Azerbaijan’s Joint Exercise With Turkey Sends Familiar Warning Message to Armenia

Turkish Armed Forces at the Victory Parade 2020 in Baku

“The exercises are still another warning to Armenia to refrain from any border provocations and cool the attitude of those who harbor ideas and goals of revenge.”

Azerbaijan has carried out several joint military exercises with Turkey in recent years as part of their security cooperation partnership. Past exercises with Turkey have often sought to prepare Azerbaijani forces for a potential conflict with Armenian-backed separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh and gain experience from Turkey’s Armed Forces.[i] The accompanying excerpted article from the independent Caucasus-based news website Kavkazskiy Uzel reports on a joint Azerbaijan-Turkey exercise that took place in October 2023, which has sent a familiar message to Armenia. According to an expert who previously worked in the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, the recent exercise serves as a warning to Armenia. Even though Azerbaijan regained control over Nagorno-Karabakh from ethnic Armenians in an operation a month prior to the exercise taking place, the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia have yet to reach an agreement demarcating their border, with disputes leading to several clashes along the border over the past few years. Azerbaijan’s exercise ultimately shows how it continues to develop its Armed Forces with Turkey’s help in preparation for a potential conflict with Armenia. Yet, the article mentions that the most recent exercise is different from previous ones because it involved more types of units outside of Azerbaijan’s Army, including missile and artillery, engineer, and special forces units. The exercise is also different because there are no longer Armenian troops on Azerbaijan’s territory. Given that Azerbaijan regained control of Nagorno-Karabakh it presumably no longer needs to conduct that type of scenario in an exercise.


Faik Majid, “Аналитики в Баку оценили значение азербайджано-турецких учений (Analysts in Baku assessed the meaning of the Azerbaijsan-Turkish exercise),” Kavkazskiy Uzel (independent Caucasus-based news website), 25 October 2023.

“Up to three thousand military personnel are taking part in the joint Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises “Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – 2023”, which began on October 23 in Baku, Nakhichevan, as well as in the territories of Karabakh that came under the control of Azerbaijan.

The current joint Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises differ from previous ones in that they involve almost all types of troops, military expert, former employee of the information and analytical department of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan Azad Isazade told the “Caucasian Knot”…

Judging by official reports, units of the ground forces of the Azerbaijani army, a separate combined arms army stationed in the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, the Air Force, missile and artillery troops, engineering troops, special forces, even special forces of the Navy and representatives of the relevant types of troops of the Turkish Armed Forces are taking part in the exercises…

“Azerbaijan, after the anti-terrorist operation on September 19-20, restored its territorial integrity. There are no longer Armenian troops on its territory. However, the exercises are still another warning to Armenia to refrain from any border provocations and cool the attitude of those who harbor ideas and goals of revenge,” the military expert suggested. The algorithm of joint exercises between Azerbaijan and Turkey indicates Baku’s determination to transfer its army to the Turkish model of armed forces, says military expert, retired officer Adalat Verdiyev…One of the advantages of the Turkish army model is that small groups of special forces, commandos, even without the participation of artillery and other types of combat units, can independently successfully complete missions, going deep into rear of the enemy over long distances, or suddenly deliver crushing blows to the enemy’s forward positions,” said Verdiev…


[i] For more information on past Azerbaijan-Turkey exercises, see: Matthew Stein “Azerbaijan’s Post-War Exercise with Turkey,” OE Watch, March 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Turkish Armed Forces at the Victory Parade 2020 in Baku
Attribution: CCA 4.0

Iran’s Supreme Leader Announces Maritime Development Strategy

Iran’s rugged but underdeveloped Makran coast littoral is pictured. Iran’s Supreme Leader has recently articulated a maritime development plan.

“It is necessary to make use of the coasts, offshore areas, and the seas effectively.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently announced a new, multi-decade approach to develop Iran’s coasts. While it is unclear if and how fast Iran might reconfigure or reorient its economy towards a maritime development strategy, the ambition of the maritime plan and its announcement by Khamenei set it apart from previous Iranian economic strategies and proposals.[i]

As per the excerpted article from the official web portal of the Iranian Supreme Leader, Khamenei called for a whole-of-government approach in his nine-point directive, with the formation of new bodies and government reorganization to accomplish the ambitious plan. Khamenei does not describe where Iran will acquire the billions of dollars needed to actualize this plan. Regardless, he provides the clearest indication to date that Iran seeks to develop the Makran Coast beyond the port of Chabahar, and that Khamenei envisions greater ties to Pakistan and Azerbaijan, two traditional rivals.[ii] Khamenei’s statement also provides diplomatic endorsement for ambitious north-south and east-west commercial corridor schemes involving trade across Iran to Russia through Azerbaijan and from China through Pakistan.[iii] Though his call to defend maritime resources from exploitation from other countries may signal a subtle warning about China, a country with whom Iran has developed warm diplomatic relations.[iv] Among Indian Ocean littoral states, China has a record of overfishing and illegally exploiting other country’s maritime resources. While Khamenei signals that Iran seeks to become a regional hub for commerce, his emphasis that any development should conform to Islamic-Iranian values might undercut the attractiveness of foreign investment, especially among Iran’s non-Persian, non-Islamic neighbors. Still, Iran’s attempts to reorient its economy bear watching and, if even partly successful, this regional economic integration can have great impact on the operational environment.


“Ablagh-e Siyasatha-ye Kali Tawse’ah-e Darya Mahavar” (Communicating Sea-Oriented Development Policies),” (official web portal of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei), 7 November 2023.

