“Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan” is a quote attributed to the 35th US President John F. Kennedy. Internal political processes in Armenia after the shameful military defeat in Garabagh once again confirm the relevance of these words. None of the Armenian political bosses wants to take responsibility for the defeat. The members of the so called Garabagh Clan blame Nikol Pashinyan for everything, while the latter came out with a lengthy article trying to prove himself not being the only responsible person for the defeat...
But beneath this ‘the same to you’ discussion lies the main thing - a real, cool-head analysis of the situation in Armenia. It is especially important amid the current dangerous growth of revanchist sentiments in Yerevan, where Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan promises to ‘take back’ the territories liberated by Azerbaijan.
Many third-party experts believe that the Armenian society is being pushed to the growth of revanchism also through the wave of official Armenian propaganda. Indeed, after the victorious reports, statements about “the valiant Armenian army entering Baku tomorrow,” the capitulation signed on November 10 is regarded as a betrayal of Armenian national interests. In addition, the assurances of a "betrayal" unobtrusively lead the Armenian audience to the idea that it was possible to avoid the defeat in Garabagh and the need to liberate the territories in Zangezur. This explains the growth of revanchist sentiments in Armenia very well.
Armenian revanchism has already reached a point that made the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev warn the Armenian authorities in the last days of the past year during his trip to the liberated district of Gubadli: “We have broken the backbone of the Armenian fascist and terrorist state. We forced them to kneel before us. They must draw the right lessons. Revanchist sentiments will not make them any good. Even a single shot from the other side is enough for us to make them forget their names. After all, the border with Armenia is just five kilometres away."
Apparently, the authors of Armenia's revanchist plans have forgotten about the real balance of power and the scale of their country's defeat.
Recovering from the blow
According to the estimates of the Azerbaijan State Economic University, Armenia suffered $4.8 billion due to the loss of weapons and equipment during the 44-day war in Garabagh.
Experts also note that the military budget of Armenia in 2021 will reach 218 billion drams (about $430 million). This money will definitely render any attempts to recover from the loss useless. Armenia also needs funds for the construction of engineering fortifications on the new border line with Azerbaijan. The list can be expanded.
The former Armenian Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan has come up with a similar assessment: “We have no army. This is a crushing defeat to say the least”. According to Bagratyan, the Armenian army has been destroyed by 80%.
Perhaps, Armenian authorities expect to get weapons again as a gift from their foreign friends and patrons. But, firstly, no one is going to give away $5 billion just for the sake of a simple gesture. Secondly, generous donors will have to think twice before presenting such gifts to Armenia, given the risk of compromising their own image when they see their donated weapons and equipment demonstrated on the streets of Baku. Finally, it is not enough just to buy weapons. They require trained military personnel, which has been seriously damaged after the strikes of Azerbaijani drones and artillery on Armenian positions and command posts...
Moreover, Yerevan also needs to consider filling in the gaps in the military technical field. As military experts noted during the war, "in Garabagh, the Armenian army of the 20th century clashed with the Azerbaijani army of the 21st century." Armenia fought with weapons of the twentieth century and followed the tactics of the same period. At the same time, Azerbaijan has very effectively used the most modern military technologies from various drones to high-precision missiles.
Armenia has also the war in foreign policy. Contrary to the hopes of Yerevan, the ‘barbecue revolution’ has failed in building reliable bridges with the West, which has not rushed to invest substantial political investments in a country with a Russian military base deployed on its territory, with borders guarded by the Russian military and with all the infrastructure owned by Russian companies. The external effects of the colour revolution were not enough for the political reorientation to the West. But they were enough to spoil the relations with Moscow. In fact, Russia has honestly fulfilled and continues to fulfil its allied obligations towards Armenia, but is obviously reluctant to take serious risks on Armenia’s behalf.
Now the situation is even worse. Azerbaijan not only kicked the invaders out of its territory, but also passed a serious test for maturity as a state, making the other players to take into account the interests of Baku at a completely new level. Turkey has significantly strengthened its positions in the region. And it acts not according to a conflict scenario, but according to a contractual scenario with Russia. The ongoing events look like a political nightmare for Armenia.
