All posts by saradzhyan

My Selected Analytical Pieces in Reverse Chronological Order

“Time For Russia and Other Great Powers to Move From Words to Actions to End Karabakh War,” The Moscow Times, October 2020.

“Why Russia’s alliance with China is improbable, but not impossible,” FRSTRATEGIE,  September 2020.

“Measuring National Power: Is Putin’s Russia in Decline” with Nabi Abdullaev, Europe-Asia Studies, May 2020.

What Stops US and Russia From Stumbling Into War?” Russia Matters, January 2020.

“Alternative History: Would Russia in NATO and EU Be Game Changer in West’s Rivalry With China?” Russia Matters, November 2019.

How High Is Risk of Nuclear War Between Russia and US?” Russia Matters, August 2019.

With North Korea, Russia Knows It Can Only Play Second Fiddle to China and US ” Russia Matters, April 2019.

5 Years Since Russia’s Intervention in Ukraine: Has Putin’s Gamble Paid Off? ” Russia Matters, April 2019.

Lessons for Leaders: What Afghanistan Taught Russian and Soviet Strategists” Russia Matters, February 2019.

Putin’s Remarks on Use of Nuclear Weapons Are Confusing, But Unlikely to Constitute a Shift in Nuclear Posture ” Russia Matters, November 2018.

When Does Vladimir Putin’s Russia Send In Troops? ” Russia Matters, August 2018.

“China-Russia Relations: Same Bed, Different Dreams?” Russia Matters, June 2018 (with Ali Wyne)

Is Vladimir Putin’s Russia in Decline? We Figured Out How to Measure ‘National Power.’ ” Washington Post, June 2018 (with Nabi Abdullaev).

Armenia: Why Has Vladimir Putin Not Intervened So Far and Will He? ” Moscow Times, April 2018.

From Mutually Assured Destruction to Mutually Assured Delusion ” National Interest, March 2018.

When Does Russia See Red? ” The Moscow Times, January 2018.

Russia: Counterterrorism Partner or Fanning the Flames? ” Congressional Testimony, November 2017,

100,000 Troops Will Engage in Russia’s Zapad-2017 War Games” Washington Post, September 2017.

A Sino-Russian Military-Political Alliance Would Be Bad News for America ” Russia Matters. May 2017.

US-Russian space cooperation: a model for nuclear security”, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March 2017 (with William Tobey)

The Soviet Collapse and Its Lessons for Modern Russia: Gaidar Revisited ”, Russia Matters, December 2016.

Islamic State and the Bolsheviks: Plenty in Common and Lessons to Heed ,” Russia Matters, December 2016 (with Monica Toft)

Why Trump’s Victory Won’t Drastically Change the U.S.-Russia Relationship,” Huffington Post, November 2016 (with William Tobey)

Yes, Russia’s Military Is Training for a ‘Mega War.’ That’s What Militaries Do. ,” National Interest, August 2016.

Why Russia values a non-nuclear Iran more than higher oil prices ,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, August 2016.

Fixing Europe’s collective insecurity,” Boston Globe, July 8, 2016.

What Russia won in Syria,” Boston Globe, March 2016.

Ukraine’s Lost Cause,” Foreign Affairs, February 2016.

Russia’s Actions in Syria: Underlying Interests and Policy Objectives,” Harvard University, November 2015.

Putin’s Russia: Claims Versus Reality,” Huffington Post, November 0215.

 “No, Russia is not in decline – at least not any more and not yet,” Financial Times, April 18, 2016.

Putin Should Make Assad an Offer He Can’t Refuse,” Financial Times, November 11. 2015.

“Knowing when it’s war and how to avoid it,” Financial Times, March 18, 2015.

“Why Hopes of Putin’s Unconditional Surrender Could Prove to Be Futile.” Moscow Times, July 25, 2014.

“How Russia’s Red Line in Ukraine Got Real.” Russia Direct, April 16, 2014.

“Comparing Crimean Apples with Georgian Oranges.” Moscow Times, April 6, 2014.

“Putin’s Long Game.” The National Interest, March 21, 2014.

“Stand-off in Crimea: Cui Bono?.” Power & Policy Blog, March 12, 2014.

“Threat of a Failed Ukraine.” Boston Globe, February 22, 2014.

“The West should not count on Russian sensitivity to casualties to deter Putin,” Washington Post, February 24, 2014.
Continue reading My Selected Analytical Pieces in Reverse Chronological Order

(A) NAMES OF JIHADIST AND OTHER GROUPS WHOSE AFFILIATES TURKEY HAs DEPLOYED TO FIGHT IN KARABAKH, (B) NAMES OF THEse AFFILIATES, AND (C) DETAILS OF TURKEY’S DIRECT INVOLVEMENT IN THE KARABAKH WAR

Below are the evolving lists of jihadist and other groups (Lists A.1) whose members have been  reportedly deployed by Turkey to fight in Karabakh that I compiled using information that I found in mainstream English-language news and/or analytical sources. I have also compiled a list of some of the individual members of these groups who have been dispatched to fight in Karabakh, but obviously there are more to add (List B1.) . Much more, unfortunately. I have also begun to compile a list of evidence of the Turkish military’s direct involvement in preparation and execution of Azerbaijan military’s attempted offensives (Lists C.1 and C.2).


Errare humanum est and my area of expertise is Russia/FSU, not Syria, so if you see any yikes or wish to amplify or suggest update, do let me know in comments.

You can also download these lists in PDF format, which preserves original formatting with bullet points, by clicking on the link below.

The author is thankful to Emil Sanamyan for sending a variety of reports containing relevant information.

Latest update: November 17, 2020

Table A1: The following jihadist and other groups have had their members reportedly deployed by Turkey to fight in Karabakh, according to information reported by Western media reports and academic sources.

NoName of group, whose present and/or past affiliates have been deployed to Azerbaijan to fightNumber of present and/or past affiliates deployed to Azerbaijan to fight, Number of KIAsDescription of the groupSources cited by following organizations:
1ISISN/ATurkman Sayf Balud  appeared in an ISIS propaganda video and who has been described as a former ISIS commander is now fighting in Karabakh (see more info on him below). Sunni Jihadist group, known for large-scale atrocities against not only combatants, but also civilians, including terrorist acts in Europe, Russia and Middle East. Established a branch in Russia’s North Caucasus (Vilayat Kavkaz).Reuters, 09.29.30, Veysi Dag of University London in Open Democracy, 10.02.20; Michael Rubin in National Interest, 11.09.20 and 11.29.20 (also reported in Modern Diplomacy, 10.28.20, Simon Schofield in Jerusalem Post, 11.01.20)
2Ahrar al-ShamN/ASunni Jihadist group, Ahrar al-Sham worked with the Islamic State until January 2014, acted as Al Qaeda’s representative in Syria, according to Stanford’s resource on militant organizations.Designated as terrorist organization by Russia.Reuters, 09.28.20, MSN, 10.08.20, Stanford, RFE/RL, 09.30.20, Independent, 10.09.20, Veysi Dag of University London in Open Democracy, 10.02.20.    
3Jaysh al-NukhbaN/A from international news organizations, but Armenpress reports at least 11 KIA in Karabakh.Trained, equipped and supported by Turkey as part of the “Syrian National Army” (SNA)Designated as terrorist organization by Russia.Reuters, 09.28.20, RFE/RL, 09.30.20 (also reported by RF government funded Sputnik.)
4Jabhat Fateh al-ShamSunni Jihadist group, previously known as al-Nusra Front Affiliated with al-Qaeda until July 2016.Veysi Dag of University London in Open Democracy, 10.02.20, BBC, 08.01.16, Reuters, 10.06.20 (quoting Russian foreign intelligence chief Naryshkin, who referred to it as al-Nusra)
5Jaysh Al-Islam300, deployed on Oct. 9Islamist group, intent on establishing a Sharia state in SyriaSupported by Saudi Arabia in addition to Turkey.Veysi Dag of University London in Open Democracy, 10.02.20, Guardian, 11.07.13, (also reported by Syrian Observer, 11.07.18. The National, 10.10.20)
6Jaysh al-NasrIslamist group, supported by Turkey.Other info: Partially equipped by U.S.  Veysi Dag of University London in Open Democracy, 10.02.20, Jamestown, 03.02.17, (also reported by  Al Jazeera, 07.18.19)
7Hamza faction of the “Syrian National Army” (SNA)500 individuals, 4 KIA in Karabakh, according to ArmenpressOffered 1,800 a month to its fighters to go fight on Baku’s sideTrained, equipped and supported by Turkey as part of the SNA.As of 2019 headed by suspected former ISIS fighter Ebu Bekir, according to the Intercept.According to the Daily Beast, however, it is headed as of 2020 by Turkman Sayf Balud who has previously appeared in an ISIS propaganda video and who has been described as Sayf Balud as former ISIS commander.Other info: Also trained and equipped by U.S.: Hamza Division was vetted by the Pentagon in 2016 and then armed and trained by the U.S. to battle against ISIS.Daily Beast, 09.28.20, Intercept, 10.26.20, Study of War, 10.09.19, Reuters, 09.29.30.Guardian, 09.30.20, Reuters, 10.06.20 (quoting Russian foreign intelligence chief Naryshkin) Yahoo/France 24, 10.20.20; RFE/RL, citing Lindsey Snell, 10.23.20 (also reported by Seth Frantzman in Jerusalem Post, 10.03.20., National Review,  10.22.20, Novaya Gazeta, 10.26.10., Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.)  
8Sultan Murad faction of the “Syrian National Army”500 individualsHeaded by Turkman Fahim Aissa.Paid $500-1200 a monthTrained, equipped and supported by Turkey as part of SNA.Tortured Kurdish POWSEngaged in hostilities in Libya.Had US equipment: Claimed to have been “well stocked” with new supplies of U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles.  Out of the 28 factions, which formed SNA, a total of 14 were recipients of the U.S.-supplied  TOW anti-tank guided missiles, according to Turkey’s pro-government SETA think-tank.Also fighting in LibyaDaily Beast, 09.28.20, Reuters, 10.19.15. SETA, October 2019, Independent,  06.16.20, Guardian, 09.28.20, Reuters, 10.06.20 (quoting Russian foreign intelligence chief Naryshkin) (also reported by Jerusalem Post, 10.14.20 Yahoo/France 24, 10.20.20 Le Monde, 10.22.20Seth Frantzman in Jerusalem Post, 10.03.20. Novaya Gazeta, 10.26.10, Morning Star, 10.27.20, Al Monitor, 10.30.20, DC-based Middle East Media Research Institute, 11.09.20, DW, 11.02.20.)  
9Suleyman Shah faction (aka Sliman Shah) of the “Syrian National Army”A total of 1,000 fighters from Suleiman Shah, Sultan Murad,  and Al Hamza factions are participating in fighting in Karabakh, according to Guardian,Turkish-backedTortured Kurdish POWS   Commanded by Muhammad al-Jasem (Abu Amsha) and by (previously) Fehim Isa.   Reported to use child soldiers   Also fighting in Libya   Other info: Also engaged in hostilities in Libya.Fox News, 10.04.20, Independent,  06.16.20, Guardian, 10.02.20. The New York Book Review, 10.16.20 (also reported by Kommersant, 10.16.20, Novaya Gazeta, 10.26.10, Syria Direct, 10.15.20, Elizabeth Tsurkov, 10.15.20, Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20, DW, 11.02.20, DC-based Middle East Media Research Institute, 11.09.20)    

