An interview with American military historian Edward J. Erickson.
For almost three decades, Azerbaijan tried to return its occupied territories peacefully through the OSCE Minsk Group. What do you believe was the reason the OSCE Minsk Group failed to resolve the issue?
No problem of occupied territories or irredentist territorial claim has been resolved peacefully after World War II. Look at Israel and Palestine, look at Cyprus, Kashmir, the India-China border, Western Sahara, the South China Sea, look at Ukraine and Crimea, and you will see why the OSCE Minsk Group was unable to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute over the occupied territory.
Armenia has had territorial claims against almost all of its neighbors for many years. What do you think drives Armenia to do that?
From the earliest days of the Armenian revolutionary committees in the 19th century, some Armenians wanted to create a “Greater Armenia” that would span from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The unratified Treaty of Sevres contributed to the idea that the great powers and the Turks deceived the Armenian people, robbing them of the opportunity to create a large “Greater Armenia” with access to the sea. This idea still lives in the minds of many Armenians.
What do you think was the biggest mistake of the military-political leadership of Armenia during the 44-day war in Karabakh?
The biggest mistake of the Armenians in the 44-day war was that they were overconfident and greatly underestimated the capabilities of the Azerbaijani military. That stemmed from the last war and their victory over Azerbaijan. This overconfidence led the Armenian leadership to believe that their army could easily stand against the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan.
They underestimated the modernization of the Azerbaijani army, which allowed the Azerbaijanis to wage modern warfare using UAVs and well-trained special forces.
That is, Armenia basically slept through the military reforms in Azerbaijan?
In the 1990s, the Armenian armed forces on the whole triumphed over the Azerbaijani armed forces. This led them to feel invincible, to believe that they could not be defeated by the Azerbaijanis. In World War II, this phenomenon was called the “victory disease” and led to the defeat of the overconfident Japanese at Midway and Guadalcanal. The same phenomenon affected the thinking of the Armenian leadership and led to their defeat in mere 44 days.
Turkey’s and Israel’s military aid increased the capabilities and potential of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and helped Baku achieve a qualitative superiority in modern tactics and state-of-the-art technologies.
Sure, Azerbaijan reformed its Armed Forces, modelling them after the Turkish Armed Forces and with the help of Israel. But the Armenian army was trained by Russian military.
The types of modern weapons Azerbaijan acquired and the types of training its military personnel received in the period from 2010 to 2021 gave it the opportunity to wage a modern war of the 21st century. Armenia, on the other hand, invested in older weapons and fell behind in the ability to engage in modern warfare. In many ways, Armenia used the Soviet/Russian mode of warfare, while Azerbaijan used the NATO experience.
Do you think Armenia will sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan?
Yes, I think it will. Azerbaijan’s overwhelming military superiority over Armenia, combined with Azerbaijan’s geographic dominance in the strategic Lachin corridor, makes this unquestionable.
Translated from Caliber.Az