Peace is ALWAYS something to be thankful for, and it ALWAYS comes at a price.
Last night, Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan, leader of the country’s Velvet Revolution which established democracy in 2018, and a man who himself fought for Artsakh in a previous war, signed a treaty with Azerbaijan and Russia to end hostilities and begin a new way forward. He had no choice. Azerbaijan, much bigger, much richer and backed by Turkey had made gains in the six weeks of this current combat. Pashinyan had to deal before more Armenians were wiped out, and before the few people still left in the enclave of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh were cut off from their kinsfolk. The families of soldiers and volunteers killed and injured–several of them close to me–can be proud that they were able to hold the Azerbaijani at bay at all, and that Artsakh has not been completely wiped off the map.
That said, the situation is far from ideal. Analyst Canadian-Armenian Raffi Elliott, a friend of mine, outlines it very well in his Facebook post from last night:
So by now most have heard that Nikol Pashinyan has signed a ceasefire, likely ending the war. The deal as it stands does not do us any favours. It means giving up large portions of Artsakh It means some instability It means Russian peacekeepers It means both Armenia and Azerbaijan will be closer into Russia’s pocket than ever. Ultimately we fought against a small dictatorship allied to a NATO-member dictatorship using foreign mercenaries and technology while our most important security ally stood back and watched us struggle. Despite our best efforts both in the battlefield and in the Diaspora—the world once again ignored us or stood by as we struggled for survival. The war took our young and the covid took our old, eventually it was just about preserving the lives of our brightest generation. This isn’t Nikol’s fault or the soldiers’ fault or someone else’s. This war was inevitable ever since both sides failed to compromise in the 1990s, and continued to do so until now. We all wanted to keep Artsakh at any cost but instead of building a strong economy and military we made excuses as oligarchs pissed away our potential. It is what it is. I know you’re disappointed—God knows I am. Go outside, scream at the sky or punch a pillow if you have to. Now: we still have a republic. We still have an army and an economy. Right now, Armenia needs you. Eventually this mess will be cleaned up and we will, as we’ve always had, live on. The goals now is to ensure that democratic and economic progress continues, that investments continue, that we put our faith in Armenia when it needs us most. We’ve survived much worse in our history.
We in the Western world order should feel ashamed. You, me, our governments and our international organizations–let down the 150,000 people of Artsakh, hounded and butchered out of their homes in the last six weeks. We have failed to support Armenia’s small democracy over two dictatorships. Six weeks was too long for a tiny country of 3 million people, crippled by poverty and pandemic, to stand alone against two powerful enemies. There is other blame to share around: Raffi is right that Armenia’s previous oligarch’s failed their people too, and that Russia, now playing the role of peacemaker, has (naturally) served its own ends, keeping Armenia firmly tied to its purse strings, even as Pashinyan has tried to build an autonomous republic, looking to China, Europe and Iran to build trade. This will not be the last we hear of Russian, Azeri and Turkish ambition in the region and beyond.
Now in Armenia, many who would prefer to fight on are turning against their PM. It is not for me to say, but I believe Pashinyan to be wise, strategic, transparent and passionate about the security and well-being of all Armenians. I hope the people who brought him to power through the revolution will continue to keep the faith. I am crying for the people of Armenia and share their fears for the future. Stick together my friends. I will stick with you.