Mensoian: The Roadmap to Normalization Is a Roadmap to Oblivion for Armenia

The “roadmap to normalization” is a roadmap to oblivion for Armenia. Secrecy in the ongoing negotiations may be necessary, but given the advantage that Turkey enjoys and the strident comments made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul, and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Babacan, the only conclusion that can be reached is that the negotiations are not beneficial for Armenia.

Turkey still persists in demanding preconditions which, if accepted, would be a tacit admission by Yerevan that genocide recognition and Nagorno-Karabagh’s continued independence will not stand in the way of normalizing relations. For sure, Turkey will not budge on the genocide issue and will not forsake its ally Azerbaijan. Both Ankara and Washington know that Russia is standing in the wings ready to do whatever it can to bring Azerbaijan within its orbit. The Nabucco gas pipeline project has evidently been approved by all participating nations. Eventually, gas supplies from Central Asia will be pumped beneath the Caspian Sea to be sent through this pipeline to the European Union. Armenia will have no part to play in this new economic endeavor. Having a fairly accurate sense as to what normalization may cost Armenia, what are the benefits that Yerevan believes it may obtain?

The opening of the border will result in a significant increase in traffic. Unfortunately, it will primarily be a one-way flow of goods from Turkey to Armenia. How Armenia, with its US $18 billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP), expects to compete with Turkey’s US $800 billion GDP is difficult to imagine. Eventually, Armenia will not only become part of the Turkish domestic market, but it will be dependent upon Turkey for much of its manufactured goods. A related development could well be a rise in unemployment and a decrease in productivity since Turkey is better positioned to expand its production facilities and attract the necessary labor. In addition, a real possibility exists for Armenian entrepreneurs to migrate to Turkey, where economic opportunity should be greater than in Armenia. Given the volume and variety of goods stamped “made in Turkey” that will flood the Armenian market, there will be an imbalance of payment situation—with Turkey becoming the creditor nation. There are few goods or commodities
produced in Armenia that are not produced in greater quantities in Turkey, which limits any significant flow of traffic from Armenia to Turkey. Is this what Yerevan believes will be a benefit derived from normalization? Within a relatively short time, the Armenian dram would most likely lose its value as the currency of choice, being replaced by the Turkish lira.

 Any potential the Armenian economy currently has would be limited since its development will be determined by Turkish entrepreneurs who will be influenced by Ankara’s political objectives vis-à-vis Yerevan. Normalization will not remove the existing impediments hampering the Armenian economy. Of greater importance, potential initiatives that are vital if Armenia’s economy is to develop will be hampered by its economic domination by Turkey.

Politically, Armenia will retain its independent status. However, its initiatives in the international arena will be influenced by Ankara. To borrow a term from the distant past, the president of Armenia will be no better than a satrap. With respect to Nagorno-Karabagh (historic Artsakh), its future will be bleak. As a precondition, Armenia is being asked to sacrifice the de facto independence of its brothers and sisters. This would be a travesty should Yerevan agree. The 7,000 azatamartiks (freedom-fighters) are no less martyrs than the 1,500,000 innocent Armenian men, women, and children who were slaughtered during the genocide carried out by the Ottoman Turkish government and the Ataturk Turkish government. Can there be any justification for Yerevan abandoning Karabagh? For abandoning the martyrs of the genocide?

In 15 years, the Karabaghtsis have overcome obstacles that many thought were insurmountable. They have developed a democratic government while Azerbaijan maintains a Soviet-style autocratic government. In 1923, Armenia had no say when the Bolsheviks forced the separation of historic Armenian Artsakh and Nakhichevan to Azerbaijan. To allow Artsakh to revert to Azeri control again is unconscionable. This may well be the moment when it is absolutely necessary for Armenia to decide whether it will become a compliant neighbor or accept the challenge, daunting as it may be, to protect its future and the independence of Artsakh as well. One may say this is easier said than done. Agreed. However, normalization will reduce Armenia to a vassal state. How will this differ from the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia?

No one should fail to see the duplicitous nature of United States foreign policy with respect to Armenia. The present Democrat administration supports Turkey’s entry into the European Union. It suggests that Turkey should have a role in bringing the Karabagh conflict to an end. It supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. And just recently, aid to Armenia in the budget year for 2010 was reduced while aid to Azerbaijan was increased. As it is said, when you know that the cards are stacked against you, only the fool continues to play.

