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

Fears of Gaza Violence Prompt Egypt To Reinforce the Sinai Border

Map of Egypt showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

“Threats [to Egypt] usually come from the east, and Gaza is Egypt’s first line of defense…”

Egypt has turned its strategic focus toward its eastern border amidst rising concerns that violence from Israel’s military operation in Gaza could spill over into the Sinai Peninsula. Most concerning to Egypt’s military-led government is the potential of a massive influx of Palestinian refugees into the Sinai.[i] The Egyptian military, according to the first accompanying excerpt from the Qatar-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, is firmly opposed to any relocation of Gaza’s residents to the Sinai. Reflecting these principles, Egyptian President Sisi has stated that “Egypt has not and will never allow the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai.”[ii] A secondary security concern for Egypt’s Armed Forces is cross-border fire from errant projectiles from both sides of the conflict.[iii] As a result of these concerns, Egypt has begun to quietly take precautions. It has increased its military and security presence around the Rafah border crossing.[iv] In late October, Egyptian military leadership conducted a readiness inspection of the Armed Forces’ 4th Armored Division, 3rd Field Army, based in Suez.[v] Military and security measures alone, however, are unlikely to ease the mounting pressure on Egypt’s border with Gaza. The second accompanying excerpt, also from al-Araby al-Jadeed, argues that Egypt will need to overhaul its strategic thinking to cope with these pressures. To do so, the author argues, the Egyptian government should provide immediate, open support for Hamas via all means possible short of war. In addition, he argues that Egypt should begin to “coordinate positions as closely as possible and share concerns and capabilities with Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan.”


مخططات تهجير الفلسطينيين إلى سيناء… رفض مصري ممتد لعقود

“Decades-long Egyptian rejection of plans to forcibly relocate Palestinians to Sinai,” Al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 2 November 2023.مخططات-تهجير-الفلسطينيين-إلى-سيناء-رفض-مصري-ممتد-لعقود

Despite these fears, this plan still depends on many factors in order to implement it, “some of which are almost impossible,” according to the description of a former Egyptian security official, who spoke to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on condition of anonymity. On top of these factors is “the position of the Egyptian military establishment, which absolutely rejects the idea of ​​settling Palestinians in Sinai , due to many considerations related to Egyptian national security.”

The former official added, “The army’s rejection of that idea existed previously, during the era of the late President Hosni Mubarak, and it still exists today, which can be seen in the messages conveyed in President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s recent speeches, which seemed to be directed to the armed forces in order to reassure its leaders and allay their fears.”

لماذا على مصر التفكير في أمنها القومي بشكل مختلف؟

“Why should Egypt think about its national security in a different way?” Al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 12 November 2023.لماذا-على-مصر-التفكير-في-أمنها-القومي-بشكل-مختلف

… Egyptian national security theory and its constants, or what remains of those constants, the most important of which is that threats usually come from the east, and Gaza is Egypt’s first line of defense, and that whenever Gaza collapses, Egypt’s defensive lines collapse, regardless of the degree of compatibility with the political or administrative system in power following the collapse…

The Egyptian government must immediately stop talking about more than meager aid, as after a month of aggression, no more people entered the Gaza Strip than they did one day before. It must restrain the “Samsung media”, as this is a major national security issue and a top priority, and this is not the time to export hatred for the Palestinian resistance and belittle it, nor the time to outbid it, condemn it, or blame the victims in any way. Rather, it is the best piece of chess through which everything you want can be achieved. Without a single concession. Egypt should coordinate positions as closely as possible and share concerns and capabilities with Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan.


[i] The idea of a population transfer from Gaza to the Sinai is not new and has been floated several times before. Since 7 October, several Israeli statements and documents have alluded to the forcible displacement of Gaza’s population as a policy option. See for instance: “An Israeli ministry, in a ‘concept paper,’ proposes transferring Gaza civilians to Egypt’s Sinai,” AP, 30 October 2023.; Giora Eiland. “It’s time to rip off the Hamas band-aid,” Ynet News, 12 October 2023.

[ii] Statement quoted in: “Defend and populate Sinai,” al-Ahram Weekly, 31 October 2023.

[iii] This includes projectiles fired toward Israel from the south that have landed along the Sinai’s Red Sea coast, as well as cross-border Israeli fire that hit an Egyptian border guard post near Gaza. On the former, see: “Drone blasts hit two Egyptian Red Sea towns, Israel points to Houthi,” AP, 27 October 2023. On the latter, see: “At least seven injured as Israeli tank ‘accidentally’ hits Egyptian border,” al-Jazeera, 22 October 2023.

