It has been a week since the statement signed by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan announcing the ceasefire in the Artsakh war. I am sure most Armenians in Armenia, Artsakh and the diaspora were utterly shocked and devastated, as the official Armenian Ministry of Defense updates until the previous day still gave upbeat reports about the heroic defense of Artsakh by the Armenian forces against all odds, against a combined army of Azerbajanis, Turks and jihadists which had manpower and resources at least five times larger. Although we do not know the exact details yet, Shushi fell, unfortunately resulting in potentially immense vulnerability for the rest of Artsakh and the Armenian soldiers. Under the circumstances, agreeing to a ceasefire secured by Russian peacekeepers saved the rest of Artsakh and the army, but with harsh conditions difficult to accept by the Armenians.
As soon as the ceasefire conditions became known, the initial shock was quickly replaced with a vicious blame game to find a culprit for the lost war. Seventeen political organizations immediately started blaming Pashinyan and demanded his resignation, labelling him a ‘traitor’ and ‘land giver’. Protesters attacked the Parliament, severely beating up the president of the National Assembly.
Government spokespersons blamed the protesters for not joining the war effort and not going to the front. The Artsakh president and the minister of defense blamed the lack of men and resources. Pashinyan blamed the previous government leaders for bribery and corruption, ‘eating’ the resources instead of strengthening the army. Several people blamed the previous government leaders for not negotiating seriously, not acknowledging that the ‘liberated’ or ‘occupied’ territories would be given away sooner or later in return for some security guarantee for Artsakh. Some analysts blamed Pashinyan for appearing anti-Russian, and for provoking Azerbajanis even more by stating ‘Artsakh is Armenian, full stop’. Others blamed the minister of defense for boasting that ‘the next war will not be to exchange territories for peace, it will be war for more territories’.
All of the blame may have some truth in it, but none of the blame will bring back the thousands of young Armenians martyred or wounded during the war. None of the blame will bring back the seven territories around Artsakh, or Shushi and Hadrut within Artsakh. It is time to stop the blame game, assess the facts, accept the facts, see the positives and negatives and start working based on the facts.
First of all, we need to realize that all Armenians, in Armenia, Artsakh, and the diaspora, need to share the blame, and acknowledge their own mistakes instead of blaming the others. The only persons not to blame in this war are the heroic soldiers and volunteers, who died or got injured, sacrificing for the nation.
Secondly, we need to realize that the ceasefire outcome is a proposal which was put on the negotiating table for almost 25 years, rejected by both sides with maximalist expectations at different times. It is now imposed not by Azerbaijanis on Armenians, but imposed on both sides by the Russians who did allow the occupied territories to be taken back by the Azerbaijanis, but also allowed Artsakh to be kept by the Armenians. Artsakh is intact, except for Shushi, which is under Russian control not Azerbaijani control, with roads in and out of it still under Armenian control. As stated earlier, the occupied territories would be exchanged for some sort of security guarantee in the past. Now, that security guarantee for Artsakh is in the form of Russian peacekeepers. Provided Artsakh Armenians feel secure enough to go back to Artsakh, Artsakh will remain Armenian and not controlled by Azerbaijanis. Every effort should be undertaken by Armenia, Artsakh and diaspora leaders to start reconstruction and rebuilding of Stepanakert and rest of Artsakh, and to provide all necessary social and financial assistance to the Artsakh Armenians to return to their homes as soon as possible.