September 30, 2020

Armenia held off Azerbaijan in battle one. What’s next?

What looks like a dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia seems more between Turkey and Russia. Each backing their own side, Turkey provided military officers to Azerbaijan and Russia to Armenia. Armenia prevailed in their high-up entrenchment, but if Azerbaijan breaks through? Will this escalate into Erdogan closing the Bosporus, directly threatening Russia?

Brad Johnson is a retired senior CIA operative and Chief of Station and provided his unique experience and perspective in his analysis. Now president of his non-profit, Americans for Intelligence Reform.

 

 

 


brad johnson it is september the 28th of
00:02
2020
00:03
and the war you have been predicting
00:06
between
00:06
azerbaijan and armenia uh appears to
00:10
have really it’s just
00:11
full of war and certainly in some
00:13
regions now
00:15
with tanks being destroyed and deployed
00:17
and
00:18
in a reverse order and a lot of other uh
00:21
heavy military assets in play in the
00:23
field can you give us an update on this
00:25
this is important stuff
00:29
it is it’s an interesting thing uh the
00:32
uh
00:33
uh in in essence i think you’re correct
00:36
i think
00:36
and and armenia the ministry of defense
00:39
in armenia
00:40
has reported that azerbaijan
00:44
has declared war on armenia and
00:47
uh you know arose by any other name uh
00:51
sort of situation i mean i i don’t know
00:53
that like the
00:55
azerbaijani parliament you know
00:57
officially declared or not but in
00:58
essence they have
01:00
now um this is out of baku the capital
01:03
of azerbaijan where you know kind of
01:05
these
01:06
decisions have been made which by the
01:08
way baku is a
01:09
beautiful city right on the black sea
01:12
with a
01:13
nice beach and you know a nice mix of
01:16
the modern with the ancient you know a
01:18
lot of very old buildings and stuff it’s
01:20
extraordinarily
01:21
picturesque a beautiful place at any
01:22
rate uh orders however are on this are
01:25
being given by turkey and
01:27
the reason i kind of wanted to mention
01:28
baku is because i think
01:30
the azerbaijanis have essentially made a
01:32
deal with the devil
01:34
and in this particular case being turkey
01:36
erdogan’s turkey
01:38
and they want the uh region and
01:41
nagorno-karabakh
01:42
back i mean i’m going back a little bit
01:44
on this
01:45
but essentially nagorno-karabaw had been
01:48
controlled by
01:49
azerbaijan azerbaijan is essentially a
01:52
turkish people
01:53
their language is a turkish dialect uh
01:56
so it’s the
01:57
it’s now the little brother of big
01:59
brother turkey
02:00
and big brother turkey is the one making
02:02
the calls
02:03
and so they want this region back it was
02:07
taken over it’s declared an independent
02:10
republic it has does have a
02:12
town there that’s just a big big village
02:15
basically in nagorno-karabaw
02:17
it’s not heavily populated area but
02:19
there are some
02:20
natural resources and things there and
02:21
it is a again a fairly pretty area
02:23
a lot of it is wooded and green which in
02:25
that area of the world tends to be arid
02:27
so it’s
02:28
it’s a nice region so uh
02:32
what has happened is
02:36
20 or 5 30 years ago where armenia took
02:39
it over
02:40
it is largely armenian people that live
02:42
in that area
02:43
and always has been so they felt
02:44
justified in taking it
02:46
uh kind of control of it and defending
02:48
it so uh
02:50
the turkish people azerbaijan has always
02:52
tried to negotiate their way out of it
02:54
they couldn’t take it militarily
02:56
now with turkey’s backing they are able
02:59
to put up a fight for it and that’s what
03:00
we see happening right now
03:02
so uh interesting that turkey never
03:04
cared about this before
03:06
uh but now they are because of their
03:08
expansionist
03:09
ideas and so what’s happened is we’ve
03:12
had
03:12
uh an assault the armenians
03:15
have a high ground for the most part and
03:19
are completely dug in
03:20
they’ve been bringing in uh artillery
03:22
the russians have a base
03:24
not all that far from the front in
03:26
essence
03:27
and uh so they’re able to bring in
03:29
support they bring in
03:31
uh you know several hundred million
03:33
dollars worth of
03:34
uh of military aid and essentially
03:37
armenia is the opposite number armenians
03:40
while
03:41
not slavic people not related to russia
03:45
have never really left the fold of the
03:47
soviet union they’ve always been