The oceans are divine gifts with rich reserves and resources for the development of science and technology, for achieving job growth and increased wealth, for the provision of vital needs, and for increasing the country’s strength. Since Iran has a privileged geographical position and is located between two seas with thousands of kilometers of beaches as well as islands, many of which remain untouched, it is necessary to make use of the coasts, offshore areas, and the seas effectively…. Accordingly, we have determined General Sea-based Development Policies as follows:

 1. The establishment of an integrated policy for sea-based affairs, for the division of work at the national level, and for an active, efficient management of the sea in order to make maximum use of the sea’s capacities to attain a fitting global position and to reach a top position in the region.

2. The development of sea-based-economic activities and the creation of advancied sea-based development centers to speed growth on the coasts, islands, and hinterlands in such a way that sea-based economy will always be at least twice the country’s economic growth rate over the next ten years.

3. The facilitation and development of domestic and foreign investments and partnerships by creating the necessary legal, economic, and security frameworks.

4. The formulation of a comprehensive sea-based development plan that includes zoning of the sea, the coast, and the backshore… with emphasis on an Iranian-Islamic identity….

5. Maximum, optimal utilization of the capacities, resources, and reserves of the marine ecosystem by preventing the destruction of the marine environment, especially by other countries.

6. The provision and advancement of committed, efficient human capital and management….

7. The expansion of economic and commercial cooperation…with neighboring and other countries….

8. Increasing the country’s share in sea-based transport and transit by establishing and strengthening a combined transport network.9. Supporting native and local investors in development projects… and also backing small and medium enterprises in local communities in various areas including fishing, agriculture, industry, and tourism.


[i] Across the Middle East, populations settled and cities grew alongside coastlines and rivers. See: Baghdad, Beirut, Benghazi, Cairo, Casablanca, Tel Aviv, Tunis, and Tripoli for example. Iran has been the exception. Cities developed across the Iranian plateau, separated from the Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea and Indian Ocean by mountain ranges or inhospitable badlands. While the 20th century oil boom brought some development to the Persian Gulf coast, nine of Iran’s top ten cities by population are landlocked, with Ahvaz connected to the Persian Gulf by the Karun, Iran’s only navigable river.

[ii] For previous discussion of Chabahar development, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran: Construction Begins on the Chabahar-Zahedan Railway” OE Watch, December 2020.

[iii] For background into Iran’s developing ties with Azerbaijan, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Agrees To Gas Swap with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan” OE Watch, 01-2022.

[iv] For background about Iran-China economic ties, see: Michael Rubin, “Iranian Trade With China Is Up, but So Is Political Risk” OE Watch, 08-2022.

Image Information:

Image: Iran’s rugged but underdeveloped Makran coast littoral is pictured. Iran’s Supreme Leader has recently articulated a maritime development plan.

The Evolution Of Russia’s Peacekeeping Mission In Nagorno-Karabakh

Map of the 2023 Nagorno-Karabakh war showing Azerbaijan day-to-day advances.

“The conditions under which the Russian peacekeeping contingent was introduced into the region in 2020 have been seriously adjusted.”

On 19 September 2023, Azerbaijani forces launched an operation against the breakaway republic of Artsakh, and within days, succeeded in ending ethnic Armenian control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The excerpted article from the independent news website Kavkazskiy Uzel reports on how Azerbaijani control of Nagorno-Karabakh has impacted the Russian peacekeeping mission.[i] The article notes that Russian peacekeepers dismantled a few observation posts and established new ones, some of which were set up with Azerbaijan to jointly protect the weapons and equipment surrendered by the armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh. The dismantled observation posts were situated in eastern Nagorno-Karabakh near Azerbaijan. The article also notes, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that its peacekeepers will adapt to the new situation, even as a large percentage of the population in Nagorno-Karabakh has left the region. The mandate of the Russian peacekeeping mission runs through November 2025 and will be automatically extended for another five years unless the governments of Armenia or Azerbaijan request to terminate it. The article notes that the Armenian government signed a declaration recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan two weeks after Azerbaijan took control of the region, essentially ending support for the breakaway republic. While one of the main tasks of the Russian peacekeeping mission has changed, it appears likely that Russia will continue to operate in the region.


“МИД России пояснил смену постов миротворцев адаптацией к новым условиям (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia explained the change to the posts of peacekeepers as adapting to the new conditions),” Kavkazskiy Uzel (independent news website reporting on the Caucasus), 10 October 2023.

Peacekeepers are adapting to new conditions against the backdrop of a mass exodus of the population from the region, reported Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

As t“e “Caucasian K”ot” wrote, on October 5, peacekeepers reported on the dismantling of observation posts in the Askeran, Martakert and Shusha regions, and on October 8, the Russian peacekeeping contingent dismantled posts in the Martuni and Martakert regions…

A day earlier, the Russian peacekeeping contingent reported that the Russian peacekeeping contingent had set up 25 guard posts in the North (seven posts) and South (18 posts) areas of responsibility, including 14 jointly with the Azerbaijani side. Peacekeepers are taking part in the protection of warehouses with ammunition, weapons, military and special equipment surrendered by the armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh, as stated in the bulletin dated October 9.