Revanchism instead of butter
The war did not touch the territory of Armenia. It is not going to clean up the territory, restore communications, etc. Nevertheless, experts are confident that the Armenian economy was essentially destroyed as a result of the war. Fighting in the modern world is expensive. Moreover, Armenia now has to to fulfil social obligations to the families of the dead and invalid soldiers, to accommodate the citizens, who had to flee from the occupied Azerbaijani lands to settle back in Armenia...
Armenia has long been suffering from economic problems, even before Nikol Pashinyan came to power. In addition, as a result of the aggressive Armenian policy, the country has found itself in isolation. Oil and gas pipelines bypass its territory, with the railways system blocked. The signing of the trilateral statement is a chance to unblock the communications. But it’s a chance that Armenia can lose again due to revanchism. Trains run on rails and cross the borders. To make the railways work, these borders must be recognized. And if Armenia is not ready for this... the odds are Yerevan misses the chance for economic reanimation.
Even before the Pashinyan administration, there were alarming signals demonstrating the lack of economic safety in Armenia. The gold reserves were sold back in the 2000s. This is a very big problem on its own. But there are other serious problems as well.
Bread, gold, war
Bread, Gold, Revolver is the title of the film by Samvel Gasparov released back in 1980, which takes place during the Russian civil war. A paraphrase of the title – bread, gold, war – best describes the economic losses of Armenia after the liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Back in early December, the following indicators were published with reference to the sources at the top of the illegal regime of Garabagh. Of 7,000 hectares of gardens in Garabagh, only about 2,000 hectares remained in the Armenian-populated regions - no more than 30% of the previous area. This means that there will be shortage of pomegranate, persimmon, grapes... The same is true for cereals and legumes. Autumn and spring sowing was carried out on the occupied Azerbaijani lands on 100 thousand hectares, including cereals, legumes and oilseeds. Now the Armenian side no longer controls 70% of the area. And if earlier the grain from Garabagh was supplied to Armenia, now the ‘stub’ controlled by Russian peacekeepers is not even able to feed itself.
The former Prime Minister of Armenia Hrant Bagratyan voiced a frightening forecast: “We may have a famine in March, April, and May. I don't see anything good yet. We have lost thousands of hectares of arable lands, pastures, and wheat fields,” he said.
The loss of control over mineral deposits, including gold, is especially tangible for Armenia. Their predatory plunder ensured the inflow of substantial sums into the Armenian budget. And now this ‘golden stream’ is drying up. If we take into account that in 2013 every tenth schoolchild in Armenia came to class hungry because they had no food at home, then Hrant Bagratyan can hardly be blamed for exaggerating the picture.
Deficit of Armenians
Finally, Armenia is also suffering from another old problem – demography. It sounds like an anecdote: “What will happen to the Sahara desert if they start building socialism there? - Shortage of sand. What will happen to Armenia if populists come to power there? - Deficit of Armenians.” The population of Armenia today is the same as in 1978, and it continues to decline steadily.
The well-known Azerbaijani political scientist Ilgar Velizade recalls that as of October 1, 2020, the population of Azerbaijan reached 10,116,292 people, having increased from the beginning of the year by 49,184 people, or 0.5%. And he adds: “Demographic indicators are serious in that they determine the role and place of the country on the map of its region. They show both the economic and military potential of the country, the degree of its influence in the short and medium term”. He also said that in demographic terms, the Armenians are actually "surrounded" by the Azerbaijani population. And if the two-thirds of the Republic of Armenia borders with the Republic of Azerbaijan, then in demographic terms, more than 80% of the Armenian population is in contact with Azerbaijanis. If we add ethnic Turks to them, we will have more than 90% of the borders.
It is quite predictable that the war, economic turmoil and political instability will only boost the mass exodus from Armenia. All the more so if Armenian authorities have plans for revenge.