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Armenia’s Aggressive Policy is a Real Danger for the Entire Region

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On 24 September 2020 Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, while delivering a speech at general debates of 75thsession of the United Nations General Assembly in a video format and on 25 September 2020 while receiving EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Toivo Klaar, informed international community that hostile declarations and provocations of Armenian leadership revealed that Armenia was planning a new aggression against Azerbaijan. The President called on the United Nations, European Commission and whole international community to urge Armenia to prevent its recent provocations and another military aggression. The President also emphasized that Azerbaijan was aware that intensive military training was underway and Azerbaijani side would defend itself as it had already been done in Tovuz and many other cases.

Contrary to Azerbaijan’s effective communication, under the mediation of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Armenia has deliberately been undermining the format and content of the negotiation process. The comment given by Armenian Defense Minister D. Tonoyan at a meeting with the Armenian community in New York on “new war for new territories” instead of “peace for territories” concept was one more admittance by the high-ranking Armenian representative of hostile policy of this country. The declaration by Prime Minister of Armenia, Pashinyan that “Karabakh is Armenia” completely destroyed the mechanism of negotiations. The so-called inauguration of Nagorno-Karabakh’s so called leader in the historical Azerbaijani city of Shusha and moving the so-called parliament of “Nagorno-Karabakh” from Khankandi to Shusha were other provocations by Armenia. Lately Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s wife, Anna Hakobyan, appeared with a Kalashnikov automatic rifle in her hands during a military exercise in occupied Nagorno-Karabakh with the Armenian Army at a time of rising clashes. This happened one year after her call “fight for peace”. This also negatively affected the ongoing negotiation process. What is more, as Azerbaijanis consider Shusha as a pearl of their history and it has a profoundly moral value for them, all these provocative actions insulted the feelings of Azerbaijanis. All these robust facts and Armenia’s latest aggression on the border are indicators that the official Yerevan is actually not interested in the mediated settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan dispute.

So what happened? On September 27, at 6:00 a.m., Armenian armed forces again flagrantly breached the ceasefire agreement engaging in large-scale military actions, subjected to in-depth bombing from large-caliber weapons, mortars and artillery mounts of different calibers of the Azerbaijan Army positions along the total length of the front and residential areas in the frontline region. Besides continually shelling Azerbaijani settlements by using heavy artillery, the Armenian armed forces also caused significant damage to the population’s property, infrastructure and the economy. Through these acts Armenia blatantly breaches international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its obligations in this respect. Contrary to this brutality, Azerbaijani armed forces never set fire to civil settlements.

Throughout the night of October 3, Azerbaijan’s Terter city and Sahlaabad, Gazyan, Gapanli, Qaynaq, Askipara, Husanli villages of the district, Ayag Garvand, Imamgulubeyli, Garadagli, Tazakend villages of Aghdam district and Muganli, Qiyameddinli, Ranjbarlar and Tapgaragoyunlu villages of Goranboy district were subjected to heavy artillery fire by the Armenian armed forces. Decisive response measures were being taken by the Azerbaijani army. Unfortunately, the Armenian army not only strikes at Azerbaijan’s villages, but also attacks local and international media representatives in the frontline conducting their professional duty.

Despite Armenia’s shelling due to the successful operations by Azerbaijani Armed forces 6 villages in the Fuzuli-Jarbayil direction and Madagiz were liberated from the occupation. President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev immediately restored its historical name and from October 3, 2020 it will be called Sugovushan. On the same day, the Azerbaijani Army liberated several more villages in Tartar, Jabrayil and Fuzuli district and city of Jabrayil and several villages of the district from the occupation.

On October 4, the Armenian Armed Forces again blatantly breached the norms and principles of international law, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, the decisions and resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, intentionally stroke the civilians of Azerbaijan, shelled the heavily populated areas of Ganja. One person was killed and 32 were injured as a result of rocket and artillery shelling in Ganja, the second largest city in Azerbaijan. Intense battles continue along the entire front. Azerbaijani residential areas in different directions of the front have been subjected to heavy artillery and rocket attacks of Armenia.

