One of the major problems plaguing Armenia’s foreign policy establishment has been the stagnation of the country’s diplomacy leading it towards isolation. Certainly, Armenia has no true friends and trusted allies, as proven by the 44-Day War.

The recent flurry of diplomatic initiatives indicate that Armenia is trying to break that circle of isolation; thus Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s visit to Vladivostok to participate in the 7th Eastern Economic Forum, Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan’s consultations with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, and Minister of Defense Suren Papikyan’s visit to the Pentagon have all inspired some hope that the international community is finally indicating that a measure of cooperation is on the way. But it is important to evaluate each initiative to find out whether it is in concert with the overall foreign policy agenda or whether it is in conflict with the others. In fact, is there a confluence among the policies or a conflict?

Pashinyan’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok and Mirzoyan’s meeting with Lavrov are seen to be of a ceremonial nature wherein the Armenian side glorifies Russian-Armenian relations and overpraises the role of Russian peacekeeping forces in Karabakh, never mind that the force has been ineffective in enforcing a real peace in the region and preventing Azerbaijan’s takeover of land in Armenia and Karabakh, such as, for example, Sev Lij in Armenia and Parukh and Kara-Klukh in Karabakh. Again, as we saw on September 13, Russia did not deter an Azerbaijani full-scale attack on Armenia, but rather claimed credit for reaching a ceasefire, one that sadly is observed at the whim of the Azerbaijani government.

The major peace mission that the Russian peacekeepers have carried out has been to evacuate the Armenian population in Berdzor, Aghavno and Sus, areas in Karabakh which were not even due to be handed to Azerbaijan according to the November 9, 2020 trilateral declaration.

Papikyan’s visit was not on the highest level. Past Armenian defense ministers’ visits to Washington ended with a meeting with their counterparts. Suren Papikyan was received at the Pentagon by US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, whereas Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin remained unreachable.

The agenda of this meeting was composed of “discussing the security situation in Ukraine, the challenges facing the South Caucasus’ peace and stability and ways to strengthen the US-Armenia defense cooperation.” As we can notice, there were no breakthroughs, nor any substantive achievements in the above meeting, about which the Armenian Ministry of Defense has commented that Papikyan and Kahl have agreed to step up bilateral cooperation in peacekeeping operations as well as military education and medicine. Of course, there could not be any talk about supplying Armenia with any military hardware, since Armenia is part of a competing military bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), headed by Russia.

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Although Armenia’s minster of defense returned almost empty-handed from Washington, the meeting itself was enough to ruffle some feathers in the Kremlin. This meeting, as well as the August 30 summit in Brussels with European Union President Charles Michel and Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, had angered Moscow tremendously. That summit was supposed to take place in Moscow but at the last minute, it was shifted to Brussels, almost moving Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova to tears when she announced that peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan could only be achieved in Moscow and nowhere else.

One of the more prominent anti-Russian commentators in Armenia, Hovsep Khurshudyan, has an entirely different take on Papikyan’s visit, interpreting it as “the process of Armenia’s liberation from Russian Federation has begun and it cannot happen without the support of the West.”

Khurshudyan opens a can of worms by stating that Armenia intends to acquire Western-made weapons. He also says that “getting rid of ‘agents’ under Russian influence has already begun in the country’s armed forces.”

For a long time, the current administration has been looking into ways to shirk responsibility for the recent defeat as well as actively find scapegoats. One theory being advanced was that Russian weapons in Armenia’s possession and the Russian military doctrine had proved to be ineffective against the NATO-style war machine and Western military doctrine adopted by Turkey and Azerbaijan.

In line with these arguments, Karabakh military heroes, generals Jalal Harutyunyan and Mikael Arzumanyan, have been accused of mismanaging the war and will go on trial. Khurshudyan, when referring to “Russian agents,” is talking about these heroes and other military members in the general staff who have been trained in Moscow.

Russia is so deeply embedded in all facets of Armenian life, including its armed forces and security, that it will be too risky to seek a full extrication and thus a confrontation with Moscow, particularly in the shadow of recent Russian defeats in Ukraine.

Another aspect which has begun to worry Baku and Moscow is the US’s more assertive role in the Caucasus, as signaled by the appointment of a high-ranking career diplomat, namely Philip Reeker, as the US co-chair of the Organization for Security of Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group. In addition to serving as the US cochair, Reeker will become the lead negotiator for the US delegation to the Geneva International Discussions.

This appointment has worried Baku, which has warned the US against reanimating the OSCE Minsk Group, insisting that Karabakh’s status has been determined by force in the 2020 war. In this issue, Moscow is in tune with Baku, considering the OSCE process moribund, whereas the only hope for Karabakh’s people is in the implementation of the OSCE principles, which eventually will include a reprimand to Azerbaijan for having violated one of the three principles of the Helsinki Final Act, which forbids the resolution of any conflict through the use of force.

Although Armenia’s diplomacy seems to be on the move, judging from the results, the diplomats have only been spinning their wheels.

At the time of this writing, Azerbaijani forces launched a four-prong attack against Armenia’s sovereign territory, targeting the regions of Sotk, Kapan, Jermuk and Vardenis, claiming at least 49 victims and many more wounded.

Azerbaijan is supposedly conducting negotiations with Armenia in order to reach the goal of signing a peace treaty, but this surprise attack is a sign of impatience and the determination to sign this treaty on its own terms, compromising Armenia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Russia’s cynical silence indicates that it is not an innocent bystander. Instead, it has tacitly encouraged Azerbaijan to force Armenia to appeal to Moscow for help instead of Washington, where Papikyan visited, to the chagrin of the Kremlin’s policymakers.

Many international voices have called for restraint, including the European Union, NATO, and the US State Department, but none of them have made any distinction between the aggressor and the victim. Ironically, the only unilateral condemnation has come from Mr. Çavuşoğlu, who has blamed Armenia for the conflict.

CSTO, of which Armenia is a member, has held an emergency meeting and promised to release its conclusions after deliberations, while Armenia is counting its dead.

This writer met with the former president, Levon Ter-Petrosian, on September 12, before the most recent attack, to get his view on the current situation. He seemed utterly devastated. He pulled no punches in criticizing both the current government and the leaders of the opposition, holding them responsible for the current mess.

When asked about how he is doing, his answer was: “Is there any Armenian anywhere in the world at this time doing well?”

That says it all.

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