Table A2: In addition, the following jihadist and other groups have had their members reportedly deployed by Turkey to fight in Karabakh, according to information reported by Armenian, Russian and other countries’ media organizations:

Name of group, whose present and/or past affiliates have been deployed to Azerbaijan to fightNumber of present and/or past affiliates deployed to Azerbaijan to fight/Number of KIAs  Description of the groupSources cited by following organizations:
1Al FurqanN/A from international news organizations, but Armenpress reports at least 32 KIA in Karabakh.If Al Furqan refers to Alwyia Al-Furqan, then it is Sunni Jihadist organization, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.Armenpress, 09.28.20, Aaron Y. Zelin in Jihadology.net, 05.14.13.
2Levant FrontN/A from international news organizations, but Armenpress reports at least 22 KIA in Karabakh and Macron was quoted as saying 300 jihadists from the Aleppo region, where this group is based, have been deployed.Syrian rebel group based around Aleppo.Armenpress, 09.28.20, MiddleEastEye, 09.29.20., Le Figaro,10.02.20, Liberation, 10.02.20.
3Samarkand Brigade400 of its elements to Azerbaijan were sent to Azerbaijan for a monthly salary ranges between 1700 USD and 2000 USD.  MiddleEastEye, 09.29.20, Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.also reported by RF-government-funded Sputnik.
4Malik Shah faction Faction of SNA Turkish-backedAsia Times, (Hong Kong-based English language news media publishing group 10.07.20, DC-based Middle East Media Research Institute, 11.09.20  
5The Mu’tasim faction of SNA Offered 1,800 a month to its fighters to go fight on Baku’s sideActive in AleppoAlso fighting in LibyaSeth Frantzman in Jerusalem Post, 10.03.20, citing Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Novaya Gazeta, 10.26.10., Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20, DW, 11.02.20.  
6Faylaq al-ShamSent 150 individuals according to al Monitor,Syrian Sunni Islamist rebel groupSeth Frantzman in Jerusalem Post, 10.03.20, citing Guardian and Middle East Eye; MiddleEastEye, 09.29.20, Kommersant, 10.16.20, al Monitor, 10.02.20, Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.  
7PMC SADAT Participated in recruitment and deployment of 1,300 Syrian mercenaries to fight on Baku’s side against Armenian forces in the Terter area for $1500-2000 a monthParticipated in recruitment and deployment of 300 Libyan mercenaries to fight on Baku’s side against Armenian forces in the Dzhebrail area for $1500-2000 a monthThe first group of these mercenaries arrived in Azerbaijan on Sept. 22 and included members of SNA’s so-called 2nd Corps.Kommersant, 10.16.20.  
7Ajnad al-Kavkaz150Active in in northern Syria, primarily in the mountainous, forested areas of northern Latakia province Arrived in Azerbaijan in JulySyrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.

Table B.1: The following individual members of jihadist and other groups whose members have been reportedly deployed by Turkey to fight in Karabakh, according to information reported by Western media reports and academic sources.

NoName or pseudonym, place of residencePresent or past affiliation with groupDescription of individual and/or group he is affiliated withSources cited by following organizations:
1N/A, northern SyriaAhrar al-ShamThe individual is getting paid for participation in fighting in KarabakhSee Entry No. 1 in Table A.1. above for description of the Ahrar al-Sham group. Reuters, 09.28.20, Stanford;  
2N/A, northern SyriaJaish al-Nukhba (“Elite Army”)The individual is getting paid for participation in fighting in KarabakhSee Entry No. 2 in Table A.1. above for description of the Jaish al-Nukhba group.Reuters, 09.28.20, RFE/RL, 09.30.20
3Kinan FerzatSultan Murad faction of “Syrian National Army”See Entry No. 8 in Table A.1. above for description of the Sultan Murad group.Fox News, 10.04.20. Independent,  06.16.20, The Guardian, 09.28.20. (Also reported by Modern Diplomacy, 10.07.20 and Syria Direct, 01.15.20)
4Omar, IdlibSultan Murad faction of “Syrian National Army”See Entry No. 8 in Table A.1. above for description of the Sultan Murad group.Guardian, 09.28.20.
5Muhammad (pseudonym), city of Azaz located north-northwest of AleppoSultan Murad faction of “Syrian National Army”Muhammad was summoned to a military camp in Afrin on 13 September and   told by a commander in the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad division that work was available guarding observation posts and oil and gas facilities in Azerbaijan on three or six month contracts at 7,000-10,000 Turkish lira (£700-£1,000) a month – significantly more than they could earn at home.See Entry No. 8 in Table A.1. above for description of the Sultan Murad group.Guardian, 09.28.20.
6Mahmoud (pseudonym), AzazSultan Murad faction of “Syrian National Army”See Entry No. 8 in Table A.1. above for description of the group.Guardian, 09.28.20.
7Muhammed Shaalan from the town of Al Atarib, KIAShaalan’s unit in Hamza faction of the “Syrian National Army” (SNA)See Entry No. 9 in Table A.1. above for description of the Hamza group.Guardian, 09.30.20. (Also reported by Modern Diplomacy, 10.07.20)
8Hussein Talha, from Ain Jara village, KIAShaalan’s unit in Hamza faction of SNASee Entry No. 9 in Table A.1. above for description of the Hamza group.Guardian, 09.30.20.
9Sadam Aziz Azkor of the settlement of al Kareem, KIAShaalan’s unit Hamza faction of SNASee Entry No. 9 in Table A.1. above for description of the Hamza group.Guardian, 09.30.20.
10Abu Ahmad, (pseudonym), 26 years oldnorth Syria/described as pro-Turkish, but no affiliation specifiedSays went to fight for $2,000 a monthAFP, 10.03.20.
11Mohammad Shaaban, KIAN/AAFP, 10.03.20.
12Name not specifiedFrom town of Atareb in Aleppo province, serving in an unit commanded by Mohammad Shaaban, described as pro-Turkish, but no affiliation specifiedAFP, 10.03.20.
13Name not specified,Affiliated with one of SNA’s factionsSays went to fight for 1$,500 a month.CNN, 10.01.20
14Mustafa Khalid, 23 years oldFrom Idlib, Sultan Murad faction of “Syrian National Army”See Entry No. 8 in Table A.1. above for description of the Sultan Murad group.Guardian, 10.02.20.
15Mohammed Al-Shuhna, 22, Idlib, From Maarat al-Nouman, Idlib province, KIAAhrar al-ShamPromised between $1,000 and $1200 a monthapproximately 55 dead Syrians who were brought home via the Huwwar Killis border crossing with Turkey over the weekend.See Table A.1. for description of Ahrar al-ShamMSN, 10.08.20, Independent, 10.09.20
Likely same person as No 15Muhammad al-Shuhneh, 25 years old, From Maarat al-Numan, KIA near Barda N/AFP, 10.05.20,
16Mustafa Qanti, 23,Hamza factionVideo recorded near Azeri ammunition depot just south of Horadiz See Table A.1. above for description of the Hamza factionIndependent, 10.09.20  
17Cousin of Abu Mohammed, 37, from Eastern GhoutaN/AIndependent, 10.09.20  
18Kinan Firzat, KIASultan MuradAn ex-Syrian army captain turned rebel battalion commander in the Hamza factio Blown up along with five members of his team during fightingSee Table A.1. above for description of the Sultan Murad factionIndependent, 10.09.20 (also reported by Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.)  
19Mahmoud Najjar,38, KIAFrom Aleppo, body shipped back to Syria along with51 other Syrian KIAsPaid $2,000 a month(WP, 10.14.20)
20Mohammed al-Hamza, 26From AleppoSays “Around 250 of us have asked to go home.”Previously ‘did a ‘tour’ in Libya  Guardian, 10.13.20.
21N/A, 38—year oldN/Apromised monthly salary of $1,500.being sent to fight on Azerbaijan’s side  along with other in groups of up to 100 at a time.WSJ, 10.14.20
22N/A, 38N/Apromised monthly salary of $1,500. being sent to fight on Azerbaijan’s side  along with other in groups of up to 100 at a time.WSJ, 10.14.20
23Abdel Basit (name altered by the journalist)From Rastan, HomsAffiliate of the “Syrian National Army”Deployed in the beginning of September Primary motivation is money, individuals like him promised between $600 to $2,500 a month “Nearly killed Oct. 25, with 11 others killed and 40 wounded from same groupThe New York Book Review, 10.16.20; Elizabeth Tsurkov 10.25.20  
24Rustum Sultan Murad faction (see table A.1 for description of this faction)The New York Book Review, 10.16.20  
25Samir SNA affiliatePrimary motivation is moneyThe New York Book Review, 10.16.20  
26From Idlib, POWSultan Muyrad DivisionArmenian media identified him as Youssef El Abdel El Haji, recruited by Abu Ahmad for $2000 a month; moved to Azerbaijan with 500 others; id’d as from Sultan Murad divisionReuters, citing Armenia’s MFA, 11.02.20; (also reported by Elizabeth Tsurkov 11.01.20)
27From Hama, POWSultan Murad DivisionArmenian media identified him as Mehred Mohammad Alsher, said he was promised $2,000, arrived 10.19.20; id’d as from Sultan Murad divisionReuters, citing Armenia’s MFA, 11.02.20; (also reported by Elizabeth Tsurkov 11.01.20)
28Omar al-Jalabi, KIAHamza DivisionCommander of Brigade 80Elizabeth Tsurkov, 11.01.20

