Nagorno-Karabakh War 1.5

Today a ceasefire has been agreed upon between Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which unlike the unilateral ceasefire declared by Azerbaijan three days ago seems to be holding.

This allows us to make some more conclusions observations on what happened.


Source:, via Cassad.

Nagorno-Karabakh War 1.5

First, the Azeris have made gains, but their advance was ultimately quite modest – only around a quarter of a kilometer across a narrow stretch of the northern front – and  ultimately ground to a halt. A total of eight defense positions were lost, as well as the village of Talish in the north. There are conflicting reports on whether Mataghis was captured – the weight of the evidence suggests that the Azeri assault failed with high casualties – while the main town and operational center for that front was never seriously threatened. It did suffer a bombardment, and was the target of intensive Azeri drone surveillance. Several Azeri drones were shot down around that area. The conflict also saw the first use in anger of the Israeli Harop “kamikaze” drone by the Azeris, which was remotely steered into a bus carrying Armenian volunteers, resulting in seven deaths.

Second, as has become familiar from the War in Donbass, official and unofficial casualty figures differ by an order of magnitude. Oficially, there had been to date 35 Armenian military deaths 37 Azeri deaths, although each side claims 300-400 enemy casualties. I suspect it is closer to around 50-75 for the Armenians (especially once the 28 listed as MIA, most of which usually end up dead in the end, are accounted for) and up to 150 for the Azeris. The photographic evidence appears to show a lot more Azeri than Armenian troops, and in any case it stands to reason since it was the Azeris who were assaulting well-fortified positions.

Furthermore, the NKR’s tally of how many tanks it lost – some fourteen of them – are virtually the same as Azeri claims of how many tanks it destroyed. In contrast, Azerbaijan implausibly acknowledges the loss of only one tank, whereas the Armenians claim they destroyed 29 tanks. Since it is harder to hide hardware losses, this suggests an NKR-Azeri combat loss ratio of 1:2. Apart from this, the Azeris have also lost several APCs, 1-2 Mi-24 helicopters, and tons of Israeli UAV’s (one of them was apparently downed by a hunter with a rifle! Not very good PR for Israel’s defense export industries).


Armenian volunteer.

deluded-aliyevAll in all, it’s safe to say that at least so far, this has been a comprehensive defeat for Azerbaijan, regardless of how earnestly President Ilham Aliyev prevaricates on Twitter and the rather unconvincing assertions of Azeri propaganda.

Their purely military gains were insubstantial, and attained at the cost of much higher losses in personnel and equipment than the worse-armed but far more motivated, skilled, and dug in NKR Army. This was accomplished without any reinforcements from Armenia proper. Any hopes for a blitzkrieg campaign have been dashed. Consequently, if the Azeris also intended to test the limits at which Russia would start moves to intervene, they failed at that as well through their failure to achieve any major military successes against NKR in the first place.

Political Aspects

The Azeris also lost the information war. Although this flareup elicited very little European or American official commentary, it was clear that public opinion outside Turkey and Azerbaijan itself – at least as gauged by social media on Twitter and Reddit – was overwhelmingly on Armenia’s side. This was especially so after evidence of Azeri war crimes began to crop up, including the execution and mutilation of three Armenian civilians in Talish and the ISIS-style parading of the decapitated head of a Yazidi soldier from the NKR ranks (note that both links are probably NSFW). While the provenance of the former is uncertain, the latter appears to have definitely happened, appearing on a pro-Azerbaijan military Vkontakte page. There were also claims from pro-Armenian media sources that many Azeris in the ranks of Islamic State were turning to Azerbaijan. There is reason to be skeptical about this since it is unlikely that the sorts of Azeris who would go off to Raqqa would return to fight for a secular Shi’ite state.

If the intent was to use military assault to catalyze the diplomatic process, that too must be considered a failure. Apart from Erdogan’s boorish but entirely predictable expression of unconditional support for Azerbaijan, nobody else followed suit. Instead, everybody from Russia and Iran to NATO and the US issued formulaic injunctions to observe the ceasefire and resolve the issues through the OSCE Minsk Group (i.e. back to the status quo of doing nothing).

