7 December 2021

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"IT’S A SUICIDE"

Alexei NAUMOV: “All these years Armenia has been preparing for a war that it could never have won”

Author:

01.12.2020

The Patriotic War of Azerbaijan ended with the capitulation of Armenia. Azerbaijan restored the international law on its territories, despite the enormous political, military and information support of Armenia from outside. In just 44 days, we witnessed an unprecedented manifestation of double standards in the media, numerous cases of one-sided, biased coverage of events in the conflict zone, and the distortion of history. But there were also exceptions.

Alexei Naumov was one of the few Russian experts who provided an objective analysis of ongoing events in his reports and statements. “We must remember that Garabagh belongs to Azerbaijan under international law. Azerbaijan fought for the return of this territory. Most importantly, after returning the city of Shusha, Azerbaijan stopped before the triumph and nobly agreed to let the peacekeepers in and gradually transfer the rest of the regions back to Azerbaijan. The Armenians were given a week to leave these areas. Yes, the time was short, we are sorry for them. But we remember that back in 1993, Azerbaijanis ran away from these places barely clothed. Whoever could not run away, would be killed," Naumov said in one of his statements on the Rossiya TV channel in contrast to attempts to present Azerbaijan as an aggressor and the Armenian side as a victim.

Alexei NAUMOV is the Deputy Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Kommersant Publishing House, an expert of the Russian International Affairs Council. He shares his vision of the future of the region after the war with our magazine.

 

"Alexei, we saw that you have a good knowledge of the history of the Garabagh conflict. Where did you get this information?"

"People involved in international relations are always interested in conflicts, especially those with insoluble contradictions. The Daghlig Garabagh conflict was just one of those. It has also been an issue of my professional interest. Systematically and consistently approaching the conflict, I came to certain conclusions. In particular, I studied what Garabagh means for Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis.

“My grandfather served in the Red Banner Caspian Flotilla. That’s why my father was born where the main base of the fleet was, in Baku. They left Azerbaijan long time ago, but some relatives and friends remained there. My parents and I came to visit them in Baku a couple of times and could enjoy the beautiful views of the city and Azerbaijan. At the same time, I learned a lot about the Garabagh conflict.”

"What was the reaction of the Russian society and expert community to the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in Garabagh?"

"In general, Russians like to play the first roles at the international level. We are used to thinking of Russia as a great country with global ambitions and influence. It is quite nice to see this influence used for good. Most ordinary people feel proud of their country. Although the great Soviet colossus has collapsed, it is nice to realise that we can still do something, especially stopping wars and saving lives.

“The expert community has a somewhat more cautious attitude to the current situation. We understand that the war in Garabagh is over, at least for the coming years. But the conflict is still not fully resolved. So far, not everything is clear about the management of territories in Garabagh, where Armenians live. How will the agreement be implemented? Will the Armenian side dream about revenging after 5-10 years?

“The Russian peacekeepers are in the conflict zone, where there is great mutual hostility and bitterness between the two peoples. A situation may arise when both sides blame the Russians for their unrealized goals. The Armenian side already says that the Russians did not save us, the Azerbaijanis say that they were not allowed to reclaim all of Garabagh on their own. On the other hand, President Ilham Aliyev made a note about an offensive prepared to liberate Aghdam, which could claim the lives of hundreds of people. I think the current situation, more or less, suits all parties. Nobody wants to see new coffins in Baku and Yerevan.

“Thanks to the trilateral agreement between the conflicting parties, it is possible to ensure a slow and gradual process of returning lands to Azerbaijan. If the war continued, then Azerbaijan could also get big humanitarian problems with the Armenian population, up to and including sanctions. Azerbaijan has to fend off groundless accusations from the West. The Armenian propaganda portrays Azerbaijan as a barbarian state, a destroyer. The claims would be much stronger if Azerbaijan continued to return the entire Garabagh. I hope that Azerbaijani politicians will be able to explain to the population the benefits from the implementation of the agreements.”

"Which model should be used to reconcile the peoples in Garabagh?"

"Much will now depend on the Azerbaijani side. Winning a war is much easier than winning a long-standing peace. The winner is responsible for the post-war settlement of the situation. It is important that Azerbaijan demonstrates all its beneficial virtues, such as culture, nobility, multinationality, tolerance. If the Azerbaijani and Armenian peoples can get along on the territory of Garabagh, then it is likely that the remaining cities and territories of Garabagh also smoothly go under Baku's control. But it will be over time, perhaps a generation needs to change before this happens.

“If you take a sober look at the current situation, the remaining territories will not be able to survive in a hostile environment. Therefore, it is the Armenians who win from reconciliation first. But the Armenian side is hurt, insulted and humiliated. It is not worth expecting any constructive steps from them now. They must heal their wounds first.”

"Some Armenians call on their fellow compatriots not to give up and resist in Garabagh. We have already heard about clashes between the Armenian militants and Russian peacekeepers, although the reports have not been officially confirmed. What happens if somebody opens fire at the peacekeepers?"

