August 3, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8875

Russian Military Expert Pavel Felgenhauer: Russia Will Defend Armenia From The Turks; If Necessary, Russia Will Save Armenia With A Nuclear Strike

August 3, 2020
Russia, South Caucasus | Special Dispatch No. 8875

On July 29, Turkey announced the launch of joint large-scale tactical and tactical flight exercises involving Turkish and Azerbaijani ground and air forces.[1] The exercises, taking place July 29-August 10, include live firing and involve some 5,000 personnel, 150 units of military armored vehicles, up to 150 units of artillery and air defense systems, and up to 30 jets, helicopters and drones. [2] They are being held in Azerbaijan, in the areas of Baku, Nakhchivan, Ganja, Kurdamir and Yevlakh. Ground exercises are being held in Baku and Nakhchivan August 1-5, with artillery, armored vehicles, and mortars striking simulated targets.[3]

It should be noted that earlier that month, on July 12, tensions rose once again on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, when Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry accused Armenia of attempting to attack Azerbaijan's positions at the Tovuz section of the border with artillery systems. "Beginning on the afternoon of July 12, units of the Armenian armed forces, grossly violating the ceasefire in the direction of the Tovuz region of the Azerbaijani-Armenian state border, were subjected to artillery fire on our positions. There are losses on both sides and currently there is fighting in this direction. Our units are in control of the operational situation," the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.[4]

However, Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan reported on Facebook that on July 12 Azerbaijan had attempted to violate the Armenian border near the Tavush region, but that all these attempts had been thwarted. "At about 12:30 today, Armed Forces of Azerbaijan personnel, for reasons unknown to us, attempted to violate the border of the Republic of Armenia in a UAZ vehicle in the direction of Tavush," Stepayan said, adding that after a warning from the Armenian side, the Azerbaijani  military personnel returned to their positions, but later made a second attempt to cross the border, using artillery fire, and again retreated, with losses to their side..[5]

The Azerbaijan-Armenia clashes continued for three days. Azerbaijan reported that 12 personnel, including a general, had been killed,[6] and Armenia reported four servicemen killed.[7]  Commenting on the escalation at the border, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said: "As you are aware, on July 12, Azerbaijan attacked our border positions in the Tavush region. Not only did the Armed Forces of Armenia repel the attacks, they also caused significant damage to the adversary. The Azerbaijani side suffered numerous casualties, in addition to losses of military equipment and weapons with highly advanced technology. This is an explicit victory of military strength, tactics, and Armenia's military-industrial complex.

"The damage done to the adversary's morale was even greater. The domestic political situation in Azerbaijan is unstable, including due to these military activities. This is leading the Azerbaijani leadership to resort to new provocations in order to channel the social dissatisfaction [in Azerbaijan] towards Armenia and Artsakh [aka the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic].

"Amidst all these developments, I would like to outline several important points. First, Azerbaijan launched an attack against sovereign Armenian territory. I must stress once again that the military positions under Azerbaijani attack during the last two weeks are within the sovereign territory of Armenia. Thereby, Azerbaijan's depiction of the Armenian side as the aggressor are merely nonsense.

"Azerbaijan launched this attack as Armenia was engaged in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, although Azerbaijan was refusing to negotiate with Artsakh, the main party to the conflict. All the Azerbaijani attacks were decisively repelled, and the Armenian side has further strengthened its positions along the border. The Azerbaijani myth that its army can defeat the Armenian army – and thus Armenia and Artsakh should make concessions – has evaporated.

"For a long time we have been urging Azerbaijan not to speak with us from a position of force, warmongering, and threats to use force. Now we can confidently say that Armenia has both rejected the threat of use of force at the diplomatic table and showed in the battlefield that these claims are unfounded and do not reflect the real balance of power. By 'real balance of power' I mean not only the number of troops or armaments, but the overall quality of their military actions and the level of command.

"Now we can confidently state that the Armenian Armed Forces and the Armenian Army not only demonstrated high combat efficiency, but also underlined their reputation as the most efficient and intelligent army in the region. This is not merely a statement, but a conclusion based on a detailed analysis of the events since July 12. Our army has been and remains the source of national pride, and it has once again emphasized its status in the Tavush region..."[8]

Since July 17, according to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the border situation has been relatively calm.[9] However, tensions remain high as the Turkey-Azerbaijan military exercises begin.

Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer said in an interview published July 29 that the Turkish army's entry into Azerbaijan "on the pretext" of joint Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises is a serious escalation of the situation in the region. He argues that there are already concerns that an escalation would lead to a large-scale confrontation between the pro-Armenia Russia and the pro-Azerbaijan Turkey, and adds that if there is a military clash, Turkey will demolish both the Armenian and Russian forces situated in Armenia. This, however would mean a declaration of war on Russia, which under such circumstances may resort to the force of nuclear deterrence.

