Watching the news about and from Armenia has become a real source of trauma for all Armenians around the world. Armenia, as a nation, lost a piece of historic land in Karabakh, while many families have lost their young sons and daughters, many between the ages of 19 and 22.

Russian President Vladimir Putin put the number of casualties in Armenia at 4,000, with many more thousands wounded.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is charged with overseeing the exchange of POWs and returning the dead, but the Azerbaijani side is interfering with their mission, most probably to hide the war crimes committed by Baku during the hostilities. Many Azerbaijani soldiers have proudly posted videos in which they kill Armenian soldiers at point-blank range or mutilate their bodies. Russian President Vladimir Putin himself referred to mutilations, in addition to deaths caused by phosphorus and cluster bombs used against civilians during the war.

Understandably, the shameful document ending the war signed on November 9 by Putin, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has touched off a political crisis in Armenia, which is compounded by the raging of the uncontrollable pandemic.

It is no coincidence that the first Azerbaijani aggression took place during the Gyumri earthquake, which killed 25,000 citizens along with the devastation of the city. The current war took place during another natural disaster, namely the COVID-19 pandemic. With both Armenia and Artsakh weakened by the pandemic, Azerbaijan was met by a weaker response.

The despair caused by the defeat and the staggering number of young lives lost has made the recovery of Armenia challenging. Even if the most diehard patriot considers leaving the homeland, it will be understood, if not justified.

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Debates, rallies and discussions will serve as a catharsis for the population before hopefully it charts a course of recovery.

But before the recovery efforts begin, cool heads have to prevail to save what is salvageable from the haphazardly drafted peace declaration.

The military doctrine of occupying seven regions around Karabakh as a security buffer proved to be wrong in the new configuration of forces in the region, particularly with the active participation of the Turkish army. Not only were those seven regions ceded as a result of the agreement signed but the destiny of Karabakh itself in in question while the sovereignty of a segment of Armenia’s territory in the south, namely the construction of a road connecting Baku to Nakhichevan, has been compromised.

Incidentally, the road to the Nakhichevan exclave was first proposed by Azerbaijani apologist and one-time CIA operative Paul Goble. At that time, the idea was considered outrageous, even though the deal was proposed in terms of a land swap between Armenia and Azerbaijan with Armenia gaining Karabakh in return for Azerbaijani access though Armenian territory.

With the current agreement Azerbaijan refuses even to discuss Karabakh’s status. Paul Goble himself has emerged from obscurity to publish an article in the November 24 issue of Eurasia Review, jubilantly hailing Azerbaijan’s victory and discussing the very issue of the status, stating: “Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has made very clear that any special status for Nagorno-Karabakh is unacceptable, a position overwhelmingly supported not only by more than 90 percent of the population of Azerbaijanis who are ethnic Azerbaijanis but also by the remainder who are members of various groups.”

Then, Mr. Goble diligently reaches out to some members of the ethnic groups, namely Lezgis, Avars, Tsakhurs, Talishes, Kynalyglsis and Kurds to conclude, “How could the Karabakh Armenians, who massively fought on the side of Armenia for the disintegration of Azerbaijan, receive special rights?”

In order to reach that conclusion, Mr. Goble has relied on the potential ignorance of his readers who may not be aware that many of the leaders of those ethnic groups have been languishing in Aliyev’s prisons and are denied the right to make any such statement.

Now that Russia has been encouraging Armenians to return to Karabakh, the issue of determining the future status of the enclave becomes even more pressing. After all, the current agreement is for five years. It is apparent that Baku will be the first party to terminate the stationing of Russian forces before the terms of the peace agreement expire. And that will be at the instigation of the Turkish side, which is also participating in the peacekeeping program, despite the denials from Moscow.

President Putin, in his long interview on November 17, touched on the issue of Turkey participating, saying: “As for peacekeeping mission, it is true that Azerbaijan and Turkey kept speaking about the possibility of Turkish involvement in peacekeeping operations. I believe I eventually managed to convince our Azerbaijani colleagues that we should not create conditions or motives for undermining our agreements, which could provoke the parties to take extreme measures or actions. I am referring to the bitter legacy of the past, the tragic and bloody events that took place during the First World War, the Genocide.”