[iv] Images of Egyptian special forces deployed in Rafah can be found at:

[v] The inspection included the first official appearance of the South Korean K9A1 155 mm self-propelled howitzer in the Egyptian military.  For images and description of the platforms involved see:

Image Information:

Image: Map of Egypt showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Source: CIA Factbook, Attribution: Public Domain

Iran Demands Disarmament Of Kurdish Dissidents In Iraq

Mohammad Bagheri, chief-of-staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, speaks by phone with Türkiye’s Minister of Defense Yaşar Güler with regard to events in the Gaza Strip, 20 October 2023.

“The main agreement was not their displacement but rather their complete disarmament.”

Kurdish separatist groups in Iran and neighboring countries have been a scourge to Iran for decades.[i] However, over the past two years, the Iranian government has become much more assertive in demanding that Iraqi Kurdish authorities dismantle Iranian Kurdish bases inside Iraqi Kurdistan.[ii] In a series of recent meetings, Iranian officials have demanded that Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish authorities completely disarm and relocate Iranian Kurdish separatist groups away from the Iranian border. In the excerpted article from the Mehr News Agency, Mohammad Bagheri, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general who serves as the Iranian military’s chief-of-staff, argues  for  a complete elimination of Kurdish safe havens inside Iraq. Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish authorities suggest that Turkey’s establishment of a de facto buffer zone against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) along the Iraq-Turkish frontier, combined with Turkey’s frequent bombing of alleged PKK targets in both Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish territory, motivated Iran to request similar privileges along Iraq’s eastern frontier. It is unclear if Iraq will act on Iran’s demands, but the possible creation of dual Turkish and Iranian buffer zones raises the prospect of the two countries fighting by proxy inside Iraq.


“Bagheri: Iraq Bayad Tajziyeh Taliban ra Tabegh Tavafegh ba Iran Haleh Saleh Konad” (Bagheri: Iraq Should Disarm the Separatists According to its Agreement with Iran),” Mehr News Agency (semi-official news agency owned by Iranian government’s Islamic Development Organization), 7 October 2023.

[Mohammad] Bagheri [chief-of-staff of the Iranian Armed Forces] continued, “The countries of Southwest Asia, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran, are exceptional and unique due to having strategic and political geography, sitting astride the world’s communication highway and the strategic strait [of Hormuz]. They have rich mineral resources and fossil fuel resources, are home to the great heavenly religions, including the existence of the Qibla [in Mecca] and the shrine of the holy Imams of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and various other factors.”

He emphasized that the rich resources of the West Asian region and the special place of this region have always been coveted by the powers; our region is constantly witnessing foreign interference and discord among nations and governments.

He said, “We see that the enemies are always trying to create differences between countries in the region between ethnicities, tribes and religions and by weakening the legal sovereignty of countries, they constantly engage the region so that they can justify their aggressive presence due to the they create. A clear example of this was the creation of the Islamic State, which even to the leaders of the oppressive American state admitted was created by them….”He said, “The problem of the borders of Iran and our neighbors and the insecurities we have on our borders is an investigative and extremely important issue.” Referring to the movements of terrorists from across the borders of Sistan and Baluchestan [with Pakistan] and the [Iraqi] Kurdistan Region, Bagheri said, “What does it mean for Iranian separatist groups to be based in Iraqi Kurdistan and carry out all kinds of terrorist acts in our country? And we have to keep a lot of forces at the border. Iraqi officials also confirm that this issue must be resolved definitively. Last month, an agreement was reached between the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran and the national security advisor of Iraq to complete disarmament within six months. In recent weeks, the Iraqi government and all the dear officials who are trying there have made some efforts. They have moved these groups from bases near our border, The main agreement was not their displacement of separatist forces but rather their complete disarmament.


[i] Iranian Kurdish insurgency predates Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Kurdish tribal revolts spanned the Ottoman-Persian frontier in the late 19th century. In the wake of both World War I and World War II, Iranian Kurds sought to assert local autonomy to fill the vacuum left by weak central government. This culminated in the 1946 establishment of the Mahabad Republic. In the years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution, Kurds again rose in revolt, upset not only by traditional Persian ethnic condescension, but also by the Shi’ite Islamist regime’s new layer of sectarian discrimination against the largely Sunni minority. For background into these Kurdish tribal revolts, movements, and secessionist groups, see: Michael Rubin, Kurdistan Rising? Washington: AEI Press, 2016.

