If it gets involved in Karabakh, Russia will split its front. If not

More highlights from the interview with political scientist Sergey Petrov-Arajoni:

  • The Ukrainian army faced the Russian one with the dilemma of the “short blanket”
  • The war is not over yet – Kyiv’s huge success is part of a new phase in the conflict
  • If it moves towards full mobilization, it is not known whether Moscow will solve its problems or create new ones
  • Paradoxical: while some are looking at whether NATO will break up, we see how the big tests are ahead of the CSTO – there Kazakhstan is critical of the Kremlin, Armenia is threatening to leave, and Serbia is an associate member
  • Why is it hard to know whose side Turkey is on? Because she does not enter camps and follows her own interest

– What assessment can we give so far to the Ukrainian counter-offensive, Mr. Arajoni?

– First of all, the architecture of the counteroffensive must be evaluated, because it has a rather serious and impressive history. The Ukrainian army announced a future counteroffensive in the Kherson region, and everyone was preparing for such a move. Including the Russian units, who had more than a month to move manpower and a considerable amount of equipment to this front. Ukrainian forces then concentrated their US HIMARS there (long-range weapon – b.r.), with which they mainly destroyed bridges and warehouses with ammunition and equipment. Everyone expected that this was done in order to prevent the arrival of larger reinforcements for the Russians and to make the counter-offensive easier.

What turned out – the planned first part of the counteroffensive is not in Kherson, but in Kharkiv. A much weaker counter-offensive took place in Kherson – without much intensity. Great efforts were made on a front which proved to be more exposed, where attention was not so strongly riveted.

The Russian side claims that a serious Ukrainian counter-offensive is being prepared in other directions as well. This is how we arrive at the dilemma of the “short blanket” – being forced to choose what is more important to you, but none of your choices being satisfactory. That is, the idea is to confuse the opponent so that he does not know where to pull. This architecture and design is impressive and has largely contributed to the successes.

It is clear that what Russia tried to state as an official position – that it was almost a planned maneuvering – is not so. And this is evident in the footage with the abandoned military equipment and the large number of captured Russian soldiers. Certainly not planned, a decision to withdraw and change positions was also surprisingly made – some of them withdrew from Kharkiv to Belgorod region, and another part moved to Donetsk and Luhansk. Kharkiv Oblast is almost 100% de-occupied, and this happened in just a few days. Let us not forget that the battles for cities like Izyum lasted for weeks and cost the Russian side dearly. And they were eventually released within a few hours.

– On the one hand, its success is explained both by the strength and motivation of the Ukrainian army, and by mistakes in the Russian military command. On the other hand, infighting within Russian elites is said to be influencing the course of the war. Which is more true?

– It is very difficult to answer, because it is not known who exactly these Russian elites are. If we talk about their proverbial oligarchy, it was created by the regime of Vladimir Putin. And if we are talking about elites from the services, it is different – the activity of each service is conspiratorial in nature. But there we can guess and assume. There are certainly divisions on some issues, which is evident from the positions of people from the cultural and intellectual elite of the country, as well as from the statements of various people from the Russian army.

We do not know if this has an impact on the war, but there is a superimposition of mistakes in the Russian military command and in general the initial strategizing of the whole so-called. “special military operation”. We remember what happened at Kyiv, which the Russians later tried to pass off as something other than an attempt to capture the city.

It became clear that the expectations of the Russian army were radically different.

In their tanks were found parade uniforms, cards with pre-written moves and positions to be taken. The St. George’s ribbons that suddenly disappeared from their uniforms also speak volumes.

The initial strategizing of the war was a mistake. And from there on, at a lower level, there can be no mistakes in the command. They were evident in various stages of the war, including the sinking of the cruiser “Moscow”. And other examples that showed that there was an accumulation of wrong decisions. Whether this in Kharkiv is a right or wrong decision depends a lot on whether the Russian side has adapted its goals to the new realities, or whether it will continue without a clear vision of what it needs to achieve and how to proceed.

– In your opinion, after this failure in Russia, can full mobilization follow?

– In Russia, the so-called covert mobilization. Still, ranks had to be filled, as it was a large-scale conflict with many casualties and wounded. Declaring full mobilization is currently being floated as an idea at various levels. But I’m not sure that can happen quickly. And secondly, I am not sure if this is not already capable of seriously turning the mood in the upper echelons of Russia. It is not known whether full mobilization can be a solution to the problems, or on the contrary – create more of them.

– What is the other option – surrender?

– Neither side is ready to capitulate. The war in Ukraine is not over yet. The overwhelming success is part of a new phase in the conflict. But offensives of this intensity are unlikely to continue, so it is good to have a cool head on the Ukrainian side. A little further south there is an offensive by the Russian Federation, successfully carried out by the forces of the private military company “Wagner”. They may have shown themselves to be the most prepared and combat-ready of the Russian side in this conflict. And they carry out offensives – small and at less significant settlements, but they still take control over them.