As we can see, Putin has recognized the political power of the Genocide issue and he has put it to good use in his diplomacy, while Armenia has often failed to do so in its diplomatic discourse.

However, genocide or no genocide, President Erdogan has already introduced its armed forces in Azerbaijan, in addition to its troop concentration on Armenia’s border near Igdir. Extrapolating from Russia’s previous behavior in Syria and Libya against Turkish assertiveness, we can safely assume that Moscow will eventually acquiesce to Turkish demands.

Moscow has been expediting massive humanitarian aid to Karabakh to entice the Armenian population to return to their homes. However, temporary guarantees will not be sufficient to gain the confidence of Karabakh Armenians.

During all previous negotiations, when package deals or step-by-step solutions were placed on the table, Azerbaijan always relegated the determination of the status issue to an undetermined point in the future while Armenia prioritized it, cognizant that Azerbaijan may renege on discussing the status issue once it attains its goals.

Both Putin and Lavrov have stated that the status issue has not been settled yet and it can be taken up when normal relations between the two adversaries are restored. That is certainly a long haul.

Russia rushed to have this agreement signed outside the framework of the OSCE, which was proposing Scandinavian forces to perform peacekeeping duties. Russia had lost its Gabala listening post in Azerbaijan about eight years ago and thus its returning to Azerbaijan with full force.

The West will not sit idly by in view of Moscow enhancing its position in the South Caucasus, after stationing based in Armenia and Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) and now moving back into Azerbaijan. It will react in two ways: one, by encouraging Turkey to confront Russia, and secondly, by reactivating the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group process where France and the US can have a say as co-chairs. The first method is contrary to Armenian interests, while the second must be welcome by Yerevan, particularly when Mr. Lavrov has indicated that the peace agreement is only a document which should be finalized through negotiations by the Minsk Group.

We have to remember that the OSCE negotiations hinged on three principles: non-use of force to settle the crisis; territorial integrity and self-determination.

Azerbaijan violated the first principle by launching a military attack. It attained its so-called territorial integrity and refuses to consider the third principle. President Macron and France have been more assertive, even considering bringing the recognition of Karabakh independence to the agenda of its Senate. The US is surviving the last episode of its election circus and therefore may try to catch up with the rest of the other co-chairs. Once the co-chairs meet, they will realize that their two principles have been met, contrary to their will. Therefore, they have to concentrate on the last principle, that of self-determination.

Armenia lost this war painfully but the big winner is not Azerbaijan. The first winner is Russia, which introduced its army into Azerbaijan, albeit temporarily. The other winner is Turkey, which is in Azerbaijan in full force. And there is a third winner: Israel. All the conscientious calls by Israeli intellectuals and human rights activists were overruled by realpolitik interests. Israel not only bilked Azerbaijan by selling $5 billion worth of military hardware, but it received broader access to Iran’s territory with the removal of Armenian forces in Karabakh. Now it can expand its surveillance activities and preemptive strike plans with more convenience. We can see Israeli and Turkish military objectives converge, while Erdogan spouts empty rhetoric defending the Palestinian cause.

When the dust settles and the Azerbaijani public learns about its true war losses, Aliyev’s arrogant status will evaporate, when they also discover that Russian forces are there and Turkey has reduced Azerbaijan to the status of the puppet regime in Northern Cyprus, as described by Michael Rubin in a recent article in National Interest.

With Turkey’s Ottoman ambitions and Russia’s control of its “near abroad,” the turbulence in the region will not calm down soon. Armenia cannot survive and will not survive, unless it attains a super weapon or its nuclear deterrence. It is believed that Israel clandestinely conducted its nuclear tests in South Africa. Pakistan bought plans for its nuclear arsenal from North Korea. Armenia cannot act as the most honest citizen of the world community when its very existence is on the line.


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