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27 octombrie 2020 - Special reports - Weekly review

D.S.M. WEEKLY REPORT - Main Political and Military Developments (WEEK 43 of 2020)

Sandu Valentin Mateiu

I. ARMENIA / AZERBAIJAN. The Nagorno-Karabakh war saga. II. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA / RUSSIA / UNITED STATES. Russian secret agencies accuse the United States of preparing to destabilize the R. of Moldova. III. NATO. Defense Minister Reunion.IV. UKRAINE / TURKEY. Bilateral military agreements.V. Developments to track this Week 44 of 2020.

Sursă foto: Mediafax

English version by Mircea Mocanu

I. ARMENIA / AZERBAIJAN. The Nagorno-Karabakh war saga.  

The war continues, with the Azeris in offensive, yet short of succeeding to force Armenian defeat. Being in advantage, Baku breaches the cease-fire and demands Armenian troop withdrawal from the entire region. Cornered Armenians seek foreign political support, including in the West, for achieving peace, but Russian and Western pressure has no effect on Azeri President Ilham Aliyev who benefits Ankara’s support. For Romania, this war, the way it is conducted, and the way involved regional powers tackle the conflict further indicates that the world around us has changed. The usual paradigms now fail to accurately reflect the reality, the traditional adversary does not necessarily pose an aggressive stance, and our ally does not have the behavior of a NATO member nation. Following this war, the confrontation between the two ‘partners’ (in their anti-West attitude) Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdoğan reached the larger Black Sea area and this does not bode well in a region already marked by wars waged by the Kremlin for securing its sphere of influence.

The Azeris continued their offensive mainly in the Southern flank of the frontline, where the terrain allows better advances. By conquering the bridge over Aras River (a symbolic element), they managed to gain control of the whole border with Iran. Upstream Aras River, Azeri troops reached as far as the former border with Armenia proper, where Russian troops showed up, although the SCTO had announced that an intervention in support of Armenia was not opportune. There, the Azeris switched their offensive direction towards the North, aiming at the Lachin (Lachin-Shusha) corridor, the road link between Armenia proper and Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azeris had already bombed the Lachin corridor and now continue the offensive towards Hadrut in the North (towards Shusha) and to Northeast (towards Fuzuli). The Azeri new tactics (infiltration using special forces) provided some success, but it is also risky (an entire Azeri special forces company was ambushed by the Armenians). Current fights are described by the Armenians as local clashes focusing on a few main locations. The Azeris maintain the Turkish operational concept[1], with drones striking important objectives from the air (command posts, and artillery, armor, and troop build-ups) and sending data to classic and modern reactive artillery, whose precise strikes cause heavy losses to the adversary. One can describe this war as being a war of drones and artillery, for both sides. The Armenians finally demonstrate their capacity to down Turkish TB-2 drones, perhaps with air defense systems other than the known equipment (images show only 9K33 Osa, 9K330 Tor, S-125 Pechora, and S-300 systems destroyed by Turkish drones). The Armenians have claimed they had downed Turkish drones before; however, this is the first time they can prove this capability performed regularly, and this is a blow to the Azeris, because it evens the balance, at the qualitative level, at least. Both camps continue to bomb adversary localities and cause civilian casualties, with Azeris using dispersion bombs. Armenian accusations that the Azeris wage a dirty war are partly confirmed (not at genocide level though), by documented war crimes, like prisoner executions[2] and the use of Syrian jihadists. The Armenians are pragmatic, they use Azeri prisoner declarations to demonstrate Turkish implication at command and troop level, as well as the presence of Syrian jihadists on the battlefield.

Currently, the situation is fluid, and it is not clear whether the Armenians managed to stabilize the southern frontline: a possible cutting of Lachin corridor or the occupation thereof, even denial by artillery fire, would be almost fatal, although a minor communication line would remain in the North (the M11 road, which is attacked from the air at Vardenis, in Armenia, ever since the beginning of the war). The Azeri advantage in the South, on the two offensive directions, towards the West, and then to the North towards Lachin corridor, takes place on a narrow stretch, and the Azeri attack is shaped by the terrain, which increases vulnerability to flank counterattacks. It is not clear whether the Armenians still possess the fighting capability allowing them to exploit this opportunity. The battle for Lachin follows soon, and the Armenians must win it if they want to not lose the war.     

