Politics

In The Grip Of Crisis of Statehood, Armenia Nearing The Edge Of Precipice

Farid Hajili Analysis 16 November 2020
In The Grip Of Crisis of Statehood, Armenia Nearing The Edge Of Precipice

Azerbaijan has won a brilliant and stunning victory in the second 44-day Karabakh war. Armenia’s Pyrrhic victory in the first Karabakh war was both the result of aggression and support of the then disintegrated Soviet and Russian army. As nearly 30 years have passed since that Pyrrhic victory, no need to focus more on that episode of the Karabakh war today.

Armenia has suffered a devastating and final defeat in Karabakh and Azerbaijan has succeeded in liberating almost five of the occupied districts around the former autonomous region plus territories inside the separatist region.

However, Russia’s neutral position and support for Azerbaijan’s sovereign right to de-occupy own lands came across the Kremlin insistence on cessation of the war and immediately sending a peacekeeping mission. The developments were so swift that soon after the trilateral peace deal was signed by Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia, the latter’s peacekeeping mission landed in Armenia for further advancement to the areas of stationing.

Russia has stolen Azerbaijan’s complete victory and rescued Armenia from a total defeat and disgraceful capitulation act. The withdrawal of the Armenian forces from Kalbacar, Agdam and Lacin districts as envisaged in the trilateral peace deal is coming across resistance of Armenians both civilians and the military.

The defeat of the Armenian forces in the Karabakh war and the trilateral agreement, which in Armenia is called nothing other than capitulation, as expected, led to a political crisis and a social explosion in the country. Protests do not subside in Yerevan, Nikol Pashinyan returned to the already forgotten role of Facebook prime minister and literally hid from the people, blaming everyone around for what has happened.

The opposition is trying with all its might to oust him, but Pashinyan's associates do not want to give up power. Protesters are dispersed and detained, however, very sluggishly, and leaders at all levels prefer to remain silent or look for the culprit if they still have to make statements. The country, without exaggeration, is on the verge of a civil war.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is trying to present the Armenian-Russian-Azerbaijani statement on Nagorno-Karabakh not as a settlement document, but as a truce. According to him, the Karabakh issue has not been resolved. But it is obvious that the Armenian leader is trying to manipulate concepts: the trilateral statement itself somehow has the force of a treaty or agreement, because peacekeepers are already being deployed in Karabakh, Azerbaijan immediately began to equip the liberated territories.

Earlier, after the Karabakh statements, of which there were many in different years in various formats, nothing like this happened. On the other hand, it is possible that behind the text of the statement lies another document that is actually valid, about which the general public is unaware. One way or another, the process has begun - Russian peacekeepers are already in Karabakh, and Turkey also intends to send its own to the region.

In Armenia, all these are perceived as a complete defeat. The assessment is sober. Azerbaijan has liberated not only the districts surrounding Karabakh – the so-called security belt occupied by the Armenian forces during the 1992-1993 war - as it was implied in the logic of many years of negotiations, but also part of Karabakh itself, which the parties never spoke about.

The worst is that there can be no talk of any military revenge: in 45 days the Armenian army - combat-ready and prepared, albeit limping in terms of technical equipment - yielded to Azerbaijan. In retrospect, it is obvious that the defeat of the Armenians is the fault of the mediocre commander-in-chief of Armenia and sabotage on the ground in Karabakh itself, the report claims.

While Pashinyan in Yerevan was talking about an imminent and crushing blow to the enemy, his Karabakh appointee Araik Harutyunyan asked for help from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now the Karabakh appointee says that the special forces that arrived from Armenia to help them simply refused to obey him though he almost begged them.

They didn't just go into battle. Disorganization, internal contradictions and outright negligence of the military command everywhere, which caused the defeat and loss of 1,302 human lives (only according to official data), huge losses in equipment - all this makes the Armenian armed forces incapable at the moment. Moreover, now on the way to Armenian revenge, in addition to the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem, there are also Russian peacekeepers. In other words, the idea of revenge is delusional, the report adds.

