The Ukrainian crisis and what we must do – Avetik Chalabyan

Two months ago, in the article entitled “How to Restore Armenia’s Military Power”, I wrote that large-scale geopolitical processes are underway in our region, where the sovereignty and future of entire countries are on the scales (at the stakes). Thus, the regular statements of the current Armenian authorities are at least puzzling, because the war or peace is not our choice at all, but a painful reality imposed on us due to general (broader) regional developments.
Just six weeks after the article was published, the Russian Federation launched a large-scale military operation against Ukraine, to which the North Atlantic Treaty Organization responded with an unprecedented package of sanctions against the Russian Federation, after which our entire region is now facing the threat of war of a largest magnitude since the World War II. Under these circumstances, if the hostilities in Ukraine do not end in a short time (near future), and the parties continue the military escalation, there is no doubt that the fragile balance of forces in the region will be irreversibly disturbed (shaken), and literally all the countries in the region will one way or another succumb into this disastrous confrontation.

This is more than unfavorable prospect for us, because in 2020 ․ In a catastrophic declaration of November 9, 1945, Armenia effectively renounced its role of guarantor of the security of the Artsakh Republic, yielding it to the Russian Federation, presumably considering that with its vast military-political resources it is capable of ensuring regional stability in the long run. But if the Russian Federation finds itself at the center of instability, exhausting its resources in an exhausting conflict with the North Atlantic Alliance, then this whole logic of regional security collapses, we can once again be alone in confronting our two hostile neighbors. One of them does not hide his aspirations to complete his plan to destroy the Artsakh Republic by military means, to dismember the Republic of Armenia, and the other is ready to appropriate and swallow the rest of Armenia in that case.

Unfortunately, this gloomy prospect is quite realistic, it depends not so much on us, but on the course of the conflict in Ukraine. Therefore, we must be ready for the worst, to calculate our steps with that logic, or with the hope that it will be possible to avoid it, both due to general geopolitical developments and reasonable actions taken by us. Next, let’s try to outline the most important actions we need to focus on today:

1) Initiative diplomacy. The first, perhaps most important, action is to maintain active neutrality during this conflict. This is easier said than done, as the pressure on Armenia will be (already exists) from both main sides of the conflict, plus the pressure of the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem. In this situation, maneuvering between the parties, supporting each side in different ways, but generally avoiding becoming an open party to the conflict, requires great skill on many diplomatic fronts, including with “neutral” powers (China, India, Iran, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia). Arabia, etc.) high labor intensity. It is obvious from the experience of recent years that the current Armenian authorities do not have that ability; if all diplomatic activity is left to them alone, we will face new failures and losses. Therefore, in this situation, the coordinated work of different centers of power in the Armenian world is used to ensure the progress of relations in their spheres of influence, to initiate favorable developments with those countries, to counter the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem aspirations in different ways, to curb its new aggression. If in the past it was hindered by the various contradictions of those centers with the current Armenian authorities, now we just have to stand up for them for the time being, to realize that those authorities are in any case temporary, but the possible new losses are practically irreversible. Therefore, in these dangerous times, we must be guided by national priorities, and the internal political contradictions must be resolved, when we will go through the most critical period of geopolitical tension.

2) Restoration of military potential․ In my previous article, I tried to systematically describe the main actions needed to restore Armenia’s military potential, to bring it in line with the conditions of modern warfare and our country’s economic potential. Let me not repeat, the conflict in Ukraine “once again confirms that the choice of these directions was justified, that in modern warfare the emphasis should be on air superiority, relatively cheap, light and accurate use of precision means, as well as multifunctional training.” Movable, highly efficient rear. Progress in these areas is more than realistic, Armenia has all the opportunities – its own technologies, specialists, local experience of successful application, even financial resources. Unfortunately, however, progress over the past year has been limited by the incumbent’s inconsistent, in some cases even conventional, policy pursued by the current authorities, which has already led to a waste of precious time and resources, with the enemy no longer sitting idly by. creates for our armed forces. In the current situation, taking advantage of an absolute legitimate need, a constitutionally enshrined right, the leadership of the Armenian Armed Forces must finally take the initiative, modernize the army, mobilize reservists to counter the obvious encroachments of the enemy, otherwise we will be left defenseless in the world. “International law” will impose a tough force.

