Nagorno-Karabakh: Suicide Drones, Ceasefire Holding, $4 Billion in Russian Arms for Azerbaijan

Russian clout over Azerbaijan is really to the benefit of Armenia

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed a ceasefire that went into effect on April 5 noon. Agreement was reached by the military commanders of both countries in Moscow.

The ceasefire is holding and peace has been "largely restored". 

This is extremely fortunate. When the fighting started the better-armed Azeri forces were able to recapture a tiny stretch of land from Armenians. The fear was that Azeris would refuse to pull back, and that Armenians would not accept the new delineation.

However, Russians were able to arrange a ceasefire on the basis of the new line of control.

In the military aspect the four-day long conflict was mainly a war of artillery and trenches.  

However, Azerbaijan in particular which during the oil boom years had been on an arms-purchasing spree also tried out some modern hi-tech weapons.

In one instance it used an Israeli-made IAI Harop "suicide" drone to attack a bus ferrying Armenian reinforcements to the front. The attack was successful and by their own admission cost Armenians the lives of seven soldiers.

The vast majority of new weapons used by both sides however are Russian-made.

Armenia which is a CSTO treaty ally of Moscow (as was Azerbaijan until 1999) and hosts two Russian bases enjoys a discount when purchasing Russian weapons. – Moscow frequently fronts it the money which is then repaid over many years at very low interest.

Azerbaijan does not enjoy comparable Russian largesse, but neither does it have a need for it. During the years of high oil prices in particular it had plenty of money to spend.

The main beneficiary of this was the Russian arms industry. By 2013 Azerbaijan had spend $4 billion on Russian arms supplies which between 2011 and 2015 amounted for 85% of Azerbaijan's arms purchases in that time.

These include S-300 air defense missiles, Mi-35 helicopter gunships, T-90 tanks, Kornet anti-tank missiles and "Msta-S" 152mm self-propelled artillery.

This fact should warn against simplistic interpretations of geopolitical realities in the Caucasus. 

Armenia is closely aligned with Russia, and Azerbaijan is closely aligned with Turkey. However, where Armenia and Turkey see each other as enemies, that is not true of Russia and Azerbaijan.

Actually Russia and Azerbaijan have worked hard to maintain decent mutual relations despite their comitments to Armenia and Turkey respectively.

This is fortunate as it means Russia has some influence in Yerevan and Baku both, without is probably what made the current Moscow ceasefire deal possible.

On the one hand Armenians feel sour that Russia maintains commercial arms links to Azerbaijan, but if Moscow uses its clout over Baku to arrange for a re-freezing of the Nagorno-Karabkh conflict in a situation where Armenians hold the vast, overwhelming majority of disputed territory they really can't complain about much.


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