The activities of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh will adapt to new conditions against the backdrop of a mass exodus of the population from the region, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said today…

As a result of the virtual capitulation of Stepanakert, Azerbaijan gained control over the region. On September 28, the President of Nagorno-Karabakh signed a decree ending the existence of the republic. After the military operation carried out by Azerbaijan on September 19-20, almost all residents left Nagorno-Karabakh, in which, according to various sources, about 120 thousand people lived…If the Russian peacekeeping contingent leaves Nagorno-Karabakh, it must return to Russia, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said today in an interview with the Public TV Channel when asked about the possibility of deploying peacekeepers in Armenia…On October 5, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a declaration recognizing the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, including the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh…


[i] Russian peacekeepers were deployed as part of the ceasefire agreement that ended the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. For background on the Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh and how Russia uses peacekeeping missions to achieve strategic objectives beyond conflict resolution, see: Matthew Stein “The Evolutionary Russian View Of Peacekeeping As Part Of Modern Warfare,” FMSO’s Foreign Perspectives Brief, 24 March 2023.

Image Information:

Image: Map of the 2023 Nagorno-Karabakh war showing Azerbaijan day-to-day advances.
Attribution: CCA 4.0

Russian North Sea Fleet Deputy Commander Killed in Nagorno-Karabakh

Map of the 2023 Nagorno-Karabakh war showing Azerbaijan day-to-day advances as of 22 September 2023.

“This was a man who belonged to the fleet, and even though he was a political officer, what did he do down there [Nagorno Karabakh]?”

Attrition continues within Russia’s officer corps as Russian commanders die on the battlefield, even beyond Ukraine and Syria.[i] According to the Norway-based news outlet The Barents Observer, deputy commander and political officer of Russia’s Northern Fleet submarine forces, Ivan Kovgan, was killed in Nagorno-Karabakh on 20 September.[ii] The article noted that Kovgan was deployed to the disputed region as the deputy commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. Kovgan’s SUV reportedly was struck by Azeri artillery, killing him and four other Russian servicemembers. It is unclear whether the strike on the Russian peacekeepers’ vehicle was intentional or a mistake as a result of the fog of war. In any case, the event prompted an immediate apology from Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev to Russian President Putin and the promise of an investigation. The article also noted that residents of the Kola Peninsula, where Kovgan resided, were shocked that he would have even been selected to serve in Nagorno-Karabakh. While units from the Russian Northern Fleet have been deployed to Ukraine, some with catastrophic consequences,[iii] the death of Kovgan while on a less-risky peacekeeping mission is an unexpected blow. Russia has lost many high-ranking officers in Ukraine, and losing another senior officer in far-off Nagorno-Karabakh is costly.


Atle Staalesen, “Deputy Commander of Russia’s Northern Fleed submarine forces is killed in Nagorno-Karabakh,” The Barents Observer (Norway based naval news focused news source), 22 September 2023.

Kovgan was only days away from completing his assignment in the disputed territories between Armenia and Azerbaijan when his car came under attack. He and four more Russian servicemen were killed.

A photo reportedly taken on the site of the attack shows a Russian military SUV type UAZ Patriot that has crashed into a rocky hillside. At least four bodies can be seen in and around the vehicle.

The lethal attack came from Azerbaijani forces and took place on the 20th of September as part of a major onslaught on Armenia-backed forces in the region. It is reported to have taken place near the settlement of Canyataq in the northeastern corner of the self-proclaimed republic.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev in a telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin the following day apologised for the killings and assured that an investigation will be initiated and the guilty troops punished.

But for many locals in Gadzhievo it appear a mystery that a top officer from the Northern Fleet’s submarine forces was on duty in the far-away Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Who sent this first rank captain to that place???” a man writes in a comment on local social media in Gadzhievo. “This was a man that belongs to the fleet, and even though he was a political officer, what did he do down there??? After all, he was our naval political officer with both body and mind!” he underlines.Ivan Kovgan had reportedly been two months in Nagorno-Karabakh when he was killed. He was serving as Deputy Commander of the so-called peacekeeping forces that have been deployed in the area since the second Nagorno-Karabakh war of 2020. Back home in the Kola Peninsula he was Deputy Commander of the Northern Fleet’s submarine forces with responsibility for military-political operations.


[i] Russia has lost several senior officers in Syria since 2016, including most recently Colonel Oleg Pechevisty, who was killed in May 2023. See: Isabel Van Brugen, “Russian Colonel Killed After Direct Strike on His Command Post – Reports,” Newsweek, 29 May 2023. and “Администрация Подпорожского района (Administration of Podporozhye district),” ВКонтакте (InKontact) Russian online social media and social networking service based in Saint Petersburg). 27 May 2023.

[ii] For additional information from the Russian perspective on the renewed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and presence of Russian peacekeepers, see: Kirill Strelnikov, “Прощание с Карабахом: уроки трагедии с двумя стульями (Farewell to Karabakh: lessons from the tragedy with two chairs),” RIANovosti (state-owned domestic Russian media outlet), 21 September 2023.; “Messages appeared on the Internet about an attack by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces on a warehouse of Russian Peacekeepers, Top War (English language Russian military news focused media website, part of Military Review (Военное Обозрение)), 23 September 2023.

[iii] The 200th is one of two Arctic infantry units subordinate to the Northern Military District’s 14th Army Corps, the 14th Army Corps is Ground Forces unit subordinate to the navy command, and as part of the Northern Military District it is subordinate to the Northern Fleet. For an investigative news piece on the fate of the 200th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade in Ukraine see: “‘Wiped Out’: War in Ukraine has decimated a once feared Russian brigade,” The Washington Post, 16 December 2022.

Image Information:

Image: Map of the 2023 Nagorno-Karabakh war showing Azerbaijan day-to-day advances as of 22 September 2023.
Attribution: CCA SA 4.0 Int

Azerbaijan Protests India’s Delivery of Weapons to Armenia

Hikmat Hajiyev has been the Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan since 2018.

