The great geopolitical solitude of Armenia, by Frédéric Encel

The great geopolitical solitude of Armenia by Frederic Encel

Rare are the peoples to have suffered so much, rare are the States to suffer from so many weaknesses and structural fragility. In 1915, shortly after the great massacres of 1894-1896, 1.5 million Armenian civilians were exterminated by the Young Turk government of the ending Ottoman Empire, hundreds of thousands of survivors being both despoiled and dispersed in the Near East and West. Only remains in the extreme east of the centuries-old Armenian territory a poor mountainous acre of the Caucasus, around the modest city of Yerevan, where the First Republic was proclaimed, quickly annexed to the nascent Soviet Union. Since independence in 1991, the Second Republic of Armenia has been at war with neighboring Azerbaijan over the contentious issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, a land overwhelmingly populated by Armenians for centuries but Machiavellian given by Stalin to the Republic Soviet Azerbaijan in 1921.

Today, Armenia concentrates almost all the possible geopolitical difficulties, starting with those of a geographical nature: a mountainous land not conducive to intensive agriculture, the absence of access to the sea (a prohibitive weakness in full commercial globalization), very serious consequence of the expulsion and destruction of the Armenians of Anatolia in 1915 connected to the Black Sea as well as to the Mediterranean, and the scarcity of precious marketable natural resources.

But it is the geopolitical context of Armenia which highlights the ingratitude of this geography. Not only are two of its four neighbors – Turkey and allied Azerbaijan – hostile to it, but the second has been at open war since 1991, let alone since its victorious 2020 offensive and the prevailing blockade of the 120,000 inhabitants of Karabakh. Since. However, these allies are much more populated and rich than Armenia, and, moreover, they seek to join their borders; to do this, it would be necessary to cut the narrow Zanguezour corridor (also called Meghri). The other two neighbours, Georgia to the north and Iran to the south, do not constitute a counterweight, for lack of an alliance between them and of each of them with Yerevan, and because the first is poor (and partially occupied by the Russian army), and the second hampered by international sanctions linked to the nuclear issue. Equally serious, Armenia’s real statutory ally, Russia, has seriously failed to defend it either during the September 2020 Azerbaijani army offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh and since then against the incursions of that here at its internationally recognized borders. Alas, the alternative to Moscow does not exist; the United States will never take the risk of intervening militarily far from their bases in such a dangerous space without major interest.

energy of despair

It will be added that the Armenian regime has hardly shone, as even the most fervent supporters of the cause recognize: after the victory of 1994, wrested with the energy of despair, nothing has been seriously thought about. Abroad, neither annexation, nor recognition, nor partial withdrawal from disputed Karabakh, nor even strategic adaptation was undertaken, favoring a wait-and-see attitude which, in the long run, ended up favoring oil-producing Azerbaijan. Inside, corruption (contested by Armenian citizens themselves in recent decades) and an absence of social and demographic policy were maintained, even though the birth rate and migratory flows were alarmingly high.

Only two assets remain: first, an active and relatively powerful diaspora, in Europe and the United States in particular, which contributes to meeting certain social and humanitarian needs and to encouraging governments to speak out; then, Iran’s refusal to see the rival Azerbaijani state – accused of irredentism in the Tabriz region – and Sunni and neo-imperial Turkey mutually reinforcing each other to the detriment of an otherwise harmless Armenia. These two positive elements may be able to prevent Baku from invading the Zangezour corridor, but not from giving Yerevan a lasting deterrent power.

France, in view of its long and real closeness with the Armenian people, and because it is a permanent member of the Security Council and of the Minsk group and the main politico-military power of the EU, should play a much more active role. History teaches us that neglecting loyal friends in need often ends up being costly…