Countries Selling Weapons to Azerbaijan Are Just as Guilty for Attacks on Artsakh

Harut Sassounian


Azerbaijan’s armed forces committed a criminal act on November 12, shooting down an unarmed Armenian helicopter inside Artsakh’s borders and killing three military officers. This is the first time since the 1994 ceasefire that Azerbaijan has attacked an Armenian aircraft.

Armenia should not only retaliate against Azerbaijan, but also take all appropriate diplomatic measures to identify and condemn the country that sold Baku the missiles used to down the helicopter. It should be noted that in recent years Israel and Russia have sold billions of dollars of sophisticated military hardware to Azerbaijan.

This unwarranted attack is partly due to 20 years of tit-for-tat border skirmishes during which Azeri sharpshooters kill Armenians and Armenian soldiers return fire killing Azeris. Sitting in his Palace in Baku, Pres. Aliyev does not seem to be bothered by the loss of young Azeris, so long as an equal number of Armenians are killed, since there are several times more Azerbaijanis (close to 10 million) than Armenians (less than three million) in their respective countries. For Aliyev, sacrificing Azeri soldiers is a worthwhile investment for the sake of keeping the focus of the international community on the unresolved Karabagh conflict.

Armenians worldwide are relieved that leaders of Armenia and Artsakh have announced their serious intent to respond to the latest Azeri aggression with a massive and disproportionate attack. One would hope that after a major Armenian counteroffensive, Aliyev might realize that Azerbaijan is paying a heavy price for his self-defeating military adventures.

Sadly, the Armenian unwillingness to launch a large-scale retaliation over the years emboldened Azerbaijan’s despot to resort to more brazen attacks, culminating in last week’s downing of an unarmed helicopter. What’s next? Blowing up a civilian plane with a large number of Armenian passengers, as he has repeatedly threatened to do?

Another puzzling situation is the continued high-level peace talks between the two countries, while one of the sides — Azerbaijan — keeps on shooting! How is it possible to talk peace and fire at the same time? At the end of every summit meeting, Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders, along with Minsk Group mediators representing the United States, France and Russia, routinely declare that the Karabagh conflict should be resolved through peaceful means, while Azerbaijan continues its aggressive behavior before, during, and after the peace talks!

To make matters worse, after each Azeri attack, the Minsk Group urges both Armenia and Azerbaijan to exercise restraint and places the blame equally on both sides. Such unfair and false parity only emboldens Azerbaijan to intensify its aggression. If the international community truly seeks a peaceful resolution and wants to prevent unnecessary bloodshed around Artsakh, it should ban the sale of weapons to Azerbaijan and issue a strong condemnation each time it violates the ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the Armenian government needs to take all necessary defensive measures to protect the people of Armenia and Artsakh from wanton Azeri attacks, even if it has to launch pre-emptive strikes deep inside Azerbaijan. Aliyev should not forget that his country’s oil and gas pipelines, oil fields and refineries are highly vulnerable to such attacks which could cause billions of dollars of damage to the economy.

To discourage Azerbaijan’s aggressive behavior, Armenia must declare that it would not only retaliate, but also freeze the peace talks by six months after each Azeri attack. Because Aliyev hopes to get back through negotiations some of the territories on the periphery of Artsakh, the suspension of peace talks would delay and eventually block the return of any territory. Thus, after a lengthy suspension of the talks, Aliyev would learn a valuable lesson: You can’t talk peace and make war at the same time!

Should Azerbaijan persist in its hostile behavior, Armenia could terminate all negotiations and decide either to recognize the Republic of Artsakh, or officially declare that Artsakh is an inseparable part of Armenia.

If Aliyev is foolish enough to make war, he may end up losing more territory and leave his country’s considerable energy infrastructure in total shambles. No one should take seriously Aliyev’s repeated threats to invade Armenia and Artsakh. Most military experts acknowledge that Azerbaijan’s military is inferior to Armenia’s, despite the lavish expenditure of billions of petrodollars to acquire the latest weaponry.

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  1. Avetis said:

    Harut jan, I’m afraid this time your writing is purely emotion-based fluff without much substance.

