By Grigor Hakobyan
In 2022, the Pashinyan government failed to develop a comprehensive foreign policy, restore the trust of the Armenian diaspora and most of Armenia’s citizens towards the government in Armenia, or acquire new allies to enhance the security of Armenia. Furthermore, it failed to fully restore Armenia’s military capabilities or register any significant accomplishments in the foreign policy arena. The last two years were marked by substantial territorial losses by the Republic of Armenia and the unpreparedness of the Armenian leadership, both military and political, to take adequate steps to defend the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia.
The political incompetence of the Pashinyan government and failure to take advantage of various geopolitical dynamics unfolding in the region has further undermined the security of the Armenian Republic. Unless the government in Armenia changes and the fake “opposition” forces cede the ground to real political opposition forces, both will continue dragging Armenia down until Armenia is on its knees and unable to fight back against its enemies. With the beginning of 2023, Armenia’s future remains blurry while the probability for resumption of large-scale conflict, or a total Armenian-Azerbaijani war, remains very high.
Despite the approval of Armenia’s special election results in 2021 by the international community, the election process was tainted with numerous occurrences of ballot staffing and the use of prefilled voter ballots that were handed over to military personnel to “cast their votes” under supervision of their superiors-a blatant example of voter intimidation. According to the official results, about 30% of the voting population in Armenia showed their support for the government of Pashinyan, while the remaining 70% didn’t participate in the elections or voted against the ruling government. It can be argued that Pashinyan’s government doesn’t represent the majority of Armenia’s electorate, and many actions undertaken by him, and his clique represent narrow views and interests found within his own party and those of his supporters.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, has committed treason against the Republic of Armenia by making oral or written agreements with the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, on the surrender of territories within the Republic of Armenia (e.g., Goris-Khapan 20 km long strategic highway among others) and those of Artsakh (Berdzor, Aghavno, etc.) in blatant violation of Armenia’s constitution. The fact that none of these concessions were included in the November 9, 2020, cease-fire declaration invites scrutiny as to where his political allegiances truly lie. Moreover, around 131 Armenian POWs, including women and civilians, remain in Azerbaijani prisons facing torture and abuse. At the same time, the government in Armenia makes no visible attempts to bring them back.
One of the consequences of failed Armenia’s security and foreign policies is the closing of the Berdzor (Lachin) corridor connecting the Republic of Armenia with the Republic of Artsakh by Azerbaijani pseudo “environmentalists” funded by the Aliyev’s government in Baku. Several hundred provocateurs made up of primarily active and former soldiers of the Azerbaijani military, in collaboration with Azerbaijani intelligence operatives and foreign collaborators, have imposed a total blockade upon 120,000 Armenian civilians residing in Artsakh. The failure of Russian peacekeepers to prevent such incidents from happening and their lackluster attitude to do anything about it in its aftermath also invites scrutiny of their actions on the ground. Furthermore, a similar attempt by Armenian civilians (both from the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh) to stage a counter-protest near the Shushi-Stepanakert checkpoint to unblock the road was rebuffed by Russian peacekeepers, who didn’t allow them to reach the checkpoint.
In the meantime, the road connecting both Armenian republics remains blocked by Azerbaijani pseudo-activists, while Russian peacekeepers are not attempting to unblock it. The present situation shows that Russian Federation cannot perform its functions per the November 9, 2020, cease-fire declaration. Therefore, they need to be replaced by a more prominent international peacekeeping force with the U.N. mandate to unblock the corridor, establish security along its perimeter and prevent future Azerbaijani provocations. Such a peacekeeping contingent must be large enough and equipped to handle such a mission. Its troops could be comprised of U.N. Security Council member states or E.U. member states. On the other hand, either the government of the Republic of Artsakh or the government of the Republic of Armenia needs to make a public statement on this issue and explain the consequences awaiting Azerbaijani pseudo “activists” and their backers in Baku if they continue blockading 120,000 Armenian residents of Artsakh, depriving them of vital supplies such as food and medication.
Both Armenian governments need to advocate for expanding the humanitarian corridor (presently 5km wide) to include the second road connecting both republics, the Vardenis-Mardakert strategic highway passing through the Karvachar (Kelbajar) region, located north of the present Goris-Berdzor-Stepanakert humanitarian corridor. Concurrently, the current government of Nikol Pashinyan needs to resign in exchange for immunity from legal prosecution while a new government is formed, and new emergency elections are organized. The same needs to happen in the Republic of Artsakh. Those who lost a war in 2020 and brought both Armenian republics to the brink of extinction cannot be allowed to continue their rule. Failure to do so will result in another war with more devastating consequences.
Regardless of the outcome of the present situation, Armenian people in both republics need to prepare for a worst-case scenario, where war becomes inevitable. One can prevent war by raising the costs and consequences of such a war, where a peaceful resolution becomes the only way forward. As long as Aliyev’s regime in Baku thinks they can win in the next war or the next round of much longer war, as some argue, such provocations will continue until war becomes the only option. The Armenian side can raise the costs and consequences of such a war in hopes of averting such a war by rapidly strengthening and expanding its military capabilities, carrying out a state-wide mobilization not only of people but also of all resources available within the country and outside of the country, and quickly reducing its security reliance on Russia and CSTO.
Additional steps that the Republic of Armenia needs to consider, as mentioned above, are replacing the present government with a new one until new elections are held and looking for new allies in the West and across Asia and the Middle East who will be supportive of Armenia’s fledgling democracy against the encroachments of infamous, regional dictatorships known for committing massacres and genocides against their neighbors and various minorities found within their own countries. Nobody in the world, except for Aliyev, Putin and Erdogan, wants to see the resurgence of another Ottoman Empire or another Russian Empire in the twenty-first century.
Note: Grigor Hakobyan is an independent political, defense and security analyst residing in Phoenix, AZ. He holds a Bachelors’ degree in Political Science from Arizona State University and a Master’s degree in Education from Grand Canyon University. In the past, he has written analytical articles pertaining to Armenia and the surrounding region for the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute of John Hopkins University. Grigor Hakobyan has interned at the US House of Representatives, where he researched ethnic conflicts and terrorism in Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia regions and prepared morning briefings for a congressman. Additionally, he has interned at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies at the International Center for Terrorism Studies, where he researched terrorist networks operating in Russia, Central Asia and Caucasus regions. He is the founder and chief editor of Ararat Institute for Near Eastern Studies online magazine. From time to time, he also wrote political analysis articles for ANN (Armenian News Network)/Groong.