A Master Plan? Russo-Azeri Strategy for Armenian Pacification

On Wednesday, June 30, St. Leon Armenian Church of Fair Lawn, NJ, hosted a virtual forum, A Master Plan? Russo-Azeri Strategy for Armenian Pacification. The event examined Russia’s role in the 2020 Artsakh War and across the South Caucasus in order to shed light on what is happening, what is at stake, and where Russian and Armenian interests diverge on fundamental issues. 

The discussion was moderated by Ara Araz. Panelists included Lilit Gevorgyan, security and political analyst at IHT, and Armen Kharazian, a former diplomat and principal attorney at Kharazian Law. The discussion probed the 44-day catastrophe and its aftermath within a wider context of Russo-Armenian relations and shifting geopolitical currents across the South Caucasus. Gevorgyan and Kharazian discussed the alignment of Russian and Azeri interests behind Azerbaijani state-building and economic regional initiatives, to the detriment of Armenian sovereignty both in Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia. The discussion came at a critical time for Armenia and the diaspora, as Araz underscored, “It is critical that our community better understand the contours of a world where Russian and Armenian interests might diverge on fundamental issues and the degree to which racial hatred or the occupation and further pacification of Artsakh coincide with—but are not the sole drivers of—Azeri aggression and policy.” 

Lilit Gevorgyan

Gevorgyan poignantly emphasized the causal relationship between Armenia’s diplomatic isolation and over-dependence on Russia for its security and economic interests and the current security crisis facing Armenia today. Gevorgyan pointed out that the Russia-propped security status quo was failing prior to the 44-day war – something that was further exposed during and after the fighting. Armenia’s over-dependence on Russian security measures could be attributed to its miscalculated desire to appease Russia, oftentimes sacrificing its own agency in the process, for fear of a Russian backlash that would threaten Armenia’s security and economic interests. While Gevorgyan noted that Armenia’s tendency to appease Russia has beyond doubt contributed to the dire predicament the country faces today, she also underscored that Armenia has found itself on the wrong end of a shift in regional power dynamics. Gevorgyan identified the 2008 Georgia war as a turning point in Russo-Azeri relations, as Russia sought to cement its position and influence in the Caucasus. The shift in power dynamics has also resulted in growing cooperation and an alignment of interests between Russia and Turkey in regards to Azerbaijan. Gevorgyan noted, “Russia is happy to deal with the West so long as the West is represented by Turkey… in the eyes of the Russians, Turkey has become an independent player and it is so independent that it is ready to defy the US and NATO, it helps to keep the West at bay in regional conflicts.” Stronger bonds between Moscow and Baku should be of grave concern to Yerevan. This warming relationship emphasizes the importance of Armenia regaining its agency that it has surrendered to the Russians following years of diplomatic isolation and reducing an over-dependence on Russian preventative security measures that have failed to live up to Armenia’s expectations.

Armen Kharazian

Kharazian, for his part, elaborated on Armenia’s urgent need to regain its agency and described how the country found itself in this precarious position. He touched upon countless missed opportunities that would have helped Armenia build up independent capacity, as well as failed policy choices that deprived it of one, such as handing over secure government telecommunications to the Russians in the mid-to-late 1990s. “We gave up incremental parts of our agency and core competences,” he stated. “We gave into Russian pressure to not build an Iran-Armenia gas pipeline with a large enough diameter that would have served a regional purpose; we surrendered ownership and management of the nuclear power plant and declined multiple opportunities from international partners, particularly the US, to build a new nuclear power plant. Armenia rejected opportunities to partner with Western companies like Cisco who wanted to help Armenia establish secure communication and networks etc…; any reasonable country would have seized on these opportunities. But we didn’t because we didn’t want to get the Russians mad and face repercussions from them, so we pleased them by giving them our agency, and the Russians were complicit in helping the Azeris take Artsakh.” Kharazian also blamed Armenia’s diplomatic isolation and its failure to build an equitable relationship with the west as a driving force behind the lack of support Armenia received from Western powers in the 2020 Artsakh War; Kharazian pointed out that Armenia even failed to request military assistance from the west during the 44-day war. This is consistent with Armenia’s track record of denying itself the critical capacity required to build agency. 

