1. The developments in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, especially those of the post-ceasefire period (since 1994), clearly show that as long as Azerbaijan’s potential is big enough not to accept the military defeat and related consequences of the war and that the ongoing war is in the interests of Azerbaijani authorities, the war will continue in low or high intensity. Theoretically, it is possible to win the war against Azerbaijan either by a fresh victory in a new large-scale war or (which is more preferable) by improving our economic, political, military and other systemic containment measures over the enemy. As a result of the latter, any kind of encroachment against Armenia will be so costly and useless (“not justifying the expenses”) for Azerbaijan, that the latter will refrain from such actions. It is worth mentioning that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is of total nature, like the competition between the West and the USSR during the Cold war period. And as the historical experience proves, success in total conflicts is possible, provided an overall advantage is reached over the enemy. In other words, the only way to minimize the warfare and casualties, prevent a wide-scale war, deter Azerbaijan and ultimately reach a lasting peace is the persistent and sustainable development of Armenia. 2. As to the expression “let’s concede the territories and live peacefully” as a means of reaching sustainable peace among the two countries, then it will make peaceful coexistence and development completely impossible.
- Azerbaijan, that pushes claims over Armenia’s entire territory even at the level of president, will consider concessions not as a peaceful and friendly message, but as a sign of weakness and a green light for a new expansion.
- In case Armenia is weak and the balance undermined, Azerbaijan will not respect its responsibilities, as it does not respect its commitment to the ceasefire agreements of 1994-1995.
- In this case, the loss of territories outside the former NKAO (Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast), liberated in 1992-1994, will mean an extension of border with Azerbaijan by hundreds of kilometers which will require much more soldiers, arms, ammunition etc.
- Besides, the loss of strategically important territories will make it easier for Azerbaijan to launch new military operations from relatively advantageous positions.
- Last but not least, the loss of territories that the Armenian population has protected all the time since 1994, especially by simply “giving up”, will be a major moral and psychological blow for the Armenian society, threatening the raison d’être of Armenia’s independence struggle and perspectives of subsequent development thereof.
People believe that “we do not react [properly]” which, of course, is not true. If needed, the Armenian party either strikes back or takes preventive measures against the enemy. The point is that relevant information is not published often because of the military secrecy regime or some other reasons. In some cases, some details become public only when the period of secrecy is over or if it is published by Azerbaijani sources. Below we have put some examples of recent punitive and preventive actions by the Armenian army: a) August 1, 2014 Early on July 31, deployed between the positions of 7th Defense Region (“Yeghnikner”) military unit, the enemy attacked Armenian soldiers approaching the car that carried bread. Supposedly, Azerbaijanis wanted to take them prisoners. Caught in a hand-to-hand combat, sergeant Ararat Khanoyan and private Azat Asoyan fought and fell like heroes. Private Norayr Kamalyan was heavily wounded. The following day (August 1, 2014), special units of Armenian armed forces took punitive actions, resulting in death of at least 8 Azerbaijani soldiers. b) August, 2015 On the eastern side of the front, near Kuropatkino Armenian artillery took preventive actions against the accumulation of Azerbaijani forces along the second line of the front which largely increased in the recent weeks. According to an Azerbaijani serviceman, everything had been crushed there, including the headquarters buildings and canteen. Besides, there were casualties as well. c) Late April, 2016 During the artillery clashes, the Armenian side targeted all firepower of the enemy, including the rocket artillery next to villages which inevitably resulted (because of the Azerbaijani side) in casualties among the civil population in Azerbaijani border villages. d) In mid-February, 2017 again the Armenian artillery hit Azerbaijani D-44 cannons that were located close to civil objects. Above all, it is noteworthy that in recent years the major part of registered casualties in the Azerbaijani army is among combatants which is the result of Armenian preventive or punitive actions.