Even the US was noncommital, with a State Department spokesman saying that the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh will be determined on the principles of “non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity of states, and the equal rights and self-determination of people.” The second and third points are of course self-contradictory in this case, but the reference to “threat of force” might have been a veiled rebuke against the Azeri Defense Minister for his threats to bomb the NGK capital Stepanakert.

The only countries of note apart from Turkey to assume a decidedly pro-Baku position were Pakistan, Georgia, and Ukraine – but this ghost of the GUAM alliance is not really a diplomatic triumph by any stretch of the imagination.

There was however one Azeri success, though. Or rather an Aliyev success. In Azerbaijan’s current economic circumstances, one might think the ruling dynasty could certainly do without is the media quacking about its offshore network of secret holding companies revealed by the Panama Papers. And unlike with Putin, Aliyev’s family members are directly mentioned as owners. It is worth noting that Mossack Fonseca had informed its clients of the data breach several months in advance, and they would have been aware of the approximate dates of its publication.

Is there a conspiracy theory here? Who knows. It need not have been a decisive factor, since the mainstream media doesn’t have the freedom to talk about such things anyway, while foreign journalists can be fobbed off with the always reliable “[the children] are grown up and have the right to do business” excuse. Even so, it might well have been a significant contributory factor.

After all, it is better to have people rhapsodizing about a “short victorious war,” or failing that at least about “our heroic shahids,” than grumbling about the plummeting currency and the offshore secrets of the elites.

A Final “Optimistic” Note

As I pointed out in my last post, this year represents the likely peak of Azeri military power relative to Armenia for at least the next decade. With Baku getting engulfed by financial crisis in the wake of the collapse of oil prices, it is cutting its military budget by 40% this year, in addition to already substantial cuts in 2015. This means its military modernization efforts will crawl to a stop. Those hi-tech toys its been “testing” these past few days are probably not going to be replaced anytime soon. Meanwhile, while the Armenian economy is hardly booming either, it can at least expect to maintain spending at similar levels or even increase them further considering the rising incidence and fierceness of its clashes with Azerbaijan.

This means that for Azerbaijan, it is a question of now or later… where later might either be decades down the line, or even more likely, never.

On the other hand, though these skirmishes were a far cry from what a real large-scale war would look like between Azerbaijan and Armenia-NKR, they were exceedingly useful from a calibration point of view in that they allowed the Azeris to get a good gauge on the actual combat effectiveness of their rebuilt army. They might well have concluded that the oil-splurge spending of the past decade didn’t automatically translate to much higher proficiency or combat effectiveness, with all that it entails for the prospects of a future large-scale operation to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh (even putting to the side the issue of Russian intervention).

In this sense, the continued bellicose rhetoric of the Azeris – and the Turks – regardless, the chances of a serious war in the future for Nagorno-Karabakh may well have actually diminished in the past few days.

EDIT 2016/04/06: Now that the fog of war has cleared up, it has become clear that the Azeris even failed to retain the village of Talish. What a debacle.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Erik Sieven says

    it is as obvious as boring to point it out, but still it should be mentioned:
    imagine any western power would support a proxy fighting a war against a people against they committed genocide a hundred years ago. Western mainstream media is full of condemnations for Japan for not apologizing enough for WWII while Turks not only do not apologize, not only deny what happened but even threaten to fight against.

  2. Anonymous says

    Turkey will break apart in the agony of a civil war because its people are very nationalist in mentality and actions. Turks and Sunni Arabs especially demonstrate that anti-racism has its merits.

  3. As far as I can tell, the only country where they care a fig about the Lügenpresse’s latest fake investigation is that goodwhite Mecca, Iceland.

  4. Well, I can quibble with Mr. Karlin re the number of losses on each side and what was gained and lost, but the gist of the article is accurate.