Kharazian added valuable insight on how Armenia might go about regaining its agency, stating, “If we are to get out of this situation Armenians need access to knowledge and modern technology not found in Russia, but in the West. Armenia continues to rely on a flawed understanding that if it keeps pleasing Russia it will be able to rescue what it wasn’t forced to give away as a result of the war, but the reality is it will have to surrender what it still has if we continue with the same flawed strategy.”

Gevorgyan and Kharazian will expand on this discussion in a follow-up event, Part II: Crisis in Armenia’s Russia-Only Security Doctrine. The event will take place on Wednesday, August 25th at 7:30 PM ET on Zoom and will be broadcast on the St. Leon Events YouTube channel.

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Viken Araz

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17 Comments

  1. I blame Pashinyan’s incompetence. It was too much for him to juggle both sides at the same time. Lack of experience did not help either.

  2. I have seen this opinion like presented in this article so many times. Unfortunately, it is not accurate.
    1. Europe has stated its desire to see Armenia use less nuclear technology, which is even more than just shutting down Metsamor.
    2. Sargsyan approached the West many times around 2016, and we have been involved with NATO to a degree since the Kocharyan era. This is just as much as Azerbaijan, yet the West appeases Azerbaijan.
    3. If Russia was behind this war, then why are the British benefitting massively from it? Such as Anglo Asian Mining and BP.
    4. We don’t depend on Russia only, since the Minsk Group already includes the USA and France, yet they did a terrible job during the war.
    5. The deal with Iran is always brought up, yet it has little to do with any of this. We have deep relations with them and Iran always supported Azerbaijan on the Karabakh issue.

    I really don’t know why the repetitive “Russo-Turkish/Azeri” line is repeated so often, since these people oppose each other for the most part. It doesn’t make sense that they are enemies everywhere except on Armenia. This is just an ultranationalist fringe obsession that has become mainstream due to the awful Cold War propaganda.

  3. Armenia today is hanging by a thin thread, ultimately because of the toxic fetish Armenians have with Americanization and Westernization. And that thin thread Armenia is hanging on for dear life is held by none-other-than Russia. So, seeing that Russians are holding Armenia’s life in their hands, what do Diasporan Armenians decide to do? They decide to aggravate Russians even further with mindless, nonesense such as this. And what does our NED/Open Society/British Council financed government headed by Nikol decide to do? They appoint Armen Mirzoyan, a professional Russophobe, to be the country’s foreign minister. Absolutely brilliant!!! All this fully explains why Armenia is where it is today. All this fully explains why Armenians have not gotten their act together in more than one thousand years. At this point, we Armenians are competing with Kurds and Afghans with our political illiteracy, hollow arrogance, cognitive dissonance, emotional handicaps and shortsightedness. Let Russians do with Armenia as they please…

    • Well said my dear fellow compatriot. You forgot to mention the appointment of another ardent russophobe, Armen Grigoryan, to be the head of Security Council. The guy has no experience at all in anything whatsoever. He has never had any decent job in his life and was involved in George Soros funded Transparency International. Based on the information presented in the article those two members of the panel,Lilit Gevorgyan and Armen Kharazian, represent the geopolitical interests if the West, and by saying the West we understand Turkey in our region. They keep on yapping about Russia standing behind the 2020 war without presenting a shred of evidence. The fact that a NATO member state was actively involved in that war with the rest of NATO being silent or approving, escpecially the British and the US, and the fact that all of Artsakh would be lost if it wasn’t for the Russians involvement at the last minute. But some of our compatriots, especially in the US, are so infected with the virus of Russophobia, that they are ready to believe any kind of nonsense as long as it says anything negative about Russia. And now, Serj Tankian, is announcing about the global release of that propaganda garbage that he has baked together with some other traitors. I was his fan for 25 years, but he is literally dead to me after November 2020. I had a tiny hope that he had been duped to join that foreign aided criminal act, they shamelessly call revolution. I hoped he would come forward and apologize, and tell the truth about his involvement, and admit his share of responsibility in those events, that consequently ended in a national tragedy. But it looks like neither he or his accomplices have any plans or desire to do so. It means that either they are brainwashed or they have a personal interest in it. It is just so sad that we have people among us who serve a foreign power to the detriment of Armenia’s interest and even a national disaster like the 44 day war isn’t a wake-up call for them. I haven’t lost my hope that a new leader will come forward and gather the right competent patriots around him and work to bring our motherland out of the abyss.
      Best regards
      Vahram Bagratounian

  4. I’ll add another thing.

    Lebanon and Georgia have both been strictly pro Western, yet have not seen much for it.
    Lebanon is on the verge of collapse since 2019 and it has not received much help.
    Georgia’s economy and social standings are barely better than Armenia’s. This is not enough to show anything.

