The below is based on a presentation given by Armenia’s former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian at international conference on Armenia-Turkey Relations and the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict sponsored by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which took in Stepanakert on July 10 and 11.
The topic of national mobilization is urgent today. Of course, given our size – small territory, small population – and given Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s enormous capabilities and sophisticated machinery, we have always used all national and international resources albeit with varying intensity, scope, depth and effectiveness, but nevertheless we have used them.
Today, the changing circumstances around us, and the new challenges emerging before us, make the need for this kind of new mobilization more timely and necessary.
Let me cite four major reasons for this kind of mobilization at this time.
First, the new global and regional developments and changes that have taken place over the past year and half and continue to evolve
Second, our own policies and the complications that have been created as a result of our short-sighted, miscalculated policies
Third, the wedge that has been driven between the Diaspora and Armenia’s leadership as a result of that policy, particularly the statement issued on April 22 by the foreign ministries of Armenia and Turkey
Finally, the issues of legitimacy, fragmentation, and increased tension among different layers of our society and the deepened distrust between society and government, as a consequence of the lack of democratization, repeated bad elections, March 1 and its consequences.
With all this in mind, and in order for us to understand what a renewed mobilization of resources means, we must answer a few questions.
First, what are we trying to mobilize? Where are our resources, how do we go about revealing and identifying them, beyond the usual core, and how do we bring them together for the common good?
Second, for what purpose do we want to mobilize and with whom would we work to pursue our common goals? What are the centers of power and influence that we want to target and what or where are the levers that need to be influenced?
Finally, and most importantly, what is the ideological premise around which we will rally our resources? What is it that the Armenian people as a nation, as one people – in Nagorno Karabakh, Armenia and Diaspora – together want to achieve?
This is the all important question on which I’d like to focus – our common goals and our vulnerabilities.
To understand better our vulnerabilities and the ultimate challenges, let me give you a quick rundown of what has changed in this past year and a half, and what are the new threats that face us:
First, at the global level, there is the changing US-Russia relationship. There is an attempt at reconciliation and a new détente between the powers. In a reconciled environment, these two countries will view global issues differently, the scope of interests that must be shared or divided will be enlarged, and the opportunities, the gain, the benefits for both sides will be greater. In this kind of situation, where all problematic issues, all sources of potential discord are on the table – energy, arms control, nuclear safety, security, conflicts – Nagorno Karabakh will clearly be on the table, too, as we witnessed just today by the statement issued at the G8 meeting, by the presidents of the three Minsk Group co-chair countries – US, Russia and France. Under such circumstances, the possibility for trade-offs is greater, and even greater is the risk that they will come at our expense. We can’t ignore or merely observe these changes. We must be persistent, vigilant and prevent detrimental developments for Armenia.
Second, the Georgia-Russia war last year changed the balance that had been maintained between the principles of self-determination and territorial integrity. Prior to that war, the West had recognized Kosovo’s independence, despite Russia’s deep opposition. Although Russia had threatened to counter the Kosovo decision by making a similar unilateral move by recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it could not do so easily. That would have presented a serious political problem. But the Georgia-Russia war changed the environment, and provided the necessary cover for them to do so. They did. Russia responded to the West’s unacceptable, unilateral recognition of Kosovo’s independence by a similar move itself. Now that this tit-for-tat recognition is over, there seems to be a general internal understanding that this series of recognitions of self-determination efforts has ended, that others who aspire to the same will be viewed differently. It goes without saying that this concept of quotas on self-determination is a problem that will require attention and must be countered.
Third, all this comes in the context of Turkey’s emerging role in the region, and in regard to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. As a result of the Russia-Georgia war, and even more, as a result of the very public Turkey-Armenia diplomatic engagement, we are facing an unnecessary but significant problem. Look what we have today. Because of their attention and expectations of the very visible and very high-level process, because of their concerns over the genocide recognition process, the US, the EU, Russia too, and certainly Turkey and Armenia all put their prestige on the line, expecting to succeed in opening the Turkey-Armenia border. This did not happen and everyone came to understand what they should have seen at the beginning that Turkey will not move until Azerbaijan is satisfied on the Nagorno Karabakh situation. What started out as a Turkey-Armenia bilateral process, ended up with Nagorno Karabakh resolution becoming a condition for progress in Turkey-Armenia relations. We all understand that under these circumstances, with huge international pressure on Armenia most of all, an accelerated Nagorno Karabakh process, not only for its own sake, but to resolve another political knot, can lead to lots of bad decisions, especially and particularly for us.
Fourth, we have signed the Moscow declaration last November, and that declaration includes a stipulation which is going to continue to haunt us – that the conflict must be resolved based on not only international principles but also the decisions adopted by international organizations. That was a serious diplomatic blunder. That declaration has made it easier for Russia and other countries in their relations with Azerbaijan, by making it possible for them to make pro-Azerbaijani statements on the issue of Nagorno Karabakh. Armenia must do everything to neutralize that declaration and diminish its impact.
Fifth, the military and political equilibrium between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan has changed. The ceasefire has held for 15 years. This can’t be explained by simple goodwill or by the existence of ongoing negotiations. An effective buffer zone, an equality in the balance of the opposing forces, the Azerbaijani army’s insufficient capacity to mount a serious strike – these have played an important role in encouraging the sides to maintain the ceasefire.
Today, this component of the balance has been dislodged. The security of the buffer zone is effected because there is increased pressure on Armenians to return territories. Azerbaijan has massively building its military. Our confidence in our military has not changed. But Azerbaijan’s decision whether to go to war or not, will be based solely on their own perception of the military balance. At the same time, the negotiations process too is vulnerable. The document under discussion is the fifth document in 10 years. If the sides lose confidence in the negotiations process, this loss of faith, coupled with a perceived change in the military balance, is extremely dangerous and can bring on the great and imminent dange
r of war.
I have just enumerated five areas of great vulnerability for us. These must be at the basis of all our mobilization efforts.
We must ensure that Nagorno Karabakh does not become the object of trade among the great powers. We must not accept quotas on self-determination or independence. We must not allow Turkey to exploit the existing deadlocked situation between us and divert their responsibility by putting the blame on Armenians for not making concessions in Nagorno Karabakh. We must clearly articulate that a decision by a small group of countries at the UN cannot pretend to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Finally, because we who have won the military battles know full well that there is no military solution to this conflict, we must do all we can to avoid war, to encourage compromise on all sides, compromise that respects the realities on the ground and that offers real, historical, legal, human justice.
These objectives form the basis for our mobilization effort, an effort that has as its ideology and purpose the right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh to safety and security and a future of dignity.
This is where the history of the last two decades brings us – to a claim that the world acknowledge this universal right for the people of Nagorno Karabakh, who have themselves voted for it, fought for it and developed institutional frameworks to consolidate it. A lasting resolution must be based the realities of these 20 years and look forward, with realism again, to a future of peace.