    Those who sell weapons are just as guilty of those who use them to commit crimes? You sound like a tree hugging liberal. Baku is the ONLY one guilt for the aggression. Also, the anti-aircraft missile used in the downing of the Armenian helicopter is one of the most widely proliferated weapons around the world. I would not even be surprised if it is Soviet era.

    All nations on earth, including Turkic ones, have the right to have militaries and militaries have such weapons used in the downing of the Armenian helicopter. Being that Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic it has acquired a lot of Soviet army weaponry, so has Armenia. Being that Baku is awash in petrodollars (pumped in by your Western powers), Aliyev has the hard cash to purchase whatever he wants. With that said, the same Russians that are selling arms to Baku are also providing arms to your impoverished homeland (better arms in fact) practically for free. All the fund raisings in the Diasporan could not pay for any of the sophisticated weaponry systems Armenia gets from Moscow – for free!

    At the end of the day, regardless of right or wrong, if you have the cash you will find the weaponry. Baku’s got the cash, we Armenians at least got Russia’s alliance. I don’t know what you are getting at with the tile of your article but its does sound like Russophobic nonsense.

    When it comes to arms sales to Baku, I would reserve criticism solely for Israel because 1) Tel Aviv does not even have normal diplomatic relations with Yerevan 2) Not only does Israel not recognize the Armenian Genocide but organized Jewry around the world serve as the Turkish spearhead in making sure the Armenian Genocide is never recognized in the US 3) Jews have very close ties with Turks and Azeris.

    Just a suggestion: When you are feeling angry or emotional please don’t write any articles.

    • said:

      I would also add that Mr. Sassounian fails to disclose that his own country provides military assistance to the Aliyev regime free of charge. This includes contracts to supply Azeri Turk army with sophisticated night vision equipped sniper rifles and training to teach askers how to use it to kill Armenian and Artsakh soldiers and civilians. This information is freely available on DOD’s website under contracts and solicitations for new contracts.

      Now tell me, which weapon system sold to Azerbaijan by Russia killed as many Armenian soldiers and civilians as well trained and armed Azeri snipers?

    • Hagop D said:

      You are right about Israel’s shameful support for terrorist Azerbaijan, but why should Russia be immune from criticism? You are being emotional yourself when you get riled up because someone is not approving your mother Russia’s position. Firstly, I would put into question whether Azerbaijan -should- have a right to purchase weapons -from anybody- given its illegal acts of war and attempted genocide against Armenians.

      And also, Mr Sassounian’s concerns are every bit valid, while you don’t show any concern yourself for Armenia and its people. Russia being part of the Minsk group definitely does have a responsibility in this, namely that even while it had a right to supply weapons to Azerbaijan, it failed in making sure such weapons would not be used offensively and illegally, and in such a way as to threaten the peace process, as was clearly the case here.

      This article is merely pointing out that a world power, especially one of the two super powers, must engage in its weapons sales responsibly and especially when it is involved in a peace negotiation between the two countries. By your “logic” North Korea should be able to sell nuclear weapons to ISIS, and without criticism. So maybe Armenia should also get cheap and free weapons from Russia and sell them to Chechen rebels for the sake of profit. Get real.

      • Harutik said:

        How can you criticize a sovereign nation for selling a weapon to another sovereign nation? How can you criticize a nation that is the ONLY reason why Armenia is able to keep its head above the backed up cesspool that is the south Caucasus?

      • Hagop D said:

        A better question is how can you not criticize a sovereign nation supplying two other sovereign nation with weapons while forcing them to discuss peace treaties while it has full knowledge that one of them is waging terrorist acts against the other? And by your approach it means Israel also cannot be criticized. When two countries are at war, a country supplying one with weapons means it is taking part in that war on one side (Israel). When a country provides weapons to both it means they are playing both fields with a dirty game of keeping the status quo (Russia). Weapons sales should be to responsible parties by responsible parties. Azerbaijan may be “sovereign” in your view, it does not make it a viable nation worthy of normal relations and existing the way it wants by the terrorist mentality it has because, a sovereign nation whose intent is to destroy its neighbor means it should not exist in the modern collection of countries in the first place in that form, much less get armed to the hilt to help it achieve its goal.

