Why Pashinyan has to go

Armenia’s snap elections are fast approaching on June 20, and they may literally determine whether Armenia continues to exist as an independent state or is partitioned by its surrounding states. With hundreds of Azerbaijani troops having recently encroached into Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces, this danger is already beginning to unfold. 

It should be clear, then, that the most important priority in Armenian politics at this point is national security. Not removing church history classes from Armenia’s schools. Not doling out millions of dollars of bonuses while the government can’t even get its drones to an exhibition. Not the boogeyman of corruption, which seems to be about eight parts libel and slander built upon two parts truth. National security. 

Then, when determining who to vote for in these elections and who to encourage your relatives to vote for, ask yourself, who can best provide for the national security of Armenia? By this standard, the very worst candidate with a chance to win, the one whose election may spell the end of Armenian statehood, is Nikol Pashinyan. The remainder of this article will outline a number of the most salient, and somehow, still unexplained, blunders made by Pashinyan and his regime during the 44-day war. 

Armenian Missiles and Azerbaijani Airfields

The first blunder is Armenia’s apparent underutilization and misuse of its missile arsenal against Azerbaijani military airfields. Armenia had at least four types of rockets/missiles that had the range to reach Azerbaijan’s military airfields and help to neutralize the aerial threat: Smerch, Scud, Tochka and Iskander.

While Vahram Poghosyan, the spokesperson for the president of Artsakh, claimed that the military airport at Ganja was destroyed, the military airport in actual fact had not been significantly damaged. Why Armenia’s missiles apparently weren’t extensively used to target Azerbaijani military airfields and support Armenia’s air defenses to my knowledge has still not been explained, months after the end of the conflict. 

In a scandalous interview, Pashinyan suggested that “the fired Iskander did not explode or exploded only 10-percent, for example,” and then, after a response from the Russian Ministry of Defense, walked back his statement, claiming that he had been misinformed. During the same interview, in which he questioned the functionality of the Iskander missiles, Pashinyan suggested a potential explanation for why the missiles allegedly did not function, “Maybe it [the Iskander] is a weapon from the 80s?” The Iskander began military service with Russia in 2006

The fact that Armenia’s commander-in-chief, months after the war, didn’t know what decade his military’s crown jewel was from attests to his ignorance with regard to military questions. The fact that Pashinyan publicly badmouthed the Russian military industry, which is at this moment preventing Armenia from being wiped off the map by Turkey, attests to his diplomatic incompetence. 

And so to this day we still don’t have a response from Pashinyan as to why Armenia’s most advanced weapon or other long-range missile systems, which should have been a great help in neutralizing Azerbaijan’s drone advantage, were not used to do so. 

There are a few excuses that can be used to try to vindicate Pashinyan from the above criticism. One is that Azerbaijan could have used advanced missiles to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles and protect its airfields. 

There are a number of problems with this excuse. First, the Azerbaijani military failed to protect the city of Ganja from an Armenian missile strike, apparently carried out using Scud missiles, which are much older and less accurate than Iskander missiles. 

Second, even Saudi Arabia, which spends multiples more than Turkey does on its military, couldn’t save its oil facilities from Houthi drone and missile strikes. If much wealthier Saudi Arabia couldn’t save itself from Houthi rebels, is it likely that Azerbaijan would be able to protect itself from Iskander ballistic missiles? Similarly, Israel, with its Iron Dome system, failed to prevent Hamas from recently hitting its oil infrastructure

The Mobilization of the Reserves

The second blunder, according to former Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces Movses Hakobyan, is that Pashinyan halted the mobilization of the reserves on the third day of the war. Pashinyan later on Facebook also called for volunteers to organize their own units and pick a commander for themselves to participate in the war. This was total absurdity. When Armenia has tens of thousands of reserves who previously served in the military, a prearranged plan for mobilizing these reserves, and when according to Pashinyan himself, we were in the midst of a new Battle of Sardarabad, why was mobilization of reserves halted and replaced with a call for self-assembled volunteers?

