Anna Karapetyan - Armenian Azerbaijani Talks | Is Armenia Rearming? | Pashinyan and the Constitution | Ep 305 - Jan 28, 2024 [EP305]

Posted on Monday, Jan 29, 2024 | Category: Armenia, Politics | Series: wir

Guest:

Topics:

  • Armenia Azerbaijan Negotiations
  • Is Armenia Rearming itself?
  • Pashinyan and the Constitution

Episode 305 | Recorded: January 29, 2024

Show Notes

January 28 is Armenian Army day and this year Armenia celebrated the 32nd anniversary of the formation of the Armenian Armed Forces. Despite all of the challenges and setbacks, Armenia’s Army remains the guarantor of Armenia’s statehood and the hope for Armenia’s recovery.

At Groong, we congratulate and say “thank you” to all those who’ve taken part in service for their country and we remember all those who gave their everything for their country.

Is Armenia Finally Rearming?

Over the past five years, after multiple disastrous wars, the Armenian army has dropped in rating based on both empirical results as well as by military capacity ranking by organizations like Global Firepower. Having sustained heavy losses in the wars, experts and Armenian government officials have underscored the need for Armenia to rapidly replenish its arms and military capabilities, a process that has not gone smoothly so far.

Over the past few months we’ve heard various news of arms procurements by Armenia. France is sending dozens of APC’s, short range air defense systems, and radar systems. India is selling Armenia something on the order of half a billion dollars worth of air defense systems in the last 18 months; Armenia is also discussing relations with NATO, and adopting NATO standards for some aspects of its army; and most recently, the long-running feud with Russia about $400 million in arms is now supposedly “mostly settled” as some arms are finally being delivered.

Questions:

  • What’s all the noise and hoopla around weapons procurements?
  • Is Armenia really arming itself, or is this all continuous PR by the Armenian government?

So much noise about defense procurements, which by the way the government has just classified as state secrets, makes us wonder about what really we should be hearing. Some analysts point out that the French procurements are not highly relevant to Armenia’s needs; that the Indian procurements are not battle tested; and that the Russian procurements have been sitting in warehouses in Russia for 3-5 years due to contractual and political mishandlings and incompetence on the part of the Armenian government, although we’re hearing that deliveries have restarted.

Question:

  • Why is Pashinyan suddenly interested in keeping procurements a secret? And more importantly: why now?

Military strategists often cite that morale is equally if not more important than armaments or even the size of the opponent’s army.

Some quotes…

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Morale is the greatest single factor in successful wars.”
  • Napoleon Bonaparte: “The morale is to the physical as three is to one”
  • Carl von Clausewitz:“Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.”

Meanwhile

  • Pashinyan: “maybe our biggest mistake was in trusting the army”

Question:

  • What is being done by Armenian leadership to improve the morale in the army? Isn’t this as important as acquiring new weapons?

Armenia - Georgia Strategic Partnership

This week, Pashinyan was in Tbilisi, meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili. A strategic partnership agreement was signed between the two countries that encompass nearly a dozen spheres, excluding defense.

Regardless of their political leanings, all Armenians place a high value in the improvement of relations with Georgia but many of us want to know what real benefits this deal will provide. Additionally, different analysts have differing interpretations of this development: some claim that this is a step in the direction of pulling Armenia more towards the west; while others underscore that this move will benefit the Iran-Armenia-Georgia geopolitical axis and economic North-South corridor, strengthening relations with Iran.

Questions:

  • How should we view this development between Armenia and Georgia, especially as Georgia is making moves towards joining the EU? What specific material benefits can we expect?
  • How is this deal seen from the North (Russia)? Maybe Iran also?

During the 44 day war, we saw that Georgia actually blocked military supplies from Russia to Armenia. Even during the latest shipment of French “Bastion” armored personnel carriers, there was news that the shipment was held up in Georgia until Paris twisted Tbilisi’s arms. Meanwhile on a weekly basis we see military supplies from countries like Israel and Turkey pass unfettered through Georgian airspace and territory.

Question:

  • Georgia has defense cooperation agreements with Azerbaijan. Will those agreements continue to trump Armenian-Georgian cooperation?
  • Can this upgrade in relations help Armenia achieve a more balanced use of Georgia as an arms corridor for itself and Azerbaijan?

Armenia Azerbaijan Negotiations

State of the negotiations

The status of the so-called “peace negotiations” between Armenia and Azerbaijan seem to have stalled, and according to Pashinyan, Mirzoyan, etc. the talks have in fact taken steps back, as Aliyev, Hajiyev, Bayramov and others have made statements that negate what was said in the talks.

