A Time for Reflection
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have signed an agreement to end military conflict over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. (BBC)
After six weeks of fighting, Russia has brokered an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding the disputed region of Nagorno Karabagh (Artsakh). I have previously offered some historical background regarding this conflict, so will not go further into it here.
In this most recent fighting, Azerbaijan was joined by Turkey against Artsakh and, at least on some level, Armenia. Perhaps 100 million people against 3 million.
Ankara’s supply of advanced weaponry to Azerbaijan had given Baku a decisive advantage against Armenian forces in the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
Further, Azerbaijan was directly supported by Israel with weapons; indirectly, by the United States, who had to at minimum given a wink to its NATO partner, Turkey. At least in terms of manpower, financial capacity, and military means, it was never a fair fight.
What Was Lost
Azerbaijan was successful in taking significant territory in these last six weeks – both territory of the buffer zone around Artsakh and territory within Artsakh itself. From all reports, Azerbaijan was on the verge of taking the largest city, Stepanakert, having already taken the strategic city of Shushi. It seems quite likely that had the deal not been finalized when it was, the rest of Artsakh would have been lost.
As it is, the two sides are to stand down in place. Russia is sending close to 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years, to stand in between the parties. Additionally, regions surrounding Artsakh, still in Armenian control, are to be handed over to Azerbaijan. Finally, road corridors are to be opened between Armenian and Artsakh on the one hand, and Nakhichevan and Azerbaijan on the other.
In Armenia, and for many Armenians around the world, this is a crushing blow – and understandably so. The haunt of the genocide one hundred years ago hangs over this war and these events.
Consider what is lost. For example, the Amaras Monastery, dating back to the fourth century, and the first school to teach the Armenian alphabet. The monastery was founded by St. Gregory, the saint who would bring the Armenian king to Christianity in 301 A.D.
Dadivank is another monastery in a region now to be turned over to the Azeris. The monastery was founded in the first century by St. Dadi, a disciple of Thaddeus the Apostle; current structures were bult as early as the ninth century. By legend, it was Thaddaeus and Bartholomew who brought Christianity to the Armenians after the Resurrection.
There are two khachkars (stone-crosses as grave markers) at this monastery, dating to the thirteenth century. Father Hovhannes Hovhannisyan (John Johnson) is abbot of the monastery. You will like this guy:
In this video (don’t bother, unless you understand Eastern Armenian), he states that he will be removing these khachkars – after 800 years – to protect these from the Azeri takeover. To give some idea of his words (and my Eastern Armenian isn’t great, so forgive any errors): Our khachkars are our life, our Christianity; we have two or three days before the ungodly ones come to take over this place. You will see after what kind of condition they offer to this place.
Perhaps watch the video. You will see his pain, knowing that he will be the one, after 800 years, that will remove these khachkars from their place.
There is some possibility that this monastery is within the region to be controlled by Armenia and Russia. Father Hovhannes has more recently stated that he will not be moving; the fog of war has given way to the fog of peace.
This is not the case for Amaras. It is apparently in the region to be handed over to Azerbaijan. For Amaras to be retained, diplomatic skill by the Armenian side is required – but more on this below.
News of this agreement hit Armenians like a stone. In Yerevan, the protests were immediate and violent. Thousands marching on the square, on Parliament. I found myself wondering: why are so many men so angry in Yerevan? If it was so important to them, why were they not on the front?
The situation was truly desperate from the start. With Turkey, perhaps the most powerful non-nuclear military in the world, joining Azerbaijan, there was little hope for the Armenian side to succeed militarily, and certainly not without major resources from Armenia proper and elsewhere. But absent true diplomatic skill and an honest acceptance of the geopolitical situation, the long game was against Armenia in any case.
In the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, Armenia was victorious in the fight for Artsakh. Yet, it was Azerbaijan with time on its hands. Oil. Baku was flooded in oil. Armenia, on the other hand, was a land-locked nation with no meaningful natural resources, and working to dig out from under both the collapse of the Soviet Union and the devastating earthquake that struck at the end of the time of that empire.
Since the time of that victory, more than 25 years ago, Baku spent considerably more on its military than Armenia did. It had the resources to do so. Since the time of that victory, more than 25 years ago, the process of reaching a final settlement went nowhere. A group headed by the United States, France, and Russia was mediating this dispute, with no progress to show for it.
Two weeks ago, Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia’s position has not changed. He offered:
“We proceeded from the fact that we need to talk about the possibility of transferring five plus two regions to Azerbaijan with the provision of a certain regime of the Karabakh zone, its interaction with Armenia.”
Russia’s position has not changed. For how long? This is quite curious to me. Has this been Russia’s position all along? I have no way to know, or maybe I just wasn’t that close to it. However, it sounds as if he
Article from LewRockwell