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Hayk Kotanjian: The National Defense Research University’s Geostrategic Project on the eve of the Agreement with the EU

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Statement by Lieutenant General Hayk Kotanjian, Head, National Defense Research University, MOD, RA, Doctor of Political Science, Professor, at the parliamentary hearings on “Armenia-EU: Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership between the European Union and Armenia.

In July 2017 facing the conclusion of Armenia’s agreement with the European Union, the National Defense Research University, MOD, RA, embarked on the elaboration of the geostrategic initiative of the RA’s integration into China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) project. It is targeted at the assessment of the possibility of launching a new alternative China-Europe route in the context of the OBOR initiative, by integrating the China-Iran sea transit into the “Persian Gulf-Black Sea” multimodal transport corridor.

The given elaboration was previously discussed in July 2017, during the visit of the delegation headed by MG Chan Inli, former Head of the School of Defense Studies of China’s National Defense University, to our University. The project was reviewed with the Chinese side by Azat Davtyan, NDRU Research-Fellow, on 20-28, July, at the international strategic conferences in Xian and Shanghai.

In order to review the outcomes of the meetings with the Chinese strategic analysts with the Iranian side, with the support of the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the RA Embassy in Iran, Benyamin Poghosyan, my Deputy Head on Research—Head, Institute for National Strategic Studies, and Azat Davtyan, Research-Fellow, took a mission trip to Tehran. On 24 October of this year they attended the international conference “Central Asia and Caucasus”, hosted by the Institute of Political and International Studies of Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During the expert discussions of our joint elaboration in July-November 2017, Chinese and Iranian specialists have underscored this project designed by the prime RA state think-tank. This very strategic integration project was delivered to the Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China. Iranian specialists in particular have highlighted Iran’s interest in providing for the transit route to Europe across Armenia’s territory. The NDRU-developed project is to endow Armenia’s geopolitical role in the region with a new strategic caliber and raise to a qualitatively new level the European Union’s bilateral and multilateral cooperation with Iran and China with participation of Armenia.

Meanwhile, I believe, it is necessary to mention that the further delay of the launch of the interstate discussions on this matter with Iran and China may essentially reduce the possibility of implementing the given program targeted at surmounting Armenia’s strategic isolation.

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Eastern Europe

Conflict in Ukraine is doomed to escalate

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The meet-up location of NATO foreign ministers on November 29-30— Bucharest — was where ten years ago, former US President George W. Bush persuaded America’s transatlantic partners that Ukraine and Georgia should one day join their military alliance. The foreign ministers duly “reaffirmed” that decision yesterday and left it at that. 

However, their statement on the conflict in Ukraine emphatically stated that the NATO “will never recognise” Russia’s incorporation of four Ukrainian regions and underscored the alliance’s resolve to “continue and further step up political and practical support” to Kiev. 

The NATO General-Secretary Jens Stoltenberg who is the mouthpiece of Washington, warned that despite Ukraine’s bravery and progress on the ground, Russia retains strong military capabilities and a large number of troops, and the alliance will continue to support Kiev for “as long as it takes … we will not back down.” 

Such pronouncements betray the absence of any new thinking although developments on the ground are showing that Washington’s best-laid plans are floundering. And there are also growing signs of disunity on Ukraine issue among the US’ European allies and between the latter and the Biden Administration.

The neocons in the Biden team who are the driving force in the Beltway are still full of passionate intensity. The flicker of hope that the moderate opinion voiced in the famous statement by 30 Democratic lawmakers recently was brusquely snuffed out. 

Moscow has drawn appropriate conclusions too, as evident in the Russian Foreign Ministry stance that it makes no sense in the prevailing climate of unremitting hostility from Washington to hold the Bilateral Consultative Commission under the Russia-US New START Treaty, which was   originally scheduled to take place in Cairo on November 29 – December 6.   

Again, nothing much need be expected out of the French President Emmanuel Macron’s meeting with President Biden at the White House tomorrow. Macron still hopes to be the western leader to accept President Putin’s surrender terms and go down in history books, but in reality his credibility is in shatters in Europe and Atlanticist circles in particular, and even within France. 

Europe’s number one priority at this juncture, which is a turning point in the conflict in Ukraine, ought to be its strategic autonomy to act in its own interests. But that requires deep thinking as to what is it that Europe wants to be autonomous about, and secondly, the understanding that deep down, a strategic interest cannot be reduced to security interests. 

