BY HRANT APOVIAN
“We succeeded in conquering many places, but spiritually we were conquered in all of them.”
—Ziya Gökalp, “The father of Turkish Nationalism”
According to Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky, commander of the Russian troops stationed in Gyumri, Armenia, the Russian military base could openly side with Armenia in case of a renewed Armenia-Azerbaijan war for Nagorno Karabakh. This would be within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The Russian-Armenian defense agreement signed in 2010 and which extended Russia’s basing rights in Armenia until 2044, also committed Moscow to supplying Armenia with modern weaponry. There is always the expectation – especially in the aftermath of Armenia joining the Russian Customs Union initiative and shunning joining the European Community – that “Big Brother” will come to the rescue if Azerbaijan attacks. Armenian officials are led to believe that Russia’s commitments are the only means to secure Armenia. However, history tells us that we cannot trust Russia to deliver on its commitments.
It is questionable weather Russia or the CSTO will honor their commitments. Thus far, Russian officials have not explicitly confirmed their willingness to intervene if Azerbaijan acts on its threats to re-conquer Nagorno Karabakh. One should objectively question Russia’s motives and hidden designs. For example, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario where Russia begins to court and wrest concessions from Azerbaijan. One may argue that this has already begun: Russia has pledged to provide a billion dollars in military hardware to Azerbaijan and wants to see Azerbaijan join the Customs Union. Accordingly, one cannot foresee Russia’s next move, as it seems that it is attempting to entice Azerbaijan back into its orbit.
Another discrepancy in the equation is Armenia’s energy sector. It is entirely controlled by Russia. Unfortunately, the Russian Trojan Horse is well within the borders of Armenia. This makes Armenia vulnerable to indomitable leverage by Russia. This did not materialize overnight, but is rather the result of shortsighted policies by successive administrations. Armenia experienced energy shortages first hand during the Russia-Georgia conflict, when Russia’s energy could not be accessed through Georgia. This experience highlighted the fact that Armenia is dependent and hence susceptible to foreign interference.
The blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan that has been stifling Armenia’s economy since its independence is still in place. Armenia is mostly landlocked. The West has not been able to force Turkey to lift it. Failed Armenian foreign policy initiatives that aimed to end the blockade, such as the signing of the protocols with Turkey, have instead emboldened Turkey. Turkey and Azerbaijan are increasingly in an unorthodox alliance, both militarily and politically. Turkey has provided Azerbaijan with training and hardware, and seems to encourage Azerbaijan’s aggressive stance. The biggest threat to Armenia’s National security is this Turkey – Azerbaijan partnership, which threatens to remove this obstacle to their Pan-Turkic expansionist aspirations by force. Furthermore, Turkey and Azerbaijan are on a worldwide campaign against Armenia and Armenians in anticipation of the Armenian Genocide Centennial commemorations in 2015.
What is most worrisome and alarming is the fact that spiritually as a people, we are loosing our will to endure, to stay and fight. The Armenian Diaspora’s enthusiasm, fervent for decades past, is waning, as is trust and active support. Belief in Armenian institutions, government, leadership (whether in government or opposition), nationalism and attachment to our land, have eroded to the point where people have lost their faith and passion. People have lost hope that change will come, that the government will work towards social equality, that the oligarchs will stop exploiting the people, and that Armenia will overcome all threats and survive as a free and independent country.
Bad governance through three presidents, social inequality, absence of the rule of law, and most of all pervasive poverty, led to mistrust of the government and the judicial system. This hopelessness has led to the biggest threat to Armenia’s national security. Massive emigration has reached catastrophic proportions, at the rate of 50,000 per month. What is even worse is that thus far, there are no viable plans to date to repopulate Nagorno Karabakh, a land that was liberated with so much sacrifice. The homeland that was the dream of all Armenians around the world, is not beckoning the Armenian diaspora to come home, and is being abandoned by its sons and daughters for better prospects outside its boundaries.
Armenia’s national security threats should not be taken lightly. The threat of war, the alliance between Turkey and Azerbaijan, massive emigration, energy dependence, and most of all erosion of our spirituality need to be addressed. They should not be solely the purview of the officials in Armenia. The Armenian diaspora has the right and the obligation to participate fully with all of its resources in eliminating all threats. That is an inalienable right that cannot be denied by the government in Armenia. It is time to include representatives from the diaspora in Armenia’s national security deliberations to ensure a more viable future for the homeland.
One bright beacon protecting Armenia is the Armenian army. The resolve, dedication, and prowess of our Armenian soldiers instill confidence that we can respond forcefully to any enemy attack and come out victorious.