3. Why the army and especially the border guard service are not completely replaced by professional army?
There are many reasons for that. Contract-based system of recruitment is applied by those countries that do not face immediate threat of external aggression. For example, many European states abolished mandatory military service after the USSR collapsed and the threat of Soviet/Russian invasion disappeared. Whereas the states that deal with such threats have to maintain both armed forces and enough mobilization resources via mandatory conscription. For example, even being part of the same military bloc, Turkey and Greece perceive each other as potentisal source of aggression and hence preserve mandatory conscription. In Armenia’s case there are both quantitative and qualitative restrictions. First of all, considering Armenia’s current demographic and economic power, only contract-based recruitment in the armed forces cannot fill in the gap. That is to say, no matter how socially and financially attractive the contract-based service is, in short and mid-term perspective it is impossible to replace all human resources that the conscription currently provides. Secondly, it is not possible to completely replace conscripts with technical surveillance devices and contract-based servicemen, because as a warring state like Armenia needs combat-capable resources. Technical devices might play an auxiliary role on the front line, but in case of destruction or large-scale war they cannot replace the manpower. The recruitment of new contract-based servicemen will reduce the number of conscripts. On the other hand, it will be unacceptable if we face the shortage of reserve force in a 10 year period, i.e. when the elder generation will be beyond the conscription age. For example, during the April war the frontline was quickly and voluntarily completed by demobilized conscripts. It would be impossible to be so operative if these citizens were not conscripted before. For example, in case of (in)formal, full or partial mobilization, those conscripts who served in the border service in April, 2016, will be engaged as more competitive and qualified servicemen. In other words, Armenia’s mobilization resource should equally be enough both in quality and quantity (see the question No. 19). That is the exact reason why Armenia has not and will not abolish mandatory military service. No matter how difficult it seems from personal perspective, in fact current demographic developments in the region and especially in Armenia leave no room for alternatives.
Broadly speaking, Azerbaijan wants to bring Armenia to knees and win either at once or step by step. As a new state and maturing nation Azerbaijan resorts to actively expansionist policy as much as possible. This is accompanied by creation of the image of “other/enemy”, an inalienable part of a nation-building process, where Armenians and Armenia play the role of “others” or “enemies”. As a result, Azerbaijan’s aggressive expansion is being directed against Armenia. Narrowly speaking, what Azerbaijan wants to get, is the territory of Armenia, especially Artsakh and Syunik.
5. Will the peace process ease, if the Aliyevs' government is overthrown and democracy established in Azerbaijan?
In fact, the hatred of the Turkic population of the Eastern Transcaucasia towards Armenians is not a 30-year long story. Historically it emerged after the Muslim-Turkic speaking population spread to Armenian lands. Among other things, it was also conditioned by the deliberate policy of the Russian Empire, as well as the political socialization of Transcaucasian Turkic speaking Muslims under the Ottoman patronage. In this case, we are dealing with a system where all layers of the society consider Armenians as foes. It is not by accident that the first demonstrations in the Lenin square, Baku came along with the Karabakh issue and slogans like “Death to Armenians”. During those years, the organization “Existence” and “People’s Front of Azerbaijan” used the Karabakh issue as leverage against the communist party and a way to gain popular support. The political leaders enjoyed the resonance, that rose over Armenophobia, and exacerbated that situation in their turn. So, a vicious circle emerged when the anti-Armenian mood of the Azerbaijani people is spread over the elite which, in its turn, supports the process. Due to this political model nowadays many Azerbaijanis, even those who criticize the policy of Aliyev’s regime, have anti-Armenian mood too. Consequently, the answer is the following: even if one day Aliyevs’ system is substituted by a democratic one, the latter cannot disregard the anti-Armenian sentiments of the population. Therefore, that regime will either continue the policy of former authorities or lose and pave the way for proponents of more aggressive policy.
6. What if Russia decides to concede Karabakh to Azerbaijan for some dividends and we cannot do anything?
It is impossible. Promotion of such half-propagandistic and “eschatological” interpretation is conditioned by the extrapolation of Armenian reality of early Soviet period (1920-1921) into the contemporary one which is completely wrong, as in those times Armenia lacked a major attribute of statehood, namely armed forces which could prevent the annexation of Karabakh by Azerbaijan. Currently, the Republic of Armenia, along with Russia and Azerbaijan, is a sovereign state whose national interests demand security for the territory and population of Artsakh. Therefore, one should not merely “draw parallels” between the past and the present. Meanwhile, theoretically it could be in Russian interests to engage Azerbaijan in its regional initiatives and projects. In this context, it is quite realistic that Azerbaijan attack Armenia with Russia’s “silent consent” to get Artsakh completely or partially back to Azerbaijan. Under such circumstances, Russia might put pressure on Armenia not to extend the war and conclude “an immediate peace” with Azerbaijan. Armenia would have to oppose Russian demands in political-diplomatic arena and Azerbaijani infringement in the battlefield. In this case, the outcome of the war will depend on the military and economic balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russian intervention will not matter at all as at some point Russia’s position will turn from pro-Azerbaijani or pro-Armenian position into a balancing one. In fact, the same scenario worked in the Armenian-Azerbaijani war of 1988-1994. Since 1992, due to military and diplomatic efforts Armenia succeeded in balancing Russian technical supplies to Azerbaijani army and received similar arms and ammunition again from Russia. Despite the pressure from international community (and Russia itself) over the withdrawal of Armenian troops from “occupied territories” (Kelbajar, Kubatlu, Fizuli etc.), Armenia took military advantage over Azerbaijan and won the war.