Both sides near the apex, where their fighting capacity diminishes to a low level of fighting intensity; at this stage, it is important which side reaches this decisive moment first, and what the situation on the ground looks like at that moment. So far, the Azeris managed to preserve initiative, they occupied land in the South, and they menace the Lachin corridor. The Armenians have 1,000 servicemen losses, and they near the minimal level of their fighting capacity. In this regard, there are two political indications: 1) Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s October 22nd call to the nation. After the initial failure of the foreign minister meeting in Moscow, he called the entire nation to battle, and asked for volunteer detachments to be formed at local level. Pashinyan concluded that negotiations do not provide a cease-fire, only the outcome on the battleground is decisive; 2) the president of unrecognized republic of Artsakh (Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh) sent a letter to President Vladimir Putin, demanding Russia’s rescue. The Armenians preserve the advantage of a nation united around a democratic regime, where the power transparently communicates with the nation, from announcing the losses to bipartisan consulting: former huge differences between power and opposition were overcome, consultations took place, including between known political enemies, such as former Armenian presidents Ter Petrosian, and Robert Kocharyan. On the other side, the Azeri President Ilham Aliyev continues to voice the total victory message. He is encouraged by Turkey, which has announced it is ready to interfere with its troops, should the situation call for such action. This is an indication that the Azeri side is also close to the level of minimal fighting capacity. Aliyev is not ready to make concessions and proposes only one solution: all Armenian troops should leave Nagorno-Karabakh, and the entire region should return to Azerbaijan (with wording about a ‘cultural autonomy’). Nevertheless, Azeri losses are significant, but they are not disclosed to the public. This is a temporary advantage, but a future risk for a totalitarian regime such as Ilham Aliyev’s (whose political quality rests with being the son of KGB general Heidar Aliyev, who had grabbed the power in Baku after the fall of the Soviet empire). The Azeri nation is united by the idea of recovering Nagorno-Karabakh. However, apart from those who were cleansed by the Armenians from the enclave (after the war of the ‘90s), it is not sure that the Azeri population would accept heavier and heavier human and property losses, especially that Azeri population did not benefit from the huge oil and gas income gained by the country. Now, these revenues are less, and they were spent on weapons, but also went to the chests of a corrupt elite, the Aliyev family first[3].    

Russia’s mediation efforts failed; the cease-fire agreement was not implemented even after the October 22nd meeting in Moscow, where Sergey Lavrov separately met the  foreign ministers of warrying parties. On October 23rd, Mike Pompeo also conducted separate meetings with the two foreign ministers. Although nothing was disclosed after those meetings, the cease-fire failure shows that no agreement was achieved. Also, President Donald Trump’s October 23rd vague declaration, made in U.S. election context, cannot be understood as a way out of the woods. EU and NATO representatives continued their call to cease-fire and third-party non-intervention including during Armenian President Armen Sarkissian’s visit to Brussels[4], although Jens Stoltenberg avoided to explicitly mention Turkey, which remained a “very valuable ally”. EU and the U.S. increase pressure on Turkey and upon Azerbaijan as well, but both Ankara and Baku ignore it. On October 21st, President Vladimir Putin presented Russia as impartial mediator, although Azeri accusations that Moscow delivers weapons and ammunition to the Armenians might hold water. Putin has said there are differences in positions regarding the Southern Caucasus conflict between Russia and ‘partner’ Turkey. He supported the continuation of negotiations in current format (the Minsk Group co-presidents Russia, United States, and France). Ankara challenges the effectiveness and impartiality of current negotiation format and puts forward unfounded accusations against Western nations in the Minsk Group regarding the weapon support to Armenians. In this context, Turkey announced its intention to be part of a negotiation format which should also include only Russia besides the warrying parties. Except for expelling United States and France from negotiations, this format brings Turkey forth to the negotiation table, as sponsor for the Azeris, but offers Russia only the role of sponsor of the Armenians. The Kremlin cannot accept this belittled role in the Caucasus, it would spell surrender to Ankara, which would be politically accepted as holding a meaningful role in the ‘Russian sphere of influence’. Perhaps this is the reason for which Turkey accused Russia of providing weapons to the Armenians, a serious blow to Moscow’s image of impartial actor. Russian media circulates the idea that the only chance of implementing a cease-fire would be the establishment of a monitoring mechanism by deploying observer groups to the contact line. These observer groups should be made up of representatives of the two parties, plus Russia, Turkey, and the OSCE. Perhaps this is the only way towards a viable cease-fire, as without Turkey, there can be no truce. This would open the path for Ankara to gain a significant political role in the negotiation process, without having Moscow lose its role as a mediator equally distanced between the two sides in conflict. This might work especially since Russia is about to gain Baku’s consent, after obtaining that from Yerevan, to deploy a peace mission made up of Russian soldiers. Although not formalized yet, the Russo-Turkish dialogue is the idea appearing more and more as a framework where the future of the ongoing war in Southern Caucasus will be decided.

