By Edmond Y. Azadian
After the four-day war in April on the contact line with Azerbaijan, almost one hundred victims were buried but not the worries that were left behind; on the contrary, the concerns and the weaknesses rose to the surface to be discussed publicly.
When the dust settled, it turned out that 809 square meters of territory was lost to the enemy. Government supporters dismissed the importance of the loss as strategically insignificant. And since the war aroused patriotic fervor, some true patriots, along with a few demagogues, maintained that the loss of even one centimeter is intolerable.
When the outcry became louder about the misappropriation of the military funds allocated to the army, heads began to roll among the military brass.
Some politicians began to extract mileage out of the tragedy by blaming the government; “Russia’s large-scale arms sales to Azerbaijan changed the Armenian-Azerbaijani military balance and greatly facilitated the April 2 outbreak of heavy fighting around Nagorno-Karabagh,” former President Robert Kocharian said, and blamed the Armenian government for failing to thwart the deal.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit in the aftermath of the flare-up did not bring any clarity to the situation; it only helped to quell anti-Russian sentiments, which were getting out of hand.
Obviously, the conflict had some other international ramifications; a high-powered Chinese delegation visited Armenia, which can bode well for the nation’s economy and perhaps also defense.
Iran once again offered its good offices to help the warring parties settle their differences through diplomacy. Barely released from the yoke of international sanctions, the last thing Iranian leaders want is war in their neighborhood.
Alarm bells also went off in Western capitals, because as a news analyst wrote, “The four-days’ war had serious humanitarian repercussions. But the violence also notably underscored the vulnerability of regional energy infrastructures located on Europe’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) strategic southern flank — namely the Baku-Supsa and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipelines, the south Caucasus National Gas Pipeline and nearby oil and gas terminals.”
Azatutyun.am has already indicated that Armenia has deployed anti-aircraft air defense and missile defense systems and has held military exercises in Karabagh to simulate possible attacks and air-strike scenarios on Azerbaijani oil and gas infrastructures.
To deter the Armenian side from being tempted to threaten western oil interests, Bakhityar Aslanbeyli, a Baku-based vice president with the oil multinational firm BP has suggested formulating a new concept for NATO — a kind of “Article 4.5” — that could contribute to the protection of trans-border and trans-regional energy infrastructure.
Armenia is a small, land-locked country blockaded and threatened by powerful enemies. It was proven time and again that should a doomsday scenario develop, we cannot depend on our strategic ally, Russia. A victim of genocide cannot be victimized by another genocide. Therefore, what is the solution for our ultimate survival?
There are 200 nuclear warheads in Israel, which are not legally allowed yet are tolerated by the international community. The reasoning for supporting that kind of arsenal, under the US banner, is that the Jewish people have experienced the Holocaust and they are surrounded by powerful enemies. Never mind that some of those enemies (i.e., Iraq, Syria and Libya) have been pulverized by US muscle.
No matter how much we dream of a world free of nuclear weapons, Armenia, by the same token, is entitled to the same kind of deterrence. Recent news reports indicated that former prime minister of Armenia, and current member of parliament, Hrant Bagratian, and retired Armenian Maj. Gen. Arkady Ter-Tadevosyan, have threatened Azerbaijan with the use of nuclear weapons and dirty bombs.
As a doomsday weapon, Armenians have also threatened to blow up the Mingachevir Dam, which may create an ecological disaster with the destruction of many villages in Azerbaijan.
The logic of war is cruel. While destroying the Iraqi army, Gulf War Commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf said, “There is no better civilized way of killing people.”
In the May 31 issue of the Washington Post, Nina Caspersen draws some brutal conclusions about the recent Karabagh war: “The recent fighting appears to have shifted the front line in Azerbaijan’s favor. This is significant, but not because the reclaimed territory is strategic or sizable. The Azerbaijani gains dealt a blow to Armenian pride, but more importantly, they signaled that Nagorno Karabagh’s position is perhaps not as secure as the enclave’s leadership believed it to be or as strong as they have portrayed it to their public.”
Perhaps Samvel Babayan’s arrival in Nagorno Karabagh is an indirect endorsement of the Washington Post assessment. General Babayan headed the Karabagh army from 1993 to 1999 and he rightly got credit for many victories. He received a hero’s welcome in his native land, but his motives are not very clear. “I will do everything in my power to ensure that our security is properly protected,” he said, in his attempt to justify and explain his return from self-imposed exile in Russia.
He also called for an urgent modernization of the armed forces to neutralize the military threat from Azerbaijan.
War heroes rarely make wise statesmen. While in Karabagh, he acted as if he was above the law. He was convicted for his role in the assassination attempt on the former president of Karabagh, Arkady Ghoukassian. After serving four years of his sentence, he moved to Armenia and founded his political party, Dashink. While in Armenia he was associated with some unsavory characters. He is critical of the government’s handling of the recent war, but he has been denying his intention to lead once again Karabagh’s army or taking up a political role. If his intentions are to lift the morale of the public, he has achieved that successfully.
There is unease and confusion all around. Karabagh could use some moral support, which many war veterans have been bringing, besides General Babayan. No one can verify if General Babayan is abreast of modern developments in weaponry and war strategies to entrust him with a critical role.
In these demoralizing times, patriotic zeal is essential for the public. But the leadership in Karabagh needs a more sober assessment of the situation and more wisdom and expertise.
Hopefully Armenians in the homeland can provide both for Karabagh’s survival.