    {All in all, it’s safe to say that at least so far, this has been a comprehensive defeat for Azerbaijan, }

    A Russian lawyer wrote an interesting article re Artsakh/NKR.
    With permission, I will paste it below.

    [Russian lawyer: Artsakh resistance is a challenge for post-modern world order

    Russian lawyer, member of the Civic Chamber of Russia, Executive Director of the For the Openness of Justice Public Committee Denis Dvornikov has made the following comment on his facebook page, against which Azerbaijan has launched a massive military assault these days.

    “Artsakh resistance is becoming not only a strong military power but also a completely unexpected ideological challenge for the post-modern world order, in which a nation is not a nation and a state is not a state, where the ideal man in peaceful times is the Consumer and in harsh times the one who flees – the Refugee.

    It is exactly for this reason that the world is in a shock and can’t believe its eyes when watching how men with a smile on their faces go to the front to fight for their brothers, for their land, for that boy who has been shot by an asshole artilleryman in the schoolyard…

    If the Karabakh Armenians had fled, they too would have probably been given a couple of German villages, their feet too would have been washed in St. Peter’s square in Rome, their crying men would have been shown on CNN and BBC too. But they didn’t run! To the contrary – an Armenian millionaire is taking his son out of comfortable Oxford and sending him to the front, and not to some elite unit but to the very frontline, under Russian “Солнцепек”s; because for him it is more important to have a son who is a real man rather than a son who is a leading economist.

    I am very worried for Artsakh. I am very envious of Artsakh, where in that mountainous air such thick meaning of life is concentrated that you can already eat it with a spoon, like the hot Armenian Spas.”]

    God bless the heroic, indigenous, Orthodox Christian Armenian people of Artsakh/NKR.
    May 1,000s and 1,000s of invadonomad, Islamist, Turkic hordes meet their virgins in whatever ‘paradise’ the savages end up in.

  5. They aren’t Muslims or Africans, so they might not have been given refugee status.

  6. OT, but Anatoly, Frontline had this documentary about Putin the other night. I was wondering if you’ve seen it and if so if you had any comments?

  7. Right.

  8. never underestimate the power of necessity.
    To cover political failures or foolish decisions in the past with new ones in the future.
    To cover foreign policy mistakes with new opportunities to make better and bigger ones.
    To use blood of the people to extend the timetable of those decision makers at the top.

    The perception that this petered out is a false perception.

    It seems to have been a catalyst from other actions that were taken, in order for this phase to pass there has to be another catalyst to usher in some sort of pent-up resolution either demanded at the top or bottom to some issue we have no knowledge of. This is not about resolving the conflict but the necessity to get some clarity on issues impacted by Russia-Turkey-Europe and so on interconnections. If you as a small player cannot be heard on a certain parameter ‘say’ new pipelines or expansion of old ones or commitments that you desperately need to re-finance old bonds issued by your oil company to finance a refinery in Turkey to tune of 5-10 billion dollars it may be expedient to resort to a certain flare of tensions to get some/any sort of attention to gain resolution under the guise of political regulation.

    Then again there are other issues there as well some involve Georgia/Azerbaijan transit from Iran and China that may not occur. food for thought

  9. I’ve collected some excellent documentaries on post-Soviet Russia and put them in this thread although the first one I posted seems to have been taken down.

    These documentaries deal with the Oligarchs and the rise of Putin and were made before western media decided to throw away all objectivity and engage in a Jihad on him.

    The two part series from TVOntario’s Human Edge is most interesting in that you cannot walk away from watching it without gaining a serious respect for Putin.

  10. A Turkish friend writes, “Back in 1945, at the peak of the Cold War, Stalin split Azerbaijan by taking the corridor between Nahjivan, neighboring Turkey, and the rest of the country and giving it to Armenia in exchange of the Karabagh Region. This was to cutoff the land connection between Turkey and Azerbaijan. He was a Georgian and he disliked both Armenians and Azeris.