According to the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office, 22 people killed, 74 people injured, 248 houses destroyed and 49 civilian facilities were severely damaged as a result of heavy artillery shelling by the Armenian armed forces.

The other side of the issue is the information warfare. Thus, the battle is not only in the trenches, but also in the information space. Currently the Armenian news machine by producing various, baseless fake news is trying deceive the world community. For instance, all the allegations that Turkey is involved as a party to the dispute spread by the Armenian side are misleading. Actually, Turkey is taking a stabilizing role in the region and does not engage in this dispute in any other ability. Firstly, by doing so, Armenia aims artificially reduce the combat capability of the Azerbaijani Army, which is now fulfilling its task of restoring its territorial integrity with dignity. In addition, Armenia is trying to establish the perception that the crisis is rising and in order to justify its aggression this country is attempting to include as many countries as possible.

Another fake news of the Armenian side is the alleged involvement of mercenaries from Syria in the Azerbaijani Army, which was directly and biased by the Armenian propaganda and is constantly circulating on various websites and in the media. By placing terrorists from Syria and Lebanon in Nagorno-Karabakh, it is Armenia itself that is grossly violating the norms of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention. Azerbaijan has a well-trained army and a large mobilization reserve. To be more precise, with a population of 10 million versus 2 million in Armenia, Azerbaijan does not need human resources. 

Another fake news is that the F-16 aircraft of the Turkish Air Force shot down an Armenian Air Force plane Su-25. Azerbaijani side officially declared that the F-16 aircraft of the Turkish Air Force does not participate in operations in any way. Ilham Aliyev told that taking into account modern technologies’ availability and satellite observation currently it is very difficult to conceal anything. Therefore, it is another provocation by Armenian side. What is more, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declared that Azerbaijan did not ask for Turkey’s support. Turkey has only a moral support to Azerbaijan. Therefore, while delivering speech at the Turkish Parliament Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again expressed Turkey’s absolute support for Azerbaijan.

Furthermore, Pakistan demonstrated resolute position on the issue of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and because of Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan’s lands Pakistan has not recognized Armenia. The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation also made a statement that it strongly condemned the aggressions and persistent attacks by the Armenian armed forces, restated its support with Azerbaijan and urged for the enforcement of the related resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Also, in his letter to Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Sefik Dzaferovic, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, firmly condemned the attacks by the Armenian artillery and demonstrated obvious respect to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

While waiting neutrality in the process by France as one of the co-chairs of OSCE Minsk Group unfortunately French President Macron seemed to assure Armenia wider support emphasizing that “I say to Armenia and to the Armenians that France will play its role.” Macron also notified Turkey about “warlike remarks … which effectively eliminate all barriers from Azerbaijan in what would be a Nagorno-Karabakh reconquest. France will not allow that.” Macron’s statement absolutely negatively accepted by Azerbaijani government and condemned by society. During his interview to Al Jazeera TV President Ilham Aliyev told that “Minsk Group co-chairs should proceed on working together if all of them keep neutrality. Co-chairs should not make counter-productive statements and which are demonstrating a kind of change in the position in neutrality. Co-chairs should act in a capacity of mediator.”

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Eastern Europe

An Impending Revolution

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Large crowds have demonstrated their anger at the results of the presidential election in Belarus. Photo: Kseniya Halubovich

Even on the end note, the year contains surprises enough to deem it as a year of instability and chaos given every nook and cranny around the globe is riddled with a new crisis every day. Latest down in the tally is the country of Belarus that has hardly streamlined over at least half a decade but now is hosting up as a venue to rippling protests in almost all the districts of its capital, Minsk. The outrage has resulted from the massive rigging imputed on the communist party in ruling for almost three decades since the split of Soviet Union in 1994. With Europe and Russia divided on the front as the protests and violence continue to rage: a revolution is emerging as a possibility.

