By Prof. Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Los Angeles, 3 December 2020
After the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923) many people now consider the Azerbaijani and Turkish attack on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) War the nadir in the recent history of the Armenians. The surprise attack started on Sept. 27, 2020.
The anguish due to the death toll and injury to thousands of Armenian troops and civilians, cuts deeper than the agony of territorial losses. The helplessness of repeatedly losing fellow Armenians and ancestral lands to acquisitive Turkish governments through unprovoked massacres and genocide has been palpable. The loss of many of our brave soldiers fighting a multiplicity of forces assisting Azerbaijan is unbearable. Armenian forces were all alone, left in the lurch by its so-called ally. At the front lines, Armenian soldiers were bewildered by the bombs raining on them by modern precision weapons. Additionally, the anger of many Armenians has deepened because they were not aware that Armenia was not ready to face the enemy and the Armenian government had failed to address the danger.
Most Armenians feel frustrated and tend to forget that we are also to blame for the losses of life and territory because we were complacent and even lazy in our lack of preparation as was shown in the summer of 2014, in April of 2016, and in July of 2020 clashes between Armenia and Artsakh. Since then, most of my articles have dealt with warnings and strategies for the impending war with a militarily improved Azerbaijan.
The Armenian Diaspora slumbered because Armenian military had assured us they were ready to face the enemy. Why mislead the people when the enemy was stockpiling its state-of-the art arsenal? It boggles the mind.
Our military leaders failed to alert us against an imminent onslaught by the genocidal Azerbaijani army. Like the Potemkin Villages, the Armenian army’s might was presented as a fact until Sept. 27 when the facade was ripped.
Military officers who have misrepresented the adequacy of our army and the quality of the Armenian army’s weapons should face court martial when the dust settles.
The effect of the Azerbaijani blitzkrieg was disastrous for the Artsakh Defense Forces. The Azerbaijani army also wreaked havoc on the unarmed civilians and Artsakh’s infrastructure.
How can we pick up the pieces? Here are some ideas:
PRACTICE UNITY. Let’s not give lip service to unity. Let’s practice it for a change. First of all, we should have the right attitude toward unity. There’s strength in unity to get us ahead synergistically. There is power in numbers. Through unity, we can get ahead to tackle challenges we face. Otherwise, we would be doomed to another military defeat. Unity is achieved in a group when members become good followers.
EVALUATE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. In the aftermath of the war, Artsakh has many weaknesses which should be addressed immediately, such as the plight of the displaced people. Artsakh Armenians are a resilient bunch of rugged mountain people who are still in command of their homeland. They will rise again from the unholy war of 2020.
Armenians should stop living in the shadow of a colossal danger: the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant. We should dismantle it for the sake of our national security when the enemy strikes again.
EXPLORE IDEAS. Ideas change the world. Let us follow this simple formula: Conceive, Concentrate, and Complete. Conceive an idea, for example, to recruit females into the army. Start the project and have a division of the army consisting of female soldiers for non-front line deployment.
ASSIST THE DIASPORA. Support Armenian Diaspora attempts at invalidating the Statement of 9th of November, ceding to Azerbaijan parts of Artsakh, especially Shushi by signing petitions to invalidate parts of the agreement signed by Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to halt hostilities for five years.
For psychological reasons, we need to get Shushi back. Also, press for an urgent meeting of Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe’s Minsk Group mediators from Russia, France and the United States to continue with their mandate to find a lasting solution for the safety of Artsakh Armenians.
APPRECIATE OUR SOLDIERS. Let our soldiers know that we appreciate them as patriots and heroes and ease their return to civilian life. We should do the same for our fallen soldiers’ families. We should thank and assist the grieving parents and families of our brave fallen soldiers. When the time comes for donations, let us contribute as much as possible to relieve them of the financial burdens arising from their sons’ and daughters’ absence.
RETURN TO ARTSAKH. Besides appealing to their patriotism, we should find incentives to encourage the 100,000 Armenian refugees to return to Artsakh. Three kinds of incentives will be effective: financial assistance; redistribution of land; and the assurance of safety and security from enemy aggression.
ENTICE SETTLERS. Some people will choose not to return to Artsakh. They will go to Russia for work and security. To beef up Artsakh’s population, the government should come up with a home- or vacation-steadying program for all Armenians. Entice those looking for vacation place, farming acreage, etc. by giving land free or at a fraction of its market price to beef up the population of Artsakh. You do not have to live in Artsakh to be counted as a resident. Also, try to relocate Hemshen Armenians from the Black Sea area and Kyrgyzstan to Artsakh.
