Armenia’s sole exit route is through Türkiye
Failing to secure concrete benefits like enhanced trade and border reopening may jeopardize Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan’s political future, with Armenia’s only way out being through Türkiye
Azerbaijan’s swift success in its counterterrorism operation in Nagorno-Karabakh within 24 hours has sent shock waves through Armenia, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Daily Sabah.
Armenian nationalists are drawing comparisons between images of departing Armenians and the 1915 deportation, fueling agitation. Protests are erupting across the country, with demonstrators accusing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of inertia and proclaiming he “has sold us out.”
So, what has been transpiring in Armenia in recent years?
Pashinyan initially offered hope by proposing rational solutions to deep-seated issues when he came to power. However, he struggled to strike a balance between Russia and the West. The root cause of Azerbaijan’s successful military operation in Karabakh in September 2020 was precisely this foreign policy imbalance. Moscow left Yerevan isolated against Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who had Türkiye’s support.
Armenia’s struggle to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1991, taking advantage of the ensuing power vacuum, posed a significant challenge for Pashinyan. However, lacking a viable alternative, the Armenian people eventually reinstated him.
Pashinyan appeared resolute in his determination to break free from the historical constraints that had long hindered Armenia. He even visited Türkiye, considered Armenia’s “eternal enemy,” to attend President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inauguration. Simultaneously, he sought alternative alliances to replace his ally Russia, engaging in military exercises with the United States.
Aliyev, sensing an opportunity amid Armenia’s internal turmoil, used the region’s military dynamics to effectively incorporate Nagorno-Karabakh into its sphere of influence, dismantling the authority entrenched there for over three decades.
Many have questioned Pashinyan’s strategic rationale for alienating regional actors while relying on the U.S., which has shown limited support even to Ukraine. According to the Kremlin and numerous commentators, this appeared to be a matter of inexperience. However, such analysis overlooks the power struggle within Armenia.
For over 30 years, the entrenched authority in Nagorno-Karabakh has represented the “deep state” of Armenia. Every move by the elected government in Yerevan, which effectively serves as the spiritual leader of the nationalist public, has faced resistance from Nagorno-Karabakh. The perpetuation of the status quo has been enforced by the Nagorno-Karabakh leadership, with the backing of diaspora Armenians who support its continuity.
In summary, Pashinyan’s reluctance to oppose Azerbaijan’s operation in Nagorno-Karabakh was rooted in his strategy of pitting one enemy against another, a strategy he successfully implemented.
Visit of Pashinyan’s wife to Ukraine
Consider Pashinyan’s move to send his wife, Anna Hakobyan, to Ukraine for support and his proposal to the Armenian Parliament to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which envisions Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arrest, as the region simmers with tension. While the Azerbaijani army prepares for possible action, one cannot help but wonder about Pashinyan’s objective with these provocative actions, if not to dissuade the Kremlin from intervening.
Indeed, Pashinyan’s competence may be subject to scrutiny, but he is far from being a fool. The validity of this thesis will be determined by his stance on the opening of the Zangezur Corridor. Despite opposition from Armenian nationalists, this road project holds the potential to significantly invigorate regional trade and offer impoverished the country a lifeline. Presently, over 100,000 Armenians work in Türkiye, sending financial support to their families in Armenia. If the border were to open, Armenia, with a population similar to that of a small Turkish city, could experience an economic revival.
In the meantime, Pashinyan must make timely decisions, as Erdoğan is exerting pressure by stating, “If Armenia does not pave the way for this, it will go through Iran.”
Should Pashinyan fail to deliver tangible benefits such as enhanced trade and the border’s reopening in exchange for the concessions made, his political future may be in jeopardy during the upcoming elections.