The historical map of Belarus is nearly as complex as the geographical landscape which might only stand next to Afghanistan in terms of the intricacies faced by a landlocked country as such. Belarus is located in the Eastern European region bordered by Russia to the north-eastern perimeter. Poland borderlines the country to the West while Ukraine shares a border in the South. The NATO members, Lithuania and Latvia, outskirt the borders of Belarus in the Northwest, making the region as a prime buffer between the Russian regime and the western world. As Belarus stands as a junction between the European Union (EU) and Russia, the proximal nature brings about interests of either parties in the internal affairs of Minsk. However, the nature of the bond shared between the trio is by no means a triangle unlike other former soviet nations since Belarus has casted its absolute loyalty to Russia since the split of Soviet Union and ultimate accession to power of president, Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of the Communist Party of Belarus. Along with the alliance, however, came the unwanted dependency since over the 26-year rule of Lukashenko, he crippled the economy and the political writ of Belarus, using every last ounce of authority to subdue the opposition and the democratic mechanism of the country, earning him the nefarious title ‘Europe’s last dictator’.

The outburst of protests today stems from this very problem that is more deep-rooted than what comes across as apparent. The excessive and draconian use of power and autonomy has invalidated the independence of Belarusians and turned them haplessly at the mercy of Russian aid and support while blocking out any western support in the name of guarding national sovereignty. The ongoing surge of dissent was triggered earlier in August when the elections turned about to be absurdly rigged in favour of Alexander Lukashenko, granting him an indelible majority of 80% of the total vote count along with a lifetime of rule over the country despite his blatant unpopularity across the country. The accusations were further solidified when one of the popular opposing candidates, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, casted a complaint with the authorities regarding the falsification of election results. Instead of being appeased, she was detained for 7 straight hours and was even forced to exile to the neighbouring country of Lithuania. This resulted in major tide of riots and protests erupting all across Minsk, preceding over 3000 arrests over the election night.

On the official front, however, an aggressive stance was upheld along with a constant refusal of Lukashenko from stepping down from the long-held office or even considering a review of the polls counted despite exorbitant reports of unfair results. Heavy use of rubber bullets and tear gas was an eccentric protocol adopted by the local police force which instead of placating the rioters, further ignited the protests in more districts of the capital city. The anti-government relies also entitled ‘March of Neighbours’ transitioned into a high scale protest with many of the state employees resigning from their positions to stand upright against the long overdue corrupt regime. With the protests raging over months and the Lukashenko government getting more and more aggressive with their policies, the fear that once sparkled in the eyes of the natives is dwindling exceedingly and is turning into a cry for an outright revolution, which would be a ground-breaking one ever since the revolution of Iran back in 1979.

European counties have taken their conventional passive position in the crisis sinceEU is well aware of the Russian influence in Belarus and does not want to interfere with a probability of a direct conflict with Russia. However, they did call out their protest over the rigged elections, slapping sanctions over Belarus yet have not accused Lukashenko directly but instead have proposed a thorough international dialogue. Russia, on the other hand, faces a complex position since the dependence of Belarus bought Moscow a base against the West along with other regional rogues like Ukraine. However, high scale protests and rising chances of a full-blown revolution is hardly the choice Russian intends to opt. As the situation continues to unfold, economic reforms, as promised by Lukashenko, appears to be the only option that both EU and Russia could encourage as a bipartisan plan. Despite that, with six months of protests erupting as an outrage over a tyranny of 26 years, the reform-offering might be a bit late an offer since its no more about the country anymore, it’s about a struggle between a liberal or a communist Belarus.

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Eastern Europe

The 44-Day War: Democracy Has Been Defeated by Autocracy in Nagorno-Karabakh

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The people of Artsakh are seen as pro-Russian. Is this Pro-Moscow assessment of people of Artsakh accurate, and why Russian peacekeepers are welcomed in Nagorno-Karabakh?

***

The Republic of Artsakh and its people developed the nation’s democracy for approximately three decades. Back in 1991, Artsakh held a referendum on its independence, as well as democratic elections under a barrage of Azerbaijani rockets. The people of Artsakh accomplished this step by themselves, being convinced that without freedom of the individual, there is no freedom for the country. The Artsakh National Liberation Movement was nothing but a struggle for freedom and the right to decide one’s own destiny.