  5. The West has never really been interested in Armenia. They’re far more interested in strategic pipelines in the region and oil/gas independence from Russia. For this reason they will always favor Azerbaijan and Turkey.

    Truth is, whether we like it or not, Russia has protected Armenia’s border with Turkey since 1991 otherwise we would have seen a Genocide rev 2.0 by now. The Russian army is also the only thing preventing the slaughter of 10s of thousands of Artsakh Armenians today. No other nation will do it. If we’re too stupid to see how our interests align with Russia’s in the region, in direct opposition to NATO’S and the west’s alignment with Turkey, then we only have ourselves to blame along with the paid agents that organise and speak at such conferences.
    Incidently, the new FM that nikol pashinyan just appointed was not only burning Russian flags a few years ago in Yerevan streets, he has been found to be an agent of the Turkish intelligence services, a fact he cannot and will not refute. Go figure.

  6. I was raised thinking Armenians are intelligent. This is so embarrassing. How does this make Armenians any different than any backward third world nation? Lets say these western agents get their way and Russians leave Armenia who among them is willing to go protect Armenia’s borders from the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem? Armenia won’t survive a single day without Russia. What are you people trying to do?

    • 1st world – NATO.
      2nd world – Soviet Bloc.
      3rd world – everyone else.

      If you mean 3rd world in the modern sense then staying with Russia will surely get you there. Russia is an abusive partner, west is the way forward. You just need a competent leader making the right moves at the right time. First order of business, get stronger. You don’t need lands to be strong. Hook or crook gain technologies from the west and manufacture new weapons. Innovate and trade. If you became friends with Turkey you will tie up Azeri hands. The agreement will no doubt contain compremises. Its either this path or praying Putin woke up on his good side during conflicts.

  7. I just can’t believe what i read. You can easily think it’s been written by turks. Russia is the ONLY reason Armenia continues to exists as a state.

  8. Finally, an article where a rational Armenian can relate to, I have been exploring this for several years (and getting attacked for it) after I saw the FRAUD of Russia in 2016. And I said RATIONAL, not delusional Apparatchiks. So congrats on that Armenian Weekly, the ideas in this article is what needs to be explored and you need articles like this all the time so that our brain dead Apparatchik class can learn something, or at least disappear back to VK.ru or something (or maybe trend.az).

    Notice all the sudden Apparatchik onslaught of commentaries where they are completely absent on every other article. Only when their decrepit “Mother Russia” is attacked, they suddenly start running around like headless chickens trying to damage control and protect the reputation of Erdogan’s #1 fan, Mafia Boss of Mother Russia, Vlad Putin. Hilarious.

    What’s the matter Apparatchiks? This article hit a little too close to home?

    By the way, you have said NOTHING to negate this article or “prove” any of your nonsense ideas of Armenia needing to blindly engage in strict obedience without question to a poor, third-world place with a few advanced weapons it keeps for itself and hands over junk leftovers to Armenia and other clueless nations.

    • I’m not surprised you are here.
      Just to let you know, we’ve been seeing articles like this for years, and they never age well.
      Sasna Tsrer got only 1.8% of the vote months ago because nobody cares for their ideas.
      Stop using a straw man every time you comment.
      Nobody is worshipping anyone, we just saw how these conspiracies about “muh Russo-Turkish” are silly and based on nothing proven.
      There is always a job at the CIA if you’re bored.
      Or you can get a job working at the useless US Embassy in Armenia posting about surfing.

    • That’s funny, after reading and commenting a few years, I never came across an article like this, maybe “pro-west” articles, and that is not the same thing. First I have seen an article exploring the FRAUD of Russia specifically.