“But the fact remains that today Armenia, even if it wants to, will not be able to transfer these weapons to the remnants of the so-called regime in Karabakh.”

For years, Armenia has watched its adversary, Azerbaijan, receive weapons from Turkey, Russia, and Israel. Armenia has a smaller defense budget than Azerbaijan’s, and thus, has not been able to match the same level of acquisitions, notably, contracting for an export version of Russia’s Iskander ballistic missile system in 2016.[i]

However, despite these challenges, according to the first excerpted article from the Azerbaijani news agency Trend, Armenia received an unnamed weapon system from India in late July 2023. The article also mentions a $400 million contract between India and Armenia signed this past year providing Armenia with the Pinaka multiple rocket launcher, 155 mm artillery systems, anti-tank rockets, and unknown quantities of ammunition.[ii] The second excerpted article from the Azerbaijani news website Caliber reports that the Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan – Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration, Hikmet Hajiyev, met with India’s ambassador to discuss his concerns about the increasing military cooperation between India and Armenia. Hajiyev noted that India’s cooperation with Armenia comes as Azerbaijan and Armenia are negotiating a peace agreement and that the delivery of new weapons aggravates the situation. The article notes that India’s ambassador would relay the message to Armenia, but that the meeting was unlikely to have a major impact. While Azerbaijan has fair relations with India, it has better relations with Pakistan, including an increasing level of security cooperation in recent years.[iii] Ultimately, the delivery of weapons to Armenia could lead Azerbaijan to deepen its relationship with Pakistan.


Takhmaz Asadov, “Из Индии в Армению везут оружие – кто хочет накалить ситуацию в регионе? (Weapons are being delivered from India to Armenia – who wants to heat up the situation in the region?),” Trend (news agency in Azerbaijan), 26 July 2023.

The movement of a vehicle column from the border checkpoint Nurduz (Iran) to Armenia was recorded. According to the spread footage, it can be seen that the cargo being transported is covered with an awning so that the destination of the cargo remains unknown. However, it is clear that the cargo transported from Iran to Armenia is for military purposes and has already been delivered to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

As for the consignor of the cargo, this is India, with which Armenia has recently been rapidly increasing military-technical cooperation. It is known only from open sources in the media that a military contract worth more than 400 million US dollars has been signed between Armenia and India…

“Индия разжигает огонь на Южном Кавказе (India is stoking a fire in the South Caucasus),” Caliber (news website from Azerbaijan), 26 July 2023.

On July 26, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan – Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration Hikmet Hajiyev met with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of India to our country Sridharan Madhusudhanan.

At the meeting, Hikmet Hajiyev noted that the Azerbaijani side is concerned about the deepening of military cooperation between Armenia and India, in particular, the photos and videos circulated in the media in recent days about the transportation of Indian-made weapons systems through Iran to Armenia…

Hikmet Hajiyev stressed that the supply of weapons by India to Armenia, at a time when Azerbaijan is negotiating a peace agreement with this country, serves to militarize Armenia and aggravate the situation, hinder the establishment of lasting peace and security in the South Caucasus region…The Indian Ambassador assured that he would inform official Delhi about the issue raised by Azerbaijan, noted the importance of dialogue between the two countries to discuss issues of concern in bilateral relations…


[i] The export version of Iskander missile system does not have as long of a range as the version Russia uses, but it has many of the same capabilities. For background on Armenia’s acquisition of it, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia’s Acquisition of the Iskander Ballistic Missile System,” OE Watch, November 2016.

[ii] For more information on Armenia’s acquisitions from India, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia Acquires Indian Multiple Rocket Launcher System Amid Delays in Russian Deliveries,” OE Watch, 11-2022.

 [iii] Security cooperation between Azerbaijan and Pakistan has been increasing for the past several years, see: Matthew Stein “Pakistan Providing Border Security Assistance to Azerbaijan,” OE Watch, October 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Hikmat Hajiyev has been the Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan since 2018.
Attribution: Public domain

Armenia Questions Continuing Its Membership in Russia-Led Regional Security Body

Before the meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. From left to right: CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas, Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon

“After Russia’s refusal to intervene in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the fall of 2020, Armenia’s confidence in the benefits of participating in the Collective Security Treaty Organization has weakened to the point of threats to leave the CSTO.” 

Armenia has long considered ending its membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) due to a perceived lack of support from the organization following numerous clashes with its neighbor Azerbaijan, which is not a CSTO member. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s statement on 22 May that Armenia is considering leaving the organization marked the latest in a series of disputes between Armenia and CSTO leadership that could be a turning point for its role in the organization. The accompanying excerpted article from the independent, Caucasus-focused website Kavkazskiy Uzel provides a look at the issues Armenia has with the CSTO. The article notes “the degree of Armenia’s unfriendly rhetoric towards Russia has been rising” since the CSTO refused to intervene in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. In the fall of 2021, Pashinyan made a comment that “Armenia was not going to consider the possibility of leaving” the CSTO, but this position has changed since then. The article notes how the organization and Russia responded to recent incidents between Armenia and Azerbaijan. From Armenia’s perspective, clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2022 should have triggered the CSTO’s collective defense clause, but the organization declined to intervene. This damaged Armenia’s already tenuous relations with the CSTO in addition to straining Armenian-Russian relations, as Armenian officials believed Russia has failed to pressure Azerbaijan to stop attacks against their country.[i] The article also notes that Pashinyan refused to sign a CSTO declaration in December 2022, declined to host a previously planned CSTO joint military exercise in Armenia in 2023,[ii] and refused to host CSTO observers. Armenia’s relations with the CSTO have become bad enough that the CSTO Secretary General became concerned that Armenia will withdraw from the organization.


