Should Armenia Expect Any Dividends from Biden’s Peace Initiatives?

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In his first speech at the State Department, President Joe Biden presented an outline of the new US foreign policy, beginning his speech with the following statement: “America is back, diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy. As I said in my inaugural address, we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.”

This was in stark contrast to his predecessor Donald Trump’s foreign policy, whose core principle was “America First,” which at the end evolved into “America Alone.”

Following his inauguration, President Biden, on his first day in office, had signed a series of executive orders rescinding most of the Trump policies which had led the US to isolation on the world scene.

President Biden also sent messages to friends and foes around the globe. The most significant were his peace initiatives.

With the recent Burmese coup, he said, “The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates and activists and the officials they have detained.”

This was in contrast with his predecessor, who was enamored with despots and potentates; the more power crazy, the better the relationship (i.e. North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.)

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Most significantly, he addressed the situation in Yemen, a festering civil war that has led to 80 percent of the country’s 30 million population to the brink of famine. It has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.

“This war has to end,” the president announced.

The war, though civil in scope, has been fueled by outside powers; in fact, this is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, supporting the beleaguered government in Yemen, and Iran, who fund the Houthi rebels who occupy most of the territory.

Biden will immediately stop supplying arms to Saudi Arabia, hopefully, as well as providing the country with technical military advisory support. The irony is that the Kingdom is awash with cash, purchasing the most sophisticated weapon systems that it cannot use and yet it needs the supplier to come to its assistance.

President Trump had argued that arms sales to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen were creating US defense jobs — a most humanitarian view of the direst humanitarian catastrophe in the world!

President Biden’s peace initiatives have had a domino effect as the long-simmering war in Libya recently came to a halt with the agreement between General Haftar and the government of National Accord headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Anticipating upcoming changes, Turkey requested the United Nations to restart negotiations with Cyprus and sent Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu to Brussels to try to resurrect its moribund relations with the European Union.

Along with these peace initiatives, President Biden fired the first salvos at Russia and Beijing, referring to existing differences and potential problems.

In view of the above statements, one is justified to ask whether the new US administration is poised for global peace or reallocation of the targets from unending wars to traditional adversaries?

The question is answered by William Astore, in the February 2 issue of The Nation, stating, “President Joe Biden’s new cabinet and roster of advisors are well stocked with retired generals, reconstituted neocons, unapologetic hawks and similar war enthusiasts. … ‘Defense’ spending, as war spending is generally known in this country, remains at record levels at $740.5 billion for fiscal year 2021. Talk of the New Cold War with Russia and China (or both) paradoxically warms Pentagon offices and corridors with yet more funds.”

The writer offers nine recommendations to the Biden administration to shift from a warpath to a peaceful goals and one of those recommendations significantly reminds him, “Pay attention, for once, to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address and exert vigorous oversight and zealous control over the military-industrial complex.”

The US economy is wedded to the military-industrial complex and under any administration. Mr. Trump’s logic still remains valid that war “creates defense jobs.” Therefore, enemies have to be confronted or created to keep the defense contractors at Boeing and Raytheon happy.

Since President Biden is targeting unending wars, Armenians can pin their hopes on some positive signs emanating from the Biden camp and the State Department regarding long-standing problems and recent ones, namely the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the resumption of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group co-chairs’ reengagement.

Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already seen the handwriting on the wall and has been planning to preempt any move that may come from the international community.

To begin with, Turkey is one of the instigators of those unending wars, stirring up trouble and body counts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and very recently, Nagorno Karabakh. Perhaps the Biden administration’s the most daunting challenge will become the one to tame Turkey.

On the Karabakh front, the news is that the Minsk Group co-chairs — Russia, France and the US — will visit the region and particularly the war-ravaged areas to continue their mission. The State Department has released a statement indicating that “the US contributes to the OSCE Minsk Group’s process with the goal of helping the parties to come to a final settlement based on the principles of Helsinki Final Act, which calls for the exclusion of military force to resolve problems, territorial integrity and the right of people’s self-determination.”

The politicians who have made those statements will find a fait accompli in Karabakh, since the first principle they advocate — that of the non-use of force — has already been violated. That violation has led to the resolution of the second principle, the restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. What is left for them to resolve is the self-determination of the people in Karabakh.

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has already stated that Karabakh’s status has been determined. President Putin has countered that by stating that the status has not been determined yet and that the decision will be taken up at a later date.

Now that the other two co-chairs have reengaged themselves, they have to weigh in with their proposals. The French parliament has already passed a resolution seeking the recognition of Karabakh’s independence. It is anticipated that that view will be reflected in the upcoming deliberations. The US view is not clear yet, but in many problems in the region, it counters the Russian position. Barring some last-minute horse-trading, the US will also concur with France, since both have complained that they have been excluded from the process of the settlements following the war. Their involvement will mostly dwell on the application of the nine-point cease fire declaration imposed by Russia and Turkey on Armenia. The latter has a challenge and chance for diplomatic maneuvering to interpret some of the unfair and unclear clauses to its advantage.

Within the general scheme of Turkey to demonstrate good behavior as a citizen of global diplomacy, Ankara has resorted to several initiatives, in addition to the Cyprus negotiations and rapprochement with Europe.

Ankara has signaled that it is “ready to normalize relations with Armenia,” as reported in an article published in the Washington Post. Turkish political analyst Amberin Zaman’s piece in Al-Monitor’s February 1 issue refers to that signal. The title of the article says it all: “Turkey’s talk of peace with Armenia rings hollow.”

Her comment is more revealing when she writes: “Critics say Turkey’s apparent magnanimity smacks more of its recent efforts to fix its battered ties with Washington without making the concessions that are actually being demanded of it.”

Zaman has interviewed several diplomats both Armenian and non-Armenian and finds that Turkey’s intent is not sincere and looks like a trial balloon indicating political expediency.

An anonymous Armenian diplomat answers the writer’s query: “It is shocking that a country may stick to genocidal intent for a century without feeling an inch of guilt for what its predecessors did [rather than] acknowledge and repent for the crime.”

What could offer Turkey to Armenia to entice the latter to normalize relations? If the offer is lifting the blockade and opening communications, that offer benefits Turkey more than Armenia. By lifting the blockade, Turkey will be correcting its act of violating international law by blockading Armenia and in addition, leaders in Turkey have been planning for more than a century to occupy the Syunik section of Armenia or to force their way through towards accomplishing their pan-Turanic plans. Since the nine-point declaration after the Karabakh war has granted that transit passage, Turkey has already been rewarded with one of its historic goals.

It is not in the interest of the Armenian side to consider any olive branch from Ankara.

Besides dealing with Armenia Turkey has a long and arduous way before it to improve its relations with Washington.

We hope President Biden makes good on his pledge and recognizes the Genocide and instructs the US co-chair of the Minsk Group to reflect Washington’s friendly policy. Those may prove to be dividends from Biden’s peace initiative for Armenia.

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