Armenia: another country abandoned to its fate
NATO has shut its eyes to ethnic cleansing again
If you haven’t seen this harrowing BBC report from Nagorno-Karabakh yesterday, you should. Filmed as ethnic Armenian fighters and civilians withdraw from the disputed enclave yesterday, it shows Armenians praying for the last time in the medieval Dadivank monastery, a symbol of their ancient cultural and historic presence in the region, and burning down their houses before Azerbaijani troops, as well as ethnic Azeris forced out in 1994, roll in.
The six-week war was a sharp shock for Armenia, but it has lessons for the wider world. Perhaps 2,000 ethnic Armenian fighters were killed by the technologically vastly superior forces of Azerbaijan, whose Turkish and Israeli combat drones eviscerated first Armenian armour and artillery and then the outmatched troops huddling for cover in their trenches.
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Despite a dogged defence which inflicted heavy (though unknown) casualties on the attacking forces — the technological imbalance was just too great. Azerbaijan, rich with oil wealth and backed by Turkey, simply had more resources to bring to the battle than Armenia, which had failed to modernise its armed forces in the generation since the last Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
But perhaps the real lessons are political: Armenia, a fledgling democracy under the pro-West reformer Nikol Pashinyan, was humiliated by the Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev, and his sponsor the Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Western capitals and human rights organisations had encouraged Pashinyan’s drive towards a looser relationship with Putin’s Russia — still the hegemonic power in the South Caucasus — and had lauded the Armenian leader’s democratic reforms and his push for a closer relationship with the EU and NATO.
None of that mattered. The human rights NGOs who applauded Pasinyan’s reforms were silent once the war began. EU officials who’d encouraged Pashinyan’s westward path limited themselves to empty expressions of concern as the fighting raged. When Armenia pleaded with NATO to intervene, NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg remarked, simply, that “NATO is not part of this conflict,” adding that “both Armenia and Azerbaijan have been valued NATO partners for more than 25 years”.
This is, of course, untrue: it was NATO member Turkey’s deployment of combat drones and F-16 fighters that swung the balance in Azerbaijan’s favour. Turkey also deployed thousands of mercenaries from the proxy militias who garrison the regions of northern Syria it has annexed in recent years, expendable cannon fodder shunted from war to war at Erdogan’s behest. Indeed, following Turkey’s invasion of Afrin in 2018 and of much of northern Syria last year, the flight of civilians from Karabakh will now be the third wave of ethnic cleansing enabled by NATO arms in as many years.
So much for the rhetoric of advancing human rights and democracy trotted out at security conferences and in thinktank papers by NATO officials, struggling to justify the alliance’s existence a generation after the fall of the USSR. Even the justification that the war somehow confronts Putin, offered by Erdogan’s pet thinktankers, is absurd: Pashinyan’s humiliation will see Armenia drawn back into Russia’s orbit, casting doubt on the country’s future Western path. Thousands of Russian troops have been deployed to areas of Karabakh where the Russian flag has not flown in decades, a long-standing Putin ambition enabled by the war.
Armenians who looked to the West will learn bitter lessons from this war, and so should we. All the rhetoric of human rights and democracy means nothing if it isn’t backed by hard power. As we re-enter a world of state-on-state competition and conflict, where dictators carve up weaker states between them with impunity, European countries as well as smaller Asian powers will need to learn to worry less about living up to lofty ideals and more about how to defend themselves from aggressors, alone if necessary.
It is indeed a tragedy. As for this:
‘All the rhetoric of human rights and democracy means nothing if it isn’t backed by hard power.’
The fact is that the EU does not really believe in democracy within the EU, never mind anywhere else. And it is only very selectively interested in human rights. Moreover, most NATO/EU countries have run down their armed forces to the point where they are more or less unable to deploy any hard power. Even if they possessed any hard power, they are unwilling to deploy it following the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan etc.
France – one country still possessed of a serious military – is currently trying to apply some hard power in (roughly) north-west Africa. But I believe it is, for the most part, being given the runaround by various Islamist militias. Any hard power the UK has is currently camped at Pontins in order to carrying out Covid tests in Liverpool. A kind of Carry On Covid’, if you like.
The future is not bright.
What a brilliant remark “Carry On Covid”.