[ii] For previous discussion of Iranian impatience with Iraqi Kurdistan providing a safe-haven for Iranian Kurdish dissidents, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Vows Action Against Iraqi Kurdistan-Based Insurgents,” OE Watch, November 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Mohammad Bagheri, chief-of-staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, speaks by phone with Türkiye’s Minister of Defense Yaşar Güler with regard to events in the Gaza Strip, 20 October 2023.
Attribution: Islamic Republic News Agency

Russia Uses Diplomacy To Increase Military Influence In Libya

Russian military assets in Al Khadim airfield, Libya, 2020

“Libya offers at least two advantages to Russia: its ports are only about an hour’s flight from the European coast, and its air bases in the south are very close to Sudan and the African Sahel countries…”

A series of recent diplomatic visits involving Russian officials and Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar could eventually lead to deepening bilateral military relations, according to regional press coverage.[i] In August, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov led the first-ever Russian military delegation to visit Haftar.[ii] Yevkurov went back less than a month later, in mid-September, quickly followed by a visit to Moscow by Haftar, where he met with Russian President Putin and Defense Minister Shoigu. According to the first excerpt from al-Araby al-Jadeed, a Qatari-aligned daily newspaper, Haftar is seeking a more formal defense relationship with Russia, which would include official political recognition for Haftar and his allies, as well as sustained military support for forces under Haftar’s control. In exchange, per the second accompanying excerpt, from the Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency, Russia would establish a long-term aerial and naval military presence in eastern Libya, similar to its current presence in Syria.As the excerpt notes, Libya’s proximity to Europe, the Sahel, and Sudan gives it unique geopolitical value to Russia, creating a corridor of influence linking its bases in Syria to territories ruled by friendly governments in the African Sahel. Although the discussions remain nothing more than talks at the moment, the intensity of Russia’s military-diplomatic efforts signals Moscow’s growing interest in increasing its military influence in eastern Libya.


“حفتر يجري لقاءات مكثفة مع مسؤولين في روسيا: بحث عن شراكة عسكرية معلنة؟

(Haftar holds intensive meetings with Russian officials: Seeking over military partnership?),” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 28 September 2023.حفتر-يجري-لقاءات-مكثفة-مع-مسؤولين-روس-بحث-عن-شراكة-عسكرية-معلنة

In other details about Haftar’s discussions in Moscow, sources’ information agreed that Haftar asked Moscow to upgrade the level of bilateral relations by signing a defense and security agreement stipulating that he would obtain more military equipment, such as Russian air defense systems, drones, and the establishment of advanced workshops to maintain his militia’s military equipment, most of which are Russian-made.

According to the same sources, Moscow summoned Haftar after he repeated his request during Yevkirov’s two visits to Benghazi, last August and the week before last. The sources confirmed that the discussions are still in early stages, as Moscow is still unwilling to officially announce its presence in Libya by signing any official and announced agreement.

“حفتر بين مطرقة العقوبات الأمريكية وسندان الدعم الروسي

(Haftar between the hammer of US sanctions and the anvil of Russian support),” Anadolu Agency (Turkish news agency), 2 October 2023.التقارير/حفتر-بين-مطرقة-العقوبات-الأمريكية-وسندان-الدعم-الروسي-إضاءة/3005791

… Haftar has not abandoned Russian support and is asking for a price in return, not the least of which is recognition of his legitimacy and the provision of heavy and advanced weapons such as combat aircraft, drones, and air defense systems… [Russia] is still prepared to provide more weapons and training to his soldiers, and maintain military equipment in exchange for establishing its military presence on the southern front of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This makes it difficult for Haftar to choose between US sanctions and Russian military and diplomatic support…

Libya offers at least two advantages to Russia: its ports are only about an hour’s flight from the European coast, and its air bases in the south are very close to Sudan and the African Sahel countries. Although Wagner elements were deployed in several Libyan air bases in the east and south, such as Al-Jufra (central), Al-Kharrouba (east), Brak Al-Shati and Tamanhint (south), they have not yet been able to have an independent naval base in Sirte nor an air base in Al-Jufra (east of Tripoli)—as is the case with the Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval base in Syria—due to American pressure on Haftar. Therefore, observers expect that Moscow will seek to seize more than one military base in Libya, and connect them to its air supply line from Russia to Syria, passing through Libya and from there to its allies in Sudan and the African Sahel countries, all the way to the Central African Republic.


[i] For additional reporting and context, see: “Russia Seeks to Expand Naval Presence in the Mediterranean,” Wall Street Journal, 15 September 2023.; “Libya: The security relationship between Khalifa Haftar and Moscow is intensifying,” Le Monde, 11 October 2023.; and “After Libya’s floods, Russia throws its weight behind Haftar,” The New Arab, 9 October 2023.

[ii] The Russian Defense Ministry’s Telegram channel reported on it being the first-ever such visit Yevkurov first visit was on 22 August, the day before the head of the Wagner Group was killed in an airplane crash and in the context of reassuring African countries with Wagner presence that the PMC was now under government control. Yevkurov returned to Libya on 17 September, in the aftermath of the Derna floods. Haftar traveled to Moscow on 28 September. 

Image Information:

Image:  Russian military assets in Al Khadim airfield, Libya, 2020
Source: US AFRICOM Public Affairs,  
Attribution: Public Domain

Turkey Parlaying UAV Sales Into Prominent Position in Emerging Multipolar Gulf Security Architecture

Turkish Bayraktar Akıncı UAV on display at Teknofest Aerospace and Technology Festival in 2019.