Table B2: In addition, following individual members of jihadist and other groups whose members have been reportedly deployed by Turkey to fight in Karabakh,  according to information reported by Armenian, Russian and other countries’ media organizations:

NoName or pseudonym, place of residencePresent or past affiliation with groupDescription of individual and/or group he is affiliated withSources cited by following organizations:
1Khaled Saleh (pseudonym), 25 years old From Aleppo, Syrian National ArmySays he is getting paid $1,500 to fight See Table A.1. for description of SNA  Al Monitor, 10.07.20
2Jasim Himmish (a pseudonym), 35 years oldFrom the city of Baza’a in northeastern Aleppo, Syrian National ArmySee Table A.1  for description of SNAAl Monitor, 10.07.20
3Bilal Hamdan (a pseudonym), 24Idlib, Sultan Murad DivisionSee Table 1 for description of Sultan Murad DivisionAl Monitor, 10.07.20
4Khaled, 20 years old, native of Homs, lived near AleppoMalik Shah faction of SNASaid he was getting paid 1500 a month See Table A.1. for description of Malik Shah factionAsia Times, (Hong Kong-based English language news media publishing group_ 10.07.20  
5Ahmad, 42Sultan Murad faction of SNASaid he was getting paid 1500 a month See Table A.1. for description of Sultan Murad factionAsia Times, 10.07.20.
6Mahmoud, from town of Maaret al-Numaan, KIAHamza faction of SNAMahmoud said they were not getting fed enough and were being mistreated by the Azerbaijani officers since their arrival at the front line.Asia Times, 10.07.20. The National, 10.10.20  
8Mohammad, 19Worked in al-Bab city.His mother says she “has lost touch with her 19-year-old son, Mohammad, who ran away to become a mercenary in Azerbaijan.”Asia Times, 10.07.20.
9Ibrahim, 24, from town of Sarmada atSultan Murad faction of SNAOffered ($1,300 a month Interviewed east of KarabakhThe National, 10.10.20  
10Adham (pseudonym) from north Aleppo village of Kafr JannahN/ASyria Direct, 10.12.20
11Muhammad Abdul Razzaq, 45, from Aleppo, KIA in September 2020From Sultan Murad faction of SNASyria Direct, 10.12.20, Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.
12A-Shahna, 26, from Maarat al-Numan (also identified as Muhammad Khaled al- Shihnah), KIAN/ASyria Direct, 10.12.20, Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.
13Adel al-Shaher, KIACommander with Hamza faction of SNA Islamic World News, 10.27.20, Mir Novostei, 10.29,.29
14Mahmoud al-Najjar., KIAThe Mu’tasim faction of SNA Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.
15Abd al-Hanan Abd al-Razzaq, KIAThe Mu’tasim faction of SNA Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.
116Bilal al-Taybani, KIAthe 112th “Division” Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.
17Walid al-Ashtar, KIAFaylaq al-Sham Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.
19Abu Jassem Al-Zaghloul, KIASultan Murad faction of SNA Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.
20Saddam Droubi, KIAHamza faction Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.
21Muhammad al-Sha’alan,  KIACommander in Hamza faction Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.
22Hussein Talha, KIAEscort guard of Muhammad al-Sha’alan Syrians for Truth and Justice, 10.02.20.
23Yusuf Alaabet al-Hajji, POW. From Ziyadiya village in the Jisr al-Shughur region of Idlib province of Syria.Recruited by Abu Hamsha, commander in commander of the Suleyman Shah faction of SNA Asbarez, 11.04.20.
24Mehrab Muhammad al-Shkheir. POWRecruited by Abu Hamsha, commander in commander of the Suleyman Shah faction of SNA Asbarez, 11.04.20.

Table C.1 Evidence of Turkey’s direct support for the Azerbaijani offensive against Karabakh in international media that  I found in mainstream internationally recognized English-language news and/or analytical sources.  

July 2020 –  OctoberAt least 2 F-16 Turkish air force warplanesat Ganja International Airport in Azerbaijan Deployed on July 31, 2020, still there at on Oct. 7RFE/RL, 10.09.20, Drive, 10.07.20, Defense Blog, 07.31.20,
Duration of Karabakh warNot only did Turkey wage the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through drones, military advisors, special forces commandos, and imported Syrian mercenaries, but there is also a growing body of evidence to suggest that Ankara played an outsized role in Baku’s decision to launch the September offensive. A panoply of high-ranked Turkish officials met with their Azerbaijani counterparts throughout the summer to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, and Turkish arms sales to Baku exploded in the months leading up to the September offensive.  National Interest, 11.18.20.

