From Izvestia, Sept. 21, 2023, p. 3. Complete text:
The most recent – and probably the last – [Nagorno-] Karabakh crisis, which is nearing its tragic but logical conclusion, is quite illuminating. Its final act, which dealt a heavy blow to Armenians around the world, was the result of the arrogance, geopolitical naïveté and outright opportunism of the current leaders in Yerevan and, alas, the shortsightedness of their supporters residing in the country. Naturally, we have no right to condemn a large part of a friendly people for deliberately choosing to abandon their own historical claims.
Russia respects any strategic aspirations of its EaEU [Eurasian Economic Union] and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) partners, even if it sees that they have the potential to cause harm. After all, since the very beginning of the crisis, Moscow has held a neutral position on Karabakh and been reluctant to impose a given approach on the parties. But all politicians and peoples who somehow end up captive to illusions of successful integration into the Western-centric order must analyze the events of recent days and draw logical conclusions.
The long-term status quo in Karabakh was based on the memories of thousands of victims of the events of 30 years ago [during the first Karabakh war]. The Sumgait and Baku pogroms [see, respectively, see Vol. 40, No. 9, p. 9, and Vol. 42, No. 4, p. 5 – Trans.], the Khojaly massacre, the energy blockade of Armenia (the so-called dark years), terrorist attacks against the Azerbaijani population, ethnic cleansing on both sides, and many other dark pages of the two countries’ recent history have weighed heavily on the the memory of several generations of Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
The Karabakh events of the 1980s and 1990s also led to powerful political upheavals on the domestic front that affected most of the region’s residents. Fanatics and opportunists rushed to take power in Baku, Yerevan and Stepanakert, and armed militants from all over the world, ranging from Shamil Basayev and the Afghan mujahedeen to Armenian extremists from Turkey and Lebanon, roamed the streets. Russia put a great deal of diplomatic effort into stopping this madness, but the way out of the bloody impasse found during lengthy negotiations would not have been possible without the grateful and dutiful response of ordinary citizens and political forces on both sides who finally decided to stop.
On the other hand, the current situation is quite different. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who is clearly a striking demagogue and talented orator, allowed himself to be drawn into the Washington-Brussels games, which have always had one goal – to divide Russia and its friends and create a Western zone of influence in the post-Soviet space. The Armenian leader appears to have truly felt like the leader of a democratic revolution that would result in integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. Unlike his predecessors, who personally experienced all the vicissitudes of the first Karabakh war, he did not have any deep feelings about the disputed region and saw it as a bargaining chip that could offer him the prospect of joining the liberal community of nations.
This is the source of his momentous statement that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan, as well as of his refusal to mobilize citizens to protect the cities and shrines of the region’s Armenian people. Realizing the results that such opportunism could bring, Moscow agreed with Yerevan’s right to set its priorities and determine the future of its own citizens in the long-suffering territory – which [Russian President] Vladimir Putin spoke about yet again at the Eastern Economic Forum [see Vol. 75, No. 37, pp. 7‑9]. Over the past three years, Russian diplomats and peacekeepers did everything they could to prevent an escalation, but after Pashinyan’s well-known statements about Karabakh’s status, we could not and did not want to act as bigger Armenians than the Armenians themselves. Fortunately, Russia also has warm and well-established ties with Azerbaijan.
Yerevan’s latest curtsies to NATO, the US and the [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky regime, along with the heightened anti-Russian rhetoric within the country, have arrived at their logical result. It’s just as [Winston] Churchill said: Given the choice between war and shame, Pashinyan chose shame – and got war. Western partners did not come to Armenia’s aid – and had no intention of doing so. After all, this is exactly the same scenario Washington would like to use to resolve the Kosovo conflict. But, unlike the Armenian premier, [Serbian] President [Aleksandar] Vucic is continuing to keep the pressure in check and maintain a balance, as he is deeply aware of the hypocrisy and cynicism of the “Danaans bearing gifts.”
Pashinyan did not pass this test, and his future fate is now entirely in the hands of the Armenian people. Now we can only hope for the humanism and wisdom of the Azerbaijani leaders, who will have to refrain from euphoria and reintegrate the region into its constitutional space with respect for Karabakh people of all nationalities. Moscow will by all means work with Baku to achieve this goal. We will not leave our friends, including our Armenian ones, to the whims of fate.