"Change strategy and fight" - political scientist's proposal to Armenian authorities
The old world order is collapsing, a new one is still in the process of formation, and these global changes cannot but affect the South Caucasus region. Armenian analysts argue that the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh changed the security architecture of the region, making Armenia vulnerable and its policy overly cautious. Armenia’s expert community discusses that the authorities, instead of promoting the country’s interests, are “making concessions in exchange for a dubious peace.” And all regional actors are taking advantage of this in their own interests.
In this regard, the experts suggest that the Armenian government should “straighten its back and take more confident steps”. With the current course there is a danger of “turning into a quasi-state”, they warn.
Opinion of Lilit Grigoryan, political scientist and expert on CIS issues, on what steps are needed to ensure Armenia’s security.
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Lilit Grigoryan, CIS expert (London)
Armenian authorities miscalculated
“Armenia is facing serious challenges, but the government does not seem to realize this. Incorrect analysis of the situation leads to constant mistakes.
There is a misconception in Armenia about the position of the international community. Here they think that it can guarantee established norms that Azerbaijan cannot ignore.
For example, the authorities think that by accepting the generally accepted Soviet borders, Armenia will be more protected. And it was possible to leave Artsakh to get security for Armenia itself in return. This is a big misconception.”
Unformed political identity
“The Armenian political identity has been weak since the 90s, since the time of the first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, and now it is even weaker. We could say that it has never been formed.
Political identity means that you have ambitions in a good sense, goals. And you realize that you are creating a state and solving its problems. Armenia has a cultural identity: ancient history, literature, traditions and so on. But there is no political identity.
In the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh there was only forced self-defense. There were no preventive measures. But even this self-defense failed because of the lack of political identity, purpose and concept. In 1994, after the victory of the Armenian side, the Karabakh issue failed and the foundations for a new war were laid.
Now in Armenia the perception of itself has been critically debased. Armenian political thought believes that the country is weak, has no allies or its allies do not want to help it. So there is nothing left for it but to give in.
A concept has been formed: if you don’t resist, if you make concessions, you can avoid conflict. It is dangerous to think this way, because the more you give in, the more new demands are made of you.
And the authorities have trapped themselves in this position and are wasting all their energy and resources on justifying their steps, instead of reconsidering their tactics and policy.
It is very important that the Armenian authorities realize their mistake and stop. And in this case we are talking about a group of people who make single decisions for the whole nation. The parliament does not take part in the processes at such a critical moment, despite the fact that Armenia is a parliamentary country. There are no discussions with the society, there are no serious studies.”
“The peace agenda of the Armenian authorities is simply capitulation. Because there is no compromise in it, it provides all conditions for one side, confirms the results of aggression, war, and forces the winner to put it on paper.
There can be peace only with a balanced approach to the interests of the parties. We can talk about long-term peace and normalization of relations when trust is created.
But when one side dictates and the other side is forced to give in, there will be no peace. And that is a problem. The problem is that this surrender is presented to the domestic audience as peace and the only way out.
A new order has been established in the region, and Armenia’s security situation is becoming even more complicated. In addition to Russia, new players and the forces supporting them – Turkey and to some extent Iran – are coming into play.
Regionalism and Eurasianism are no longer the game of a single actor. And in the near future we may see in Armenia the dynamics of the situation similar to the Middle East. This will further fragment the country and complicate the formation of new leadership.”
You can’t go into self-isolation
“Even in this situation, Armenia would have opportunities if there were the right political leadership. And not only in power, but also in alternatives to it.
Armenia should get rid of such false discussions as Armenian-centrism. As if we cannot go to the West or to the East, we must remain Armenian-centered, we are not pro-Russian, we are not pro-Western, but pro-Armenian. Relying on ourselves means self-isolation.
We cannot develop our economy, defense, etc. alone. Even the most powerful countries cannot behave like that.
The Scandinavian countries, which adhere to neutrality, are members of the European system of values and European economic system by all parameters. They are not neutral either in economy or in arms production. And in a global sense they are members of the Western camp.
And when Armenia declares its neutrality, it means that if before it was in the Russian system, now it will be in the Eurasian system: Russia and Turkey and to some extent Iran.”
Payback for the false subpoena
“If Armenia believes that this is the most convenient and less risky option, it should be ready to pay for it. In addition to Artsakh, Armenia will pay for this choice with so-called enclaves and certain demographic changes.
Now a period of soft war is beginning, when dangerous narratives are being spread through various influential people interested in trade with Azerbaijan and Turkey, but at the expense of Armenia’s interests.
And the reason for this situation is the constraint of Armenia’s political elite in its thoughts and decisions – on the Karabakh issue, on the issue of borders. It is the inability to form a political identity.
Instead of speaking from the position of the state, from the position of strength, Armenia displays cowardly behavior. Of course, it is necessary to be cautious, particularly when the country has lost part of the army’s capabilities. But when it becomes a character trait, the country pays the price.
Many countries are defeated but quickly recover by analyzing their mistakes, creating and entering into new alliances.
It is not so much the defeat that is terrible, but the building of a new political identity on it, belonging to a narrow group of people. This already happened in Armenia’s history 100 years ago, when the ultra-left Bolsheviks promoted the idea of peace at any cost and only at the expense of Armenia’s interests.”
Talking to regional players, but from a different perspective
“Armenia should form a group of experts capable of defining the future, new role of the country in the region. It must decide whether it accepts the results of the 2020 war of aggression and the situation surrounding it.
It cannot accept the results that were achieved in violation of all international norms. The authorities should talk to new partners, who are interested in creating a new Armenia, a new statehood. Because to a certain extent the statehood has not been fully formed in Armenia. In this regard, both the authorities and the society should be ready for a proactive role and policy.
It is important to realize that there will always be a struggle. And it is necessary to understand which countries want Armenia to be a country capable of fighting.
Regional countries prefer Armenia to be a quasi-state, they have absolute consensus on this issue.
But there are Western countries, whose interests coincide with those of Armenia, and they do not benefit from the emerging order. We need to work with them, reform the army, restore the balance of power. Armenia should be armed and as strong as Azerbaijan, at least.
And the main thing is to create a concept both for the domestic audience and regional players. It is necessary to talk to Russia, Turkey and Iran and explain that Armenia will not accept their desire to keep itself in the position of a weakling.
The Armenian authorities have always focused on Russia’s opinion and feared threats. Now it is necessary to change this approach. And this does not mean conflict.
We need cooperation with neighbors taking into account Armenia’s opinion. But the country cannot afford such a position if there is no combat-ready army and economic development. Armenia should have started diversifying its energy sector and economic investments long ago to be able to face challenges.
I do not believe the current government is capable of changing the situation because it is trapped in its “peace agenda”. Ideologically, it is in favor of a concept that is now taking shape, but it has its roots in the 90s and beyond. It is neo-Bolshevism.
There are forces in Armenia that could take the responsibility to change the behavior of the country. These are people who really think about the preservation of statehood.”