Keghart.org Editorial, 25 September 2022
The most recent Azerbaijani invasion on the sovereign territories of the Republic of Armenia (RoA) on September 13 exposed new realities in South Caucasus. First, it brought to light the unprecedented decline in Russia – RoA relationship. Although it had deteriorated since 2018 revolution, it had never reached to this level of mistrust and dishonour. During and after the invasion, Russia neither acted as an ally to RoA nor as a friend who would assist to deter a vicious many-pronged invasion against an enemy. Instead, Russia facilitated and managed the escalation to the benefit of Azerbaijan. RoA got a bitter taste of Russia’s strategic partnership with Azerbaijan confirmed in action, and doubts about its “nonexistence” faded away. This partnership is understood within the context of detriments vs. benefits calculations. Russia is in dire need of Azerbaijan as a leeway for selling its oil and gas in the global black market. Both countries expressed their willingness on several occasions for this partnership. Conversely, it is not in the interest of RoA and Artsakh to further deteriorate their relationship with Russia. Thus, the political leadership of both entities must be cautious in how they express their resentment against Russia’s behaviour in the region.
The second reality is that the United States shows greater interest in South Caucasus, but it is not willing to directly get involved in managing conflicts in the region. Visit of the US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during September 17 – 19 came within this policy context. Announcements made during and after this visit support sovereignty and territorial integrity of RoA, and duly call upon the settlement of the conflict through negotiations. It must be noted that the US wants to keep Azerbaijan contained while negotiations are ongoing with Iran. Ironically, while exercising severe sanctions against Russia elsewhere, the US also wants to keep one of Russia’s conduits to the world open but under certain restraints. Armenians should be cautious about high expectations from the US in the region. RoA should welcome the US in its mediation efforts to deter Azerbaijan from further incursions and counterbalance the aggressive behaviour of Azerbaijan.
The third and most dire reality is the regional and global isolation of RoA. Despite condemnations and supportive announcements from some states and political authorities, RoA did not receive any tangible moral or material aid. This can be attributed to the vague demands and confusion of the RoA political administration. RoA failed to present to the United Nations well articulated targeted demands and get a clear unequivocal resolution either at the Security Council or the General Assembly level. The crucial demand to withdraw Azerbaijani forces from Armenian sovereign territories went unanswered. RoA political administration missed the opportunity either intentionally or through lack of competence.
PM Pashinyan’s speech at the UN General Assembly on September 23 presented the current invasion and its outcomes in a detailed and well-structured manner. Within the span of the 2006 words, however, he missed spelling out the overarching demand of a UN resolution that supports the position of RoA; instead, he cited a lukewarm demand of “international observation mission”. That was the only demand raised by RoA. This flaw was enough to tell observers that Pashinyan failed in his mission. He should have seized the opportunity by calling from the highest political podium in the world to vote for a resolution that condemns Azerbaijan and demands its immediate and unconditional withdrawal from RoA territories. Such a resolution would incorporate an “international peacekeeping mission”. Pashinyan tried to reword this concept but failed dramatically. “International observation mission” is not a standing-alone concept at the United Nations. These are missions that had been previously established within certain UN peacekeeping missions to conflict zones. Most probably, Pashinyan avoided raising the demand to deploy international peacekeepers to avert provoking Russia further. This concern is also a serious diplomatic and political failure. Russia has the tools to defend its interests in the United Nations; it can veto any resolution. why would Pashinyan worry about them? Besides, isn’t it about time to only think of the national interests of RoA rather than prioritize the interests of other states? At this stage Internationalization of the conflict with Azerbaijan should be looked at as a counterbalancing act against a resourceful enemy and be part of the Armenian strategy for its national interests.
Diaspora Armenians, lobbyists, influencers and activists should save no effort to demand from their respective governments to condemn and sanction Azerbaijan. RoA foreign policy makers should formulate clear objectives. They must focus on attaining legal, political and diplomatic support for the rightful position of RoA. A UN Security Council resolution is still the most powerful and necessary international legal vehicle to defend the rights of nations. In case of failure, RoA diplomats should try to reach a UN General Assembly resolution despite the possible inability of both bodies to stop Azerbaijani aggression. These resolutions are still the most important diplomatic tools to defend the territories of RoA and continue the legal fight to liberate the occupied lands by the enemy.