By Nagorno-Karabakh Clash, Russia Dangled Second Front over Turkey

Russia and Turkey pulled the strings behind the clash between Armenia and Azerbaijan on April 2 over the long-disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabach. What really happened was that Russian President Vladimir Putin opened a second front against Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
He is still settling accounts for the downing of the Russian Su-24 by a Turkish warplane last November over the Syrian-Turkish border.
Nagorno-Karabach (see map) is awkwardly wedged inside Azerbaijan, but the Armenian majority runs its own affairs with military and financial backing from the Moscow-backed Armenian republic. Baku and Yerevan have squabbled over control of this enclave for 22 years with periodic outbursts of fighting.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources point to the many similarities between the military deployments Moscow has since November built up in Armenia, on Turkey’s eastern border, and since October in Syria, on its southern border.
The following Russian forces are now massed at the 102nd military base Moscow maintains at Gyumri in the republic of Armenia, opposite the Turkish border and across from Nagorno-Karabach.
Bolstered now with advanced T-90 tanks, they have been augmented by the following units:
1. Elite VDV airborne troops: the best-trained and most combat-ready contingent of the Russian military also serves the Russian Supreme Commander as his mobile reserve corps.
2. A squadron of MiG-29 fighters
3. SA-6 medium-range air defense systems and S-300V long-range missile and air defense systems
4. S-300V long-range air and missile defense systems combined with SA-6 medium-level air defenses.
5. Airlifted into Gyumri: Tornado-G multiple rocket launchers and SS-26 Iskander-M short-range tactical missiles, which can reach nearly all Turkish military formations in eastern Anatolia.
The setup at the Armenian Gyumri base strongly mirrors the weapons complex the Russians have put in place at Syria’s Hmeymim airbase near Latakia.
Missing only are S-400 antiaircraft missiles, but Western intelligence sources attest to preparations underway to send them over at Russia’s Caucasian bases.
The S-300 missiles at Gyumri base operate under joint Russian- Armenian command, according to a defense pact the two nations signed last December.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources note that the Russian military concentration of sophisticated weaponry in Syria has effectively created a no-fly zone (anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) bubble) over northern Syria and southern Turkey, keeping Turkish warplanes at bay and tightening the Russian military encirclement of Turkey.
Ankara, however, is not without resources for countering Moscow’s tactics.
Despite its heavy troop commitments along the Syrian border, Turkey’s Third Army, a large and formidable fighting force, guards its eastern borders with Georgia and Armenia from positions at Argadan, Kagysman and Erzurum. It is made up of the 48th Separate Infantry Brigade, the 4th Separate Army Brigade, and the 8th and 9th Army Corps.
Ankara’s military assistance to Azeri contingents in the enclave of Nakhichevan (see map), which borders on Armenia, Turkey and Iran, has made those units the most combat-ready of Azerbaijan’s armed forces.
However, Russia’s Gyumri buildup allows Putin to juggle two fronts against Turkey – in Syria and Armenia. DEBKA Weekly’s military sources say he has the options of activating both, or just one, the while holding the second dangling ominously over Erdogan’s head.

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