In the long and winding road of human history, there has always been a classic battle between good and evil, between the oppressed and oppressor, between the victims and those who seek destruction. Armenian history has been a parallel path for the entirety of the ancient and modern civilization. It is clear that the oppressor rarely stops on their own accord. They must be confronted by those who stand on the right side of human dignity. This week we witnessed the first tangible attempt to stop the wanton destruction waged against the Armenian people by the Turkic alliance. Russia, one of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and the traditional regional influence in the Caucasus, was able to convince PM Pashinyan and President Aliyev to send their foreign ministers to Moscow to negotiate a “humanitarian ceasefire.” In a contentious dialogue, both sides agreed to and signed on for a ceasefire to begin on October 10.
As privately predicted, Azerbaijan is continuing its uncivilized behavior of not honoring any agreement they sign. The ground assaults and artillery attacks on civilian targets began almost immediately and have unfortunately continued, forcing Armenia and Artsakh to defend themselves. For several reasons, this is a major red line that the Turks have crossed. It is widely known that Azerbaijan has abdicated a part of its sovereignty to Turkey for their military, economic and political support. Turkey intends to establish a major sphere of influence in the Caucasus as another element of their new-Ottoman ambitions. Russia may have something to say about this. The violation of the ceasefire brokered by Russia is not only the responsibility of Azerbaijan, but also is a clear message of defiance from Turkey. Apparently, Russia was not prepared for the Turkish response. Russia was hopeful of a limited but defined ceasefire as not only ending hostilities but re-establishing its control over the region. Turkey is playing a dangerous game with its proxy war in Artsakh. Russia has to be very concerned about the brazen import of jihadis from Syria and elsewhere. It wasn’t that long ago that Russia was dealing with a major internal issue in Dagestan and Chechnya as it relates to Islamists. Turkey has often mentioned the vast Islamic resources on the underbelly of Central Asia which is on Russia’s southern border. The question with Turkey is not their arrogance or expansionist thinking, but who will confront them. Both the west and Russia have tried the patronizing and pseudo-collaborative approach with disastrous results.
Turkey has played off the west against Russia for years with significant success. Turkey, a NATO member, has been increasingly feuding with Europe and the United States as it moves away from its secular past and democracy. Russia has filled the void by selling the advanced S-400 missile defense system to Turkey, thus making a mockery of their NATO membership. The response from NATO? A series of weak “concern” statements culminating by a recent visit by NATO leadership calling Turkey an important ally. NATO seems frozen by the boldness of Turkey as it operates as an independent rogue nation. Russia and Turkey are the opposite sides of the civil war in Libya with Turkish troops on the ground. Their relationship in Syria has been contentious as Turkey openly challenges Russian authority. The EU continues to dance around issues such as the violations of international law in the Aegean and threats to EU member states. The list of violations of human rights and law is long and the responses thus far are only encouraging Turkey. As Armenians, we are rightfully concerned about the atrocities committed against our nation, but the need to contain Turkey was clear long before the offensive began on September 27. Cyprus, Greece, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have all felt the nefarious intentions of Turkey. Any one of these could be grounds for violation of international law, war crimes or at the very least violating the terms of a committed alliance. Now in addition, Turkey transports jihadists to the Artsakh front, introducing a danger variable not just for Armenians but for the general stability of the region. Even if the west and Russia have little concern for Armenia and are bound by self-interest, stopping the Turkish expansion would be in their interest. How many times have we ignored aggression because of inconvenience or distractions only to have a much bigger problem down the road?
What is the solution? It is obvious that bold steps are needed. As we speak, Armenia and Artsakh have lost over 500 brave souls who only wanted to live on their land in peace. Thousands of civilian buildings have been damaged or destroyed due to the constant shelling of non-military targets designed to rattle our people and destroy what they cannot conquer. Azerbaijan has clearly failed, but the price has been high for Armenia. The military operations have not ended, and the rebuild will be major. From an Armenian perspective, there are several noteworthy actions. The unity of the diaspora, Armenia and Artsakh has been heartwarming. The diaspora has two major responsibilities: raising funds and influencing the important third parties in their respective host countries. Over $175M has been raised, but we will need at least $1B.
The Armenia and Artsakh we dream about is at stake.
In order to accomplish that need, we must change our thinking from “one time” giving to continuous. If we give $500 to the Armenia Fund, for example, we should be thinking in terms of giving a similar amount on a regular frequency. Once will not be enough. It must be a part of our personal finances. The Armenia and Artsakh we dream about is at stake. Second, our ability to influence the media coverage, both in quantity and quality, is essential. We are the vanguards of the truth. The work done thus far is admirable but must continue. Finally, we need to invest more in our lobbying efforts. The ANCA and Assembly do fine work, but operate on thin budgets, and are not in a position to hire the large firms that can privately influence the thinking of key stakeholders or arrange “friendly” op-eds across the nation. We must beat the Turks and Azeris at their own game. If the diaspora delivers on these items, they will be making a substantial contribution to our national needs. At this point our role should be clear, and we must be organizing for the long term.
The way to stop Azerbaijan is to throttle Turkey. This is where the international community, namely the United States, Europe and Russia must step up. Instead of viewing everything in an adversarial manner, the west and Russia actually have some common ground on the Artsakh issue. It is in the interests of Russia, Europe and the United States to stop Turkey’s aggression in the region and to prevent jihadi mercenaries from entering the Caucasus. Russia is not happy with Turkey over Libya, Syria and now Artsakh. The west is furious over NATO betrayals, threatening NATO and EU members and the impact of instability. At the core of Turkey’s power is financial resources and economic leverage with third parties. Another advantage is counting on the ambivalence or tepid responses when they commit aggression. All is not well with the Turkish economy. Their lira is near a record low against the dollar and euro; unemployment is high and optimism is low. It is an appropriate time for military and economic sanctions on Turkey from the US, Europe and Russia. With the crippling effects of economic sanctions, Turkey will be forced to slow its aggression while its membership in NATO is reassessed. With the bully pseudo-Sultan in Turkey, it is obvious that he will continue his impetuous violations. The “sanctioning” nations need to look beyond their short-term economic interests (trade with Turkey, oil imports, etc.) and recognize that their inability to address these issues will lead to major problems.
The leaders of the world such as the US, France and Russia have a particularly important responsibility. They are three of the permanent Security Council members of the UN. They are also the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk mediation group for Artsakh. Their power also requires a sense of responsibility for the stability of our world. They are part of the checks and balances many smaller nations rely on. Their reluctance to act creates substantial risk for peace. This void allows evil intentions such as genocide to take place. It was a wise move by the President of Artsakh to call upon these nations to focus on the containment of terrorism as result of Turkey’s decision to import jihadists. Taking a broader perspective for Artsakh can only help our cause. Convincing them it is in their interests is essential.
When the negotiations eventually resume, there will be time for bringing Artsakh to the negotiating table and perhaps leveraging the recognition of Artsakh by Armenia. Now is the time to push for sanctions on Turkey and Azerbaijan, to reveal the war crimes and international law violations and to keep the Turkic alliance on the defensive for their atrocities. Armenia and Artsakh have defended their sovereignty and dignity with brilliance. They have earned the right to be on the diplomatic offensive. It is up to our own “alliance” of the diaspora, Armenia and Artsakh to articulate that path. We will do our part. The leading powers must do their part for stability and peace in this world. Thus far Turkey has not paid for denying three horrific genocides on the indigenous peoples of the land they now occupy. They are at it again. The tools are available to alter the path of this storm. This is no time for isolation. Find the will to overcome the geopolitical obstacles and sanction the aggressors. Lives are at stake.