Monday, November 16, 2020

So, What Happened with Azerbaijan and Armenia?

Some of you are keeping an eye on the latest Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, so if I may, let me put down a few markers here:

1. The Caucasuss have never been in the American sphere of influence.
2. The Caucasuss are not even tangentially adjacent to American national security concerns.

With that set up, here's the summary from Anders Åslund at The Atlantic Council;
The big lesson of the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace settlement is that military power rules. In a matter of weeks, the use of force has achieved what decades of diplomacy failed to deliver. The only two relevant international players in the South Caucasus region are Russia and Turkey. The United States has taken leave, while the European Union is a paper tiger without troops.

Essentially, Azerbaijan has retaken the territories it lost in 1994, and it has captured a corner of Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, the agreement promises Azerbaijan a transportation link through Armenia to the Azerbaijani district of Nakhichevan, which lies beyond southern Armenia. In territorial terms, this settlement makes sense and may prove durable.


This area has, for centuries, been a concern of Turkey and Russia. It still is. There is a little religious conflict thrown in for good measure. Things could have gone in a much worse direction - with a noted concern that for inertia reasons we are still allied with Turkey;
Putin has promised to deploy a peacekeeping contingent of “1,960 soldiers with small arms, 90 armored personnel carriers, and 380 vehicles and other special equipment,” which will serve along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and guard the Lachin Corridor for an initial period of five years. Meanwhile, the Armenian armed forces will withdraw.

Russian special forces, many of whom fought in eastern Ukraine, began arriving in Armenia in IL-76 transportation planes on November 10. By sending these special forces as peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh, Putin has made tiny Armenia even more dependent on Russia, leaving it looking less like an independent nation and increasingly like a Russian protectorate.
War over? Good. For now, no American killed. Good. Turkey was not pulled in. OK.

Wait ... of course;
The United States seems to have withdrawn from global affairs; the EU has no military muscle; and the West in general has grown alienated from Turkey. This has left the way open for authoritarian rulers like Putin and Erdogan to seize the geopolitical initiative. 
What does the author want, the USA sticking its nose right in the underbelly of Russia where we have never had a national interest ... ever? Is there any shock that the EU is militarily two steps of useless without American enabling forces, logistics, and more importantly - will?
In geopolitical terms, the most important outcome of the conflict is the appearance of a significant Russian military presence in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian “peacekeeping” missions already exist in three other “frozen” post-Soviet conflicts. They are present in Moldova’s Transnistria region, along with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia. A similar Russian military force is now firmly established in the heart of the Southern Caucasus region, fulfilling one of Moscow’s long-term objectives in the region.
Maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough with my land grant university education to see the critical nuance involved with such strange adventures some see for the USA in the Caucasus, were if we did, in additional to more American families hanging gold-star flags in their living rooms, the usual suspects in Europe and elsewhere will tut-tut, micro-manage, moral-posture, and get their large papermache puppets ready for another anti-American protest.

Anyone up for another decades long garrisoning of a god forsaken part of the world? We just had a group of Americans killed as part of the Sinai peacekeeping force. That I can argue is a net good ... but the AZ-AR conflict - for decades? 


If we had, in then end it would just be more American treasure expended so people far away from the fight will feel important, more untold billions of dollars burned for nothing, and no one - literally no one - will thank us for the efforts.

No thanks. We've played this game enough.



You and your Swedish countrymen first Anders. 

After you.

There is a huge problem in our think-tank and academic natsec nomenklatura that needs to be fought every time it comes up. These people are addicted to buying virtue with the blood of other people's children.

What seems like a secondary front from some think tank conference room comfortably on the other side of the planet where a few well placed virtue-forces can make all look well and easily taken care of, may to other people be an absolutely strategically important near abroad that their ancestors fought and died for over centuries to secure, and is well worth another bloodletting.

Other people get a vote on the global value of your chasing virtue unicorns.

Your little police action to help enforce artificial lines on a map could easily become a nightmare of slaughter.

I don't know know many examples history needs to give us where emotion-based national security idealism begat brutal wholescale butchery - but it is clear not enough for some.

There are things worth traveling the world to fight against - genocidal empires focused on world conquest is one, expansionist powers looking to force their will on others through control of economics and trade is another - but those are rare.

A religious and tribal feud between Azerbaijan and Armenia manifesting itself over a bunch of goat-encrusted hills is not even a 4th tier concern of the United States.

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