The development of democracy was not easy for a war-torn country with ade-facto status, limited resources, lack of institutions, combined with the threat of resumption of hostilities and the temptation of using elements of authoritarianism in governance as well as in the public mood. 

Nevertheless, during the last three decades, the people of Artsakh have managed to develop working democratic institutions, ensure political pluralism, and form effective human rights institutions. The vivid examples thereof are the 2020presidential elections held on a competitive basis, a 5-party Parliament, and the constitutional mechanisms for the separation of powers.

It is noteworthy that the full spectrum of democratization in Artsakh has been carried out by the country alone, without the direct support of international governmental and non-governmental organizations, and despite the numerous appeals by the civil society of Artsakh made to them.

However, Artsakh’s democracy has been highly regarded not only by parliamentarians, politicians and experts who have visited Artsakh, but also by the international organizations, such as Freedom House in its Freedom in the World annual reports. In these reports Artsakh is on the list of partly free countries, making progress in ensuring political and civil liberties each year, while Azerbaijan holds on to a not free status all the while making regressive steps in every aspect.

The people of Artsakh believed that the development of democracy would inevitably strengthen the position on unimaginability of any vertical relationship with dictatorial Azerbaijan. The people of Artsakh believed that they were keeping the eastern gate of the European civilization and its set of values. The people of Artsakh believed that those in West involved in the conflict settlement process, particularly France and the United States would view the Artsakh struggle with an understanding that it was created by their examples and ideals of freedom.

And what did the people of Artsakh receive as a result of believing in the West? They faced a new war and a new bloodshed unleashed by the same Azerbaijan. They also faced a harsh reality in the form of gross violations of human rights, war crimes and destruction of their cultural heritage. The principle of equality and self-determination of peoples in general, and the notions of freedom and human rights in particular completely collapsed before the eyes of the people of Artsakh.

One doesn’t have to be a military expert to understand that Artsakh, a small country with limited resources and capabilities, could not on its own resist Turkey-backed Azerbaijan for long, especially given the direct involvement of Turkish command staff and thousands of mercenaries from the Middle East terrorist organizations in the conflict, and the use of advanced military technology likethe banned weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

What did the people of Artsakh need to prevent this war? The answer would have been the de jure recognition of Artsakh that at least would have dampened the possibility of a new war, put an end to the century-old conflict, and establish long lasting peace and security in the region.

Instead of recognizing their unalienable right to self-determination, a new war was imposed on the people of Artsakh. As a result of this war, the people of Artsakh were left with a devastated country, thousands of dead and wounded compatriots, a new generation of refugees and IDPs, dependence on the peacekeeping mission for physical security, a “neither peace nor war” situation, as well as an uncertain future.

Russia wanted to come to Karabakh and so it did. Russia is in Artsakh not because the people of Artsakh were dreaming of weakened sovereignty while they continued to think of what West would do, but Russia came to Artsakh because Russia, unlike the West, acts rather than speaks. When on the one hand there are European and American concerns expressed in empty statements and on the other hand there are Russian peacekeepers and tanks, there is no room left for thinking long.

Let’s look at the values in which European Union, United States, Canada, and the rest of the so called “civilized world” believe in: the ideas of human rights and freedoms which they been advocating for years across the world. Now let’s try to see what is left from them all. Maybe once can find an inspiration for writing new books and sharing ideas about the future of humanity vis-à-vis the civilized world. Perhaps, in the European Union, in the United States, in Canada, and in the rest of the so called “civilized” world, their population may enjoy the ideals of human rights, but the people living in small and unimportant countries are often deprived of such rights. Perhaps the Western intellectuals and authors will write books on how the West left the faith of the people of Artsakh to the hands of the terrorists while empowering the Turkish-Azerbaijani dictators with their indifference and inaction. Indeed, for the West, the lives of the people of Artsakh are not valuable just because they are from a ‘gray’ zone, because they live in a country that doesn’t officially ‘exist’. These discriminatory phrases are definitions time and again used by the Western officials. It is what it is. The West, however, should not forget to celebrate Zero Discrimination Day and quote articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Later, when Turkish expansionism and terrorism will knock on the Western doors, the West will remember those unimportant people from an unrecognized country that absorbed the first blow. At that juncture, the West will also remember how it admired the people of Artsakh’s endurance and collective resistance, but at the same time left them alone in their fight against terrorism and modern military technology. Perhaps, for the West it is just like watching a fun action movie with popcorn and cola.

