Lessons from Nagorno-Karabakh for the post-Soviet space

The experts of NGRN (Mykhailo Samus, Volodymyr Kopchak, Yurii Poita) together with Kazakh colleagues (Rasul Zhumaly, political analyst; Karlygash Ezhenova, editor-in-chief of Exclusive magazine) discussed the war on Nagorno-Karabakh and the conclusions for the post-Soviet space.

Key points:

On the development of the military-political situation:

  • Moscow, through the moderation of the Karabakh conflict (albeit in the most unfavorable conditions for the future for itself), managed to push through its “Lavrov plan”. A full-fledged Russian military base is being formed on the territory of Azerbaijan.
  • In the context of the ongoing war for Karabakh, the widespread opinion about the allied format Russia/Armenia versus Turkey/Azerbaijan does not correspond to reality. Moscow is equally intent on drawing both Yerevan and Baku (as well as Tbilisi) into the sphere of its interests. For the Kremlin, there is no subjectivity of Azerbaijan, Armenia or Georgia, but the imperial narrative “Transcaucasia” exists.
  • After Azerbaijan’s victory in the 44-day war, the Russian military intervention in Karabakh (Azerbaijan) creates a new system of challenges and risks for the region. The Kremlin’s “peacekeeping” lever is two-edged for both Baku and Yerevan. Moderation of the conflict has entered a new phase and are on the dimension of “solitaire” between Russia and Turkey (Turkey acts as a “fuse” for Azerbaijan).

Features of the defense system of Azerbaijan:

  • Key element of the Azerbaijani model of operation in Karabakh are UAVs of different types – reconnaissance, attack, kamikaze. UAV`s played role of sensors and strike instrument of the system, integrated with smart weapons and command and control system. But what is important – not UAV`s were critical advantage of Azerbaijan but integration all of components to one network on the principles of network centric warfare.
  • Soviet doctrine of the Armenian army (with massive using of infantry, deep stationary defence, air defence, traditional air force) wasn`t effective against network centric warfare type of offensive operations with total air control by UAV`s with modern sensors.
  • We should be aware that next conflicts will be a collision of opposing «systems of the systems» designed especially to achieve goals on battlefield.
  • UAV`s and smart weapons integrated with Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber-Defense, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance should be a critical element of the architecture of next generation of Armed Forces and joint operation forces.
  • Special Operations Forces should have critical importance in the term of time and effectiveness of small groups actions in real-time as one of the elements of the integrated network centric warfare system.

On the threats to Central Asia:

  • Two new players may appear in Central Asia – the Taliban and Turkey, and the first will play a destabilizing role (spreading the ideas of radical Islam, the penetration of paramilitary groups), the second – a stabilizing one.
  • The experience of interaction between Turkey and Azerbaijan can be useful for the countries of Central Asia, incl. creating with Turkey’s help an additional counterbalance to the influence of Russia and China

A look from Kazakhstan on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh:

  • Countries that rely on political, military-technical support from Russia are being defeated, Russian approaches are losing in comparison with Western approaches;
  • The decisive role in the conflict belonged to Azerbaijan, the national consciousness of the nation, while Armenia’s one-sided orientation towards Russia has demonstrated its failure.
  • Russia suffered a military-technical and geo-political defeat, since military representatives of Turkey appeared in the South Caucasus. In Kazakhstan, questions appeared with whom to be friends, what new allies could be etc.
  • A gradual, careful deepening of relations between Kazakhstan and other countries of Central Asia, as well as with Turkey in the medium or long term, is not ruled out.

The discussion in Russian is avaible here:

Yurii Poita

Head of the Asian Section

He has been working as a Head of the Asia-Pacific Section at the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (Kyiv, Ukraine). Yurii also is a sinologist and member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine.

He studied at the Institute of International Relations of the Kyiv International University, the Wuhan Research Institute of Postal and Telecommunications (China), Zhytomyr Military Institute (Ukraine). At the moment Yurii is a PhD candidate at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University.

He has experience in defense, international journalism, analytics and research.

Research interests: China’s influence in the post-Soviet space, “hybrid” threats to national security, Ukrainian-Chinese relations, the development of the situation in the Asia-Pacific and the Central Asian region.

He took part in a number of expert and scientific discussions in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Israel, China and other countries. He has participated in research projects on the consequences of educational migration to China, interethnic conflicts and the protest potential of Kazakhstan, creation of a new Asian strategy of the MFA of Ukraine, study of Ukraine’s relations with the countries of Central and East Asia.

Speaks Ukrainian, Russian, English and Chinese.

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March 2021
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