Armenian News Network / Groong

Review & Outlook - 01/09/2017

In Pursuit of Armenian National Interests

Armenian News Network / Groong
January 9, 2017

By Grigor Hakobyan

For the past twenty six years Armenian strategic thinking in Armenia
and diaspora was mostly reactive rather than proactive, static rather
than flexible.

Politically Armenia failed to register significant gains in its
foreign policy and ended up significantly isolated in various
international forums. Furthermore, Armenia lost its strategic
significance in the eyes of the international community and became an
irrelevant actor in the region. Thus the time has come for Armenia to
reassess its national interests and play a pro-active role in the
region and abroad that will enhance its national security, improve its
economy and make Armenia matter in the region.

Politically, Armenia has a non-existent Ministry of Foreign Affairs
that has failed to accomplish anything of significant value leaving
Armenia isolated (both economically and politically) and with little
strategic value in the eyes of the international community. Its
non-existent foreign policy and instinctive reliance on Russia have
limited the scope of its maneuvers and made Armenia an irrelevant
actor in the region. Major economic projects are circumventing Armenia
while very little investments are made to develop new projects that
include Armenia.
Instead of finding its own sources of funding to implement such
projects, the Armenian leadership relies heavily on foreign sources of
financing which puts Armenia in a precarious position considering that
foreign funding generally comes with strings attached. Some of these
conditions have the potential to undermine Armenian security and
prosperity in the mid to long term. Furthermore, if the widespread
corruption within the Armenian government is not eliminated or
significantly reduced the expected public benefit deriving from these
projects will be negated and nullified.
In the military-political sphere, Armenia found itself in an
unreliable security organization where its supposed "allies" are
blocking the Armenian representative from taking a leadership position
according to its own articles of confederation, and they continue to
sell offensive weapons to Armenia's archenemy Azerbaijan. The
antagonistic role of Kazakhstan and Belarus toward Armenia in the
Collective Security and Treaty Organization (CTSO) has undermined the
organization's capacity to serve its purpose and made it into a
platform for Azerbaijani propaganda.
Indecisive Russian leadership within the CSTO and its own complicity
in arming and enhancing the Azerbaijani war machine discredits its
role as a reliable ally for Armenia and cannot be viewed as a neutral
intermediary in the OSCE Minsk Group. Russia's ill-conceived attempts
to bring Turkey to the negotiation table as an intermediary for
resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict further undermines its
role as the "ally" that Armenia ascribes to it. As long as Russia
continues to arm Azerbaijan it cannot be and should not be treated as
a reliable ally for Armenia but rather a dubious partner that appears
to be vested in the continuation of the conflict.
Furthermore, lack of any action by the CSTO outside of weak public
criticism toward Azerbaijan in light of the Azerbaijani military
incursion into the Republic of Armenia, one of its allied members, on
December 29-30 of 2016 has further delegitimized the purpose of the
organization and revealed the sense of indifference toward Armenia
exhibited by Kazakhstan and Belarus. One can only wonder what other
ill-conceived surprises to expect for Armenia from its "allied"
members of CSTO.
Some may argue that perhaps it is time for Armenia to reconsider its
current military alliances in light of the facts presented above;
however, in most likelihood Azerbaijan will join CSTO and Eurasian
Economic Union as soon as Armenia leaves those structures. Later
addition of Turkey as it slowly exits NATO to the above mentioned
Russian led structures is also conceivable. Therefore, Armenia should
stay within those structures but for a different purpose: to deter
Azerbaijan and Turkey from joining CSTO and Eurasian Economic Union.
In the international arena, Armenia should come up with its own
proposition, a sort of "Yerevan Principles" to counter the
anti-Armenian Madrid Principles that prescribe the surrender of
liberated Armenian territories, an undefined status for the Republic
of Artsakh and deployment of unknown peacekeepers. As history has
shown from Bosnia to Rwanda, such peacekeepers will not be interested
in defending Armenians against Azerbaijani military onslaught.
In most likelihood they will stand aside and let the Azerbaijani
military slaughter Armenians in Artsakh or even take part in the
slaughter as was the case in 1992-1993 when Russian troops forcefully
deported Armenians from the Shahumyan Region and parts of Mardakert
while allowing Azerbaijani forces to engage in rape and murder of
Armenians left behind, and to actively engage in looting of Armenian
properties and personal belongings.
Such "Yerevan Principles" need to outline red lines that Armenia will
not cross: ruling out the surrender of any territories under Armenian
control including territories that were liberated during 1988-1994
war; international recognition of Artsakh as part of the Republic of
Armenia; etc. The nullification of the Treaty of Moscow and the Treaty
of Kars should be vigorously pursued, while the Treaty of Sevres needs
to be used as the legal basis for the conflict resolution.