However, regardless how strong is the Russian and Western pressure, as well as Turkish support, the decisive element for Ilham Aliyev’s political decision of respecting the cease-fire is a complete frontline stabilization by the Armenians, a moment beyond which any further fighting makes no sense. The Azeri advantage of having recovered an important territory in the South flank of the frontline, can be presented by Aliyev as a victory able to justify Azeri human losses. The Armenians are aware of this issue, as Pashinyan’s appeal shows, thereby heavy battles will follow before a fall in violence. Then, regional powers will have positioned themselves as favorable as possible at the negotiation table, with Turkey raised to a more important negotiating role, if Russia’s status of prime mediator is not jeopardized (this is another precondition for cease-fire). Putin might accept Erdoğan at the negotiation table if Russia’s status of prime mediator is not touched (mandatory an ‘impartial mediator’ role, which secures for Moscow the continued image of a Russian sphere of influence to include both Armenia and Azerbaijan, although Aliyev’s behavior, and not only Moscow’s, shows that such turf is more and more a fiction: Russia’s control is limited, and the outcome of this control is questionable, with instability across the board). Perhaps the Westerners will remain in the negotiation format, Russia needs them to counterbalance Turkey’s demands, but they will not have an important role, because the West lacks the weigh which only the presence in the battlefield can provide; meanwhile, France is active and pro-Armenian, and the United States is busy with the elections, therefore too little interested for the moment. Before all these though, let us see who wins the battle for Lachin corridor.


II. REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA / RUSSIA / UNITED STATES. Russian secret agencies accuse the United States of preparing to destabilize the R. of Moldova.

Such accusations against the United States were brought by Sergey Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Agency (SVR). They indicate Moscow’s perspective on the political situation in the Republic of Moldova (RM), where its instruments, Igor Dodon and the Socialist Party (PSRM), cannot preserve the power monopoly if they do not resort to illegal means, which the opposition would react to. RM opposition requested free and fair elections and threatened with street protests, should the power commit illegal actions; meanwhile, Igor Dodon threatened with his own street demonstrations. Washington stepped in to ask both parties to respect the legal framework. In this context, Sergey Lavrov offered a first reaction, which was followed by Naryshkin’s accusations. These are a signal regarding Moscow’s fears that its plans of further grabbing the power in RM by Igor Dodon and his Socialists might fail; they also show Moscow’s determination to support them during the upcoming unstable situation. For Romania, focused on supporting Romanian citizens in RM (of various ethnicities, not only Romanian), the neighboring country’s problem can be approached from afar, through a European perspective and policy glass, but from a security point of view too (with such a corrupt political elite, asymmetric threats, from money laundering to smuggling, are the norm, not the exception), as well as at expertise level[5].     

On October 23rd, Sergey Naryshkin has declared that the United States is preparing a ‘colored revolution in RM’, in case Igor Dodon is reelected: "We see clearly now (following the developments in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan) that the Americans are plotting a revolutionary scenario for Moldova, which will elect its president in November. They are not satisfied with the incumbent head of state, Igor Dodon, who supports constructive relations with the CIS countries, including Russia... Considering Dodon’s chances for victory as quite high, the US Department of State has tasked its embassy in Chişinău to incite the opposition to mass protests in case of his reelection demanding the results of voting be annulled. Non-government organizations and mass media outlets affiliated with the Americans are already propagating fake news about the authorities’ plans to falsify the voting".

He also stated that diplomats of the U.S. Embassy in Chişinău seek to influence RM law enforcement forces to refrain from forestalling possible demonstrations, and “turn to support the people”: "We have information that a team of U.S. color revolution strategists is on their way to Moldova. Their mission is quite clear". Naryshkin stated that United States continues to blatantly meddle into domestic issues of nations neighboring Russia and is unfriendly with Russia: "Blatant attempts to influence the post-election situation continue in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan".