    Now the best way to resolve this territorial dispute is to undo what Stalin has done — let Armenia keep Karabagh but give the land strip, much smaller than Karabagh, mentioned above back to Azerbaijan.”

  11. {A Turkish friend writes,…}

    Your Turkish friend is clearly speaking as a Turk.
    The country Azerbaijan did not exist before 1918.
    Armenians have been indigenous to Caucasus and Western Armenia for 5,000+.
    Turks are nomad invaders from Uyguristan*.
    And Nakichevan is also Armenian, which Stalin gave to newly cooked up country of Azerbaijan.

    Armenia has two land routes to the outside world: one through Georgia in the North and one thru Iran in the South. The land strip that your Turk friend wants is Armenia’s outlet to Iran.
    I am sure the two Turkic state would love to link up and strangle Armenia.

    btw: Western Armenia is currently occupied by Turkey. They accomplished that feat by committing a Genocide of the indigenous Armenian population.
    Currently the area is largely populated by Kurds.
    It will eventually become independent Kurdistan.
    The centuries long dream of invadonomad Turk of an unbroken pan-Turanic chain from Bosphorus to their ancestral land of Uyguristan is already in tatters.

    Say, if you talk to your Turk friend ask him when are they going to give back the 40% of Cyprus they have been occupying for 40 years.

    • [Ahmet Davutoglu, who has become the first Turkish foreign minister ever to visit Uighur Autonomous Region in China, toured historical sites in Kashgar city. Davutoglu and an accompanying Turkish delegation arrived early Thursday in Kashgar in the extreme west of China and the extreme southwest of Uighur region. Davutoglu first visited the tomb of Mahmud Kashgari and then they toured the tomb of Yusuf Has Hajib as well the 500-year-old Id Khah Mosque, the largest mosque in China. “We are visiting the land of our ancestors,” Davutoglu said.] (October 2010)
  12. If Davutoglu has any qualifications as a genealogist, historian, physical anthropologist or researcher of the human genome which might render his opinion on the subject of any interest, I missed it.

  13. Since you are apparently highly knowledgeable as a genealogist, historian, physical anthropologist or researcher of the human genome, are you claiming that Turks are indigenous to Asia Minor?

    Second question: why would a Turk leader go out of his way to say Uyguristan is his ancestral land?

  14. The Turkish language is a relatively recent import to Asia Minor, but most of the people who call themselves Turks have a high proportion of ancestors from there.
    Turk leaders treasure their historical connection to central Asian nomads, although no person of taste would do the same.

  15. Thanks I look forward to watching them. I mean, I’ll take a corrupt quasi-traditionalist over sincere Cultural Marxists who rule the West. But I wonder the extent to which Putin’s corruption is abnormal even by developing world standards.

  16. Every Zionist Jew has that dream.

    Luckily, however, Turkey may not recover its 400-year long glory – but it’s not going to be ‘wiped off the map’ by Israelis or their godfather Russia.

    99.9% Turkish citizens are Sunnis, Shias and Sufis – but none of them follow Talmud to learn what racism really is.

    An Israeli survey conducted in October 2015, 80% of respondents said Israel needs to re-establish its old friendly relations with Turkey for its trade, tourism, and security against Syria and its regional allies.

    On December 18, 2015, Shoshana Bryen at the New York-based Gatestone Institute, an Israeli advocacy group said: “When all else fails, Erdogan calls Israel.” Bryen claims that boycotting Israel, Erdogan has bankrupted Turkey economically. He also asserts that after shunned by Syria, Egypt, Iran, and Russia – Erdogan finds Israel being the only trustworthy regional ally.

  17. What is missing is an explanation why Azerbaijan still tries to retake Nagorno-Karabakh. The area is populated by Armenians(I do know a small part of the area could be seen as historically Azeri) and cannot be that valuable to someone from Baku.

    All I can think of is revenge. That reflects extremly badly on the Azeris and Turks. They obviously don’t want peace.

  18. Seraphim says

    @“When all else fails, Erdogan calls Israel.”

    Erdogan Dönmeh? Like Ataturk? Like the House of Saud?