“Главное о критике Арменией ОДКБ и Кремля (The crux of Armenia’s criticism of the CSTO and the Kremlin),” Kavkazskiy Uzel (independent news website), 23 May 2023.

After Russia’s refusal to intervene in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the fall of 2020, Armenia’s confidence in the benefits of participating in the Collective Security Treaty Organization has weakened to the point of threats to leave the CSTO. The “Caucasian Knot” has prepared a report on how the degree of Armenia’s unfriendly rhetoric towards Russia has been rising… 

During the aggravation of the Karabakh conflict in 2020, Armenia turned to the CSTO for help. In response, Moscow stated that it could not help, since the borders of Armenia were not violated, the war took place on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. During the 2020 war, the Kremlin limited itself to political support for Yerevan, and then sent peacekeepers to the Karabakh conflict zone…In the fall of 2021, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, commenting on Armenia’s criticism of the CSTO in connection with Russia’s position on the conflict in Karabakh, stated that Armenia was not going to consider the possibility of leaving this organization. However, two years later, Armenia’s rhetoric on this issue changed.  

In the spring of 2022, Nikol Pashinyan accused the CSTO of not properly responding to the actions of the Azerbaijani military in the Sotk-Khoznavar sector. “The way the CSTO reacted to what happened was a failure for the organization itself. Contrary to existing procedures, the CSTO has not decided to conduct monitoring at the site at the moment, justifying the long-standing fears of the Armenian public that an organization important for the security of Armenia will not do anything at the right time,” said the Armenian Prime Minister… 

According to Pashinyan, during the discussion of security issues in the CSTO, he received clear assurances that the Armenian border was a “red line” for the organization, but “it turned out that red lines exist only in words.” “This is important not only for Armenia, but also for the CSTO, because if you say that there is no border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, then there is no CSTO, because the CSTO has a zone of responsibility, which is defined by borders. If there is no border, then there is no area of responsibility; if there is no area of responsibility, then there is no organization,” Pashinyan said. 

On November 23, 2022, Nikol Pashinyan refused to sign the declaration of the Collective Security Council (CSC) of the CSTO and the draft decision on assistance to Yerevan. The reason was the lack of a clear political position of the organization on the issue of Azerbaijan’s actions… 

In January 2023, Nikol Pashinyan stated that Yerevan considers it inappropriate to hold CSTO exercises in Armenia. “The Armenian Defense Ministry has already informed the CSTO Joint Headquarters in writing that we consider it inappropriate to conduct exercises in Armenia in the current situation…” he said.  

Commenting on the possibility of Armenia’s withdrawal from the CSTO, Nikol Pashinyan replied that the Armenian side would be guided by the state interests in this decision…“When the CSTO Secretary General arrived in Armenia in 2022, he told me that the CSTO was concerned that Armenia would withdraw from the Organization. I said that this concern is out of place, but there is another concern that the CSTO may withdraw from Armenia. My assessment now is this: the CSTO, willingly or not, is leaving Armenia. And this worries us,” Pashinyan repeated… 

On May 22, 2022, Nikol Pashinyan confirmed at a press conference that the issue of Armenia’s withdrawal from the bloc remains on the agenda… 

He also explained why Armenia refused CSTO observers, being a member of this military bloc. “The CSTO mission does not operate on the territory of Armenia for the simple reason that, in fact, the organization does not indicate its vision of the territory and borders of Armenia. 90 percent of the problems stem from this,” the prime minister said.


[i] For more background on the strained relations between Armenia and Russia, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia Acquires Indian Multiple Rocket Launcher System Amid Delays in Russian Deliveries,” OE Watch, 11-2022.

[ii] For more background on Armenia’s refusal to sign the CSTO declaration, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia Takes Another Step Away From Russia,” OE Watch, 2-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Before the meeting of the leaders of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. From left to right: CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas, Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon 
Attribution: CCA 4.0 

Ongoing Clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh Threaten Fragile Truce

Azerbaijani protesters during the 2022 blockade of the Lachin corridor.

Azerbaijani protesters during the 2022 blockade of the Lachin corridor.

“Thus, the corridor was blocked by two checkpoints — an “ecological” and a “peacekeeping” one. The peacekeepers are not letting ecologists enter Stepanakert, but they’re also not interfering with their blocking of the highway.”

On 5 March 2023, a clash took place in the Lachin Corridor, which connects Armenia with the Armenian-occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The fight between Azerbaijani soldiers and Armenian policemen left five dead. The Lachin Corridor remains the only road connecting ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia following the ceasefire agreement that ended the 2020 war. The blockade is being carried out by so-called “ecologists” from Azerbaijan, who have stated they are concerned that mining operations in Nagorno-Karabakh are having a negative environmental impact on the region. However, there have been reports that the “ecologists” are likely working for the government of Azerbaijan. The incident brought increased attention to Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of the Corridor, which effectively cut off a significant lifeline for ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. The blockade also raises questions about the role Russian peacekeepers have in the Lachin Corridor, as well as Armenians who are using routes outside the main road in the corridor to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh. While the incidents have not spiraled out of control into a larger conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, they have added to what has been an unstable situation since the 2020 war ended.[i] The accompanying excerpted articles provide a look at the issues causing incidents in recent months between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces.

