My apologies…but the hypocrisy is frustrating

Let me start with two major qualifiers. I usually attempt to limit the emotion in my commentary, but as an Armenian, my frustration is peaking. We must also take a moment to extend our prayers for all the victims of this senseless carnage we are witnessing in Ukraine like a reality TV show. I try to advocate a pragmatic and rational approach to our problems in the diaspora and the homeland, but the core of my human frailties has been wounded. We need to rise above our self-imposed victim culture, but the isolation imposed on us by a disinterested world is devastating. I had an entirely different topic to offer this week, but I decided to postpone that submission based on the emotions of many Armenians toward this conflict. I resisted the temptation to weigh in, but the hypocrisy that impacts Armenians needs to be addressed.

It is natural and important to have empathy for the Ukrainian people as they see their nation invaded. Their resilience is admirable, and we should all pray for their security. We all have our opinions about how various governments operate on the world stage given the dynamics of geo-political alliances. Most of us know little about the leaders and their decisions other than what the media chooses to feed us. Aside from a repetitive and constant barrage with the advent of a 24-hour breaking news cycle, most of the coverage is from an endless litany of “contributors,” “consultants” and “commentators” who offer a wide range of perspectives. Like a restaurant buffet, we can choose our favorites and ignore the rest. I am happy that the Ukrainian people are receiving substantial coverage of the conflict and its causes, but my emotions are tempered by the hypocrisy of essentially ignoring the atrocities committed against the peaceful Armenians by the marauding Azerbaijanis and Turks. My emotions are not about Ukraine, but rather the hypocrisy of those third parties standing in support for democracy and freedom. When political considerations taint the consistency of human rights values, hypocrisy thrives. I don’t think I am alone in feeling like the person who applied for a job, had a superb list of qualifications and received overwhelming feedback only to be denied support in the final analysis. The purity of the process is tainted by other considerations.

The media (unusually united on this) and western nations have rallied around Ukraine based on the concepts of self-determination, freedom, democracy and human rights. These are all noble ideals that are tied to human rights and civility. Armenia and Artsakh have valiantly promoted these same values not just during the 44-day war, but for the previous 30 years as they struggled against a genocidal racist nation. At face value, it seems that the Armenians are worthy of the support of freedom loving nations. Self-determination—that’s what our entire struggle has been about. Freedom—a small nation attacked by a racist oppressor. Democracy— Armenia and Artsakh have been a bastion of democratic progression in a dangerous region. Human rightsArtsakh has been subjected to atrocities and been the victim of illegal weapons and war crimes. We can check the boxes for the perceived litmus test. Just as the job applicant was deceived, it is obvious there is more to support than morality.

A little boy in an underground shelter in Artsakh (Photo: Areg Balayan/Government of Armenia/Facebook, October 20, 2020)

The 44-day war was a humiliating period in our recent history. There were many contributors to this debacle with the internal capabilities of our leaders generating much attention in our communities. Perhaps equally frustrating was the inaction of the world community to live the values they advocate by coming to the side of Artsakh. Armenia and Artsakh became the recipients of empty words of support. The Armenians of Artsakh legally and peacefully applied for their reunification with Armenia or sovereignty. They defended their lives when unilaterally attacked by Azerbaijan. The artificial nation of Azerbaijan sued for peace yet violated every agreement over the next years in a terror campaign intended to break the resolve of the people of Artsakh. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were expelled from Azerbaijan in a campaign of premeditated murder, pogroms and deportations. The Azeris have committed cultural genocide in Armenian occupied territories. Despite this horrific human rights record and a lack of good faith negotiations, Azerbaijan has been rewarded by not being held accountable for their endless crimes. For an oppressor nation, this is a green light. Despite the more than ample evidence of their nefarious intentions, no deterrence was offered to protect the peaceful and civil party. Aliyev was thus enabled to attack Artsakh again in September of 2020 beginning the 44-day assault. The nations of the world remained spectators, and the media focused elsewhere.

Today, we watch with mixed feelings as European nations and the US unleash significant sanctions and secure arms shipments to Ukraine. While Turkey and Azerbaijan attacked the Armenians with illegal weapons, violated international law and imported jihadist mercenaries, the world stood by and offered consoling rhetoric. No one offered weapons, humanitarian aid or intervention with the exception of Russia. In fact, Putin was able to outflank the OSCE Minsk Group, chartered with mediation for Artsakh, and keep the western co-chairs on the sidelines. With Russia as the sole broker, the war was extended long enough for Russia to reach a deal with Turkey over Syria and teach Pashinyan a lesson not to stray again (the loss of Shushi). No help. Isolated and left to consume the rhetoric of western values, this is a role we have become far too accustomed to accept.

