Unleashing a great struggle for the Caucasus
Caliber.Az eyebrow-raising data on EU mission
ANALYTICS 26 January 2023 - 10:07
Caliber.Az has obtained the details of the EU mission's mandate in Armenia. When carefully reading the text of document 32023D0162 "Council Decision 2023/162 dated January 23, 2023, on the EU mission to Armenia" posted on the official website of the European Union, one may wonder whether this mission is civilian.
Mandate and structure: military and intelligence involved
Indeed the structure of the mission resembles a military contingent but not a civilian mission. "The strategic objective is to contribute to the reduction of incidents in the conflict-affected and border regions of Armenia, reducing the risks to the population living in such areas"; "detailed awareness of the security situation"; "Civilian operation commander"; "The head of mission will be assisted by a security officer from the mission", etc. But that is not all in this context.
According to Caliber.Az, the German Markus Ritter, who has been head of the Stuttgart police department since 2020, will spearhead the mission. Ritter's background also resembles more military than police experience: he led the EU advisory mission in Iraq, served in EU and UN missions in South Sudan, Georgia, and Kosovo, and was a police advisor at the German embassy in Afghanistan. However, his appointment is a concerted effort by Berlin and Paris, since at the moment France wants to remain in the shadows, but its spokesman, Charles Fries, whom we have already mentioned in previous articles, is the EU's supervisor of the entire mission. However, not only the German commander of the EU mission but also the vast majority of its staff are retired military elite units and active intelligence officers from various Western countries.
Poles and Balts who speak Russian are particularly actively involved in the mission. Article 6 of the Council Decision on the European Union Mission to Armenia should be noted here: "International and local personnel may be contracted by the mission if the required functions cannot be performed by personnel seconded by member states".
Although the mission is officially considered an "EU mission," its actual management is closely coordinated with NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, led since last year by US Air Force General Christopher Cavoli, with a background in Bosnia and Afghanistan. The direct link to NATO raises questions about the role of the US in this initiative, given its dominant role in the alliance. This role is indirectly confirmed by the involvement of the Baltic and Poles in the mission mentioned above if we take into account the traditional tendency of the latter to put American interests above European ones. After all, the former are known to be a kind of US fifth column in the EU and NATO. As a reminder, Cavoli served as director of the Russian desk at the Office of Strategic Policy and Planning of the Committee of Chiefs of Staff. The General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces must already worry about it.
The fact that the mission will be more of a military and intelligence character is also indicated by the fact that in the coming weeks, the number of military attachés in key Western embassies (bringing them to 2-3 people) represented in Armenia is expected to increase, as well as resident intelligence officers (usually first secretaries of embassies). It is indicative that the mission will have a centre for information and psychological operations (CIPO) whose purpose will be to suppress Russian influence in Armenia, discredit pro-Russian politicians and dispel anti-Russian sentiment in Armenia. Maybe that is why there is a clause on secrecy in Article 10 of the above decision. Read it and draw conclusions: "The Head of Mission shall ensure the protection of EU classified information in accordance with Council Decision 2013/488/EU".
According to information available to us, the forces behind the "EU mission" have developed military training programmes for the Armenian military, including Armenian special units. In particular, a separate program is envisaged for the Special Forces of the Armenian Foreign Intelligence Service, which are being created from scratch at present. By the way, the mission will be equipped with the newest technical means of reconnaissance, including modern UAVs of American production. Iran and Türkiye will be the main targets here.
The mission's budget is also noteworthy. According to Article 13 of the "Council Decision on the EU Mission to Armenia", the basic financial amount to cover the costs associated with the mission for four months after the entry into force of this Decision is €8,103,590.82. In other words, it is more than €24 million per year. Quite an impressive amount for a civilian mission. Is it civilian, given all the above?
The objectives of the EU "civilian" mission
We now come to the question of what the organisers of this civil-military reconnaissance mission are really pursuing. The mission has three main objectives, which are reflected in its structures.
The first and perhaps the highest priority objective is intelligence activity against Russia in the region, squeezing it out of Armenia, recruitment among the local Russian contingent and its personnel, and collection of information on the activities of Russian military facilities on Armenian territory. The priority is the withdrawal of the Russian military base from Gyumri within the next two years, opening the way for a long-term EU (French) military base in Armenia.
The second objective is intelligence activities against Iran. Sabotage operations against Iran will be managed from Armenia. Today, it should become clear to many in Tehran what strategic miscalculation Iran has made by deciding to get closer to Armenia at the expense of relations with Azerbaijan because that is where the biggest regional threat to Iran will come from now.
Finally, the third goal is to curb Turkish-Azerbaijani strengthening in the region, and in particular, to prevent the opening, or at least take control, of the Zangazur corridor. During and after the 44-day war, speaking to the Azerbaijani side France openly declared through different channels that its main concern is the strengthening of the Turkish position. However, this is not just a question of France's ambitions, but a more global picture of the confrontation.
Indirectly, through the weakening of the Turkic world, a possible aim could also be to hinder Chinese communication projects.
History repeats itself
In conclusion, it is safe to say that the great geopolitical game for the Caucasus has now begun. The Western bloc is using Armenia in it (which is not surprising, given its background and propensity to surrender its patrons) as a tool against the Turkish-Azerbaijani "Muslim" tandem, which strengthened after the 44-day war, against the background of Russia, which was distracted from the region and fell into the "Ukrainian trap". Armenia has been assigned the role of South Caucasus Lebanon. However, given the situation and the number of actors involved in it, it is more likely to share Syria's fate by engaging in a game that does not correspond to its weight not only on the world stage but also in the region.
It is obvious that there is a deliberate strategy to surround Russia and other "recalcitrant", according to the West, regional powers such as Iran and Türkiye. Earlier this strategy was mostly based on "soft power" instruments, economic leverage, "colour revolutions". Nowadays, they are turning to hard power and involving the military and intelligence-sabotage activity. This scheme, developed in the depths of military staffs and special services of Western countries, is being used to pump Türkiye's enemies (Greece and PKK) with modern weapons, and to build an anti-Iranian coalition at the gates of Iran.
The great struggle for the Caucasus is only unfolding, and not only for the South Caucasus but also for the North Caucasus, because after Armenia the next target is the North Caucasus, where coordinated work will be conducted between the EU observer mission based in Armenia (in fact, military-intelligence) and the European mission in Georgia, as in the 19th century, when the Sheikh Shamil movement was supported by Western countries. History is repeating itself. However, it is always full of surprises. We think that in the near future, we will witness interesting events, in which Azerbaijan in close alliance with Türkiye (and other friendly countries) will once again demonstrate an unconventional approach in the name of peace and security of the whole region.
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