3) Legitimization of the Artsakh Republic. The catastrophic declaration of November 9 had another consequence, partly hidden at the time, but now already obvious: it delegitimized the Republic of Artsakh, turning it from an unrecognized but de facto functioning Armenian state into a territory inhabited by Armenians. During the next year, the current government of Armenia, along with Azerbaijan, tried in every way to fix it, both with its rhetoric and actual actions. Now is the time to reverse this process, moreover, the political leadership of the Artsakh Republic must do it first, either by clearly expressing its own rights, or by carrying out independent diplomatic activity, or by restoring its own armed forces. This process has already begun, one of its first steps was the adoption of the Law on the Occupied Territories by the Artsakh National Assembly. The last resolution of the Parliament). Here it is very important that different centers of the Armenian world unite around the imperative of legitimizing the Artsakh Republic, directly supporting the political authorities of the Artsakh Republic, the armed forces, the heroic population, which despite the intolerable conditions created by the enemy, continues to live in its homeland, restore it within its capabilities. he counters his military aggression. The current situation is favorable for that, because if in the past the leadership of the Russian Federation tried to freeze any discussion on the status of Artsakh, now it’s somewhat inclined to intensify it due to its changing military-political priorities, we must make the most of this window of opportunity. . Similarly, in the case of our flexible policy, a similar tendency may be expressed by the other Minsk Group co-chairing countries, in part to weaken Russia’s monopoly on this issue. By the way, the recent provocations of Azerbaijan are most likely conditioned by the awareness of that reality, so we must be determined, patient, in order to pass this new Artsakh through trials, to bring it out stronger.

4) Economic flexibility. The conflict in Ukraine also poses serious economic challenges for Armenia. Regardless of everything, the Russian Federation is our largest economic partner, the largest market for Armenian goods and the largest foreign investor in Armenia. The economic sanctions imposed on him will eventually cause huge damage to our economy. At the same time, the nature of these sanctions is such that, as a result, a large number of long-established economic ties will be severed between Russia and the “Western countries”, which will also allow Armenia to partially fill the emerging economic vacuum. It is the export of goods to Russia, which were traditionally imported from the West (after their final processing in Armenia), the export of goods and services to Western countries, which were previously purchased from Russia (there are different examples of this since 2014), Implementation of a certain technological transfer from the West to Russia, Management of a part of financial flows through Armenian banks and Many other opportunities. Today, when tens of thousands of Russians who have already left the conflict are in Armenia, as well as citizens of Ukraine and Belarus, it suddenly becomes clear to many that it is useful to have a safe haven in the person of Armenia, which has favorable relations with all parties to the conflict. to act as an economic mediator between them. Therefore, we must do our best to take full advantage of these unexpected opportunities by providing the citizens of the countries involved in the conflict, private companies, as well as the states with quality, timely assistance in economic and humanitarian matters, and showing appropriate flexibility. Especially since other neighboring countries are already competing to take advantage of these opportunities, the economic interest will eventually be chosen by the countries that will provide the most favorable conditions.

5) Repatriation․ More than 2.5 million Armenians live in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Belarus, about half of them have left the Republic of Armenia during the last 30 years, and about 0.5 million of them still have the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia. People have traveled to those countries in recent years, mainly for economic reasons, and many also for security reasons. Now, however, it is obvious that economic opportunities will decrease and security will become much more fragile. This is the time when many citizens who have left our country start thinking seriously about returning to Armenia and reorganizing their activities from here. This is facilitated by the fact that many types of services can now be provided remotely, there is a significant need for highly qualified specialists in the Armenian labor market, instead of producing various goods, in part, services in Russia, it can be done in Armenia, exported, etc. This process has already begun, and it is very possible to create the best conditions in Armenia for the return of our compatriots (at least not only them) by simplifying administration, providing temporary tax and other benefits to returnees, creating flexible opportunities for their children’s education and many other steps They will enable people to quickly integrate into our society, to truly appreciate the benefits of living in it. In the future, it will not only enrich, strengthen our country, but also make it more attractive for all of us, more diverse and safer, and as a result, it will be more dynamically developing.

Today we are standing at a point when the reality around us is undergoing radical changes as a result of geopolitical shocks. This is fraught with enormous dangers for us, but it also opens up many new opportunities, we can come out of this period of shocks stronger, and we can not come out at all as an independent state unit. That a lot depends on the course of general geopolitical developments, our destiny is first of all in our hands, our final result of this complex and dangerous game will be conditioned by our coordinated actions.

Avetik Chalabyan is the co-founder of the ARAR Foundation.