That is, we have not entered the phase of the war in which Russia is on the defensive on the entire front and is withdrawing. The Ukrainian side should be congratulated and maybe one day this counter-offensive, if they manage to keep these territories, can also enter the military textbooks. But when a territory is captured, it is necessary to think about its stabilization and the construction of the new defense lines.

– Opinions are heard that if it comes out a loser from the war, it could mean the collapse of Russia. Is such a scenario possible?

– Many people assume that this is the logical way out. Even some native commentators, who predicted the fall of Kyiv within two weeks, in recent days are talking about this option. Is it possible – theoretically yes. However, this depends on many factors and processes. At this point, I tend to believe that we are a long way from anything like that.

– And how should he react to the other conflict next to it, which is also not far from us – between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh?

Armenia requested assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO – a military union in which Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan participate – b.r.).

But the CSTO did not provide assistance, but decided to send the Secretary General with a delegation to assess the situation. This betrays a total unwillingness of this union to take any action in other directions. Let’s recall the unrest in Kazakhstan at the beginning of the year – on the evening of January 5, President Zhomart Tokayev asked for help, and on the 6th it was already arriving in the country to quell the protests. At the moment, this alliance, in an effort not to send military aid, is sending a delegation. Armenia, for its part, has threatened to leave the military alliance if it does not receive aid. We should also pay attention to Tokaev’s strange behavior after this operation – he sharpened his rhetoric towards Moscow.

– Why did they do it after sending “peacekeepers” for one day?

– Because something did not develop as he wanted. Surely this had some price that was demanded at the political level. It is paradoxical that while some are wringing their hands and looking at NATO, wondering if Art. 5, or whether the alliance will fall apart, we see how big tests lie ahead for the opposite alliance to watch. First, because it is geographically close to us. And secondly – because our neighbor is an associate member – I am referring to Serbia. In this union, we are seeing an escalation of rhetoric from one member and another directly threatening to leave.

And while we are still on the subject of the CSTO, let’s not miss the other news – Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards have engaged in a shootout with each other. That is, in the whole region there near Russia there are conflicts that are of different intensity and scale, but they certainly put Russia in a situation where it has to make certain decisions. If he decides to intervene, it means breaking down in his military actions. If he does not intervene, it means losing his image more and more, but not before the world, but before his allies.

– Can we consider the conflict there as a separate case, or is it a continuation of something else in the geopolitical arena?

– It is very important to clarify something that is not clear to many people. Azeris are considered Azeri Turks. Their self-awareness is built on it. They are not seen as something separate from the Turks and have a largely common identity, or as we like to say – “One people, two countries”. Therefore, the sequence of the conflict, as well as the events of the geopolitical scene related to the negotiations in Turkey, should be closely monitored. And Erdogan’s attempts to appear as a bridge and resolver of this conflict. Because the only ones who have an influence on Azerbaijan’s actions are Turkey and Erdogan. And I suspect that the actions of the Azeris are related to certain attempts by Erdogan to achieve his goals. Let’s not forget that Turkey is also feeling the ground for its actions in Syria.

– And what are her big goals? She tried to be an arbiter between Russia and Ukraine. He promises “Bayraktari” to Ukraine, but at the same time Erdogan complains about anti-Turkish rhetoric in Ukraine. Meanwhile, he took the side of Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia. What game is he trying to play?

– The Turkish political school is very different from those we are used to – European, American and Eastern, to be more specific – Russian. We don’t understand Turkish because it is very specific. Turkey has great long-term strategic interests and wants to be not only a regional but a world leader. Erdogan himself releases conflicting messages every other day, which can confuse a person who wants to judge whose side Turkey is on. She’s on her side. Turkish policy is based on Turkey’s interests. If today it is more appropriate to take a certain position, it will be taken. Even if the next day should be the opposite. Therefore, we cannot expect the typical for us to divide into camps and unquestioningly follow a certain line simply because you are from a certain team – this does not exist as a manner there. This is the key and accounts for our misunderstanding of Erdogan’s behavior.


Sergey Petrov – Arajoni was born in Kavarna

Graduated from Professional High School of Economics “Dr. Ivan Bogorov” with profile “Customs and Tax Administration”

He graduated from the “Political Science” major at Veliko Tarnovo University “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”.

He studies “International Politics and Security” at Varna Free University “Chernorizets Hrabar”

From 2017 to 2021, he is the chairman of the Youth Association of Political Sciences (2017-2021)

Author of journalistic articles and scientific publications


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