Saakashvili Says Whoever Opposes Azerbaijan is Georgia’s Enemy - September, 2011

Saakashvili continues to kiss Turkish behinds... Georgian church is claiming Armenian property as their own... Washington is worried about Russia's increasing role in the Caucasus... Armenia and Artsakh are bolstering their armed forces... Washington may be rearming Georgia... Baku is threatening to start a new war against Artsakh... Moscow is having frank talks with Baku... Baku is getting cozy with Tel Aviv... Iran is very pissed!

Just some of the news developments from the region that caught my attention recently.

When matters concerning Artsakh have been resolved the Armenian nation needs to turn its collective attention towards Georgia. The government of Georgia has become a serious problem for Armenia in recent years. Since it controls Armenia's most important economic and energy lifeline and openly courts Armenia's regional enemies, it could be rationally argued that the state of Georgia today is a serious long-term threat to the Armenian state; much more so than Azerbaijan, in my opinion. If the troubling situation in Georgia deteriorates any further and if relations between Armenia and Georgia continues to fall apart official Yerevan needs to seriously think about taking the first step towards the Black Sea - the annexation of Javakhq.

The geopolitical climate of the region may gradually be getting ideal for such a thing.

The Western press is also lamenting the lose of Azerbaijan to Moscow and it is recognizing the growing role of Russia in the Caucasus - at Washington's expense. I agree with the Western press. And in my opinion, regime change in Tbilisi lies not too far down the road as well as the long overdue settlement of the land dispute between Baku and Yerevan.

The endgame for Moscow is to curb the post-Soviet mess in the Caucasus and gradually integrate the region into economic structures of the CIS. The region in question was a victim to the "great game" being played by the West and Russia for the past twenty years. If the region is to have any future whatsoever the geopolitical tug-of-war currently taking place between the West and Moscow needs to come to an end. Of the four gravitational pulls in the region - Western, Turkish, Iranian and Russia - the side that wins has to be Russia. With the geopolitical climate of Eurasia changing, Moscow is yet again finding itself in the position to call the shots in the Caucasus - and one of the consequences of this may be the final settlement of the dispute over Artsakh.

The manner in which the dispute will be settled, or better yet, the degree of benefit such a settlement will provide a victorious Armenia is ultimately in the hands of Armenian officials. Although Russian officials are calling the shots in the region, the particular way in which the dispute will be settled is essentially based upon how well Armenians are able to convince or manipulate Kremlin officials. Naturally, the same applies to the Azei side as well. But being that Armenians are better placed in Moscow, coupled with the fact that Armenia is a strategically important piece of real-estate for the Kremlin, I believe Armenians potentially hold a clear edge in this matter.

There are a few scenarios that may play out:

  • A limited war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in which no side is victorious and this is then used as an excuse to convince the citizenry of both nations to finally settle the matter.
  • A foolish attempt by Baku to retake Artsakh by military force after which Moscow reacts harshly against Baku, similar to how it reacted three years ago against Tbilisi.
  • A peace settlement imposed upon both sides by Moscow.

If I had to guess I'd say the first scenario is the most plausible one. However, all indicators nevertheless suggests that Armenia will hold on to Artsakh including Berdzor and Karvachar regions regardless of the scenarios outlined above. As mentioned on numerous previous occasions, Armenian control in Artsakh ensures the Azerbaijan's subservience to Moscow and Armenia's dependence on Moscow. I don't see Russian officials wanting to change this situation anytime soon. Kremlin officials also realize that a powerful Armenia, more specifically a powerful Russia-friendly Armenia, is a bulwark against Western, Turkish and Iranian incursions into the Caucasus. Therefore, when the time comes, at worst, Armenia may face pulling back from of some the territories it had liberated as a military buffer against Azerbaijan.

But as mentioned above, the extent of the concessions Armenia will be forced to make, however, ultimately depends on how well Armenians make their case and how well integrated Armenian officials are within the political structures of the Kremlin. This is where the proverbial Armenian cunning comes, or I should say needs to come into play. Nevertheless, even Armenians of Artsakh today readily acknowledge that Moscow is on their side - which actually explains why Baku has not dared to start another war, especially after the events of August 2008.

With the Russian Federation embarking on a massive multi-year modernization program of its armed forces, various sources are reporting that significant portions of its current military inventory in Armenia may in fact get transferred over to Armenian authorities. I strongly suspect that some portions of these armaments will then end up in Artsakh, which has become Armenia's well-stocked arms depot. Incidentally, every time we hear about an arms-buildup in Armenia... every time Armenia acquires a modern weapon system, we must realize that Moscow is the entity making it all happen behind-the-scenes.

[In my opinion Moscow should also transfer its radar installation in Azerbaijan to Artsakh where it can be more effective]

I personally do not think there will be another major war in Artsakh simply because I do not think Aliyev is stupid enough to risk everything his tribe has accumulated during the past twenty somewhat years and enrage the global community in doing so. All the though talk we hear coming out of Baku is posturing meant to scare the opposing side into making deeper concessions at the negotiations table. Then again, there is always the possibility that Aliyev clan make make a Saakashvilian error and resume hostilities. Such a case may actually provide Yerevan with an opportunity to liberate additional lands adjacent to Artsakh and also threaten to cut off Baku's energy flow to the west.

The fact is, however, that none of the major powers today have the stomach to see the resumption of another major war between Armenia and Azerbaijan because such a thing could easily turn into a major international affair and such a thing can easily disrupt Central Asian energy flow. And it is not only Russia and Europe that does not want to see the region plunging into yet another war, Turkey and Iran also want to keep the peace. Not having yet learned their lesson from the summer of 2008, Saakashvili's fanatical regime may be the only thing in the region that is actually looking forward to a major regional war. Perhaps Saakashvili is still hoping for the spirit of Ronald Reagan to come riding with the American cavalry to save Georgia from the Russian Bear!

Armenian control of Nagorno Karabakh and Russian control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are one of the few ways with which Moscow can keep Georgians, Westerners, Turks, Azeris, Tatars, Chechens, Iranians, regional Muslims in general, in check in the greater Caucasus region.

Some are asking: why hasn't Moscow yet put an end to the hostile regime in Tbilisi?

Russian officials do not feel the urgency to get rid of Saakashvili simply because Washington has for now at least given in to Moscow in the region, thereby lessening Moscow's sense of urgency. Pulling back from playing an active role in the region may be a clever move on Washington's part. American officials may be buying time while contemplating alternative moves. But have no doubt, Moscow's agenda against Saakashvili is moving ahead. Vladimir Putin announced about two years ago that plans were being made to bring Tbilisi under Moscow's fold. Moscow is most probably engaged in recruiting agents and activists in Georgia currently. Moscow is also increasing their military presence in Abkhazia and Ossetia. Moscow is also solidifying its ties with regional states. And just about a year ago the GRU is said to have exploded a bomb in front of the US embassy, most probably as a warning to Washington.

However, Moscow is not yet fully ready for a regime change in Georgia. They don't yet have the pretext needed for such a move. Moscow will wait for the right moment. Moscow may also want to fully exploit Sakashvili's threatening presence in the region; which is how they are justify their arms buildup in the Caucasus. But the writing is clearly on the wall: Saakashvili will be removed from power one way or anther, sooner or later. And Washington knows there is not much it can do to stop Moscow once the show begins. There are reports that Washington is again supplying Tbilisi with arms. If true, I suspect the intention here is to make Georgia's transition from under Western control to under Moscow's control an ugly and bloody one.

I also suspect that once Tbilisi is bought under Moscow's fold we can expect to see the independence of Adjaria as well. This may explain why Moscow quietly pulled Aslan Abashidze out of Adjaria in 2004 - they may be saving him for future use. And let's not forget there is always Edvard Shevardnadze (see his recent remarks). And if Armenians pull their heads out of their asses and concentrate their collective efforts in making a better case for Armenia in the Kremlin, we may be able to do something about Javakhq as well.