Leaders of our advocacy organizations have misread the political landscape once again. The emotional issue of genocide recognition is not the battle that should be fought at this time. While the Armenian Caucus is working diligently to line up additional support for the genocide resolution, the “war” for Armenia’s future and that of Karabagh is being lost in the international arena. It is conceivable in the Machiavellian world of international politics for the genocide resolution to be passed by the United States Congress and reluctantly signed by President Obama, accompanied by an innocuous statement that Turkey would condemn with the proper amount of public indignation. Washington and Ankara could well have discussed this possibility notwithstanding the usual pressure from the pro-Turkish lobbying organizations. The price Turkey would extract from the Obama Administration would be its support in the ongoing negotiations with Armenia and the return of Karabagh to Azerbaijan. This would be Turkey’s reward while the geostrategic interests of the United States would be served.

With limited political capital, the Armenian advocacy organization in the United States must speak with a unified voice and pick the single battle it will fight. Genocide recognition is not the battle that should be fought at this time. The efforts of the Congressional Armenian Caucus must be utilized in more effective ways to bring immediate economic and military benefits to Armenia and to Karabagh.

How the negotiations leading to normalization will eventually play out can only be inferred from the public statements by Turkish leaders and the foreign policy of the United States. Once Armenia has accepted the conditions necessary for normalization, or whatever euphemistic term that may be substituted, Yerevan will have no valid reason to believe that Ankara will be motivated or even have the need to consider the legitimate issues that have separated the two countries. And what of those countries that have recognized the Armenian Genocide? Will they support Armenia, once normalization has been achieved, as it seeks to have Turkey consider the legitimate claims requiring restitution, reparation, rectification, and yes, recognition. Definitely not. Normalization is the end of Hai Tahd and it is the end for the justice that generations of Armenians have worked to achieve. Let’s not say this is a pessimistic view because it doesn’t comport with what we want to believe. It is an objective assessment of the situation based on the available evidence. Let us all hope that Yerevan will realize that normalization is not a panacea for the Armenian nation. If anything, it is detrimental to Armenia’s national interests and its future security.


Michael Mensoian

Michael Mensoian, J.D./Ph.D, is professor emeritus in Middle East and political geography at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a retired major in the U.S. army. He writes regularly for the Armenian Weekly.


  1. Actually,  neither Turkmenistan nor Kazakhstan have agreed to Nabucco, and without their gas there will be no pipeline.

  2. I definitely agree with your viewpoint. Armenia must not forget how many lives they have given to Turks, enough is enough.

  3. When considering  the effects of  The United States’ efforts in the Caucasus , “With friends like that, who needs enemies”?

  4. Yes, yes and yes.  This article says it all.  This is what the reality is.  Armenia needs to have an aggressive foreign policy, not a defeatist one.

  5. Yes, the foreign policy of our country (USA)  does support Turkey joining the EU. Then again, so does the current national leadership of Armenia and the previous Armenian administration.

    Of course, opening the border to the west will help the Armenian economy. Armenia understands that–the USA understands that–Turkey understands that and so does Azerbaijan. That why Azerbaijan wants it kept closed. If Azerbaijan believed opening the border and normalization would be the ruination of Armenia–Azerbaijan would have freed Turkey from its commitment and the border would have been openned long ago.

    In absence of evidence to the contrary, I am accepting the statements of Armenia’s national leadership that they are not abandoning NK.

    It seems to me, that Armenians in Armenia are for more supportive of opening the border and normalization with Turkey than those people of Armenian lineage living in California or Massachusetts or France etc..  Those recommending that the people of Armenia  tough it out–ought to move their bravado to Armenia.

     If the border opens and the Armenian economy strengthens, it is likely that diasporan dependence and influence will decrease. One can only wonder just how much this  factor lies at the base of the objections from diasporan political factions to opening the border.

    Keeping the border closed–keeping Armenia isolated–keeping Armenia a ward of diasporan genorsity and Russian economic support is the real formula for oblivion.

  6. There is no economical or scientific research/studies had been done to see what would be the “real effect” of opening the boarders could bring to Armenian’s economy, social life and for most important part “national security”!!!

    When government of Turkey “still” is in active denial of “Genocide”, Armenia “still” is engaged in active “war” with both eastern and western neighbors.

    No data for let’s say another 6 months exist for supporting the causes and the effects of “Boarder Opening”!…

    I’m wondering if Armenia’s government has any agenda on this important issue or they are governing a “country” on a “day-to-day” operation bases.