      Oh Sasna Tsrer got only 1.8%? Yes thank you for verifying how IGNORANT the people of Armenia are, brainwashed by Soviet idiocy for 100 years, not knowing and not caring when a piano falls on their heads, and voting for a loser who hands away lands and loses wars on purpose. Tell me something I don’t know. Your argument for lunatics to run the asylum is bound to fail, don’t you think?

      And you guys still haven’t answered my question I am asking again and again. If Russia is the great friend and “savior” of Armenia, then how come on day one of the invasion of Artsakh it did not announce that if Azerbaijan, Turkey and Alqaeda do not stop on day two and return to negotiations (like it has forced Armenia into since 1994), then Russia will recognize Artsakh as a free nation?

      And most importantly, how come after barking at Armenia that the status of Artsakh cannot be solved by war for two decades, suddenly “it got solved by war” when it favored Azerbaijan?

      Yeah I know, such question cannot be answered without making “Mother Russia” look bad, that’s why even members of the so-called Armenian “government” cannot ask such questions unless they want their lives to be put in danger.

  9. I think it’s best to ignore Zrtir Lao. His take on political matters pertaining to Armenia and Russia is fully inline with that of Turks. I don’t know if he even realizes it but everything Turks want us Armenians to believe about Russia or Russians is what he believes in. He therefore regurgitates Turkish talking points every time someone here has the commonsense or the patriotism to defend Armenia’s crucially important strategic alliance with Russia. Maybe he will come to his good senses one day and realize how Turkish he sounds. Maybe he won’t. Judging by his personality, I am pretty sure he won’t.

    • So yeah how come Russia didn’t say anything to stop the war? Why does Russia arm Azeri’s? Why did Russia wait to intervene? Why did Russia give away Armenian lands time and time again? Why won’t Russia allow Armenia to grow (blocking pipelines, etc)? I can just imagine the Russian national anthem playing in your background. Man how do you idolize a guy who plants car bombs and poisons enemies aboard? Even our Sultan doesn’t do that, he just has red notices issued via Interpol and conducts a few kidnappings.

    • I agree with you.
      Zartir Lao just called the people in Armenia idiots because they did not vote for a “political party” that caused a terrorist attack in 2016.
      By the way, what is “Soviet idiocy”? The belief in a fair economic system? Internationalism?
      Or maybe Zarir Lao doesn’t realize that we are as capitalist and ultra nationalist already, unfortunately.
      Russia did not “bark” at Armenia, since we kept more land than we needed for 30 years. They offered peacekeepers and a return of surrounding territories for at least a decade, but we refused..
      You may want to ask The USA why its two closest allies in West Asia, including NATO Turkey, were involved in a war against a country that is not hostile to it and hosts its second largest embassy worldwide. Al Qaeda was not involved in the war.
      Lastly, Russia, along with France and the US, has stated that the conflict is not resolved, so you just made the last part up out of thin air.

  10. I don’t understand why this is so hard to understand but let me try to set the record straight. Russia is indeed Armenia’s one and ONLY ally in the world but Russia was NEVER on Armenia’s side regarding the 7 territories Armenians occupied outside of the internationally recognized borders of Nagorno Karabakh. For 30 years Moscow and Western powers have been telling Armenians to respect international law pull back from lands that officially belong to Azerbaijan. For 30 years Russians have been saying Nagorno Karabakh has the right to exist independently of Azerbaijan but Armenia does not have the right to takeover land that the international community recognizes as Azerbaijan. For 30 years Russians were asking Armenians to allow Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno Karabakh. We would have gotten all of Nagorno Karabakh PLUS a 20 kilometer wide Lachin corridor the territory to Armenia. We said – NYET! We thought we were special. We thought we were mighty. We were neither. Eventually a NED (i.e. CIA) sponsored tabloid journalist by the name of Nikol Pashinyan came to power in 2018 and turned Armenia into a pro-Turkish and pro-Western globalist cesspool. So, when Azerbaijan took the opportunity to start the war, Russia took the opportunity to teach its belligerent Armenian ally a hard lesson in geopolitics. With President Putin’s help, Nikol could have stopped the war on October 19, when Hadrut and Shushi were still in Armenian hands. Nikol however refused to stop the war. President Putin essentially said ok, continue. The war continued and Armenia’s Nikol led military lost large amounts of lives and territory every single day. And just when Stepanakart was in danger of falling Russia intervened.