It seems very obvious that members of Eurasian Economic Union would
prefer to see Turkey and Azerbaijan as its members rather than
Armenia. These are economies that are based on the availability of
vast natural resources and large consumer markets which Armenia
lacks. For all its purposes Armenia has a very limited amount of
natural resources, insignificant purchasing power and a very small
economy to present much economic interest for the other members to
pursue. Therefore, expanding Armenia's economy may require attaining
bilateral trade agreements with emerging and developing Asian, Latin
American and African countries that would most likely be interested in
products and services that Armenia has to offer.
Pursuing tariff-free bilateral trade agreements with the United States
and EU is another option to consider and should be pursued more
vigorously than before. Armenia's economy cannot develop quickly
without introduction of innovative new technologies developed in the
West. Armenia's IT sector cannot grow significantly without close
cooperation with leading Asian economies in IT and Robotics such as
China, Japan and South Korea. More effort should be made to attract
Asian majors such as Samsung, Hyundai, Panasonic, Toyota and others to
encourage them to open factories and service centers in Armenia.
Militarily, Armenia is irrelevant to the security of CSTO members,
especially for Kazakhstan and Belarus. In case of large scale war
breaking out between Armenia and Azerbaijan the probability for
Kazakhstan and Belarus taking part in the war on the side of Armenia,
as mandated by CSTO, are very slim to non-existent. Short of
neutrality, the opposite is more likely to occur. Thus relying on its
own military defense capabilities will be the right course for Armenia
to pursue. Adoption of the Israeli defense model, where women are
drafted into the military, may need to be considered as everyone in
Armenia should have basic military training and be ready for a bigger
war that may loom on the horizon.
Finding and cultivating additional security partnerships with regional
and extra-regional powers is necessary. Renegotiating the conditions
of Russian military presence in Armenia should be considered to derive
a greater security benefit from the arrangement. Enhancing
military-technical cooperation with India and Iran should be pursued
further. Heavily investing in the Armenian military industrial complex
is necessary and most promising for enhancing the security of
Armenia. Adapting the Swiss model of maintaining an armed population,
especially in the border regions of Armenia should be considered and
pursued, leading to the establishment of a National Guard made up of
residents of border towns and villages under the command of the
Defense Ministry of Armenia.
Armenia must make every effort to pursue its own national
interests. It is not about being pro-Russian or pro-Western, it is
about being pro-Armenian.

Grigor Hakobyan is an independent political analyst residing in
Phoenix, AZ, and a former ANCA Fellow in Washington D.C. He is the
founder of a virtual think tank called Ararat Institute for Near Eastern
Studies. He was also a freelance writer for the Central Asia-Caucasus
Institute of John Hopkins University and has interned in Congress for Rep.
Brad Sherman, researching ethnic conflicts and terrorism in Russia,
Caucasus and Central Asia. Grigor also completed an internship at the
International Center for Terrorism Studies of the Potomac Institute for
Policy Studies where he researched international terrorist networks
operating in the Caucasus and Central Asia, preparing congressional
briefings for the Director of ICTS on WMDs. Grigor holds a B.A. in
Political Science from Arizona State University.

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