Let's not forget that this is essentially what NATO did to Serbia. They first separated Kosovo from Belgrade and then they encouraged Montenegro to become independent and since Serbia was a hostage to Western energy/political interests, it could not do anything but accept it all with a smile.

Nevertheless, with each passing day Armenians are witnessing Tbilisi's hostility towards Armenia grow. Relations between Armenia and Georgia have not been this bad since Georgia waged war against Armenia in 1918. Thankfully, Saakashvili's criminal reign is coming to an end within the foreseeable future. The finale has already been written and it's only a matter of time before it gets staged.

History has shown that Armenia has been, is and will continue being Russia's most reliable ally in the strategic region infested by foreign mercenaries and fanatical barbarians. Thus, Georgians should not worry too much about those who oppose Azerbaijan and realize that whoever opposes Russia is Armenia's enemy.

I reiterate: Armenians need to put our “Western Armenia” dreams and genocide pursuits on hold and realize that Armenia’s only salvation as a nation-state in this unforgiving world lies in having a direct access to the Black Sea and/or a shared border with Russia. If we care about Armenia we must somehow achieve this within our lifetimes. I don't need to remind any of you that politics is a deadly game. Those that do not play the game well are in a constant danger of dying. Small, landlocked, poor and surrounded by dubious friends and bloodthirsty enemies, Armenia will surly die if it does not breakout of its geographic predicament.

To achieve this vitally important long-term goal Yerevan needs to seriously embark on a covert pan-national effort to convince Moscow and Tehran that such a move would be beneficial for them as well. This shouldn't be a job for Russian-Armenians or Iranian-Armenians - this is a job for all Armenians! This is a matter of national urgency. The seed needs to be planted today if it is to bear fruit in the future. And herein lies the crux of the matter. Armenians are too distracted today with matters concerning genocide recognition and fighting "corruption". If gaining genocide recognition wont bring back the dead or give Armenia access to the Black Sea - I don't want it. History teaches me that the only way nations become self-reliant and powerful is through expansion and through having a direct access to the world. History also teaches me that nations give up territory only through war.

The primary agenda of all self-respecting Armenians today needs to be the strengthening of the Armenian homeland through expansion. Armenia's road to the Black Sea starts in Javakhq and Armenia's road to Russia starts in Artsakh. Only Moscow can help us realize this dream - and that is why I keep calling for a pan-national efforts within the halls of the Kremlin! If diasporan Armenians could only apply their genocide recognition obsessions towards this crucially important strategic matter, we might just be able to pull it off.

Armenians are not being led properly. Armenians today have a severe lack of real leadership both in the homeland and in the diaspora. The Armenian nation today desperately needs a reincarnation of Njdeh, Tigran, Hetum or Levon. Since I believe in history repeating itself (quite literally as a matter of fact) I sincerely believe that the Armenian nation will eventually give birth to another heroic leader. But this time our leader better realize that a direct access to the Black Sea and/or Russia are more important than direct access lake Van or Mush.

August, 2011


Whoever Opposes Azerbaijan is Georgia’s ‘Enemy,’ Says Saakashvili

In discussing “problems” Georgia and Azerbaijan share with “unresolved conflicts,” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said “whoever opposes Azerbaijan” is Georgia’s “enemy.” In an interview published in a special issue of The Business Year magazine devoted to Azerbaijan, the Georgian leader described the relationship between the two countries as a strategic partnership.

“Georgia and Azerbaijan should stand side by side, taking into account our geographic position and common history. We share a common vision, we have strong ties. I am convinced that our countries will be able to create a better future through unity, good relationships and shared success. Both our states have serious problems with regard to unresolved conflicts, and whoever opposes Azerbaijan and Georgia is an enemy of both our countries. Our strength lies in unity, and this is not just words, but reality,” he stressed.

“In recent years Georgian-Azerbaijani relations have reached their peak, and we will continue to work in this direction. Undoubtedly, the foundation of these relations was laid by Heydar Aliyev, and we seek to maintain this trend in the future. Thanks to the incredible efforts of President Ilham Aliev, our ties are constantly strengthening. We are absolutely convinced that this relationship will contribute to stability and the development of our region. I am convinced that this is a new start of the great partnership of friendship and brotherhood,” Saakashvili said.

Azerbaijani-Georgian friendship has a long history and has stood the test of time, the Georgian leader continued. “In January 2008, when Georgia was left without electricity or gas, for reasons still not clear to me, Azerbaijan helped the Georgian people in that cold winter though it had to cut gas supplies to its own population. Georgia will never forget this help of the Azerbaijani people. We will not forget this help because it was provided in the most difficult time for Georgians. And it’s not just the result of a strategic partnership, but also a symbol of our brotherhood. In fact, we have established federal links. The two countries have no problems,” the head of the Georgian state said.

Speaking about successful joint projects, the president highlighted the importance of the construction of the railway from Baku via Tbilisi to Kars in Turkey. This project demonstrates geopolitical transformation in the region, as “a completely new strategic relationship is created not only between Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, but also with Central Asia, China and Europe”. “In essence, this is a modern version of the Silk Road. This project will certainly guarantee the successful long-term development of our countries. Our relationship is more than just a regular connection. Georgia and Azerbaijan have been friendly countries for many years,” Saakashvili said.


Georgia 'cannot do without Russia' - Shevardnadze

Former Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze is convinced that his country cannot do without Russia. "It's a lie, when they say that Russia means nothing for Georgia," Shevardnadze said in an interview with Asaval-Dasavali newspaper, reported by Russian newspaper Vzglyad. He noted that relations between Moscow and Tbilisi were unlikely to recover in the next couple of years, however. Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia in August 2008 in the wake of the five-day Russo-Georgia war.

Earlier, Eduard Shevardnadze said that current Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili should "try all ways" to start dialogue between Moscow and Tbilisi. "They cannot return Abkhazia and South Ossetia" without such efforts on the part of the Georgian president, he said, referring to the two breakaway Georgian regions which have a substantial Russian troop presence.

Shevardnadze was convinced that the spiritual leaders of the two countries could play a major role in the negotiating process: "In these conditions, the recent meeting in Kiev of the patriarchs of Russia and Georgia was a ray of light." Shevardnadze also said that relations with Russia at the highest level were very important for Georgia. He said that it would be to Georgia's advantage if Vladimir Putin once again became Russian president.

"Remember, Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev has refused to negotiate with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Considering that Putin has received Georgia's opposition leaders, I don't rule out the possibility that he will hold talks with Saakashvili."


Eduard Shevardnadze says Georgia must recognize Abkhazia’s independence

Former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said it would be “wise” for Georgia to recognize Abkhazia as an independent country. “It’s clear Abkhazia can’t be a normal region of Georgia any longer,” Shevardnadze said in an interview published in the Asaval-Dasavali newspaper. Recognizing the region would improve relations between Georgians and Abkhazians, he added, the newspaper said. Shevardnadze was responding to comments by Mamuka Areshidze, an analyst at the Caucasus Strategic Research Center, who said two weeks ago that Georgia should consider recognizing Akhazia’s independence, Asaval-Dasavali reported. Abkhazia and South Ossetia, declared independence after a five-day war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008. Only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and the South Pacific nation of Nauru recognize their independence. Georgia maintains Russia occupied the two regions after the conflict, Bloomberg reported.


Armenia: Property Disputes Fueling Church Tension between Yerevan and Tbilisi

The Georgian Orthodox Church’s claim to several monasteries in neighboring Armenia is stoking religious tension between the two South Caucasus neighbors.

The fact that Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion (in 301 AD) is a source of national pride in Yerevan, and government officials accordingly tend to be quick to defend the prerogatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Authorities in Georgia, the third country to make Christianity its state religion (in 326 AD, after Ethiopia), feel similarly strongly about the rights of the Georgian Orthodox Church. These deeply held opinions ensure that cross-border property claims are a delicate topic.

Neither church today enjoys the status as a state religion, although both represent the faith of a large majority of Armenians and Georgians respectively.

