Armenia’s Leaders Take Strong Positions Against US & Azerbaijan

Columnist Harut Sassounian
Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN

The most noteworthy Armenian foreign policy development of the week was supposed to be the first negotiating session between Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev over the Artsakh conflict. But since there was no breakthrough in these negotiations, we shall focus our attention on important related issues.

On March 28, 2019, while addressing the Armenian Parliament, Prime Minister Pashinyan criticized the United States government’s lack of reaction to last year’s democratic changes in Armenia, dubbed as the “Velvet Revolution.”

This is the first time in a year that Pashinyan has used such strong language in referring to the United States. “The U.S. has long been acting as the most ardent defender of democracy in the entire world,” Pashinyan stated. “I want to ask all of us a question: how did the U.S. react to the unprecedented democratic change in Armenia? It was a profoundly and quintessentially democratic change and nobody can doubt this. I, for example, have told America’s representatives that I believe that they basically came up with zero reaction. Why?”

Pashinyan then went on to defend Armenia’s independent political line regardless of the pressures exerted on Yerevan by major powers. “When we say that our country’s sovereignty is of paramount importance to us we don’t mean that we need to replace dependence on point A [Russia] by dependence on point B [the United States]. We take our sovereignty very seriously and I want to assure you … that our government is strongly committed to protecting our country’s and people’s sovereignty in all directions.”

Pres. Trump’s administration has so far paid only lip service to the dramatic and peaceful changes in Armenia. Pres. Trump sent a congratulatory message to Pashinyan last September praising the “Velvet Revolution” and expressing readiness to help the new government implement sweeping reforms. Likewise, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saluted the “remarkable changes” in Armenia. However, these beautiful words have remained on paper. No concrete steps were taken to assist Armenia. That is partly due to the fact that the Trump administration can care less about democratic developments in foreign countries and also due to Pres. Trump being self-absorbed with his own ego and personal interests!

Prime Minister Pashinyan’s declaration is a very positive development for Armenia’s foreign policy and a sharp departure from the previous Armenian leaders’ position. So far, most of the pressure on Armenia has come from Russia. This is an inevitable fact given Armenia’s economic, political and military reliance on Russia. The new development is that Armenia’s leaders are no longer willing to blindly succumb to Russia’s desires and orders trampling upon their country’s sovereignty. When Armenia’s interests are in question, Pashinyan has neither shied away from criticizing the European Union nor reasserting Armenia’s sovereignty in his discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

If the United States wants to win over Armenia, it has to offer a carrot rather than a stick. As the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar!

The second most astounding development last week was the declaration of Armenia’s Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan during his visit to the United States. “As the minister of defense, I state we have reformulated the ‘territories in exchange for peace’ approach to ‘new war in exchange for new territories’ approach,” Tonoyan announced on March 29 in New York at a meeting with members of the Armenian community. “We will get rid of the trenches and persistent defensive stance. We will increase the number of military units capable of transferring military operations to the territory of the adversary,” Tonoyan stated. “We will not give up anything.”

While some may interpret the Armenian Defense Minister’s words as war-mongering, in reality, Tonoyan is responding in kind to the thousands of threats issued over the years by Pres. Aliyev to conquer Meghri and even Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. It is time that Armenia’s leaders speak from a position of strength, not weakness.

Clearly, Aliyev is not ready for war. Otherwise, he would have already attacked. His threats should not be taken seriously. It is proper to silence him through counter-threats, and if needs be, preemptive attacks!

Armenia’s Defense Minister is sending a clear message to Azerbaijan’s President not to embark on a foolish adventure. Otherwise, his pipelines and oil wells will come under attack, devastating the country’s economy and toppling his regime. It is significant that such a hard-hitting message is being sent to Azerbaijan while Armenia’s Defense Minister is on U.S. soil.

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18 Comments

    • GB said:

      Once the pipeline is blown, there will be more respect to Armenia, especially from Israel, where their fragile economic system is tied up with free oil shipment of Axerbaijan to Israel!

      • Edward Demiraiakian said:

        “once the pipeline is blown”? If we blow the pipeline and cause millions of Europeans to freeze, considering that Russia just announced that it will stop oil and gas shipments to Ukraine in 2019, how will that help the Armenians? Better to capture the pipeline, allow continuous oil flow to Europe, but have the funds placed in escrow until the end of the war.

  1. State of Emergency said:

    This is merely Armenia talking in behalf of Russia. Ever since Turkey cozied up with Russia to purchase the S-400 defense system the US has retaliated by cancelling the sale of F-35 equipment to Turkey. Russian fears of Turkey being pressured to back out of the S-400 deal has enlisted Armenia to do its bidding in the region. In other words, this is a message to Turkey that any notion of reversing the Russo-Turkish détente could provoke Russia to arm Armenia and destabilize the region. But of course, Russia does not have goodwill towards Armenia. It’s merely a tool for their ulterior motives. Armenia already succumbed to pressure in joining the so-called humanitarian aid to Syria, now they’re being propped up for a bigger fight. As for US reaction to the Velvet Revolution, the US knows very well the influence and behind the scene heavy handedness of Putin and Lavrov. Without their blessing, no change would have taken place. For the US, it simply the changing of the guard.

