No risks or dangers to Azerbaijan, surely. Nor to its big brother and force multiplier Turkey. Certainly not to NATO for whom Azerbaijan is its outpost on the Caspian Sea.
But coming as they do only four months after the 44-day war launched by Azerbaijan (population: 10 million) and Turkey (population: 85 million) against Nagorno-Karabakh (population 145,000), Baku’s military exercises present a palpable threat to Nagorno-Karabakh, to Armenia and, though Zakharova would never acknowledge it, to Russia as well.
Armenian News states the Azerbaijani war games will include 10,000 troops – enough to easily overrun what’s left of shattered and depopulated Nagorno-Karabakh – 100 tanks and other armored vehicles and “200 rocket and artillery installations of various calibers, multiple launch rocket systems and mortars, up to 30 units of military aviation, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles for various purposes.”
But according to the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, “Azerbaijani military exercises do not pose risks to stability and security in the region,” as “these exercises are of a planned nature, aimed at improving the combat training of troops and do not pose risks to stability and security in the region.”
Though an Armenian news site has a different perspective on the matter:
“Less than half a year has passed since the insolent aggression of Azerbaijan and Turkey against Artsakh and Armenia. A NATO member country, using NATO weapons, committed a brazen act of aggression. Meanwhile, Turkey openly used terrorists from the Middle East….Disregarding numerous facts about the direct involvement of militants of terrorist groups by Turkey, the NATO Secretary-General [last week praised] the role of Turkey in the fight against terrorism.”
The armed forces of Azerbaijan with NATO powerhouse Turkey solidly behind them are most assuredly the major threat to peace in the Caucasus. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the guest of honor at the postwar victory parade in the capital of Azerbaijan on December 10 of last year, where among other matters he praised Enver Pasha, one of the key architects of the Armenian genocide of the last century, and read a poem condemning the “division of Azerbaijani territory” between Iran and Russia in the 1800s. Iran has a sizable Azeri minority that could be exploited by Azerbaijan and Turkey, with the U.S. and Israel behind them, to create a 1990s Yugoslavia scenario of attempting to splinter the nation with separatist movements. (Iran also has substantial Kurdish and Arab minorities.)
As a result of the above, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Tehran: “The Turkish ambassador was informed that the era of territorial claims and expansionist empires is over,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on its website….
“Iran does not allow anyone to meddle in its territorial integrity.”
During the one-sided war of last year Russian government officials went out of their way to claim Russia’s mutual military assistance obligations to Armenia under terms of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (of which both are members) did not apply to protecting Nagorno-Karabakh from what in effect was a NATO proxy war in former Soviet space under the ruse that Nagorno-Karabakh was not legally part of Armenia. Employing that logic, Russia would have abandoned South Ossetia to the Georgian invasion of 2008.
When on November 9 of last year, in the last days of the war, Azerbaijan shot down a Russian military helicopter over Armenia, killing two and wounding another Russian soldier, Moscow still took no action, meekly accepting Azerbaijan’s “apology.” Much as Russia did in 2015 when Turkey downed a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M over Syrian territory, with two Russian personnel murdered on the ground by pro-Turkish rebels after bailing out of the plane and a Russian soldier attached to a rescue helicopter also slain.
Why Moscow has been so subservient to Ankara in the Caucasus (and Syria) may well have to do in part with a lucrative deal to construct a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, Turkey which President Vladimir Putin celebrated as designed to “significantly enhance Turkey’s energy security and help advance the country’s further economic growth” at a ceremony marking the launch of the construction of the third unit of the nuclear power plant in Turkey’s Mersin Province on March 10.
The Izvestia report of Putin’s appearance and comment included this revealing statement: “Strengthening economic and military cooperation with a NATO state certainly boosts Russia’s positions in the region.”
On March 12 the Russian government news agency TASS reported that Moscow is prepared to negotiate the sales of Su-35 and Su-57 fighter aircraft to Turkey. The article doesn’t indicate who such advanced warplanes would be used against, though Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, Cyprus and Greece would not be bad guesses.
In the same report Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation spokeswoman Valeria Reshetnikova affirmed:
“The Turkish side has for quite long stated its intention to implement the project of developing its own TF-X fifth-generation fighter. Russia earlier indicated that it was ready to consider the possibility of cooperation under this program….”
The Russian government is not in the least concerned about Azerbaijan training for a potential final assault against Nagorno-Karabakh, and perhaps Armenia as well, nor is it at all fazed by Turkish military buildup; in fact it’s actively assisting it.
On January 30 Russia and Turkey opened a joint monitoring center in the Agdam district of Azerbaijan which formally recognizes the legitimacy of the Azerbaijani-Turkish attack on Nagorno-Karabakh and seizure of its territory last year, with over 45,000 people driven from their homes and more than 3,500 killed. It also formalizes NATO’s penetration of Russia’s soft southern underbelly. (Attention Putin apologists: that initiative was praised, and Putin’s role in it in particular, by the New York Times.)
Turkey and Azerbaijan, flushed with military triumphalism and irredentist pan-Turkic crusade fervor, and increasingly armed with Russian weaponry, are preparing for new wars. No one appears to care.