Obviously, the mistakes of the April war and those of previous times contributed to the failure of the Armenian side in those days. On the other hand, it is impossible to find out all mistakes and responsible officials now as related official documents, including details on criminal cases are not declassified yet. Nevertheless, it would not be correct to claim that the Armenian side was not ready for the April war. If so, it would not be able to protect the front line and strategically important objects in Artsakh by engaging new forces from other military units too. Equally, the Armenian side would not succeed in taking back 3 strategically important positions in Talish and Martakert, without which the cease-fire would be dangerous. The only thing we can insist on now without any preliminary research is that the key to Azerbaijan’s success, that eventually turned out to be our failure, was the factor of unexpectedness. Due to this, on April 2 at night Azerbaijanis occupied some territories, but that was all they did. Moreover, in the result of the Armenian counterattack they lost 3 important positions, as mentioned above.
Based on available facts and documents, it is not possible to give a substantiated answer at the moment. Theoretically, the latter can be found in relevant documents of the General Staff of Azerbaijan, so unless they are declassified, all versions will be considered as more or less substantiated assumptions. Supposedly, Azerbaijan aimed at taking the town of Martakert and the Sarsang dam in the north and Varanda (Fizuli) and the vicinities of Hadrut in the south. According to a more moderate version, the target was Talish and Mataghis (in the north) and the hill of Varazatumb with adjacent positions only (in the south). Though it is not excluded either that Azerbaijan had set a minimum goal, i.e. to take the territories that it actually did. Regardless of these assumptions, it is obvious that for such kind of operations Azerbaijan should have elaborated both a minimum and maximum plan. Based on Azerbaijani actions on the battlefield and political arena on April 3-4 (e.g. attempts to get psychological advantage by using UAVs, a threat to hit Stepanakert), Azerbaijan failed to meet the target as Armenian forces took organized actions in three directions. Moreover, whatever Azerbaijan achieved, was at the expense of disproportionate losses and expenses. For more information on the failure of Azerbaijani plans see the question No. 10. Among “side” goals of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, atrocities against the Armenian civil population and servicemen should be emphasized. These steps should be regarded as sabotage against Armenian population, pointing at “catastrophic consequences if Karabakh is not returned to Azerbaijan”. So when dealing with such an enemy, it is critically important to prepare for the war and not to make senseless concessions.
It is not true. There is no oral and, what is more important, written proof, namely evidence, documents, memoirs, documentary or any direct and indirect evidence left by killed Azerbaijani soldiers that could confirm that information. Moreover, the immense army-building process in Azerbaijan shows that there was no need to recruit mercenaries or terrorists from the ISIS. In other words, Azerbaijan’s current army is not the devastated institution of 1990s anymore, so it is hardly imaginable how Azerbaijan could bear the existence of rambunctious military groupings on its territory.
The Armenian party suffered territorial losses in the northern and southern parts of the Artsakh frontline. In the south, the hill of Varazatumb (Lala Ilahi or Lalatapa) and the positions to the north and north-west made the visual surveillance of adjacent Azerbaijani territories possible. On the other hand, the loss of Varazatumb is not a fatal blow to the Armenian front line as the opposite hill is in Armenians’ hands. It has the same height as Varazatumb and its supply is carried out by a bypass that is not visible from there. Besides, the Armenian army controls the two flanks of Varazatumb that go down to the Arax river and the village of Horadiz. And yet, Azerbaijani positions and adjacent territories are still visible from the opposite hill of Varazatumb. As to the losses in Talish direction, adjacent Azerbaijani territories, including the village of Tap Gharaghoyunlu were easily surveilled from those heights (including visual surveillace). By taking these positions Azerbaijan fixed a minor problem, i.e. made the village safe from a possible Armenian attack. As in the case of Varazatumb, the loss was not that fatal too. On April 2, Azerbaijanis took a quite high position in the north of the Talish front line which opens the way to adjacent positions and the neighboring defense region, “Eghnikner”. Besides, the landscape of those positions makes it easier to penetrate into the village of Talish unnoticeably, something that several Azerbaijani servicemen actually did. On April 3, the local military units, together with special forces (brought from Yerevan), took back that position. When discussing the loss of positions, one should remember that a. the Armenian-Azerbaijani war has not finished. Moreover, war is a dynamic process, so neither losses, nor achievements are “eternal”. b. The strategic goal of the Armenian side is to keep the front line from breaking as it will weaken Armenian positions both in the battlefield and at negotiations ultimately changing the status quo in favor of Azerbaijan.