03:48
basically
03:49
russell files and and closely and
03:51
assists working closely in association
03:53
with russia
03:54
i’ve have been anti-american for the
03:56
most part
03:57
and i do make a distinction here there’s
04:00
west armenians and east armenians the
04:01
east armenians
04:02
are the ones that are in armenia the
04:04
west armenians are basically
04:05
basically the diaspora so there are a
04:07
lot of differences between those two
04:09
groups at any rate
04:10
we now have this war now fully
04:14
taking place uh really become a full
04:16
shooting war
04:17
uh between azerbaijan and armenia
04:20
however both groups are backed by the
04:23
big brother country if you will
04:25
turkey on the side of azerbaijan and
04:27
russia on the side of armenia
04:29
in both cases we’re seeing the same
04:30
things happen there are turkish military
04:33
officers who are there in charge in
04:35
command
04:36
of the azerbaijani forces they attacked
04:39
yesterday they brought in some tanks and
04:41
helicopters and
04:42
artillery and we’re doing a ground
04:44
assault of those fortified positions of
04:46
the armenians
04:47
and you know the problem with assaulting
04:50
duggan positions is
04:51
you’re going to have some casualties and
04:53
that’s what happened
04:54
they lost those tanks there’s plenty of
04:56
videos out there
04:57
for you to see that people can search
04:59
and see these burning tanks
05:01
and while they’re still roaring around
05:03
and got hit i think they were surprised
05:05
by the artillery that the armenians had
05:08
in place
05:09
to counter the the ground tank assault
05:11
it was tanks
05:12
with ground troops combined normal
05:14
procedure and
05:15
i think they were surprised by both the
05:17
accuracy and the
05:19
and the fact that they had artillery
05:21
that could reach out that far
05:22
and of course that implies that this was
05:24
new stuff
05:25
uh they would have had good intelligence
05:27
i mean it doesn’t
05:28
you know it’s not that hard of a thing
05:30
for the russians to have known
05:32
this assault was being formed and
05:34
planned and moving forward
05:35
therefore bring in the artillery you
05:37
need to take them out
05:38
and it was undoubtedly manned by russian
05:40
crews because it was accurate
05:42
and it was something that hadn’t been
05:44
there before so the armenians wouldn’t
05:46
have that accuracy so
05:48
i think that they blunted the attack
05:49
stopped them dead
05:51
of course that pisses off the turks and
05:52
nasaris and so you see this start
05:55
starting to beef up so while it’s an
05:57
undeclared war
05:58
at least as far as we know publicly
06:01
it’s definitely gone to absolutely the
06:04
next level and as as you pointed out to
06:06
begin with that’s something
06:08
i’ve been saying all along is a is is a
06:10
very serious
06:12
issue this is russia and turkey fighting
06:14
each other
06:15
uh in essence here you know under the
06:18
current circumstances
06:20
the turks and the azeri’s are the
06:22
aggressors starting the fighting
06:24
but there was never in those last
06:26
several decades there was never a time
06:28
in that area where there wasn’t a
06:30
certain amount of fighting going on
06:32
there had been skirmishes and things
06:34
bubbling along where the azeri’s kept
06:35
trying to get it back
06:37
uh the azeri’s flirted with the west and
06:39
had some
06:40
uh you know good relationships with the
06:42
united states armenia did not
06:44
uh armenia state like i said basically
06:46
in the
06:47
in the camp of the russians never really
06:50
opened up fully to the west and of
06:51
course
06:52
yerevan the capital of armenia is like
06:54
the old soviet
06:56
capital with all the big ugly cement
06:58
buildings and kind of
06:59
austere looking uh not not nowhere near
07:02
as attractive as baku as a town
07:04
i know that’ll piss off a lot of people
07:06
but it’s the truth baku’s a beautiful
07:08
city
07:09
where yerevan is not and
07:12
uh so that’s where we find ourselves now
07:14
and of course there’s wider implications
07:16
coming out of this and one of the things
07:18
turkey is doing
07:19
is and this is something we reported on
07:21
maybe two months ago
07:23
that they are hiring syrian mercenaries
07:26
these are the people that
07:27
turkey moved into that northern strip of
07:31
syria that they now control as a buffer
07:34
zone
07:35
which means that’s where they can
07:36
forward stage attacks against the kurds
07:39
which that’s generally has been a