In the post-Soviet era, church relations have travelled on a bumpy path. A brief thaw set in after Georgian authorities in July approved regulatory changes that would allow the Armenian Apostolic Church to gain official status in Georgia. The Georgian Orthodox Church opposed the revisions, but Armenian Apostolic Church representatives told RFE/RL that it believed the objections did not have sectarian roots.

These days, property disputes are the primary source of tension. In Armenia, the Georgian Orthodox Church desires official status and ownership of five monasteries in areas near the Armenian-Georgian border that it claims were founded as Georgian churches. Four of the disputed properties are in the Lori region -- the monasteries of Akhtala, Kobair, Hnevanq, and Khuchap. The fifth, the Kirants monastery, is in the Tavush region.

The Armenian Apostolic Church supports its Georgian counterpart’s request for official status, but Armenian church leaders object to handing over the monasteries. "It [the Georgian Church] demands churches whose ownership is still disputed,” claimed Armenian Apostolic Church spokesperson Father Vahram Melikian.

The Armenian Apostolic Church contends that though these monasteries may have functioned as Georgian believers during the 11th and 12th centuries, they were built as Armenian Apostolic churches and should remain so. Practical considerations also should be taken into account, added Father Vahram. The low number of ethnic Georgians living in Armenia –only about 600, according to government data – does not justify the transfer of five monasteries, Vahram contended.

During a June visit to Tbilisi, Armenian Apostolic Church Catholicos Karekin II gave a more open-ended answer to Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II on the matter. “You put your arguments down, we’ll look at them. What prevents us from resolving these questions?” Karekin II said in an unofficial videotaped chat posted on YouTube.

Ethnic Georgians in Armenia approach the church-property issue gingerly. Local Georgian Orthodox believers do not yet have official registration, a status that would grant them the ability to build churches. The law is applicable to all religious communities with at least 200 members. “It is unclear why they have not registered,” Father Vahram commented.

At Yerevan’s St. George church, which serves a tiny Georgian Orthodox community, the priest, Father Alexander, said that he petitioned Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II in 2006 to be recognized as a Georgian Orthodox church, “but didn’t get any answer.”

Religious rights watchdogs in the past have reported that some Christian denominations skirt registration requirements since they see it as an avenue for government interference. Members of Armenia’s ethnic Georgian community tend to look to Patriarch Ilia II and Catholicos Karekin II to take the lead on tackling the question of ownership of the Lori and Tavush monasteries.

The property disputes go both ways. The Armenian Apostolic Church lays claim to five churches in Tbilisi and one in the southern Georgian town of Akhaltsikhe, which has a large ethnic Armenian population. Father Vahram said the property claims were motivated by an Armenian church desire to defend the religious rights of ethnic Armenians living in Georgia. Such explanations, however, leave many in Tbilisi feeling suspicious.


Russia and Azerbaijan: An Obstacle to the U.S. in the Caucasus?

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev traveled to Russia on Aug. 9 to meet with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. Much of the media coverage ahead of this visit focused on Russia’s continuing efforts to negotiate a settlement to the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. However, Russia and Azerbaijan had broader-reaching issues to discuss.

According to STRATFOR sources in Russia, the overall state of US-Russian relations is deteriorating. The Caucasus is one of the battlegrounds between Washington and Moscow, and conditions there have long been an indicator of Washington’s and Moscow’s positions relative to each other. Russia wants to use its relationship with Azerbaijan to remind the United States of Moscow’s influence in the region. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, wants to pressure Washington and assist Moscow as part of its overall strategy to play outside interests against each other so as to improve its position to pursue its own goals.

Russia, having grown more confident in its geopolitical position, has developed a dual policy of cooperation and confrontation with the United States over the past year. Although Washington and Moscow are cooperating in a few areas , Russia is growing frustrated with the United States on several issues, including Washington’s plans for ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems in Central Europe .

Most recently, the US Congress approved several pieces of anti-Russian legislation that have caused quite a stir in Moscow. 
On July 26, the US Senate passed legislation blacklisting visas for some 60 Russian officials accused of being involved with the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, and on July 29 the Senate passed a resolution calling for Moscow to withdraw its troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Additionally, the CIA delivered a report to Congress on July 28 accusing Russia of being behind a series of bombings in Georgia in 2010, including an attempted bombing of the US Embassy there. Although the legislation does not necessarily represent the administration’s sentiments, Russia is beginning to worry that certain strongly anti-Russian politicians could gain even more power in the upcoming US election season.

Outstanding issues between Washington and Moscow will become more pronounced at major bilateral meetings this fall, including Medvedev’s next meeting with US President Barack Obama and the next round of NATO-Russia talks on BMD. Russia is using Aliyev’s visit to emphasize its relationship with Azerbaijan ahead of those meetings. By reminding the United States of its influence in the Caucasus, Moscow is showing Washington that any aggressive moves the United States makes regarding Georgia will not go unanswered.

Azerbaijan has reasons for cooperating with Russia. US-Azerbaijani relations are, on the whole, problematic. For instance, the United States has a large and influential Armenian lobby, which at times can lead Washington to support Armenian interests over Azerbaijan’s (as with the ongoing US weapons embargo against Azerbaijan).

Despite the differences between Washington and Baku, the United States remains very interested in the country’s energy sector. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States invested significant amounts of money in Azerbaijan’s energy industry. Although Washington has been distracted by conflicts in the Islamic world, the geopolitical interests that led the United States to invest in Azerbaijan’s energy sector remain, and Washington would like to have a say in the industry’s development. With Russia’s resurgence in full swing, the United States would like to see Azerbaijan play a critical role in developing energy production and transportation systems that will allow European markets to diversify away from Russian energy supplies. If Russia and Azerbaijan were to forge an agreement leading Azerbaijan to focus on developing energy projects that do not interfere with Russia’s energy dominance, it would be a blow to US interests in the region.

Azerbaijan, more than the other Caucasus states, plays major outside powers’ interests against each other in order to gain the best position to pursue its own interests — primarily the development of its oil and natural gas sectors. Azerbaijan is unlikely to commit itself fully to Russia or any other country, as Baku does not want the future of its energy industry beholden to one single player. However, Moscow and Baku both benefit in negotiations with other parties by suggesting that cooperation between them is possible. This is the same strategy Russia and Azerbaijan are using with Aliyev’s visit with Medvedev: They are using the meeting as an opportunity to remind the United States that the possibility of cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan — at the expense of US interests — is always there.


Medvedev, Aliyev in ‘Extremely Frank’ Talks on Karabakh

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with his visiting Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday for what he described as “extremely frank” talks on the future of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. The two leaders made no public statements after the meeting held in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

The Kremlin said they discussed “pivotal issues in Russian-Azerbaijani relations” and “the state of the negotiating process on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.” It gave no details. “Of course, the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement is one of the most important topics,” Medvedev told Aliyev in televised remarks made at the start of the talks. “I would like to have an extremely frank conversation with you about what to do next, about how events could develop considering our last trilateral meeting [on June 24 with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian] that was held in Kazan and previous meetings held in the same format,” he said.

Contrary to high international expectations, the Kazan meeting did not yield an agreement on the basic principles of resolving the Karabakh settlement proposed by Russia and the two other mediating powers, the United States and France. Medvedev subsequently presented Aliyev and Sarkisian with a set of unpublicized proposals aimed at salvaging the peace process. The content of their replies sent to the Russian president last month remains unknown.

Aliyev on Tuesday praised Medvedev’s active involvement in the search for Karabakh peace. He said the nearly one dozen Armenian-Azerbaijan summits organized by Medvedev in the last three years “have very much made the parties’ positions closer to each other.” “This is the main problem of regional security and, of course, Azerbaijan is interested in a quick resolution of the conflict more than anyone else,” added Aliyev. It is not yet clear whether Medvedev plans to hold soon similar talks with Sarkisian as well.


Karabakh Armenians Report Further Military Buildup

Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian-backed armed forces have acquired significant amounts of new weapons this year and will continue the military buildup in the months to come, their commander-in-chief announced on Friday. Lieutenant-General Movses Hakobian said the “military potential” of his troops grew by 20 percent in the first half of 2011.