11. Is it true that there was a deal to make territorial concessions on the Armenian part and that the deal failed because of selflessness and courage of Armenian soldiers?
No, it is not true. There is no oral and, what is more important written and reliable evidence, namely testimony, memoirs, documentary shot or document that could prove that. Moreover, the logic of internal political developments in Armenia of the post-April and post-July period shows that various actors and groupings disseminated such information only for political propaganda reasons, aimed at scoring on the eve of parliamentary elections in 2017, rather than for discovering and correcting the mistakes of the April war. As to the propaganda of “treacherous leadership and selfless soldier”, it should be noted that the army is a well-organized hierarchical structure in its nature and, with full respect for personal contribution and devotedness of every serviceman of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia, it should be stated that without efficient command instructions the efficiency of NCO & enlisted personnel in the battlefield drops abruptly. In other words, without command the soldier can hardly change the outcome of wide-scale military operations.
Actually some attempts were made. N116 military position of the Martakert defense region was captured by the enemy only for 40 minutes and quickly taken back due to a well-organized counterattack. Besides, the high command had elaborated a plan to liberate the lost military strongholds in Talish and Jabrayil front lines. Moreover, due to organized actions 2 military position was taken back in Talish on April 3 (See the question No. 10). Right here Azerbaijanis suffered the loss of dozens of special forces soldiers whose photos were put on the Internet as an evidence of Azerbaijani aggression. Generally planning a counterassault or counterattack is time consuming and sophisticated, unlike similar scenes in fiction films. As soon as the parties reached an oral agreement on cease-fire (April 5), Armenian forces stopped the operation. Why? See the next question.
13. Why did Armenian forces decide not to continue the military operations and agree to restore the cease-fire?
In order to understand the answer completely, we should take into account Armenia’s official position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict: unlike the enemy, both Armenian leadership and society want peace, so Armenian authorities turn to military actions only if it is necessary to deter the enemy and preserve a lasting peace. On April 5 it was already clear that the front line has stabilized to the extent it was in the afternoon of April 3. Armenian forces actually did not fully liberate the positions in Talish and Jabrayil, whereas Azerbaijan did not want or was not able to continue the advancement. In the central part of the front line Armenian artillery stopped the move and (or) penetration of Azerbaijani tanks. Under such circumstances, the Armenian side would have to take responsibility for the war and, what is more important, Armenian leadership and society would have to take the risk of launching attack and counterattack. In short, quite a simple and visual calculation has been done: is it worth retaking the lost positions provided Armenia has more casualties in the warfare? The answer was obviously negative.
From April 2 until May 16, 2016 (when presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev met in Vienna) the Armenian army lost 96 servicemen.
No, it is not true. The Ministry of Defense of Armenia does not hide human losses in the Armed Forces. Besides, due to the openness of Armenian media (including electronic sources), accessibility of the Internet and close social interaction in the society it is even technically impossible to hide human losses in the Armed Forces.
16. Is it true that during the escalation in April, 2016 Armenia lost most of its soldiers in the battles for lost positions?
No, it is not true. Only 5 servicemen were KIA during the liberation of several military positions: Sasun Mkrtchyan, Beniamin Eghoyan, Tigran Abgaryan, Vladimir Alikhanyan and Argishti Gaboyan. The rest of servicemen fell when blocking the advancement of the enemy and implementing positional defensive actions.
Living and working is still possible there, though some agricultural lands near the village are observable from the Azerbaijani side, like in many villages in the Tavush region. Such situation necessitates encouragement of alternative agricultural activities. The government in Artsakh has decided to restore Talish and even the President of Artsakh Republic has voiced this concern for several times.
