Dr. Arshavir Gundjian

The Artsakh and Ukraine Conflicts Need to Be Recognized as Two Separate Battles of the Same War


By Dr. Arshavir Gundjian, C.M.

The whole world has been watching with utter dismay for over a month the incredible scenes of the devastating war in Ukraine. A peaceful country, with its national identity, history, monuments, and invincible pride, has suddenly been attacked without any provocation by its overwhelmingly powerful neighbor state, Russia, which pretends to have claims on its neighbor supported by nothing more than the logic of brute force supremacy. The overwhelming majority of the civilized world, led by the powerful Western democracies, is reacting with its entire military and financial resources to come to the rescue of Ukraine, victim of this blatant and inhuman injustice. For us Armenians, the above scene is doubly painful to watch.

Indeed, while the destruction and devastation of a country and the suffering of its innocent population is unbearable for any normal human being to watch, we Armenians cannot miss the painful parallel between this tragedy and the one that was endured just about one year ago by Artsakh and Armenia. That tragedy actually still continues to this day in a hardly disguised form. It remains ready to blow up again, at any moment, whenever Azerbaijanis feel sufficiently assured that the world will once more conveniently remain deaf and blind to an equally outrageous scene taking place in that faraway piece of land, lost in the mountains of the Caucasus.

Actually, as much as we find such international injustice absolutely revolting to witness, we must equally recognize that a good share of the blame for such blatant indifference and unfair treatment, falls upon us, Armenians, both in Artsakh and Armenia, as well as in the Diaspora.

It is unquestionable that the current Ukrainian tragedy is almost the carbon copy and repeat of what Artsakh has endured as the victim, 14 months back in 2020, under the unprovoked and unjustified joint criminal aggression of Azerbaijan and Turkey.

In addition to Artsakh’s multimillennial history and monuments, the world ought to have been aware that Artsakh is also de jure an independent state by accepted standards of international law. Indeed, as is well documented – and therefore, there is no need to detail it here again – the internationally prescribed steps, including a properly organized and successfully held referendum of self-determination, have been followed meticulously by Artsakh, around the time of the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. This unquestionably establishes the independent status of Artsakh. In addition, the genocidal, state-sponsored policy of Azerbaijan, which dates from the Soviet years of its rule over Artsakh, and which is being openly applied still to those areas of Artsakh they have recently occupied, doubly qualify and reinforce Artsakh’s right for independence, based also on the internationally accepted principle of a people’s right of independence to secure its survival. Yet following the aggression that started in September 2020 and lasted 44 days until the disastrous Armenian capitulation of November 9, 2020, the international media has been notoriously unfavorable towards the Armenians’ plight. Quite to the contrary, it has covered that conflict to our full dismay and frustration, as the battle of Azerbaijan to recover its Armenian-occupied lands in the Karabakh region of the Caucasus. The blame for allowing such an odious distortion of reality to prevail must be borne in good part by Armenians themselves.

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The few desperate attempts of Armenians in the Diaspora to convey the truth in this tragedy, has remained essentially powerless against the flood of Turkish and Azerbaijani propaganda which influenced overwhelmingly the international media. On the other hand, Armenia’s information-providing infrastructure has demonstrated to this date its weakness, complete unpreparedness, and inefficiency to counter this insult, that comes on top of the injury to which Artsakh and Armenia have been and continue to be subjected to this date.

Today, as Azerbaijanis are quite openly harassing Armenians again in Artsakh as well as on the borders with Armenia itself, as much by military skirmishes as by such inhuman acts as arbitrary and intentional interruptions of the gas supply in the current full winter season, Armenians would be seriously remiss in still not reacting forcefully. This could be both militarily, when provoked, as well as through an intense international media campaign to stigmatize Azerbaijani actions.

If Armenia has unquestionably failed in 2020 by its unpreparedness, even though Azerbaijanis and Turks were exhibiting openly their aggressive rhetoric and military maneuvers, preceding their full force attack, it is now unforgivable to act again based on that same irresponsible expectation that Azerbaijan will not use force again in order to complete its half-finished occupation of Artsakh. And, why not, it might go this time even further inside Armenia itself, taking advantage of the world’s intense preoccupation with the Ukraine crisis.

At this point, Armenians must act preemptively, loud and clear. We must consider this an opportunity in our favor and take full advantage of the world’s currently acquired super-sensitivity towards Ukraine’s tragedy. Armenia and the Armenian media must now be aggressively vocal to demonstrate forcefully to the world that the current plight of Artsakh is the exact equivalent of Ukraine’s and that consequently, the same outrage shown and the overwhelming help that is provided to Ukrainians must be extended to Armenians and Artsakh as well, in order to discourage and eventually eradicate for good such aggressive adventures by countries that rely on their bullying power!

For such action to be effective and secure concrete results, a two-pronged relentless campaign is necessary. On the one hand, Armenian state diplomacy must become unusually active and aggressive in its outreach to the Western world. The same must be achieved by Armenian information and media services in European languages.

Unfortunately, we must realize that our strength is lacking in both instances. Hence we need to devote without delay substantial national resources to remedy and strengthen these capabilities.

The diplomatic effort is totally incumbent on Armenia’s government. They have recently shown some slight improvement in that area. A lot more – much more – is needed in order to carry intense activity in Brussels, Geneva, Washington and beyond, in Asia and Africa.

On the other hand, to win the equally important information war, the creation of a reliable, effective, high-quality, and active Armenian information-providing network is as essential as the diplomatic effort. Thus, Armenia must create without delay its own vocal and far-reaching multilanguage state information agency.  The Diaspora, on the other hand, can play a crucial role because it has the advantage of being already well-embedded in the Western world. However, thus far, the Diaspora media’s main strength has been in its Armenian-language publications.

It is imperative that we realize that now we need responsive, effective, and far-reaching non-Armenian language outlets online as well as printed Armenian media publications that can compete with those of the Azerbaijanis and Turks. Our press must be of a caliber to reach and impress international and domestic Western political circles. This is of course a highly demanding and very tough requirement. Presently, as we scan the current Armenian media, based on the assessment of many informed entities, the only candidate that appears presently capable to provide a promising base for one such English-language publication is the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, where you are reading this article. It is realistic to expect that sooner rather than later efforts must be directed towards supporting the Mirror-Spectator to make it fully equipped to start playing that role. Nothing should prevent the eventual development of competing and even outperforming other Armenian publications as well.

Armenia must become visible in the world of diplomacy and information, where wars are much more affordable to conduct, and yet as effective as on the battlefield!

In conclusion, it is undeniable that the ongoing Artsakh and Ukrainian conflicts are twin battlefields of the same war, between two brutal, mighty, and bullying aggressors trying to crush two peaceful and independent smaller nations, which are adamant to defend their rightful sovereignty and independence. Armenians must deploy all efforts to make the international community realize this equivalence and hence make the latter feel obligated to provide Armenia and Artsakh commensurate support that reflects this reality.

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