Armenia’s Prime Minister, Pashinyan, not only requested help from Putin but also approached French President Emmanuelle Macron and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Large numbers of Armenians live in the United States and France and especially France has a long tradition of supporting Armenia.
A debate at a meeting of the UN Security Council focusing on the current acute situation in the South Caucuses took place on 16th September. As was expected, the Azerbaijani UN Ambassador denied all accusations of aggression and pushed the blame for any fighting onto the Armenians. The Armenian UN Ambassador accused Azerbaijan of intending to widen the scope of their military aggression and that intelligent reports showed that an attack from Nakhichevan was already in preparation. The end goal of the Aliyev government is to create a corridor between Nakhichevan and the rest of Azerbaijan, an exterritorial corridor running through Armenian territory.
The fear that attacks could start from Nakhichevan are plausible. One look at the map of the region shows clearly that the southern province of the Republic of Armenia is threatened on two sides: on the eastern side where the attacks took place, there has been a build-up of Azerbaijani troops, in the West in the province of Nakhichevan an increase in military presence has been observed. In addition, Tukey has a border with Nakhichevan and in the past years joint military manoeuvres have taken place with Turkish and Azerbaijani troops. Over the years there has been regular exchanges of fire on this Armenian- Nakhichevan border. A main road from Yerevan running through the province of Syunik and connecting Armenia with Iran runs dangerously close to the Azerbaijani. To protect this very important highway, Armenia erected sand hill defences along much of the route, reflecting the tensions and fears in the area.
As the Armenian UN Ambassador said at the meeting of the Security Council, these attacks of the 12th of September could be merely the preliminary actions of a much bigger military exercise. The leadership in Baku has recognised the following: the Russian Protector of Armenia is acting very modestly, the CSTO will not support Armenia and the EU is contend to issue very timid warnings to both sides. Only Macron, all-be it with much pathos supported the hard pressed Armenians. Surprisingly, however, the President of the American House Representative, Nancy Pelosi visited Erivan with several Democratic politicians and openly called the Azerbaijanis the aggressors. According to Pelosi the visit had been planned before the attacks on the 12 September.
Victim of geo-strategic projects
In 2018, as Nikol Pashinyan was democratically elected in a “Velvet Revolution” many western observers expected a revolution similar to Georgia or Ukraine. In fact it turned out to be something quite different. The Pashinyan government had neither the intention nor indeed the possibility of turning its back on Moscow and focusing its attention on the West. Armenia is militarily and economically dependent on Russia, and hundreds of thousands Armenians work in Russia sending back currency to support family members. But foremost Russia is an indispensable protective force and strategic partner. The borders to Turkey and Iran are patrolled by Russian forces and no other state in the Moscow led CSTO is as dependent on Russia as Armenia. Sandwiched between Turkey and Azerbaijan, Russia offers Armenia a limited form of protection. This dependency is the guarantee for Moscow that Armenia will continue the partnership.
After their defeat in 2020, the trust in their Protector has fallen, but in view of the threat from Tukey and more acutely from Azerbaijan, the Pashinyan government must see Russia as its security guarantee and strategic partner. However, at present Armenia has no alternative. Against all western expectations, the government of the Velvet Revolution not only maintained the Armenian-Russian alliance but also continued the traditional close and friendly relations with Iran. The Pashinyan government concentrated on its task of passing laws to increase democracy and to curtail and stamp out the prolific corruption. Neither Moscow nor the West could be satisfied with the Velvet Revolution. For Moscow the Armenian Model of democracy was a threat and the West was simply dissatisfied, as Yerevan did not follow on the example of Tbilisi and Kiev by turning its back on Moscow and increasing ties with the West.
The hopes that the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh would remain frozen have turned out to be more than naive. Baku is not even prepared to give any sort of status to the remaining Armenians. Moreover, Armenia is not even in the position to defend its own borders against the Azerbaijani threat. In autumn 2020, as Aliyev, with massive Turkish support, began its war in Nagorno-Karabakh the regime in Baku could assume that the Russian Protector would not intervene and that the Pashinyan government would not be able to count on the help of the disappointed West. How often in history are the mistakes of the past only felt way into the future, and then all so more painful.
Armenia is in danger of being the victim of an approaching geopolitical endgame that began with the Nagorno-Karabakh war of 2020. The present situation does not pose any geo-strategic threat to Moscow as it is on good terms not only with Baku but also with Ankara and neither Nagorno-Karabakh nor the southern Armenian province of Syunik are of high significant strategic importance to Moscow: certainly not sufficiently enough to invest in military intervention and put their relations with Baku and Ankara to a stress test. From a geo-strategic standpoint Moscow’s relations with Turkey and Iran outweigh any advantages a weak and isolated Armenia can offer.
The situation imposes two important questions: firstly, has the Russian leadership has at all interested in investing weapons and money in Nagorno-Karabakh and secondly, is Russia in the position to support and protect Armenia. In view of the changing political realities Armenians will soon have to question this traditional alliance with Russia, which no longer provides adequate protection and seek dependable alternatives. The future existence of the nation depends on answering this question.
*Toros Sarian is an author from Istanbul and lives in Germany. He writes about the history of the Armenian Genocide and political issues concerning Turkey, Kurdistan, Armenia and Germany.