One excuse made for this move is that this was a drone and artillery war, not an infantry war. While infantry may not have been very effective in the southern flatlands, the vital stretch from Hadrut to Shushi is a mountainous, forested area. 

Moreover, thanks to Vova Vartanov’s VOMA Battalion defending the town of Karmir Shuka, part of the town of Taghavard and the asphalt road leading to Shushi, the Azerbaijanis’ use of ground equipment was restricted in the battle for Shushi. Well organized and entrenched Armenian infantry protecting the stretch from Hadrut to Shushi could have radically altered the course of the war. 

The idea that “we had enough infantry” is also contradicted by the president of Artsakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, who repeatedly publicly called for reinforcements throughout the war and stated immediately after the war that there were not enough people to defend Stepanakert.

Further still, even if we needed only a small amount of infantry, then this small amount should have been drawn in an organized manner from the reserves, not from self-assembled volunteer units responding to a Facebook post.

The Armenian Military 

The next Pashinyan-produced catastrophe I’ll mention here is that Pashinyan, according to former President Serzh Sargsyan, did not employ the majority of the Armenian military to support the Artsakh Defense Army. Again, if this was another Sardarabad, as Pashinyan claimed, why did he send self-assembled groups of volunteers rather than the standing Armenian military to war? 

One possible explanation for not employing the majority of the Armenian military to Artsakh is that we needed them to defend against a possible Turkish invasion from the west. However, if this were true, then why were the reserves not totally mobilized? Does anyone think our standing army alone, without the reserves, would have been enough to defend against a Turkish invasion? 

With all of these baffling errors in mind, the excuse that Pashinyan only had two-and-a-half years to prepare for this war, while the former leaders had 30 years, rings hollow. If in 2018 Pashinyan inherited from Serzh Sargsyan four types of rockets/missiles that could reach Azerbaijani airfields, tens of thousands of reserves with military experience and a system to mobilize them, and a standing Armenian military, but then proceeded to gravely misuse or underutilize each of these resources, whose fault is that? 

It should be noted that the Armenian military by and large held against the Azerbaijani military in the northern, northeastern and eastern directions. Only in the southeast did the enemy break through, which led to their victory. Had Armenia thrown its full weight into this war, is it unreasonable to believe that the southeastern front could have been defended like every other front? 

Further still, if Pashinyan was not going to employ Armenia’s missiles to destroy enemy airfields, was not going to more fully mobilize the reserves, and was not going to deploy the majority of the standing Armenian military to reinforce the Artsakh Defense Army, then why did he not accept Vladimir Putin’s offer to end the war in late October? We could have avoided many casualties and territorial losses, including the city of Shushi.

If we were going to fight with two arms and a leg tied behind our back, then it should have been clear that we were heading toward devastating defeat, and Pashinyan should have accepted the late October ceasefire offer. From the available information, it seems that Pashinyan neither committed to wholeheartedly fighting nor used diplomatic means to stop the war as soon as possible to minimize human and territorial losses. Instead, we were caught in some strange and catastrophic limbo. 

If I were to provide an exhaustive account of the reasons why Pashinyan’s regime must be removed from power for the sake of Armenia, I would need to write a multivolume work. Since this is an article, I’ve outlined above a handful of the most striking reasons: the misuse of missiles, the botched mobilization of the reserves, and the lack of use of the Armenian military. 

At least on paper, Azerbaijan has the right to give the boot to the Russian peacekeepers who are preventing Azerbaijan from swallowing what is left of Artsakh in about four-and-a-half years.

On June 20, if Armenians do not vote out the walking catastrophe that is Nikol Pashinyan and replace him with a team that possesses military and diplomatic competence, then the existence of Artsakh, and then Syunik, and then the rest of the Armenian state and nation will be in danger of speeding toward annihilation. 