Table C.2 Evidence of Turkey’s direct support for the Azerbaijani offensive against Karabakh in regional media sources

DateDetailsSource
July-August 2020600 Turkish armed forces servicemen were were deployed to Azerbaijan to participate in wargames in July-August and stayed on to provide support for the Azerbaijani offensive.  These included 600 servicemen in a dedicated battalion-level tactical group, 50 instructors in Nakhichevan, 90 military advisers in Baku (to serve as liaison in the conduct of hostilities in the command chain of  brigade-corps-general staff);120-strong flight personnel at the Gabala airbase; 20 drone operators at the Dallar airfield, 50 instructors at the Yevlakh airfield, 50 instructors in the 4th Army Corps (Pirekeshkul)  20 servicemen at the naval base and at the Heydar Aliyev military school in Baku.  Kommersant, 10.16.20.  
September 28-30, 2020Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar (educated in  Queen’s University Belfast and served as staff officer in NATO’s Allied Forces Southern Europe) and commander of the Turkish ground forces General Ümit Dündar (educated at Royal Army Staff College in UK) were in Azerbaijan on Sept,. 28-30 to exercise general command of the combat operations agains Karabakh.   General Bakhtiyar Esray (spelling not clear, in Russian Бахтияр Эрсай) was in Baky, supervising the Azerbaijani general staff, according to an Azeri official close to the Azeri MoD, citied by Vzglyad.Kommersant, 10.16.20, Vzglyad, 11.12.20
September 30, 2020Medicines and small arms were delivered from Turkey to Azerbaijan in CN-235 planes along the route Etimesgut (Ankara) -Nasosnaya (Haji-Zeynalabdin).  Kommersant, 10.16.20.  
October 7, 2020The delivery of personnel and ammunition was then carried out on October 7 by a C-130 Turkish Air Force plane (flight TUAF737).  Kommersant, 10.16.20.  
October 9, 2020On October 9, Azerbaijani military transport aircraft Il-76TD (flight AZAF002) flew over Georgia to deliver  200 machine guns with ammunition.  Kommersant, 10.16.20.  
October 14, 2020Turkey had requested air transit over Georgia for flights on October 14, 21 and 28 and Georgian granted those requestsKommersant, 10.16.20.
Since July 2020 and in duration of Karabakh warAzerbaijan’s Bayraktar TB2 drone strikes against Armenian and separatist targets were coordinated by a Turkish major-general who has been in Baku since at least July. Vzglyad identified him as – генерал-майор, начальник 1-го Центра снабжения и технического обслуживания ВВС Турции Гексель Кахья.Vzglyad, 11.12.20, National Interest, 11.18.20.

Time for Russia and Other Great Powers to Move From Words to Actions to End Karabakh War

The ongoing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh has already become the most serious escalation of hostilities since the 1994 ceasefire. That ceasefire came as a result of mediating efforts by multiple countries, but Russia played the lead role at the time. More than 16 years later Russia remains the only country capable of single-handedly compelling Armenia and Azerbaijan to discontinue hostilities. Yet, while  repeatedly issuing calls for a ceasefire in various unilateral and multilateral formats, Russia has been so far unwilling to back its calls with credible promises of deeds that Moscow would need to take to compel the sides to lay down arms, even if only temporarily.

I think it is time Russia used its formidable leverage to bring Azerbaijani and Armenian diplomats to a negotiating table even if the ceasefire is the only deal they can now discuss as almost two weeks of fierce fighting have probably made a lasting peaceful resolution of the conflict over Karabakh unattainable in the near future. The Kremlin should also use its resources to put pressure on Turkey, whose direct military support for Azerbaijan includes deployment of pro-Turkish Syrian jihadists, is unprecedented for part of post-Soviet Eurasia, which Russia has declared to be a zone of its privileged interest. These actions will be in Russia’s national interests for three reasons, in my view.

First,  I think every additional day of fighting is fraught with escalation that could make Kremlin’s current approach of being equidistant to Armenia and Azerbaijan untenable. If the fighting continues and escalates, making one side closer to prevailing over the other, Russia would have to choose from two unpalatable options: either side with Armenia and ‘lose’ Azerbaijan, or the way around. Moreover, if it chooses to side with Azerbaijan, Moscow would see its reputation of a reliable military ally, which it has burnished in Syria, seriously damaged. In fact, I wonder if that reputation is already being doubted by some of Russia’s allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). After all, could not have escaped their attention that even participating all in all of Russian-led integration projects in post-Soviet Eurasia, including CSTO, like Armenia does, does not prevent Moscow from being “equidistant” to you and your adversary even if the latter has initiated hostilities against you and, unlike you, is not Russia’s military ally. That Russia has not aided Armenia, opting to be equidistant to Yerevan and Baku in this war instead, also contradicts a statement, which then-commander of Russia’s military base in Armenia Andrei Ruzinsky made in 2013 . In an interview with the Defense Ministry’s daily that must have been vetted by Moscow, Colonel Ruzinsky said :”If the leadership of Azerbaijan decides to use force to restore jurisdiction over Nagorno Karabakh,the base can enter the armed conflict per Russia’s CSTO obligations.

Second, Turkey’s decision to get militarily involved in the conflict by sending its proxies to fight on Baku’s side, deploying F-16s to Ganja and providing material support for the Azerbaijani military represents the first time an external power has become militarily involved a conflict in parts of post-Soviet Eurasia. If the Russian leaders do, indeed, post-Soviet Caucasus as part of what they describe as zone of its privileged interests, then Turkey’s intrusion into it should be not just a matter of grave concern, but also a reason for Russia to act. (In fact, Karabakh has become a third region, where Turkish proxies are fighting against Russia’s allies, after Syria and Libya.)

Third, participation of jihadists in the hostilities on Russia’s borders should be treated as crossing of a Russian red line. And don’t take my word for it. It is an advisor to the Russian president’s Security Council that has said so. “If direct participation of the Turkish military or militants from Syria is proven, that will be a red line,” said Alexander Dynkin, president of Russia’s  Institute of World Economy and International Relations and member of the scientific advisory board of the Security Council. Dynkin’s “if” would appear redundant to anyone who has time to take a cursory look at recent reporting by such respected news organizations, as Reuters, Guardian, and RFE/RL. In fact, based on their reporting,  I have compiled an entire list of these Jihadist groups whose past and present affiliates have been sent by Turkey to fight on Azerbaijan’s site. These groups include Ahrar al-Sham,  Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and ISIS  (which is now quietly “rising from the ashes” in Syria and Iraq), according to information that I have collected from mainstream English-language news and analytical resources for the aforementioned list. In fact, chief of Russia’s own foreign intelligence Sergei Naryshkin has publicly listed, which jihadist groups have delegated their fighters to participate in combat on Baku’s side, saying that “we are speaking about hundreds or even thousands of radicals prepared to win earnings in the new Karabakh war.”

The presence of these jihadists in a country that borders Russia’s North Caucasus should be of great concern to Moscow. After all, one of the goals of Russia’s intervention in Syria were to prevent jihadists turning their gaze towards Russia upon ousting Assad and establishing a Caliphate there. It follows then that the Kremlin should have even less tolerance for the same jihadists being across the border from its North Caucasus, which has accounted for more of anti-state violence in post-Soviet Russia than any other region and which has been home to scores of al-Qaeda and Islamic State loyalists some of whom even proclaimed establishment of an ISIS vilayat there. That the Kremlin is discontent with the deployment follows from multiple Russian official statements, including one by Naryshkin and another one by the Russian Foreign Ministry that has described presence of foreign rebels in Azerbaijan as “inadmissible. ”  However, we have so far seen no actions on the part of Russia to compel these jihadists from disengaging and leaving the South Caucasus, not in the public/overt domain at least. Russia should put meaningful pressure on Turkey so that it would at the very least withdraw these jihadists. So far Turkey has showed no signs of being willing to do so, but perhaps, it would change its mind if Russia signals that it would be prepared to impose economic and other costs on Turkey if it doesn’t withdraw its proxies. Turkey, which is already  suffering from a weak economy, exports more than 4 billions of dollars worth of produce and other goods to Russia annually, so it would probably pay attention if Moscow sends such a signal just like it did when it curtailed imports from Turkey to punish Ankara for a deadly shooting down of a Russian warplane in 2015, forcing Turkish President Recep Erdogan to apologize and seek to mend fences.

Yes, such sanctions could cost Russia, which exports billions of cubic meters of gas to and via Turkey, too. However, I would argue that the Kremlin’s interest in ending Turkey’s military involvement in what Russian leaders insist to be a zone of their country’s privileged interests would trump the desire to avoid economic costs. (The need to defend Russia’s national interests should also trump whatever reluctance Vladimir Putin may be feeling on the personal level to do something that would be interpreted as support for Nikol Pashinyan who has sought to place Putin’s friend and ex-president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan behind the bars and keep him there in spite of signals from Putin not to do so.)

Putin’s Russia is not the only country that should be not only concerned with the continuing fighting over Karabakh with involvement of Turkish-sent jihadists in it, but also act on its concerns.

As news reports by cited in the aforementioned list of groups whose members have been deployed from Syria to fight in Karabakh indicate, the United States  has helped to train and equip some of them. For one, we all remember what some of the rebels that US helped to train and equip to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan ended up doing in the 1990s-2000s. More important, it cannot be in U.S. interest to see jihadists, including past and present associates of Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and their affiliates, establish presence in yet another country. Yet, when it comes to mediating a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan,  “Trump is nowhere to be seen,” as Washington Post columnist David Ignatius lamented back in September and again in October. U.S. could, start with immediately suspending security aid to the initiator of the hostilities.

I also think that French president Emmanuel Macro really thinks the deployment of Syrian jihadists by Turkey to Azerbaijan has crossed a “red line” than he should act on it. Otherwise, it will become another of Europe’s multiple “pink lines.”

