Staunton, January 4 – Only by joining the Russian-Belarusian Union State can Yerevan avoid losing to Turkey the Armenian territory between Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, according to Artashes Gegamyan, leader of a group of Yerevan politicians who have set up an organizing committee to promote Armenian membership in that state.
The group was formed a week ago, but only today has the National Unity Party leader and former presidential candidate, explained for a Moscow audience the reasons he and his colleagues are convinced that such an arrangement is not only necessary but the only path for the salvation of Armenia and the Armenian nation (regnum.ru/news/polit/3156877.html).
In highly emotional language, Gegamyan makes the following points:
· First, according to him, Turkey is animated today by the same notions that led to the genocide of Armenians in 1915 with Ankara’s talk about “one nation, two [or more] states” recalling Hitler’s words in advance of the Austrian Anschluss.
· Second, Turkey is backed by the US, the UK, and Israel which is interested in promoting instability in the southern Caucasus so as to weaken both Russia and Iran, and that Armenians, who understand that, cannot expect help from that direction.
· Third, Armenia in the latest Qarabagh war has suffered such enormous losses in personnel and civilians and in territory, with the Artsakh Republic having lost 80 percent of its lands, that it faces the possibility that it will lose still more in the future.
· Fourth, economically, Armenia is almost completely dependent on Russia and consequently must form an alliance with Moscow far closer than any it has yet had.
· And fifth, the flashpoint in all this right now is not in Qarabagh but in the Zengezur region between Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, a region across which the November 10 declaration calls for transit but one that Turkey and Azerbaijan have far more sweeping goals.
Gegamyan concedes that many in Armenia reject these ideas and have worked to ensure that his group has not been able to use the media there to mobilize support. That is why he has chosen to use a Russian news outlet to ensure that his position and that of his comrades reaches a broader audience.
It is unlikely that there is much support for such a union state at least not at present given that many Armenians believe that Moscow betrayed their country by not constraining Azerbaijan or intervening in a more timely fashion to block the advance of Azerbaijani forces. But as time passes, that may change.
On the one hand, Russia’s efforts to bring back to the Stepanakert area as many Armenians who fled from there as possible are likely to win over many Armenians to the idea that in fact what Russia did was to intervene, admittedly relatively late, on their side, and will be ready to do so more fully against Azerbaijan and Turkey in the future.
And on the other, precisely because some Armenians like Gegamyan see Armenia recovering some of its losses in the area around Stepanakert, they are going to focus on the other portion of the agreement, about transit routes and especially the one between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan now.
To the extent that Gegamyan reflects such views and to the extent that Russia may want to play to them, that could easily mean that the hopes of Baku and Ankara for unconstrained transit between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan could be dashed, not so much by a complete blockage as by bureaucratic delays.
Given that the Minsk Group seems committed primarily to the question of the status of Qarabagh, these two factors could combine to create a situation in which the Zengezur corridor along the Iranian border could become the next flashpoint in this conflict, one that would involve a far larger number of actors.