    All Armenian organizations (including ANAC, Henchkina, ARF, Ramkaver) “MUST” be involved with this at highest level possible since looks like Armenia’s officials have no clear vision.

    Diaspora Armenians can’t wait and love to see their home land refurnished with economical progress, but there is a price to be paid for. Also, Armenia’s progress is less burden on Diaspora which then could focus on their own internal problems. 

    So, Mr. Garabedian, with all do respect, please be more sencetive on your analyses when it comes to our effoert, energy, money and time.


  7. Armanen,

    I am American by nationality–that is a citizen or national of the USA. Five generations of our family have lived in the US. Two generations were genocide survivors and 3 born here.

    So, I am an American with Armenian lineage back to Khapert in Western Armenia.

    None of which  supports or detracts from the strength of the represented perspective.

    Tom, is right about the lack of comprehensive studies about the economic impacts of opening the border. Generally, it is accepted that an increase in the flow of capital and goods stimulates the economy. I see no reason for this not to apply in Armenia.

  8. H. Garabedian,
    The above article does a fine job of illustrating the dangers of opening the borders without careful analysis of its ramifications on Armenian society, economy and national security.  A few days ago an Armenian political scientist also gave an interview about the subject and reminded people that capital has no motherland, his point was that if we have open borders, some Armenian oligrachs (if not all) may decide to invest more in turkey since there is a bigger market there.  This article also makes the same case, which is quite legitmate if one stops to think about it.  In normal circumstances it would not be a big deal, but Armenia’s region is not ‘normal’ and as long as turkey does not admit to Genocide (I’m not even talking about making reparations), and we have a cornered and even more barbaric neighbor to the east, Armenia can’t believe that normal socio-political priciples apply to it.

    I would advise you to talk a look at related articles here, if you have not done so already.

  9. I don’t agree with any of the scenarios this article points out. The economy just doesn’t play out as described in the article. Many examples can be found with a little research. Yes it is true that the traffic will be mostly one way from Turkey to Armenia. With the heavy traffic there comes major capital, investments, projects, constructions and credits. If turkey wants to capitalize on the Armenian market first they have to increase the buying power of the consumer there. Banks will provide credits, Turkish companies will have to invest in distribution centers, service centers, constructions, manufacturing facilities, and factories to cut down on transportation costs etc. Real estate values will double if not triple in the main areas. Do you think people from Turkey will relocate to Armenia to take advantages of all the jobs these activities will create, I don’t think so. Unemployment will be the lowest Armenia historically ever experienced. People will make more money than they ever did and they will turn around and spend it by buying things. If Turkey and Armenia establishes strong ties with trust where neither side is worried about investing in each other, I believe Armenia can quadruple its GDP under 10 years. You can see many examples of this scenario studying other regions.

  10. Jason,

    You are using a model that would seemingly work in the case of two normal countries and in a much less hostile region, not just in relations to Armenia but the conflict in Georgia and the Russian Caucasus.  What you say may be an outcome, but the point is that based on the geopolitical nature of the Caucasus, there should be an in depth study made by the RA government before we consider opening up the border with turkey.   And this isn’t even getting into the issue of turkish violation of international law by closing the borders, or the legality of the Kars Treaty, etc. 

    There are few Armenians that wouldn’t want Armenia’s economy to develop the way you outlined above, but it’s a very complex issue and the RA government, if it has not done so already, needs to do research and make it available to the public before any border openings.

  11. I guess our friend Mr. Jason Kopeczk with much of regret lives in Disney Land or very smart individual, which in my opinion the second one, is more valid.
    What do you mean by saying “If Turkey and Armenia establishes strong ties with trust where neither side is worried about investing in each other” Are we talking about regional politics or a local college football game! Since when, and please illuminate us with examples in that region when “Political Trust” worked! You need to study the region history, politics, economics and politics before getting to investment and banking. Armenia’s main and always MUST #1 issue should be “National Security” then life and health of the people of Armenia, as well as on the prospect of sustainable development for the country will follow.
    Again, I can’t be more agreeing with the main article and follow-up of Armanen, excellent analysis.  If, we learn to listen and learn, willingness to respect our differences, in addition to educating ourselves and others, then we are in the path of salvation.

    Thank you ALL for sharing your opinion since it adds to my knowledge.
    Also I like to share recent article written on “economist” magazine, if you have not seen it already:

  12. The economist is over rated and has a pro turk bias.  I do not pay much attention to what they have to say.  At one time they were a libertarian newspaper, now it’s something else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.