In our new Hobbesian world, a world of competing economic zones, Europe’s first goal should be to achieve strategic economic autonomy. But is that goal attainable anymore when its energy security that gave underpinning to its prosperity and industrial might has been smashed to smithereens in the depths of the Baltic Sea by unseen hands? 

Be that as it may, the unfolding events in Ukraine are sure to create a new dynamic. The visible acceleration of the Russian offensive in Bakhmut in the most recent weeks is dramatically shortening the timeline for the capture of the city from several weeks ahead to the next few days at the most. Similar signs are appearing in Maryinka and Ugledar in the Donbass region, too. 

If Bakhmut is the lynchpin of the Ukrainian defence line in Donbass, Maryinka is from where Ukrainian forces are bombarding Donetsk city; and, the capture of Ugledar will enable the Russian forces to move toward Zaporozhye city and conclusively ward off any future challenge to the land bridge to Crimea and to the ports in the Azov Sea. 

The common thread here is that the ongoing beefing up of the Russian forces deployed in Donbass after the mobilisation of nearly 400,000 soldiers is beginning to show its first results. For once, Russian forces are outnumbering Ukraine’s and Russian fortifications have been significantly strengthened. 

The fall of Bakhmut will signal that the Battle of Donbass, which is the Russian special military operation’s leitmotif, is entering its final phase. The Ukrainian defence line in Donbass is crumbling. Russian control of Donbass is at hand in a conceivable future. 

What happens next? The Russian objective may be to push the Ukrainian forces further away from the Donbass region and keep the steppes to the east of Dnieper river as a buffer zone. Indeed, the Dnipropetrovsk oblast is also rich in mineral resources, containing large deposits of iron ore, manganese ore, titanium-zirconium ore, uranium, anthracite coal, natural gas and oil and lignite coal and is the major centre of Ukraine’s steel industry, apart from being a region of intensive grain growing, animal husbandry, and dairy industry. Its loss will be a crippling blow to Kiev.  In political terms, the narrative of victory in Kiev — that Ukraine is winning the war and is about to capture Crimea, etc. — is becoming unsustainable for much longer. 

Meanwhile, Europe too is struggling with its demons — unable to shake off the idea of a price cap on Russian oil that is sure to boomerang and further aggravate Europe’s energy security; need to step up imports of LNG from Russia still, which is far cheaper than from America; Europe not being in a position to respond to the launch of the highly consequential inflation reduction act in the US or  migration of European industry to America; EU’s inability to strengthen the international role of the euro for absorbing some of the world’s surplus savings, and so on. 

Therefore, at this defining moment faced with an imminent escalation of the conflict in Ukraine in the coming weeks, the neocons in the US are having their way to step up the arms supplies to Ukraine. The neocons invariably win the turf battles in the Beltway, especially under a weak president. If the Republicans step up the investigations on Biden, his dependency on the neocons will only increase during the period ahead. 

The regime-change-in-Russia propaganda is not going to wither away even under the emerging stark realities of the emerging ground situation in Ukraine. The neocons’ aim, as the investigative historian Eric Zuesse put it succinctly, is “to destroy Russia so fast that Russia won’t be able to destroy America in retaliation.” The sheer absurdity of the thought is self-evident to everyone but the neocons. So, they are going to argue now that the cardinal mistake the US made in Ukraine was its failure to put boots on the ground in that country in 2015 itself.

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Eastern Europe

UK Special Services continue to provoke an aggravation of the situation near the Black Sea

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British foreign secretary James Cleverly in Kiev with president Zelensky.

Russian precision attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure are a necessary response to Ukrainian sabotage on Russian soil, including the bombing of the Crimean Bridge, President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The two leaders spoke by phone at Berlin’s request.

Putin explained the logic behind Russia’s military operation against Ukraine which has started military aggression against Donbass in 2014 and later against Russia in 2022, and stated that the Western policy of arming and training Ukrainian troops was “destructive.”

“It was noted that the Russian Armed Forces had been refraining from conducting precision missile strikes on certain targets in the Ukrainian territory for a long time, but now such measures have become necessary and unavoidable as a reaction to Kiev’s provocative attacks on Russian civilian infrastructure, including the Crimean Bridge and energy facilities.” The “terrorist attack” against the Nord Stream undersea pipelines “stands in the same category” and requires a transparent investigation that would include Russia, Putin told the German leader.