The one role that both small unsupported nations like Armenia and emerging players like Ukraine have in common is they are usually victims of proxy wars. The Artsakh conflict for Armenians is about long sought self-determination and survival, but the strategic issue that motivates the self-interest of the larger nations is the Turkic expansion in the Caucasus and Russian hegemony in their traditional backyard. Armenia and Artsakh become their political sandbox. Likewise, despite the talk about democracy and sovereignty for Ukraine, the real storyline is about drawing the line between the Russia expansion and the buffer of Europe. As a non-NATO country, Ukraine has been moving toward the west and has served as an effective buffer for Europe. Overtures of NATO membership for Ukraine have been a red line for Russia. The latter’s intention is to neutralize the western movement with a friendly government in Ukraine. Russia’s playbook has been predictable with the annexing of Crimea in 2014 and the de facto control of the eastern sections of Ukraine. Just as Armenia has a tradition of balancing acts in policy to maintain its survival, it is clear that an overt pro-western position in Ukraine has provoked Russia. It is noble of all of the western nations to encourage Ukraine, but they have no troops on the ground and will avoid direct military involvement. It is quite possible that this ends up with Ukraine having a pro-Russian government and the economies in Russia (and the west) are compromised. Our world today is very economically interdependent. It is improbable that sanctions will only affect Russia. Just as Armenia lives in a geopolitical reality with hostile neighbors, so does Ukraine as it is geographically positioned on the border of the east and west divide. This is a precarious reality that requires skillful positioning as each side will seek to influence the proxy’s direction. Extreme moves in either direction will draw a response. The lesser powers are not exempt from the self-interest of others. The fact that sanctions were not viewed as deterrents to the invasion speaks to the broader implications beyond Ukraine. The experience with South Ossetia, Crimea and Donbas should have been ample evidence of how Putin would respond to a perceived threat. It does not exonerate the aggression, but it was predictable.

For Armenians, the conflict in Ukraine is yet another reminder that the response of the world is contingent on self-interests. We are rightfully upset at the silence of the west for similar aggressions against the Armenians. Our indignation, however, is based on human morality and the rhetoric of empathy. Unfortunately, in our world of power and greed, they have little or no value. Despite the sanctions and supplies, Ukraine will also suffer because their value was not enough for Europe and the west to engage in direct conflict or prevention. The opportunity for deterrence has passed. Now the focus is on Russia to suffer through sanctions, but the onslaught will continue because power and egos are the governing elements. The empathy of the world will be forgotten, leaving Ukraine in a geopolitical dilemma. It will still border Russia and Europe, thereby continuing its role as a proxy conflict. We have a right to feel the emotion of isolation, but we must always maintain our empathy and opposition to human suffering. The frustration we feel must not prevent our prayers for the common citizens of Ukraine: the children, women, elderly and military who are impacted through no fault of their own. In late 2020, it was the innocent of Artsakh who were victimized by the inhumanity of an aggressor. Today, it is the innocent people of Ukraine. It is natural for us to feel frustration, but we must not let it cloud our values. We are dignified and civilized people. We must do better in understanding the dynamics of power particularly as it impacts us, but human empathy is part of our identity. As victims of genocide, we have this responsibility to speak against human suffering. The day will come for Armenia and Artsakh. We must be a vanguard for human rights.

Stepan Piligian

Stepan Piligian

Stepan was raised in the Armenian community of Indian Orchard, MA at the St. Gregory Parish. A former member of the AYF Central Executive and the Eastern Prelacy Executive Council, he also served many years as a delegate to the Eastern Diocesan Assembly. Currently , he serves as a member of the board and executive committee of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR). He also serves on the board of the Armenian Heritage Foundation. Stepan is a retired executive in the computer storage industry and resides in the Boston area with his wife Susan. He has spent many years as a volunteer teacher of Armenian history and contemporary issues to the young generation and adults at schools, camps and churches. His interests include the Armenian diaspora, Armenia, sports and reading.
Stepan Piligian

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  1. Unfortunately, the further a conflict is from Europe, the more disinterested the Europeans become. The Kosovo war was in the late 90s, after the 1st Artsakh war, yet they received recognition and Artsakh didnt.
    The second problem is that the leaders of Armenia have been old fashioned and lacking any real understanding of “public relations”. That’s why Azerbaijan has been able to get away with hiring jihadist mercenaries, destroying churches, beheading elderly civilians and soldiers, etc.