“During this period, the qualitative and quantitative state of our weapons and military hardware changed quite a lot,” Hakobian told a news conference in Stepanakert. “Quite serious reforms were carried out with the restructuring of two army brigades. “We re-armed one artillery regiment with new systems. The anti-tank and air-defense means of a dozen battalions were enhanced.” “And this year we will receive more tanks -- two more divisions -- and some of the weaponry of the army’s air-defense system will be replaced,” he said.

Hakobian, who commanded some Karabakh Armenian units during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan, gave no other details of the buildup. Armenia, whose armed forces are closely connected with the Karabakh military, is likely to be the main source of the arms acquisitions reported by him. Its Karabakh-born Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said last February that Yerevan obtained “unprecedented” quantities of modern weaponry in 2010. “The expansion of our military capacity will continue in 2011, and it will be no less large-scale than it was in 2010,” Ohanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Azerbaijan’s leaders regularly threaten to forcibly win back Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding the disputed enclave if the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks yield no results acceptable to Baku. The Azerbaijani government plans to boost military spending to $3.3 billion this year, up from $2.15 a year ago and just $160 million in 2003.

Echoing earlier statements military officials in Stepanakert and Yerevan, Hakobian insisted that the Armenian side is undaunted by the Azerbaijani military buildup. He said the Azerbaijani army will suffer another defeat if it attempts to end the conflict by force. Still, the Karabakh general did not rule out the possibility of renewed war. “In my view, if Azerbaijan thinks that it can solve the Artsakh (Karabakh) problem by military means, the resumption of hostilities will be possible,” he said.

Hakobian noted in that context that instances of Azerbaijani troops opening small arms fire on Karabakh Armenian positions have increased drastically this year. He also spoke of their growing recourse to rocket-propelled grenades. “They fired at us from grenade launchers twice last year and ten times already this year,” he said.

Hakobian said last December that the Karabakh military has strengthened its defense fortifications along the entire “line of contact” with Azerbaijani forces lying east and north of the disputed territory. Ohanian likewise stated last year that those positions have been beefed up significantly.

The Karabakh military chief was also asked to comment on the increasingly publicized problem of non-combat deaths among soldiers. The Karabakh army was rocked last year by two separate shooting sprees that left ten servicemen dead. In one of those incidents, a soldier gunned down four fellow conscripts and wounded three others in a dispute over music player earphones. He was sentenced to life imprisonment last week.

“Right now we have around 5,000 soldiers [on simultaneous frontline duty] with weapons and live ammunition in their hands and the right to open fire at will,” said Hakobian. “Due to a flawed psychological preparation and negative social phenomena penetrating the army, young soldiers commit crimes in some situations.”

Hakobian said the local military has stepped up the crackdown on army crime and already managed to reduce it. Two soldiers have committed suicide and two others have been murdered in their army units so far this year, he said, adding that all of those cases have already been solved by military investigators. In Hakobian’s words, criminal charges are currently pending against 244 Karabakh military personnel, including about 50 officers.


Karabakh Says ‘Military Potential’ Has Grown 20%

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Armed Forces have acquired significant amounts of new weapons this year and will continue the military buildup in the months to come, their commander-in-chief announced on Friday. “During this period, the qualitative and quantitative state of our weapons and military hardware changed quite a lot,” Karabakh’s commender of the Armed Forces Movses Hakobyan told a news conference in Stepanakert. “Quite serious reforms were carried out with the restructuring of two army brigades.

“We re-armed one artillery regiment with new systems. The anti-tank and air-defense means of a dozen battalions were enhanced.” “And this year we will receive more tanks — two more divisions — and some of the weaponry of the army’s air-defense system will be replaced,” he said. Hakobyan, who commanded some Karabakh Armenian units during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan, gave no other details of the buildup.

Armenia, whose armed forces are closely connected with the Karabakh military, is likely to be the main source of the arms acquisitions reported by him. Its Karabakh-born Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said last February that Yerevan obtained “unprecedented” quantities of modern weaponry in 2010. “The expansion of our military capacity will continue in 2011, and it will be no less large-scale than it was in 2010,” Ohanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Azerbaijan’s leaders regularly threaten to forcibly win back Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding the disputed enclave if the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks yield no results acceptable to Baku. The Azerbaijani government plans to boost military spending to $3.3 billion this year, up from $2.15 a year ago and just $160 million in 2003.

Echoing earlier statements military officials in Stepanakert and Yerevan, Hakobian insisted that the Armenian side is undaunted by the Azerbaijani military buildup. He said the Azerbaijani army will suffer another defeat if it attempts to end the conflict by force. Still, the Karabakh general did not rule out the possibility of renewed war. “In my view, if Azerbaijan thinks that it can solve the Artsakh problem by military means, the resumption of hostilities will be possible,” he said.

Hakobyan noted in that context that instances of Azerbaijani troops opening small arms fire on Karabakh Armenian positions have increased drastically this year. He also spoke of their growing recourse to rocket-propelled grenades. “They fired at us from grenade launchers twice last year and ten times already this year,” he said.

Hakobyan said last December that the Karabakh military has strengthened its defense fortifications along the entire “line of contact” with Azerbaijani forces lying east and north of the disputed territory. Ohanian likewise stated last year that those positions have been beefed up significantly.

The Karabakh military chief was also asked to comment on the increasingly publicized problem of non-combat deaths among soldiers. The Karabakh army was rocked last year by two separate shooting sprees that left ten servicemen dead. In one of those incidents, a soldier gunned down four fellow conscripts and wounded three others in a dispute over music player earphones. He was sentenced to life imprisonment last week.

“Right now we have around 5,000 soldiers [on simultaneous frontline duty] with weapons and live ammunition in their hands and the right to open fire at will,” said Hakobyan. “Due to a flawed psychological preparation and negative social phenomena penetrating the army, young soldiers commit crimes in some situations.”

Hakobian said the local military has stepped up the crackdown on army crime and already managed to reduce it. Two soldiers have committed suicide and two others have been murdered in their army units so far this year, he said, adding that all of those cases have already been solved by military investigators. In Hakobyan’s words, criminal charges are currently pending against 244 Karabakh military personnel, including about 50 officers.


Karabakh one of Russia's 'few diplomatic tools of influence' in Caucasus

How do you assess the security situation in the South Caucasus, especially over the past three years since the five-day war between Russia and Georgia?

The war between Russia and Georgia marked a shift in relations between the West and Russia, although the roots of the shift predated the war itself. Nonetheless the war made clear to many in Europe and North America that any further enlargement east of the Western model of relations would be met with all instruments by Russia, including force. This has been a key element that has informed the US reset policy with Russia and the EU's own efforts to promote a modernization partnership with Moscow.

The conflict also marked a further weakening of the OSCE as a security framework and laid bare the incompatibility of Russian-led security and political aims and those of the EU and USA in much of the region. The war also brought into focus the shift of the Russian Federation on policies of sovereignty, which in the case of Kosovo it had trumpeted on the international stage, to embrace redrawing borders – the effective annexation of South Ossetia and to a lesser degree Abkhazia. This is clearly alarming for many of Russia's neighbours.

How did this war affect the resolution of the conflict between the two other Caucasian states Azerbaijan and Armenia?

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has not been directly affected by the Russia-Georgia war, except in two main dimensions. The war highlighted the fragility of the Caucasus region as a whole with conflict raging in the North Caucasus, the situation in Georgia and the tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Second, the Russia-Georgia war made apparent the weakening role of Russia in the region – short of the exercise of absolute force – and the growing instability over great power relations in the region – the US, EU, Turkey, Russia and to a much lesser degree Iran.

It is this difficult position for Russia that has in large part lain behind the efforts of President Medvedev to position Russia as the key mediator of the NK conflict – so far unsuccessfully. This role is one of the few diplomatic tools of influence left to Russia in the region.

The United States have seemingly taken a lesson from the August war. Do you share the view that Russia’s tough action weakened US activeness in the region? What can the Americans do today to offset Russian influence in this region?