"Recently Kommersant has published an interview with one of the peacekeepers, who claimed that Russia in Garabagh is simply sterile neutral. Certainly, any attempts by some ‘disobedient’ Armenians to destabilise the situation will be severely suppressed. In 2008, Russian peacekeepers came under fire in Georgia, and we all remember how the situation ended afterwards. If there are any attacks on the peacekeepers, then Russian public opinion will turn against the Armenians. Armenians are not interested in conflict with Russia. In fact, an alternative for the Armenians will be a complete military defeat, a complete defeat without any guarantees for the future of the Armenian population in this region."

"The agreement of the three leaders overshadowed the role of the OSCE Minsk Group. There are calls for disbanding the Minsk Group or changing the composition of the co-chairs. How will the future of this international peacekeeping initiative develop?"

"I think the OSCE Minsk Group will probably play its role in the further negotiation process. It is obvious that Azerbaijan has changed the balance of power in the conflict. But no one denies that a further peaceful settlement of the conflict is necessary. The more is the number of sides, the more neutrality we can see. It's clear that one can blame Russia for something. But if the other two world powers are also the signatories, then we can talk about the recognition and legitimacy of the agreements. This will play an important role in the future. In the coming few months we will see how viable the Minsk platform is."

"What about the resolution of the French Senate? We can also see pro-Armenian positions in other co-chairing countries...”

"In the current situation, when a diplomatic solution is absolutely necessary, the Minsk Group comes to the fore. It depends on the members of the Minsk Group how influential and constructive it will be in the settlement of the conflict. But what do we see?

“The US is still concerned about the transfer of power. We yet to know the position and willingness of the new American administration to resolve the Garabagh issue. France, due to the resolution of the Senate, weakened its positions. It actually put itself in an awkward position and was forced to justify itself through the statement of its minister of Foreign Affairs.

“Of the three co-chairs, only Russia has shown its neutral position in both the words and deeds. During the war, there were calls for tough intervention against Azerbaijan and Turkey. This is probably why there is a wrong opinion in Azerbaijan that the Russian society is pro-Armenian. This is not so, believe me. I communicate with many different people, including the civilians and profession politicians and diplomats. Our historic mission is to be neutral. And believe me, no one will remain neutral in Garabagh except us.

“On the other hand, it is nice to the Russian tricolour along with the Azerbaijani and Turkish flags in Baku. Russia did not fall into the trap of the Armenian propaganda, did not believe in the mythical Christian brotherhood and behaved quite decently. It's nice to see when the decent behaviour is appreciated.”

"Armenias continue to burn and destroy everything on the lands they are leaving according to the agreement. During the years of occupation, they destroyed hundreds of Azerbaijani historical, cultural and architectural artefacts. Azerbaijan is going to sue the Armenian side through the international authorities. Do you think it is possible to get reparations from the Armenian side?"

"As for the destruction of monuments, this information war will last for a long time. Both sides will accuse each other of various barbarities. Another thing is that now we do not have clear mechanisms for verifying who destroyed the artefacts and when. It will be almost impossible to find and punish those responsible. All attempts by Azerbaijan to do this will be considered as attempts to settle scores with the defeated enemy. Perhaps it would make sense to leave this topic for now and start preserving the monuments that remain.

“You can, of course, go back to history to find examples of reparations. From the top of my mind, I can name Germany after the Second World War and Iraq after the Gulf War. But in both cases, the defeat of one of the parties was legally documented, making it possible to hold both countries responsible for the unjust wars they unleashed. In our case, Armenia will not do this and no one can force it to do so. Even the International Criminal Court does not have the tools to do this. However, raising the issue could be a good PR move for Azerbaijan. For example, you can insist on the fact that Dadivank is an Albanian, not an Armenian monastery. This can help reduce PR costs.”

"The defeat in the Garabagh war became a moment of truth for Yerevan. Today, there is a political and economic collapse in Armenia. What will be the future of Armenia?"

"Certainly, Armenia is going to face a series of political upheavals. We can see how the conditional "democracy" of Armenia did not give it a chance to properly prepare for a military confrontation.

It is obvious that now Armenia is in a deep political and ideological crisis. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Armenia has no other choice than to rely on Russia. For objective reasons, Armenia is doomed if it decides to make any pro-Western move in foreign policy. Instead, Armenia needs to come to senses. Perhaps getting rid of the Garabagh problem will be that trigger. After all, all these years the country has been preparing for a war that it could never have won. It was an absolutely suicidal move.

“I hope that Armenia gets out of this crisis as a more successful state, which is actually beneficial for everyone. This will allow it forget about revenge. It is important now not to trample the national feelings of the Armenian people. After all, as we know from history, if the country is constantly humiliated, then ultra-radical politics cut off from the realities, can come to power. This does not sound good for anyone.”



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