Friday, July 31, 2020

‘If Necessary, Russia Will Save Armenia with a Nuclear Strike,’ Felgengauer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 29 – “The crossing of the Turkish-Azerbaijani border by Turkish forces” nominally to take part in military exercises in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan “is a very serious escalation” of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a development that  could under the worst case scenario even lead to “a nuclear war,” Pavel Felgengauer says.

            The independent Moscow military expert says that the Turks “are already saying that if Azerbaijan begins to have problems, then they, the Turks, may get involved, and their involvement could be very serious” given the dislocation of forces on the ground (

            If Turkey were to get involved in the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict and threaten Armenia, “in this case,” Felgengauer says, “Russia will defend Armenia from the Turks. That is what our military base in Gyumri is for.”  Such a development would mean a war between Turkey and Moscow and potentially between NATO and Russia.

            According to the Russian analyst, there is no reason to speak about the Organization for the Collective Security Treaty. Everything about that is “a fiction.” “Neither Kyrgyzstan nor Kazakhstan, nor Tajikistan nor Belarus, who are members of this group, will  fight in the Trans-Caucasus under any circumstances.”

            The OCST “is not NATO,” an alliance in which each member however small makes a contribution. And that means that this case “concerns only Armenia and Russia.” The others will at most offer “moral support.”

            It is important to note, Felgengauer continues, that “the Russian forces located in Armenia are not entirely Russian – about 90 percent of the personnel is Armenian. It is an old imperial tradition to use local people for such service. It is simply cheaper to do so than to fly in contract soldiers from Russia.”

            But the forces at Gyumri are not large: one motorized brigade of about 4,000 men. In addition, there is a Mig-29 squadron and several air defense complexes. “But on the whole, this is a largely symbolic force in comparison with the third field army of Turkey located on the other side of the border.

            Reinforcing Gyumri would be difficult because supplies would either have to go by air, something that would limit the speed with which any build up could take place or go through Georgia which would likely refuse to give permission and thus force Moscow either to push its way through by force or back down.

            If Turkey committed its forces to the conflict, Ankara could relatively easily demolish both Armenian and Russian forces in Armenia,” although “this would mean war with Russia which under such conditions could lead Moscow to “resort to the use of nuclear forces in correspondence with our defense doctrine.”

            Such use, in turn, almost certainly would lead to a war with NATO as a whole, Felgengauer suggests, even if Moscow were to select as targets either some unpopulated areas in Turkey itself or in some place in Armenia as a way of showing “that we are ready for this.” 

            None of this needs to happen because the sides should recognize just how dangerous this situation is not only for others but for themselves. But the fact that some actors are behaving as they are shows how risky any fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan could quickly lead to a much wider war. 

Russian Writer Says Moscow Must Push Through Amalgamation of Nenets AD with Arkhangelsk Oblast Now

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 29 – Vladimir Stanulevich, Arctic correspondent for the nationalist Regnum news agency, says that Moscow must push through the amalgamation of Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Nenets Autonomous District because the only opponents are Nenets AD officials who claim to speak for the titular nation but in fact are only protecting their own rice bowls.

            According to the commentator, “Arkhangelsk needs an opening to the Arctic on the Northern Sea Route via Indiga” and the objections that some in the Nenets government have raised should be ignored because they do not speak for anyone but themselves and certainly not for the Nenets minority there (

            The vigor, even nastiness of Stanulevich’s dismissal of the Nenets AD and its interests suggests that he believes Moscow may back amalgamation as a kind of payback for the fact that the Nenets AD was the only federal subject to cast a plurality of votes against Putin’s constitutional amendments (

            And the Regnum writer and his allies in Arkhangelsk are clearly concerned that Moscow might read the delay in a vote on unification as something more than it was, a response to the pandemic ( or even forget about this project altogether.

            But if Moscow does go ahead as Stanulevich urges, the center is extremely likely to trigger another Khabarovsk, this time in the North, given that the Nenets people, although small in number, have already shown that they are ready to mobilize against threats to their homeland ( and

New Monuments to Tsarist Conquerors of Caucasus ‘a Relapse of Imperial Colonial Consciousness,’ Tseyeva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 29 – The erection of ever more monuments to tsarist conquerors of the Caucasus “cannot be seen as anything but a massive relapse of imperial colonial consciousness” on the part of Russians given that it celebrates those who killed and occupied the non-Russian peoples there whose descendants still feel pain from those events, Zarema Tsveyeva says.

            The Circassian language and culture specialist at the Adygey State University says that the putting up of such memorials is being done by the regional and federal authorities to send very different messages to Russians and non-Russians (

            To Russians, such statues are designed to tell Russians at one at the same time that their forefathers conquered these lands and that these territories have always been Russian; and to the non-Russians, they are intended as reminders that they are a conquered people whose fate is ultimately to disappear, Tsveyeva continues.

            Every family among the peoples of the Caucasus has memories handed down from grandparents to parents to grandchildren about the savagery of the Russian advance, “and no minimization of the history of the Caucasus war in the years of Soviet times or various treatments in post-Soviet ones can cancel out the inter-generational translation” of their pain.

            Not surprisingly, then, these monuments generate over-weaning national pride among Russians and Cossacks who are thus taught to look at the non-Russians as “lesser breeds” deserving to this day of being treated as second class citizens or even enemies of Russia and Russians.

            But equally unsurprisingly, Tsveyeva says, it sends a message to the non-Russians that the government and majority nationality of the country of which they are currently within views them as a second class and a problem rather than peoples who have the right to take pride in their own history.

            “It is difficult to imagine that such things could be taking place in a contemporary multi-national law-based state, which declares its attachment to humanistic values,” the Circassian scholar says. “But all this commemoration now is occurring on well-prepared ground.” Neither textbooks nor historical museums treat the North Caucasians as peoples in their own right.

            And as a result, many Russians assume that the North Caucasians are already on the way to being replaced.  Some of her Russian students, she says, are shocked when they learn that “within Krasnodar kray, there is the Adygey Republic where live the authochthonian residents of the region, the Adygs [Circassians] about whom they haven’t the slightest idea.”

            That these young people don’t know about that is no surprise either. The Circassians aren’t mentioned in the textbooks they use.  They have learned about the Russian conquerors but not about the people those tsarist officers conquered and colonized.  Circassian students don’t get any of their national history in the schools either, but they do get it at home.

            And the clash between these two very different understandings of the past is now being exacerbated by the Russian campaign to erect statues to the conquerors and colonizers even as those they defeated in battle and absorbed as colonies continue to be ignored in the public space, the Adygey State University scholar concludes.