Bitter Lessons Learned: Aftermath of Azerbaijan’s Blitz Attack

The site of the downed helicopter in Artsakh
The site of the downed helicopter in Artsakh

The site of the downed helicopter in Artsakh


The soul from within the body was calling, saying
“Do not lose your time anymore,
Your sacred memory has been written in heaven
Mountains and valleys are on the attack
They are coming at you, to trample you under their feet
But your bravery, and the powers from heaven
In this world will leave your name
That love and faith, and the loyalty towards the homeland
Are so powerful and magnificent
That one can destroy a thousand
Two can break, vanquish the multitude”
They called on each other, gave heart to each other,
Took the blessing, and went ahead

Khatchadour Apovian, “Verk Hayastani”

The four day war in Nagorno-Karabakh is barely over. There is an uneasy and temporary lull in the fighting. It is supposed to be a ceasefire. Until next time. The people of Artsakh and Armenia are in mourning. They are burying our fallen heroes and taking care of the injured. We need to take note of where we went wrong. Were we truly ready for this kind of an all-out onslaught? It is a painful process and maybe it is premature for this assessment, but it needs to be done at all levels. We have to identify the weaknesses in our political and military leadership, in addition to the failures of our foreign ministry. Further, a frank reassessment and re-evaluation of our true friends and allies is needed.

Several questions keep lingering: Why were we caught by surprise? Is there a deficiency in our intelligence gathering? Why didn’t the Russians or the US notify us prior to such an attack? Both Russia and the US must have been aware of this attack due to Azerbeijani tanks, armor, grad missile systems, as well as army concentrations amassed at the line of contact. One can assume that Russia has both the means and the capability to monitor such movements. The same can be said for the capabilities of the US. It is Russia that sold five billion in sophisticated weaponry to Azerbaijan, but never delivered the two hundred million dollars’ worth of weapons promised to Armenia. Finally, Russia never intervened in the fighting.

There needs to be a course correction by the Armenian government and those in power who failed to anticipate the situation need to be replaced for their complacency. In addition, the leadership in Armenia needs to take a serious look at our failures in foreign policy: the lack of any movement in the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh worldwide and our inability to counter Azeri falsifications regarding the conflict. Apparently we did not anticipate and were not ready for such an all out assault.


It is imperative that during these dire times, we identify our weaknesses and take appropriate actions where possible; mainly:

I. A resolution by the Armenian Parliament recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence is long overdue.
II. Withdraw if necessary from our membership in the CSTO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, that does not treat Armenia as an equal and that – contrary to its bylaws – does not feel that it has to come to its rescue when attacked.
III. Oppose, at all cost, any kind of peace keeping force between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Oppose, at all cost, any settlement imposed on Armenia that is detrimental to the national interests of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and/or renders it indefensible.
IV. Intensify lobbying efforts around the world for recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state.
V. Insist that Nagorno-Karabakh be a party to the Minsk Group negotiations.
VI. Ensure that Turkey will never be able to join the Minsk Group. Turkey’s incitement of the conflict, as well as its interference in attempting to represent the conflict as a religious one, make Turkey ineligible as a candidate.
VII. Create a strong, well-trained army reserve, recruiting and capitalizing on the volunteers and veterans of the liberation war of Artsakh who voluntarily came to the rescue of our soldiers on the front-lines.
VIII. Create a war fund to be bankrolled by Armenian oligarchs and the diaspora at large to help the war effort and to especially assist the families of the badly injured and our fallen heroes.
IX. Strengthen ties with the media in the West for more informed and unbiased reporting of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to counter the Azeri petrodollar propaganda machine. Our weakness in this field was flagrantly evident during the recent flare-up.
X. Expose Azerbaijan’s human rights violations and conduct in contravention of the Geneva Convention. The viciousness with which both civilians and soldiers were mutilated is reminiscent of actions by ISIS.
XI. Initiate bolder and more decisive actions from our political and military leadership. When Azerbaijan attacks again, capture new positions and hit the enemy where is hurts most: oil installations and pipelines. Initiate preemptive strikes if necessary.


The rebirth and the unified outpouring of support by the people of Artsakh, Armenia, and the diaspora in reaction to the all-out assault must compel the political leadership in Armenia to clean up its act. Those who are in charge of the fate of our homeland, the political as well as military leadership, must start strengthening the homeland and especially the army, even if it means forgoing their amassed personal assets for the war effort.

The time has passed when outside forces can be blamed for our failures. The leadership in Armenia has to perform its obligations under the constitution. It needs to be held responsible for its dereliction of duty. While Armenia and Artsakh are fortunate to have citizens who responded by the thousands to the danger in a rational and self-reliant manner, their political-military leadership has to mirror the passion of its people or abdicate.

Finally, Armenians worldwide must come together to overcome these insurmountable obstacles. We should unite as one. We should only rely on each other, and most of all, on our heroic army. We should cherish each and every soldier and volunteer and remain beholden for their sacrifice.


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  1. joe said:

    I think you are being a bit too hard. In spite of the current situation Armenia and leadership gets praise. This is unchartered territory. Nothing like this has happened for 20 years. No doubt they should have been better informed and may need to work on it and all the mistakes that occurred. Azerbaijan has out spent Armenia 10 fold, and an all out war in most eyes would be disastrous. In spite Armenia showed incredible resiliency and potency. I 100% agree that the main outcome of this is absolute unity. One Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora.