    • arabs were fly to bosnia kill christian serbians by help of west like they got killed armenians in lebanon and syria during civil war and pogroms 1950s-1990s nd present so who helped armenians nobody just like in 2020 we are alone.

    • If you have no assets to offer or oil, you can be used as a political commodity by someone with certain interests in the political campaign for the minds of the rest of humanity.

  2. All wars are tragic, but some are justified. Despite what CNN and BBC says, history will be on the side of Russia and President Putin.

    Ask yourselves: What would Uncle Sam do if Texas tried break free from the United States and made a military alliance with Russia? What would Uncle Sam do if China was to deploy troops and missiles in Mexico? What would Uncle Sam do if Russians were to deploy troops or missiles in Venezuela? What did Uncle Sam do in Cuba, Vietnam, Granada, Panama, Iraq, Serbia, Libya and Syria?

    This war was a direct result of expanding NATO to Russia’s borders, despite 30 years of complaints and warnings by Moscow. This war was a direct result of placing missile systems near Russia’s borders, despite 30 years of complaints and warnings by Moscow. This war was a direct result of fomenting anti-Russian Color Revolutions throughout former soviet space, including in Ukraine. Ukraine has been a hotbed of anti-Russian activity. Like what we saw in Artsakh, the separatist Russian populated region of Donbass was bombed for 8 years before Russians stepped in. This war was also a consequence of Western powers and their allies invading Iraq on false pretexts. This war was a consequence of Western powers and their allies mercilessly bombing Serbia, again based on false pretexts, and giving a major piece of it (i.e. Kosovo) to Albanian Muslims. This war was also a consequence of Western powers destroying Syria and Libya via Western-back Islamic terror groups.

    Western powers and their allies are responsible for a number of illegal invasions and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people since 1991. Western powers and their allies are also responsible for a number of bloody “regime changes” and “color revolutions” around the world, including Armenia in 2018, which led to the loss of Artsakh.

    It’s about time someone stood up and said – no more! Once again, that someone is the great Russian nation.

    I did not see the “civilized world” protesting when Artsakh was attacked. I did not see them protesting when Serbia was attacked. I did not see them protesting when Iraq was attacked. I did not see them protesting when Syria was attacked. I did not see them protesting when Libya was attacked. I did not see them protesting when Yemen was attacked. The “civilized world” with all its toxic organizations and institutions, along with their Ukrainian friends can go to hell.

    This war will end with Ukraine total capitulation in one to two weeks. Despite what Western MSN is trying to tell us, President Putin’s war effort in Ukraine has been brilliant. Despite the fact that Ukraine is one of the largest countries in the world and has a well armed and well trained military, around 25% of Ukraine is now in Russian hands. Despite what Western MSN is trying to tell us, all measures are being taken by the Russian military to lessen civilian casualties. Russians have even kept the lights on throughout the country. This restraint by the Russians is causing delays as well as Russian casualties. For their part, Western officials and journalists have been encouraging and inciting Ukrainian civilians to fight the Russian army.

    In other words, Westerners are doing their best to get Ukrainians massacred for a good “photo op”. And Zelensky is their Grim Reaper in this regard. In any case, Ukraine will no longer exist after this. They played with fire for too long. No tears for Ukraine from me. Let’s Russia do what it needs to do to that pro-Tatar and pro-Azeri hotbed of Western, Turkish and Israeli activity.