America’s small, but powerful ally Israel should also be concerned with Turkey’s behaviour and act on its concern. In fact, I have a question for realpolitik adepts in Israel to ponder: If Turkey is indeed a greater threat to Israel than Iran to per Yossi Cohen of Mossad’s view, then why is Israel arming, Azerbaijann, Turkey’s closest ally whose gains vis-a-vis Armenia, if they become reality, would strengthen Turkey’s geopolitical clout? (In fact, of all U.S. allies only Canada has so far moved from words to actions in its efforts to pressure Turkey into ending its involvement in the Karabakh conflict.)

If both U.S. and its allies were to throw their weight behind a meaningful Russian initiative to discontinue the Armenian-Azeri hostilities and to make Turkey (which is, BTW, a U.S. ally in NATO) withdraw its proxies and back that initiative with credible promises of economic sanctions and other punitive actions, then this war would be over soon. (To be fair, U.S. and France already joined Russia to issue a call for a ceasefire in their capacity as co-chairs of OSCE’s Minsk group, but only one of the warring parties [Armenia] said it is prepared to heed it wihout preconditions, while the other two either refused to heed it without preconditions [Azerbaijan] or rejected it altogether [Turkey]). Otherwise, fighting will continue, increasing the risk of escalation into a regional conflict, which will have dire consequences for the entire continent. (Last Defense Minister of USSR Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov apparently warned Turkey in 1991 that its intervention could lead to a WWII. I think his warning remains at least somewhat relevant today)

Going forward, once the ceasefire is achieved, perhaps, it will be time for Russia to take time and rethink its current approaches to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. As one of Russia’s best foreign policy experts Fyodor Lukyanov has observed, Russia’s  long-time approach towards maintaining status-quo over Karabakh by convincing both sides they cant prevail in war no longer works. “Hence, Russia needs to give it serious thought what is that it actually wants” vis-à-vis the two countries and the region as a whole, Lukyanov said. I cannot agree more.

This is an evolving unedited draft, originally written on October 6, 2020

Updated on November 11, 2020 to include a quote by the commander of Russia’s military base in Armenia.

ON WAR IN AND AROUND KARABAKH


I.ON RED LINES:

I.A.If Turkish F-16s are participating in combat against Armenia, then that constitutes a very compelling reason for Russia to intervene as crosses one of its red lines. Russia’s reputation as a reliable ally of its allies and CSTO’s future as a viable collective security pact are at stake among other things. Russian military has plenty of technical means to monitor air traffic in the region and I am sure Russian leaders are well briefed whose warplanes operate over the South Caucasus. So if Turkish air force’s is indeed flying combat sorties against Armenia out of the Gandzhya airport, then pretending that Russia is not unaware of that would not be an option.

I.B. Leading Russian military expert Vasily Kashin believes Russia would treat expansion of hostilities to the territory of the Republic of Armenia as crossing of a Russian red line. If that is indeed a redline, then technically that redline had been crossed before: Azeri forces shelled the territory of Armenia proper on multiple occasions, so technically that expansion had happened before, but large-scale ground offensive didn’t.


II. ON PUTIN’S EQUIDISTANT STANCE

II.A.Putin told Pashinyan that the hostilities need to stop hostilities twice in past 3 days , according to Kremlin’s site but I can’t find any signs on the site that Putin told Aliyev anything in past 7 days. Peskov said on 28/9 Putin’d talk to Aliyev “if necessary.” Well, isn’t it?

II.B. If Peskov is in the know this time about Putin’s immediate plans this time, then judging from his statements the Kremlin plans to stick to diplomacy. So far, I have not come across any statements made by Putin himself, which indicates he is reluctant to get involved.

II.C.In his take on drivers of RF’s stance, A. Arbatov says security of Republic of Armenia is “ensured quite reliably”; Russia is equidistant and that Armenia won’t be welcomed in either EU and NATO if it leaves RF-led integration projects.II.D.That all above might be real politik, 100% pure, but short-sighted. As renowned Armenian-Russian movie director Karen Shakhnazarov put it in reference to Russia’s position on fighting for Karabakh: “It’s time for Russia to make up it her mind. Either she is an Empire or a trading enterprise that lays pipes and sells goods to everyone.”


III. “RETURN” KARABAKH TO WHOM?

III.A.If UN demographic estimates for Armenia are true for NKR, then 40%+ of Karabakh Armenians are 0-29 years old, so they physically can’t have any memories of being governed from Baku because they were not born yet when war started/USSR fell apart. Yet Baku declares these people should ‘return’ to Baku’s rule.

III.B. Same goes for Armenians in the Republic of Armenia, 40% have no memories of Karabakh being part of Azerbaijan, Soviet or otherwise, yet, Aliyev thinks they should concede to give Karabakh up so that he can rule there.


IV. ON GEORGIA’S SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS:

Georgia’s decision to disallow military transit to Armenia and Azerbaijan obviously hurts Armenia much more, given that Azerbaijan borders its ally and that Armenia’s only other open border is with Iran. Georgia may be thinking it is pursuing its national interest, but, I’d encourage its leaders to think what their country’s geopolitical situation would look like if Armenia is no more.


V. GOING FORWARD:

My measurements of national power show that Armenia’s national power has grown since its independence, but Azerbaijan’s has grown much more. That trend constitutes an existential threat to Armenia and needs to be reversed. Therefore, rather than spend time thinking of how else to prosecute members of the previous ruling elite, Armenia’s present leadership should take a long view of what needs to be done to reverse further weakening of Armenia vis-à-vis Azerbaijan in all components of national power in general and in the human capital in particular (both quantity and quality of that capital need to increase)

Will Russia Intervene Militarily in Belarus?

When Kyrgyz president Bakiyev asked Russia/CSTO to intervene to nip a color revolution against him in the bud in 2010, Putin ignored that plea. However, when Lukashenko made similar pleas this week, Putin first apparently promised “comprehensive security assistance,” according to Lukashenko, and then in a second conversation with Lukashenko Putin noted “external pressure” on Belarus and confirmed “preparedness to render necessary assistance in resolving the emerged problems on the basis of the treaty on establishment of the Union State, and, if needed via the Collective Treaty Organization.”

These statements have a number of Russia watchers proclaim Russia’s military intervention in Belarus is imminent or is even underway. But is it?

To answer this question, I suggest exploring whether two conditions, which I have earlier identified as necessary and sufficient for Russia’s military intervention, are present in the case of Belarus. I identified those conditions to explain why Putin’s Russia did not intervene during the color revolutions in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, but did so during the revolution in Ukraine in 2014 and in Syria in 2015. I also used this approach to predict that Putin would not intervene in Armenia when pro-Russian leader Serzh Sargsyan was being ousted from power in 2018 even though Russia had plenty of troops on the ground to do so.

First (Condition 1), Putin has to see either an acute threat to Russia’s vital national interests that he thinks can be neutralized or at least tamed by the means of military intervention (or opportunities to advance those interests).  The situation in Ukraine in 2014 generated serious concern in the Kremlin that one of Russia’s post-Soviet neighbors may “escape” to what Russia sees as a hostile alliance whose expansion eastward need to be stopped per what Putin sees as a vital interest. The situation in Syria also threatened key Russian interests, as seen by the Russian leadership, in several ways, including an attack on an ally or client and possibility that some of the jihadists may then turn their gaze towards Russia upon prevailing over Assad. This first condition was absent during the revolutions in Kyrgyzstan of 2010 and in Armenia of 2018 because the revolutionaries in both countries were careful to affirm their intention to remain in Russian-led integration projects rather than try take their countries elsewhere geopolitically.

The second condition ( and my thinking is still evolving on this Condition 2) for Putin’s Russia to use overt or cover military force against another country or in that country is that Moscow need to have reasonable hope that, of all potential methods of responding to threats to vital national interests,  a military intervention would yield the largest net reduction in the threats to Russia’s vital interests.

Condition 1 is currently absent in Belarus as of August 16. The  public leaders of opposition have so espoused no public desire to take Belarus into NATO. Nor the opposition (as of August 17) close to toppling Lukashenko.

Whether Condition 2 was present in Belarus as of August 16 is unclear.  On one hand, Russian power agencies have mobile units that can easily and rapidly be deployed to per Lukashenko’s pleas of help and, as long as Lukashenko remains in power, that can be framed as assistance to the countries’ authorities. On the other hand, Putin knows  he has other, less costly, but relatively effective ways to ensure Belarus remains oriented towards Russia that can be tried before he orders a covert or overt intervention.  That is as of  August 17. Should, however, (1) the leaders of Belarus opposition be found to have been harboring serious intentions to take Belarus to NATO; and (2) come close to toppling Lukashenko, expect Putin to give a serious consideration to a full-fledged military intervention.

