BY HRANT APOVIAN
“There is real tension along the Armenia-Azerbaijan frontier”
Armenian Prime Minister Hovig Abrahamian
Given the events of the last three weeks, what the Prime Minister said is an understatement. A score of Armenian soldiers killed, villagers killed, incursions and attempts at infiltration into Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The onslaught goes on unabated.
The time has come to take all official threats and subversive actions by Azeri Government officials very seriously. Those bellicose declarations and the border attacks are not merely for internal consumption. They are a prelude and justification for a possible preemptive strike with overwhelming power. Azerbaijan is testing the waters: assessing the political fallout for its actions as well as Armenian defense preparedness. It is only a matter of time. Azerbaijan will possibly – at an opportune time of its choosing – undertake an all out invasion, using its massive military hardware which it has amassed.
The stage is set. The OSCE Minsk Group is exhorting caution to both sides, putting the blame for the border violations on both sides, while Russia is ominously silent and Turkey is encouraging the Azeri offensive. In the meantime, the U.S. and Russia are at odds over Ukraine and the Gaza strip and Iraq are being overrun. Azerbaijan may miscalculate that it is the right time to attack.
The ceasefire that Azerbaijan signed when it lost the war, is being violated daily by the Azeri military: over 20,000 violations, Azeri snipers on the front line, incursions by subversive elements, kidnapping of villagers and murder. The Nakhichevan–Armenia border where two Armenian soldiers were killed, became a new front for confrontation, potentially instigated by Turkey.
There is no doubt that these “incidents” are part of a deliberate attempt by Azerbaijan to scuttle the peace process, undermine the cease fire, blackmail the mediators into accepting its terms, and most of all, create a prelude to all out war. Azerbaijan is the “spoiled child” of the West, courted by the U.S. oil companies, coveted by Europe for its oil, wooed for some time by Russia, who has sold Azerbaijan the latest military hardware, estimated at four to five billion dollars. It is also partnered with its big brother, Turkey, and assisted militarily by Israel.
Azerbaijan’s strategy is multifaceted: to keep the ceasefire shaky, keep provoking Armenia into responding in kind, escalating the counterattacks, providing Azerbaijan with an opening to war. Azerbaijan is trying very hard to create an atmosphere of business as usual, a state of no peace- no war, with the ultimate goal to surprise Armenia with a massive surprise attack on all fronts, thus overwhelming Armenian defensive measures.
Russia’s intentions are fluid at best. Is it courting Azerbaijan to bring it into its sphere? Is it arming both Armenia and Azerbaijan to keep them dependent and under its control? Will it sell out Nagorno-Karabakh to placate Azerbaijan? Or, will it annex it to Russia a la Crimea? Finally, will it help Armenia in case of war?
The answers to these questions at this stage cannot be anticipated. Whether or not Russia can be trusted is open to interpretation by the readers of this opinion piece. However, Russia’s silence at the insult leveled by President Nazarbaef of Kazakhstan, in addition to the laconic declarations in Baku by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, do not inspire confidence. It is yet to be seen whether the trilateral meeting between Presidents Putin of Russia, Sarkissian of Armenia and Aleyev of Azerbaijan, will in any way restore calm on the front.
What should Armenia do?
First: Be prepared for war and prepare against a preemptive all out invasion. That means, it needs to strengthen defenses against a sudden attack- a la Israel- during the 67 war.
Second: Bridge the divide between the government and the opposition and create a national salvation united front.
Third: Focus on stopping the exodus of the population from Armenia proper.
Fourth: Stop the pillaging of Armenia’s wealth and resources and the accumulation of foreign debt.
Fifth: Aim to reduce its reliance on Russia and expectations from Russia during a time of need; and look to rely on its own military capabilities and activate diaspora participation.
On the international front, Armenia should turn the page on its foreign policy.
– First, replace its foreign minister who agreed to the infamous Protocols.
– Withdraw formally from the Protocol agreements with Turkey.
– Stop repeats of “football diplomacy”. Withdraw the invitation extended to the Turkish President for the Genocide Centennial.
– Withdraw from negotiations within the OSCE Minsk framework if Azeri murderous transgressions continue and resort to formal recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence.
– Confront Kazakhstan’s President and expose his insult.
– Disband the diaspora ministry in Armenia and replace it with an Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and diaspora, national security agency.
– Start emergency negotiations with the United States and acquire security guarantees against an Azeri invasion.
– Expose the Warlick proposals as one sided, unwise and dangerous for Armenia.
– Be proactive on the world stage with friends of Armenia and confront those that aid and abet Azerbaijan.
– Highlight the long list of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers murdered by Azerbaijan.
– Execute the Nagorno-Karabakh army’s new policy of overtaking the Azeri position from which attacks are launched.
– Analyze and pinpoint Azerbaijan’s most vulnerable targets to hit first, in case of war.
– Bring Turkey to court over its blockade of Armenia, and its usurpation of Armenian territory and property.
It is extremely inspiring to witness the overwhelming support of the veterans of the first Nagorno-Karapakh war volunteering with the soldiers on the front lines. Notwithstanding, with all the hardware Azerbaijan has acquired: the warplanes, the drones, the attack helicopters, tanks, and missile systems, it may not take long to obliterate Armenian defenses and destroy what took so long to build. This would then leave Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh vulnerable and defenseless against an all out invasion.
Necessary measures for Azerbaijan:
First: Stop killing our soldiers. Stop spewing hatred toward Armenians. Rehabilitate its abhorrent human rights record and stop abuses in its armed forces. Stop imprisoning opposition candidates and journalists.
Second: Realize that in case of war, it is going to suffer the destruction of its oil fields and pipelines, the major source of its revenue and support.
Third: While Baku itself was spared in the first war, this time around it will be a target of Armenian Forces.
Fourth: The dictatorship of the Aleyev dynasty will be held accountable to its people for the injustices committed and its corrupt pillaging of the country’s wealth.
Fifth: The West will lose interest in Azerbaijan, once its oil fields are burning.
Sixth: Nakhichevan, the other region donated to Azerbaijan by Stalin, will be retaken.
Seventh: The Mingechaur reservoirs on the Azerbeijan side, will be retaken.
What should Armenians worldwide do?
– Help strengthen Nagorno-Karabakh.
– Help inspire change in Armenia so people will not want to leave.
– Consider themselves Armenian Army reservists, and if possible, train and volunteer for service.
– Expose Azerbaijan and Turkey for their Human Rights violations.
Credit needs to be given to our Nagorno Karabakh soldiers, who have shown extreme valor and competence on the front. Nonetheless, they need our support now and if and when war comes. We have to be ready, our survival as a nation depends on it.