This declaration is quite serious, it brings accusations against the United States and represents a warning to Washington not to meddle in future developments in RM (it is meant solely for Moscow to do it). Considering the SVR credibility, presented baseless information has only a hybrid war value, respectively an indication regarding a ‘non-colored revolution’ that the Kremlin is likely preparing together with its tools in RM, Igor Dodon and his PSRM, in order to continue the power grab. Let us review the political picture in Chişinău: 1) Igor Dodon is a Russian influence agent, and the RM Socialist Party is created and illegally financed by the Kremlin[6]. Following the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, both Dodon and the Socialists intend to continue their power grab offensive through all means at their disposal, abusing the law and resorting to illegal means, including by massively bringing Transnistrian voters to the booths. Igor Dodon knows that, should the current legal framework survive, he would lose in the second round to opposition leader Maia Sandu. Dodon was warned by U.S. sub-secretary of state David Hale about the need for free and fair elections in RM. Also, the Socialist Party cannot remain in power after the elections, because it has nobody to ally with for a governing coalition (the PDM Democrats will disappear from RM political stage, with low chances to pass the threshold and win parliamentary seats); thereby, Dodon and the Socialists will resort to illegal means for the upcoming parliamentary elections; 2) there is no secret that, should Dodon fail to respect the legal framework, the opposition will protest strongly. Maia Sandu sent clear messages in this regard, and Dodon responded by threatening with his own street protests. Of course, in its demand for respect of law and for free and fair elections, the opposition is supported by RM civil society and free media, as well as by the EU and U.S. Meanwhile, Moscow’s instruments also control an important part of the power pyramid and servile media, which are interested to see lawlessness, corruption, and abuse continue; 3) judging by Dodon’s attacks on U.S., he is in a pickle with Washington perhaps because he failed the agreement[7] he had with the democratic opposition in RM, when the coalition which removed Plahotniuc was forged; 4) in RM domestic policy, the visible meddling is Russia’s, both through its two tools, Igor Dodon and the Socialists (Moscow pays money to them, not to RM, as EU, U.S., and Romania do), and through subversive actions: recently surfaced information, not denied by those in the issue, point that the kremlin had sent its agent teams in support to Dodon and the Socialists[8]. Therefore, before the ‘colored revolution’  to be supported by U.S., a ‘non-colored revolution’ seems to be in the making; 5) interestingly, Naryshkin attacks only the United States, not the EU as well, a possible indication that the American firmness is the one to worry Moscow, in circumstances where Russia needs nodding from the West (albeit by cheating), to control RM thorough its instruments. The reason? The West is supposed to further finance this failed state, which was bankrupted by its own elite. Maybe dire straits are to follow for RM, but this is no surprise, considering the political and social problems RM faces. Unfortunately for Dodon, not even the West can be fooled twice: after getting rid of Plahotniuc, forced to step down by pressure from the West, Dodon gained access to power for PSRM through an agreement with the opposition, for only later to breach this agreement by removing Maia Sandu from her prime minister position. He did that by using the remains of Plahotniuc’s PDM and by establishing his authoritarian regime (then working to implement what the Kremlin had demanded). A period of instability follows for RM, and some negative effects of this instability will be felt by Romania, although Bucharest is not directly involved in a country where an irresponsible elite used Romania as a scape goat for its failures. We are now waiting for the result of RM presidential election first tour.


III. NATO. Defense Minister Reunion.

During the October 22nd – 23rd North Atlantic Council in defense minister format, current issues were discussed, such as the future of NATO missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the situation in Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Strategic issues were approached too: The Alliance response to Russian missile deployment, the establishment of a NATO space center, and NATO nation resilience in critical domains, from infrastructure to communications.

