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Strategic Inferences from Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict 2020, post Ceasefire

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Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire deal to end the war for control of Nagorno-Karabakh enclave last month,after a series of Azerbaijani victories in its fight to retake the disputed enclave. The deal also guarantees a land corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, which will be monitored by Russians(2000 peacekeepers and 100 armoured personnel carriers), besides staggered withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azeri districts surrounding the enclave by December 1.

The agreement is much to the displeasure of Armenian people, although it has prevented many innocent killings in the crossfire for the time being. The conflict is one of latest ones, with effective use of some modern arsenal like drones and a mix of Hybrid Warfare combined with political powerplay. It has many strategic and military inferences/lessons applicable globally in modern warfare. It also generates some questions, which global bodies and some countries will find it difficult to answer.

Armenia-Azerbijan

The deal marks an end to six weeks of fierce clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan that broke away from Baku’s control during a bitter war in the 1990s.Karabakh declared independence nearly 30 years ago, but the declaration has not been recognised internationally and it remains a part of Azerbaijan under international law. The dispute has continued to simmer over decades as the majority of inhabitants in the enclave are Armenians.

Azerbaijan and Turkey may have some reasons to celebrate, but with mounting anger in Armenia and dissatisfied residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, the duration of peaceful period remains uncertain. Understandably Armenian leadership was left helpless, with no choice but to save further casualties, after loss of region’s strategically vital town Shusha, so located that it overlooks Nagorno-Karbakh’s main city Stepanakert and the main road linking Armenia to the enclave. Armenians feel let down by poor response from its allies and Russia and find themselves plunged in internal turbulence.

Strategic Implications: External Players

The conflict exposed the weakness of NATO and European Union to help its ally at the time of crisis. The most important strategic impact has been a boost to radicalised Islam, emerging out of Erdogan’s overambition to grab Islamic leadership to become Caliph, besides reviving Ottoman Empire and seek control of oil and gas pipelines in the region. Although the region had history of hostilities, but the recent one was allegedly triggered by active support of Erdogen.

The fact that he openly supported it with conventional weapons and transported non state actors from like-minded countries like Pakistan and Syrian mercenaries/terrorists, to fight on behalf of Azerbijan, which helped it to win the conflict makes Erdogen’s position stronger in countries and groups believing in radicalised version of Islam. The immediate impact is visible in EU getting into the grip of radicalisation faster than they thought, as it watched the massacre of Armenian Christians, without punishing Turkey so far. 

The conflict exposed NATO as a divided house, incapable of taking decisive action against threat to its allies. Notwithstanding the strategic location of Turkey and NATO assets deployed there, its time to put its house in order, by punishing its problem child, Erdogan. NATO failed to even give a  threat of expulsion to Turkey, despite its actions in this conflict and opening friction point with Greece in Mediterranean Sea. With US and France embroiled in internal affairs, NATO seemed leaderless and directionless. This raises a bigger question whether the era of alliances is over in interconnected world, and the viability of democracies getting together in other regions like Indo-Pacific to counter Chinese threat to world has a chance or otherwise?

The biggest loss of reputation is for Russia, which chose to play neutral, selling arms to both the parties to the conflict, despite a military pact with Armenia and a base there. It insisted not to get involved in the conflict with Azerbaijan, unless Armenian territory itself came under threat. It exhibited its weakness to control Erdogan, stop genocide of people of its erstwhile states and induction of various radicalised non state actors of Syria fighting against Christians in the region. Promoting one sided peace agreement and deploying Russian peacekeepers in the disputed Caucasus territory guaranteeing linking land corridor to Nagorno-Karabakhh (besides protecting Russian oil and gas pipelines), coupled with Armenian withdrawal  is a response, too little, too late.

China, which was playing neutral, as both countries are partners in BRI, could emerge as one of the main beneficiaries by gaining a new route for the BRI, besides leverage over Iran during crucial negotiations. The corridor between Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan would offer Beijing a second route to Europe in the South Caucasus bypassing Iran.