It will make a great film, hopefully!
From the link in the article “Mnatsakanyan warned that an Azerbaijani victory would mark the de-facto European acceptance of military aggression as a way for territorial disputes to be resolved. And while Europeans might dispute that, a senior European diplomat told me they are worried now that Azerbaijan is victorious, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may emerge further emboldened”
I wish there was more about the religious element of all this. Turkey, as a NATO member needs to be asked some hard questions by Biden’s people.
So the Armenians were routed by drones and unmanned war machines, that is a very frightening trend indeed. That Armenian armor and trenches can be over run by cheap drone tech – very worrying, and Likely would come from the NATO member.
I hate it that Europe has become utter cowards and weaklings. I would like to think Christian issues would have an interest in Europe, but that seems to be the opposite of true.
I may be being too simplistic – and no doubt someone here will point that out – but it seems to me our western governments will never stand up for Christians v Moslems.
the interests of Christianity in the Levant, Balkans and Near East are aligned with the interests of Judaism in terms of US foreign policy.
That’ll be why Israel is selling military hardware to Azerbaijan to hammer Armenia then.
what part of “…aligned with the interests of Judaism in terms of US foreign policy.” don’t you understand?
I tend to agree. No action in the Middle East to stop the long-term ethnic cleansing of Christians (which was going on long before ISIS hit the headlines). But when Serbia stepped over the line in Kosovo, NATO immediately started bombing Belgrade, including the deliberate targeting of civilians (Serbian Broadcasting Corporation).
It seems to me that Turkey is being very successful in its military interventions. Clearly it’s achieved a major win against old enemy Armenia, plus success in ethnic cleansing of Kurds in Syria – and the intervention in Libya seems to have stopped General Haftar in his tracks. Add to this the correct outcome of the general election in North Cyprus. All this with no hint of opposition by NATO and nothing more than a few words of concern from Europe. This can only encourage Turkey to further action to extend their influence. So what is likely to be next? Maybe the seizure of a small disputed island in the Aegean? And then, if they get away with that, a bigger island? Wasn’t this the method that Hitler used? Or is it ‘Salami Tactics’. They’ll be at the gates of Vienna before we know it.
Nord Stream 2; Putins foreign adventures in Syria and Libya…the Armenians never had a chance.
The home of 1st century Christianity takes another mortal blow from Turkey along with the under reported “Hagia Sophia: Turkey turns iconic Istanbul museum into mosque”
BBC 10 July 2020
I’ve noticed that Western news outlets are so wary of the “Islamophobia” charge that they cover this story with reluctance, and seem to want to blame the Armenians however they can.
I can’t be the only one who blinks at the thought of Israel siding with Turkey in this arena. Further reading shows that the enemy of my enemy is my friend applies in this case.
Much as the situation requires sympathy, I don’t see what any further intervention can do to help.
Excellent article, I am just learning of this https://jewishinsider.com/2020/11/nagorno-karabakh-conflict-israel/ one thing is the Politician Schiff (the Trump hatyr) “on Oct. 23, before the peace deal was signed, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who co-sponsored a resolution calling for international recognition for Artsakh, accused Azerbaijan and Turkey of possible war crimes.”
EU needs to step up more often.
I sort of see why Israel is involved, but what a bad situation, and those killer drones they sold for this conflict! That Iran is on the Armenian side surprised me.
” it was NATO member Turkey’s deployment of combat drones and F-16 fighters that swung the balance in Azerbaijan’s favour. Turkey also deployed thousands of mercenaries ….”
I think it is wrong to mix and identify Turkey with NATO as implied in the article.
Why? They are a member and NATO has done nothing to hold them back.
Biden has his vendetta with Putin, so Armenia is screwed.
Unhappily, what’s new? It’s happened continuously for the last 2000 years – Mustafa Kemal was one of the later killers, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, original disciples of the Christ were founders, a series of Roman Emperors tried to wipe them out and the Turks were, probably, their most easygoing masters.
The EU, I’m afraid is a toothless figurehead – however much I regret UK leaving it. So disparate are its “beliefs” that it has not even a shadow.
A ArmÃªnia caiu no conto do vigÃ¡rio do Ocidente( OTAN U.S.A) que visa desestabilizar a RÃºssia.