 

(Updated on August 17)

Comparing Impact of Chernobyl and Coronavirus Calamities, Using the Earnest May Method (Identify Similarities and Differences to Ascertain Whether a Historical Analogy Can Be Drawn)

Comparison of Impact of Soviet Chernobyl (SC) and “China Coronavirus” (CC)

Similar Different

 

 

Both SC and CC occurred when their countries of origin were locked in a rivalry for global supremacy with another superpower. SC occurred when Soviet Union was in decline vis-à-vis its main competitor and the world as a whole. CC is occurring when China is actually rising vis-à-vis its main competitor.
Both SC and CC impacted the economy of the country of origin. The cumulative economic impact on the economies of the country of origin is likely to differ in scale over time if no cure/vaccine is found for the virus.

Chinese economy is estimated to have already incurred losses of little less than $1 trillion as a result of CC hurt while SC cost the surrounding republics an estimated total of $700 billion in 30  subsequent years.

  SC had limited impact on the global economy and economy of foreign countries, CC had major impact on both.
Both Soviet and Chinese leaders sought to initially conceal information about the incident. Conduct of Soviet authorities in the wake of SC made a lasting and formidable contribution to public distrust in those authorities, further undermining the image of the Communist party and Soviet authorities in while fueling their reputation of incompetence both inside the country and in the world. In contrast, after initial ineffectiveness,  Chinese authorities’ aggressive response to CP has been viewed as ultimately competent and effective (with the exception of the initial period) both inside China and in many other countries.
  SC contributed to centrifugal trends inside USSR with parts of the elites in republics viewing the incident as another reason why they should secede from Moscow/Russian rule.  Many among Uighurs and Tibetans may have similar views of Beijing, but the latter had quashed centrifugal tendencies, so I don’t believe this outbreak has so far led to re-ignition of the separatist challenges China’s ethnic Han leadership.
The impact of  SC and CC on health and environment spread beyond borders of the country of origin, though SC’s damage to the environment was mostly limited to the European continent while CC’s impact on health and lives is global. SC caused damage to the environment, CC actually improved the environment.
Both SC (about 4,000 deaths reported, but disputed) and CC (about 4,500 deaths, but disputed) cost under 10,000 human lives. CC kills almost  instantly, whereas SC-related death occurred over many years.
  SC was a result of a human error, Patient 0 in CC was not (unless escaped from a lab)
  SC was not followed by nation-wide lockdowns (though I remember how parents made me stay at home for days and keep windows closed), while CC did prompt this measure.
SC occurred when USSR was ruled by a person, who, per the Soviet tradition, was expected to rule for life. Same is largely expected in the case of CC.  

 

 

Comparison of Impact of Soviet Chernobyl (SC) and “US Coronavirus” (USC)

Similar Different
Both SC and USC occurred when their countries of origin were locked in a rivalry for global supremacy with another superpower.  
Both SC and USC occurred when their countries of origin were in decline vis-à-vis their main competitor.  
Both SC and USC impacted the economy of the country of origin. The cumulative economic impact on the economies of the country of origin is likely to differ in scale over time if no cure found.  American economy is estimated to incur losses of $7.9 trillion in 10 years because of USC while SC cost the surrounding republics an estimated total of $700 billion in 30  subsequent years.
  SC had limited impact on the global economy and economy of foreign countries, USC is bound to have major impact on both, given how much more damage USC has done to the second largest economy of the world.
Both Soviet and American leaders sought to initially downplay the dangerous consequences of the initial incident (though at least Gorby did not assure that the Chernobyl will “magically” disappear or suggest injecting sanitizer).  
Conduct of Soviet authorities in the wake of SC made a lasting and formidable contribution to public distrust in those authorities, further undermining the image of the Communist party and Soviet authorities in general while fueling their reputation of incompetence both inside the country and in the world.   The US government’s reaction to USC has also been criticized as ineffective: in May 2020 only about a third of Americans approved of how the federal government is handling the pandemic (at the same time, the damage to Trump’s popularity has not been significant: a decline of 2 percentage points in March-May)  
  SC contributed to centrifugal trends inside USSR with parts of the elites in republics viewing the incident as another reason why they should secede from Moscow/Russian rule. USC has no such impact.
The impact of  SC and CC on health and environment spread beyond borders of the country of origin, though SC’s damage to the environment was mostly limited to the European continent while CC’s impact on health and lives is global. SC caused damage to the environment, USC actually improved the environment.
Both SC (about 4,000 deaths reported, but disputed) and CC (about 4,500 deaths, but disputed) cost under 10,000 human lives. USC kills almost instantly, whereas SC-related death occurred over many years.
  SC was a result of a human error, Patient 0 in CC or USC was not (unless escaped from a lab)
  SC was not followed by nation-wide lockdowns (though I remember how parents made me stay at home for days and keep windows closed), while USC did prompt this measure.
  SC occurred when USSR was ruled by a person, who, per the Soviet tradition, was expected to rule for life. Not so in the case of USC.

 

Russia’s New Document on Deterrence Spells Out Scenarios for RF Use of Nukes

The biggest news, in my preliminary view, is that this new strategic document spells out scenarios, under which Russia could use nuclear weapons in sections 19-20, fleshing out what the 2014 military doctrine and other strategic documents said on such use (you can access Russia’s previous strategic documents via Russia Matters’ section on such documents)

My rough translation of “Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence,” as approved by Vladimir Putin’s decree of June 2, 2020 with comments in Italics

I. General Provisions
1. These Fundamentals are a strategic planning document in the field of defense and reflect official views on the essence of nuclear deterrence and define military dangers and threats, which needs to be neutralized through nuclear deterrence, principles of nuclear deterrence, as well as set conditions for transition of the Russian Federation to the use of nuclear weapons.
2. Ensuring a guaranteed deterrence of a potential enemy from aggression against the Russian Federation and (or) its allies is one of the highest state priorities. The deterrence of aggression is ensured by the totality of the military power of the Russian Federation, including by its nuclear weapons.
3. The state policy of the Russian Federation in the field of nuclear deterrence is a set of coordinated political, military, military-technical, diplomatic, economic, informational and other measures that are united by a common plan and that are  implemented with forces and means of nuclear deterrence, to prevent aggression against the Russian Federation and (or) its allies.

  1. The state policy in the field of nuclear deterrence is defensive in nature. It is aimed at maintaining the potential of nuclear forces at a level that is sufficient to ensure nuclear deterrence, and that guarantees the protection of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, deterrence of a potential adversary from aggression against the Russian Federation and (or) its allies, and to prevent the escalation of hostilities in the event of a military conflict and cessation of these hostilities on conditions acceptable to the Russian Federation and (or) its allies.
    5. The Russian Federation views nuclear weapons exclusively as a means of deterrence, the use of which would constitute extreme and compelled measure. The Russian Federation is making all necessary efforts to reduce the nuclear threat and prevent aggravation of interstate relations that could provoke military conflicts, including nuclear conflicts.
    6. The regulatory framework of these Principles is set by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, by the generally recognized principles and norms of international law, by international treaties in the field of defense and arms control, to which the Russian Federation is a party, by federal constitutional laws, federal laws, other regulatory legal acts and documents regulating defense issues and security.
    7. The provisions of these Fundamentals are binding for all federal government bodies, other government bodies and organizations involved in nuclear deterrence.
    8. These Fundamentals may be adjusted depending on external and internal factors affecting the provision of defense.

 

  1. The essence of nuclear deterrence
    9. Nuclear deterrence is aimed at ensuring that the potential adversary realizes the inevitability of retaliation in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation and (or) its allies.
    10. Nuclear deterrence is ensured by the presence of combat-ready forces and means in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation that are capable of using nuclear weapons to inflict unacceptable damage to a potential enemy in any situation, as well as by the willingness and determination of the Russian Federation to use such weapons.
    11. Nuclear deterrence is carried out continuously in peacetime, during periods of direct threat of aggression and in wartime, until nuclear weapons are used.
    12. The main military dangers, which, depending on the change in the military-political and strategic situation, can develop into military threats to the Russian Federation (threats of aggression) and which are neutralized by nuclear deterrence, are follows:
    a) building of the groupings of general forces, which include nuclear delivery vehicles, by the potential adversary in the territories adjacent to the Russian Federation and its allies and in the adjacent sea areas; Implies US, its allies.
    b) deployment of -ballistic missile defense systems and means, medium- and shorter-range cruise and ballistic missiles, high-precision non-nuclear and hypersonic weapons, unmanned attack aerial vehicles, and directed energy weapons by states that consider the Russian Federation as a potential adversary; Implies US and those of its allies that officially designate Russia as adversary (not all NATO members do that(
    c) creation and deployment of missile defense and strike systems in space;
    d) presence of nuclear weapons and (or) other types of weapons of mass destruction in states that can be used against the Russian Federation and (or) its allies, as well as presence of means of delivery for these types of weapons in states;
    e) uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons, their means of delivery, technologies and equipment for their manufacture;
    f) deployment of nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles in the territories of non-nuclear states. NATO.
  2. The Russian Federation carries out nuclear deterrence vis-a-vis individual states and military coalitions (blocs, unions) that consider the Russian Federation as a potential adversary and possess nuclear weapons and (or) other types of weapons of mass destruction or significant combat potential of general forces. US and its allies.
    14. When exercising nuclear deterrence, the Russian Federation takes into account the deployment of the following weapons and systems of a potential adversary in the territories of other states that can be used against the Russian Federation and (or) its allies: offensive weapons (cruise and ballistic missiles, hypersonic flying vehicles, attack unmanned aerial vehicles), directed energy weapons, missile defense systems, early warning systems, nuclear weapons and (or) other types of weapons of mass destruction.
  3. The principles of nuclear deterrence are:
    (a) compliance with international arms control obligations;
    b) continuity of nuclear deterrence measures;
    c) adaptability of nuclear deterrence to military threats;
    d) ensuring that a potential adversary remain uncertain of the scale, time and place of the possible use of forces and means of nuclear deterrence;
    e) centralization of state management of the activities of federal executive bodies and organizations involved in nuclear deterrence;
    f) rationality of the structure and composition of the forces and means of nuclear deterrence, as well as their maintenance at a level minimally sufficient to fulfill the tasks; continuity of pledge to avoid arms race
    g) maintenance of constant readiness of the forces and means of nuclear deterrence that have been designed [to be ready] for combat use.
    16. The nuclear deterrence forces of the Russian Federation include land, sea and air-based nuclear forces.