Military Lessons

TheArmenia-Azerbaijan conflict highlighted that Hybrid war is a reality, even in conflicts between states.  The idea of  hiring mercenaries/terrorist on religious lines is viable, as exhibited by Turkey and Pakistan; hence having a terror industry makes sense with adequate takers to hire their services. Recently Human Right Watch has reported ill treatment of Armenian Prisoners of War, in violation of Geneva Convention, which is quite normal, when terrorists are involved. This is a dangerous trend which must be checked by global community.

The conflict highlighted the air battle being influenced maximum by use of drones. The precision strikes by drones on all types of targets were game changers. The future wars will demand much higher reliance on drones to achieve desired effects without fear of human casualties. Drone warfare including countering drone threat from adversaries, has to be an essential component of technological warfare. Drone swarming, drone surveillance and many such uses including strategic bombing may be possible through drones in future. In Indian context a major effort to boost these capabilities will be required.

Although President Putin said: “the agreements reached will create the necessary conditions for a long-term and full-format settlement of the crisis”, but I have my doubts because dissatisfied Armenians and unpunished Turkey, cold shouldering by EU and NATO, is a recipe for further troubles, although the guns are silent for the time being.

The author is a veteran Infantry General with 40 years experience in international fields and UN. A globally acknowledged strategic & military writer/analyst; he is currently the Chief Instructor of USI of India, the oldest Indian Think-tank in India.

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Defense

India’s Sprouting Counterforce Posture

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In recent years, the technological advancements by India in the domain of counterforce military capabilities have increased the vulnerability of the South Asian region. While trying to disturb the strategic stability in South Asia, India through its adventuresome counterforce posture against Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a rogue state. Notwithstanding the repercussions, India is voyaging towards destabilization in the South Asian Region.

India’s enhanced strategic nuclear capabilities which includes-the development of Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMD), Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles, and acquisition of nuclear-capable submarines- indicate that India is moving away from its declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) towards a more aggressive, counterforce posture against Pakistan. The BMD and MIRV technology along with the provision of an advanced navigation system under BECA would embolden India to go for the first strike against Pakistan. While having reliance on BMD, as to be sheltered in return. These technological advancements made by India are sprouting a new era of counterforce posture, which would further make the South Asian region volatile and vulnerable to conflicts.

India’s urge to acquire counterforce capability is strongly associated with its doctrinal shift. As the stated posture requires flexibility in the use of nuclear weapons, which fortifies the first strike capability, and thus a deviation in India’s declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) has become more significant, particularly concerning its impact on regional stability. India’s declared policy of NFU, set out in Draft Nuclear Doctrine in 1999, followed by its first amendment in January 2003 has since then been into hot debates. Pakistan has long doubted the Indian policy of NFU, as the actions and statements by the officials of the latter have always been aggressive and protruding towards the former. India, now, is drifting away from its policy of NFU with the acquisition of counterforce capabilities, particularly against Pakistan. This is further evident from the statement issued by India’s Defense Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, back in August 2019. It stated “Till today, our nuclear policy is ‘no-first-use’ (NFU). What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” A change at the doctrinal level is evident in the Indian strategic enclave. Notwithstanding the challenges and repercussions caused by the counterforce strategy and with an attempt to destabilize the nuclear deterrence in the region, India would go unjustifiably low to attain such measures.  

In the same vein, India has been enhancing its nuclear capabilities for strategic flexibility against its regional rivals. By the same token, it wants to attain nuclear dominance, which would ultimately result in chaos in the region. The counterforce capability by India would compel its adversaries to heed towards the preemptive strike, in case of a crisis, out of the fear of the use of Nuclear weapons first by the patent enemy.  Moreover, the counterforce capability pushes the enemy to put the nuclear weapons on hair-trigger mode, which is directly linked with the crisis escalation.  The acquisition of counterforce capability by India would likely provoke a new arms race in the region. This would further destabilize the already volatile South Asian region. The far-reaching destabilization which India is trying to create, just to have an edge on the nuclear adversary, would be back on India’s face, faster than she knew it.

