in Azerbaijan. He is of the opinion that Nagorno-Karabakh is an impregnable fortress, further strengthened by Armenian forces and that even the US Army would have difficulty attacking this fortress. According to the analyst, this is also the prevalent view in the Pentagon. Azerbaijan in the meantime takes an entirely different view of the situation. Zahir Oruj, a member of the Defense and Security Committee of the republican parliament, says, "Armenia can only be superior to us in the capacities it gains from bilateral military agreements with Russia and participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization. For all other parameters and resources, Azerbaijan is superior to Armenia, at least in military terms."

Hostilities could resume in several ways. In almost every scenario, they would be started either by Azerbaijan or by dubious international structures that specialize in the promotion of the West's interests in this region (such as the International Crisis Group). The most immediately relevant scenario could involve the United States attacking Iran, and Azerbaijan taking advantage of the chaos to make an attempt at sorting out the Nagorno-Karabakh problem once and for all. However, Azerbaijan could hardly expect substantial military support in these circumstances from either the United States (it would be too busy elsewhere) or Turkey (which might confine its participation in the conflict to sending volunteers). All of the above leads to the following conclusion: Azerbaijan is unlikely to succeed with a blitzkrieg in the immediate future. The time factor will be decisive in this situation as it is in most modern conflicts. Moreover, if hostilities do break out, Russia's political obligations would come into effect: Armenia is an ally within the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization. Consequently, Moscow is likely to make every effort to see that this conflict is resolved by diplomatic or other means.

Source: Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kurier, No 25, July 4 - 10, 2007, p.3

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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several anonymous visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what.Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Articles in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you as always for reading.