By Grigor Hakobyan
Armenia’s foreign policy lacks clear objectives, while its military reforms are very slow and do not go deep enough to build an effective, new military ready to take on the challenges of 21st-century warfare. Government corruption and abuse of power by various government officials are still widespread. Meanwhile, those with significant financial resources and political clout easily avoid criminal persecution and facing time in prison for their misdeeds. Political opposition in Armenia is weak and lacks the support and trust of the majority of the country’s citizens. Those considered radical oppositionists are often harassed by the country’s various law enforcement agencies and face continuous political pressure and persecution. Furthermore, the presence of more than 100 political parties in a country of nearly three million doesn’t allow for the majority of Armenia’s populace to come together around a few common principles and strategic goals that will be vital for Armenia’s national security and development.
If these dangerous trends continue unabated, Armenia will not be ready to effectively counter the subsequent Azerbaijani-Turkish aggression against its national sovereignty or provide much-needed security to its fellow Armenian citizens residing in the Republic of Artsakh. Failure to clearly understand the scope and depth of the regional and global dynamics associated with the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict by present authorities in Yerevan and unnecessary rush to make a peace deal with Azerbaijan at any expense will cost Armenia dearly soon afterward. Furthermore, the recognition of Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan by present authorities in Armenia has derailed the work of the Minsk Group and other international actors and platforms which allowed and advocated for Artsakh’s right to self-determination. This dangerous development may also lead to the finale of the Armenian Genocide that began in the last century, during WW-1, resulting in the elimination of all Armenians in Artsakh and the destruction of all the Armenian cultural heritage in the region.
Lack of government transparency in its various aspects of governance and decision-making process, compounded by the failure of the present government authorities to regain the trust of the Armenian diaspora, further hampers Armenia’s national security and growth. Instead of being part of one coherent and national strategy incorporating all aspects of governance and security, a comprehensive security doctrine, and various actions by Armenia’s legislative branch, the foreign policy establishment and military appear to be disjoined, incoherent, and lacking clarity and focus. Furthermore, there is minimal follow-up on a few successes that Armenia registers occasionally in the international scene. Moreover, the false hope and security expected to be attained at the expense of surrendering Artsakh to Azerbaijan further undermines Armenia’s national security. The present authorities do not seem to have learned any lessons from the past. History has shown, time and time again, that those who fail to learn from their mistakes in the past are doomed to repeat them with more destructive consequences.
This false hope and sense of security are actively being promoted by the present authorities in Armenia, who are continuously talking about the “new era of peace” that is coming to the region even though every month, Azerbaijan and Turkey are actively conducting military drills on Armenia’s borders and around the line of contact in Artsakh, honing their skills and testing their capabilities to capture more territory from the Republic of Armenia and to carry out ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Artsakh effectively. Dangerous and careless rush by the present authorities in Yerevan to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan at all costs, including at the expense of surrendering Artsakh and ignoring the will of its Armenian inhabitants for self-determination outside of Azerbaijan, opens the door for the coming regional chaos: a resumption of Armenian-Azerbaijani/Turkish war in the region with potential involvement of regional and global actors.
Failure of authorities in the Republic of Armenia to formulate a coherent and effective foreign policy for the past five years resulted in significant losses for Armenia and the Armenian people diplomatically and on the ground. These losses are further compounded by the loss of nearly five thousand lives during the 2020 conflict and the breakdown of trust between the Armenian people and the government, not to mention the loss of trust by the Armenian diaspora towards the authorities in Armenia, not only the authorities who are presently in power but also those before them. Moreover, recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity with the inclusion of the Republic of Artsakh as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan by the Prime Minister of Armenia-Nikol Pashinyan, during the recent Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Brussels, and lack of stern public response to counter his action, will lead to another Armenian Genocide in Artsakh, and the loss of national sovereignty over other parts of the Republic of Armenia, such as parts of Syunik (also known as Zangezoor) in the south, parts of Ararat Province in the west, and parts of Vayots Dzor and Gegharkunik provinces in the east of Armenia.