…Thanks to these agreements, hundreds of companies producing subsystems in the Turkish defense and aviation industry will expand their export portfolios…”

There is a growing perception that Arab Gulf monarchies are intent on diversifying their defense and security partnerships beyond the United States’ security umbrella. A recent analysis in the prominent Saudi-owned monthly magazine al-Majalla argues that this new “multi-polar Gulf security” architecture is caused in part by the perceived decline in U.S. security commitments. Turkey, the article argues, is among the key countries ready to play a greater role in Gulf security.[i]

A key element of Turkish global military influence has been the success of its UAV exports, especially the Bayraktar TB-2 drones, manufactured by the Turkish company Baykar.[ii] In September 2022, the UAE placed an order for 120 TB-2 drones—at that time, the largest order ever.[iii] With reports of limited TB-2 inventory due to production constraints and high export demands, the deal was expected to have a localization component whereby some of the elements of manufacturing and production would occur on Emirati soil. Baykar delivered 20 units to the UAE shortly after the deal was announced. Since then, there has been no official follow-up or public reporting on the matter. However, the 2022 Emirati deal has officially been eclipsed in value by a Saudi-Turkish deal for Akinci UAVs—the most advanced drone made by Baykar—signed during Turkish President Erdogan’s mid-July 2023 visit to Saudi Arabia. Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar explains that the deal not only helps align Turkey and Saudi defense sector priorities but is expected to have a positive windfall across Turkey’s defense industry, according to the second accompanying excerpt, from an interview published in the global defense-focusednewswebsite Breaking Defense.  The deal has an explicit localization component stipulating that up to 70 percent of each unit could be produced in Saudi Arabia.[iv] Involving Saudi military industry in the production process will not only ease the pressures on production in Turkey, but will also meet key Saudi “Vision 2030” goals for its domestic defense industry.[v] It will also provide a major boost to Saudi capabilities, after its arsenal of Chinese import UAVs have underperformed in the Yemen conflict.[vi] Turkey, meanwhile, is receiving a much-needed influx of Gulf money in the hopes of stabilizing rampant inflation and persistent economic volatility.


تركيا… الوافد الأمني الجديد إلى الخليج (Turkey… the new entrant to Gulf security),” al-Majalla (Saudi-owned news magazine), 24 July 2023.

The repercussions of regional fluctuations and the obligations to compensate for the decline in the level of United States security commitments have prompted the Arab Gulf states to change their strategies on three levels: diversification in sources of arms supplies, diversification in partnerships, and diversification in alliances. Although the United States remains by far the most important security player in the Gulf, diversification strategies have opened the door for regional, external, traditional, and newcomer actors such as China, India, Russia, and Turkey to become involved in the Gulf region. This situation has led to what can be called “multi-polar Gulf security,” which raises many questions about the prospects for Gulf security and the potential role of newcomers in the region…

It is difficult to predict the future in a highly volatile and unstable region, especially with the countless variables involved in each situation. However, with the current trend of the United States continuing to detach from the region and in light of Turkey’s rising regional position and rapid leaps in the defense industry, Ankara may have an opportunity to strengthen its position in the Gulf and advance towards an enhanced security role. However, internal, regional, and international dynamics must always be taken into account, and Turkey should stabilize its domestic politics, enhance its economic strength, and significantly increase its trade interaction with the Gulf states to compete with actors from outside the region and facilitate a potentially enhanced security role in the future.

Baykar CEO hopes massive Saudi deal paves path for Turkish defense firms in KSA,” Breaking Defense (global defense-focusednewswebsite), 10 August 2023.

“Our partners ASELSAN and ROKETSAN, with whom we collaborate, have also entered agreements with NCMS based on their technological capabilities. Thanks to these agreements, hundreds of companies producing subsystems in the Turkish defense and aviation industry will expand their export portfolios through new collaborations in this field,” Bayraktar said…“…Joining forces with the Saudi defense industry will accelerate Baykar’s rate and capacity of production, which is crucial to meet the burgeoning demand for the Turkish unmanned aerial solutions,” Kasapoglu said…


[i] For background see: Ali Bakir, “Turkey’s defense industry is on the rise. The GCC is one of its top buyers,” The Atlantic Council, 4 August 2023.

[ii] For more on Baykar and Turkish drone exports, see: Karen Kaya, “Turkey as a Drone Superpower: A Case Study of a Mid-Size Power Driving the Operational Environment,” FMSO’s Foreign Perspective Brief, 28 March 2023.

[iii] Over the past decade, Turkey’s military influence among Gulf countries was centered on its close defense and security relationship with Qatar. Turkish relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE were strained for much of the 2010s. They thawed in 2021 when the Qatar embargo ended and a broader regional rapprochement began.

