The fall of Nagorno Karabakh is a defining moment in Armenian history. Almost a century ago, Turkey struck a sufficiently powerful blow to the Armenians to grieve for one hundred and five years and recover gradually.

It looks like the leadership of the current government of Turkey has decided that the time has come to cause another calamity for the Armenians to deal with for the next few decades.

Before we delve into self-flagellation we need to place the Karabakh war and the November 10, 2020 peace agreement into the perspective of regional developments and crosscurrents of major powers.

Since the beginning of the conflict over the fate of Karabakh (Artsakh) some three decades ago, the major world powers warned that there is no military solution to the problem, which had been relegated to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to resolve. In the process of dealing with the issue, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, tasked specifically with the problem, tried to keep the developments under control to make sure that no major power took advantage of the situation and derived dividends at the expense of the stakeholders in the problem.

But the war that was launched by Azerbaijan in September 2020 at the instigation and active participation of Turkey has resulted in the stationing of Russian peacekeepers on Azerbaijan’s territory, outside the control of the OSCE format.

Indeed, the peace agreement signed on November 10 reflects all the elements of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s plans and more. Indeed, except for a brief period at the Key West negotiations in 2001, the southern tip of Armenia’s territory was not on the negotiation table.

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While the international community was under the impression that President Vladimir Putin of Russia had outsmarted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in the deal, the power play between Russia and Turkey performed in Syria and Libya was reenacted in the Caucasus, bringing Turkish forces into Azerbaijani territory to face Russian peacekeeping forces.

The Russian action and Turkish reaction catapulted the conflict to the world stage, marginalizing Azerbaijan’s victory and Armenia’s defeat. At this time, Armenia’s humanitarian catastrophe has been sidelined as the Russo-Turkish confrontation takes center stage.

Criticism by French President Emmanuel Macron of Turkey’s jihadist exploits and the OSCE co-chairs’ moves to have a say in the new developments offered little consolation for the Armenian side.

The above developments manifest the broader contours of the conflict. Armenians are left alone to lick their wounds and bury their dead and above all, to put their house in order.

The catastrophe befallen on the Armenians will be amplified if confusion, recriminations and senseless actions continue.

During World War I, the Ottoman Empire collapsed, but soon after, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was able to resurrect a modern republic out of the ashes. Similarly, World War II devastated Germany, but Conrad Adenauer performed the economic miracle of Europe.

Rather than lamenting and finger,pointing, Armenia needs a sober and wise voice to pull the entire nation out of misery.

At this time, the political atmosphere is overheated in Armenia, and ripe to veer into uncharted territory.

The mob which was chanting “Serzhik Out” in Freedom Square a couple of years ago is now gathering to shout “Nikol Out.” Many discharged or AWOL soldiers have returned from the battlefield with their weapons. The situation is very volatile and a spark can trigger civil unrest. Groups from the former regime who were swept out of power have been joining the mob to take advantage of the chaos.

Former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan has raised the alarm and called for calm to steer away from civil war.

Incidentally, the first president feels today that history has vindicated him.

After the ceasefire of 1994, when large swathes of Azerbaijani territory came under Armenian control, Ter-Petrosyan proposed to cut a deal while in a position of power. He warned that time was against Armenians and whatever deals that the Armenian side could seal with Baku might not be attainable at a later time.

He was called a traitor and was deposed before he completed his second term as president.

Today, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is in the same hot seat for delivering territories and getting nothing in return.

Defections from the parliament, the government and army are taking place at a dizzying pace and Pashinyan’s circle of supporters is narrowing and leaving him isolated before a furious mob. He remains defiant but not for long. At a recent session of the parliament he stated that he is not ready to resign until he can see a mechanism through which the people’s voice may be heard in an orderly, constitutional way.

