Future Explosion Timer
‘Azerbaijan in Focus’ reporting Turan News, considers the thoughts on the Armenian defeat expressed by Eduard Naghdalyan, Editor, Business News Yerevan.
Unfortunately, an annoying misunderstanding persists in Armenian society about the reasons behind such a result in the reignited Armenian–Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. To understand this, one should return to 1994, when Armenia won the first war with Azerbaijan.
As you know, Armenia, having secured control over Nagorno-Karabakh itself, simultaneously seized seven regions of Azerbaijan as a ‘security zone’, and this is the key reason for understanding the situation today. In fact, all today’s events and results are the consequences of the seizure of these seven regions of Azerbaijan, and not the problem of the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Initially, we were honest with ourselves. We honestly admitted that all these seven regions are temporarily occupied Azerbaijani lands, representing a security zone, intended for future bargaining around the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. At that time, this was quite understandable and logical. However, in 1994, we did not understand the most important element – that the time for this bargaining was very limited. Why? Firstly, it was in the interests of Armenia and the regime to undertake this bargaining as quickly as possible, at the very peak of military success, since this provided the maximum dividends for Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreover, Azerbaijan, represented by past President Heydar Aliyev, was ready for this.
Secondly, we did not understand the extremely serious danger that extending the bargaining and delaying the return of the territories turned Armenia into an occupying country that encroaches on the territorial integrity of a neighbouring state. The world would, under no circumstances, agree with this; a fact that we have observed during the past 26 years…
As a result, we chose the worst possible path – the option of maintaining the status quo, i.e. abandoning the final resolution of the issue through the signing of a peace treaty, whilst maintaining control over the occupying regime in the Azerbaijani territories. This was the grandiose, tragic foreign policy mistake of Armenia.
We acted as if we were a regional military superpower controlling the region, although in fact we were an economic midget, blockaded geographically, We did not understand that, without immediately resolving the issue of converting the military victory into a peace treaty with Azerbaijan in 1994, we automatically switched on the countdown on the timer to the future explosion. Consequently, we lost the current war. After all, our inadequacy is everything.
It gets even worse. In the Armenian interpretation, the temporarily occupied territories of Azerbaijan very soon became ‘liberated’ (I wonder from whom?). This cannot be interpreted otherwise than as defiant arrogance on our part, and an insult to our neighbour, with whom we have to live forever.
The world perceived this catastrophic irresponsibility with bewilderment, but we continued to play adventurously with fire… We were told about the occupied territories, and were talking about self-determination, not even paying attention to the fact that our de facto status of being an occupying country sharply devalued our own rhetoric on the legal issue of self-determination. Armenia frankly did not succeed in achieving dialogue with the world community on Nagorno-Karabakh… But our inadequacy is everything.
There are a few simple questions. What has Azerbaijan been doing for the past 26 years? Preparing for military revenge. With support from whom? Obviously, fraternal Turkey. What is the Turkish army? It is the second most powerful NATO army, with virtually unlimited military resources. Did we know about this? Of course.
Azerbaijan has imposed an arms race on us and has repeatedly warned us – either resolve the issue, or go to war. What did our foreign policy do in the face of the emergent powerful Turkish–Azerbaijani military alliance? We slept serenely, having lost even the elementary instinct of self-preservation.
Meanwhile, the clock on the timer continued to tick. So what were we hoping for in the conditions, when it was said a hundred times that the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) is inapplicable to Karabakh? On the Almighty, I have no other answer. After all, our inadequacy is everything.
The timer went off on September 27, 2020. The time bomb exploded with a deafening crash. Nagorno-Karabakh found itself alone in the face of the 90 million Turkish–Azerbaijani ‘super-prepared-for-war’ alliance – in the absence of any official military ally. It is quite obvious that, despite the heroic resistance of the defence army, defeat was inevitable.
So who is to blame for what happened? In light of the above, the answer is obvious. The guilt is with those of our leaders who, at one time, did not agree with Heydar Aliyev on deciding a peace treaty, due to their provincial folly. The culprits are those village princelings who then followed the path of a catastrophic scenario to maintain the status quo of the occupied territories and arrogantly undertook a cynical imitation of the negotiations process throughout these 26 years.