The Russia-Georgia war and the election of President Obama have seen a shift in US policy in Eurasia and globally. President Obama drew the lessons from the war of the risks that would be involved in a further deterioration of relations with Putin's Russia.

Moreover, Eurasia – or indeed Europe – is not a priority region for the US as its strategic interests have shifted to the Middle East, Afghanistan and Asia – except where the countries of the region can assist Washington in achieving its aims in other parts of the world. This is the essence of the reset policy; the US seeks Russian cooperation on the Iranian nuclear issues, Afghanistan and so forth. The US will likely seek to balance Russian policy in the South Caucasus but will not aim to challenge directly Moscow's position.


Growing Israeli-Azerbaijani Ties Worry Iran


Azerbaijan’s potential expansion of intelligence and military cooperation with Israel has led to increased tensions with Iran, with a high-ranking Iranian official issuing an unusually aggressive statement directed at Baku on Aug. 9. Though Iran and Azerbaijan have long had a fraught relationship, the prospect of a close partnership between Tehran’s northern neighbor and Israel could encourage Iran to use its covert assets to sow internal discord in Azerbaijan. Russia will also be monitoring changes in the Israeli-Azerbaijani relationship closely in order to protect Moscow’s influence in the Caucasus and use the budding ties as leverage in its own relationship with Iran.

Diplomatic tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan rose significantly during the week of Aug. 7. Relations are typically uneasy between the two neighbors, but a growing point of contention between Baku and Tehran lies in Azerbaijan’s expanding intelligence and military cooperation with Israel against Iran.

Though Azerbaijan has had a limited partnership with Israel since the early 1990s following the fall of the Soviet Union, the prospect of a closer arrangement with the Islamic republic’s nemesis has Tehran worried. Iranian leadership does not appear to be of one mind about how to manage its relationship with Azerbaijan, but the threat of closer Israeli-Azerbaijani ties could impel Iran to organize subversive activity in Azerbaijan to demonstrate to Baku the costs of closer ties with the West. Russia will also be watching the Azerbaijani-Israeli relationship closely in guarding its influence in the Caucasus, but Moscow can use Tehran’s deep concerns as an additional point of leverage in its relationship with Iran.

An Iranian General Speaks Out Of Turn?

In an Aug. 9 interview with Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency, Armed Forces Joint Staff Command chief Hassan Firouzabadi accused Azerbaijani authorities of mistreating religious Shiites and giving “Zionists” leeway in Azerbaijani territory. He then said, “If this policy continues, it will end in darkness, and it will not be possible to suppress a revolt of the people of Aran [Azerbaijan]. The people of Aran have Iranian blood in their veins, and their hearts are filled with love for the Koran and Islam.”

Firouzabadi’s statement quickly caught the attention of the Azerbaijani leadership, for good reason. From time to time, secondary or tertiary Iranian officials will make statements criticizing Baku for defying Azerbaijan’s own Islamic tradition. A military official who ostensibly has no political role, much less a high-level one like Firouzabadi, making a veiled political threat against Azerbaijan is out of the ordinary.

The Azerbaijani leadership was thus quick to lambast the Iranian government over Firouzabadi’s statement. On Aug. 11, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elxan Poluxov said that Azerbaijan adhered to the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of independent states and that the Azerbaijani state will never allow anyone to interfere in its own domestic affairs. Poluxov went on to say, “It is at least surprising to hear political statements made by a military man. It would be better if military men are busy doing their job and politicians are busy doing theirs.” Well aware of the power struggle taking place in Iran, it appears that at least some in Baku are exploiting those fault lines.

Deputy chairman of New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) Ali Ahmadov on Aug. 12 also issued a lengthy statement strongly condemning Firouzabadi and defending Baku’s policies, saying Azerbaijan is pursuing an independent policy for the sake of the interests of its people and state, not for anyone else’s benefit. He added that whoever “disrespects the word of Azerbaijan doesn’t understand that he makes a deep mistake,” and that Baku considers the Iranian general’s remarks as “disrespectful of Azerbaijan and its leadership and an unsuccessful attempt to apply pressure.”

The Iranian response to the rhetorical spat was notably disjointed. Some within the Iranian leadership sought to downplay and distance themselves from Firouzabadi’s remarks; the Iranian Embassy in Azerbaijan first responded Aug. 10 by issuing a vaguely worded denial that Firouzabadi had made the remarks, saying, “The statements do not relate to Firouzabadi. The disseminated news is the result of the media’s misunderstanding.” Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani then publicly chastised Firouzabadi — without naming him specifically — in a Fars News Agency report Aug. 12 in which he said, “Some officials should not damage relations between Iran and neighboring countries or other Islamic countries expressing their views without reason.”

The apparent disconnect between Firouzabadi and the Iranian political leadership is notable for a number of reasons. Firouzabadi owes his position to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and, while his views tend to be more radical, it is not typical for someone of his stature to speak out of line so openly, especially on political matters. However, it is important to note that the ongoing power struggle in Iran between the president and the clerical establishment has been having the unintended effect of creating more political space for the military leadership to assert its views. Within this complex power struggle, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is pitted against the Iranian Artesh (Army) leadership in the wider struggle between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the clerics. It remains unclear if Firouzabadi was speaking in isolation and how exactly his move fits into this broader power struggle, but the tense exchange between Tehran and Baku over the past week underscores the growing conflict of interests between the two neighbors as Azerbaijan works on strengthening its relationship with the West.

Uneasy Neighbors

Sitting amid three major regional players — Iran, Turkey and Russia — Azerbaijan necessarily pursues a complex foreign policy with each of these neighbors. In the case of Iranian-Azerbaijani ties, overlapping demographics create a number of sources of geopolitical tension. Roughly 85 percent of Azerbaijan’s population is Shia, allowing Iran — as the dominant Shiite power — the potential to develop a sectarian foothold in the Caucasus. However, the Russification of Azerbaijan beginning in the early 19th century transformed Azerbaijan into a predominantly secular country, a tradition that the administration of President Ilham Aliyev is adamantly trying to defend in the face of Iran’s growing assertiveness in the Middle East and Turkey’s increasingly religiously conservative outlook toward its neighbors under the rule of the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party.

Iranian political and religious figures thus regularly condemn the Aliyev government for turning its back on Islam and mistreating Shiite believers in Azerbaijan (most of Azerbaijan’s religious conservative minority is concentrated in the south along the Iranian border). Iran’s defense of the same religious conservatives in Azerbaijan that the government is trying to contain has fueled speculation in Baku that Iran is quietly backing opposition groups against the Aliyev government while using Iranian media outlets to play up domestic friction in Azerbaijan.

For its part, Iran fears that Baku could develop the will and capability to stir up ethnic tensions among Iran’s large ethnic Azeri population concentrated in northern Iran (roughly 25 percent of Iran’s population). Iranian fears over Baku potentially backing an Azeri revolt in Iranian territory is what leads Iran to back Armenia — Azerbaijan’s primary foe — with the aim of keeping Baku too tied down in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh to even entertain the idea of stirring up trouble in its southern neighbor. Adding to these tensions are disputes between the two countries over territorial claims of oil and natural gas reserves in the Caspian Sea.

The Israeli Point of Contention

Tensions between Baku and Tehran are nothing new, but what is exacerbating the dynamic to the point that a senior Iranian general like Firouzabadi felt the need to issue a veiled threat to the Azerbaijani government likely has far more to do with Iran’s concerns over Israel than it has to do with Aliyev’s unyielding position on secularism or Caspian rights. Given that Azerbaijan’s relations with Iran have long been fraught, the Azerbaijani government has not had any qualms in developing a strategic relationship with Israel. Israel is Azerbaijan’s fourth-largest trading partner (a great deal of Azerbaijan’s positive trade balance with Israel is due to its oil exports), but the more recent focus of the two countries’ cooperation lies specifically in the realm of intelligence and security cooperation.