NATO missions in Afghanistan and Iraq have a common denominator, the question ‘What will NATO do when the Americans leave?’. Worth mentioning, in Afghanistan, the allied troops intend to leave at the same time as the U.S. troops, while in Iraq the Europeans try to compensate the withdrawal of American soldiers by continuing the current NATO training mission. German media presented the future of Afghanistan mission as rather blurry, with NATO nations wishing to plan troop withdrawal in sync with Pentagon’s plans. But the U.S. withdrawal plan is in contradiction with President Trump’s statements regarding a quick withdrawal schedule. The stalemate in negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul authorities further complicates the situation, fights resumed in Helmand province, with American participation, and coalition troops were attacked: two Romanian servicemen were injured on October 21st, by an IED blast. Regarding the mission in Iraq, Germany would assume a military and political role, as indicated by the visit paid by Iraqi prime minister to Berlin. Perhaps, in both cases, the Allies are waiting clarification from Washington, after the presidential elections in the United States.

NATO response to Russian missile system deployment threat was also discussed, and the objective was to improve the Alliance deterrence capacity. One way to achieve that would be, perhaps, by continuing previous decisions regarding Russia’s deployment of SSC-8 missile systems, but also considering the hopes of extending the New START agreement for another year, while freezing both Russian and American nuclear arsenals. The decision to establish a NATO Space Center at the Allied Air Command Ramstein is a natural consequence of the Space Force established by the Pentagon. Thereby, NATO will synchronize its space efforts with the U.S., and other nations (France). Regarding Allied nation resilience, the NAC discussed a report on NATO critical infrastructure, including ports and airports; fuel, food, and medicine supply; as well as communications (5G issue included). Regarding defense spending, Jens Stoltenberg expressed his satisfaction that funds earmarked for defense have increased for the sixth year in a row, with many NATO nations touching the 2% of GDP threshold. This positive image is meant to calm the United States. But the problem persists, as many countries are still under that requested threshold (part of the increase in defense spending is due, in fact, to… a decrease in GDP, caused by the Coronavirus crisis). Also, several NATO nations failed to turn defense funds in operationalized battle systems meant to increase the defense capability of respective countries, or the Alliance as a whole.

The situation in Eastern Mediterranean was discussed on the backdrop of tensions between Greece and Turkey, but also in the shade of differences between Turkey and the United States, following Ankara’s testing of Russian manufactured S-400 missile systems. Jens Stoltenberg underlined that, although it does not solve the dispute, the NATO mediated military deconflicting mechanism established between the two countries provides the framework for political dialogue. There were perhaps references to Turkey, by France and by U.S. In the eve of the reunion, Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar stated that technology and weapon production sharing is essential (Ankara insisted that any purchase of American air defense missiles should include technology transfer). He also specified that, considering that “only Russia has responded to Turkey’s needs suitably”, Ankara will use the S-400 systems not integrated into NATO’s command-and-control infrastructure, but rather “as a standalone system similar to the use of Russian-made S-300 weapons that exist within NATO” (reference to Greece’s S-300 system deployed to Crete). President Erdoğan was even more clear when defying the United States: "It seems that the gentlemen [in the US] are especially bothered that this is a weapon belonging to Russia. We are determined, we are continuing on our path as always".

Differences between Turkey and France particularly deepened. After the beheading of a history teacher by a Chechen refugee (for having presented caricatures of Mohammed to his students), Paris declared war to the ‘domestic enemy’, the Islamic radicalism, and showed determination to combat it within the MENA arch of instability. That means also measures against countries directly or indirectly supporting Islamic radicalism there, and Turkey was mentioned among such countries (recently, as result of transferring jihadists from Syria to Nagorno-Karabakh). President Erdoğan responded by saying that President Macron ”needed mental treatment over his attitude towards Muslims and Islam”. This response speaks volumes about the situation: France recalled its ambassador from Ankara. In this tense context, one should notice remarkable efforts by NATO, with Jens Stoltenberg’s visible actions meant to keep Turkey close to NATO mainstream views, although President Erdoğan seems to be working to sway Turkey from the Alliance basic principles: Stoltenberg announced that Greece and Turkey cancelled the military exercises scheduled to begin this week.


IV. UKRAINE / TURKEY. Bilateral military agreements.

On October 16th, while President Zelenskiy was visiting Turkey, the two countries signed several bilateral agreements on military and defense technology cooperation: a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed for defense industry projects, aiming to jointly develop military programs and consolidate defense capabilities.

