Nadeera Dickwella

Armenia’s Costly Political Blunders

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By Nadeera Dickwella

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

Armenia’s intricate political journey, marked by historical struggles and the resilience of its nation, has been an ever-evolving story that has gone hand in hand with the region’s changing geopolitical dynamics. However, if history is any indication, one trend Armenia has kept a record with is reading the geopolitical context in an erroneous fashion time and again.

Let me quote three examples. The first one was so fatal that its repercussions are felt even today. The King of the Kings Tigranes the Great created an Armenian empire that had access to the Mediterranean, Black, and the Caspian seas. But he made the tragic mistake of siding with his father-in-law Mithridates and made an enemy of the most formidable empire ever to be on the earth, namely the Romans. While it would be unfair to judge the king’s moral stand of protecting his family’s honor instead of safeguarding the empire on behalf of the larger Armenian polity, his nation never had access to sea up to the present day as a result of his decision.

Thousands of years later the Armenians made another fateful mistake. When the nationalist Turkish CUP or the Committee of Union and Progress was rebelling for power in the Ottoman Empire, the Armenian political elites sided with their leaders, three pashas, instead of pursuing their own destiny. What those three pashas did to Armenians is globally known as “the Armenian Genocide.” Even in these instances, one could argue what Armenians did was choose to fight a common enemy with the hope of getting due justice later. Despite the core group known as the Ittihadists or the Unionists being radical Islamist, nationalist and xenophobic in character, the Armenians placed their trust in them. How wise they were in trusting well-known extremists who were openly anti-Armenian is anyone’s guess.

The third blunder was made during the First World War. The Ottoman Empire as a central power fought alongside the Germans in a losing battle against four formidable allied world powers. Namely Russia, Great Britain, France, and the United States. However, the Armenian elites decided to wholeheartedly support the Ottoman Empire instead of pursuing the path of independence or taking advantage of the historical opportunity. The Ottoman’s declaration of the war indeed put the Armenians in a bind. Their eastern compatriots were fighting alongside the Russian empire. The Ottoman Armenians decided to show their solidarity and steadfast support to the Ottomans. They took a few steps in publicly supporting and endorsing the Empire’s war effort. In November 1914, the Armenian political elites decided the following: A public circular was to be sent to all the provinces so that “each fulfills its obligations and renews its oaths of fidelity to the Ottoman homeland”; setting up a field hospital at the expense of the Armenians; and publication by the Armenian Political Council of a circular calling upon Armenian subjects to mobilize for the “Ottoman homeland.”

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Sadly the Empire’s war effort turned out to be nothing short of annihilating a million plus innocent Armenians in the most brutal event in modern history. Did the Armenian elites misjudge the geopolitics at the time? Apparently, their decision to stand by the Ottomans turned out to be most costly in the end.

Now I will turn to modern times. Armenia under Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is closely following the historical precedents of reading the room entirely wrong. Surrendering the interest of the Armenian population to its arch-enemy with no strategic gain has been what he has been busy achieving. His declaration of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan in May 2023 was duly recognized and compensated with an all-out ethnic cleansing in September 2023 by the Aliyev regime. If ceding the historical lands which are undoubtedly the very soul of the Armenian nation is not a betrayal, what is? What was his gain, one might ask. Powerful handshakes and a heap of praise by the Europeans who claim themselves as allies of Armenians. The irony however is that those allies are happily buying the blood gas from Azerbaijan while pumping Baku’s economy with tens of billions in investments to bankroll its war machine. The very war machine directed against Armenian statehood. If that was not enough insult to injury, now he is using the state force to put his population in Tavush Province at risk by forcing them to acknowledge his will. What was his gain? Headlines of praise from European press and a white color border post. He seems to have placed more trust in the Azerbaijani dictator than his own countrymen. One wonders whether he suffers from Stockholm syndrome.

Now the juicier part of the story is Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s choice of security guarantors. The issue is not at all with those states he has chosen. After all, trusting democratic nations such as France or the United States is wiser and a healthier choice in the long run. But what is the pragmatic nature of that choice? If there is a war between Baku and Armenia, what practical military assistance can Paris or Washington give? Iran, Turkey, Russia, and even Azerbaijan do not want to see any European military presence in the region. A landlocked Armenia will have to depend solely on the Georgian route for military assistance. In every such conflict, historically the brotherly nation of Georgia has famously betrayed the Armenians. Especially with a Russian-friendly prime minister in Tbilisi, not a single Western military cargo will cross the Caucasus mountains. That is a foregone conclusion. How about sanctioning Baku? None of the Western countries sanctioned Baku when it ethnically cleansed Artsakh in broad daylight. What are the chances of them doing it now?

Prime Minister Pashinyan has technically abandoned the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Eventually, though, it will be the only organization that has the capability, availability, and ability to stop such a military conflict. Will they come to the rescue? This is the day Moscow is patiently waiting for and has been preparing the South Caucasus theater for. Russia will ask for a pound of flesh from the Armenian prime minister at the end.

I am sure Prime Minister Pashinyan’s objectives and intentions are noble and in the interest of Armenians. He would want to see his nation a thriving democracy with a robust economy becoming the transport hub of the South Caucasus. The problem does not lie with his objectives but his method of achieving those. After all, even the road to hell is paved with noble intentions.

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