If true, that matches perfectly with the proposal which President Armen Sarkissian made in a speech on November 16. Thus far, the president has been overshadowed. The constitution had reduced his office to a figurehead. Sometimes, even the most pedestrian functions of protocol were denied him. Sarkissian’s reputation as a world-class scientist and his political and business contacts were untapped. Unlike Pashinyan, he knows how to listen to people and draw his own conclusions. Ever since November 10, he has been meeting with political parties, inside and outside the government. He has come to the conclusion that Pashinyan and his government have to resign and an interim leadership has to organize snap elections in an orderly fashion.

Thus far, his deceptively mild manners had created the impression that he was not capable of taking resolute action. However, he has proven himself as a father figure who can build consensus. Neither members in the Pashinyan group nor the members of the former government can garner a majority.

Only when a government of national accord takes the reins of power can the arduous task of recovery begin.

The first order on the agenda is the interpretation and implementation of the peace agreements. As bad as the deal is, there are many ill-defined clauses and loopholes. It is well said that the devil is in the details. But in this case, we may also discover some lifesaving angels in those murky details.

The agreement is already under the scrutiny of international law experts who may extract some favorable deals for the Armenia. The most urgent challenge is determining the status of Karabakh because that will give assurance to the refugees to return home.

During these uncertain and fluid times, the greatest number possible of refugees have to return to Karabakh. The depopulation of the enclave will surrender those lands to the same fate as Western Armenia, with no resident population to fight for self-determination.

Currently, the situation is in turmoil in Armenia. That image is also reflected in the diaspora. Incidentally, who represents the diaspora? Where is the diaspora’s voice? The diaspora is also in shambles. Once a government of national reconciliation takes power in Armenia, that will inspire the direction of the diaspora.

Recently, the diaspora was able to create national unity by default, driven by the sole and urgent need of helping the homeland. This time around, the challenge of the recovery will be even greater to cement that unity across the diaspora.

Unfortunately, diasporan resources will not be sufficient to launch an economic recovery. Appeals have to be extended to friendly major countries and international agencies for assistance as well as investments.

Facing the pandemic is another challenge which can only be met after economic recovery.

With Turkey’s presence in the region, instability will be there for the long haul. That will require Armenia to rebuilt its armed forces to be ready for future wars. In addition, a strong army will also deter possible future aggression by Azerbaijan.

Armenia should not only develop its arsenal of drones which gave the decisive edge to Turkey and Azerbaijan, but it has to look beyond to the next generation of weapons and even a nuclear option should be on the table.

Armenia does not threaten any nation but it has to seek the ultimate weapon for its survival, without apologies.

As the geography and demography changes in the region, so will its politics. Thus far, Turkey had conditioned the lifting of the blockade of Armenia with the resolution of the Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan’s favor. Now that its condition is met, Turkey will try to reap dividends by playing the good guy in front of the international community.

Turkey has mastered the art of invading and benefitting. It invaded Syria and killed thousands of innocent people and displaced four million people and then Erdogan played the part of patron saint of refugees and bilked billions of dollars in subsidies from Europe to meet the needs of those refugees.

Ankara will try to apply the same policy to Armenia, proposing to lift the blockade as a favor.

This time around, Armenia has to turn the tables and set its own demands. Thus far, Yerevan has proposed to resume diplomatic relations without preconditions. Today, it has to propose conditions: recognition of the Genocide and proper reparations. Turkey is very vulnerable to the issue of the Armenian Genocide, and that is why Erdogan is spending millions to form government commissions to deny the Genocide. It is to Yerevan’s advantage to keep Turkey on the defensive.

Besides, if the borders are opened, Turkish goods will flood the Armenian markets and Armenian tourists will flock to Turkish beaches. What does Armenia have to sell to Turkey?

We have to be forewarned by Georgia’s example. Turkey has colonized Georgia economically and politically under the guise of investments. Being colonized by Turkey is the last thing Armenia needs.

Armenia, Karabakh and the diaspora are at a historic watershed. The Karabakh defeat has to serve as a bitter lesson to propel Armenian forward to a more promising future.

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