    • Strlla said:

      Lol, you and Russians measure everything to your scales! Do you know that the same reaction is in Russia, that they said the Revolution was planned by Americans? Furthermore, if your explanation was true, Putin would have have more official meetings with Pashinyan. Besides, Kremlin started a press war on Armenia, alluding Armenia as a country that wants to “spread its revolution to Russia”. Besides, the West always couldn’t deal with Russia, because it always thought that Armenia is Russia’s marionette when in reality it’s not. You know why? Because the West never offered anything, always refused to help or support but still wants something. If you want something, you must give something. That’s why Armenia had no other choice, but when it was trying to further develop ties with the West to deter Russia in it’s own territory, the West always rejected. Seriously, you are hanging on an old-fashioned stereotype that no longer exists. Do you know that currently and actually Armenia-Russia relations are strained, though Putin and Pashinyan trie to show that it’s not? Do you know that Kremlin ordered all the Armenian businessmen living in Russia to stop every type of investment in Armenia, that almost a year there is no investment or contribution from Russia? You measure everything from only one side and think that’s how analysis carried out? Seriously? Sometimes i think USA and Russia just deserve each other: the both are corrupted, immoral , love to manipulate and don’t have respect towards other countries’ sovereignty. And I’m sure if, for example, even kangaroos disappeared USA/Russia would believe it was planned by Russia/USA and its a threat to /US/Russia national security. That’s how your policymaking works. Just an advice, be more pragmatic and before shaping an opinion, learn the case from all points of view because especially here, in Armenia, you shouldn’t ignore other factors, rather Russia-Turkey relations which has nothing to do in here.

      • State of Emergency said:

        A lot of analysis without a shred of proof. The fact that you think “USA and Russia just deserve each other: they’re both are corrupted, immoral , love to manipulate and don’t have respect towards other countries” is in of itself evident to what I say. Russia is merely using Armenia as a mouthpiece to convey its message. And the message is that it will tip the balance of power in favor of Armenia if Turkey decides to cut and run. Unfortunately and unavoidably, Armenia is a marionette to the Russian marionettist. Not much can be done about that but at least we must acknowledge reality. Any public dispute between Pashinyan/Putin, Armenia/Russia, Armenian oligarchs/Russian oligarchs can be easily resolved from a simple “closed-door” meeting between Lavrov and Mnatsakanyan.

    • Strlla said:

      @State_of_Emergency, Lol, you and Russians measure everything to your scales! Do you know that the same reaction is in Russia, that they said the Revolution was planned by Americans? Furthermore, if your explanation was true, Putin would have have more official meetings with Pashinyan. Besides, Kremlin started a press war on Armenia, alluding Armenia as a country that wants to “spread its revolution to Russia”. Besides, the West always couldn’t deal with Russia, because it always thought that Armenia is Russia’s marionette when in reality it’s not. You know why? Because the West never offered anything, always refused to help or support but still wants something. If you want something, you must give something. That’s why Armenia had no other choice, but when it was trying to further develop ties with the West to deter Russia in it’s own territory, the West always rejected. Seriously, you are hanging on an old-fashioned stereotype that no longer exists. Do you know that currently and actually Armenia-Russia relations are strained, though Putin and Pashinyan trie to show that it’s not? Do you know that Kremlin ordered all the Armenian businessmen living in Russia to stop every type of investment in Armenia, that almost a year there is no investment or contribution from Russia? You measure everything from only one side and think that’s how analysis carried out? Seriously? Sometimes i think USA and Russia just deserve each other: the both are corrupted, immoral , love to manipulate and don’t have respect towards other countries’ sovereignty. And I’m sure if, for example, even kangaroos disappeared USA/Russia would believe it was planned by Russia/USA and its a threat to /US/Russia national security. That’s how your policymaking works. Just an advice, be more pragmatic and before shaping an opinion, learn the case from all points of view because especially here, in Armenia, you shouldn’t ignore other factors, rather Russia-Turkey relations which has nothing to do in here.

    • Edward Demiraiakian said:

      Armenia has interests in Syria. A large Armenian population and a mound containing 450,000 Armenian victims of the Genocyde. Armenia has Russia patrollong its border with Turkey. That does not come cheap. Yet, Armenia was the first country to revolt against the Bolshevics in the 1920’s and the first to revolt against the Soviet Union. We have our heads screwed on right. We outlived the Babilonians, the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Medes, the Romans, the Bisantines, the Arabs, the Mongols, and we will be around for a long time. We will bury the Russians and the Turks too. Too bad you spineless so called Christians won’t be around to see it.