[iv] Jeremy Binnie. “Local production agreements signed for Saudi Bayraktar Akinci UAVs,” Jane’s, 8 August 2023.

[v] For more on the defense industry component of Saudi Vision 2030, see: Lucas Winter “Saudi Arabia and China in the Arabian Sea,” OE Watch,October 2016.; Lucas Winter, “Saudi Arabia and the UAE Streamline Military Industry,” OE Watch,January 2020.; and Lucas Winter, “Saudi Arabia’s Domestic UAV Program Slow To Get Off the Ground,” OE Watch,01-2022.

[vi] See: Lucas Winter, “UAV Technologies Proliferating in Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” OE Watch,07-2022.

Image Information:

Image:  Turkish Bayraktar Akıncı UAV on display at Teknofest Aerospace and Technology Festival in 2019.
Attribution: CC 4.0

Kyrgyzstan Acquires Turkish UAS, Showing Less Reliance on Russia

A Turkish TAI Aksungur twin-engine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle on demonstration at Teknofest 2019.

For 2.5 years, Kyrgyzstan has allocated 125 billion soms ($1.422 billion) to upgrade equipment.”

Kyrgyzstan has relied on Russian security assistance to help upgrade weapon systems and equipment for its armed forces. When the government announced in late 2021 that it had purchased two Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for the country’s border guards, it marked a partial shift away from Russian systems that has continued with newer acquisitions.[i] The excerpted article from the independent news website Fergana Agency reports that Kyrgyzstan spent $1.4 billion over the past two-and-a-half years on its armed forces. The article notes that Kyrgyzstan acquired Bayraktar, Aksungur, and Akinci UAS from Turkey, as well as Pechora surface-to-air missile systems and Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters from Russia. It is unclear if the TB-2s are additional systems, but the Aksungur and Akinci and Russian systems are new acquisitions.[ii] The article also discusses the numerous conflicts that have taken place on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border in recent years, suggesting one possible motivation for Kyrgyzstan’s desire to upgrade its systems. According to the article, last September both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan brought up additional forces during one clash that killed dozens, demonstrating how clashes in recent years have increased in scale. Overall, Kyrgyzstan’s military acquisitions are not a shift in the balance of power in the region, but it provides it an edge that Tajikistan does not have.


“За 2,5 года Кыргызстан потратил на обновление вооруженной техники почти $1,5 млрд (For 2.5 years Kyrgyzstan has spent almost $1.5 billion on upgrading military equipment),” Fergana Agency (independent Russian-language news website focusing on Central Asia), 21 July 2023.

For 2.5 years, Kyrgyzstan has allocated 125 billion soms ($1.422 billion) to upgrade equipment. This was announced by the head of the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) Kamchybek Tashiev at a government meeting…

Tashiyev noted that in 2005-2020, Kyrgyzstan spent 3-5 billion soms ($34-56.9 million) for the same purposes. For comparison, he listed that in 2021 alone, the country’s authorities allocated 32 billion soms ($364 million) to upgrade weapons, in 2022 – 53 billion soms ($603 million), for six months of 2023 – more than 40 billion soms ($455 million).

…According to Tashiev, Bayraktar, Aksungur, Akinci drones, the Pechora anti-aircraft missile system, Mi-8, Mi-17 helicopters were purchased.

“We didn’t receive all this as a gift, all this was purchased with state budget funds,” Tashiev stressed. …in recent years there have been numerous border conflicts between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The biggest one happened in September last year. Artillery and heavy armored vehicles were involved in the battles on both sides.


[i] For background on Kyrgyzstan’s acquisition of Bayraktars in 2021, see: Matthew Stein “Kyrgyzstan Conducts Exercise with Its New Bayraktars,” OE Watch, 05-2022.

[ii] One of the deliveries of new Russian helicopters took place a few weeks before the announcement by Tashiev, see: Kseniya Timofeeva, “Кыргызстан получил новый вертолет Ми-17. От России, но за свои средства (Kyrgyzstan received a new Mi-17 helicopter. From Russia, but bought on its own),” Kaktus, 23 June 2023.

Image Information:

Image: A Turkish TAI Aksungur twin-engine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle on demonstration at Teknofest 2019.
Attribution: CC BY-SA 4.0

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

Georgians Consider Outcomes of War in Ukraine

Protesters in Tbilisi, 7 March 2023.

Protesters in Tbilisi, 7 March 2023.

In any case, Georgia needs to start preparing and working on increasing its civil defense capabilities.”