07:41
kurdish region
07:43
so that’s what they were after all along
07:44
now that they’ve gotten turkish troops
07:46
in that area they’re able to
07:48
to release some of those syrian
07:49
mercenaries to go fight here
07:51
so there’s been reports uh just some
07:54
arabic news reporting that
07:55
uh one of our senior fellows barry webb
07:57
was just telling me
07:58
uh they’re now offering a thousand
08:00
dollars to the syrians previous
08:02
reporting was
08:02
that they were offering ten thousand
08:04
dollars to these syrian mercenaries so
08:06
i guess as they get more the price goes
08:08
down they need them less
08:09
and of course in those areas where
08:10
people are poor a thousand dollars is a
08:12
lot of money so
08:13
uh they are bringing in syrian troops
08:15
they’ve been bringing in syrian
08:16
mercenary troops for a long time
08:18
have you know let’s say two months or so
08:20
does that mean that they’re there at the
08:22
forefront of the fighting
08:23
it doesn’t appear to be that case yet
08:26
but certainly russian troops are
08:28
in commanding and running certain
08:31
technical aspects
08:32
of on the armenian side the same mirror
08:35
image on the other side with the turks
08:37
uh running the show so this is the
08:40
officers
08:40
fighting each other are russians and
08:42
turks the troops
08:44
are the locals uh with these syrian
08:47
troops coming in these are some
08:49
more experienced combat veteran type
08:51
troops so they will certainly
08:53
stiffen up the fighting capability the
08:55
ground fighting capability
08:57
uh whether they’re going to use them as
08:58
shock troops to try to break through
09:00
you know who knows if those forces
09:03
do break through the armenian defenses
09:06
it’s going to be interesting there’s not
09:07
a lot to stop them
09:09
once they’re all the way through the
09:11
line and how far they could go i don’t
09:13
know
09:14
would that cause a direct russian
09:17
response i would say very likely
09:21
so you would then have probably
09:24
russian aircraft helicopters uh perhaps
09:28
some troops
09:28
backed with armenian troops uh as a
09:31
reserve
09:32
move back in and and the bottom line
09:34
there is you would have russian troops
09:36
killing
09:37
turkish troops so the officer corps at
09:40
least and
09:40
and i think a lot of the support things
09:42
you know who’s flying the helicopters
09:44
who’s flying the jets all those things
09:46
that’s hard to tell but it’s going to be
09:48
the better trained
09:49
people so uh you’ve also seen this play
09:52
out in an area where the united states
09:54
is beginning to pressure
09:55
turkey and they’ve made the first move
09:58
there’s been a lot of threats to move
10:00
the military base in turkey uh
10:04
out of turkey and the base in serlik is
10:07
the
10:07
is the base it’s a big u.s air force
10:09
base that had nuclear weapons
10:11
the united states has made the call to
10:13
remove those nuclear weapons
10:15
that’s a big deal that doesn’t seem like
10:17
much maybe to the
10:19
average person just looking at this but
10:20
that is a big deal
10:22
that reduces the value of this base and
10:25
that is the very
10:26
first step that would be taken to
10:30
uh start to draw down on who’s at the
10:33
base
10:33
and perhaps eventually close it so it’s
10:36
a very interesting development
10:38
uh this is going to heat up i just don’t
10:40
see them
10:41
backing down turkey shows no signs of
10:43
backing down if they don’t back down
10:45
it can only escalate because they now
10:48
have to
10:48
they have to throw more things at it
10:50
probably aircraft in order to
10:53
take out the artillery positions that
10:56
the armenians are using
10:57
they’ve claimed they’ve already done
10:58
some of that we don’t have photographs
11:01
of it but certainly their tanks were
11:02
taken out by
11:03
artillery apparently a helicopter was
11:05
taken out
11:07
using the ground to air capability of
11:09
the
11:10
that the russians have brought to the
11:11
armenian side so that that first
11:14
assault uh ground assault
11:17
was completely blunted so how this plays
11:19
forward i i just
11:21
i don’t see any other way forward other
11:23
than the turks taking up to
11:25
taking it up to the next level which has
11:27
to include
11:28
air support and that would have to mean
11:30
probably
11:31
our uh turkish piloted aircraft where
11:35
those aircraft
11:36
come from maybe they would use some
11:37
local ones out of
11:39
azerbaijan not sure what their air force
