By Edmond Y. Azadian
To visit Armenia in the immediate aftermath of the Azeri aggression during the first four days of April was a sad experience and still is — defiant and despondent at the same time.
Human losses were painful, as they were unexpected. Armenia had lulled itself for a long time into thinking that it possessed the most advanced weaponry; all the while Azeri petro-dollars were buying state-of-the-art Russian and Israeli arms. During the recent blitzkrieg Israeli attack drones proved to be most deadly. The fact that those drones could be guided remotely, from bases in Israel, meant that the Azeri forces did not need to be trained to use them.
Prof. Israel W. Charny, a Genocide scholar, wrote in a blog, “Last week there came reports that an Israeli drone in the hands of Azerbaijan — a huge arms customer of ours — was responsible for the deaths of six Armenians in the enclave of Nagorno Karabagh. …. I am ashamed.”
But who would give a damn about the call of a scholar and a humanitarian in the face of the multi-million-dollar trade of death machines?
Thus, one of the factors, which came forth conspicuously in the recent war, was the Israeli involvement in this conflict, despite the bond of victimhood of Armenia and Israel in the realm of genocide.
The other factor was Russian duplicity. Indeed, Moscow sold the most advanced weapons to Azerbaijan, while claiming Armenia as its strategic ally. Anti-Russian sentiments ran high in Yerevan and there were even protests in front of the Russian embassy.
Moscow’s silence coinciding with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s visit to Baku further raised tempers in Armenia. And Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Yerevan exacerbated the situation.
Speculation ran high that Lavrov had arrived to implement the Kazan or Madrid Principles, in both cases requiring Karabagh to cede five regions in return for unspecified promises.
The Armenian government’s silence during Lavrov’s visit added fuel to these speculations, until it was announced that Lavrov had not brought any new papers. He was only in Yerevan to encourage negotiations which thus far have led nowhere, they said. The Armenian government made clear that negotiations could not continue while Azeri soldiers were shooting on the contact line in Karabagh and even into Armenia proper.
All of a sudden, it was revealed that Armenians were fighting with outdated weapons from the 1980s against Azerbaijan’s current, more advanced weaponry. That revelation also fanned the flames against the army brass, whose generals had engorged their bank accounts, developing businesses and constructing palaces. To defer that anger, the president demoted three key generals considered responsible for the deficiency in arms procurement.
Despite the disparity in armaments, the fighting spirit was high on the Armenian side. Azerbaijan suffered very high casualties, which will certainly help tone down Mr. Aliyev’s bellicose rhetoric for some time to come.
“Their purely military gains were insubstantial,” says BBC analyst Anatoly Karlin, “and attained at the cost of much higher losses in personnel and equipment than the worse-armed but far more motivated, skilled and dug-in NKR army. This was accomplished without any reinforcements from Armenia proper. Any hopes for a blitzkrieg campaign have been dashed.”
Volunteers and veteran fighters are moving towards the front for reinforcement. There is a patriotic fervor on the front along with some reckoning back at home.
Although Azerbaijan has learned at great cost what the diplomats have been advocating all along — that there is no military solution to the conflict — the Baku government may continue the provocations, in the hope that it can wear down the resilience of the Armenian side.
Given the military balance in the region, Turkey and Azerbaijan may refrain from an all-out war against Armenia, but they are convinced that a war of attrition may pay off in the long run.
By continually bombing the province of Tavoush in Armenia, they have scared away the border population. Turks and Azeris intend to render Armenia uninhabitable through constant hostility. That approach may gain validity if the situation in Armenia does not improve dramatically. How long can patriotism endure when army veterans return home for a life of misery, with high unemployment, disparity in living standards and rampant injustice in the application of the law?
We have to be mindful that the flow of emigration has not diminished and may have even hit a critical point.
At this time, the diaspora is mobilized. It is even alarmed that Armenian soldiers have to defend the borders with primitive weapons. Organizations as well as individuals are contributing generously. But as soon as a temporary calm is restored, this awareness and mobilization will fade away and the population will return to the grim realities of life.
Armenia is at war and we do not have the luxury of playing politics with its destiny. There is certainly corruption in the government but calling for a regime change in the midst of war can only benefit the enemy, and certainly not Armenia’s population. Even the staunchest critic of the current regime, former president Levon Ter-Petrosian, has lent his support to the administration he so often has called a “kleptocracy,” until we reach calmer seas for settling scores.
We lost our kingdom in Ani, in the eleventh century because of our internal quarrels. Similarly, the Cilician kingdom was overrun by Mamluks in 1375, because it was weakened as a result of princes fighting each other or even siding with enemy forces to spite internal foes.
The lessons of history are too stark to be ignored. Blood is being shed on the borders of Karabagh and Armenia and there cannot be any higher or nobler cause than to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Armenian soldiers, as Mr. Erdogan promises to stand shoulder to shoulder with his Azeri brothers.
Despite the war’s painful losses, Karabagh survived and the Armenian resolve deterred the enemy once again. Quoting the BBC analyst who concludes his article thus: “Now that the fog of war has cleared up, it has become clear that the Azeris even failed to retain the village of Talish. What a debacle,”
Let us rally around Karabagh until the final victory and until a permanent peace is restored.
Karabagh is the last frontier of Armenian history.