The first article from the independent English-language newspaper Novaya Gazeta Europe is a reporter’s account of traveling to Nagorno-Karabakh and includes interviews with regional analysts on the situation since the blockade by Azerbaijani ecologists began in December 2022. The author details numerous issues for those trying to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh via the Lachin Corridor, including the cost to be escorted there and having to pass through multiple checkpoints. The author points out how “Azerbaijan is building very expensive roads from its side, carving tunnels in the mountains,” as part of an effort to not only cut off the Lachin Corridor, but also control additional routes to Nagorno-Karabakh. Another analyst interviewed for the article claimed that Armenians are using the corridor to transport military cargo and that vehicles continue to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh despite the ecologists’ blockade. The article also notes how the blockade has remained in place even after outside efforts to end it, including Putin’s attempt to maintain leverage in Nagorno-Karabakh and the wider region through the appointment of ethnic Armenian Ruben Vardanyan to the office of State Minister in Armenia. Vardanyan was later dismissed, reportedly at the request of Azerbaijani President Aliyev during negotiations to end the blockade. The second article from Armenia’s state news agency Armenpress offers insight into an 11 April incident near the Lachin Corridor. While the article presents only the Armenian perspective, which blamed Azerbaijan for instigating the incident, the article notes that the Armenian military had been carrying out engineering work. It is unclear if this work is for a road or a defensive position, but it is taking place near the corridor. With the ongoing blockade by Azerbaijani ecologists and both Armenia and Azerbaijan constructing and using roads in and around the Lachin Corridor to their own advantage, additional skirmishes are likely, increasing the chance of escalation to a wider conflict.


Irina Tumakova, “‘The thing I miss the most? Freedom’,” Novaya Gazeta Europe (independent English-language newspaper), 24 March 2023.

While I was coming down the Lachin mountain serpentine, my phone started vibrating. It was someone from the Russian military base, which, as is commonly believed, maintains peace and security in the small part of Karabakh that is still controlled by the unrecognised republic. “Andrey Valeryevich,” the man from the Russian peacekeepers base introduced himself shortly. “I was told you want to cross over to Stepanakert. Why?”

I explained that I had to see how people in Nagorno-Karabakh are living under the blockade organised by Azerbaijani eco-activists.

“The blockade?” Andrey Valeryevich chuckled. “They’re doing great, better than before! It’s us, peacekeepers, who’re under the blockade. The prices are crazy! Take a dozen eggs — three hundred rubles [€3.6] in Russian money. Isn’t that crazy? Three hundred! These ‘blockade victims’, these Armenians, are the ones selling us eggs at such prices!”

…“There’s a passage to get into Karabakh, but it costs money, 150 thousand [Armenian] drams [about €360] per person,” Armenian politologist Andrias Gukasyan tells me a few days later. “You have to first go to the Russian peacekeepers base in Goris. Why are you so surprised? You’ve come from Russia, you know what it’s like…”

…From the Armenian side, the border is guarded by an Armenian military police post. This is where Karabakh’s blockade begins. There’s another post like that in Stepanakert, in between the two there are Russian peacekeepers and Azerbaijani “ecologists” who organised the blockade.

…Karabakh and Armenia are connected via the Lachin corridor in the mountains. The corridor’s width is stated at 22 km. In reality, it’s a narrow highway where even two cars aren’t always able to let each other pass…Driving here is hard and dangerous, so Azerbaijan is building very expensive roads from its side, carving tunnels in the mountains…

According to the trilateral agreement signed on 9 November 2020, Azerbaijan pledged not to interfere with Armenians’ coming and going to and from Karabakh. The corridor has to remain under the control of Russian peacekeepers, they’re the ones ensuring the aforementioned freedom of movement.

On 12 December 2022, the road was blocked by people from Azerbaijan. They referred to themselves as eco-activists who had to verify the compliance with the environmental protection norms on two Karabakh mines — the Drmbon mine and the Kashen mine…Thus, the corridor was blocked by two checkpoints — an “ecological” and a “peacekeeping” one. The peacekeepers are not letting ecologists enter Stepanakert, but they’re also not interfering with their blocking of the highway…

“After the death of police officers (on 5 March, a car of the unrecognised republic’s police department was shot at, three police officers were killed — editor’s note), we went to the Russian peacekeeper contingent, we wanted to express our protest against everything going on. There’s a lot of blame on our locals too when it comes to the police officers’ death…”

“According to the trilateral agreement, this road is a humanitarian corridor to connect Armenia with Armenian residents of Karabakh,” this is how Azerbaijani political analyst Ilhar Velidaze explains the recent protests in the Lachin corridor. “However, we are able to follow the cargo movement through satellites and we have observed several times that the road is used for military cargo too, as well as soldiers coming in from Armenia. We couldn’t just act indifferently…Unfortunately, the Armenian side is trying to misrepresent the situation as a humanitarian catastrophe,” he notes. “But there’s no catastrophe to speak of. Take a look at the so-called ‘blockade’…During the last three months of the Azerbaijani activists’ protest, the Lachin road was used by over 4,000 vehicles that were transporting various cargo, furthermore, these are heavy-duty vehicles. Can this be called a blockade?”

“Putin sent Ruben Vardanyan to Karabakh as his representative,” Arif Yunusov, Head of the Conflictology Department of Azerbaijan’s Institute of World and Democracy, notes. “He was conducting secret talks about these mines, but they fell through. But for Putin, the main thing wasn’t the mines. Russia, dissatisfied with Pashinyan, assumed that Vardanyan would gain power in Karabakh, the next step being his candidacy as Armenian Prime Minister…You may recall how Presidents [Robert] Kocharyan and [Serzh] Sargsyan came into power, they’re from Karabakh too. Karabakh is a jumping off point.”