The Georgian government condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine initially but has not taken part in any sanctions against Russia out of concern of being drawn into the conflict. Additionally, Georgia’s economy remains closely tied to Russia’s, and the government continues to contend with the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which have been occupied by Russia-supported forces since the end of the 2008 Russia-Georgia War.[i] While Georgia will likely maintain its neutrality on Ukraine, the accompanying excerpted article from the independent, non-profit think tank Georgian Institute of Politics offers a Georgian perspective of five possible outcomes of the Russia-Ukraine war. The article is a follow up to the think tank’s initial assessment of possible outcomes, which was published just a few weeks after the war began in 2022. While the report acknowledges that Georgia will not have a direct impact on the outcome of the war, each of the scenarios shows how Georgia will be affected in some way.

In the first scenario, Ukraine wins the war, which the article’s authors believes is probable, resulting in Georgia joining NATO and having deeper integration with Europe. Conversely, the article believes that this would come with the risk that Russia will then destabilize Georgia regardless of who is in power in Moscow. The second scenario examines what could happen if Ukraine turns into a frozen conflict or returns to the status quo before the war began. The article states that a frozen conflict would allow Russia time to restore its military but also would push additional Russian migrants into Georgia. Georgia could also become the focal point of Putin’s ire as he looks to claim a quick victory to compensate domestically for losses in Ukraine. This would in turn cause Georgian officials to move away from integrating with Europe and pursue a policy more in line with Russian interests. 

In the third scenario, Russia achieves its strategic goals in Ukraine, and in the fourth scenario, Russia and NATO engage in full-scale war. These are unlikely according to the article. The fifth and final scenario, which the authors believe is very likely, is that a war of attrition will continue for two or more years and that this will put Georgia in a difficult position. The article notes how Georgian Dream, the ruling party in Georgia’s parliament, has been improving ties with Russia, though many in Georgia still see Russia as a threat. In early March, the Georgian government withdrew a bill requiring NGOs to register as foreign agents in Georgia after facing protest that the bill had been influenced by Russia. Lastly, the article notes that Georgia will face “major strategic dilemmas” regardless of how the war ends and recommends that Georgian officials increase civil defense capabilities and cooperation with Turkey.[ii] While the article does not claim to be an official Georgian perspective, it makes clear that Georgia will be impacted by the outcome of the war in Ukraine.


“One Year of War in Ukraine and Risk Assessment for Georgia: Five (updated) Scenarios,” Georgian Institute of Politics (an independent non-profit think tank in Georgia), 13 February 2023.

In March of 2022, just a couple of weeks after Russia launched the full-scale military aggression against Ukraine, GIP proposed four possible scenarios of future developments and their possible implications for Georgia…However, almost one year since the invasion, the conflict seems to be reaching its decisive point…

As the war continues reshaping global geopolitics, the following piece will revisit GIP’s previous assessments and offer insights into what has changed over the last 11 months since its publication. Although the war is far from over and significant battles are still ahead, five scenarios discussed in detail below offer some insights into the dilemmas and potential risks that Georgia may face considering different possible developments in Ukraine.

Scenario 1: Ukraine wins the war (Probable)

As western support for Ukraine continues to increase, leading to a successful counteroffensive operation, and eventual victory, the geopolitical paradigm in the wider Black Sea region would change drastically…If the situation is going to develop in this direction and Ukraine is going to achieve full de-occupation of its territories (including the Crimean Peninsula), it’s not excluded that the window of opportunity may appear for NATO’s further enlargement to the East…In the best-case scenario, this would also imply Georgia joining the alliance. In addition to NATO enlargement, Russia’s defeat and retreat from the region will also make Georgia’s European integration irreversible…

…This scenario implies risks for Georgia from another perspective…Defeat in Ukraine may result in regime change in Russia, leading to internal instabilities and power struggles. This could lead to a spillover of chaos in the already volatile North Caucasus, creating a range of challenges on the border of Georgia. In other words, while a strong Russia is a serious threat to Georgia, an unstable Northern neighbor is no less dangerous for its security.

Risks will increase for Georgia even if the Russian regime survives defeat in Ukraine. Since it can still act as a spoiler, the Kremlin might be keen to restore its tarnished prestige by continuing adventurous foreign policy towards Georgia…

Scenario 2: Freezing the conflict and/or returning to status quo ante (Possible)

As the war drags on causing an immense number of causalities on both sides, there is a possibility that both Russia and Ukraine could reach the point of exhaustion…

This would be either freezing the conflict or returning to the status quo in the Eastern part of Ukraine…the existence conflicts with frozen solutions will also allow Russia to restore its forces and prepare for a new assault. This scenario also implies a risk for Georgia, as preparing for a new offensive would intensify the ongoing “silent” mobilization. This, in its turn, may lead to an increase in Russian migrants to Georgia…

Moreover, with conflict intensity decreased in Eastern Ukraine, Russian Federation could apply pressure on Georgia through South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As in the first scenario, amid the upcoming presidential elections in 2024, Putin might need a quick victory on the foreign front to compensate for the damage caused by the failures in Ukraine. In the worst-case scenario, officials in Tbilisi might be forced to give up its policy of Euro-Atlantic integration and align its external policies with the Kremlin’s…

Scenario 3: The Kremlin achieves its strategic goals (Unlikely)

In this scenario, Russia achieves a successful breakthrough in the upcoming major battles. With Western support decreasing, Ukrainian resources exhausting, and a raising death toll among civilians, Ukraine might be forced to concede. Ukraine’s concession would imply the change of the government in Kyiv, recognition of occupied territories as part of Russia and the end of Euro-Atlantic presence in the region for decades to come.