        North Korea is a sovereign nation, yet the US does not sell them weapons to make a profit, nor does it have relations. Syria is a sovereign nation, which country in the west respected that reality with all their terrorist mercenaries from all over the world having launched an outright invasion of the country? Iran is a sovereign nation, yet the west and Israel successfully lobbied to stop Russia from selling certain arms to Iran. Why are we Armenians so special that we cannot do the same? The likes of the posters here should start thinking from Armenia’s perspective as a future viable free and strong nation rather than cheering Armenia getting thrown on the back burner all the time. Armenia cannot be against Russia, but it does not mean that collectively as Armenians we do not have a right to question its actions for the security and peace for Armenia.

        • Avetis said:

          Israel and the West can be criticized for providing Baku with military assistance essentially because they do not and they cannot provide Armenia with any security guarantees. In fact, they work against Armenian interests.

          Also, Moscow has normal relations with Baku. It has therefore no reason to force Baku further into Western/Turkish/Israeli camp by not providing it with the legal arms it wants to buy at full price.

          At the very least, Russia provides Armenia with modern weaponry for low cost and sometimes for free. Russia also provides Armenia training on how to use such weaponry, military intelligence and, more importantly, protection against NATO member Turkey and Azerbaijan. It is solely due to Russia that Armenia can concentrate all its resources on helping Artsakh ward off a potential Azeri invasion.

    • Kevin Abrahamian said:

      I agree Avetis, Mr. Sassounian is certainly a patriotic Armenian and has done a ton of good for the Armenian community through his many roles such as head of the United Armenian Fund. But I’m afraid this article is emotional and unconducive to the problem of Azerbaijan’s military purchases. You are correct, the weapon the Azeris used, a Stela anti-aircraft weapon, is indeed one of the most widely proliferated weapons around the world, and has been around since the
      1970s. It would be like blaming Russia every time someone, somewhere used an AK-47 or a RPG-7 in a combat zone. In fact, Russians inside Russia and ethnic Russians inside Novorossiya have also been targeted and killed with these weapons by terrorists who have managed to acquire them.

      By the same logic, is Russia, which supplies almost all of Armenia’s military equipment either for free or at clearance prices, responsible for the success of the Armenian Army? If the provider of arms is “just as guilty” or just as responsible, then it would be the case that the Armenian victory in the Artsakh War in 1994 was as equally attributable to the Kremlin as it was to the Armenian soldiers who did the fighting the frontlines in Sushi, Karvajar, and Aghdam. And we’d have to attribute Armenian success in the 2008 Mardakert Skirmishes and the recent Armeian successes in repelling large-scale Azeri offenses on the Line of Contact in August 2014 to the Russians, because they supplied Armenia with the weapons.

      Political savviness does not translate into an understanding of military matters. Look at Generals Grant and Eisenhower in the US, or Vazgen Sargsyan or Jirayr Sefilyan in the US for proof.

      Kevin Abrahamian,
      Glendale, Greenpeace.

  2. GeorgeMardig said:

    It is not fair for just one crazy man called Aliyev in case of a war to die so many soldiers on both sides, how can the West ignore such a threat and keep relations and support.

  3. Kevin Abrahamian said:

    There’s no excuse for Israeli weapons sales to Azerbaijan, or any of the other anti-Armenian actions we see from Israel and from the worldwide Jewish commuinities, such as abraham foxman, brenda schaffer, shimon perez, guenter lewy, bernard lewis, bruce fein, george friedman, rivka cohen, vladimir socor, david saltzman (Turkish Coalition of America), denis jaffe , guy billauer, michael rubin, stephen blank, richard weitzor, and thousands of others to name a few notorious anti-Armenians.

    And while I’m not happy to see Azerbaijan getting Russian or any other weapons, Azerbaijan has billions to waste on weapons and if not in Russia it will spend its money elsewhere. So in defense of Russia, let me make three points:

    1) Unlike all other countries that supply weapons to Azerbaijan, Russia is the only one which supplies equally capable weapons, and in even larger quantities, to Armenia and FOR FREE. Thus Russia ensures the military balance never favors Azerbaijan. Israel, the US, Turkey, South Africa, Ukraine, Georgia and the EU states sell to Azerbaijan and at best they make worthless “statements” to appease Armenia. In an ironic way, Azerbaijan is using its dwindling petrodollars to subsidize the Russian weapons that Armenia receives at discounts or for free!

