BY GRIGOR HAKOBYAN
As a result of ineffective foreign policy by the Republic of Armenia, the most recent UN Security Council meeting organized to discuss the genocide of Armenians in Artsakh didn’t produce any significant results. The Republic of Armenia failed to officially identify who is behind the starvation of Armenian people in Artsakh, an act of genocide. It didn’t even use the word “genocide” to describe what is presently happening there, even though every opportunity was given for Armenia to do so. The culprits behind this genocide, death by starvation, are Russia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. Russia failed to keep Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor open. After it was closed by the Azerbaijani border guards, Russian peacekeepers, and border guards failed to open it even though it was their responsibility to keep it open according to November 9, 2020, cease-fire agreement. Failure to keep the corridor open and open the corridor after it got closed made Russia a culprit behind this genocide. Furthermore, their behavior and speech at the Security Council meeting left no doubts about their involvement in this tragedy and their anti-Armenian bias in this conflict. Russia is working against Armenia contrary to its bilateral security treaties and CSTO treaties with Armenia.
Considering that people in Artsakh cannot go on like this forever, there is a high likelihood that their patience will run out soon, and they will be forced to open the Berdzor corridor by force or face death by starvation, which is what Azerbaijan wants, to resume the war against the Armenians in Artsakh to achieve their total extermination and complete occupation of Armenian lands. Furthermore, considering the presently high concentration of Azerbaijani military hardware and troops around the Armenian-held territories of Artsakh and around the borders of the Republic of Armenia, which are in geographic proximity to Artsakh (Syunik, Vayots Dzor, Gegharkunik provinces), there is a high likelihood of Azerbaijani military invasion of Armenian towns and villages, including its capital- Stepanakert, within the next few months or weeks. This time, however, there is a high likelihood of regional countries getting directly involved in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. In fact, it can become a flashpoint for a much wider conflict that will stretch beyond the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. As such, Armenians in Armenia and around the world must prepare for another round of war that may last several months or years before the balance of power in the region is restored.
The Republic of Artsakh has been under blockade for more than eight months. In the past few weeks, several people have died because of starvation, including children. The blockade began with the closure of the Goris-Berdzor-Stepanakert corridor by fake Azerbaijani, “environmental activists” last Fall. They were supported by Azerbaijani military and Russian peacekeepers who did nothing to prevent the closure of the corridor and made no attempts to open it after it was closed by the stationing of the Azerbaijani border guard checkpoint near Hakari bridge which separates Artsakh from the Republic of Armenia. As a result, Armenia could not deliver any food or medical supplies, fuel, or any medical, construction, or agricultural equipment to Artsakh. Furthermore, this situation was further exasperated by frequent cuts of power, internet connection, and water to Artsakh residents by Azerbaijani troops. Moreover, Azerbaijan’s leader Heidar Aliyev put forth an ultimatum to the Armenian residents of Artsakh several months ago to either accept Azerbaijani rule and integrate with them or leave the area forever.
Considering the corridor has been closed for more than eight months, the actual alternative given to Armenians of Artsakh is death by starvation. Considering that food supplies in Artsakh have reached their end and no humanitarian convoy from Armenia is allowed to enter Artsakh by Azerbaijani authorities and the so-called “Russian peacekeepers and border troops” who partake in this blockade, it will be a matter of few months or weeks before Armenians of Artsakh attempt to open the corridor themselves, using force despite the odds of success being stacked against them. As such, the war in Artsakh will resume. There is also a high probability that Azerbaijani troops will attack Armenian towns and villages of Artsakh very soon to prevent Armenians of Artsakh from opening the corridor under a false pretext of “anti-terrorist operation” or any other label that they will use to exterminate the Armenians of Artsakh in the process. Judging by the large amount of military hardware and troops that Azerbaijan has accumulated on the Armenian-Azerbaijani contact line in Artsakh for the past few months, it can be asserted that the time for the resumption of the war is fast approaching.
Based on the history of past conflicts, the Azerbaijani invasion of Armenian-held towns and villages of Artsakh will start either at the end of August or during the September-October timeframe. In most likelihood, the military positions of the Artsakh Defense Army will be attacked by a wide range of combat drones and aircraft. At the same time, Azerbaijani artillery forces will indiscriminately shell civilian towns and villages. The Russian “peacekeepers” stationed in Artsakh will either join Azerbaijani troops in their assault against Armenians, just like they did before, during Operation Ring in 1992 or evacuate themselves and a few Armenians with Russian citizenship. The rest will be left behind to fend off for themselves. In most likelihood, due to the failure of Armenians of Artsakh to prepare themselves for the worst-case scenario during the past few years, Azerbaijani troops will register success and reach the capital of Artsakh in a very short time, where they will carry out large-scale massacres of Armenian civilians, and public executions of soldiers and police officers of Artsakh Defense Army and Ministry of Interior. The massacres will be accompanied by rape and torture of women and children as it happened before, while men will be mercilessly executed.