On the contrary, Pakistan has been maintaining a posture of Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD) and does not claim to have a No-First Use (NFU) policy. Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is defensive in principle and a tool for deterrence. Given the Indian evolved notions of counterforce preemption, even now Pakistan would be left with no choice but to leave room for carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a feasible deterrent against India. Nevertheless, with the advent of technological innovations, its countermeasure arrives soon, too. Presently, there are two aspects that Pakistan should take into consideration; the growing Indo-US nexus and India’s concealed innovations in the nuclear posture. Though India is far from achieving counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear targets, concrete steps are required for maintaining future deterrence stability. With that intention, Pakistan might need to look towards its allies for getting hands-on the modern capabilities which includes- advanced communication and navigation systems, sensors, and advancements in artificial intelligence and otherwise, is essential for strengthening its deterrent capability. Pakistan should heed towards the development of absolute second-strike capability; as, what is survivable today, could be vulnerable tomorrow. Therefore, advancements in technology should be made for preserving nuclear deterrence in the future as well.

Summarizing it all, the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence has created a stable environment in the region, by deterring full-scale wars on multiple occasions that might have resulted in a nuclear exchange. With the revolution in nuclear technology, the threat of nuclear war has emerged again. Instead of going towards the attainment of peace and stability in the region, India has been enhancing its counterforce capabilities. This would likely remain a significant threat to the deterrence stability in the region. Moreover, any kind of failure to maintain nuclear deterrence in South Asia could result in an all-out war, without any escalation control. India, in its lust for power and hegemonic designs, has been destabilizing the region. Both the nuclear states in South Asia need to engage in arms restraint and escalation control measures. This seems to be a concrete and more plausible way out; else the new era of destabilization could be more disastrous.  

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A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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Defense

Fatah-1: A New Security and Technological Development About Pakistan’s Indigenous GMLRS

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Islamabad: It seems like 2021 has been a good start for Pakistan specifically with regard to stepping up its missile testing. On the 7th of January, the Pakistan military has successfully conducted a purely indigenously developed missile test flight known to be Fatah-1. As stated by various reports, Fatah-1 is an extended-range Guided Multi-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which itself is a developed variant of the guided MLRS family.

According to the recent statement given by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) about the newly developed rocket, it was stated: “The weapon system will give Pakistan Army capability of a precision target deep in the enemy territory.” Director-General of Pakistan Army, Media Wing, major general Babar Iftikhar on 7th January tweeted: “Pakistan today conducted a successful; test flight of indigenously developed Fatah-1, Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering a conventional Warhead up to a range of 140 km.”

Defense analyst Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali also stated in his capacity: “the new system was very fast, accurate, survivable, and difficult to intercept”. A video was also shared by ISPR on their official website, in which the missile launch can be seen while being fired from the launcher however, the details on when and where the test flight has taken place, along with the specification of the rocket system are yet to be announced.

Currently, Pakistan Army owns a wide range of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Battlefield Ballistic Missiles (BBM), Rocket Artillery, and Surface to Surface Cruise Missile (SSCM). In the previous year, Pakistan had also maintained prime success in conducting the Ra’ad-II cruise missile and Ghaznavi surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSBM). Besides, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 30thDecember made apt progress when it comes to the national air defense arsenal as it was announced that PAF is beginning the production of the State-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block 3 fighter jets, at the same time acquiring the 14 dual-seat Jf-17 aircraft.

According to various reports, the JF-17 Thunder Block 3 will be said to have a new radar operational capability which will be far better in the practical domain as compared to the Raphael aircraft acquired by India. Whereas, the exchange of 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pak-China cooperation were also given to the PAF which will be used for extensive training.

The recent successful testing of Fatah-1 has been considered to be another milestone for Pakistan as it tends to be a fitting response to the recent developments in the conventional capabilities carried out by India and also to India’s Cold Start Doctrine.

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