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Foreign Policy of Armenia in the Framework of The Armenian Question
Author: Armen Ayvazyan | Date: 01-01-2007 | Download it | Print

Excerpts from Dr. Armen Ayvazyan's report at the Armenian Parliament on December 20, 2007

The incomprehensible direction of the Republic of Armenia Foreign Policy, its inconsistent and confused course is mostly conditioned by a huge conceptual mistake, that is, since acquiring independence, Armenia’s leadership has totally ignored the existence of the Armenian Question, misjudging the essence of that question and mistakenly believing in the possibility of circumventing it. Meanwhile, the strategic opponents of Armenia – Turkey and Azerbaijan, do not forget about it.

Is there presently an Armenian Question, and what is it? As in the past, so in the present the essence of The Armenian Question is the creation of viable political and territorial conditions for the Armenian people to live freely and independently on its native soil – the Armenian Highland. There is only one solution to the Armenian Question – the restoration of the Armenian statehood on at least such a substantial part of Armenia, which can provide for the safe and long term existence and development of the Armenian civilization. In other words, the Armenian Question is about the security of the Armenians, and requires the provision of two prerequisites: The first is the creation of a comprehensive and strong statehood; and the second is territorial guarantees fortifying the security and viability of that statehood.

In addition, securing only one of these preconditions is impossible without securing the other: neither the Armenian State is able to survive in the 29800 sq. km. of sharply vulnerable and, with its very defenselessness, “aggression-prone” borders of former Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, nor will the existence of the Armenian nation be possible without the Armenian state.

Thus, the solution of the Armenian Question is by no means the international acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide, as many people think through a misunderstanding and as Armenians’ false friends say. The Armenian Question is, first and foremost, a territorial question.

However, what is the condition of the Armenian Question at present? Today, as in the past, the existence of the Armenian nation and civilization is in danger because the territorial question has not been resolved. In the post-Soviet period Armenia again faces the question “to be or not to be.” Contemporary Armenia has been endangered by the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the ensuing expansionist encroachments and violent acts by Turkey and its ally Azerbaijan. The experience of the last decade and a half proved that Armenia can survive only thanks to its control over a territory of 42000 sq. km., with certain natural borders, including the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh, together with the liberated territory. This is the minimal territory that ensures Armenia’s security. The existence of the Armenian State may no longer be possible on a smaller territory.

This is the minimal territory that ensures Armenia’s security in the geopolitical, military and psychological clashes of world and regional powers. On the other hand, it should not to be ruled out that the hostile policies by Turkey and Azerbaijan, and the possible unleashing of war by the latter, will leave Armenia no choice other than to expand Armenian strategic control over its territories currently occupied by Azerbaijan, to the point where the enemy finally stops threatening Armenia and reconciles itself with the fact of Armenians having their own state on their native land.

As for the RA’s Foreign Policy, its foundations were formed in the early 1990s and, contrary to the common perceptions, have never been seriously reviewed and reconsidered. This statement of mine would be vehemently disputed by both the former ANM (HHSh) activists and the representatives of present authorities, who would recall the well-known fact that since 1998 the RA’s Foreign Policy has included in its agenda the international recognition of the Genocide. Furthermore, the representatives of the present authorities will point out the fact that, in contrast to former authorities, they are, as a matter of principle, opposed to placing the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic under Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction even nominally. Though true, these differences are incapable of changing the general course and content of the RA’s Foreign Policy, as they are trifles compared to those weighty similarities which have penetrated the second president’s policies from those adopted by the first one.

Indeed, the basis of the RA Foreign Policy were established in the beginning of 1990s in a deeply incorrect, if not an illusive manner. It was a period, when, on the one hand, giving in to fantastic dreams that were inspired by the West, and, on the other hand, having a huge shortage of experience in international relations and national security issues, the government of Armenia:

  • closed its eyes to the incompatibility of Armenian-Turkish-Azerbaijani strategic interests in the foreseeable future;
  • considered the role of history in politics as an anachronism;
  • naively accepted Western developed states as impartial mediators and omnipotent guarantors of security;
  • perceived the development of the international political system as a singular and ascending movement towards “universal prosperity and liberty”;
  • as a result, viewed the issue of Artsakh and the liberated territory detached and apart from The Armenian Question.
Unfortunately, these defects have not been fully overcome until now. Let’s enumerate the decisive directions which Armenia’s current Foreign Policy has inherited from the former rulers.
  1. Since 1990s, the RA has neglected the existence and essence of The Armenian Question, its territorial nature, believing that independent Armenia can survive on the former 29800 sq. km. territory of Soviet Armenia or, at the most, together with the territory of former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomus Oblast (NKAO). Both the first and the second presidents of Armenia and their administrations have publicly declared the liberated territory of Armenia outside the borders of the former NKAO, with the exception of the Lachin corridor, a subject for compromise.
  2. The massacred western part of Armenia has completely been buried in oblivion to such a degree, that ambassadors of the newly independent RA can designate this lost area of our fatherland with the Turkish term “Anatolia”. No state level or state commissioned discussions and expert analysis have been conducted concerning land, material, legal-political, cultural or other strategic compensations. The issue of Western Armenia has long ago become taboo in Republic of Armenia’s state policies, which has been reflected in the sterile document on “National Strategy of the RA”, adopted in February of 2007.
  3. Both former and new governments of the RA show an ardent desire regarding the opening of Armenian-Turkish border, without having or developing any defensive mechanisms in the spheres of economic and national security.
  4. Both former and present authorities have completely been indifferent to mass emigration of people from Armenia. They have never regarded repatriation as a way to strengthen Armenia, have not done any organizational work or public outreach campaign about it, have not worked on relevant plans. Up to now Armenia hasn’t been proclaimed as the homeland of all Armenians, has never made a home-coming call to the Armenians spread all over the world (we haven’t even attempted to direct the thousands of Armenians emigrating from Iraq on the way to their fatherland). The regulation of relations with the Diaspora has been largely neglected.
  5. Both former and present authorities have been continuously saturated with an unfounded optimism that very soon the Armenian-Turkish relationship will enter into the period of normal development.
  6. A passive and complacent attitude has been adopted towards Turkish propaganda against Armenia in the international field. All too often Turkish leaders’ accusations against Armenia are met with inadequate responses. a) The effects of the 1915 genocide organized by Turkey, which has since occupied the western part of Armenia, undermine Armenia to this day. Turkey constantly refers to Armenia as an “occupier state”. Armenian authorities turn a blind eye, never stating that Turkey is the real aggressor, having usurped nearly 9/10th of Armenian territory. b) While Turkey constantly threatens Armenia, the latter declares that it supports Turkey’s admission to the European Union. c) At a meeting of Turkish-speaking states in Baku, on November 17, 2007, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan announced: ”The historical processes have at one time separated Azerbaijan and Turkey, and there has always been a border between us. Today we have a huge series of opportunities and we have to use them. The last 15 years have proved that nothing can stop us. We ourselves are the architects of our future.” The first part of this announcement is the typical dangerous falsification by official Turkey, which supports the Azerbaijani designs for territorial expansion in order to declare all of present-day Armenia, including its capital Yerevan, as Western Azerbaijan and “a historically Azerbaijani territory“. With the second part of the statement Erdogan hints at the existence of Turkish-Azerbaijan program to destroy Armenia. Yet, official Yerevan as always preferred not to hear anything and not to respond. Moreover, less than a month later, Armenia’s prime-minister stated in a “Financial Times” interview (11 Dec. 2007): “I don't think it's correct to say he's (Erdogan) not committed to establishing relations with Armenia...” d) Prime Minister of Turkey Erdogan had an article published in the Wall Street Journal (11 Dec. 2007) entitled “Congress and Armenia”, which remained unanswered, despite the wonderful opportunity given to Armenia to present and defend its point of view in front of the international public. The silence itself confirms that Armenian Foreign Policy is weak, and the work in that sphere is passive and of low quality. e) In its organized campaigns, Turkey has always connected the problem of Genocide acknowledgement with the regional strategic situation, explaining it from the point of view of its own interests. The RA never tries to remind the world that the consequences of the Genocide have had a terrible impact on regional security as well, and that the modern manifestations of Genocidal politics continue in Azerbaijan’s policy and are encouraged by Turkey.
Thus: since 1990s Armenia’s policy towards Turkey – as well as almost all Foreign Policy of Armenia – has mainly remained unchanging.
  • It has not been reviewed either immediately after the imposition of Turkish blockade, or during the 15 years of its duration.
  • Turkey’s extensive and provocative support for Azerbaijan during the Artsakh war of liberation as well as Turkey’s subsequent collaboration with the same ally in apparent preparations to start a new aggression against Armenia, have had no effect on Armenia’s Foreign Policy.
  • Armenia’s Foreign Policy has not been reviewed despite the year by year expansion of Turkey’s anti-Armenian propaganda on the international arena.
  • Even Turkey’s 16-year old refusal to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia has not resulted in any revision of Armenia’s foreign policy: a refusal, which, in addition to demonstrating explicit hostility, also demonstrates the Turkish unwillingness to accept the very idea of Armenian statehood.
  • Armenia’s Foreign Policy hasn’t been reviewed even after the regular threats against Armenia, made by top leaders of the Turkish State.
  • The providently unacceptable preconditions to the establishment of normal relations, proposed by Turkey, have not been powerful enough to change Armenia’s policy towards Turkey as well. Notice, that different preconditions have been put forth at various times, including: yielding Artsakh to Azerbaijan; rewriting our own history on the subject of Genocide and abstaining from Genocide’s condemnation both on the international level as well as in Armenia itself; formally ratifying the Moscow and Kars Treaties; placing the Meghri corridor under Azerbaijani control; handing over Abdullah Ocalan, who has never stepped foot in Armenia, to Turkey (1999); even giving up “nuclear weapons”, something Armenia has never possessed. It is likely that additional new and fabricated preconditions may arise in the future.
  • The Armenian policy has also not been reviewed following false and dangerous propaganda disseminated by Turkish and Azerbaijani officials about the non-existing links between Armenia and the PKK. Meanwhile Turkish-Azerbaijani deceitful assertions about having PKK bases in the republics of Armenia and Karabakh lay the groundwork for a planned military incursion. One of Armenian Foreign Policy’s incomprehensible shortcomings is the inadequate response to such falsifications and often the failure to answer them at all, as well as the failure to draw international public attention to them.
  • Armenian policy toward Turkey has not been reformulated even after the murder of an Armenian journalist in Istanbul: a murder, which, according to increasingly more credible opinions, was organized by the Turkish state apparatus which still attempts to conceal the traces of that murder until the evidence is destroyed.
  • Armenia’s policy has never shown any interest towards the fact that, as a result of that recent crime and the failure to bring to justice its real organizers, the Armenian community of Istanbul has been relegated to live in a terror.