Ruben Vardanyan, Russian billionaire of Armenian origin, came back to Armenia in September of last year, went to Karabakh, and was appointed State Minister… In February, it came out that Vardanyan was dismissed from his position, as per the condition put forward by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. That was soon after the UN International Court of Justice demanded the Lachin corridor be unblocked. But the “ecologists” pickets remained.

…When the condition of Vardanyan’s dismissal was fulfilled, Azerbaijan brought forward another one — this one has as much to do with the environment and ecologists (nothing)…“Now, they’re demanding there be a checkpoint built on that road because the Armenians are allegedly transporting weapons into Karabakh,” Arif Yunusov says…

“Азербайджанцы потребовали от армянских военнослужащих прекратить инженерные работы: подробности о провокации в селе Тех (Azerbaijani demanded that Armenian soldiers halt engineering work: details on the provocation in the village of Tegh),” Armenpress (state news agency of Armenia), 12 April 2023.

Presenting the details of the Azerbaijani provocation near the village of Tegh on April 11, Khachatryan said that under the pretext of negotiations, an Azerbaijani car drove up to the Armenian positions from the territory controlled by them and demanded that the Armenian military personnel stop engineering work……On April 11, at about 16:00, on the territory of the Republic of Armenia, near the village of Tegh, Syunik region, a group of servicemen of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, under the pretext of clarifying the border points of deployment, approached the servicemen of the RA Armed Forces, further provoked them, opened fire in the direction of the servicemen and positions of the Armenian Armed Forces…As a result of the Azerbaijani provocation from the Armenian side, there are 4 dead and 6 wounded. As of 0800 April 12, the situation on the front line remains relatively stable.


[i] For more background on incidents between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 2020 war ended, see: Matthew Stein “The Impact of Territorial Changes in Nagorno Karabakh,” OE Watch, July-2021.

Image Information:

Image: Azerbaijani protesters during the 2022 blockade of the Lachin corridor.
Attribution: CCA 4.0

Turkey as a Drone Superpower: A Case Study of a Mid-Size Power Driving the Operational Environment (Karen Kaya) (March 2023)

(Click image to download brief.)


• Turkey has emerged as a drone superpower on the world stage. In just the past few years,
Turkey has become one of a select group of countries in the world that can produce, use
and export armed drones extensively, trailing only the United States, Israel, and China.
• Turkey’s innovative use of its cost-effective Bayraktar TB-2 drone involves using drone
squadrons effectively as a mobile air artillery, thereby achieving overmatch by emphasizing
quantity over quality. This strategy has impacted geopolitical outcomes in several regional
conflicts, and has provided a strategy for middle sized powers to emulate. Several such
powers—including Ukraine, Poland, Azerbaijan—are buying these cost-effective systems
from Turkey with a view to do so. Other midsize countries with limited defense budgets
are likely to replicate this approach, changing the nature of local conflicts and even the
calculations of larger observing nations.
• Drones and anti-aircraft technologies that merge ISR with strike capabilities will increasingly
impact the trajectories of conflicts. The entry barriers to these technologies are falling,
making it easier for geopolitical issues to turn to war.

Armenia Takes Another Step Away From Russia

Nikol Pashinyan.

Nikol Pashinyan.

“It is dispiriting that Armenia’s membership in the CSTO did not deter Azerbaijan from aggressive actions.”

Armenia’s frustration with Russia and its role as the de facto leader of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) appeared to reach a head at the organization’s November 2022 summit, when Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan abruptly ended a meeting with leaders of the other member states and refused to sign two documents drafted during the summit. For his part, Pashinyan had previously criticized Russia’s response to multiple attacks by Azerbaijan against Armenia in 2022 and Russia’s inability to deliver weapons that Armenia purchased.[i] The accompanying excerpted articles provide additional context on Pashinyan’s actions during the recent CSTO summit as well as how the Armenian government continues to pursue other security cooperation partnerships—namely with India—due to what it perceives to be continued failures by Russia and the CSTO.

The first article, from the Armenian state news agency Armenpress, reports on Pashinyan’s speech during the CSTO summit. Pashinyan mentions the three major clashes that took place between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War ended and how “Armenia’s membership in the CSTO did not deter Azerbaijan from aggressive actions.”[ii] He states that these clashes caused “great damage to the image of the CSTO both within our country and abroad.” Pashinyan goes on to outline the Armenian government’s position on how its borders have been violated by Azerbaijan and that these actions should have been considered an attack that would have necessitated a strong response from the CSTO. According to the CSTO’s charter, this could have included military assistance, but the organization denied Armenia’s request. Pashinyan ends his speech by explaining how his government proposed negotiating the withdrawal of Azerbaijan’s forces from Armenian territory through the CSTO Security Council, but that he would not sign the draft put together by the council because he believes it is an insufficient to prevent Azerbaijan from continuing to act with impunity.

Underscoring Armenia’s disillusionment with Russia, the second accompanying article from the Armenian independent online newspaper Hetq reports on an agreement Armenia signed with India’s Kalyani Strategic Systems two weeks before the CSTO summit to acquire 155 mm artillery systems. The article notes that Armenia’s Defense Minister visited India’s defense exposition in October and that this most recent agreement comes after Armenia signed a contract in September to purchase India’s Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher as well as anti-tank rockets and different types of ammunition.

Overall, there is no indication that Armenia will be leaving the Russia-led CSTO despite calls to do so from Pashinyan’s political opposition. Armenia’s bilateral economic and military ties to Russia make this difficult. Instead, Armenia’s refusal to sign the CSTO’s official response to the situation with Azerbaijan is an example of the types of protest steps we expect the Armenian government to continue to register.