Having 193 or 194 member-countries in the United Nations (UN)as a result of recognition of Artsakh would not change the existing international legal order, however, it could serve a textbook example for rising democracies and a lesson for the dictatorships and international terrorism. By not recognizing the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination, the West is burying the concepts of human rights, freedoms, and democracy, thereby paving a way for the next military-political adventures of dictators. The West should decide. The longer the West spends on thinking without any concrete action, the further the region will move away from it.

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Eastern Europe

NATO invented new threat in the Baltic States

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It seems as if NATO has changed its priorities in the Baltic States.

It is well known that NATO member states agreed at the 2016 Summit in Warsaw to enhance NATO’s military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.

So, the arrival of the multinational Allied battlegroup in Latvia in June 2017 concluded the deployment of forces under NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic States and Poland, thereby implementing the decisions made at the NATO’s Summits. Since than NATO has been actively enhancing its military capabilities in the Baltic States. It increased the number of troops and deployed heavy weapons including tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery. Canada is the framework nation for the battalion-size NATO battlegroup deployed to Latvia.

It was said that NATO’s enhanced forward presence is defensive, proportionate, and in line with international commitments.

Though it was absolutely evident that NATO pursues not only the stated goals, but some hidden ones. Among them are convincing of the need to increase defence budgets of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, political support at all levels, loyalty to all decisions made by leading NATO member states.

The more so, NATO invented new threat in the Baltic States. All of a sudden the Baltic States have been turned to the drone test site. In order to justify NATO new interests, it was said that unmanned aerial vehicles are an emerging threat to NATO soldiers deployed around the world, and especially in the Baltic region.

The leadership of the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia even held a symposium in Camp Adazi in November to talk about how to deal with the drone threat.

Latvia’s Battle Group Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Norton said that NATO recognized this threat as they prepared to deploy to Latvia, and made it a priority to come up with solutions.

“When I was looking at our adversaries and the way in which they have conducted recent operations around the world, it was obvious that they used UAS to great effect,” he said. “I determined that if we were to continue to be successful in deterring foreign aggression, we must demonstrate the ability to counter the threat of UAS. This is what led me to the idea of running a counter-UAS symposium and exercise.” In his turn Latvian Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks acknowledged that “the Latvian Defence Department has taken into account the lessons learned from the use of drones in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

It should be said that this conclusion looks more than odd. Does Pabriks consider Armenia and Azerbadzan as adversaries?

The symposium combined presentations by experts from the United Kingdom and Canada with open discussion between members of all nine nations of the Battle Group as well as members of the Latvian National Armed Forces about the capabilities they have in Adazi, and how they could use them to minimize the UAS threat. Finally, they tested some of their weapon systems in shooting down target drones at the Camp Adazi range. And, probably, this was the main goal.

Major Matt Bentley, the organizer of the symposium, stressed that this is a complex problem that will not be solved with one symposium. He said it was an important first step in the process of developing practices and capabilities that can defend Allied soldiers from drones while defending Latvia. Following the symposium, the Battle Group drafted a service paper to send to all sending nations for each ally to consider as they develop ways to defeat this threat.

According to LCol Norton, as Allied nations develop ways and means to combat the threat posed by UAS, the Battle Group will be in a good position to test them in a multinational context. In the meantime, the Battle Group will continue to build and refine tactics, techniques and procedures using the tools at hand to mitigate the threat. So, NATO invented new threat in the Baltic States to convince these countries in need to pay more and to deploy more foreign troops on their territory. And all this against the backdrop of a pandemic and an acute shortage of funds for medicine in Latvia.

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