One needs to look at Armenia’s geography, analyze its ineffective “foreign policy” for the last five years, its military reforms’ shallow depth and languid pace, and apply logical reasoning to understand how those events will happen. In fact, that is what Azerbaijan and Turkey are counting on to make their final move to eradicate the Armenian presence from the region and take over its land and resources. The fake “dog and pony” show in Yerevan actively put up by the present authorities in Armenia through various festivals and entertainment events fail to appreciate the amount of public anger and simmering resentment that it has generated towards itself for lack of social justice and widespread corruption in the country and failed foreign policy which leads to the eventual surrender of Armenia or a sellout of Armenia to the highest bidder, where only the authorities stand to benefit.
The prevailing public attitude in Armenia resembles a calm before a big storm. In fact, this storm will not only lead to more bloodshed between Armenia and Azerbaijan and other regional and global actors that will get involved in the conflict but also remove the present authorities in Armenia from power in the worst imaginable ways. Even the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya or Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania may pale in comparison to what will happen in Armenia very soon. This scenario is most likely because many regional and global players will stand to gain from such political developments in Armenia. Failure by the present authorities to appreciate the significance of Artsakh to Armenia’s national security only makes the worst-case scenario described above more likely. It will not take very long before Azerbaijan begins its so-called “counterterrorist” operation in Artsakh to wipe out the Armenian presence and remnants of the Armenian cultural heritage in the region.
Contrary to what many political commentators in Armenia say about the withdrawal of Russian troops from Artsakh in 2025 and the subsequent resumption of hostilities in the region, it is more likely that the Russian troops will withdraw from Artsakh and possibly from different parts of the Republic of Armenia much sooner. If Artsakh is part of Azerbaijan, as Prime Minister of Armenia-Nikol Pashinyan claims, then what is the purpose of Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh? And if Armenia and Azerbaijan recognize each other’s borders by Soviet maps of 1991, as Azerbaijan insists, then what is the purpose of Russian troop deployments along the Armenian-Azerbaijani borders? Furthermore, there will be no reason for any other country to send their peacekeepers to Artsakh. As the presidential elections in the U.S. are quickly approaching, while the tensions between China and U.S. over Taiwan escalate, and the war in Ukraine continues, the international community will pay less and less attention to the struggle of Artsakh’s Armenians for self-determination in their ancestral lands, reversing any gains that Armenians have made for the past 30 years which put Artsakh at the center of world’s attention. Consequently, if history is any guide, it would be very naive to assume that Azerbaijani-Turkish forces will not take advantage of the situation to carry out the genocide of Armenians in Artsakh.
The Armenians of Artsakh are left with two options: either be subjugated by Azerbaijan and willingly become victims of yet another genocide or choose to resist at the cost of their own lives. In either case, death, and destruction will be the outcomes. So, the choice is between dying with honor or dying in humiliation. What one needs to understand is that the Six Year War (1988-1994), Four Day War (2016), and Forty-Four Day War (2020), etc. are different parts of one big war waged by Turkey and Azerbaijan against the Armenians in the region. This war started in the 1880s when the first Armenian massacres under Sultan Hamid began. Their goal is to exterminate all Armenians in the region and wipe off the last remnants of Armenian cultural heritage from the map of the region and people’s minds. Since then, this war has continued through different means, on and off, for over one hundred forty years. Now, we are reaching the culmination of this war, where the very existence of Armenian statehood is under question.
Consequently, the people of Armenia have only two choices left to them: either cease to exist as a state in the coming years or reverse this cycle of destruction through another national awakening as it happened in 1988, when all Armenians, both at home and abroad, gathered together around one unifying national theme, Miatsum (unity), of Artsakh and Armenia. This national awakening cannot happen unless those responsible for the present state of affairs are removed from power, put on trial, and locked away in prison, along with those who preceded them since 1991, for corruption, failure to uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia and treason against the Armenian people. Armenians must build a new Armenia, the Fourth Republic of Armenia, that will consider past mistakes and become what it was always meant to be for generations. A great country for any Armenian and non-Armenian to be proud of, a leader in his own right, the crucial link between the past, present, and future. A source of greatness and inspiration for the rest of the world.
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.