  19. Here’s another angle to this conflict, involving the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan energy pipeline:

    The U.S. and other Western nations have become much more involved in the affairs of the three nations through which oil will flow. The countries have been trying to use the involvement as a counterbalance to Russian and Iranian economic and military dominance in the region. Russian specialists claim that the pipeline will weaken the Russian influence in the Caucasus. The Russian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev stated that the United States and other Western countries are planning to station soldiers in the Caucasus on the pretext of instability in regions through which the pipeline passes.

    Israel is also trying to benefit from the Caspian Basin oil by diverting some of the oil flowing into Turkey to Haifa, Israel where it will be refined and then sold to the world, making for a very lucrative source of income for Israel.

  20. Anonymous says

    Azerbaijan has highly paid PR and lobbying in D.C. while Armenia has Kim Kardashian and her Congressman.

    Azerbaijan ambassador blasts Kim Kardashian

  21. As expected, the ‘Elephant’ is missing from Karlin’s article.

    Baku and Tel Aviv established close working relations in intelligence sharing and a defensive platform for the Zionist entity in April 1992 – one year after its independence from USSR. Middle East International (October 23, 1992) reported supply of Israeli arms to Azerbaijan via Turkey. Ilya Bourtman writing in Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2006) wrote: “At the heart of Azerbaijan-Israel coperation lies their fear and distrust of Iran. Israel has obvious reasons (??) for distrusting the Islamic Republic……Azerbaijan has more complicated relations with Iran. On one hand Azerbaijan shares historic ties and a religious bond with Shi’ite Iran. For more Azeris live in Iran than in independent Azerbaijan…..Today, Iran and Israel play a cat and mouse game in Azerbaijan. Both has developed vast espionage networks in Azerbaijan. Israeli intelligence maintains surveillance and listening outposts on Azerbaijan border with Iran….”

    Last January, Mossad faked a planned attack on Israeli embassy in Baku – and interestingly – instead of blaming Al-Qaeda, as a rule – blamed Hizb’Allah!

    The oldest inhabitants of Azerbaijan were of Persian stock. Islam was introduced to the area by the Arabs during the 7th century. In the 11th century, Turkish nomads overran the area. In early 16th century, Azerbaijan was the Turk Safvid dynasty. It was the Safvid rulers who introduced Shai’ism into Persian society. In the 17th century, the Turks were expelled by King Nadir Shah. In the 18th century, Russian hordes invaded the area. Under the Treaty of Turkmenachai of 1828 CE, Azerbaijan was divided between Iran (southern part) and Russia (northern part). During the late half of 19th century, oil was discovered in Azerbaijan and by 1900, the region had become one of world’s leading oil producer. The country was occupied by Ottomans during WW I. Azerbaijan was occupied by Russian Army in 1920 and a Republic of Azerbaijan under communist-rule was established. In 1945 Russia set-up a short-lived Kurdish Republic in western Azerbaijan, but Iranian forces regained the area in 1946-47.

    Azerbaijan declared its independence from USSR on October 18, 1991 – but the old communist bosses kept the power in the name of nationalism. Eighty-five percent of country’s population of over 9 millions – is Muslim (75% Shias and 25% Sunnis) – and the rest 15 % Christians. More than twice the country’s population – Azeris live in the neighboring Islamic Republic of Iran. However, like Bengalis in India and Koreans in the South and the North – Azeris are also being kept divided for the interests of forein powers and their local puppet elites.

    Azerbaijan’s two trouble spots have been – the Nogoro-Karabakh enclave with sizable Christian Armenian population and Nakhichevan, an Azeri enclave landlocked by Armenian territory.

  22. Hey Homer

    A few years ago Erdogan was boasting of his “zero enemy” policy with Turkey’s neighbors.

    This quickly turned into a “zero friend” policy with Turkey’s neighbors.

    Today Erdogan is fighting for his life politically and the Turkish economy sucks.