Australia built its population by adhering to the slogan “Populate or Perish” and by enticing settlers through free land distribution to immigrants. Artsakh needs the population to turn the country vibrant and prosperous. Besides, we need able-bodied citizens to defend the country as well.
DEPEND ON OURSELVES. We should learn not to expect help from other countries in an emergency. We depended on Russia, but it came too late to curb further loss for the people of Artsakh. Get sophisticated arms through local production or by importing them. The Armenian Diaspora can set up an Artsakh Defense Fund to equip its army with the cutting-edge weapons, especially the use of long-range types and UAVs (unmanned air vehicles), which proved to be devastating to our soldiers.
USE NON-MILITARY DEFENSE. We should learn to apply methods other than military to overcome the enemy. We should not depend on our soldiers alone to protect Artsakh. For instance, we can devise strategies to get Azerbaijan implode from within by motivating their minorities to rise up for freedom and independence such as the Lezgins and the Talyish, who are waiting in the wings to become independent.
RATIONALIZE THE TRUCE. There is need to counter the irrationality of those who are harshly criticizing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for the Nov. 9 truce between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Reportedly, when Pashinyan sat at the negotiating table with President Vladimir Putin and President Ilham Aliyev, Artsakh’s war casualties were already over 2,500 soldiers out of a combined total of 5,000 soldiers perished in this war on both sides. According to Pashinyan supporters, 15,000 Armenian soldiers were about to be trapped by several concentric Azerbaijani troops heading in their direction to encircle them. Mr. Pashinyan had to save them from annihilation.
Had Mr. Pashinyan not signed the hateful “statement” for a truce on the night of Nov. 9, the loss of our soldiers would have amounted to a massacre. We have to start a conversation with people who condemn Pashinyan so that they can see why he had to sign the lopsided truce with the genocidal enemy, knowing full well the opposition would try to crucify him later. It takes moral courage to act unselfishly in the face of unpleasant situations.
CAMPAIGN FOR ARTSAKH’S RECOGNITION. We must expedite the drive for Artsakh’s international recognition as a free and independent republic. We should ride on the good news that on November 25, 2020 the French Senate passed a landmark resolution (305 to 1) to recognize the independence of Artsakh. However, in order to keep its neutrality as a member of the Minsk Group mediators to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict politically, the French government refused to recognize the independence of the Republic of Artsakh. Still, the French Senates’ approval is a feather in Artsakh’s cap.
Despite the French government’s setback, we should concentrate our efforts to get Canada, Australia, and the United States among others to repeat the same gesture the French Senate has shown the Armenian people. Naturally, it would be great if the governments of each of country listed above were to recognize the independence of Artsakh as well. Their recognition will send a strong message to Azerbaijan and Turkey that they should leave the indigenous Armenians of Artsakh live peacefully in their centuries-old historical province.
The forgoing suggestions to do for Artsakh after the disastrous aftermath are not exhaustive. I am sure you also have ideas. Why not share them with the rest of us? Let us all work on damage control through reconstruction the recovery of Artsakh. We should regain our composure and begin to pick up the pieces to solve our national security problems.
Internal dissent weakens us. It distracts and disorients us and hinders us from tackling pressing problems. Any issue that will divide us further should be shelved for the time being. How to rehabilitate Artsakh should be the only burning item on our agenda.
Pointing the finger is counterproductive. We will have plenty of time for soul searching and debating as who was responsible for the military fiasco in the hope of correcting the problem from happening again.
To concoct a plan and work in concert to finish the job requires the spirit of cooperation and collaboration. Otherwise, we would regress to a point worse than where we were before undertaking any corrective or remedial measures.
History tells us that in the aftermath of an upheaval, when the shooting stops, recovery begins. Let us remember that the worst thing we can do is to believe in unity and yet remain disunited. Inaction is the cancer on a nation’s health chart: every Armenian’s responsibility, in the aftermath of this unholy war is to contribute to the rebuilding of the evil effects of the enemy’s destruction, material or spiritual alike, into something enviable for all of us to be proud of.
After all, the glass is half full but not empty. Through faith, hope, and unity, we shall fill up the glass full again.