Does Armenia Need a Foreign Policy? By Armenia’s First Ambassador to the United States and Scholar at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
WATERTOWN, Mass.—The Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Eastern Massachusetts is pleased to announce the third lecture of the Mikael Varantian Lecture Series, launched in early 2016. Ambassador Rouben Shougarian, will present his latest book Does Armenia Need a Foreign Policy? at the Armenian Cultural Foundation (441 Mystic Street, Arlington, Mass.) on Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Does Armenia Need Foreign Policy? —a paraphrase of Henry Kissinger’s famous title, is an attempt to look above and beyond traditional political thinking in Armenia and Diaspora during the twenty-four years of independence. Crucial moments of the recent state- building process are presented in the context of the relations with Russia and the rest of the world, Turkey included.
Three consecutive phases in the contemporary history of Armenia’s foreign policy are analyzed in their relation to the concept of sovereignty and the chance to create geopolitical alternative for the country’s future. The factors of timing and proper sequence of taking important diplomatic steps for a small, land-locked, security- conscious country are considered in the light of Armenia’s relations with Russia and the West.
What are the necessary conditions for political pragmatism to prevail in a complex equation with traditional national ideology that is based on collective memory? What kind of civil society needs to be built to implement such a policy? Is cleaning of the house a necessary precondition for being able to create a dignified alternative in foreign policy? Is past a prison, where the Republic of Armenia is confined for life with no hope of escape? Can Armenia’s foreign policy graduate beyond the limits of the two most important issues on its agenda, the Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh/NKR) conflict and the relations with Turkey? Is present a prison too? Is Armenia’s long-term future a hostage to a short-term survival? What was not done and what could still be done both by Europe and the United States, and, more importantly, Armenia, to strengthen its sovereignty and secure a comprehensive, dignified return to the international community? Are there any remaining safe routes from the near abroad to the New Neighborhood? What would the wish list of Armenia’s foreign policy look like were it not for the perceived and real security threats? Could these threats be permanently averted once the Karabagh conflict has been resolved and the relations with Turkey have been normalized? These are open-ended questions that in our day and age matter not only for Armenia, but also for the future of the South Caucasus region at large.
Throughout his career, Ambassador Shougarian has had numerous public appearances, talks and lectures at leading US, European, Middle Eastern and Russian academic and policy institutions. He has published extensively on conflict resolution, regional cooperation and the new geopolitical identity of the Black Sea/South Caucasus region. Ambassador Shougarian is also the author of two books: West of Eden, East of the Chessboard (2010) and The Politics of Immaculate Misconception: The Ides of the Post-Secular Age (2013).
He has previously served as Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister (1999-2005), Ambassador to Italy, Spain and Portugal (2005-2008), and Armenia’s first Ambassador to the United States (1993-1999). He also served as a senior staffer for the Armenian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs (1991), and a senior foreign policy aide and spokesperson for President Ter-Petrossian (1992).
Currently, Ambassador Shougarian is a scholar/lecturer at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He holds an MA with honors from Yerevan Linguistic University (1985), and has completed post-graduate studies in philosophy, theory of culture and aesthetics at the Yerevan State University (1989).
The program is co-sponsored by the Gomidas Institute, an independent academic institution dedicated to modern Armenian studies and research.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
The main goals of the ANCA are: to foster public awareness in support of a free, united and independent Armenia; to influence and guide U.S. policy on matters of interest to the Armenian American community; to represent the collective Armenian American viewpoint on matters of public policy, while serving as liaison between the community and their elected officials.
Named after Mikael Varantian, one of the luminaries and intellectuals of the Armenian independence and renaissance movement of the late nineteenth century, the series will feature informative talks and panel discussions to help inform, discuss, and articulate current geopolitical events in Armenia and its neighboring region. In light of the ever-changing developments in the political landscape of the region, and cognizant of the 25th anniversary of the rebirth of the Republic of Armenia, better understanding of the dynamics of the dominant powers and shifting alignments of the interested parties will shed light onto and help formulate the participatory strategies of the Armenian nation, and its greatest resource, the Diaspora.