In general, official Armenia usually explains its inexplicably yielding and passive policies towards Turkey and the Armenian Question as a realistic and pragmatic attitude, which has in turn only caused Turkish contempt and contributed to the continuation of Turkish pressures.

Those so-called realism and pragmatism are expressed in a series of simple and ridiculous statements. If Armenia makes territorial or other demands, Turkey will declare war on Armenia. In fact, Turkey has already declared war on Armenia in informational, psychological, ideological and economical spheres. Yet, Armenia plays ostrich, shutting its eyes to this reality. The only act of war Turkey has not undertaken against Armenia is military aggression. However, there are reasons for not taking that step, of which we can mention a few fundamental ones: the existence of their own problems, among which the Kurdish rebellion; the existence of an Armenia army; the Armenian-Russian strategic alliance; the presence of Russian troops in Armenia; Turkey’s desire to enter the European Union; the existence of the Armenian Diaspora. This, however, does not mean that the Turkish threat has disappeared once and for all. In case of international or regional instabilities Turkish decision makers may decide to attack Armenia, preferring the achievement of its long-term strategic aims to the risk of short-term international condemnation. In any case, Turkey can take such a step against Armenia whether the latter does or does not voice any territorial demands. It is worth reminding that in 1993 Turkey planned to invade Armenia, though the Armenian leaders of that time had clearly declared that they had no territorial demands from Turkey.

If Turkey satisfies Armenia’s demand of land reparations, then what is Armenia going to do? 15-20 million Kurds and Turks currently live on those lands. In fact, Turkey isn’t going to make any territorial concessions to Armenia in the near future, because it is still a strong and non-democratic state. On the other hand, it is not able to increase the pressure on Armenia since all possible methods have already been attempted and applied. Meanwhile, our well-defined demands for land reparations may force Turkey to make some concessions, even if considered against the backdrop of the Artsakh liberation struggle and of other territories in eastern Armenia. The future will show whether we will be ready to accept those concessions. Meanwhile territorial demands will by no means do any harm, and, on the contrary, will strengthen Armenia’s position in the process of current negotiations regarding Artsakh.

Many states have active territorial disputes and decade-long land problems between each other. Some of the more famous conflicts include: Turkey-Syria, Turkey-Greece, Turkey-Cyprus, (soon Turkey-Iraq is also possible), Israel-Syria, Israel-Lebanon, Israel-Palestinians, Syria-Jordan, Syria-Lebanon, Iran-The United Emirates of Arabia, India-Pakistan, India-China, India-Nepal, India-Bangladesh, Indonesia-Bangladesh, Indonesia-Australia, Russia-Japan, Russia-Estonia, Russia-Latvia, Russia-Norway, Russia-China (this centuries-old argument was mainly solved by the contract signed in 2005), China-Mongolia, Canada-Denmark, France-Madagascar, France-Mauritania, Spain-Morocco, China-Taiwan-Vietnam, Philippines-Malaysia, China-Taiwan-Japan, China-Northern Korea, Japan-Southern Korea, Argentina- Great Britain, Great Britain-Spain, Morocco-Western Sahara and so on.

As we see, these conflicts include all kinds of states: big and small, strong and weak. However, none of them would even consider simply dismissing or relinquishing their rights or demands for land (as, unfortunately, the leaders of the Republic of Armenia do), because all of them realize the consummate strategic significance of territory. Very often economic, political and cultural relationships develop in parallel between such two states. For instance, Syria has quite highly developed relations with Turkey: but it decidedly continues to consider Alexandrette (Iskanderun) as part of its own territory, despite its 1939 annexation by Turkey.

Realism and pragmatism demand that the Armenian authorities develop and adopt a new policy towards Turkey, which should be based on the acknowledgement and acceptance of The Armenian Question. Currently the Armenian question hasn’t been resolved either by the Moscow and Kars Treaties (both signed in 1921), or by any other treaty signed after the fall of USSR, which is evident in the current unsteady strategic, legal and political conditions. None of those various agreements fulfil their diplomatic potential nor can they do so until the Armenian Question – the problem of the security of Armenia’s borders and guarantees for a viable Armenian state – is resolved.

ARMEN AYVAZYAN, PhD Director “Ararat” Center For Srategic Research

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