11:41
has in stock but
11:42
that’s that’s going to be something
11:44
along the lines of the next step
11:46
and then if they can throw in the syrian
11:48
ground troops breach at any point
11:50
then it’s uh open warfare i mean just
11:53
absolute open warfare
11:54
and while being played out through
11:55
surrogates it’s going to be russia
11:57
against turkey
11:58
and they’ve already reported yesterday
12:00
16 people got killed which is not huge
12:02
numbers in the scheme of things
12:04
but this is a small two small countries
12:08
sparsely populated fighting each
12:10
other and they don’t have you know
12:12
hundreds of thousands of troops faced
12:14
off in those areas so
12:15
16 by their standard is quite a little
12:18
bit that was quite a few people
12:19
uh getting killed and normally if you
12:22
have
12:22
16 wounded you’d have 40 50 60 i mean uh
12:26
killed you’d have 40 50 60 who were
12:27
wounded a much larger number would be
12:29
normally wounded uh although it’s also a
12:32
lot of dirty fighting in there and
12:33
there’s not a lot of
12:34
prisoners taken if you know what i mean
12:36
so uh it’s
12:38
it’s uh they’re perfectly willing to go
12:40
in and kill each other so i think that’s
12:42
where we’re headed
12:43
thank you for that you know i couldn’t
12:45
help but notice that
12:47
the armenians were in possession of
12:49
weapons that could not only
12:50
hit a tank but absolutely destroy a tank
12:53
and
12:54
that’s not a small thing tanks are built
12:57
to be robust to say the very least and
13:00
that these weapons would have to be
13:01
russian
13:02
and it would indicate i would think that
13:05
a russian willingness
13:07
if they’re going to provide that kind of
13:09
military hardware
13:11
a willingness to make sure that that the
13:13
armenians are going to be
13:14
victorious in this would you say that’s
13:16
the case
13:16
[Music]
13:18
i i agree and what the reporting is is
13:21
that the tanks were taken out by russian
13:22
artillery
13:24
and that was what i was commenting on
13:26
earlier that uh
13:28
you know the intelligence that would be
13:30
gathered before the battle began
13:33
overhead photography of some sort or
13:35
another whether it be aircraft or
13:36
satellite
13:37
you know the they were spotted
13:41
clearly in advance and the armenian side
13:43
was clearly prepared because
13:45
they shot down a helicopter and blew up
13:46
three tanks and killed some troops i
13:48
mean
13:49
and there wasn’t a lot going the other
13:50
way that means essentially
13:52
i mean i don’t want to call it an ambush
13:55
but you know frontal assault on dug-in
13:57
positions
13:58
they knew what was coming uh which like
14:01
i say
14:02
this is extraordinarily good indicators
14:04
that how deeply involved the russians
14:06
are
14:07
because they wouldn’t have come in with
14:08
those tanks and the troops and things
14:10
that they had
14:11
if they had known those artillery pieces
14:13
were there
14:14
that means those artillery pieces
14:16
weren’t there before which means the
14:18
russians brought them
14:19
in and and therefore the russians were
14:22
also
14:22
manning them so this was russian
14:24
artillery
14:26
with russian troops under russian
14:28
commanders
14:29
destroying the azerbaijani turkish
14:32
assault
14:35
they’re all going to know that i mean
14:37
azerbaijan and turkey
14:38
know that that’s what happened and for
14:41
all the same reasons plus they would
14:43
have
14:43
more better information than i do but uh
14:46
it’s
14:47
it’s not going to be lost upon them and
14:48
that means uh
14:50
you know turkey’s you know they’re
14:52
already saying a lot of stop blaming
14:54
armenia and russia and all that so
14:56
like i say that’s why this is so clearly
14:58
headed towards a serious
15:00
escalation turkey will respond and it
15:03
knows it has to bring in
15:05
the next level of equipment and as i
15:08
said
15:09
you could have an artillery battle they
15:10
could bring in artillery they probably
15:12
will bring a certain level of
15:14
artillery in but i think then it moves
15:15
to the air i’m not
15:17
sure how the turkish air force and the
15:20
russian air force
15:22
would do against each other i i’m sure
15:24
there are people who do
15:25
i just don’t happen to have be aware of
15:27
how that would turn out but i suspect
15:29
that the russians would have the upper
15:30
hand
15:30
they do have a base they’re further away
15:33
but they do have a base there and can
15:35
fly in
15:35