From Israel’s perspective, Azerbaijan is politically and geographically primed to serve as a key listening post as well as a forward operating base on Iran’s northern frontier. STRATFOR sources have indicated that Azerbaijani intelligence cooperation with Israel on Iran has been essential to Israeli assessments of Iran’s progress on its nuclear program. The movement of people and materiel across the porous Iranian-Azerbaijani border is also key to Israel’s ability to derail Iran’s nuclear efforts. Finally, Iran has to worry about the potential for Israel to base air power in Azerbaijan for a potential strike against Iran.

In return, Israel has provided Azerbaijan with useful training for its security and intelligence services and is becoming an increasingly important supplier of military hardware to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s energy wealth has allowed Baku to fuel a military expansion program, with plans to raise the Azerbaijani defense budget to more than $3 billion within the next two years (compared to Armenia’s $380 million defense budget). Azerbaijan still relies heavily on Russia and former Soviet states Belarus and Kazakhstan for most of its military hardware, but the Aliyev government has also been trying to diversify Azerbaijan’s pool of defense partners, looking specifically to Israel and NATO states to help modernize its military.

While Azerbaijan’s efforts to attract U.S. defense deals remain frustrated over Armenian defense lobbying in Washington and a U.S. arms embargo on Azerbaijan that has been in place since 1992, Israel is seen by Baku as an important gateway to receiving Western military equipment and expertise. STRATFOR sources have indicated recently that an important deal is being sealed for Israel to transfer unmanned aerial vehicle technology to Azerbaijan. Should Israel’s relationship with Azerbaijan expand from security and intelligence cooperation to a more robust military relationship in which Azerbaijan receives the technical training it has sought to meet its military modernization plans and develop an indigenous military industrial complex, this would be a serious concern for Iran. Iran is already unnerved by the rising level of intelligence support Azerbaijan is providing to Israel to monitor the Iranian interior and especially Iran’s nuclear project, and Tehran does not want to see a further upgrade in ties between these two strategic allies.

This may explain why Iran does not appear to have a consistent approach on how to manage its increasingly complicated relationship with Azerbaijan. Iran has an interest in conveying to Baku to the cost of its cooperation with Israel — beyond aggressive statements like the one made by Firouzabadi, Iran could use its covert resources in Azerbaijani territory to destabilize the country, particularly in the more religiously conservative south. But Iran does not necessarily want to act too provocative, as that could have the unintended effect of pushing Azerbaijan more firmly into the arms of the West, hence Larijani’s cautious response to Firouzabadi’s statement.

Russia, meanwhile, is also likely keeping a close eye on the Israeli-Azerbaijani strategic relationship. Moscow does not want Baku expanding defense ties with the West and thereby weakening Russia’s defense clout with Azerbaijan. However, Russia also has a complex relationship with Israel and could use Israel’s inroads in Azerbaijan’s military industrial complex to negotiate over Israel’s military relationships with other states in the former Soviet periphery, such as Georgia.

Moreover, Russia could also use expanding Israeli-Azerbaijani intelligence cooperation as a point of leverage in its negotiations with Iran. Iran and Russia are natural rivals, but Tehran still looks to Moscow for foreign backing against the West, while Russia uses Iran as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with the United States. The more worried Iran becomes over Azerbaijani-Israeli ties, the more useful Russia can make itself appear to Iran when it comes to selectively providing Iran with intelligence from time to time on what the Azerbaijanis are doing in league with the Israelis.

Source: Growing Israeli-Azerbaijani Ties Worry Iran | STRATFOR

Aggression Against Armenia Spells Aggression Against CSTO

“August 2008 events proved use of force brings to no results in resolution of any issue,” CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha said at Moscow-Yerevan video-bridge, commenting on Azerbaijan’s statements on possible military resolution to NKR conflict. “Active meetings between RA and Azeri Presidents and Foreign Ministers prove parties want to achieve peaceful conflict settlement,” Nikolai Bordyuzha noted, adding that resolution of such a serious issue will take a certain time. CSTO supports peaceful settlement of NKR conflict, Bordyuzha said, emphasizing that aggression against one of CSTO member stats spells aggression against CSTO as a whole.


Georgia to Sell Armenia Section of Gas Pipeline

The government of Georgia will likely sell to foreign investors a minority stake in the Georgian section of a pipeline supplying Russian natural gas to Armenia, according to a senior official in Tbilisi. The Georgian online news agency quoted Energy Minister Aleksandr Khetaguri as saying late on Wednesday that up to 25 percent of shares in the pipeline could be floated soon on stock exchanges in New York, London and Warsaw. “We have repeatedly stated that we intend to place minority stakes in those stock exchanges,” Khetaguri said.

“We have hired investment companies to go through all procedures, obtain appropriate recommendations and begin the process of share registration in order to be able to float approximately 25 percent of minority shares in [state-run] companies,” he added.

The Georgian parliament paved the way for the sale of the so-called North-South pipeline last year when it removed the facility of from a list of strategic state assets not subject to privatization. The move raised fears in Yerevan that Azerbaijan’s state oil company, which manages Georgia’s domestic gas distribution network, could acquire it to block the vital gas deliveries to Armenia. Some senior Azerbaijani officials expressed an interest in such a takeover. Georgian government has insisted since then that it is only considering selling a minority stake.

“The government of Georgia is not going to sell a controlling stake in the pipeline,” Prime Minister Nika Gilauri said in Yerevan last February. “There are strategic facilities that will continue to be managed by the government of Georgia in the future.”

Armenian officials have similarly expressed confidence that the authorities in Tbilisi will retain control of the trunk pipeline that currently caters only to Armenia. Despite starting to import gas from neighboring Iran in May 2009, Armenia remains heavily reliant on Russian gas. Also, more than 80 percent of its gas distribution network is owned by Russia’s Gazprom energy conglomerate.


Preparing for War with Russia? Washington To Rearm Georgia For New Conflicts

Recent reports in the Russian news media have detailed plans by the U.S. to provide the Mikheil Saakashvili government in Georgia with tens of millions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons. The Russian government's Itar-Tass news agency and Voice of Russia have confirmed the arms package with officials from the Russian special services and the Joint Staff of the armed forces.

An official from the second source responded to the proposed arms sale by stating: "We deeply regret that the reset of US-Russian relations declared by the administration of Barack Obama does not change anything in Washington's military support for the Georgian leadership, which began the war in the Caucasus in August 2008 and which is continuing to mastermind aggressive plans against the independent states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia." [1]

The Georgian-South Ossetian-Russian war of 2008 was preceded by Georgian artillery barrages against the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on August 1 which killed six people including a Russian peacekeeper stationed there. That attack occurred within hours of 1,000 U.S. Marines, airborne forces and other troops completing the two-week Immediate Response 2008 North Atlantic Treaty Organization Partnership for Peace exercise in Georgia.

Six days afterward the Saakashvili regime launched an all-out assault against South Ossetia, timed to coincide with the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing. American troops and military equipment remained in the war zone throughout the five days of fighting between Georgia and Russia which began after the latter nation reacted to the deaths of Russian peacekeepers and South Ossetian civilians (who overwhelmingly hold Russian passports) caused by the Georgian onslaught.

U.S. military transport aircraft ferried home 2,000 Georgian troops deployed to Iraq - the third largest national contingent after those of the U.S. and Britain at the time - as the fighting was still raging. Five days after the war ended, Joseph Biden - then senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, now vice president - rushed to the Georgian capital to support Saakashvili and offer $1 billion in "emergency aid" to the U.S. client. After returning stateside, Biden, never reticent in respect to high-blown rhetorical excesses, stated:
"I left the country convinced that Russia's invasion of Georgia may of the most significant event[s] to occur in Europe since the end of communism... .[T]he continuing presence of Russian forces in the country has severe implications for the broader region....Russia’s actions in Georgia will have consequences.”
Later in the month the U.S. dispatched the USS McFaul guided missile destroyer (part of the Aegis combat system designed to fire interceptor missiles), USS Mount Whitney (the flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet) and a Coast Guard cutter to the Georgian Black Sea coast, immediately south of Abkhazia and not much farther from the Russian shoreline. The heavily armed warships were, if one trusts Washington's account of their mission, engaged in a humanitarian operation. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused the U.S. of bringing weapons into Georgia.

