Page -210-
The historical sources of Armenian mistrust

   This analysis leads us to rather pessimistic conclusions regarding Armenian-Azerbaijani and Armenian- Turkish relations. Yet these conclusions are contested. International mediators and "observers" have blamed Armenia for, as they put it, an irrational mistrust on the part of Armenians toward Azberbaijan and its policies. In light of such assessments, an examination of the bases of Armenian mistrust is warranted.    When we compare the present situation with the historical record in the region, the Nagomo-Karabagh conflict emerges as an organic extension of Armenian-Turkish conflict of the 1894-1923 period rather than as an isolated historical phenomenon. Among the striking similarities between these periods are the same Turkish geostrategic objective and state policies of establishing and controlling directly and fully land communication among the Turkophone peoples from the Bosphorus through Baku to Central Asia.
   The Armenians do not trust Baku because they have not forgotten the pan-Turkic genocidal policies conducted by independent Azerbaijan against the Armenians from 1918 to 1920, followed by elaborate ethnic discrimination against Armenians through all seven decades within Soviet Azerbaijan. The independent post-Soviet Azerbaijani Republic simply revived and continued the old policies of massacres and forceful deportations of its Armenian population.
   While Azerbaijani policies toward Armenia have been adequately assessed and elucidated, Turkish policies toward Armenia have been insufficiently analyzed by Armenian policymakers and analysts. We can summarize Turkish anti-Armenia and anti-Armenian policies under five major headings.

Page -211-

1. International campaign. Turkey has been pursuing a decades-long international anti-Armenian campaign in diplomatic, academic and public circles. After Armenia regained its independence, this campaign has been intensified both qualitatively and quantitatively.
2. Diplomatic relations. Ankara has been categorically refusing to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia from 1991 onwards. At first, Ankara tried to justify its stance by reference to Armenia's nonexistent territorial claims against Turkey, then by the Karabakh conflict. Later, Turkey invented numerous other pretexts as rationales for its hostile policies toward Armenia. In fact, since 1993, a new pretext has been adopted, namely false Turkish allegations of Armenian support for PKK guerrillas in the form of bases and training on Armenian territory. Turkey even names the places inside Armenia where it says there are PKK bases, among them the vicinity of the Armenian nuclear power station and the Lachin corridor.[10] If we recall that Turkey has not hesitated to strike against alleged PKK bases in a foreign country (Iraq) without any international sanction - from 1991 to June 1998, there have been at least 55 Turkish assaults into Northern Iraq, including four major operations involving more than 20000 troops -then these Turkish allegations do stand as a clear threat to Armenia's security.[11] Until now the Armenian government has failed to assess these Turkish policies correctly. The refusal to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia should be assessed as nothing less than an attempt to fundamentally deny the Armenian right to an independent statehood.
3. Turkish-Azerbaijani alliance. Turkish diplomatic, propaganda and military support to Azerbaijan throughout the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has acquired the proportions and characteristics of a mature military-political alliance between Ankara and Baku. The level of military commitment by Turkey to Azerbaijan can be illustrated b the statement of the commander-in-chjef of Turkish ground forces, General Hikmet Goksal, who visited Baku in November 1996 within the framework of the Treaty on Bilateral Military Cooperation signed between Turkey and Azerbaijan in summer 1996 (visits to Baku by top Turkish generals occurred before the signing of the treaty as well). He told a briefing in Baku "if the cease-fire regime is violated by Armenia, Turkey under the treaty on bilateral [military] cooperation will render necessary aid to Azerbaijan." An such aid, he added, "would be consistent with international legal norms."[12] This was probably the most explicit among numerous Turkish threats to intervene militarily into the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict on Azerbaijan's behalf.
Page -212-

4. The blockade. The effect of the blockade of Armenia by Turkey is nearly equivalent to a full-scale war. It has devastated Armenia's economy and caused an exodus of more than 700000 refugees. It is now evident that by opening its border with Armenia in the winter of 1992-93 Turkey sought merely to advance its propagandistic ends. At that time the defeat of the Karabagh Armenians seemed imminent to both Baku and Ankara, and a few cargo trains carrying wheat to Armenia would not have had any appreciable effect on the situation.
5. The denial of the Armenian genocide. Before addressing this question directly, let us consider the notion frequently promoted by western mediators and diplomats that history does not have any place in the settlement of the Karabagh conflict.

