Oskanian on the need for national mobilization

The Civilitas Foundation

One Northern Avenue, suit 30
Yerevan, Armenia
tel: +37410500119
email: [email protected]
Vartan Oskanian:


*Based on Vartan Oskanian’s speech at the ARF-sponsored international
conference on Armenia-Turkey Relations and the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict in
Stepanakert, July 9-10, 2009*

* *

The topic of national mobilization is urgent today. Of course, given our
size – small territory, small population – and given Turkey’s and
Azerbaijan’s enormous capabilities and sophisticated machinery, we have
always used all national and international resources albeit with varying
intensity, scope, depth and effectiveness, but nevertheless we have used
them. **

Today, the changing circumstances around us, and the new challenges emerging
before us, make the need for this kind of new mobilization more timely and

Let me cite four major reasons for this kind of mobilization at this time.

First, the new global and regional developments and changes that have taken
place over the past year and half and continue to evolve

Second, our own policies and the complications that have been created as a
result of our short-sighted, miscalculated policies

Third, the wedge that has been driven between the Diaspora and Armenia’s
leadership as a result of that policy, particularly the statement issued on
April 22 by the foreign ministries of Armenia and Turkey

Finally, the issues of legitimacy, fragmentation, and increased tension
among different layers of our society and the deepened distrust between
society and government, as a consequence of the lack of democratization,
repeated bad elections, March 1 and its consequences.**

With all this in mind, and in order for us to understand what a renewed
mobilization of resources means, we must answer a few questions.

First, what are we trying to mobilize? Where are our resources, how do we go
about revealing and identifying them, beyond the usual core, and how do we
bring them together for the common good?

Second, for what purpose do we want to mobilize and with whom would we work
to pursue our common goals? What are the centers of power and influence that
we want to target and what or where are the levers that need to be

Finally, and most importantly, what is the ideological premise around which
we will rally our resources? What is it that the Armenian people as a
nation, as one people – in Nagorno Karabakh, Armenia and Diaspora – together
want to achieve?

This is the all important question on which I’d like to focus – our common
goals and our vulnerabilities.

To understand better our vulnerabilities and the ultimate challenges, let me
give you a quick rundown of what has changed in this past year and a half,
and what are the new threats that face us:

First, at the global level, there is the changing US-Russia relationship.
There is an attempt at reconciliation and a new détente between the powers.
In a reconciled environment, these two countries will view global issues
differently, the scope of interests that must be shared or divided will be
enlarged, and the opportunities, the gain, the benefits for both sides will
be greater. In this kind of situation, where all problematic issues, all
sources of potential discord are on the table – energy, arms control,
nuclear safety, security, conflicts – Nagorno Karabakh will clearly be on
the table, too, as we witnessed just today by the statement issued at the G8
meeting, by the presidents of the three Minsk Group co-chair countries – US,
Russia and France. Under such circumstances, the possibility for trade-offs
is greater, and even greater is the risk that they will come at our expense.
We can’t ignore or merely observe these changes. We must be persistent,
vigilant and prevent detrimental developments for Armenia.

Second, the Georgia-Russia war last year changed the balance that had been
maintained between the principles of self-determination and territorial
integrity. Prior to that war, the West had recognized Kosovo’s independence,
despite Russia’s deep opposition. Although Russia had threatened to counter
the Kosovo decision by making a similar unilateral move by recognizing
Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it could not do so easily. That would have
presented a serious political problem. But the Georgia-Russia war changed
the environment, and provided the necessary cover for them to do so. They
did. Russia responded to the West’s unacceptable, unilateral recognition
of Kosovo’s independence by a similar move itself. Now that this tit-for-tat
recognition is over, there seems to be a general internal understanding that
this series of recognitions of self-determination efforts has ended, that
others who aspire to the same will be viewed differently. It goes without
saying that this concept of quotas on self-determination is a problem that
will require attention and must be countered.

Third, all this comes in the context of Turkey’s emerging role in the
region, and in regard to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. As a result of the
Russia-Georgia war, and even more, as a result of the very public
Turkey-Armenia diplomatic engagement, we are facing an unnecessary but
significant problem. Look what we have today. Because of their attention and
expectations of the very visible and very high-level process, because of
their concerns over the genocide recognition process, the US, the EU, Russia
too, and certainly Turkey and Armenia all put their prestige on the line,
expecting to succeed in opening the Turkey-Armenia border. This did not
happen and everyone came to understand what they should have seen at the
beginning that Turkey will not move until Azerbaijan is satisfied on the
Nagorno Karabakh situation. What started out as a Turkey-Armenia bilateral
process, ended up with Nagorno Karabakh resolution becoming a condition for
progress in Turkey-Armenia relations. We all understand that under these
circumstances, with huge international pressure on Armenia most of all, an
accelerated Nagorno Karabakh process, not only for its own sake, but to
resolve another political knot, can lead to lots of bad decisions,
especially and particularly for us.

Fourth, we have signed the Moscow declaration last November, and that
declaration includes a stipulation which is going to continue to haunt us
– that the conflict must be resolved based on not only international
principles but also the decisions adopted by international organizations.
That was a serious diplomatic blunder. That declaration has made it easier
for Russia and other countries in their relations with Azerbaijan, by making
it possible for them to make pro-Azerbaijani statements on the issue of
Nagorno Karabakh. Armenia must do everything to neutralize that declaration
and diminish its impact.

Fifth, the military and political equilibrium between Nagorno Karabakh and
Azerbaijan has changed. The ceasefire has held for 15 years. This can’t be
explained by simple goodwill or by the existence of ongoing negotiations. An
effective buffer zone, an equality in the balance of the opposing forces,
the Azerbaijani army’s insufficient capacity to mount a serious strike –
these have played an important role in encouraging the sides to maintain the

Today, this component of the balance has been dislodged. The security of the
buffer zone is effected because there is increased pressure on Armenians to
return territories. Azerbaijan has massively building its military. Our
confidence in our military has not changed. But Azerbaijan’s decision
whether to go to war or not, will be based solely on their own perception of
the military balance. At the same time, the negotiations process too is
vulnerable. The document under discussion is the fifth document in 10 years.
If the sides lose confidence in the negotiations process, this loss of
faith, coupled with a perceived change in the military balance, is extremely
dangerous and can bring on the great and imminent danger of war.

I have just enumerated five areas of great vulnerability for us. These must
be at the basis of all our mobilization efforts.

We must ensure that Nagorno Karabakh does not become the object of trade
among the great powers. We must not accept quotas on self-determination or
independence. We must not allow Turkey to exploit the existing deadlocked
situation between us and divert their responsibility by putting the blame on
Armenians for not making concessions in Nagorno Karabakh. We must clearly
articulate that a decision by a small group of countries at the UN cannot
pretend to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Finally, because we who
have won the military battles know full well that there is no military
solution to this conflict, we must do all we can to avoid war, to encourage
compromise on all sides, compromise that respects the realities on the
ground and that offers real, historical, legal, human justice.

These objectives form the basis for our mobilization effort, an effort that
has as its ideology and purpose the right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh
to safety and security and a future of dignity.

This is where the history of the last two decades brings us – to a claim
that the world acknowledge this universal right for the people of Nagorno
Karabakh, who have themselves voted for it, fought for it and developed
institutional frameworks to consolidate it. A lasting resolution must be
based the realities of these 20 years and look forward, with realism again,
to a future of peace.


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