The American ships, joined by as many as fifteen other NATO vessels, and Russian opposite numbers deployed to the region were only some ninety miles apart. Georgia's head of state Mikheil Saakashvili, a graduate of Columbia Law School in New York City, was brought to power seven years ago on the back of an extra-constitutiona l putsch in 2003-2004 that he and his supporters and admirers in the West refer to as the Rose Revolution.

He remains the preeminent American political client in the world along with Kosovo's prime minister and president presumptive Hashim Thaci, recently accused in a report to the Council of Europe of being the ringleader of a grisly crime syndicate that trafficked in narcotics, weapons and human organs extracted from at least 500 ethnic Serbian and other civilians murdered for that purpose. An empire can be judged by the satraps it arms and in other manners indulges.

After Saakashvili' s Pyrrhic attempt to eliminate the two barriers remaining to dragging his country into NATO - unresolved territorial disputes and the presence of foreign troops on its soil (at the time a small number of Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia) - with the invasion of South Ossetia and following that an offensive against Abkhazia, the U.S. and NATO hastened to shore up their outpost in the South Caucasus.

In mid-September NATO's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and its North Atlantic Council (the permanent representatives - ambassadors - of all its 26 member states at the time) visited Georgia and, guided by the host country's defense minister, inspected air force and infantry bases. During the trip, the U.S.-controlled military bloc signed a framework agreement on creating the NATO-Georgia Commission, out of which developed an Annual National Program to further Georgia's integration into the Alliance, an exceptional measure to circumvent the standard stages through which a candidate nation passes to achieve full NATO accession. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by issuing a statement that said in part:
"Instead of drawing serious conclusions about the failed attempt by Saakashvili to forcefully resolve the many-year-old conflict [with South Ossetia], NATO has again demonstrated its support towards his [Saakashvili’s] campaign of disinformation, and has promised to rebuild the military infrastructure of this country.” [2]
Washington followed suit in December when then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza announced a framework agreement on a U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, which was formalized by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze in Washington on January 9, 2009.

In October of 2008 Washington deployed the destroyer USS Mason to Georgia for training exercises and in the same month the Georgian defense minister met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the sidelines of a NATO defense chiefs meeting in Hungary, after which it was announced that "U.S. military assistance will be aimed at strengthening Georgian air defenses." [3] At the same time the Pentagon sent "an assessment team to Georgia to determine what role the US should play in rebuilding that country’s military after its military conflict with Russia last August. "After the assessment, Pentagon officials will review how the United States will be able to support the reconstruction of Georgia, including armed forces aid." [4]

Toward the end of the month a delegation headed by Frank Boland, head of Force Planning for the NATO Defense Policy and Planning Directorate, visited Georgia to meet with the country's top defense and military officials and prepare the nation for the next stage of NATO integration. The month before, only weeks after the war had ended, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "Georgia, like any sovereign country, should have the ability to defend itself and deter renewed aggression, and there should be not be any question about whether Georgia is entitled to military assistance from the United States or, indeed, from NATO or any of the NATO allies.”

President George Bush supported Biden's call for $1 billion worth of non-military aid to Georgia, which at the time was remarked would "dwarf the 63 million dollars that Washington provided to Georgia last year. Excluding Iraq, the infusion would make Georgia one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid after Israel and Egypt." [5] Georgia has a population of 4.6 million, Egypt of 80 million.

Until now, however, the U.S. has been cautious about rebuilding and upgrading Georgia's military arsenal or at least acknowledging that it is doing so. If recent reports prove true, Georgia is to receive a large quantity of high-tech weapons from the U.S., including surface-to-air missile complexes, Stinger and other portable surface-to-air missiles, Javelin third generation guided missiles and Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, the latter two designed for penetrating armor.

Three weeks ago South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity warned that "Georgia only pays lip service to peace, continues to rearm and refuses to sign non-aggression pacts that can avert another South Caucasus war." [6] According to Russian military expert Victor Baranets, "Georgia is buying anti-missile and anti-tank weapons because the 2008 war showed that these are weak points of the Georgian army." [7] In short, the U.S. will provide precisely the weapons Tbilisi needs for a new assault against South Ossetia and a new war with Russia.

Saakashvili is now in Washington, where "the purchase of weapons will be the main topic of his talks with American leaders." His trip is centered on attending a memorial to the late White House Afghanistan- Pakistan special representative Richard Holbrooke in Washington, D.C. on December 14 at which President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will pay tribute to the deceased. On January 12 Saakashvili became the first foreign leader to meet with the new speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner. The latter released a statement after the meeting which said:
"The American people will continue to stand with others struggling for democracy over the forces of despotism, dignity over degradation, and freedom over subjugation. "
[8] His statement also expressed appreciation to Georgia for supplying the Pentagon with 2,000 troops for the war in Iraq and 1,000 so far for that in Afghanistan. The Georgian leader met with other lawmakers, including Senator Joseph Lieberman, upon whom he bestowed the St. George's Victory Order. Saakashvili announced last month that he - not the mayor of Tbilisi - would named a street in his nation's capital after Holbrooke, a "trusted friend and confidant" who co-authored a piece in the Washington Post during the 2008 war denouncing what he termed the "full-scale Russian invasion of Georgia."

While Washington's favorite foreign head of state is being hailed and regaled with attention and praise in the capital, his foreign minister referred to a recent agreement between Abkhazia and Russia as "fascism." [9] The day before he arrived in the U.S., Saakashvili said in an interview to a Ukrainian television station:
"As for NATO, I am absolutely convinced that this is just a matter of time." "Nobody can ensure their security on their own, especially small countries, but I think this concerns Ukraine as well," he added.
After seven years of mercurial, megalomaniacal, adventurist, dictatorial and murderous rule [10], Saakashvili remains the Washington political establishment' s pampered darling ne plus ultra. At the NATO summit in November of last year, President Obama met privately with him the day before the NATO-Russia Council meeting with President Medvedev occurred. Last July Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Georgia as Saakashvili' s guest and lambasted Russia for "occupying" Abkhazia and South Ossetia, described as Georgian territories although neither has ever been part of an independent Georgia. In her own words:
"We, the United States, was appalled, and totally rejected the invasion and occupation of Georgian territory. I was in the Senate at the time, and, along with my colleagues and the prior Administration, made that view very clear. We continue to speak out, as I have on this trip, against the continuing occupation." [11]
At a joint press conference with Georgian Prime Minister Nikoloz Gilauri ahead of the second omnibus meeting of the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership in October, she stated:
"The relationship between Georgia and the United States stands on a foundation of shared values and common interests... .The United States will not waver in its support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. That support is a core principle of our Charter on Strategic Partnership, and it is fundamental to our bilateral relationship. "
"The United States remains committed to Georgia’s aspirations for membership in NATO, as reflected in the Alliance’s decisions in Bucharest and Strasbourg-Kehl. We strongly support Georgia’s efforts related to its Annual National Program, which promotes defense reform and guides cooperation with NATO. And we continue to support Georgia’s efforts on defense reform and improving defense capabilities, including NATO interoperability and Georgia’s contributions to ISAF operations in Afghanistan. " "We continue to call on Russia to end its occupation of Georgian territory, withdraw its forces, and abide by its other commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreements." [12]
Her comments led the government of Abkhazia to challenge her to acknowledge countries like Afghanistan and Iraq as American-occupied territories. Later in the month a NATO delegation inspected the Krtsanisi National Training Center and its Simulation Training Center - built by the U.S. - in Georgia (where U.S. Marines have trained Georgian soldiers and where three Georgian soldiers were killed and thirteen wounded in an explosion this month) as part of NATO Days events in the nation.

Also in October, Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, visited the Krtsanisi National Training Center and the simulation facility to view training exercises of the Georgian battalion that would replace one serving under NATO command in Afghanistan. He also toured the newly established NATO Liaison Office in the Georgian capital.

