BY SERJ TANKIAN
While Putin invades Ukraine, Armenians around the world are having PTSD remembering the 2020 War in Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan and Turkey, and recognizing the hypocritically selective sympathies of the West. The West’s attention seems to go to large new markets they can gain access to properly dressed in humanitarian sympathies. After all, what did the West do when Turkey invaded Cypress, Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh?
In 1993, following the defeat of Azerbaijan in the first Artsakh War, Turkey unilaterally closed its border to Armenia. Since then, normalization efforts disguised as the Turkish-Armenia protocols had fallen short due to Azerbaijan’s lobbying efforts in Turkey. In 2020, Turkey joined Azerbaijan in attacking the peaceful settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, where Armenians have lived since time immemorial, ending in a brutal humanitarian catastrophe and displacement of Armenians from their historic homeland.
Huge parts of Karabagh are under Azeri occupation while Armenians living there, and in Armenia proper, endure constant attacks by the oil dictatorship in Baku. Azerbaijan wants Karabagh without Armenians, and from the brutal videos of torture, decapitation, and murder, it is clear that they are unlikely to follow the guidelines to the settlement of the Karabagh’s status in the region.
Turkey, as is well known, during its Ottoman past, committed a genocide of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians starting in 1915. Successive Turkish governments have gone out of their way to deny the genocide. Turkey, under Erdogan, has gone a step further and threatened Armenians with a new genocide. In recent months, normalization efforts have started between Ankara and Yerevan, likely pushed by the West – both as a way to whitewash their silence during the brutal 2020 Artsakh war and as a way of slowly reeling Armenia away from Russia’s sphere of influence.
Armenians around the world are in a state of trauma having to accept normalization of relations with a genocidal state that continues its denial of our genocide. Not a single Armenian thinks that normalization without reconciliation is a good idea. Would Israel have accepted such terms at its inception as a homeland for all Jews around the world if there were no Nuremberg trials, and if Germany had denied its role in the Holocaust?
The need for normalization between the people of Turkey and Armenia is important right now as a step in building confidence to deal with the difficult issues of genocide acceptance and the just steps which follow. After all, normalization and reconciliation are not the same thing, though one can lead to the other. The dictator of Turkey, Erdogan, and his government will never realistically take that step, so it’s important to note that a true democratic conversion of Turkey is necessary to ultimately lead to reconciliation with Armenia.
Armenia’s current geopolitical standing, after the 2020 Nagorno-Karabagh War, necessitates normalization with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenia needs time to rebuild its army, state institutions, and its already growing economy. Since the 2018 peaceful Velvet Revolution in Armenia, the country has shown unprecedented economic growth which continues even after the war, while our neighbors’ economies are in a state of steep contraction. Given time, without another attack on Armenia, the country will fare much stronger in the near future. Which is why it’s important for Armenia to buy time with normalization with its brutal and, in the case of Azerbaijan, fascist and racist neighbors.
If normalization with Turkey prevails, Armenia will have to be smart in legislating economic protections so that larger Turkish companies do not compromise its economy or national security. The opening of trade routes and access to Europe, currently only through Georgia, will lead to increased economic gain for Armenia. It is inconceivable that we are talking about normalizing relations with a genocidal neighbor who just attacked us 18 months ago, but geopolitical reality necessitates peace for Armenia at this time.
A version of this article was published by the author on his Facebook page and is reprinted here by permission.