As it was outlined in our scenario 2: Georgian nightmare published in March 2022, there is no doubt that in case of such developments, the Kremlin may pose an ultimatum to Tbilisi or may even establish a puppet regime in Tbilisi. Georgia could be dragged into the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) or even into the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)…

Scenario 4: NATO-Russia Full-Scale War (Highly unlikely)

Out of all the possible scenarios outline here, this seems to be the least likely, yet still a possibility. Especially if, after a successful counteroffensive in the East, Ukraine will start military operations to free the Crimean Peninsula. Attacks on Crimea or deeper territories in Russia might further escalate the conflict and lead to the Kremlin using a tactical nuclear weapon…

In case of a war between Russia and NATO member states, the Black Sea region gains strategic importance. It includes Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey, members of the alliance and most likely get involved in the conflict…In this context, Georgia’s strategic location gains vital importance for Russia and NATO allies…

Scenario 5: Attrition warfare continues for 2 or more years (Very likely)

There is also a possibility that neither Russia nor Ukraine is going to back down that might lead to the protracted attrition warfare. In this context, illicit trade and alternative imports of the western technology is going to gain even more importance for the Kremlin. This will put Georgia in a difficult position due to its transactional foreign and security policy towards Russia. And deliberately or not, by improving economic ties with Russia, Georgian Dream did end up moving Georgia closer to its erstwhile enemy…

Despite the GD’s rhetoric, existing occupied territories remain an obstacle to improving relations with the Kremlin. Opinion polls repeatedly show that the majority of Georgians perceive Russia as a threat and support the country’s pro-European foreign policy…

Conclusion…All the scenarios outlined above suggest that regardless which direction the situation is going to develop, Tbilisi will be facing major strategic dilemmas. In any case, Georgia needs to start preparing and working on increasing its civil defense capabilities. Similar to what was suggested in our last year’s scenarios, Georgia needs to intensify its cooperation with Turkey a NATO member and a large regional military power that has a potential to counterbalance Russian regional dominance…


[i] For more information on Georgia’s security issues in Russian-occupied South Ossetia and Abhazia, see: Matthew Stein ““Borderization” Continues in Georgia,” OE Watch, 03-2020. See also Dodge Billingsley “Russia Flexes Its Muscles in Abkhazia While Citizens Recall Anniversary of War with Georgia,” OE Watch, 09-2018.

[ii] For more background on Georgia’s security cooperation with Turkey and Azerbaijan, see: Matthew Stein “Trilateral Security in the Caucasus,” OE Watch, 07-2017.

Image Information:

Image: Protesters in Tbilisi, 7 March 2023
Attribution: Public Domain

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.

Erdoğan Relying on Russia To Bolster Support Ahead of Turkish Elections

Putin with Erdoğan.

Putin with Erdoğan.

“…Putin is making “gesture after gesture” to…President Erdoğan… No Turkish administration in the past has received such political support from a world power… Putin is behaving like a provincial AKP leader, to get [Erdoğan] reelected…” 

As he prepares for elections in June 2023, Turkish President Erdoğan will face a more united and determined domestic opposition than ever. Polls show that the most important issue for the Turkish electorate is the economy. Given the high inflation and economic crisis in the country, polls also show that if elections were held today, Erdoğan’s victory is not guaranteed. It is in this context that a series of recent moves made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in support of Erdoğan, are significant. As the first accompanying passage taken from respected Turkish journalist Murat Yetkin’s YouTube channel details, Russian President Vladimir Putin is making “gesture after gesture” to secure Erdoğan’s victory in 2023 elections by helping him claim that he is improving Turkey’s economy.  