Parties will cooperate in building warships, drones, and various turbines. The military cooperation framework agreement was also signed, and this specifies the cooperation fields, its principles, as well as the classified information regime and exchange procedures. These agreements turn into documents the good bilateral relations: Turkey politically supports Ukraine by not recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy summarized: “We have a common vision on future cooperation in security and defense, especially in the Black Sea, and in implementing Ukraine’s euroatlantice roadmap. Cooperation in defense industry is vital for the development of our strategic partnership”. 

The bilateral cooperation in defense industry is necessary to both nations, as Ukraine seeks to preserve its defense industry by cooperating with other countries which need its technology (rather advanced but lagging behind Western technology though). So, Turkey is the suitable partner for Ukrainian manufactured naval turbines and for helicopter engines, which Ukraine produces but cannot integrate into performant platforms. Ukraine also possesses cruise missile technology and has tradition in aviation industry, which is the starting point for building modern cruise missiles and drones. Turkey faces more and more problems with access to Western technology, which is increasingly blocked (most recently, Canada blocked the delivery of electronic-optical systems for TB-2 drones, after seeing those UASs used in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh war). Therefore, Ankara finds in Kyiv the ideal partner for solving technology access problems, especially regarding propulsion technology. These agreements consecrate the good cooperation between the two countries and the political support received by Kyiv from Ankara. Ukraine is in quest for military and economic cooperation deals, as the recent agreements with UK and Turkey show. The domestic economic situation in Ukraine forces this urgency, and an additional proof is that, for the first time since the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine and Russia conducted a meeting regarding their bilateral economic relations.

As he showed in his State of the Nation speech to Ukrainian parliament, President Zelenskiy seeks to prove he found solutions for solving Ukraine’s problems, in view of upcoming local elections, which are crucial for a country where local power houses have influence at national level. However, under-accomplishments are more numerous, as Zelenskiy failed to fulfil many of his promises. Thus, although he claims his government would have accomplished all conditions requested for Ukraine for receiving the second installment of IMF loan, it is not clear whether this money will arrive, precisely for problems in conditions accomplishment. There was no progress in solving the Donbass conflict either, although he is not to blame for that, Moscow is not open for compromise. Zelenskiy announced measures to open towards separatist regions. Ukraine remains a fragile democracy which succeeds too little in domestic reforms, although it wants to go West. Meanwhile, Turkey has an authoritarian regime drifting it apart from the West, although it is linked to the West by its NATO membership. Therefore, the two nations have common security interests in the Black Sea region, where they oppose Russia’s intentions to extend its sphere of influence, including by changing borders (Crimea’s annexations, for example). In the Caucasus war context, Russo-Turkish competition spills instability into the Black Sea region, and this Turco-Ukrainian cooperation grows more significant for Romania, as we have good relations with both nations, and we see Russia as threatening, although Bucharest perceives Russian threat only from NATO perspective, and from within NATO.


V. Developments to track this Week 44 of 2020.

► RUSSIA / UNITED STATES. Extending the New START agreement. After the U.S. rejected President Putin’s proposition, Russia announced it accepted the extension of New START agreement, with freezing the entire nuclear weapon arsenal for one year. This extension is not deal done yet, because there is the problem of verification procedures for the entire nuclear arsenal: currently, there is only the mechanism of verifying the strategic nuclear armament, within the New START, and the mechanism of verifying the ground-based intermediate range missiles within the former INF agreement (which did not include their sub-strategic nuclear warheads). There is little time left and finding a solution will not be easy, both due to natural difficulties in working such verification mechanism, and due to the current low trust level between the two countries.  

► BELARUS. After October 25th, when the ultimatum expires, the power vs. opposition confrontation follows. Although they continue, street protests lost momentum. Lukashenka threatened to open fire against the protestors, but, in fact, he relaxed repression: the number of arrests diminished. The dictator applies a strategy of creating a cardboard opposition loyal to him, and is preparing to show readiness for dialogue with such ‘constructive opposition’ (constructive because it would not request him either to relinquish power, or to end his dictatorial regime). In this regard, he transferred the arrested Coordination Council members (Liliya Vlasova, Vitaly Shklyarov) to house arrest. Lukashenka advanced the proposition to reform the Belarusian Constitution, and initiated a look-alike social dialogue, waiting for proposals on the new Constitution project. The whole process is a mockery, but the stakes are high, this ruse is supposed to secure the dictator legitimacy in the eyes of Belarusian silent majority, and to prepare the framework where he would ‘legally’ impose a solution for continuing his dictatorship. Perhaps, Lukashenka thinks that his dictatorship will survive with him at the helm, but, also likely, Moscow will disregard Lukashenka’s illusions and will impose the Kremlin’s man instead, maybe even a character from this  ‘constructive opposition’ in the making, just to bet on a sure horse. Lukashenka must jump over one more hurdle though: the opposition’s threat that it would resort to civic resistance (i.e. general strike) after October 25, when the ultimatum expires. The dictator has prepared for this by his own organized counterdemonstrations. Finally, in order to have all his plans and Moscow’s plans implemented, firstly, the majority of Belarusian population should accept these plans, albeit as result of manipulation.