 

III. Conditions for  transition of the Russian Federation to the use of nuclear weapons
17. The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies, as well as in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is jeopardized. Same language as in 2014 doctrine.

  1. The decision to use nuclear weapons shall be taken by the President of the Russian Federation.
    19. The following conditions determine possibility of the use of nuclear weapons by the Russian Federation: 19 A-D, and 20 are the new stuff, I think:
    a) receipt of reliable information about the launch of ballistic missiles attacking the territory of the Russian Federation and (or) its allies; Note that distinguishing between nuclear and conventional armed – meant to signal to US.
    b) use of nuclear weapons or other types of weapons of mass destruction by the adversary against the territories of the Russian Federation and (or) its allies;
    c) the adversary’s impact (attack) on critical state or military facilities of the Russian Federation, which if rendered inoperable, would lead to disruption of the response by [RF] nuclear forces;
    d) aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is jeopardized.
  2. The President of the Russian Federation can, if necessary, inform the military-political leadership of other states and (or) international organizations of the readiness of the Russian Federation to use nuclear weapons or of the decision to use nuclear weapons, as well as inform them about the fact of their use.
  3. Tasks and functions of federal government bodies, other government bodies and organizations for the implementation of public policy in the field of nuclear deterrence
    21. General management of state policy in the field of nuclear deterrence is carried out by the President of the Russian Federation.
    22. The Government of the Russian Federation is taking measures to implement economic policies aimed at maintaining and developing nuclear deterrence facilities, as well as formulating and implementing foreign and informational policies in the field of nuclear deterrence.
    23. The Security Council of the Russian Federation shapes the main directions of the military policy in the field of nuclear deterrence, and also coordinates the activities of federal executive bodies and organizations involved in the implementation of decisions adopted by the President of the Russian Federation regarding nuclear deterrence.
    24. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, through the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, directly plans and conducts organizational and military measures in the field of nuclear deterrence.
    25. Other federal executive bodies and organizations participate in the implementation of decisions adopted by the President of the Russian Federation regarding nuclear deterrence, in accordance with their authority.

 

 

On Impact of Pandemics

A 2011 scenario-planning report, which I co-wrote with Nabi Abdullaev, listed an infectious disease pandemic as a key uncertainty for Russia that could cause thousands of deaths in the country and contraction of the Russian economy; lead to sharp increase in the public’s discontent with the government, and cost United Russia a majority in Duma (https://lnkd.in/eaTCd37)EWosg5gXYAA7az6
The question is how tangible and lasting that impact will be (will it impact the outcome of of the referendum on constitutional amendments this year [I doubt that] or the Duma elections in 2021 [more probable])? State-owned VTSIOM polls already show that the share of Russians would entrust Putin with solving important state problems fell in March 2020 to lowest level in 14 years: 28.3%. Moreover, independent pollster Levada’s experts predict impact of the coronovirus outbreak on Russian authorities’ popularity won’t be really felt until several months from now (https://lnkd.in/eEF-kMz).
EWpbVLcX0AMc1Kb

What do yellowcake and cheesecake have in common?

What do yellowcake and cheesecake have in common? They are both made by companies Russia’s federal government has deemed systemically important, and, therefore, eligible for state aid for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. While the inclusion of ООО “Макдоналдсand some other Western fast-food franchises into the list has gotten a lot of play in the Russian media, drawing fire from some of their Russian competitors, nobody has contested the inclusion of Госкорпорация “Росатом” that produces yellowcake and processes it into what eventually becomes fuel for Russia’s nuclear power plants (NPPs). After all, amid the coronavirus crisis—which some in Russia are already comparing to the Chernobyl catastrophe in terms of magnitude—ignoring the needs of the corporation that operates 11 NPPs (including one floating one) and builds nuclear warheads could prove, literally, to everyone’s peril (and not only everyone in Russia).

 

That a disruptive infectious disease outbreak would strike the world, including Russia, has been predicted time and again (including in a 2011 piece I co-authored with Nabi Abdullaev), and Rosatom along with other Russia’s nuclear organizations have been surely preparing contingency plans for such a development. In fact, Rosatom’s management should be commended for quickly grasping the pandemic can impact the safety of its operations and activating its contingency plans, even though only a small number of its employees have reportedly been diagnosed with the virus as of late March. First, Russian press reported in late March that a technician at the Beloyarskaya NPP and his wife were diagnosed with the virus after his daughter got sick upon travelling to the U.S. Responding to these diagnoses, the management of the Beloyarskaya NPP re-housed the core personnel responsible for operating the plant’s two reactors from their apartments in and around the so-called “closed town” of Zarechny to a sanatorium, where they are monitored by medics and from where they are bussed to run the plant. Then, three employees of the Kurskaya NPP were diagnosed with the virus in the second week of April. By then Andrei Petrov, director general of Rosenergoatom, had already signed an edict to order key operational personnel at all 11 NPPs, which this Rosatom subsidiary operates, to be housed separately, receive regular medical check-ups and be bussed to and from work in designated vehicles.

 

In addition, authorities in the towns of Zarechny and Kurchatov, where the Beloyarskaya NPP and Kurskaya NPPs are located, have introduced restrictions on movement to and from the towns. At least three of the other closed towns that host Rosatom facilities have reportedly also introduced such restrictions: Novouralsk, Snezhinsk and Trekhgorny.

 

Even before Petrov’s April 3 order, his boss and director of Rosatom, Alexey Likhachev, issued a statement on his company’s efforts to keep its employees safe from the outbreak. The March 26 statement said that Rosatom has “always had contingency plans for any kind of emergency situations, including those related to the health of our employees,” and that the corporation has introduced additional measures as the disease reached Russia, including “regular health check-ups of our personnel,” acquisition and deployment of “protective equipment and hygiene-related products” and arranging for “as many employees as possible to work remotely.” Likhachev also asserted in his statement that “safety is Rosatom’s key value,” touting his corporation’s commitment to “ensuring nuclear safety and safeguarding the lives and health of both our employees and the general public.” However, Likhachev did not specify in that statement whether and how his corporation is working to prevent the pandemic from impacting nuclear security.

 

As for other Russian organizations involved in ensuring and/or monitoring nuclear safety and security, the Ministry of Defense (MOD), National Guard (Rosgvardia), Federal Security Service (FSB) and Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service (Rostekhnadzor)  have all taken measures to shield their personnel from the virus. At the same time, however, the MOD did not postpone the spring draft, which started on April 1. Moreover, none of the aforementioned agencies have released any information on whether and how many of its personnel may have been tested or diagnosed with COVID-19. However, on April 14, Russian news outlet Kommersant reported that at least three Russian military servicemen had been diagnosed with the virus by March 30. They included a colonel in the Moscow area and a midshipman in the Northern Fleet, according to Kommersant. Additionally, the crew of a Northern Fleet nuclear submarine was placed in quarantine in March after commanders found that some crew members had been in contact with a civilian servicing specialist who had been on a plane with an infected person, according to Russia’s RBK agency.