    Erdogan has far more to gain by being friends with the only successful and stable country in the Mideast. Alienating Israel and kissing up to the basket case Muslim countries surrounding Turkey got Turkey nowhere.


  23. Jim Christian says

    Those damned Jeee-ews again. Breaking news, for persistent virus infections and browser hacks on your PC, visit:

  24. Turks are basically the descendants of Hellenized Anatolian peoples, Greeks, and Armenians who converted

  25. As usual, wherever the word “Biden” is found, it will ALWAYS be followed by some mealy-mouthed zionist propaganda and this time did not disappoint.

    While some in Congress actually “get it”, Biden and Obama are trying their usual “let’s all hold hands, sing songs of peace and give the zionists some time to regroup, re-arm and try again” routine.

    Thanks for the great summary of an YET ANOTHER zionist drubbing.

    Let’s hope Americans take some inspiration from the Armenians. Our time is coming, soon.

  26. Anonymous says

    Oh so you found his self imagined 200 billion$ wealth by your yellow msm. Tell us more about his corruption. Want to quote Panama ? Ah! again he wasn’t involved directly.

  27. The Kardashian is mightier than the cruise missle!

  28. Hi Sharon – your brain is still hanging between your legs, eh!

    In the good old days – “the chief Rabbi of Jerusalem declared Caliph Umar Ibn Khattab as the ‘Promised Jewish Messiah’ for liberating city Jews from Christian slavery,” Karen Armstrong, professor of Jewish history at Oxford University.

    In June 2015, the Zionist-occupied US Supreme Court declared that city of Jerusalem doesn’t belong to Israeli Jews.

  29. Wizard of Oz says

    Interesting link but also spoiled with that nonsense about Ashkenazi Jews being of Khazar origin. You have no credibility in anything you say about Jews if you are still peddling that discredited nonsense. Even the smallest degree of scepticism in your intellectual makeup would make you wonder how Khazars could end up with a name which means German and speaking a language, Yiddish, which is a German dialect.

  30. Wizard of Oz says

    And your point is?

  31. General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned – Seven Countries In Five Years

    “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

  32. “What is missing is an explanation why Azerbaijan still tries to retake Nagorno-Karabakh. The area is populated by Armenians”

    Up until 1991, N-K had a large Azeri minority — about 25% of the population. In round numbers, there were about 150,000 Armenians and 50,000 Azeris. By the end of the war, all the Azeris had been driven out, along with another 1o0,000 or so from the “buffer zone” territories that Armenia seized around N-K.

    Doug M.

  33. If this is the end of the matter, I for one will be delighted. Unfortunately, I very much doubt that will be the case.

    Aliyev is a deeply cautious ruler who has never been inclined to roll the dice, so it’s possible that he’ll continue to hold the line against any further military experiments. And he has never been very interested in actually recovering N-K. But as Anatoly points out, the correlation of forces is no longer shifting in Azerbaijan’s favor, so the window in which they can effectively act is closing. That’s bound to put some internal pressure on.

    Also, if I were Armenian, I’d be less inclined to crow over this. It was a defensive victory in a single skirmish in mountainous terrain that’s suited to the defensive. I’ve been to N-K. Not only is it mostly mountains, but most of the mountains are still heavily forested — very unusual in the Caucasus, where the Soviets cut down forests with a free hand and the successor states followed suit.

    Azerbaijan has more than three times Armenia’s population, so an NKR-Azeri casualty ration of 1:2 is not necessarily good news for the Armenians. Remember, from an Armenian POV, the question isn’t “did we win” but “did we bloody their noses hard enough so that they’re not going to try this again”. The answer to the first question is pretty clearly “yes”; to the second, I’m not so sure.

    Doug M.

  34. Anonymous says

    Interesting this article fails to mention that the largest supplier of weopens to both sides is the Russian Federation. Those went IDF made tanks 🙂

  35. Punjabi Sardar says

    Uighurs invaded that area from Mongolia with help of China in 700s ad. Before that was Hindu Kingdoms there,

    Tarim Basin