– Belarusian and Russian troops will act as a unified force. The two countries don’t want war, but are preparing to “repel any aggression, – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has announced amid heightened tensions with the West over the Ukraine large-scale aggression against Donbass in 2014 and later against Russia in 2022. “Today we are preparing like a single force, a single army,” Lukashenko said, adding that instructors from both countries were training each other’s troops.

Lukashenko underlined that the situation around Belarusian border is ‘tense’. The country’s security agencies have registered an increase in the number of “provocations.”

– Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu called Belarus a “trustworthy partner” for Russia during a meeting with Viktor Khrenin, his Belarusian counterpart. Two ministers signed a revised version of a Regional Security Treaty between the two governments on December 3.

– Western European states are creating a dangerous situation by trying to exclude Russian and Belarus from the continent’s security order, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned. He accused EU leaders of allowing the US to dictate policy, and surrendering their own interests to Washington, and claimed that EU policy is creating insecurity on the continent. The West “is already trying to build a security architecture [in Europe] without Russia and Belarus. We don’t need such security,” Lavrov said. “The whole security [architecture] in Europe now comes down to it being completely subservient to the USA,” he claimed.

– Kiev plotting provocation on ammonia transit from Russia. The grain deal, as a part of a UN- and Turkey-brokered agreement that unblocked exports of Ukrainian grain and Russian fertilizers in the Black Sea, did not reportedly cover exports of Russian ammonia via the Tolyatti-Odessa pipeline. However, earlier, a UN-aid chief said that the ammonia deal would likely be reached by the end of the week.

Kiev  has been given a free passage of its grain deliveries abroad via the Black Sea under the multilateral deal reached last July, but is plotting a provocation to subvert the UN initiative on resumption of Russia’s ammonia transit abroad free of charge.

Guided by UK Special Services, and with help from Canada’s private military company (PMC) GardaWorld, the provocation is to echo the blasts carried out at Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea. The goal, like in the case of the September 2022 sabotage at the pipelines, is to prevent Russia from exporting its resources to other countries.

The Kiev regime’s plan reportedly presupposes blowing up ammonia storage facilities at Odessa Portside Plant, to subsequently blame Russia for the explosion.

From our partner International Affairs

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Eastern Europe

It Is Possible To Live Peacefully In The Caucasus

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The Caucasus is a geographical area inhabited by a number of peoples. This region with its beautiful nature has experienced complicated events throughout history. The South Caucasus, which is also the historical homeland of the Azerbaijanis, has gone through difficult periods over the past periods, which shaped the current map.

December 5th marks the Day of Deportation of Western Azerbaijanis from their native lands. The policy of ethnic cleansing systematically carried out against Azerbaijanis throughout the 20th century resulted in the forced deportation of the last Azerbaijanis from the territory of West Azerbaijan in 1988-1991.

The vast majority of our compatriots displaced from their native lands on the territory of present-day Armenia at various times died longing for their homes. About 250,000 of the Azerbaijanis, who were subjected to deportation in 1988-1991, are still longing for their homes and native lands. Those people are deprived of their fundamental rights – the right to live in the lands of their birth and to visit the graves of their relatives.

Unfortunately, the rich cultural and historical heritage of West Azerbaijanis was purposefully destroyed or alienated. The destruction of cemeteries belonging to Azerbaijanis is very heartbreaking. The destruction of a monument belonging to the world heritage means the destruction of a historical object and the infliction of damage to human history. International organizations, especially UNESCO, which should react sharply to such cases, are still keeping mum. A possible just position by UNESCO, its deployment of a fact-finding mission to the monuments, which belong to West Azerbaijanis and are in danger of being wiped out, as well as their registration and ensuring their safeguarding, would be very useful for human history.

Today, West Azerbaijanis are dreaming of returning to their homes and native lands, where they were deported, and reuniting with their homeland.

The community of those people declares readiness for peaceful coexistence in their native lands in Armenia. “We desire to return to our homes and visit the graves of our loved ones. Taking into account the ongoing positive processes for peaceful coexistence of 25,000 people of Armenian origin in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and being inspired by it, we believe that coexistence in the territory of Armenia may be possible”, Western Azerbaijani Community members state.   

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