  2. JOE said:

    Great article…First most all US foreign policy goes through a very special interest and must have that special interest’s blessing. And we all know who that special interest is. That “special interest” will never be a friend to Armenia. The Trump administration sent John Bolton to turn the screws on Armenia for the purpose of further isolating Iran for that “special interest”. So dont expect anything good from US foreign policy towards Armenia… 2nd the defense ministers change of direction of policy towards Azerbaijan is a long awaited welcome by most all Armenians. The defensive position is unsustainable and I also agree that Aliyev would have already started a war if he thought he could win. In my opinion however, the defense ministers comments don’t go far enough.What needs to be said is that another resumption of war by Azerbaijan will lead Armenia to implement regime change in Azerbaijan as apolicy, to rid the despot so as to incorporate a more democratic Azerbaijan for true lasting peace. And make clear that Armenia has no ill feeling towards the Azeri people what so ever. Who wouldn’t agree to that?Also missing is is the question of when will Armenia allow diaspora military units for active duty? What a resource they are ignoring. Besides increasing the military’s size, diaspora units would create a knowledgeable capable body of fighters in case of future conflict. Many enlisted would stay after their duty and further populate Armenia/Artsakh. And direct financial aid would explode as having your kids on the front lines would increase the urgency for such support as there would now be real skin the game..A win, win win.. Last, the only real answer to Armenia’s problems is OUR UNITY…We shouldn’t expect anything from others. Only trust ourselves. One Armenia, Artsakh and diaspora. That is the real answer…All else are traitors..

  3. Satenik said:

    Thank you for this informative and important article Mr .Sassounian

  4. Tonyan said:

    whatever regime is Azerbaijan they will never acquiesce to a peace accord . Azerbaijan is the 2nd Turk nation on the east south of Armenia. Armenia does not have the capacity to inflict regime change in Azerbaijan. When another war erupts it be a victory for our armed forces to retain the lands under Artsakh jurisdiction and de jure incorporation of same into Artsakh. Peace, in our generation and in our time will not happen. Accept our destiny which for Armenia to be a military fortress nation. A homeland for Armenians, and dish out all ephemeral concepts of fictitious democratic set ups and regime change in Turkey. (Azevaijan). Kurken has not been avenged yet and the rabid dog of his killer is a heroe in Azerbaijan. Armenia can not exact justice , nor punish safarov, but yet some are hallucinating about regime change in Azerbaijan. Artsakh is not negotiable, it should be taken out of all hypothetical solutions for the Caucasus. Artsakh is indivisibly one territory with Armenia. If Artsakh is compromised, Armenia as a nation state is irremediably doomed.

    • JOE said:

      Sorry to respectfully disagree..Many thought that about Armenia as well. Look what happened there. Another war will unfortunately be destructive and a regime change is very possible in Azerbaijan. Azeri regime change may not happen by Armenia’s doing but probably by the Azeri people themselves. Azerbaijan has many other ethnic races other then Seljuk and Tatar Turks, and they are not stupid and definitely not happy with the current regime. They understand its corrupt nature and may force change when the conditions are right: like another war… Also even if it doesn’t happen, its a good thing for Armenia to express that very interest as before it would have been disingenuous to talk ridding corruption and indoctrinating democracy when our own country had corrupt leaders to contend with. That’s all changed. Further the purpose of such language may not necessarily cause change in Azerbaijan but may scare the despot into thinking twice about starting another war, which no one wants, as part of Aliyev’s decision making as a despot leader, is self preservation above all else. So yes, its an advantage to talk Azeri regime change as a consequence of resuming war… even if it doesn’t happen….

  5. ardachece barseghian said:

    Thank you again Mr. Sassounian for this fine and clear analysis and to those who comment in a single will to recall the jusness of the political struggle in a unitary discourse around a single idea of national reconstruction. Only one Federator party has supported this fight for 120 years

  6. HERAYER said:

    it is very basic strategic control of the Caucasus by Russia it wants to be present in this area also it wants Europe to buy its oil and Azerbaijani oil which will go via the pipeline to turkey, the US and Europe want to dominate the oil and gas business via Azerbaijan oil Russia will go to war for Armenia for its own interests only like it did in Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia the Caucuses will always be in the Russian sphere

  7. HERAYER said:

    I want to make a correction what I meant was that RUSSIA WANTS EUROPE TO BUY ONLY RUSSIAN GAS AND OIL

  8. Krikor Aghajanian said:

    I fully agree with the first part of your comments. The USA’s only interest in The region is doing the bidding of Israel in trying to weaken and isolate Iran, hence the Bolton visit with his veiled threats. Israel will never be a friend of Armenia, hell, they won’t even recognize the Armenian genocide. The USA and Russia are playing their own geopolitical games at the cost of small countries. Sadly I don’t know enough about the second part of your comment to respond.

  9. Edward Demiraiakian said:

    Israel has no interest in recognizing the Armenian Genocide because there is no political or economic upside with that. If Armenia wants influence with Israel, than it needs to engage Israel.

  10. KEVORK said:

    We can write all we want , fact 1 -Russia controls the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, or nothing important happens in the Caucus area without Russia’s approval
    fact 2 Iran is an enemy of Israel, and we have more than good relations with Iran , Churchill said the enemy of my enemy is my friend , or in other words , the friend of my enemy is my enemy , so what do we expect from Israel ?
    fact 3 Russia will never allow a pipeline under its nose which would jeopardize its revenues from the sale of oil to Europe

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