 

Hopefully, the MOD, FSB and Rosgvardia have all developed contingency plans to make sure that units involved in ensuring adequate levels of nuclear security remain adequately staffed to foil any attacks by non-state actors, such as the Islamic State, that may want to exploit the disruptions caused by the virus to try to stage catastrophic attacks. In fact, ISIS, which had over 5,000 nationals from post-Soviet republics in its ranks at its peak and which continues to have active supporters in these republics, has already reportedly begun urging its followers to exploit disruptions caused by the virus to stage attacks, and some ISIS followers from the former Soviet Union have already tried to answer this call. Prosecutors in Germany announced on April 15 that they detained five suspected Islamic State members earlier that day for allegedly planning to stage an attack on U.S. military facilities. Prosecutors did not disclose which of the military facilities that the U.S. maintains in Germany—including a nuclear weapons depot—the five Tajikistani nationals planned to attack. In addition to ISIS, al-Qaeda and other violent extremist actors are also reportedly seeking opportunities to exploit the crisis to advance their agendas. In addition to ensuring adequate levels of physical security, the defense and security agencies and Rosatom should also plan for deflecting cyber-attacks, given that some of the Russian nuclear establishment’s personnel have been transferred to working online from home.

 

We can also hope that Rosenergoatom’s decision to isolate core personnel responsible for operating its NPPs has been replicated by units of its parent company, Rosatom, and of the Russian Defense Ministry that operate vessels like nuclear-powered icebreakers, nuclear-powered submarines and the nuclear-powered Pyotr Veliky battle cruiser for the duration of the outbreak. Perhaps testing the crews of these vessels for COVID-19 repeatedly before departure and then limiting the operations of some vessels to areas from which they can quickly return to a Russian port in case of an outbreak can also be considered to prevent spreading the infection to many, including to reactor operators. Given the presence of ICBMs and air-launched nuclear-armed missiles in Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenals, Moscow can probably afford to impose such temporary measures on its SSBNs without significantly undermining the second strike capability.

 

Finally, I believe the Russian military units and civilian organizations that operate all types of nuclear reactors, be they electricity generators or research reactors or propulsion units, should also draw contingency plans, if they have not already done so, for scenarios in which the number of healthy operational personnel falls below levels that allow for safe operations.

 

Russian nuclear organizations cannot entirely shield themselves from the pandemics, but they can and should mitigate the impact of the outbreak by not only taking measures themselves, but also sharing best practices meant to ensure that their activities remain safe and secure not only for their personnel, but for the rest of the population.

 

 

 

16 More Years of Putin: A Promise of Stability That Looks Like Stagnation

In an unscheduled, but quite choreographed appearance at the State Duma this week, Vladimir Putin has blessed a constitutional amendment that would allow him to stay in the Kremlin through 2036. “The President is the guarantor of the Constitution or, simply put, the guarantor of the country’s security, domestic stability and, as I said before, evolutionary development,” Putin told the lower chamber on March 10. What the 67-year-old leader, who may end up ruling Russia longer than Ivan the Terrible, did not mention in his address to the lower chamber, however, is that his lifetime presidency would actually bode ill for the stability of the country in the longer-term.

When Putin proposed back in mid-January to amend the Russian Constitution to dilute some of the presidential powers and empower the State Council (Gossovet), it was interpreted as evidence that he intends to continue playing a role in steering the country, but, perhaps, in a capacity other than that of president. In particular, Putin’s Jan. 15 proposals “to fix the status and role of the State Council in the Russian Constitution” and transfer the right to name the premier from the president to the parliament were seen as signs that he might leave the Kremlin when his fourth term expires in May 2024, but retain a different role at Russia’s helm. Other options discussed for Putin at the time included empowering the presidential Security Council, so that he could stay on as its chairman, or even becoming head of the Russian-Belarussian Union state. As the Kremlin’s domestic politics team gauged Russians’ reactions to these options in the wake of the January address, Putin initially appeared to be signaling that he would leave the Kremlin in May 2024, per the existing constitution, which prohibits anyone from serving more than two consecutive presidential terms. “It would be very worrisome in my view to return to the situation of the mid-1980s when the leaders of the state, one by one, stayed in power until the end of their days,” Putin told Russia’s WWII veterans on Jan. 18. Yet it is exactly that lifetime privilege that Putin chose to keep in his menu of options when he made his unusual, but choreographed, appearance in the State Duma on March 10. (And, ironically, it was the need for “stability, keeping everything the way it is, like in the 1970s and 1980s” that a Kremlin insider cited when praising the amendment in an interview with Financial Times, even though to many Soviet citizens that period was known as stagnation.) My guess is that conservatives who dominate his inner circle and who are interested in extending his rule as much as possible have convinced him to expand the number of options available to him come 2024 to include a continuation of his presidency.

The theatricals meant to portray this expansion of options as someone else’s initiative started with pro-Kremlin lawmaker Valentina Tereshkova, a former cosmonaut who was the first woman in space, proposing to either scrap “the artificial constructions” of limits on presidential terms or to reset the counter of these limits for Putin to zero at the March 10 Duma sitting. (Four days earlier, Putin had personally wished her a happy birthday, calling her a “real hero.”) The majority then quickly agreed to invite the president to appear in the Duma to discuss the matter, which he did. Putin accepted the invitation, and, as stated above, delivered a speech in which he touted his role in ensuring the country’s stability, but also conditioned his consent for resetting his number of presidential terms on having the nation’s Constitutional Court vet the proposal. Once he had spoken, Tereshkova and the rest of the Kremlin’s yes-women and -men voted to include the proposal into the raft of constitutional amendments before passing the full package to the upper chamber, the Federation Council, which is also dominated by Kremlin loyalists. The council wasted no time in endorsing the bill on March 11, with only one senator casting his vote against the amendments. The amendment package will now go to the Constitutional Court for vetting before it is put up for a nation-wide referendum on April 22.

Some of the nation’s leading constitutional law experts have already expressed reservations about the bill, but hardly anyone has any doubts that the Constitutional Court will endorse the amendment that would allow Putin to essentially become president for life if he wants to. Anyone who thinks otherwise should look up some of the public commentary by the court’s longtime chair, Valery Zorkin, who has not so long ago lamented what he saw as the negative consequences of abolishing serfdom in tsarist Russia (and never mind that he chairs the court supposed to ensure compliance with the law that enshrines the fundamental rights and freedoms of Russians). Public opinion has been split almost evenly between those who favor Putin staying in the Kremlin beyond 2024 and those who oppose it, but I expect those counting the ballots on April 22 to somehow ensure a resounding “yes” to this and other amendments.

There should also be no doubt that much of Russia’s ruling elite, which depends on Putin for jobs and fortunes, including some of the long-serving government ministers and chief executives of state-controlled conglomerates, stands to benefit from this arrangement both politically and financially. Kremlin tea-leaf-reading is never an easy exercise and we are yet to see whether Putin does decide to stay on as the president beyond 2024. What I am pretty confident in is that his continued stay in the Kremlin for two more terms, if not more, would bode ill for the long-term stable development of Russia, which saw its share of world’s gross domestic product and population shrink by 6 percent and 20 percent, respectively, on his watch, according to the IMF and World Bank. (Putin did preside over the period of impressive economic growth of 7 percent per year in the 2000s, but that fizzled out and his success in reversing depopulation in the 2010s proved to be short-lived).

Reversing these and other trends requires an orderly and timely transition of executive power, not a rewriting of the constitution to one man’s liking. It requires a system in which the executive, judicial and legislative branches of power balance and check each other in reality as opposed to just on paper. And it requires deep structural reforms that Putin welcomed in his first term, helping to foster a decade of growth, but then grew averse to as many in his retinue learned to benefit from the status quo. For one, Russia cannot hope to revive the growth rate of 7 percent or more that it enjoyed early in Putin’s rule unless its economic growth model, which has been reliant on energy exports, is rebuilt. That requires not only liberalization in the economy, where the state’s share has been estimated to reach 55 percent, but also improving the quality of public administration and enforcing rule of law to minimize wide-spread corruption. This includes ending the sweet deals that some of the nation’s monopolists reportedly hand to companies controlled by some of Putin’s close friends and the law-enforcement officers who extract so many bribes from private businesses that they could qualify for Forbes’ list of richest Russians, if their fortunes were legal. (My calculations show that Interior Ministry Col. Dmitry Zakharchenko, who headed the agency’s anti-corruption department, was worth up to $460 million as of 2016, which would have made him number 172 on Forbes’ list of Russia’s richest that year, just below Mikhail Khodorkovsky). Putin has successfully hoarded tens of billions of dollars to try to finance national projects meant to turn Russia’s economic, technological and socio-demographic fortunes around, but such a reversal would be problematic to execute, to put it mildly, in a corrupt, non-competitive and badly governed environment. No calls for technological modernization, increased private investment and, ultimately, reviving economic growth at rates above the global average—all of which Putin made in his Jan. 15 address—will be heeded unless private entrepreneurs are shielded from prospects of losing bids to politically connected rivals or even having their businesses seized from them by venal law-enforcers, sometimes with the help of corrupted judges.

When anyone else will get a chance to move in to the Kremlin and whether he or she will then attempt reforms to address these and other flaws, which are hindering Russia’s development, is, as of this week, anyone’s guess.

 

A shorter version of this post was originally published by Russia Matters.