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Six Reasons Why Armenian Election Outcome Will Not Lead To Peace Treaty – OpEd

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If you listened to the speeches of the myriad of political forces competing in the just finished Armenian elections, you would be forgiven for thinking Armenia was not defeated by Azerbaijan in last year’s Second Karabakh War. Armenians continue to live in ‘parallel, imagined world’ which is ‘far from reality, a dreamworld.’ 

Deep-seated myths and arrogance towards its Turkic neighbours prevent an understanding as to the causes of Armenia’s military defeat by deflecting the blame on to Turkish help to Azerbaijan. An unwillingness to accept post-war reality is also feeding conspiracy mongering and spy mania in Armenia directed against the UK, with UNICEF and the mine-clearing Halo Trust under investigation for ‘espionage.’  Richard Giragosian, head of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Centre, described the spy mania as symptomatic ‘of a post-war state of denial.’  As now, Armenia’s myth of its ‘invincibility’ after its victory in the first Karabakh War in the early 1990s ignores this was a product of civil war in Azerbaijan and Soviet and Russian military assistance. In the 2020 war, Russia did not intervene on Armenia’s side.

The June elections, which came after an attempted military coup in February, failed to end the illusionary world of Armenian politics. Armenian society is highly polarised by an election which featured ‘divisive and hostile post-war rhetoric’ with accusations Nikol Pashinian, who signed the November 2020 ceasefire agreement, called a ‘traitor’ and ‘capitulant.’ 

The Armenian National Congress Party led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, the only well-known political force which campaigned to normalize relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, received a mere 1.54% and failed to enter parliament. Armenia’s new parliament is dominated by Pashinian’s Civil Contract party which received 54% and two openly revanchist political forces, ‘Armenia’ led by former President Robert Kocharian and ‘I Have Honor’ led by Arthur Vanetsian which together received 26%.  Although certified as having been held in a free and fair manner by the OSCE, Kocharian has contested the election results with the Constitutional Court.

Kocharian supports the rebuilding of the Armenian military, closer ties with Russia and including Armenia joining the Russian-Belarusian Union, and the retaking of territories lost in last year’s war. Closer integration with Russia is based on the hope this would encourage Russia to intervene on Armenia’s side in future hostilities – as it did in the early 1990s. Kocharian ‘still refuses to peacefully resolve the national security problem of Armenia with the Azerbaijani side’ by trying to encourage Russia to support it. This militaristic rhetoric is ‘based on fantastic calculations, pseudo-strategies and on wilfully ignoring facts,’ Armenian intellectual Jirair Libaridian believes.

Pashinian has similar policies of closer integration with Russia as those proposed by his revanchist opponents in parliament. On his watch, border posts in the south of Armenia have been control over to the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence service which also operates throughout the Eurasian space. Pashinian opened negotiations to expand Russian military bases in Armenia with a new base in Gegharkunik bordering the Azerbaijani province of Kelbajar. Russian soft power is increasing its influence in Armenia with Russian TV given access to Armenian air waves and the Russian language upgraded into an official language in Armenia and the Armenian enclave within Karabakh.

All Armenian political forces support Russia’s position on Crimea in the UN and other international organizations. Armenian foreign, defence and national security officials openly back Russia on Crimea. Revanchists Kocharian and Vanetsian are even more strident and less diplomatic in their support for Russia on Crimea. Ignoring international sanctions preventing economic and transportation ties with Crimea, last month Armenia launched direct flights to the occupied peninsula.

An unwillingness to live in the real world deepened by election polarisation will make it unlikely a peace treaty will be signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev said ‘If there is no peace treaty, it means there is no peace.’ A low intensity conflict is more likely to persist. A peace treaty will be impossible when Armenians accept six realities arising from last year’s defeat.

The first reality is Armenia was militarily defeated in only 44 days compared to a long seven-year war from 1988-1994 which saw Azerbaijan’s defeat. Armenia lost a large proportion of its military equipment during last year’s war and if it had not agreed to a ceasefire there would have been little left of its armed forces. 

Armenia’s twentieth century Soviet military equipment was no match for Azerbaijan’s twenty first century equipped military. Iskander, the most sophisticated Russian missile, proved to be ineffective and was brought down by an Israeli Barak air defence system in the Azerbaijani armed forces. Pashinyan’s admission to their ineffectiveness nearly brought on the February military coup d’état and undoubtedly made him even more disliked by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The second reality is Armenia must accept Nagorno-Karabakh is a part of Azerbaijan. This reality has not sunk in anywhere in Armenia. Armenian leaders continue to act, diplomatically and militarily, as if nothing changed last year.  Armenian diplomats call for continued lobbying efforts to encourage countries to recognise the ‘independence of Artsakh’ (the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh). Former Armenian foreign minister Vardan Oskanyan said ‘the achievement of the rights of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to sovereignty on their land remains the chief task of the foreign policy of Armenia.’