  3. Thanks Stepan, I red this article twice, It was a just, methodical, factual and passionate article.
    Hypocrisy of Western powers is not a new phenomenon, didn’t they wage a coupe detat against Dr Mosaddegh, democratically elected PM of Iran, didn’t they Killed numerous people including his Foreign Minister, Dr Fatemi, to re-establish an autocrat and gain control of Oil in the region. They were not, are not, and will not be interested in democracy. Unconscious or I will go further, Conscious bias that you alluded to “Interview example”, is deeply rooted in racist ideologies and mentalities of most western societies, if you don’t look like them, you are less human than they are. That’s about human right. About Self-determination, it has lost its meaning all together, even for their own citizens, let alone people of Artsakh. But I need to admit as an Iranian, we should have done more, we were extremely slow to wake up to the reality, it took us almost a year to draw a line on a sand and organize a drill to show the aggressor that his autocrat regime overstepped the mark by hundreds of kilometres. Especially after public opinion polls in Armenia about the level of trust about neighbouring countries and countries abroad, we feel guilty about not rushing to the support of Armenia, and at the very least stay at the middle and put the stop to the aggression, it was our place to do so, considering the hesitance of Russia at the time due to …. Too late to say sorry, especially after loss of lives of 4500 Armenian (Our brothers ad Sisters, our mates) and loss of land, and continuous aggression of Aliyev regime emboldened by lack of action from Russia and Iran. And lastly, Aliyev and Putin need to learn from history, history repeats itself, conquerors will be conquered, sooner or later. Conquer the heart of a nation and build trust which will last forever.

    • You and your Iran man.
      ” Brothers, sisters…” One is Orthodox and one is Shia, minimal cultural similarities, differrent origins, differrent regimes…

      List me how many agreements Iran has with Turks and how many they have with Armenia. Millions of Iranians moved to Turkey and brought property to get citizenship.

  4. ummmm…….thank you for your lecture. But you miss one simple thought….what did the people of Syria want? What did the people of Libya want? What did the people of Iraq want? Why did the Soviet Union fall apart? What did the people of the Soviet Union want? Etc. You argue that it really does not matter what the people of Egypt wanted…it was better to have a military dictatorship. I clearly remember the
    Cuban Missile Crisis…and how the U.S. responded. But that was the USSR placing missiles in Cuba without the Cuban people having any say (try talking about this with the Cuban community in Miami Florida) Tell me…What did the Ukrainian people want? Did they want to be “just like Russia” or “just like Poland”. By the way, who were the Rus (the villagers around current Moscow in 950 AD….vs what was the Ukrainian Kingdom like in 950 AD..honestly..which has the longer history. The west has made insane mistakes. But Georgia, Chechnya, Belarus, yes Armenia (whose side were the Russians on?), etc…Saint Putin isn’t an option here. I detest all war. Competent compromise avoids it. But it is the Ukrainian people who are on one side and the Russians on the other. It is they and only they that get to compromise NOT the U.S. or NATO. Open your eyes, see what the Ukrainian people are doing NOW and you will better understand that they don’t want to be like the Russian Republic. You and I are not voting. They are with their lives. Ignore the Ukrainian people and you can make Putin into a saint any time you choose. Otherwise you are on the wrong side of history

  5. Western governments are responsible for murdering over one million people around the world since the 1990s. Where was the global outrage and sanctions then? Where was the global outrage ad sanctions when Karabakh was attacked? What makes Ukrainians better than Armenians, Serbians, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis or Libyans? The answer is Ukraine was getting ready to host Western troops and develop nuclear weapons. Ukraine is to Russia what Karabakh is to Armenians. Russia complained abut this for many years. So Russia reserve the right to naturalize the threat from Ukraine. Period.

    • Every Armenian should take an hour and listen to this lecture:

      Then you will (or should) understand why the West is the problem and why Armenians are comatose and ignorant to clamor for the poor souls of Ukraine.

      Not that I like Russia, who has always treated Armenians as second class citizens, but one has to understand the reality of geopolitics before one can have a rational, viable strategy to improve one’s lot in life.

    • Vahagan,

      For a nation that supposedly “treats Armenians like second class citizens”, there are countless prominent Armenians in all layers of Russian society: from Putin’s administration to Russian entertainment sector. Russians have traditionally looked down on (i.e. treated as second class) the backward, aggressive and lawless peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asia regardless of ethnicity. There is a lot of trash in Armenian society. It’s this trash or “second class people” that unfortunately rose to prominence in Armenia after the dissolution of the USSR. So, I think I am on the same page with Russians in this regard as well.

    • that Gurgen is exactly the problem. Russia wants to neutralize Ukraine PERIOD.
      What sir do you think the Ukranian people want? Are they sacrificing their lives
      for NATO and the West? Or, more likely, they just don’t want to be part of Russia and like the Russian government. Clearly any war is insane. I do not and did not support
      foreign intervention anywere. We discuss these issues as if the Ukranian people are not showing the world what they want. Even the Russians are not arguing that there are foreign soldiers in the Ukraine. What is there is war equipment that the Ukranians are using. So is that western murdering adventurism? Look at who is fighting.
      Neutrizing a country of 40 plus million people. Is that Russia’s right?