Pashinyan still tries to feed people with lies, looking for excuses for himself. Since the day of the signing of the trilateral statement, the prime minister has been exclusively recording video and addressing the nation. He either says the militia did not go to fight, or the traitors failed everything, or there was no other choice. Thus, he tries to escape from the statement of a simple fact: as a politician, he is a person who surrendered Karabakh to Azerbaijan, the report claimed though Karabakh was liberated at the cost of lives of Azerbaijani servicemen.

Disillusioned with defeat, Armenians take to the streets

In an attempt to suppress the emerging coup, the government is not canceling the martial law in the country. Pashinyan has fewer and fewer views on Facebook, more and more people on the streets, and the prime minister cannot somehow influence the processes, Lenta.ru reports.

The regime of martial law in the context of the cessation of hostilities obviously looks like a political instrument of the ruling party. The rallies are dispersed, since they are prohibited by law, but Pashinyan also managed to get into a puddle here: on the day of the signing of the trilateral statement, he called on his supporters to prepare for the rally.

The police are dispersing the rallies, but there are no fewer people willing to take to the streets. First, 17 political parties and movements held a rally on November 11. It turned out, however, not very large: there was no clear program, there were clashes at the rally, the police detained people, took them 100 meters away and released them.

It all ended with the fact that some opposition leaders were detained by the National Security Service, but they did not touch those gathered in the square in front of the parliament. The same happened on November 12. The rally of nationalists from Sasna Tsrer was dispersed by the police, but soon a crowded procession began in the city center, which no one interfered with. The demonstrators have one demand - "the resignation of the traitor Pashinyan". In fact, this means a complete change of power, since Pashinyan is the central figure.

The rest of the people in the ruling elite are deputies, almost all ministers, officials are his henchmen and protégés, their personal political weights are zero. Half of the faction of his My Step bloc in parliament - random people who got there only because they marched with him in 2018 - had to fill out the proportional list with someone, the author claimed.

Now, almost all of them are silent, and therefore Pashinyan spends his personal media resource trying to explain to the people what, how and why he did. And the more difficult it is for him to parry the blows, since the protesters are doing exactly the same thing that he himself did 2.5 years ago - walking along the streets, standing in squares, blocking roads. If the government tries to apply tough methods of suppression to the demonstrators, they will instantly lose the remnants of their authority.

Realizing this, Nikol Pashinyan resorts to targeted strikes, forcing the National Security Service to engage in political repression. On November 12, the former acting director of the National Security Service of Armenia, Mikael Hambardzumyan, who had resigned a few days earlier, stated this directly. The colonel said that he left, refusing to get his hands dirty in a dishonest deed - an attempt to silence political opponents.

The protests have not yet developed into something spontaneous. The protesters cannot betray anything intelligible, except for “we do not want Pashinyan,” and the protests do not have a leader either. But this is explained by the shock of defeat, the suddenness of the Karabakh denouement and the lack of any preparation.

And also the fact that a lot of people - reservists, militias, volunteers - left for Karabakh. But now they are returning, and the authorities are doing everything possible to disarm them on their way to Yerevan. If this is not done, riots of a fundamentally different scale and with other consequences may begin in Armenia. And the siloviki will hardly want to get in the way of people who have just returned from the war, where they killed their “enemies”, according to the author.

“National traitor”

Nikol Pashinyan tries to sit on the shaky velvet throne, but this is more and more difficult. He is no longer the leader of the nation, people increasingly speak of him as a traitor. And this popular consensus is growing stronger every day: those who fought at the front; observing how decisions are made; who believed in a lie - all of them, like the former acting director of the National Security Service, begin to tell how and what happened.

The soldiers who fought to the last bullet and those who lost their relatives in the war directly blame the political leadership for the defeat. Pashinyan cannot shut them all up. Few doubt that he will leave soon. But the question is who will replace him, the author questions.

The thesis “17 political parties opposed Pashinyan” may sound threatening, but there is no content there. In fact, these are not political parties at all. Most of them are obscure structures represented by several activists. The names of these parties do not tell anyone anything in Armenia, they have no programs, no ideology.