Revanchist rhetoric in support of reclaiming lost territories is not only an election and political issue. Since the November 2020 ceasefire, the Armenian military has continued to send sabotage units into Azerbaijan who are transported and operate without interference from Russian ‘peacekeepers.’ Armenian security forces continue to supply their proxies in Karabakh. Russian ‘peacekeeping’ forces turn a blind eye to their transportation in ‘construction’ trucks.

Armenian military personnel have been captured by Azerbaijan which is putting them on trial as ‘terrorists’. In Baku’s eyes, they are not classified as prisoners of war under the ceasefire agreement. Two groups of ‘terrorists’ captured since the ceasefire have been released in exchange for maps of mines which Armenia had always claimed never existed. Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding provinces occupied by Armenia from 1994-2020 is the most heavily mined region in the world. 15 Armenian ‘terrorists’ were exchanged for maps of 97,000 mines in Agdam and another 15 for maps of 92,000 mines in Fizuli and Zangilan provinces.

The third reality flows from the second; namely, Armenia should approach in a more serious and professional manner negotiations over the demarcation and delimitation of its border with Azerbaijan. The border should be based on the inter-republican ‘frontiers’ which existed in the USSR. 

Obviously, Armenia will not approach border demarcation and delimitation in a serious and professional manner until Yerevan recognises Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan. The two issues are obviously connected.

The fourth reality is Russian ‘peacekeepers’ in Karabakh have a five-year mandate which requires Armenia and Azerbaijan to both agree to renew it. Armenia would like the Russian ‘peacekeepers to remain indefinitely to postpone accepting the reality of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. 

Azerbaijan will be unlikely to support Russian ‘peacekeepers’ remaining beyond the five-year term for two reasons. The first is because the presence of Russian ‘peacekeepers’ facilitates military supplies to Armenian proxies in Northern Karabakh. The second is because the presence of Russian ‘peacekeepers’ prevents Yerevan from negotiating in a serious and professional manner about the status of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. 

The fifth reality is Russia now has competition in the South Caucasus where Turkey is in for the long-haul. This was clearly seen in the June ‘Shusha Declaration’ signed by Turkey and Azerbaijan. It is unclear why this should cause distress in Yerevan as the entry of Turkey creates what former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski described as ‘geopolitical pluralism’ in Eurasia.  

Armenia in denying the right of Turkey to be present in the South Caucasus,is agreeing with the Kremlin which has always claimed Eurasia is Russia’s exclusive sphere of influence. After Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, President Dmitri Medvedev described Eurasia as a region where Russia allegedly has ‘privileged interests.’

Armenia is alarmed at the prospect of Turkey possibly opening a military base in Azerbaijan. Yet, Azerbaijan has not protested Armenia hosting two Russian military bases for the last three decades with plans to expand them. Is Yerevan’s position that only Russia can have military bases in Eurasia?

The sixth is if these realities are not accepted, Armenia will face a very dim future without the normalisation of relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey. If their borders remain closed, Armenia’s economy will continue to stagnate and more people will migrate, particularly young people. The 2010 Russian census recorded 1.2 million Armenians living in Russia, or the equivalent of 40% of the population of Armenia. An economically stagnant Armenia will become even more reliant on Russia and its independence will gradually erode to that of a Belarusian-style dominion where local leaders control only domestic affairs on behalf of the Kremlin. 

The war lasted only 44 days. If Armenians continue to live in an illusionary world negotiating a peace treaty will take much longer with the threat of the resumption of future hostilities. 

*Taras Kuzio is a professor of political science at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and author of Russian Nationalism and the Russian-Ukrainian War to be published by Routledge.

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4 thoughts on “Six Reasons Why Armenian Election Outcome Will Not Lead To Peace Treaty – OpEd

  • July 11, 2021 at 6:16 am
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    The impartiality of the writer is just stunning. It is the Armenians that have been subjected to Genocide and attempts of extermination by both Turkic nations no matter if once called the Ottomans. Both Turkic nations have extreme hate for Armenians and see them as their eternal enemy and are one of the reasons that their Turanic dreams are not yet fulfilled.

    Russia in both wars acted neutral, and indeed supplied and sold arms to both nations. Unlike Turkey Russia did not in any way provide military support such as Turkey provided for Azerbaijan. If Russia had done so then Azerbaijan would still be holed up in their trenches prior to September 2020.