Taking into consideration the military secret regime, it is not possible to give a complete answer to the question. Hence, the working group of this website presents the main changes based only on open sources. a. On April 4, the government of Artsakh established operational headquarters (headed by the Prime Minister) in order to coordinate rear front’s and fortification works. Officials responsible for food and material supply service of the operational headquarters have been appointed. For those who want to help Artsakh, special bank account has been created. During the recent months the government of Artsakh has published transparent reports which clearly show that all donations served the army needs. For example, 24.3% of donations, done by January 1, 2017 (1,458,724,500 AMD) was spent on acquiring technique and equipment of military importance. According to the government of Artsakh, the surveillance equipment has raised the defense capabilities of positions all along the front line. Besides, now it is easier to observe the move of the enemy both at short and long distance, day and night. See the relevant documents here: full report, current and three-month report (period: April 4-13, 2016), on material support (until April 20, 2016), three-month period (period: April-July, 2016), on material support (until December 28, 2016). b. Due to budgetary resources and donations, a C4ISR system (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) has been established in Artsakh (for more details see the link). c. According to Nikol Pashinyan, a deputy of the Armenian National Assembly of the fifth Convocation who visited the front line upon the invitation of the government of Artsakh in mid-August, 2016, the whole front line is armed with deep intelligence equipment, so that every part of the front line is within the view of the system. The priority of the Defense Army, inter alia, is to provide the frontline with alternative signal systems which will also have radio and cable connection. This means that the commander of the Defense Army can immediately contact any position and have direct conversation without being wiretapped by the enemy. Due to this system the visual information in the front line will be available for the general staff in the real time regime. When the deputy visited Artsakh in August, cable connections had already been set up along the front line, whereas new equipment has completely been put in motion in some positions. The next important reform concerns the installation of night surveillance equipment all along the front line. Now almost all positions have such equipment. Besides, all positions have received night vision equipped weapons which can fix and annihilate the target at nighttime (for more details check the link). d. Since late August, 2016, a new waterline supplies some positions of a military unit in the southern part of the frontline (See here). e. Due to engineering works, new trench passes and land barriers have been built. On the opposite side of Varazatumb, Jabrayil, a new road has been built, so that it is not visible from that hill.
In such a long lasting war the state, as an organic unity, should be functioning in all areas and preserve its viability. In order to reach that, each citizen should carry out his/her own responsibilities, pay the taxes regularly and develop his/her mental and physical potential as much as possible, so that his/her family, working place and consequently the state develops too. As to the role of population, Armenia’s most important problemis demography since it completely falls behind Azerbaijan. This equally refers both to military resources and the whole population itself. Generally, the demographic challenge has caused many problems in Armenia. Many local companies have closed because of shortage of enough consumption. Unqualified officials still hold their positions as there is no one else who can replace them. The educational and scientific institutions which are supposed to provide necessary human resources, are short of competitive resources themselves. So, we deal with a vicious circle where there are insufficient human resources, no competition and therefore no progress. Concerning the relationship between the quantity of the Armenian population and the war, the increase of Armed Forces will not only lessen casualties, but also deter Azerbaijan in terms of quantity. For example, sabotage will easily succeed if the group attacks positions that are protected by 7, rather than 14 servicemen. It is not by accident that in April, 2016 Azerbaijan did not undertake any serious sabotage attempt as the front line was completed by demobilized conscripts and any attempt to succeed would be senseless. As to citizens’ direct and immediate support to the front line, however big the wish is to be useful in the battle field, in a “no peace, no war” reality all the society should do is to fulfil its everyday responsibilities much better. Anyway, if you still decided to go to the front line, you should know that you should have some basic knowledge on military science, first aid and civil defense, something you should learn beforehand, in relatively peaceful conditions.
The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia elaborates and implements the defense policy of the government. The concept of “nation-army” shows new approaches and principles on Armenia’s defense policy issues. As the author of that concept, the Minister of Defense Vigen Sargsyan said, “the nation-army is much more than just the national army as the latter serves the nation, whereas the nation-army is the nation itself. Taking into account that in comparison with the territory, population and state, our Armed Forces are disproportionately much larger, they cannot be separated from that population. Our society cannot be separated from the army or the army cannot become closed and distance itself from the people”. According to the concept, each citizen regardless of age, sex, financial capabilities and ideological differences, should play a role in the nation-army building. However, this does not suppose militarization of the state or society. Moreover, it means democratization of army, complete integration with society, economic, cultural, educational, scientific, environmental and sports sphere. As Vigen Sargsyan put it, the “nation-army” means that, whatever the army has created, should serve the society and the state, while achievements in civil life should make the Armed Forces stronger. In other words, this concept supposes that each citizen should have a visible and measurable contribution to the protection of the state and apply successful mechanisms in this regard (see the previous question). Everyone should understand that “the nation-state” is not a completely new idea, as some components of that concept have been discussed systematically and are inalienable parts of our reality. Surrounding enemies and regional military and political developments will make us feel like “a besieged fortress” which will have no way out but mobilization and targeted and efficient use of all resources.