By Grigor Hakobyan
Recent geopolitical developments taking place in the region have created a number of opportunities and challenges for Armenia’s national security. However, despite a multitude of threats facing Armenia presently and in a near future it is very hard to find an analysis that will consider at least one of many worst case scenarios. If the past is any guide Armenia has experienced worst case scenarios before where the loss of statehood, genocide, wars and significant territorial losses have shaken the Armenian nation and Armenian statehood at its core.
Looking in retrospect, if our ancestors have anticipated at least a couple of worst case scenarios and prepared themselves accordingly to avert them several years and/or decades beforehand then many lives could have been saved and possibly better historical outcomes could have been achieved in less time and with fewer deaths. Following the same logic, it is the argument of this article that better preparedness right now both in Armenia and Armenian diaspora can help the nation at large to shape better historical outcomes for our descendants in a near future. The following scenario is one of many possible worst case scenarios that resembles the course of events that transpired at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Worst Case Scenario:
It’s 2018, tensions between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea and Donbass Region lead to an all out war between the two countries. In the meantime special investigation of President Trump’s misdeeds led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller leads to Trump’s impeachment by US Congress and accession of his Vice President Mike Pence to Oval Office. As Russian forces approach the Dnieper River, Baltic countries along with Poland and Romania sent in large military contingents to support Ukraine and prevent Russian military from crossing over the river to capture the rest of Ukraine. In the absence of unified decision by NATO, new US administration led by Mike Pence pours in large amounts of weapons, ammunition and military advisers to contain Russia’s military expansion in Europe.
North Korea express its support for Russian actions in Ukraine and detonates a very powerful Hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. The blast wave takes down electric grid in Hawaii and causes another tsunami to hit Japan knocking down another nuclear reactor and taking lives of thousands of Japanese citizens. The US military together with its Asian allies carries out a decapitating strike against Pyongyang and begins the invasion of North Korea. Fearful of appearance of US bases directly across their borders Russia and China decide to counter US lead forces by getting involved in the war on Korean Peninsula. A WW-3 ensues as millions of people and dozens of countries on both continents align themselves with either Russian-Chinese alliance or the US lead alliance with South Korea, Japan and Australia. In the meantime Tatarstan, Chechnya and Dagestan decide to secede from Russia to form their own independent union of north caucasian states thus plunging Russia into another civil war.
By 2019 unable to get an upper hand in Ukraine and Korean Peninsula while struggling economically to sustain its wars on two fronts across two continents Russia decides to consolidate its military forces and finances by withdrawing from Middle East and repositioning its Syrian contingent to fight the rebels in the Northern Caucasus. Turkey moves in quickly to fill in the vacuum left by Russia in the Middle East thus coming into direct confrontation with Syria, Iran, Iraq and their proxy forces. Emboldened by Islamic uprisings in Chechnya, Dagestan and Tatarstan, and encouraged by the West, Georgia and Azerbaijan become the conduits for Islamic fighters, weapons and ammunition heading to North Caucasus.
Perceiving an opening and encouraged by the West, Georgian military prepares to launch incursions into Abkhazia and South Ossetia after getting Azerbaijani-Turkish support in exchange for allowing Turkey to annex Adjara and Azerbaijan to annex Azerbaijani populated Marneuli and nearby villages in south of Georgia after it regains South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Unbeknown to Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey begin to arm the corresponding regions to make sure that they successfully secede from Georgia regardless of the outcome of its incursions into South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As situation escalates, Georgia blocks the air and road connections between Russia and Russian bases in Armenia. To counter Georgia, Russia incites Armenians in Javakhk to secede from Georgia by secretly supplying them with weapons and ammunition.
A number of violent incidents between Armenians and Georgian authorities lead to massacres of Armenians in Javakhk and other parts of Georgia where Armenians make up the minority of local inhabitants. Beware of opening a third front in Armenia’s north and due to continuous tensions along the LOC in Artsakh and Nakhijevan, the government in Armenia chooses not to intervene leading to tens of thousands of Armenian refugees fleeing Georgia to Armenia for safety. Encouraged by Turkey and Azerbaijan, Georgia joins blockade of Armenia by stopping Russian gas supplies to Armenia and closing down road, railroad and air communications between Armenia and Georgia and by extension between Russia and Armenia.
By 2020, additional secessionist movements breakout in Russia further compounding the ongoing civil war in North Caucasus. Unable to contain the spread of civil war throughout the country amidst an ongoing WW-3 on Korean Peninsula and Ukraine, Russian government pulls out its troops from Armenia via Iran to use them in the civil war taking place in Russia. Sensing an opportunity to invade Armenia with no significant repercussions and minimal losses Turkey and Azerbaijan bring large collection of military hardware and specialized troops along Armenian-Azerbaijani LOC in Artsakh and Nakhijevan. In the absence of Russian military presence and forthcoming support the Armenian government hesitates to carry out pre-emptive strikes against the amassing Azerbaijani-Turkish troops opting to deescalate the situation through diplomatic means instead.