stuff in large large numbers and
15:37
quantities so
15:40
yeah we’ll see how this plays out but
15:41
yes is there no nato component to this
15:44
at all
15:47
not so far this is
15:50
kind of outside the boundaries of
15:52
anything nato because turkey’s not under
15:54
attack
15:55
azerbaijan is not a nato country and
15:58
in fact azerbaijan is the one doing the
16:00
attacking
16:01
as we saw in this assault from yesterday
16:04
they were one bringing in troops and
16:05
helicopters and tanks to assault
16:07
the front if you will the dug-in
16:09
positions of
16:10
the armenians so uh there is no
16:13
uh component that goes back
16:17
to nato at this point i if
16:20
i don’t know i mean if if russian and
16:22
turkish troops start
16:24
killing each other directly kind of
16:27
openly
16:29
i i don’t even think that would trigger
16:31
nato at that point
16:32
because the fighting is essentially
16:34
through surrogates
16:35
with turkey backing azerbaijan and
16:38
russia
16:38
backing the armenians so and it’s in
16:41
those territories
16:42
so unless russia were to attack turkey
16:46
proper
16:47
i don’t think it would trigger a nato
16:50
response and i don’t think russia
16:53
would do that would would turkey you
16:56
know do something like
16:57
close the boss for us uh you know that
17:00
would put us in a weird position it
17:02
would be interesting to see how that
17:03
plays out
17:04
which i wouldn’t be surprised they’ve
17:06
threatened to do it but essentially that
17:08
would try to cut off
17:09
the russian black sea fleet from the
17:11
mediterranean
17:14
which that’s a big deal it would be a
17:17
major
17:18
blow if they could back it up to the
17:20
russian navy
17:22
but the russian navy is not going to
17:23
stand quite russian won’t stand for that
17:24
and they would just
17:25
they they would do what they’ve done
17:27
they have a history of behaving this way
17:29
so they would cruise through and they
17:31
would force the
17:32
turks to shoot at them so
17:36
who’s the aggressor because turkey would
17:38
not be
17:39
legally by maritime law and
17:41
international press and all that
17:43
they can’t close that street so to close
17:45
it and then
17:46
fire upon russian ships that that
17:48
cruised through it to stop them
17:50
uh they’re the aggressor so russia then
17:53
would respond and kind and you’d have a
17:55
shoot them up between the two of them
17:56
but
17:57
i i don’t see turkey taking that risk
18:00
right now i don’t know
18:02
it’s an interesting thing that they’ve
18:03
they’ve raised the issue but it kills a
18:05
couple birds with one stone from
18:07
turkey’s perspective
18:08
because the russians are also active off
18:11
the coast of
18:12
libya and uh they the the turks don’t
18:15
like that because they’re backing
18:17
opposite sides
18:18
in the in the civil war in libya so it’s
18:21
a
18:23
uh you know it’s a real mess and that’s
18:25
the problem with these things when stuff
18:26
gets
18:27
this messy somewhere along the line
18:30
a spark will hit that’s going to create
18:32
real problems what happens if
18:34
turkey happens to take out some russian
18:37
general
18:37
you know or vice versa and
18:41
now they’re going to be senior officers
18:43
in those places because of the
18:44
level of of uh violence that’s that you
18:47
know the fighting between these two
18:49
different
18:50
military groups um that’s forming so
18:54
you know if one of those guys gets
18:55
killed what does that do you know you
18:57
just
18:57
you never know i mentioned that because
18:59
of duke ferdinand that kind of it was
19:00
the spark that
19:01
kicked off world war one i am not
19:04
suggesting that this
19:05
is poised to become a world war but i am
19:08
suggesting that this is poised to become
19:10
a regional war and uh it may already be
19:14
pretty close to fitting that definition
19:16
since you do have four countries
19:17
involved in this will other people come
19:20
into play would iran
19:21
take a role in this perhaps at some
19:23
point
19:24
you know i don’t think so but uh you
19:28
just
19:28
the future is always difficult to
19:30
predict as as yoda pointed out correctly
19:33
so i i i just don’t know but certainly
19:36
that’s getting worse and
19:38
other people will take a greater
19:39
interest in in this fighting so we’ll
19:42
see and it
19:43
i don’t see how it’s anything other than
19:44
poised to escalate and i think that’s
19:46
where we’re at
20:18
you
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