Below is the interview, as published by[10]


Pavel Felgenhauer (Source:

The Kremlin May Carry Out A Demonstration Strike On An "Unpopulous" Area; This May Mean A War With NATO

"The Turkish army's incursion into Azerbaijan territory on the pretext of military exercises is a serious escalation of the situation in Transcaucasia, says military expert Pavel Felgenhauer.

"Turkey's troops practically invaded the territory of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic – an exclave of Azerbaijan, which is separated from the rest of the country's territory by Armenia and by the unrecognized [Republic of] Nagorno-Karabakh. Officially, this was on the pretext of joint Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises, which began on July 29.

"However, considering that these maneuvers will take place at a time of escalation in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict – in which Turkey traditionally takes the Azerbaijani side – and considering that Yerevan is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the main member of which is Russia, there are already concerns that all these factors may lead to another Russian-Turkish confrontation, but this time on a much larger scale."Military expert Pavel Felgenhauer, with whom the Rosbalt interviewer discussed this topic, does not rule out the possibility that NATO might be drawn into such a war, escalating the situation still further.

"Q: In your opinion, in the current tense atmosphere, are the joint Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises on Nakhichevan soil a demonstration of moral support for Baku in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, or is Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdoğan indeed ready to take [action] on the side of Baku?

"Felgenhauer: That's a lot of moral support. Both Erdogan and his defense minister say that they will fight on the side of Azerbaijan, if it comes to that. Thus, they state their position, which in any case has always been that way. There are a number of problems here, including those related to the status of Nakhchivan, which was established by the Moscow Treaty of 1921 between the Turkish Republic and Soviet Russia. Now the Turks say that if there is a problem in Azerbaijan, they can intervene, and this interference can be very serious.

"Q: What will Russia do if Turkey interferes in the conflict?

"Felgenhauer: Of course, such a development can lead to war with Moscow. Russia will defend Armenia from the Turks. We maintain a military base in Gyumri [in Armenia] precisely for this reason.

"Q: Well yes, because if in such a case Moscow does not defend Armenia, then we must ask  why does the CSTO (of which Yerevan is also a member) exist at all?

"Felgenhauer: No, the main point is not the CSTO. [This organization] is a fiction, because Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, or Belarus, which are part of this organization, will fight in Transcaucasia under any circumstances. CSTO is not NATO, after all; even Montenegro sent several soldiers to the last Trident Juncture ('One Trident') exercises. The Belarusian constitution, for example, prohibits the country's troops from operating outside Belarus territory. The Central Asian republics, who are members of the CSTO, are also not going to fight in Transcaucasia. In other words, this issue concerns only Armenia and Russia; if something happens, other CSTO members will provide primarily moral support.

"It must be noted that the Russian troops in Armenia are not entirely Russian by nationality: about 90 of their personnel are Armenian. This is an old imperial tradition – hiring locals for [military] service. It is simply cheaper than transporting contractors from Russia by plane.

"In any case, there is only one motorized rifle brigade, comprising about 4,000 personnel. In addition, there is also our aviation detachment, equipped with MiG-29 and anti-aircraft missile systems. Altogether, this is rather a token combat force compared to Turkey's 3rd field army located on the other side of the border.

"The options to reinforce our troops there are rather limited, because if something happens we will have to fight our way through Georgia. And the Georgians may not allow [passage to our troops], and then we will have to fight through their territory... Reinforcements can of course be brought in by air, but it is difficult to transfer tank and motorized rifle brigades by air. In addition, the Turks have very powerful modern aviation.

"In general, if there is a military clash, the Turks will demolish both the Armenian and Russian forces that are situated in Armenia. But this will mean a war with Russia, and the latter may under such circumstances resort to using nuclear deterrence (in accordance with our defense doctrine).

"Q: Will Moscow make such a risky move?

"Felgenhauer: It may. For example, the Kremlin may carry out a demonstration strike on an unpopulous mountainous area, or on some ground in Anatolia, to show that we are ready for this. But on the other hand, this may mean a war with all NATO [members].

"The situation is quite serious, and it can escalate instantaneously. The Turkish troops' crossing of the Turkey-Azerbaijan border to take part in these maneuvers is a very serious escalation, which, in the worst-case scenario, could potentially lead to a nuclear war in a fairly short time. However, if a full-scale war between Azerbaijan and Armenia does not happen, then Turkey will not interfere in it either. It is always possible to back down."


[1], July 29, 2020.

[2], July 30, 2020.

[3], July 29, 2020. See also:

[4], July 12, 2020.

[5], July 12, 2020.

[6], July 30, 2020;, July 12, 2020.

[7], July 15, 2020.

[8], July 23, 2020.

[9], July 30, 2020.

[10], July 29, 2020. The interviewer was conducted by Aleksandr Jelenin. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8864, Kommersant Columnist Yusin: Erdogan Is Pouring Kerosene On The Territorial Dispute Between Armenia And Azerbaijan, July 27, 2020.

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