In the second accompanying passage from independent news and analysis platform Medyascope, former Turkish diplomat Sinan Ülgen points out that the current pronouncements about making Turkey the largest natural gas center for Europe is a significant change in Russia’s stance on the issue.  He begs the question: “Why now?” and suggests that Putin prefers Erdoğan to win. Ülgen also notes that Russia’s state-run Rosatom, which is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, wired around $15 billion to its Turkish subsidiary recently, helping relieve a shortage in Turkey’s foreign currency reserves, a notable benefit for Turkey in an election year.  In the third excerpted passage, also from Medyascope, expert Ömer Taşpınar claims the transfer of funds represents Putin’s “investment in Erdoğan’s election victory.” Shortly after the transfer, Erdoğan criticized the West’s sanctions on Russia, while voicing support for Putin’s decision to block natural gas sales to Europe. Taşpınar says this was Erdoğan thanking Putin for the transfer.  In addition to Turkey’s economic woes, Erdoğan also faces resentment from the Turkish public regarding the approximately 3.6 million Syrian refugees that it currently hosts. From the fourth excerpted passage, also from Medyascope, expert Gönül Tol predicts that Putin may help Erdoğan with this challenge too, by allowing Erdoğan to conduct an operation into northeastern Syria before the elections, something Putin has objected to in the past. This would enable Erdoğan to claim that such an operation would allow for the creation of a safe zone where Syrian refugees could be resettled back in Syria. Turkish observers would seemingly not be surprised if Putin gave the green light to Turkey to conduct at least a limited operation in the coming months.


Murat Yetkin, “Erdoğan Putin’le aylık olağan görüşmede: Rusya yeniden seçilsin istiyor (Erdoğan in his monthly regular meeting with Putin: Russia wants [him] to get reelected),” Murat Yetkin via YouTube (veteran journalist Murat Yetkin’s own YouTube channel providing neutral analysis on Turkish developments), 12 October 2022.

Russian President Putin is making “gesture after gesture” to Turkey, specifically to President Erdoğan… Back to back statements coming from Moscow about natural gas are surprising even for Ankara.  No Turkish administration in the past has received such political support from a world power… Our journalist friend Nevsin Mengu says that Putin is behaving like a provincial AKP leader, to get [Erdoğan] reelected… 

Sinan Ülgen, “Putin’in Türkiye’deki “seçim yatırımları” ve tüm yönleriyle gaz merkezi (Putin’s “election investments” in Turkey and the gas hub [debate] from all angles),” (independent Turkish news and analysis platform), 15 October 2022.

Russia’s capital investments into the Turkish banking system for the Akkuyu nuclear plant, certain statements, other ways that Russia has provided financial help to Turkey such as sending the money for the Akkuyu nuclear plant in advance, suggest that Putin prefers that Erdoğan stay in power, since he knows how to work with Erdoğan and has a working relationship with him, one that has produced results for Putin.  Because it does seem like sending the money for Akkuyu in advance has no benefit for Russia, but a notable direct benefit for Turkey.   The natural gas issue is a bit different.  On this issue, Russia has a benefit, but… if Russia is really proposing to make Turkey a gas hub, as opposed to a transit country, this points to a huge policy change for Russia, …which begs the question, “Why now?”… given that Turkey has wanted this for 25 years.  So it does seem that Putin is taking steps to help Erdoğan in the upcoming elections. 

“Transatlantik: Ankara-Atina hattında gerilim: Savaş kapıda mı? Enerji krizi | Biden-Trump çekişmesi (Transatlantic: Tension in the Ankara-Athens route: Is war knocking on the door?  The Energy crisis | Biden-Trump Competition),” (independent Turkish news and analysis platform),7 September 2022.

The billions of dollars that came from Russia, I’m not sure how that’s coming, but… it seems that Putin is making an election investment for Erdoğan.  He wants Erdoğan to win elections… and he gave this money for him to win.  And in return, we see that Erdoğan is protecting Russia in his statements.  Erdoğan’s comments [criticizing Europe’s sanctions and voicing support for Russia’s decision to cut natural gas to Europe] are pro-Russia…and his position is one that is closer to Russia on the issue of energy… He is criticizing the EU for the sanctions and saying that Russia is a strong country when he should be saying that Russia should not weaponize gas…

“Transatlantik: Kılıçdaroğlu’nun ABD ziyareti | ABD’den F-16 kararı | Erdoğan-Putin görüşmesi (Transatlantic: Kılıçdaroğlu’s USA visit | The USA’s F-16 decision | Erdoğan-Putin meeting),” via YouTube, 13 October 2022.ğan has been a lifeline for an isolated Russian economy…  Putin is also a lifeline for Erdoğan [domestically]…  In this context, Putin’s injection of money into the Turkish economy … is important for Erdoğan… I think Putin can provide important help for Erdoğan in Syria… Before the elections, I think an operation into Syria would be beneficial to Erdoğan because he could use the narrative that “I know you are resentful about the refugees but I can fix this problem.  I will conduct an operation into Syria to establish a zone [for the refugees to be resettled].  Until now, Putin had not given a green light to Turkey on this, but today, given how much Putin depends on Erdoğan, he might give a green light for this, which would be a huge favor to Erdoğan.

Image Information:

Image: Putin with Erdoğan.
Attribution: CC BY 3.0