Gor Mkrtchian

Gor Mkrtchian

Gor Mkrtchian is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at Texas Tech University. He received a BA in political science from Yale University. Gor is also a contributor to the Mises Wire.
Gor Mkrtchian

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  1. Those who are able to vote in Armenia’s upcoming historic elections, or know people who are, please understand that former president Robert Kocharyan is Armenia’s last hope. Please vote or encourage people to vote for Kocharyan as the nation’s future is at stake.

  2. If Pashinyan had two brain cells to rub together he would have concerned himself with Azerbaycan’s drone purchases and reacted accordingly. Modern mixed air defence systems can be effective against UAV’s with it’s mix of guns and missiles. Majority of Armenian systems however were from the 80s which were built to search for larger signature targets (jet fighters, helicopters).

    Anyways Pashinyan’s actions made no sense to me from the above article to him going on stage and shouting unity to large crowds and then doing nothing about it. Alivey may talk a lot and do childish things after the war but at least he took the right action buy purchasing quick game changers (drones) and not spend tons of money on a handful of new Sukhoi’s to show off to the public. I will bet you good money that those fighters didn’t even have any ordenance to use other then a few air to air missiles.

    Pashinyan is a tool. The wife photo op was cringe too. New AK, helmet, some lipstick and go take some photos in a safe area. He announces major decisions without consultation via Facebook. Reminds me of Trump.

    Pashinyan is incompetent.

  3. What Armenia needs is ARMENIA. People who resist being a puppet for Russia and others. People who can believe in themselves and take matters into their own hands. Stop believing politicians. We have seen the attitude of Russia during the war and even before that. Search for “операция кольцо”. Besides, wasn’t it Kocharyan who agreed to the removal of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh as a negotiation party in 1998? …

    • What attitude? It was not their jurisdiction. This war was our loss for not taking the Lavrov plan into consideration. Quit blaming everybody else for our loss.

  4. You forgot to mention, that one of the reasons we have such an incompetent leaders at this momement is due to the 30 years of corruption.
    YES, NIKOL IS VERY INCOMPETENT, but this all is also due to the factor of robbery and mismanagement of his PREDECESSORS EQUALLY.

    And besides, Your article doesnt mention anything what would happen if this would become a full front war between Armenia and Azerbedjan?
    Do you think that then we would have any Armenia left?

    It has been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The same can be said for this.
    Removing a leader from power without addressing and changing the system that was in place during their rule will only mean that the same patterns will continue to repeat themselves, and a very similar leader will step into fill the position. A child who is taught hatred and prejudice from a young age will grow up to practice hatred and prejudice unless the system is improved and the cycle is broken. Talking about a system is simply not enough. If there is little or no understanding of the system, nothing will ever change.

    • I agree with most of your comment, but you have to stop with this “Russian puppet” nonsense. Nikol is not a Russian agent nor is he a Western one. He got lucky in 2018 and screwed things up on his own volition.

  5. Did we forget the assassination in 1999; did we forget the shooting murders of Armenian citizens when Roberto was president? A robust military is build in no less than a decade. The thieves never made an afford to make Armenia militarily independent, perhaps becoming the N. Korea of the Caucuses. Blame must go first on the thieves, and yes Pashinian must go, however Armenia had a sham for a military, period! If we had decent humans for leaders we would have created a space center in the mountains, invite top engineers (build our own ICBMs with nuclear warheads), invite companies to invest in the country (you want me to list the horror stories of how private investors were destroyed during Roberto and Sergio era), but when you had rampant thievery murders lawlessness investors ran and so did 2 million Armenian citizens to external migration ; how can you build a strong Armenia?

  6. Humankind is devolving. No one can think rationally anymore. Reality is Armenia would not survive ONE DAY without Russia. Armenia is wed to Russia for better or for worst.

  7. It’s plainly evident that the military was not used effectively at all. Anyone who still thinks we did not have the capability to defend ourselves did not understand the article. The only question is was pashinyan a total fool or playing the fool as part of a secret agreement with the enemy. I tend to think he’s just a fool and megalomaniac – God help Armenia.

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