We all wonder more and more about what awaits Armenia. We live in constant anxiety, which either increases or abates but never completely ends.
In a few months, we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of signing ceasefire with Azerbaijan. The border with Turkey has been closed for already two decades. We have been living as if in a Besieged Fortress for 20 years and apparently, there will be no great changes in the foreseeable future.
Let’s sincerely admit that the acceptable resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is possible only if people ready to recognize Artsakh an Armenian land, which will never be again under the control of Baku, come to power. Such people will never come to power in Azerbaijan. Or it won’t happen, at least in the coming hundred years. I hope it’s also an absolute axiom that people ready to turn Artsakh into a bargaining chip will never come to power in Armenia.
In public consciousness, the situation with Turkey appears less threatening but we should not forget that in 1993, Turkish troops closely approached Armenian borders. And again, to be completely honest, no one knows what further actions they would perform if the Russian military base and Russian jets were not on the other side.
Irrespective of our foreign policy likings and preferences, we should admit that Russia’s military presence in Armenia serves an important factor providing certain tranquility of the Besieged Fortress.
Yes, the same Russia in which human rights and democratic freedoms are violated. Yes, the same Russia in the provincial cities of which people have been living for decades in houses that lack living conditions. Yes, the same Russia in the police stations of which innocent people are subtly tortured being demanded to admit an uncommitted crime.
All that cannot be appreciated. But on the other hand, we all (some in a loud, some in a low voice) feel enthusiastic when reading about the new S-300 or S-400 missile systems in Armenia. At that, let’s put a hand on our heart and admit that on the whole, it doesn’t really matter to us if those missiles are under the disposition of Armenian units or belong to the Russian military base. What matters to us is that they are in Armenia ensuring the Besieged Fortress’s future in the mode of relative security.
It's not a matter of good or bad. It’s a fact that should be taken for granted. It’s the price we pay for peace in Armenia and Artsakh. It’s fragile, but still it’s peace. Apparently, Armenia in which we live today is not capable of maintaining power balance without Russian armament part of which is provided free of charge and the rest at discounted prices.
On the other hand, we should be realistic and realize that the economic potential of Turkey and Azerbiajn will keep on increasing year to year and sooner or later the power balance will be disturbed, but not in our favor. In 2013, the volume of investments in the economy of Azerbaijan made up USD 28bln, and the strategic monetary reserves reached USD 50bln. Even if these numbers are exaggerated, it’s clear the Armenian economy will not reach such volumes in the coming decades.
I am depicting the hopeless picture, many of you might claim. But isn’t it the current reality? Armenian President’s decision on Customs Union membership became a univocal proof showing the authorities rule out the possibility of change of this reality. With this decision, Armenia admitted that it’s unable to ensure its security without Russia and cannot take measures not approved by Moscow. And it’s no surprise that EU Commissioner Stefan Fule who arrived in Yerevan in early September could not understand why he was not told anything a month earlier when he was in Yerevan to hear the traditional statements related to Armenia’s intention to initial the Association Agreement at Vilnius Summit.
The authorities attempted to take everything to a blatant simplification saying that “Europe offers us only values”, while Russia offers weapons. The question as to why for over three years negotiations were held and thousand (!) pages of texts were agreed still hang in the air.
Can the survival model be thrown off today or at least, tomorrow? In general, how reasonable is it to talk about prosperity when the country is neither in a state of peace, nor war. How can we establish balance between the natural concern of physical security and future? These questions are not simple and don’t have unequivocal answers.
A possible answer can be the establishment of such form of integration with Russia as a result of which Armenia and Artsakh will be considered an integral part of this country, which will make Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s military pretensions highly unlikely. In this case, we will ensure our physical security. But will it make us happier? Will our anxiety end, or will it increase in the face of partial or complete loss of identity?
An alternative can be the attempt to transform the Besieged Fortress into a Fortress. A fortress, which might not be absolutely invincible (there are no such countries in today’s world), but it will be so strong that the temptation to besiege it will give way to common sense.
To achieve it, we should start changing the climate of the Besieged Fortress as soon as possible, and firstly, make justice and inevitability of punishment absolute imperatives. A MP known by nickname and openly stating “he doesn’t give a damn” should be publicly obstructed by his party and its leader (the country’s President) and be deprived of any possibility to return to the parliament. The youngsters “protecting the peacefulness” of the defense of the Yerean Mayor’s PhD, using foul language when addressing to the young journalists in the presence of TV-cameras, should be expelled from the university without any right to return. The policemen who were only silently observing what was happening should have their shoulder straps torn and their future involvement in law-enforcement bodies should be made impossible. Only similar measures can restore the peace of mind of the defenders of the Besieged Fortress.
But the authorities seem to be concerned only about one thing – to provide sufficient amount of gun powders and missiles to the Besieged Fortress. Nevertheless, the authorities seem not to think over the decreasing number of Fortress’ defenders.
I never liked the analogies with Israel because of a number of objective distinctions. But Israel did exactly that – it transformed the Besieged Fortress into a Fortress. And the main prerequisite for success was that it respected and appreciated its citizens and didn’t repress them; brought together its compatriots from all over the world, created conditions for Jews residing in other countries to make investments in Israel.
The concept of “Armenian World” which Armenian authorities offered a few years ago proved to be empty. The “Armenian World” cannot be built when the authorities in the motherland are not able to punish the corrupted judges or thievish officials.
Security vs future. Which is more important? Strange as it seems, the balance lies in the harmonization of these two notions. Security without future sounds absurd. But the very notion of future is unattainable without security.
Let's ponder over what professor Ichak Adizes said:
“Why is Japan successful? What does it have? It has no diamonds, petroleum or gold – nothing! Nevertheless, Japan is one of the G7 members. Look at the South Africa – it has gold, petroleum, brilliants, platinum – but which place does it occupy in the world? Do you know how rich Angola is? They have awesome land, a myriad of brilliants, petroleum… But who has heard of Angola? What is there in Switzerland? All rules imply it should be a failure. Can you imagine the French, Germans and Italians in one country? It's hard to imagine something more horrible. But it didn't take place as they have a culture of mutual assistance and respect towards the differences of each of them. Culture led them to success”.
Yes, we are neither Japan, nor Switzerland. But we can still combine security and future. If we don't do it in the coming five-six years, then the physical security will cease being a burning issue – there will be too few people left in the Besieged Fortress.
Ara Tadevosyan is the Director of Mediamax.