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. 

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