  6. “This war was also a consequence of Western powers and their allies invading Iraq on false pretexts”
    You are claiming the war in Ukraine is the consequence of the invasion of Iraq? That seems quite a stretch. Rather than blaming everything on the Western powers, I think there’s plenty of blame to go around: both Russia and the west. Because, even if Ukraine hasn’t behaved the way Russia wants, it’s hard to see how a military invasion of a sovereign nation is ever the answer…

    • That’s the point. You seem to miss the bizarre and deranged media coverage that blames Putin for this war while ignoring the Western role in this.

  7. What is Putin talking about in his speech:
    History of Russia and the Soviets from 1917 on – the West isolates Russia.
    WWII – Hitler promises not to attack Russia (the Soviets).
    June 22, 1941 Hitler attacks Russia (The Soviets).
    August 13, 1942 Stalin asks the Allies for opening of Second Front in Europe.
    June 6, 1944 – the Allies open a second front, the invasion of Normandy
    May 2, 1945 Russians enter Berlin
    September 2, 1945 – end of war in Europe.
    Losses of the Soviets: total losses 30 million+, it is said a lot more, but number
    made smaller not to anger the population. (13.7 million civilians, 8.7 million military,
    1.4 million wounded or dead… etc…etc…)

    Countries that have B-61 – 150 nuclear gravity bombs (nato – Belgium, Germany, Netherlands,
    Italy and Turkey). UK, France, US have long range nuclear capabilities.

  8. From Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty dated March 5.
    Ukraine’s government has started a website to recruit foreign volunteers to an “international legion” to fight invading Russian troops, following repeated calls by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for outsiders to join in his country’s defense.

    Compare the above report to what the Armenian government did during the 44 day war. It turned away volunteers saying that they were not needed. It is hard to expect anyone to do much in support of such a feckless government.

    • during artsakh war georgia closed airspace planes for armenia and worked with turks against armenians arrested diaspora armenians whose tries to go armenia for fight jailed them temporary blockade armenians villages in occupied armenian villages by brutal barbarian georgian nation and goverment,Turkey already were closed to airspace also azeris just Iran left western goverment warns citizens to go ıran they might be spy so we were alone also who remembers serbian christians when their country cities bombed for albanians and bosniaks and nat0 carried arabs pakistanis turks jehadist to kill those christian serbians and today all most all christian western countries recognized kosovo and bosnia which is forcefully taken by serbs same goes to lebanon maronite christians who defended them ? who will save lives of armenians suffer in middle east in arab countries ?

  9. I wish Mr Peligian would desist from writing articles about the hypocrisy of the world powers towards weaker and smaller nations like Armenia and Ukraine. Stop begging for the world’s help and pity; it will only come on their own terms which usually means humiliation, loss of sovereignty and territory. After Khrimian Hayrik, Charents and Monte Melkonian, don’t Armenians know what they have to do ? Isn’t 1915 part of the Armenian genome sequence? Our writers, thinkers and elites could spend their time more usefully advocating for the revival of the Armenian nation in Armenia and Diaspora. The current zeitgeist in the Armenian world (especially in the USA and Russia) is too weak, apathetic and rapidly diluting with intermarriage. The Armenian nation must become much more vibrant economically, intellectually, culturally, religiously and politically, in order to have agency about their national future. Armenians need to organize their communities with local representative boards, which come together and make up a national congress for each country. The national congresses will then come together and comprise the World Armenian Congress. The Congress will have several key roles : a) institute a national tax to fund schools, community centers, diaspora universities to educate and train future leaders, and collect and transfer funds (say $200 MM /year) to Armenia for infrastructure projects; b) work with the Armenian national government to coordinate goals and representation in the parliament; c) resolve conflicts between different political parties and diaspora communities; d)facilitate the connection between Armenia and diaspora e) become a political force speaking to governments and world bodies as representative of the eight million diasporan Armenians. Philanthropy can continue by individuals and traditional organizations ( AGBU, ARS, COAF etc) but it is clear that humanitarian philanthropy does not equate to national development in Armenia. I think that directing and focusing Armenian energies on the future is much more useful for gaining control of our destiny, than bemoaning the indifference and cynicism of the world.

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