[1] It seems that Turkey does not support Azerbaijan only with drones, probably operated by Turkish servicemen, but also by transferring the entire concept of operations it produced and implemented for Ankara’s military intervention in Syria. An analysis of this concept of operations is offered by Can Kasapoğlu in his book ”Turkey Transfers Drone Warfare Capacity to Its Ally Azerbaijan”. Russia also implemented part of this concept, fire control by data sent from drones. However, although this concept panned out in Ukraine, its tactical and technological limits were visible in Libya and Syria, when Russia faced Turkey through proxies. It is worth noticing that this concept (which also involves air strikes from drones against air defense systems and against adversary fighting units) is valid while the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have no air force or modern air defense systems at disposal of their troops. Even the long-range air defense systems proved to be little effective: as an unpleasant surprise (even for Russia), an Armenian S-300 air defense system was hit from the air.

[2] Two Armenian prisoners were executed in Hadrut by Azeri special forces servicemen… who seem to be special only by this execution; for the rest of the facts, they appear to be just a better prepared infantry, fit for infiltration tactics.

[3] It is not that the Armenians do not have their own corrupt employees too, and the case of a general arrested for corruption stands proof: canned food meant for soldiers was found in his house. He was supposed to lead soldiers in battle, not to rob them. Prime Minister Pashinyan’s democratization policy and his fight against corruption show good results and long-term perspective, but also some negative immediate effects (many leaders were dismissed, generals included). Nevertheless, this positive policy generated a temporary weakening of several Armenian institutions, and in the international plane, it displeased Russia, both for impacting on Moscow’s political and economic control, and for seeing Yerevan opening a second dimension in Armenia’s foreign policy, the Western vector. This situation might be the very factor having encouraged Aliyev to start the war in the first place.

[4] That was an odd event: seeing Armenia (a nation forever allied to Russia within the SCTO) ask support for cease-fire in a separatist region. But reality is above a simplistic approach, the Armenians form a majority in Nagorno-Karabakh, the border alteration within the USSR was just a ruse by Stalin, and, in the ‘90s conflict, ethnic cleansing was utilized by both sides. 

[5] The Hungarian promised perspective faded away when the Orbán regime’s credibility plummeted. Where are the loans promised by Budapest? We know that Russian loans did not come, and we know why. Dodon’s government hastily privatizes whatever it can, because money provided by the schmucks is hinged and clearly directed for not being embezzled by Dodon’s ‘patrio-thieves’ (the schmucks are EU, U.S., and Romania, as they are seen by the Chişinău wise guys just because those actors think about Moldovan citizens more than their own government and president do; their government and president manipulate the RM citizens and buy them out for peanuts).

[6] This status was proved by the video recording where Igor Dodon admits he receives money from Moscow and tries to persuade Vlad Plahotniuc to sign a new Kozak memorandum at the Russian Embassy in Chişinău, practically an act meant to surrender the country to Russia. There are also proofs that he and his party are financed by Moscow through offshore banks and companies.

[7] The coalition between Maia Sandu and Igor Dodon was also the outcome of negotiations between Russia and the West, and Igor Dodon breached the agreement by removing Maia Sandu from power when she jeopardized the power pyramid, with all its illegal dealings, corruption and abuse of power.

[8] As shown by an investigation published by ‘Dossier’ Center and RISE Moldova reporters, published on “ ‘Dossier’ – RISE Investigation. Moscow meddles in RM policy through PSRM and Dodon, alias “Kremlinovich”. This is a relevant alias, just that the Kremlin also agrees that ‘we love treason, it is useful, but we loathe the traitor, although it might do it for us’ “.