The majority of the rest are revanchists associated with the governments in power prior to Nikol Pashinyan. They do not enjoy the popular trust - they were overthrown in 2018, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Armenia. In short, these are groups of corrupt officials and PR people affiliated with them, principled opportunists.

They do not have a real agenda. Their theses boil down to four demands voiced by a representative of the ARF Dashnaktsutyun party: Pashinyan's resignation, the creation of a committee to save the motherland, a change of national face in the negotiations on Karabakh, and a "step-by-step process to create a new homeland".

At the same time, everyone in Armenia understands that this is just a beautiful toast and nothing more. All these have nothing to do with Karabakh, they are not in a position to change something post factum. The maximum individual representatives of the opposition are capable of is publicly and on camera, calling Pashinyan a "bitch’s miscarriage", and then calmly walking the streets.
Pashinyan cannot even afford this, otherwise he risks sharing the fate of his friend, the speaker of the Armenian parliament Ararat Mirzoyan, whom the demonstrators beat to death.

There are only two relatively serious players on the opposition field in Armenia. The first is the Bright Armenia party and its leader Edmon Marukyan. The party positions itself as a pro-Western liberal force. Marukyan and Pashinyan were comrades-in-arms before the Velvet Revolution, they were members of parliament from the same Elk faction, but they later parted ways.

Marukyan went into opposition and led the third, smallest parliamentary faction. Bright Armenia supports the general demand for Pashinyan's resignation, but is wary of contacting other opposition. Its quality is such that cooperation with it instead of dividends can bring some losses.

The second experienced political player is the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP). Its leader is the richest man in the country, the "former" oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan. He was convicted of gang rape during the Soviet years, but now he is a political heavyweight who has amassed a party around him.

The party has not acquired a real political foundation and ideology, it is not a party in the classical sense, but Tsarukyan's supporters who have resources in parliament - they are the second largest after Pashinyan's My Step bloc, and theoretically they can lead the protests at least at the expense of money they possess.

In this situation, the authorities have no choice but to go into deep defense. Following the example of the head of the Armenian government's staff, Eduard Aghajanian (formerly, a DJ), who called the opposition "criminal gangs". “We will not allow them to come to power,” Aghajanyan said, adopting the rhetoric of the previous authorities, which Nikol Pashinyan overthrew, accusing him of usurping power.

This is the choice faced by the people of Armenia. The government will have to be changed in any case, but "Predator vs. Alien" will not be here, the choice will have to be made between the national traitor and the rich rapist. Or not to do it at all, letting the situation take its course. But this option is fraught with the most undesirable consequences. The degree of social tension in Armenian society has reached the level when any exacerbation threatens to escalate into riots, anarchy and civil war.

Everything is different in Karabakh itself, the report claims, adding that people bury their losses, and they have little to do with the political fuss in Armenia. Some are still at the checkpoints and refuse to leave.

“Armenians do not want to live side by side with Azerbaijanis in those territories that Azerbaijan has recaptured and were transferred to Azerbaijan under the trilateral agreement. And most likely they won't. They burn their houses, gardens, lands and leave for Armenia, becoming refugees. Karabakh separatist leader Arayik Harutyunyan, however, urges not to do this, but few listen to him.

What will happen to them next is unknown. These are tens of thousands of people without shelter, jobs, livelihoods, many are injured or in need of help. In addition to the political crisis, a humanitarian crisis awaits Armenia. The coronavirus pandemic, which is gaining momentum, is also adding fuel to the fire.

The situation in Armenia now can be best described in one word - chaos. And it does not obey the laws of logic, is irrational, which means it cannot be predicted. Only one thing can be said with certainty: a period of upheavals has begun in the country, the end and edge of which is not yet visible.

The Armenians are not faced with a political crisis that can be overcome by a change of government. A crisis of statehood begins in Armenia, which can be compared with the chess zugzwang, when each move only worsens the situation of the players. It just doesn't get any worse.

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