I have not written about the blockade for a while. There was not much more I really had to say and did not want to rehash the same fears and indignations again. The news of late has been more worrisome. Earlier this month, Aliyev referred to Yerevan as part of “Western Azerbaijan.” It prompted a strong response from Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, but oddly, no protests from any other governments.
This kind of talk from Aliyev would have been moderately bothersome, bordering on the comical, about 10 years ago. Now, after the disastrous war of 2020, it is downright scary with the 100-plus-day blockade of the Lachin Corridor, Azeri troops killing Armenians in Artsakh, firing into Armenia proper, and a lot of buzz about troop movements as Iran has conjectured that Azerbaijan might invade and take the “Zangezur Corridor” soon. There is speculation they might move on Artsakh as well.
If Azerbaijan does either of these, there is little chance the Armenians can stop them. There is even less chance that anyone else is going to come to Armenia’s aid. Sure, there will be protests from France and maybe the US, but there will be no threat of force behind the words. Russia is preoccupied with their war in Ukraine and has done nothing to break the Lachin Corridor blockade. Iran? If the Azeris take Zangezur, the Armenian-Iran border will disappear. Iran will probably protest, but I expect not much more.
On February 8, the Armenian Caucus of the US House of Representatives introduced H.Res.108 – Condemning Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and ongoing human rights violations. The resolution has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Six weeks later, it is clear this is not a high priority for our US lawmakers. On March 20, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had a phone call with Pashinyan where he offered US support in facilitating bilateral peace discussions with Azerbaijan. No serious words or warnings were given to Azerbaijan.
On January 19, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the opening of the Lachin Corridor for humanitarian reasons. The Armenian side embraced this and urged the EU to sanction Azerbaijan, which they have not done. The Azeri Parliament passed a resolution condemning the EU resolution. Azerbaijan has increased their gas exports to Europe to offset the cuts in Russian gas, even though the Azeri gas covers only 2.8-percent of Europe’s gas needs.
It seems these kinds of resolutions and diplomatic words and offers are the limit of what the US and Europe are willing to do to stop Azeri moves in Artsakh and Zangezur. I wonder what, if any, actions they might take if Azerbaijan tries to annex Armenia itself?
This all makes me think of five N-words: Nakhichevan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Nzhdeh, “Never Again” and Nemesis.
Nakhichevan and Nagorno-Karabakh were to be part of the Armenian Republic and Armenian SSR. But the Soviets reneged and gave them to Azerbaijan SSR. The Azeris ethnically cleansed Nakhichevan and have since erased evidence of any Armenian presence there. They are doing the same in the territories they took in the 2020 war. There is no reason to think they would do any differently with any lands they may take in the future.
Obviously the third word refers to Garegin Nzhdeh, the Armenian patriot and military leader. Nzhdeh was born in Nakhichevan. He was a hero of the battle of Karakillise, in keeping Zangezur part of Armenia and in quelling the massacres in Shushi by the Azeris. In the first Republic of Armenia, he was appointed as governor of Nakhichevan. His life was dedicated to Armenian independence and self-determination. He understood and embraced the absolute need for a strong military to defend Armenia and Armenians.
Nzhdeh understood and embodied the phrase we all use: “Never Again.” We have been saying this since 1965, the 50th anniversary of the Genocide, which marked the birth of modern Armenian political activism. We say “Never Again” with passion, yet, here we are again with seemingly little ability to defend ourselves if Azerbaijan and Turkey decide to take the last of our homeland. We had 30 years to prepare for this. Instead, we had a massive brain drain and population exodus along with corrupt oligarchs and leaders lining their own pockets. We did not even recognize Artsakh, as Putin pointed out.
We could have certainly used a few Nzhdehs in the early days of the current Republic. We could use a few today.
Lastly, there is the word “nemesis.” It is the most interesting word of the lot with two overlapping meanings. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent.” For Armenians, Turkey is most definitely a nemesis and so is Azerbaijan. The second definition is “one that inflicts retribution or vengeance.” It seems like the victims of the first kind of nemesis might well be motivated to become nemeses, of the second type, themselves. I hope this never becomes our only remaining course of action.