Sensing geopolitical weakness of Armenian position, Turkey and Azerbaijan demand the surrender of Zangezur and Artsakh that Armenia flatly rejects. Within days Azerbaijani-Turkish alliance invades Armenia while Georgian authorities spare no means to root out Armenian communities from Georgia. While the rest of the world is preoccupied with the ongoing war between Russian and US led forces in Ukraine and the Korean Peninsula Armenia finds itself to be a hostage of history as events of 1918-1920 seem to repeat themselves with similar but more devastating outcomes. Having heroically fought back the first wave of Azerbaijani-Turkish invasion Armenian people make their last stand to confront the second wave of Azerbaijani-Turkish invasion. Iranian intervention saves the remaining Armenians but leads to the loss of Armenia’s statehood and another round of Armenian Genocide in the region.
Recommendations for Armenia and Diaspora:
First, to avoid a worst case scenario similar to the one described above the government of Armenia and diaspora-based Armenian organizations need to collaborate to the extent possible in developing a number of contingency plans that anticipate worst case developments that will be detrimental to Armenia’s statehood and the existence of Armenians in their own homeland and near abroad. At this point none seem to be available. Granted it would be nice to think that such contingency plans were already developed or that they are in the process of being developed, however, considering the present realities in Armenia and diaspora in most likelihood such contingency plans have not been developed yet and will not be drafted anytime soon for lack of urgency, competency or other factors.
Second, a loose and self-sustaining network of rapid responders around the globe (including in Armenia) need to be created. These networks will need to consist of doctors, nurses, psychologists, engineers, IT specialists, firefighters, paramedics, etc. who could be called upon at any time to aid Armenia in time of distress such as natural disasters or war. These networks will need to consist of active personnel and reserves. In case of diaspora, community based funds need to be raised and allocated to those who are on active duty implementing projects in Armenia (training doctors, nurses, engineers, teaching CPR/First Aid in schools and farmers in border villages, etc.). There are many organizations in diaspora currently implementing various humanitarian projects in Armenia that can become the basis for establishment of such networks in every country or region in different parts of the world.
Recommendations for Diaspora:
First, diaspora based Armenian organizations need to create venture funds to support promising startups in Armenia. Creating funds to offer loans/grants to small and medium size businesses in Armenia along with legal mechanism to eliminate corruption, waste, fraud and/or theft of allocated resources will help to strengthen Armenia’s economy, create well paying jobs and stop the continuous emigration/brain-drain of talent from the country that deprives Armenia from achieving a prosperous future. Adding automation to the process can help avoid or significantly reduce chances for nepotism/cronyism.
Second, encouraging repatriation of Armenian communities from countries in distress (e.g. Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc.) to Armenia by setting up funds in diaspora to support their resettlement process is necessary and it is a matter of great urgency. Likewise setting up funds or networks/coalitions of diaspora-based organizations to support other Armenian communities found in distress as a result of natural disasters that hit them is urgently needed as well.
Recommendations for Armenia:
First and foremost, eliminating corruption, nepotism, fraud and theft of public resources is of utmost importance. Developing a vibrant democratic society, independent judiciary, open economy, attracting foreign investments, pursuing multivector foreign policy and developing multiple alliances and friendly ties with countries and foreign lawmakers across the globe is vital for Armenia’s security and sovereignty.
Second, opening its market to fair competition and dismantling monopolies will certainly benefit Armenia’s economy. Reforming Armenia’s tax code with special attention to custom duties and tariffs on imports and exports will help reducing cost of consumer goods in Armenia, help create more jobs and provide better means to sustain themselves for people engaged in cross-border trade with Georgia.
Third, it is critical for Armenia to focus on developing its own military industrial complex and attain military superiority that will allow Armenia to defeat on its own not only Azerbaijani military but Turkey’s military as well. Domestic development of hypersonic projectiles, autonomous combat systems with precision strike capabilities and other high end weaponry will allow Armenia to gain and maintain an edge over its adversaries for the near future.
Fourth, it is of essence to invest heavily in Armenia’s education and science spheres. Introducing IT/AI related courses, building labs in all educational institutions of Armenia must be quickly implemented. Present educators must be trained and new specialists from abroad need to be invited. Educational programs/partnerships with leading IT/AI corporations based in Armenia and abroad must be established and developed further.
Eliminating government corruption/nepotism and economic monopolies, allowing democratic society and civil institutions to flourish in the country is important for Armenia’s national security. Furthermore, developing reliable, self-sustaining military industrial complex and becoming technologically advanced military power is another prerequisite for securing Armenia. Moreover, closely collaborating with the global Armenian diaspora and preparing ourselves for worst case scenarios will allow Armenians around the world to secure Armenia’s statehood for the next few decades.