    Nevertheless, had it not been for Russia ALL of Nagorno Karabakh would have fallen to Azerbaijan. Had it not been for Russia ALL of Armenia would have fallen to Turks long-long time ago. So, in the end, Russia got what it wanted. Good for them. Had we Armenians fully appreciated the importance of Armenia’s alliance with Russia and truly understood the nature of geopolitics, we would have seen the writing on the wall and pulled back for the 7 territories, invited Russian troops into Nagorno Karabakh and put a stop to the invasion of Armenia by Western financed NGOs and activists. We Armenians are a wonderful people, an intelligent and talented people but, as the last three years have shown, when it comes to politics we Armenians are a bunch of imbeciles.

  11. Hopefully Armenia will come out the recent sharp experience with a more realistic view of Russia. It has been a support but clearly has never been or indeed could be a friend in the way that the USA has been to Israel especially after 1967 or choose to champion the Albanian secessionist cause in Kosovo in the 1990’s or the kith and kin type of relationship Turkey and Azerbaijan have for example… Its clearly easy to blame Pashinyan for the loss but the brutal truth is that Baku was playing the long game ever since the ceasefire – not a surrender nor peace treaty in 1994, something Armenians should have been paying more attention to rather than regaling in past glories from the previous conflict. The murderous attack on the parliament in 1997 set in place a rot. The balance of power had been shifting from the first conflict ceasefire, Azerbaijan with its vast oil and gas reserves had been with significant foreign investment been developing oil and gas pipelines (full bore not the narrow bore choice Moscow forced on its “ally” Armenia with its connection with Iran which could have been a more honest source of income rather than the discount from Russia which always has the dependancy and resentment issues. Although it would have had difficulty in gaining international support due to Irans pariah status and opposition from Turkey and Azerbaijan towards Georgia having such competition ) routes via Georgia and Turkey to the Western markets directly that would have been impossible when part of the Soviet Union only a few years before, (being dynamic and looking beyond the axis of soviet nations) and these funds being used to fund the B.T.K railway which combined with Georgia own issues with Russia had led to Turkey and Azerbaijan having more sway over them than they did in the previous years although some Georgians do have concern about their turkic neighbours being too dominant over them… Of course the petrodollars where used to finance the purchase and development of modern weapons including Russian ones to be used against Armenia something that led to disquiet about what kind of friends they were and Pashinyan taking power. Hence the carefully made plans that manifested in 2020 especially as Armenia had started settling people in the parts of Azerbaijan outside NK it held despite the balance of power becoming evermore uneven was reckless and doomed. It was czarist Russia who inspired Armenians to rebel in the WW1 and then faced the savagery without support, hence why many western Armenian diaspora view Russia with suspicions. It was the soviet union in its futile pandering – take note Mr Putin! to Turkey and mendacious divide and rule policies that assigned Arktash to Azerbaijan on the fraudulent grounds that it was more closely economically linked to Baku yet Naxchievan which must have been more closely linked to Yerevan than Baku was assigned to Azerbaijan on the kith and kin basis clear demonstration of the bias the soviet union engaged in. Their latter ham fisted efforts to regain Kars plateau from Turkey would drive them into NATO and the 1947 deportation of Azeri people in Armenia to Azerbaijan and their recruitment of Armenians to settle from the diaspora served to further antagonise the sour relations between the peoples. As for comments about Pashinyan spurning chances in the 2020 conflict it was going so well for Azerbaijan despite similar death losses to Armenia’s they had little reason to stop without getting the totemic prize of Shusha. For the future if what remains of Armenian Arktash comes under full Azerbaijan sovereignty or perhaps a fudge of self administration then Armenia should no longer feel sentimentality bound to Russia and seek to improve its relationships with Georgia the way to the black sea and Europe (the difficulty is the controlling relationship Tbilisi has with Azerbaijan and Turkey) and Iran the way to Asia and the Indian ocean (the difficulty is Iran pariah status) and better cooperation with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

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