Europe’s likelihood for peace within the South Caucasus

Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, introduced on November 19 that within the margin of the Eastern Partnership Summit to be held in Brussels on December 15, there could be a gathering between Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. This welcome announcement adopted a interval of aggravated tensions between the 2 international locations as a consequence of navy clashes on their frequent but undefined border.

Naturally, all sides blamed the opposite for these new clashes. There are parts exterior the area, nevertheless, that goes a good distance towards explaining why they erupted at this explicit time and the political dynamics behind them. Let me clarify.

There is an inclination, amongst analysts and observers in Europe and America, to treat Armenia as a “unitary” political actor and to reify its habits within the particular person of its prime minister. This is an comprehensible shorthand that even knowledgeable journalists {and professional} political scientists make use of for a lot of states. For instance, “Putin” is typically used as such a shorthand personification or place-holder (technically, a synecdoche, the place a component stands for the entire) to suggest Russia’s habits in worldwide vitality geopolitics for the European Union.

In the case of Armenia, that is an error. It isn’t sufficiently acknowledged or understood that Pashinyan is beneath continuous home assault by a coalition that refuses to acknowledge the nation’s lack of the Second Karabakh War. This coalition, which extends past the territory of the Armenian state correct, certainly seeks to arrange a Third Karabakh War to retake the Azeri territories that had been occupied for 30 years and to ethnically re-cleanse them of Azeris simply as was executed in the course of the First Karabakh War within the early 1990s.

This pro-war coalition has three principal parts. The first is the “Karabakh clan” comprising former presidents Robert Kocharyan (1998–2008) and Serzh Sargsyan (2008–2018) plus all of their followers, political purchasers and present state functionaries with whom they seeded the whole lot of the Armenian state equipment in the course of the 20 years of their crushing political hegemony.

The second part of this pro-war coalition is Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which achieved its “soft coup” in opposition to the theocratic elite or “mullahocracy” a number of years in the past. Cooperation between the Armenian military-industrial complicated and IRGC-related weapons programs producers has elevated markedly within the final 12 months, with the help of monetary help from the Armenian diaspora.

The third part is the Armenian diaspora. It is inconceivable to gauge exactly its measurement total. Estimates using differing definitions and methodologies vary from three to eleven million. A good estimate might be between six and 7 million. This is over twice the variety of Armenians in Armenia itself.

Well over half the diaspora resides in three international locations: France, Russia and the United States. The quantity in Russia (estimated by Putin in 2020 at “over two million”) is about two instances the quantity in France and the U.S., the latter two being roughly equal with each other.

It is well-known that the diaspora’s members have lengthy been politically very influential in each France and the U.S. (It is much less well-known that Russia isn’t any completely different on this respect.) The official diaspora organizations within the West are usually hyper-militant and maximalist of their program and calls for, declaring outright that they don’t need peace.

But battle is the international coverage of fascism. It is feasible to see unsettling similarities between the bellicose exhortations of sure diaspora organizations and this system of documented collaboration by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun, Sargsyan’s political get together, beneath which banner Kocharyan ran for parliament in 2021) with Adolf Hitler and his national-socialist regime throughout World War II. 

It is vital at present to know that there’s express cooperation amongst the Armenian diaspora, Iran’s IRGC and the Karabakh clan in home Armenian politics. This cooperation explains the latest navy clashes that I discussed firstly of this text, and within the following manner.

Pashinyan doesn’t management the entire of the Armenian state equipment. Since his unique election in 2018 and re-election in 2021, he has been succeeding little by little in putting in people who find themselves loyal to him to interchange the purchasers of the Karabakh clan. He appears to have taken some management over the ministry of international affairs, additionally appointing new ambassadors; and the state safety providers seem by and enormous to be loyal to him.

He nonetheless has a protracted method to go, nevertheless. Despite the arrest of two successive defence ministers for corruption and the set up of a new defence minister only a few days in the past who’s a Pashinyan loyalist, important parts not solely of the defence ministry however certainly of the military’s navy formations themselves stay within the pocket of the Karabakh clan.

In the center of November, the U.S. Congress started closing consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Armenian foyer in Washington and its allies in each homes of the Congress pushed amendments to the NDAA looking for to disclaim numerous types of assist and help from the U.S. authorities to Azerbaijan, even together with non-military help. The Karabakh clan and their associates within the Armenian navy timed the clashes on the border with Azerbaijan for max impact upon this lobbying effort; they had been profitable.

The result’s opposite to European in addition to American pursuits. Armenia stays an ally of Iran and a consumer of Russia. It cooperates with Iran’s different purchasers within the Middle East, together with such non-state terrorist actors as Hezbollah. Even navy observers in Russia acknowledge that Armenia’s peaceable growth is important for Russian safety. That is as a result of a renewed battle would solely improve political instability within the South Caucasus, whereas additionally providing Iran extra alternatives to make use of its ally Armenia in order to penetrate the area additional in opposition to Russia’s pursuits.

It is extraordinarily vital that the assembly between Aliyev and Pashinyan in Brussels shouldn’t be a mere photo-op. It could be useful if it had been nicely ready if the leaders had been accompanied by important entourages able to talking frankly and increasing the discussions as required.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Perhaps most of all, the President of the European Council ought to think about inviting the 2 leaders to fulfill briefly with him earlier than leaving them alone collectively in a one-on-one dialog for so long as they need to want to converse. This could be the primary time that such a gathering between the 2 heads can have occurred. It is one thing that not even the OSCE’s Minsk Group have been capable of organize.

This diplomatic alternative should not be wasted. The discussions between the 2 sides may proceed elsewhere than in Brussels. Pashinyan was pressured by home political strain to cancel a gathering in Moscow earlier this month that will have been mediated by the Russian aspect.

That assembly would have sought once more to implement the ninth level of the trilateral declaration of November 10, 2020, regarding the opening up of communications and transportation hyperlinks between the 2 international locations. On the agenda of that assembly was additionally the initiation of the method of the delimitation of the worldwide border between the 2 international locations, on the idea of Soviet navy maps within the possession of the Russian Ministry of Defence.

By upsetting the latest armed clashes and on the identical time stirring up the Armenian inhabitants in opposition to Azerbaijan, the “war party” in Yerevan—which as I’ve defined goes past Yerevan to Tehran and the Armenian diaspora in Moscow, Paris and Washington—made it inconceivable for Pashinyan to maintain his dedication to attend that assembly in Moscow and at last kick off these peace-making processes.

The battle get together desires most of all to make a peace treaty inconceivable. Such a treaty would contain mutual recognition of territorial integrity and the delimitation of the worldwide border. In that manner, signifying the top of Armenia’s territorial claims in opposition to Azerbaijan would severely complicate fund-raising by the diaspora’s official organizations for additional battle (and their very own salaries).

The coalition of (1) the official organizations and representatives of the Armenian diaspora, (2) Iran’s IRGC and (3) the Karabakh clan inside Armenia is the best menace to peace within the area. If the Eastern Partnership—certainly, if the European Union—desires to make any distinction in any respect, then it should acknowledge this actuality and undertake actually efficient insurance policies to advertise peace in help of Pashinyan, and likewise Aliyev in equal measure, and in opposition to the hazard that Armenia turns into a failed state. Otherwise, the EU might be left in Armenia with a hollowed-out state that’s hostage to a terrorist group, which is, in flip, beholden to Iran’s IRGC: like Lebanon.