In November Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Phillip Gordon told BBC: "We...recognize Georgia's sovereignty and integrity. We are absolutely clear with Russia, we disagree on Georgia. [W]e want to see an end to Russian occupation and...we stand by Georgia`s sovereignty and territorial integrity." [13]

At the same time Georgian Deputy Minister of Defense Nikoloz Vashakidze was sequestered with top U.S. officials in closed-door meetings at the Pentagon. The "negotiations were held within the framework agreement on cooperation in the defence sector between the US and Georgia." [14] As the Georgian deputy defense chief was in Washington, South Ossetian First Deputy Foreign Minister Alan Pliev warned:
"We are concerned about Georgia's intention to increase its military capacities. Now Georgia is planning to buy a number of Merkava 4 Israeli tanks, which are clearly not meant for defensive action." "The activation of the Georgian Defense Ministry, increased flights of Georgian drones near the borders of South Ossetia, as well as the maniacal opposition to signing a non-aggression agreement give rise to the reasonable assumption of a newly designed bloody venture by Georgian authorities. " [15]
The official also stated that due to assistance from the U.S. and other NATO states the military-technical capacity of the Georgian armed forces currently exceeds that at the start of the war in 2008. On November 16 the NATO Parliamentary Assembly met in Poland and passed a resolution referring to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as "occupied territories. " The Abkhazian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in response which included the following:
"The Abkhazian party considers this biased interpretation of the events yet another manifestation of NATO's pro-Georgian position." "NATO is an organization that has been contributing to the intensive militarization of Georgia for many years, stirring up the revanchist mindset of the Georgian leadership, which led to the August 2008 bloodshed in South Ossetia." [16]
At their meeting during the Lisbon NATO summit, Obama "thanked his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili for his country's participation in NATO-led international peace efforts in Afghanistan and reaffirmed the United States' support of Georgia's territorial integrity." [17] Saakashvili offered more troops for the war in Afghanistan, pledged that his nation's contingent would remain there as long as NATO does, confirmed that Obama backed his country becoming a full NATO member ("President Obama has supported Georgia's course that will lead it to joining NATO") and said that the NATO summit declaration cleared the way for Georgia to join the military bloc without the customary Membership Action Plan requirement.

The Lisbon summit declaration affirms that NATO will "continue and develop the partnerships with Ukraine and Georgia within the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia Commissions, based on the NATO decision at the Bucharest summit 2008, and taking into account the Euro-Atlantic orientation or aspiration of each of the countries."

On December 1, at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Kazakhstan, during which she met privately with Saakashvili, Hillary Clinton advocated "a meaningful OSCE presence in Georgia." In 1998 and until NATO's war against Yugoslavia commenced in March of the following year her husband's administration employed the OSCE's Kosovo Verification Mission, under the control of the notorious William Walker, to set the stage for the 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia and the wresting of Kosovo from Serbia. [18]

Also early last month, the NATO-Georgia Commission met in Brussels and Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister and Secretary of the National Security Council Giga Bokeria, representing his country at the meeting, stated:
"The resolution of the summit says that NATO continues to assist Georgia in carrying out reforms, recognizes its territorial integrity and sovereignty, and calls on Russia to abolish the decision in connection with recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia."
Afterwards, "issues of cooperation between Georgia and NATO were discussed at the headquarters of the Alliance, at a meeting of the Georgian National Security Council's Secretary Gigi Bokeria and the NATO Deputy Secretary General. "The NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the South Caucasus James Appathurai attended the meeting in his new status." [19]

As a footnote, "In 2003, after a visit to Serbia to study peaceful revolution techniques, Bokeria helped bring Serb activists from the youth movement Otpor to Georgia to train students in the same techniques. As a result, the youth movement 'Kmara' was established, which played a leading role in the November 2003 Rose Revolution." [20]

On December 3 the U.S. ambassador to Georgia, John Bass, was quoted as affirming: "The United States remains firmly committed to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We enjoy a strong defense relationship, defense cooperation, and we're currently working closely with the Ministry of Defense and other Ministries in Georgia to improve Georgia's ability to defend itself." [21]

Three days later Bass visited the Krtsanisi National Training Center and "also took a tour of the Simulation Center and attended model exercises on the ground." [22] The American envoy is routinely present at send-off and welcoming ceremonies for U.S. Marine Corps-trained Georgian troops deployed to Afghanistan. In fact the Pentagon instituted the Georgia Train and Equip Program in 2002, first under Green Beret, then Marine, control in 2002 and later the Georgian Sustainment and Stability Operations Program three years later.

While still commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General James Conway visited Georgia in August of 2009 to inaugurate the latest Marine training of the host country's armed forces. At the time Associated Press reported that when asked if the preparation could be applied "to the possibility of another war with Russia," he answered, "In general, yes." Last September Saakashvili addressed cadets graduating from a new training center at the Kutaisi Military Base and stated:
"[S]omeone may say: 'we have so many problems, our territories are occupied and there is no time now for going somewhere else to fight.' But because of these very same problems that we have, we need huge combat experience.. .and that [Afghan mission] is a unique combat and war school." [23]
On December 9 Associated Press, reporting on an interview with Georgian Vice Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze, stated he was "raising the issue [of a "road map" to full NATO membership] in Washington this week with the Obama administration. " He further "said Georgia already behaves as if it were a member of NATO."

On the same day a bill crafted and introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Lindsey Graham, co-chairs of the Atlantic Council Task Force on Georgia, called "A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate with respect to the territorial integrity of Georgia and the situation within Georgia's internationally recognized borders," was presented to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. It refers to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Georgian territories "occupied by the Russian Federation."

The next day Shaheen's and Graham's colleague Senator John McCain spoke at a conference titled "Forging a Transatlantic Consensus on Russia" at the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at which he demanded the resumption and increase of arms sales to Georgia, stating:
"For two years, mostly out of deference to Russia, defensive arms sales have not been authorized for Georgia. This has to change. At a minimum we should provide Georgia with early warning radars and other basic capabilities to strengthen its defenses." "Our allies in central and eastern Europe view Georgia as a test case of whether the United States will stand by them or not. Russia views Georgia as a test case, too - of how much it can get away with in Georgia, and if there then elsewhere. It is the policy of our government to support Georgia's aspiration to join NATO." [24]
Afterward, Robert Pszczel, the new director of the NATO Information Office in Moscow and formerly acting NATO Deputy Spokesman, confirmed that "NATO will continue its Eastward enlargement policy" and that "The NATO-Georgia Commission continues its work." [25]

In mid-December U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Alexander Vershbow and Georgia's Vice Prime Minister and State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze met in Washington to plan Georgia's NATO accession. The Georgian official stated afterward that "Meeting with Vershbow is very important, as he is actively engaged in the issues of NATO enlargement, as well as personally ensuring Georgia's accession into the alliance." [26] Baramidze, who studied at Georgetown University and was the country's defense minister in 2004, also met with members of the U.S. Senate on the bill discussed above.


U.S. troops were in Georgia during the five-day war with Russia in 2008 and later in the same month American warships were docked in the country's ports as ships from the Russian Black Sea Fleet were deployed within firing range. Never before have military forces from the world's two major nuclear powers been on opposing sides of a battle line during wartime. By increasing the provision of sophisticated weaponry to Georgia, Washington is taunting Russia on its southern border and running the risk of a military conflict that may draw it into a direct confrontation with its main nuclear rival.


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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. Please note that the comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years has helped me see the Russian nation as the last front on earth against the scourges of Westernization, Americanization, Globalism, 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/European civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. These sobering realizations 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 perhaps the only voice preaching about the strategic importance of Armenia's close ties to the Russian nation. 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 for me 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, dare I say voice, inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and fully integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relief, 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 generally speaking Armenians are collectively recognizing the vital/strategic importance of Armenia's ties with the Russian nation. Today, no man, no political party is capable of driving a wedge between Armenia and Russia. That danger has passed. Anglo-American-Jewish agenda in Armenia failed. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. 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 anything 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.

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 insult/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 historical record and 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.