    2) Azerbaijan gets less capable export versions of Russian weapons at full retail price, while Armenia gets domestic, fully-capable Russian versions at discount prices or for free, and Armenia due to its CSTO and Eurasian Union membership can order directly from Rossoboronexport without requiring Russian government approval.

    3) Russia has troops on standby on the Azeri border, troops in Gyumri which have stated on numerous occasions recently that in case of an Azeri attack on Armenia that they will fight for the Armenian side, and Russia provides economic, diplomatic, political, military, technological, training, informational and various other types of support to Armenia, in fact Russia is currently helping Armenia launch a spy satellite that the Russians are designing and paying for so that Armenia can keep up with the billions Azerbaijan is spending on its own, western-designed, fully-paid for spy satellite. Russian diplomats for decades have stated that “there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”. In other words, Russia pressures Azerbaijan to ensure that it does not launch any attacks against Armenia.

    Also, even the US buys Russian helicopters for use in Afghanistan, so let’s not get carried away mixing business and politics. Still, I’d like to see more Armenians active in promoting Armenian interests to the Kremlin, right now there are a large number of Armenians only interested in antagonizing and insulting Russia at every opportunity instead of properly exploiting our alliance.

    As others have pointed out, the reason Azerbaijan has stepped up its provocations against Armenia is because they have been given a desparate, last minute green light from their masters in Turkey and NATO to try and draw Armenia into a war, for the purpose of derailing Armenia’s impending ascent into the Eurasian Union.

    Kevin Abrahamian,
    Glendale, Greenpeace.

    • Armenian said:

      When I read Kevin Abrahamian’s posts, I get the feeling that Kevin Abrahamian and I are the same person. I could not agree more with everything Kevin wrote, especially regarding Anti-Armenianism among Israelis and Jews, as well as the crucial importance of maintaining the Armenia-Russia alliance. Everything else, including how Azerbaijan spends/blows its petrodollars, is as trivial as adopting chickens as far as Armenian interests are concerned.

      God Bless the Armenia-Russia alliance and protect it from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

    • Random Armenian said:

      Well it is an emotional issue no? Ultimately the military responses are decided by Armenian and Artsakh commanders.

  4. Random Armenian said:

    “2) Azerbaijan gets less capable export versions of Russian weapons at full retail price, while Armenia gets domestic, fully-capable Russian versions at discount prices or for free, and Armenia due to its CSTO and Eurasian Union membership can order directly from Rossoboronexport without requiring Russian government approval.”

    This is not completely accurate. Armenia is currently going to spend $100M to have a Polish firm upgrade Armenian t-72 tanks to be on part with the brand new export T-90s that Russia just sold to Azerbaijan. And if I read correctly, they’ll be delivering more of them to the Azeris in the coming year or two.

    Azerbaijan also has Mig-29s, and it getting new model attack helicopters.

    They also have more of these hardware in quantity than Armenia. Dunno about Artsakh’s arsenal however.

    Export versions are usually less capable than the domestic version of the country of manufacture.

    ” in fact Russia is currently helping Armenia launch a spy satellite that the Russians are designing and paying for so that Armenia can keep up with the billions Azerbaijan is spending on its own, western-designed, fully-paid for spy satellite.”

    Can you provide more information on this? What I’ve read in the news states that they are commercial satellites.

    That said, the Azeris can potentially get satellite info from Turkey and Israel.

    “last minute green light from their masters in Turkey and NATO to try and draw Armenia into a war,”

    I can see Turkey involved in helping the Azeris with downing Armenian helicopters but NATO being involved does not make sense. A war will disrupt their energy supplies from Azerbaijan. Israel also gets major oil imports from the Azeris. I don’t believe they are interested in seeing a war.

    • Random Armenian said:

      I looked up more info on Azeri satellites an it seems they’ve launched a second one which I had not heard about. This one is in cooperation with Airbus and it’s an earth observing satellite. The first one, Azerspace-1, is simply a communications satellite (I don’t know if this could be used military or not). The second one launched this year, SPOT 7, is an earth observing satellite. It can take pictures down to 1.5m in resolution. So they have a satellite capable of spying. Or a poor-mans spy satellite of sorts since this doesn’t look like the main purpose is spying.

      So far they don’t seem to have the capability to produce satellites of their own.

      Looking for more info on Armenian/Russian satellite cooperation.

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