  2. Raffi said:

    The best defence is a strong offence, why die defending and not die attacking? attack the Oil and Gas instalations and reduce their revenues which mostly will hurt Azerbaijan and the west.

  3. Raffi said:

    How come Russia didn’t notify the Armenians? if he kept saying to keep the status quo and not to start a war?

  4. Saaten Maagar said:

    Good observations: Let us take just a few points you mentioned, your IX & X.
    These 2 points need no massive effort or financial outpouring as some others so it is logical that we should be doing these. Given the golden opportunity of the Panama Papers in the news recently & the Aliyev clan being at the top of this list, why we have not publicized these issues more as it should be done. Any added domestic pressure on the Aliyevs, is in the interest of our people and we can and should increase these pressures at all cost. Our enemy makes up stories and publicizes them very effectively all the time but we can not even do the same with factual issues. Are we so dumb or incapable both in Armenia & Diaspora? Or we are just too afraid to publicize such issues for fearing that it might incriminate some of our so called leaders who have their own issues with these Papers. Unbelievable!!!

  5. Ara said:

    Excellent suggestions – ideas, but how can they be implemented in a country which is a Russian protectorate, run by oligarchcs and tratiors to the nation – lika Nalbandian?

  6. David Karamian said:

    Well said, completely agree on most points. I think it is also time to recognize that Russia is not necessarily our true ally and Savior. We need a balance relationship with the West and Russia. The former is not helping us in any way to recover from post Soviet economic collapse.

  7. Harutik said:

    There is a thing called “geopolitics” that Armenians, due to their emotions, arrogance and political illiteracy, almost always fail to properly understand. Allow me to therefore try to explain a few things in as few words as possible.

    Oil rich Baku has the money to purchase anything it wants from whoever it wants. Yerevan does not have that luxury. Moscow wants to keep leverage over Yerevan and Baku, as well keep the military balance between the two. Moscow will therefore sell Baku what Baku wants and give Armenia what Armenia needs. Russian officials also know that if they do not sell arms to Baku, there are a number of nations – like Israel, Turkey, Ukraine and China – that will. In fact, Israeli-made weapons proved most destructive during the four day war. Moscow wants leverage over Baku. Moscow wants military parity in the region. Moreover, Moscow is trying hard to keep Baku within its orbit essentially because it does not want to see Azerbaijan turn into yet another hotbed of pan-Turkic and Islamic extremism right on its border. In the big picture, this is in Armenia’s long-term interests.

    Russia is not abandoning Armenia (or even Artsakh). Russia continues to be Armenia’s one and only ally. Russia continues to protect Armenia’s borders with Turkey, allowing Armenia to concentrate its resources its border with Azerbaijan. That Armenian officials are squandering the task of properly fortifying Armenia’s and Artsakh’s borders with Azerbaijan due to graft and embezzlement of financial resources is all together another topic of discussion. That said, if there are problems or flaws in Moscow geostrategic vision towards the region, Armenians need to stop throwing temper-tantrums like little emotional children and figure out a way to work with their Russian counterparts to fix the problems that may exist. Our leaders cannot do this by enabling Armenia’s Western operatives or by running off to Western capitols to complain about Moscow.

    Armenians need to embark upon a serious effort to lobby Russian officials. Armenians better realize that the Western world will never provide Armenia with the kind of security it need. Armenians better realize that the West can never be an alternative to Russia. Armenia will not survive the south Caucasus alone. Armenia therefore needs Russia. We as a people therefore need to wake-up and understand all this and figure out ways to more efficiently lobby Russian officials. In other words, we as a people have the desperate need to mature politically. I’m afraid maturing as a people may be a long and bumpy road for us Armenians. I just hope we don’t lose our statehood along the way.

    • Michael said:

      I agree with Harut’s comments but have the following to add:
      I have watched a great deal of footage from the front line and hear repeatedly the words “everything is normal”. I think the first step for us must be the acceptance that we were badly surprised and lost this battle and stop being in denial of this fact, I understand our pride but there is nothing to be ashamed of. The second step is to stop pointing fingers at each other and put our heads together and work for the survival of our fatherland.
      We are lucky as this short conflict has pin pointed a great deal of short comings that need to be worked out and given us a chance to put them right before things getting really serous. Given the size and sophistication of Azari armed forces it is clear that the war in the future with Azerbaijan will not be like the war in the nineties. Our enemy has had over twenty year to prepare for this and the oil money has purchased weapons and training that has has pushed the conflict to a more sophisticated level. This is not the same enemy as before and we should not under estimate them. The immediate lessons here are:
      • We cannot just rely on our wonderful and courageous people to defend the homeland. We lost too many good men in this conflict and do not want this repeated again.
      • We cannot compete with Azari oil money and will never have as big an army as them, so our only possible road to survival depends on wisdom and gathering of intelligence and preemptive attacks to disable the aggressor prior to initiation of conflict. Gathering of intelligence seems to be an area which we are greatly lacking. We cannot expect this work to be done by Russia or any other nation we require our own infrastructure.