   Many Western observers view the Armenian-Turkish conflict of the 1894-192 period and the most recent Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabagh as separate and distinct developments. In stark contrast, the Armenians, the Azerbaijanis and the Turks join together in viewing the current Karabagh crisis as the continuation of the earlier conflicts. As a matter of fact, since the strategic thinking of the parties to the conflict is severely determined by history; history plays a major role in the negotiating process over the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict.[13]    Armenia fears the repetition of genocide. Turkey is worried that in the future its Armenian neighbor will be held up as an economically prosperous and internationally respected state, which would then be in the position to raise questions about moral and material compensations for the colossal damage done to the Armenian nation by the Ottoman Empire (leaving aside the territorial claims). Azerbaijan is fearful of losing Nakhichevan in addition to what it has already lost. Turkey is also very apprehensive that Nakhichevan could be conquered by Armenia. Such a development would mean a radical change in the strategic situation in the whole region. Turkish dreams of ever establishing a land corridor with Azerbaijan, and then to Central Asia, would suffer a devastating blow; Armenian borders would acquire some natural shape, providing her with an economic viability and an increased defense depth; and Turkey would experience a severe reduction of influence in the region.

Page -213-

   Having been a victim of genocide in the not too distant past, Armenia's population is extremely sensitive to security issues. This sensitivity has been partly responsible for both the unparalleled determination on the part of Armenian fighters during the Karabagh war as well as for the mass exodus of population from Armenia during recent years. For Armenians, psychological security, a feeling of safety, is equal in importance to such traditional basic layers of national security as military and economic security.[14]
   For Armenia, international recognition of the Armenian Genocide has a primary strategic and security importance in addition to its legal and moral value. The recognition of genocide by the international community would reduce the possibility of any direct Turkish aggression against the Republic of Armenia. The recognition of genocide by Turkey itself could serve as a rudimentary confidence-building measure in Armenian-Turkish relations. However, present Turkish policies indicate that this is not going to happen in the coming years and perhaps decades. Hence, for an unknown protracted period of time, Armenian- Turkish relations are going to develop in conditions of deep and principled mistrust, irrespective of the level of diplomatic and commercial relationships.
   Former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian and his government were of the opinion that establishing active commercial relationships with Turkey and Azerbaijan would solve Armenia's grave security problems. Such an assessment was based on a naive misreading of history. During the 1894-1914 period Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Tatar commercial relations had been vigorous and dynamic; nevertheless, this factor did not, and could not, play any role in the prevention of the Armenian Genocide.[15] Before 1990, the commercial, financial and political relations between Iraq and Kuwait were excellent; nevertheless, that factor did not prevent the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Before 1988, Armenia and Azerbaijan were collaborating in almost all economic fields; nevertheless, this did not prevent the eruption of the Karabagh conflict.
   Commercial relations do not automatically create a harmony of strategic interests. Further, these relationships often themselves become the causes for conflict. Conflictologists have noted that interdependent

Page -214-

economic systems are much more inclined to conf1ict than mutually independent economic systems. It has been stressed particularly that the independence of capitalist and communist political and economic systems contributed to stability during the cold war era. Having made this point, I do no want to convey the impression that Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Azerbaijani commercial relations are undesirable. Not at all. Such relationships are very desirable and even necessary for the normal development of the Armenian economy, and the Armenian government has never been against such collaboration. The point is simply that the development of commercial relationships and the safeguarding of Armenia's security are different issues. The security of Armenia must be safeguarded by other means.
   At this point we can reach two conclusions: (1) the only hostile step that Turkey has not yet undertaken against Armenia is direct military intervention, and (2) Turkey is an immediate party to the Nagorno-Karabagh conf1ict. .

The strategic world views of the parties to the conflict

   We should now consider the strategic thinking of the immediate parties to this conf1ict (IPCs), Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabagh, and Turkey, and compare it to the thinking of the Minsk Group (MG). The term strategic thinking refers here to the calculations and prognoses of the parties to the conf1ict about the long-term threats to their national security and ensuing long-term priorities of their foreign policies.

Historical-chronological approach

IPCs -the conf1ict has a century-old history and will continue after the Minsk Group plan is implemented.
MG -the conf1ict started in 1988 and will finish with the implementation of the proposed peace plan.

Territorial approach

IPCs -the conflict is about the entire territory of Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as that of eastern Turkey.
MG -the conflict is limited to Nagorno-Karabagh and the adjacent territories.

Security guarantees

Armenia and Karabakh -security guarantees are needed for both Nagorno-Karabagh and Armenia, in particular, Siunik.
Azerbaijan and Turkey -security guarantees are needed for Nakhichevan. MG -security guarantees are needed for Nagorno-Karabagh.

Back    Main Page    Next

Copyright © 2002 ArCGroup