    Russia in fact acted with extreme measure to ensure the conflict would not become regional, so yes that is why Armenians do not want a hostile ultra aggressive Turkey stationed in lands they still consider historically theirs.

    Armenians do not live in an illusionary world, in fact they are the most realistic people in the region having to live amongst two Turkic nations that cannot wait to finish what they started from 1890’s being the start of the Armenian Genocide as detailed thoroughly by a recent book written by two Israeli historians called The 30 Year Genocide.

    I would highly recommend Professor Kuzio not vent his anger and frustration due to his issues with Russia and Ukraine conflict and allow it to fester and lash out at a small nation of Armenia and their desire to live in their lands without the threat of extermination.
    The Armenian people have contributed much to humanity with their amazing traits, their innovations that have benefited humanity and the arts and sciences, in Russia they are some of the most brilliant minds in the fields of technology & sciences, unfortunately the same cannot be said about some of their neighbors, in particular their Turkic neighbors.

    Reply
  • July 11, 2021 at 9:05 pm
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    Taras Kuzio has a penchant for espousing what can’t be done. He authored a paper in 2019 entitled, “Peace Will Not Come to Europe’s War: Why Ukraine’s New President Zelensky will be Unable to Improve Relations with Russia.” Kuzio’s penchant is just an observation; a response follows.

    Author Kuzio prefers to justify a “historically determinant” Turkish presence in the Caucasus yet would not use a similar argument for any significant Russian presence anywhere near Ukraine or Belarus for that matter. I seem to recall Kievan Rus’, but this is probably something Kuzio selectively forgot.

    Kuzio gives himself away by using the term “revanchist” to describe any expression of Armenian national existence. Since the Second Karabakh War, the Azerbaijani media, British-controlled media, and those quoting them have almost exclusively used this term. Search on the internet for “revanchist” and “armenians” and see how Kuzio gives himself away.

    It never occurred to Kuzio to research the connection between early Pashinyan’s statements that Nagorno-Karabakh was an integral part of Azerbaijan to explain the PM’s actions. Kuzio never bothered to research Pashinyan and his party’s post-war statements justifying the loss of Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh. If Kuzio had, he might have supported the possibility that the only way “revanchist” Armenians would give up parts of their homeland, conform to Stalin’s borders, was to lose a war against Azerbaijan. I challenge Kuzio to show us that Pashinyan’s policy was not to lose this war intentionally. This exercise would not be trying to prove a negative but entertaining a reasonable hypothesis.

    It never occurred to anti-Russia Kuzio that his espoused reality in the southern Caucasus should bring a new set of Armenian oligarchs queuing to sign contracts with Turks and Azerbaijanis. I am surprised this never occurred to this British academic, “expert in Ukrainian politics,” considering Ukraine is a scene filled with rampant corruption and neo-Nazis.

    Kuzio’s position on today’s openly fascist Ukrainians and their WWII hero, Stepan Bandera, was that he was “not a significant figure in the history of Ukrainian nationalism, “a nobody.” When Armenians lose 5,000, mainly young men fighting for their homeland Kuzio calls Armenians “revanchists.”

    Upon a quick sampling of Kuzio’s claims, for the record, there is no proof Armenians launched Iskander hypersonic missiles. The engineered defeat hypothesis explains why both Armenia and Azerbaijan generally refrained from attacking each other’s cities.

    And further, Kuzio claims there was a military coup in Armenia last February. There was no military coup.

    Yerevan, Armenia

    Reply
  • July 13, 2021 at 7:54 pm
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    Very good and lucid analysis by Mr Kuzio that I know from his precious contributions to Political Science and Nationalism Studies. For this specific conflict it is sometimes hard to find an analysis free from hysterical and biased approach. That’s why I appreciated this article.

    Reply
  • July 13, 2021 at 9:35 pm
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    A representative of a “ nation” called armenia does not have a moral right to blame prof. Kuzio because of his attitude toward Stepan Bandera, when armenia erected a monument of 6 m height to Njde Garegin – armenian nazi No 1, who has been accused as traitor and died in prison.
    Armenians invented too much legends about their never-existed history that finally they firmly believed that they were aborigen population of South Caucasus. But everybody in the world knows that armenians had been moved to South Caucasus starting from 1825 ( first wave from Iran) and after WW1 ( second wave from Ottoman). Despite the huge support from Russia, France, US and UK during 200 years this nation did not succeded to create a statehood for themselves in the South Caucasus. 200 yers history of armenian tribe in the South Caucasus slowly is coming to its end. After it happens, there will be a permanent peace and prosperity in this part of the world.
    Baku, Javanshir

    Reply

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