The Azeris appear to have seized large chunks of southern Karabakh, including (Armenian-populated) Artsakh proper. Hopes they’d be slowed down by the mountainous terrain have proven forlorn, the advance has to the contrary accelerated ever since the Armenian lines in the south were broken.
It’s too soon to call it an Armenian collapse. The retreat was orderly, with few POWs being taken, although a lot of equipment was left behind (hopefully internally sabotaged). Even so, it’s not an exaggeration to call the situation more dire than was ever the case in 1992-94. The Armenians have incurred more than a third of the casualties they did then within the space of a month (Azeris: just 10% relative to that period), and are now in a more dire position geographically than they ever were back then.
The battle will now be on for the Lachin Corridor that connects Armenia to its Artsakh enclave. If it falls, the subsequent collapse of Stepanakert becomes a matter of time.
Vladimir Putin says there have been close to 5,000 people killed in the latest fighting over Nagorno Karabakh. More than 2,000 victims on each side, according to his information.
— Sarah Rainsford (@sarahrainsford) October 22, 2020
This would make Armenian casualties 2-2.5x as high as official numbers (currently 927), with the Azeris incurring – at worst – less than 50% more dead than the Armenians, whereas I had pegged the differential at 50-100%.
But sadly, Putin’s numbers are probably more accurate.
Incidentally, this also suggests Armenians suffering losses at 2.5x the rate of Britain in WW1 relative to population per unit time. This is more like Wehrmacht over the course of WW2 territory.
Can Russia intervene?
Well, while as I argued it is in Russia’s interests to do everything (non-militarily) it reasonably can to avoid the complete success of Azerbaijan’s “Operation Storm”, it is also in practice constricted by Artsakh’s unrecognized international status, by its own relations with Azerbaijan, as well as the domestic situation.
Here’s one oft-neglected consideration: Russia did not *openly* intervene even for the sake of ethnic Russians in the Donbass. For Putin to interfere that bluntly in Karabakh – as many of the same ethnoliberals at Echo of Moscow who rejoiced over the Odessa pogroms are now demanding of him – would thus be to spit in the faces of Russians left to their fates in Odessa, in Mariupol, and to a large extent in the Donbass itself.
8% believe Armenia should be supported, 1% favor Azerbaijanhttps://t.co/rZ89TtuNCy
— from_kherson (@KhersonFrom) October 20, 2020
Indeed, Donbass-like supplies and diplomatic support is the most that Armenians in Artsakh can expect from Russia – the rest is on them and on Armenia. But, sadly, it seems they have been too outclassed by the Azeri armed forces for that to even matter.