Op-ed: Armenia must consider political realignment for Karabakh
The war in Karabakh is over and now the parties must implement the November peace agreement.
Azerbaijani, Armenian and Russian leaders met on January 11 in Moscow to hold negotiations and talks on the points of the agreement, arousing caution and stoking criticism in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, as many issues remained unresolved.
One of the most important questions for the Armenian side is in what format the peace process will continue.
What happened to the OSCE Minsk Group, within the framework of which negotiations were held to resolve the Karabakh conflict before the start of the war in the fall of 2020? What role can its two other co-chairs – France and the United States – play; what can be expected from the talks now taking place in the Russia-Armenia-Azerbaijan trilateral format? Could the course of Armenia’s foreign policy change?
The opinion of Armenian political scientist Andrias Ghukasyan.
- Op-ed: ‘Blood, toil, tears and sweat’ – solving the Armenian political crisis
- Highlights of the Armenia-Azerbaijan agreement and what happens next
- Armenian opposition: recent Karabakh, transit corridor talks in Moscow ‘another shameful defeat’
New trilateral negotiation format
The goal of the new Russia-Armenia-Azerbaijan format is to turn the negotiation process into a long-term and fruitless one. Its content reflects the statement of Ilham Aliyev that ‘the conflict has been overcome, and it is in the past, and there are no more reasons for enmity between the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples.’
The essence of this statement is the postponed status of Nagorno-Karabakh for a long time and the restoration of economic and transport ties in order to create preconditions for the reconciliation of the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples in the region.
This is how the situation is seen from Moscow. And it is obvious that the leaders of both Armenia and Azerbaijan are subordinate to the implementation of this project.
And I do not see a single reason why the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh should live without a legal status, why they cannot have their own government, sovereignty in relation to important issues for them. The very initial idea that, by postponing the status, it is possible to establish peaceful relations between the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples, has a false premise and it will not lead to sustainable peace in the region.
Russia applies double standards, because in the case of the Abkhaz-Georgian and Ossetian-Georgian conflicts, it did not take the path of postponing the issue of status.
On the contrary, the Russian Federation recognized these republics, and made their recognition by Georgia a prerequisite for the settlement of conflicts. In the issue of the Karabakh conflict, Russia is guided by its geopolitical interests to the detriment of the national interests of Armenians. This is primarily due to the national security issues of Russia itself.
The Russian Federation was categorically opposed to the introduction of international peacekeeping forces into the region. And the main geopolitical task facing Russia was to remove this issue from the political agenda. This was achieved by unleashing a war and defeating the Armenian side.
The recognition of Karabakh by Russia would lead to the rejection of Azerbaijan. And he is a more important partner for Russia than Armenia.
Armenia needs to make a choice
Armenia for Russia is a country without an alternative, which completely depends on it for its national security. Russia believes that it is possible to present Armenia with a fact so that it recognizes the priority of Russian national interests over its own.
Therefore, the most important task for Armenia is to achieve independence from Russia in matters of its national security. Until this task is solved, our foreign policy will be subordinated to the interests of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation.
This year, in the course of the upcoming early elections in Armenia, one should determine its geopolitical course. It is necessary to decide whether we will continue military cooperation and allied relations with the Russian Federation, or turn for military assistance to European states in order to create our own independent national security system.
This does not mean that we should change camp and try to join NATO or other Western military alliances, especially since we do not have such political resources. But Armenia can use the help of Western countries in order to create its own independent national army and independently bear responsibility for its security.
This will mean the termination of agreements on the Armenian-Russian joint grouping of forces, on the joint joint air defense grouping, on the revision of the protocol to the treaty, according to which the term for the deployment of the Russian 102nd military base was extended to 49 years instead of the initial 25 years.
This need is dictated by the fact that many agreements have been violated. Russia provided military assistance to Azerbaijan by selling weapons to it, that is, it took actions that contradict the Collective Security Treaty. According to article 1 of this treaty, participants in the CSTO military-political union should not commit actions directed against any of its members.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization operates under the auspices of Russia. This regional international structure was created in 1992, immediately after the collapse of the USSR. Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan very soon left the ranks of the CSTO. Now its members are Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Russia’s support to Azerbaijan over the past two decades has played a large role in ensuring that Azerbaijan uses the 1994 ceasefire to accumulate resources and resolve the Karabakh problem by military means.
We cannot ignore this fact, and it must have its legal consequences. One of these consequences is the revision of the agreement on the military base, because it did not fulfill its purpose for Armenia. But the withdrawal of Russian troops can only be carried out in parallel with the creation of effective armed forces, the country’s own defense potential.
And for this, first of all, political will is needed, the mobilization of all national resources, including the diaspora. Otherwise, we must accept the fact that our military ally supports our enemy, come to terms with it and accept the reality in which we live.
Another issue is that the Armenian leadership has rejected the proposals of both France and the United States – proposals to help Armenia create a security system independent of Russia, to receive the necessary military assistance from them.
But Armenia remains committed to allied relations with Russia.
Remaining an ally of Russia, it will be impossible to change anything. Karabakh is a part of Azerbaijan for Russia and it cannot have any status. And the Karabakh people, according to Russia’s plan, will become full-fledged citizens of Azerbaijan in the future.
But today a front is being created that will be a counterbalance to these political forces. The Armenian people, I am sure, have the will to exist as a sovereign state. And if for 30 years the security of Armenia was under the “protection” of Russia, this does not mean that this situation will not change after the second Karabakh war.
Both the United States and France have the necessary resources to put pressure on both Azerbaijan and Armenia and Russia.
The world is changing, and this must be taken into account. There has been a pause today, but after the final formation of the new American leadership, clear theses of the US policy towards Azerbaijan and Turkey will be voiced.
By the appointments made in the Security Council and other US government bodies, it is already clear that the US policy will be unfavorable for Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Is Armenia able to use this in its interests? Of course it can. But for this, a change of power must take place in Armenia. A new government should be formed that will not be dependent on Russia, will be able to implement an independent foreign policy and capitalize on the geopolitical situation that has developed in the West and is favorable for our country.