Under public pressure, the government in the Republic of Armenia will collapse, face arrest or flee the country as the new government in Armenia takes shape. Soon afterward, the Republic of Armenia will send its troops to break through the Azerbaijani blockade and open the Goris-Berdzor-Stepanakert corridor to save its citizens in Artsakh. It must be noted that most Armenians in Artsakh possess the citizenship of Armenia. As such, Armenia’s constitution mandates the government to provide security for its citizens. Therefore, not to be taken down by the public, the new government in Armenia will attempt to save its citizens in Artsakh. In the meantime, the Azerbaijani military invasion of Artsakh will be accompanied by additional Azerbaijani military incursions into the territory of the Republic of Armenia, whose goal will be to reach Nakhichevan and take over the Syunik Province. Consequently, that will prompt an Iranian military response followed by a Turkish military response against the Republic of Armenia and Iran. Hence a regional conflict will ensue.
Given these factors, the Armenian diaspora will be galvanized to support Armenia’s efforts to stop the genocide of its citizens in Artsakh and to preserve its control of Syunik Province. In the meantime, Russian troops will try to play both sides or side with Azerbaijan or leave the region altogether until the situation sorts itself out, just like they did in 1991. Consequently, Armenia will be left face to face, on its own, to fight Azerbaijan and Turkey simultaneously. There will be very few countries interested in helping Armenia, particularly Iran, Greece, France, and others from Europe and the Middle East; however, their support will not be enough to register significant gains on the battlefield. That means Armenia will have to sacrifice large amounts of its human resources and capital to preserve its national sovereignty and statehood. As such, it will be prudent for Armenia to leave CSTO, annul its military treaties with unreliable Russia, and make new bilateral military treaties with other countries who are willing to help Armenia, particularly the collective West/NATO led by the United States and France, as well as with Iran and India if they agree to do so. There is a good chance that China will also be interested in helping Armenia to counterbalance the growing Indian influence in the region.
Everyone in Armenia, except for Pashinyan and his government, probably understands the region’s geopolitical situation and expects the resumption of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict within the coming weeks or months. Unlike Pashinyan, who claims to have started an era of peace since November 9, 2020, most people in the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh didn’t lose touch with reality and can see what is coming. Unfortunately, the governments of Armenia and Artsakh have wasted three years since November 9, 2020, to prepare for the coming escalation. Most of the bomb shelters in the Republic of Armenia are not ready, and most of the border towns and villages of the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh are not fortified to withstand the coming onslaught of the Azerbaijani war machine. All people in the border towns and villages of the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh should have been armed already and defense trenches dug up. Yet none of that has happened yet. Only some areas are fortified, but not most of them, and above all, the civilians, and local militias (Ashkharazor) in border towns and villages are not fully armed. Consequently, once the war resumes, Armenians are going to suffer many casualties and injured. Furthermore, hundreds of people, primarily civilians, will be taken hostage, raped, tortured, and dismembered, just like during the “44 Day War”.
For Armenians in the diaspora, particularly in the United States, it is essential to support Armenian organizations engaged in lobbying, such as ANCA (Armenian National Committee of America). Furthermore, it is also imperative to help AANSI (The American Armenian National Security Institute), led by retired Maj. General MacCarley, who has put together a humanitarian support brigade made up of doctors, nurses, cyber- and information security experts and other aid workers, who will rush to Armenia in times of war or natural disasters to provide humanitarian relief for people in Armenia. Having been personally involved with these organizations before, I can attest that they are very reliable and do an incredible amount of work to help Armenia and improve its ties with the United States. Closer cooperation between the Republic of Armenia and the United States will allow Armenia to secure its statehood and restore the balance of power in the region, contributing to the sustainable regional peace and economic development of Armenia. As such, Armenia must understand who its real friends and enemies are and work accordingly. Otherwise, the cycle of genocides will repeat itself over and over again.
Note: Grigor Hakobyan is an independent political, defense and security analyst residing in Phoenix, AZ. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Arizona State University and a Master of Arts 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.