All the Armenian political parties, the expert community and the media of Armenia are to blame, which for 26 years poisoned the people with the pseudo-patriotic slogan ‘not an inch of land to the enemy.’ Just think about the essence of this slogan – not an inch of Azerbaijani land to Azerbaijan? This is absolute insanity. But our inadequacy is everything…
Now let’s return to Nikol Pashinyan’s responsibility for the military defeat. Of course, this is not true – a crushing defeat would have been guaranteed under any current government. There is nothing to discuss and speculate on. Therefore, the question is completely different – could the current government have prevented this military conflict?
My answer is yes, it could, but in in theory. Why purely in theory?
In theory, immediately after coming to power, Pashinyan was obliged to immediately announce a change in foreign policy. He was obliged to clearly and unequivocally declare the unacceptability for Armenia of the criminal status quo policy pursued by the previous authorities and spearhead the transition to meaningful, non-imitative negotiations on a real settlement of the conflict.
Only this could have stopped the ticking time-bomb. As a hypothetical option, we would have immediately declared our readiness to return all seven occupied regions in exchange for something. Yes, we could have simply returned these areas as a gesture of goodwill, subject to certain conditions. Yes, there were many options. The main aspect here is the desire to really come to an agreement – which Armenia had not yet undertaken – taking into account the catastrophic military scenario that was already being calculated. Can you imagine how Armenia’s foreign policy authority would have skyrocketed and what impetus the process of recognising the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh would have received in this case? The main aspect is that the time-bomb would have been stopped.
However, all this is theoretical. Could Pashinyan have said this practically? Alas, I think not. This is for the simple, yet terrible, reason that Pashinyan received power from the people, totally poisoned by the slogan ‘not an inch of land to the enemy.’ Mass accusations of betrayal, land sales etc. are the very least that he would have immediately received in response. As a result, Pashinyan could not extract himself from this political trap, which he received as a difficult inheritance.
The timer on the bomb couldn’t last forever. Therefore, we have to state that we have historically been doomed to this explosion and inevitable military defeat, no matter what is said now. This is the price for catastrophic mistakes in foreign policy and ignoring the elementary principles of ‘real politics’.
What’s next? Yes, the current government received the full burden of moral and psychological responsibility for the military defeat that fell during the period of its rule. This is the cross that it will have to bear, despite all the charges. There is simply no other way out. Now Pashinyan’s government needs to quickly earn a new legitimacy, but this time on the basis of the effectiveness of its decisions. It is necessary to act tough, quickly, in an extremely pragmatic, authoritarian style, without using false democracy. Armenia has no other choice now.
We must now consider the role of Russia in this war. In fact, it is exceptional. It was not about stopping this war. No country in the world could have stopped this war – Azerbaijan released its lands from occupation, and this was recognised by the entire international community, including Russia. Nevertheless, Russia had a special role of which, I believe, it was fully aware from the outset. Russia could not stop the war, but it could stop the carnage. The fact that the situation was heading towards slaughter with the existing alignment of forces, from the very first day, did not raise any doubt of its involvement. You don’t have to be an expert in the existing balance of power. As soon as that moment came, Russia made this decision with lightning speed, and saved thousands of lives. This was its unique mission, for which we should be extremely grateful. No country other than Russia could have made such a decision and been able to implement it in such a short time frame. The countdown continued for days and hours…
As for the role of the collective West, we must finally understand that it is incapable of solving such conflicts. In principle, it is only capable of discussing them. The only thing we can count on is the delivery of humanitarian aid, which is also not particularly visible. However, we will be grateful if it is received.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasise the following. Despite the tragedy that has happened, I believe that a completely new economic reality will soon emerge on the territory of the South Caucasus. It will be interesting, because Armenia will receive the maximum benefits from this reality, since it is for Armenia that absolutely new windows of opportunity will be created, which we currently do not even suspect and were simply impossible until now. Soon everyone will feel this.