Foreign Policy Blogs

Old Disputes and New Weapons

Cover of the June 30, 2016 issue of ‘Excelsior’ carried an illustration of a Russian soldier on horseback with a refugee child in his arms. The picture was captioned, ‘The Symbol of Protection of the Armenians by Russians.’

Whether it be the conflict in Syria, skirmishes in Crimea, Ukraine and Chechnya or the recent outbreak of conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the old disputes that were never fully resolved have often broken out into armed conflict since the end of the Soviet Union. While the Soviet regime often created some detente between conflicting regions by applying overwhelming security in those regions, at times silently quashing conflicts behind the Iron Curtain, the modern iteration of those conflicts now are armed with weaponry that was once used by the Soviet Army themselves. These weapons were designed to fight a large scale Cold War with the US and NATO, and while being very advance for the era of the late 1970s into the 1980s, they were not designed to do anything but completely destroy their targets, along with the regions where the conflicts would take place.

Much of the modernisation of 1980s era Soviet weapons came from experiences in the field in Afghanistan along with anti-air systems used in Vietnam against the US Air Force. The defense of the Soviet Union from Germany in the Second World War created a focus on air defence and long range missile defence in order to deter an attack on the Soviet Union from the other end of Europe or the globe. With many of these systems now reaching the farthest parts of the world, a new and expansive military threat looms whenever a conflict erupts between regional rivals. With the old disputes in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh echoing conflict between Turkish backed forces and Russian backed forces during the First World War, the ability for Armenia or Azerbaijan to use a conventional ballistic missile to target the larger powers if they support the opposing side is a very real threat to the region. Soviet designed systems were very good for their day, and still are very effective on older aircraft that make up the bulk of systems in the region. An Iskander missile landing on Azeri troops in Turkey or an anti-aircraft missile shooting down a Russian transport plane is likely to escalate conflict between both powers in the region.

The use of conventional modern weapons in the field also is designed to completely destroy communities caught in the conflict. Later Soviet era equipment was very effective, and the costs to the lives of young solders escalates rapidly when used in urban combat. Experiences in Syria, and previously in the many conflicts in Chechnya showed the toll those ex-Soviet weapons could have, even on the modernised Russian Army. Weapons designed to quash rebellions in Prague and Warsaw, and to roll into the rest of Europe are devastating in regional conflicts. For the most part, both sides in those regions have equivalent systems, and both sides fight until everything is destroyed. With the traditional politics still lingering in the region and the proximity to one of the world’s largest oil reserves, the world community should quell any further conflict immediately, before it becomes worse…and in our generation’s disputes it has always become as bad as it can get.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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