Armenia had the chance to integrate its air defense systems with Russia’s . It decided instead to get closer to the US/UK/EU and they fired experienced military commanders and replaced them with pro-Western cronies. They reaped what they sew.
I’ve never seen that referred to.
What is your source?
you link to a Russian language toxic web site…telling
These comments omit the fact that Armenia seized this province at the fall of the USSR
We understand this is an existential issue, not just a war,” said Hovhannes Hovsepian, pastor of the Evangelical Church of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.
“We never do anything to escalate the situation, or take the land of our neighbors. We are for peace”but sometimes you have to fight for it.”
The conflict goes back over 30 years”or maybe 100.
According to international consensus, Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory. UN resolutions have called on all “occupying forces” to withdraw.
In 1987, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh petitioned the USSR to add the region to the Armenian Soviet Republic. While consolidating the Caucasus in the 1920s, Stalin placed it under Azerbaijani control, placating Turkey.
Both before and after independence in 1991, Armenians and Azeris engaged in demographic battles. Over 30,000 people were killed, and a million displaced. The two nations swapped about 250,000 people as minority groups were expelled or fled to their ethnic- and religious-majority nations.
Thousands of minority Azeris left Nagorno-Karabakh. Its Armenian population declared independence in 1992, while Armenia occupies the land in between to connect with its own territory.
“Armenia seized this province at the fall of the USSR” should read: “The Armenian inhabitants of Nagorno Karabach / Artsakh seized political control of the region when the USSR fell apart”. They knew full well that living in turkic Azerbaijan would not end well for them, as it did not end well for the sizable Armenian population in Baku and other parts of the country, or indeed for the Armenians in Turkey a century earlier.
If I was an Armenian, I would leave it at that, but that isn’t the whole story; for the Amenians also occupied parts of Azerbaijan that they had no claim to and expelled (or otherwise dealt with) the Azerbaijani minority in Ngorno Karabach.
It is hard to see how the Armenians could have played this differently. Allowing the Armenians of Artsakh to be ‘cleaned’ a generation earlier along with the Armenians of Baku was obviously not an option. The highland villages of the region have pretty well always been Amenian but were not viable on their own, hence why Armenia siezed a corridor to the area and buffer areas around it. Perhaps they should have intiated peace talks after their triumph or unilaterally pulled out of most of the areas they didn’t claim. They thought they were stronger and that their backer, Russia would stick by them….
Now, had the UN been a useful organisation It would have sorted this issue out but the UN is almost useless and has proved to be inept and toothless in multiple ethnic conflicts around the world. Now, by failing to ensure a fair result it has allowed another hideous piece of ethnic cleansing and allowed the idea that ‘might is right’ to triumph.
Armenian Christians”much like indigenous peoples around the world”get the short end of the stick yet again.
The Soviets seized this province and gave it to the Azeris at the start of the USSR.
A bitter lesson for Armenians: instead of being fooled by Europeans and Americans wanting to use them as a toy in their geopolitical games they should have realized that their territorial gains in 1994 were intenable and morally unjust . The should have ceded conquered azeri areas to make peace with Azerbaijan. Now they eisk losing everything.Never trust the US warmongers!
Nagorno-Karabakh is a land of Azerbaijan. Please check UN resolutions such as 822 (year 1993) and others that demanding Armenian withdrawal from this areas.
Each country has a right to defend their land , Azerbaijan has waited to long to resolve these issue in peace.
This is nothing to do with ethnic cleansing…. Its non sense.
Nagorno-Karabakh has never been a part of an independent Azerbaijan. It was added to the newly created Azerbaijan Soviet Republic by the Soviet authorities to create dissension between Azerbaijan and Armenia. It has always been inhabited by Armenians.
This part of the world has had Armenian and Turkic people living there, with control passing from one to the other, and occasionally one group kicking out most of the other, for two millennia.
It’s a similar situation to much of the Middle East. And UN resolutions haven’t been particularly effective in managing things in there either.
The Turks only arrived in the area at the end of the 11th century and Nagorno-Karabakh has been Armenian for over 2000 years.
Actually the highland villages have pretty well always been Armenian. However you are right in that it is a long term problem and no-one has a monoploly on virtue.
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