In an interview with ArmInfo, independent analyst Saro Saroyan speaks of the domestic political impulses in Armenia at the end of the outgoing year. He also analyzes certain aspects of ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s speech made in December, as well as the reasons of certain failures in Armenia’s foreign policy.
In his speech made at the ANC congress, the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan stressed the need for a phased settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Part of the Armenian society is convinced that cession of territories is unacceptable to Artsakh and Armenia today the way it was unacceptable 18 years ago. Do you think the policy of status quo maintenance is a real alternative to the documents on the table? Are there any other alternatives meeting our interests?
It is almost impossible to imagine any manifestation of human activity, including the political one, without psychological stimuli. When talking about the status quo maintenance and other settlement options, we are first of all guided by our knowledge, psychology and thinking. The phased plan of the Karabakh conflict settlement proposed by Levon Ter-Petrosyan has consolidated the people who remain affected by the genocide syndrome and who have failed to realize the reasons of that nationwide tragedy. Therefore, the problem is inside us, not in the foreign ill-wishers. Today, when defending our national interests, we have not reached the level that allows us to protect our own rights ourselves. This is how one can explain the viewpoint according to which the unresolved Karabakh conflict hampers the development of Armenia. The same is true about those advocating status quo maintenance. There is little difference between these two ways. In the first case, they are just trying to get rid of the problem, and in the second case they are hiding their heads in the sand, hoping for future opportunities and trying not to notice the developments and impulses in the Caucasus and in the Middle East. The status quo will not be maintained, no matter whether we like it or not. The four-day war is direct evidence of it. No one jokes when marking new borders and escalating the conflict for four days. Unlike us, the world looks at any processes rationally. We are the only ones to still face the malicious dilemma - to cede the territories in exchange for status or to maintain the status quo. Meanwhile, the alternative has always existed - it is the NKR recognition with further reunification with Armenia. It is our right and only our own mentality put into the chains of powerlessness can prevent us from exercising that right.
Azerbaijan regularly comes out with new initiatives against Armenians worldwide. The matter particularly concerns the creation of a “peace platform” involving odious Armenians, the arrest of a blogger for visiting Artsakh, new military contracts with Israel, etc. Do you consider the response of the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, National Security Service and other structures to be satisfactory?
The difference between Armenia and Azerbaijan is exactly in making such steps. Talking about the depravity of Armenian power's way of thinking, I mean also the new initiatives of Baku, aimed against Armenians. In fact, the statements of our authorized bodies in this respect are nothing more than a storm in a cup of water. Before Ramil Safarov is punished by the Armenian National Security Service, we will be watching performances arranged by Serzh Sargsyan and his regime. Counteractions against Azerbaijani initiatives should be organized not in words but in actions. And the case will become feasible when the warning statements are supported by a process of calling for certain liability. And when, for example, Israel ignores the interests of Armenia, it should feel all the consequences of such negligence on its own skin. And the blogger, who visited Artsakh, should be protected in a third country not by his motherland, but by the Republic of Armenia. There are many theoretical solutions like this. The main thing is the effective implementation of these solutions.
Despite all its shortcomings, Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s speech at the ANC congress is the first political speech of the past few years. It was a speech of the man who leads the team trying to realize the ongoing processes in Armenia and around Armenia. Against the background of Ter-Petrosyan and his team – even amid their past and current flaws – the incumbent regime looks shallow, to put it mildly. Do you think Ter-Petrosyan’s messages have a chance to be heard by the voters in April 2017?
One can hardly find a reasonable person who can state that the country is capable of holding free and fair elections. Amid the inefficient electoral mechanisms, when the election results do not express the people's will, the notion of electorate turns into farce. Nevertheless, the latest speech of ANC leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan was made with due regard for the parliamentary elections of 2017. The speech reflected his expectations to obtain a certain number of mandates during the elections. The speech also stressed that the general picture of the ratio of forces in the future parliament is already being drawn by the people, who will rig the elections. The opposition field is already experiencing serious competition for the mandates provided to the opposition. The opposition forces perfectly realize that they can receive seats in the Parliament only in case they meet the foreign and domestic priorities set by the incumbent regime and if they provide certain services to the same regime. It is against this background that any manifestation of rationalism and any type of activity by the advocates of Karabakh status quo maintenance and the so-called pacifists is persecuted. The Armenian political field is now facing such "challenges", when the incumbent regime and almost the entire opposition field have united against any display of rationalism and any type of activeness to retain their own positions.
The “return” of Gagik Tsarukyan, the minor repairs initiated by Karen Karapetyan, the incapability of the new government to take real steps towards de-monopolization of economy, the growing foreign debt, the outflow of investments are just some of the many indicators of permanency of the incumbent authorities' course that leads Armenia to nowhere. How do you imagine Armenia in the post-electoral period?
I can say that the setback, which has the gray color of the political color range of the National Assembly, will unambiguously gain momentum. Today it is possible to only forecast the trend of the pace acceleration, but it is impossible to say how malicious the consequences can be. This year we witnessed a four-day war, people's revolt, change of government, economic downturn, even deeper polarization of the society, etc. In this light, I think the retention of power - even if certain people are replaced - is unable to stop or suspend the setback in Armenia.
Opinions about the global trends amid Trump's victory, changes in Europe and global security, as well as about the changes in the Iran-Israel and Russia-US relations are different. Would you assess the opportunities, as well as challenges and threats for Armenia?
It is impossible to assess the opportunities, the implementation of which is related to the behavior of certain entities. The Armenian political class suffers from a syndrome that constantly transforms the external opportunities into challenges and phobias in people's consciousness. Meanwhile, our region is undergoing rather serious changes. Turkey is sinking in deeper and deeper foreign and domestic bogs. Unknown forces are constantly trying to open new fronts of clashes between Russia and Turkey. The Kurdish factor is going to be replaced by the vision of Great Kurdistan and the factor of Israel in the Iran-West relations is undergoing considerable transformations. The upcoming policy of the US President-elect Donald Trump's Administration is like a kinder surprise. No one knows how Washington is going to act. As regards Armenia, the authorities have been conducting some strange reforms for 10 years already. Now it is the Parliament's turn to be reformed. Hopefully, the newly created Active Civil Step party will help the country overcome the current crisis.