“Для нас принципиальную важность имеет подтверждение зоны ответственности ОДКБ в Армении: речь премьера на СКБ ОДКБ (The confirmation of the zone of responsibility of the CSTO in Armenia has the most significance for us: the address of the prime minister at the Special Security Council of the CSTO),” Armenpress (state news agency in Armenia), 23 November 2022.

“…The presidency of the Republic of Armenia in the CSTO ends today. This period was very eventful…Over the past two years, the CSTO member state Armenia has been subjected to aggression by Azerbaijan at least three times.

It is dispiriting that Armenia’s membership in the CSTO did not deter Azerbaijan from aggressive actions…These facts cause great damage to the image of the CSTO both within our country and abroad, and I regard this as the main failure of Armenia’s chairmanship in the CSTO…

Our position is as follows: according to the Alma-Ata Declaration of December 21, 1991, the founding countries of the CIS, as independent states, recognized each other’s territorial integrity and the inviolability of existing borders. This means that the aforementioned countries became independent with the administrative borders that existed between the republics during the Soviet Union. That is, the former administrative borders became state borders, and the territories of the above-mentioned countries were determined by these borders. It is within these borders that the Republic of Armenia became a member of the UN and the CSTO.

Since May 11, 2021, Azerbaijan has used armed forces three times and occupied approximately 140 square kilometers of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. This happened on May 11 and November 14, 2021 and September 13, 2022.

So, according to the UN resolution of December 14, 1974, number 3314, the above actions of Azerbaijan are regarded as aggression.

What do we expect from the CSTO in this regard? Statements of this fact, in the form of a clearly formulated political assessment. To refrain from such an assessment, saying that there is no border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, means to assert that there is no zone of responsibility of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and if there is no zone of responsibility, then there is no organization itself. It can at least be interpreted that way.

These nuances are also important because they play a decisive role in further collective actions. In this context, I want to respond to comments according to which Armenia is trying to draw the CSTO countries into a war with Azerbaijan. This is pure manipulation, because Armenia cannot be interested in a war, if only because it has suffered enough from wars, including in September of this year.

Armenia also proposes, by decision of the CSTO CSC, to accelerate the necessary political and diplomatic work with the Azerbaijani side, aimed at the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia to their original positions as of May 11, 2021.

Such a position is important not only for restoring the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia, but also for deterring Azerbaijan from further aggressive actions against our country…Under these conditions, the lack of a clear political assessment of the situation and the failure to make the above decision may mean not only the CSTO’s refusal of allied obligations, but may also be interpreted by Azerbaijan as a green light from the CSTO for further aggression against Armenia…

Therefore, based on this, dear colleagues, at the moment I believe that the draft “Declaration of the CSTO CSC and on joint measures to provide assistance to the Republic of Armenia” submitted for signing is not sufficiently finalized, and in this form, with all due respect, I am not ready to sign these documents…

Vahe Sarukhanyan, “$155M for Artillery: Armenia Signs Another Arms Deal with India,” Hetq (independent online newspaper in Armenia), 11 November 2022.

The Indian press, referring to a November 9 statement released by the local Bharat Forge company, reports that the latter’s military-industrial subsidiary, Kalyani Strategic Systems, has received a US $155 million order to export 155 mm artillery gun systems to Armenia over the next three years.

Although Bharat Forge didn’t disclose the identity of the customer, the Indian Business Standard news site writes that according to its sources in the Indian Defense Ministry the contract was signed with the Armenian government…

…In October, Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan led a delegation to a defense industry exhibition (DefExpo-2022) in Gandhinagar, India displaying locally manufactured armaments and defense systems.

This latest arms deal follows a September 2022 $245 million contract Armenia signed with India to purchase Indian-made Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, anti-tank rockets and various types of ammunition…


[i] For more context on Armenia’s acquisition of Indian systems, see: Matthew Stein, “Armenia Acquires Indian Multiple Rocket Launcher System Amid Delays in Russian Deliveries,” OE Watch, Issue #11, 2022.

[ii] For background on the recent incidents between Armenia and Azerbaijan, see: Matthew Stein, “Armenia Questions Russian Peacekeeping After Nagorno-Karabakh Incident,” OE Watch, Issue #9, 2022.

Image Information:

Image: Nikol Pashinyan
Attribution: CCA 4.0

“The Evolutionary Russian View of Peacekeeping as Part of Modern Warfare” by Matthew Stein (July 2022)

(Click image to download brief.)


The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War stood out as a significant chapter in the history of the conflict in the region. Not only did Azerbaijan take control over a large amount of territory, the Russian government deployed peacekeepers as part of the cease-fire agreement between the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan. This marked the first time a peacekeeping force became involved in the conflict over the region and stood as another example of how Russia utilized a peacekeeping operation as a response to a conflict in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The CIS is made up of states of the former Soviet Union and is an area where the Russian government has special relationships and a sphere of influence. While the United States has arguably pulled back from peacekeeping operations in recent years and, as a result, the U.S. military has deemphasized them, Russia views peacekeeping operations as a key part of modern warfare. Like other military operations, Russians consider that peacekeeping operations can be utilized to achieve strategic objectives beyond conflict resolution. This article examines how Russia views peacekeeping operations as a part of warfare, including in its military doctrine and based on past conflicts in the CIS. It also examines how this applies to the most recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the peacekeeping operation as a response to civil unrest in Kazakhstan. Insights from this may also inform potential outcomes of the current war in Ukraine.