Azerbaijan has played everyone, leveraging Armenia’s flirting with the west, to extract what it can from all players. And now, it is forcing Armenia to negotiate bilaterally, which many analysts see as the worst possible option for Armenia.

This past week, after Azerbaijan’s sudden accusations that Armenian minefield maps aren’t accurate, Armenian officials said they’re working on new maps in order to hand them to Azerbaijan; this sort of came out of the blue just in the past week, despite previous statements that Armenia had passed along all minefield maps.

Additionally, Pashinyan said that he’s willing to give Aliyev even more guarantees that Armenia will not be a security threat to Azerbaijan in the future. And as we’ll discuss a little bit later, Pashinyan’s initiative for a new Armenian constitution serves to fulfill demands from Aliyev; Mirzoyan pretty much came out and said that.

Questions:

  • Anna, how do you assess the current state of the negotiations? Is there a real regression in the situation, or do you think that what we’re hearing from Baku is post-war macho campaign rhetoric for domestic consumption, or were Armenian assurances about “peace” unrealistic in the first place?
  • Pashinyan says that he wants guarantees from Azerbaijan that there will not be any territorial demands from Armenia, and in exchange he’s willing to give similar guarantees. What guarantees is he talking about?

Mediator Melée

The Russians and the West are essentially locked out of mediation. They’ve all made pretty angry and anxious statements.

The Russians continue to invite Armenia and Azerbaijan to sign a treaty in Moscow, but it is evident that they mostly care about Point 9 of the Nov. 2020 statement, regardless of the failure of points 1 through 8. They want to control Aliyev’s so-called “Zangezur corridor”, even while they say it was never discussed in the trilateral statement.

Meanwhile in the past few days the PACE has frozen Azerbaijan’s participation for a year, and various EU and NATO officials have been making frequent statements supporting Armenia’s territorial integrity; the right of return for Artsakh Armenians; and Armenian cultural preservation in Artsakh. The Greek president and others are also pushing forward Pashinyan’s “crossroads of peace” repackaging of Aliyev’s “Zangezur corridor.”

Question:

  • This is all great, but are all these grand European statements of any real value? Everyone we’ve talked to says that the west has no way of physically assuring the security of Armenia, and the Europeans themselves have said so in stereo. So what’s the value of all of their political support, while 1- they continue doing business with our enemy, and 2- they couldn’t come to our aid if they wanted to? Even the deputy editor of Le Figaro in his recent interview gave a frank assessment of this conundrum. How could Armenia rely or gamble its security on their words?

Regardless of all the reasons in the world, such as Ukraine, or Prague, or whatever, and Pashinyan can point to the Russians and the Russians can point to Pashinyan, but the bottom line for us is that Artsakh was ethnically cleansed, and this was a crime against humanity.

Questions:

  • Can we say that Russia also failed us?
  • Can the relationship be repaired?
  • Both the EU and the Russians have focused on point 9 of the Nov 2020 statement. Can you summarize how their own interests are dictating their involvement in the Armenian Azerbaijani conflict?

Pashinyan and the Constitution

One of the major topics over the past two weeks has been Pashinyan’s latest initiative to scrap the existing Armenian constitution and write a new one. In the past week Ararat Mirzoyan essentially admitted that Azerbaijan is behind Pashinyan’s effort to change the Armenian constitution, just as the opposition had accused it of being.

One of the stupidest things that Pashinyan says to justify his demand to change the constitution is that he wants the Armenian constitution to conform to the “new geopolitical realities”. I hope everyone understands that by “new geopolitical realities” Pashinyan means “my horrible defeat in the 44-day war and ethnic cleansing of Artsakh”. So I just want to point out that by rewriting the constitution, Pashinyan is trying to codify and impose his defeatist mentality on all of the Armenian republic.

Questions:

  • What are the key points that Aliyev and perhaps Erdogan have told Pashinyan that he needs to change?
  • Is this a newly surfaced demand or is Pashinyan spoon-feeding Armenians Aliyev’s demands little by little?
  • What is the current outlook for a referendum outcome on a Pashinyan constitution, if it were to be held today?

BACKGROUND NOTES:

  • We know from the 90s that Turkey has demanded changes in Armenia’s constitution as a precondition for establishment of diplomatic relations.
  • In January 2021, then president Armen Sarkissian said Armenia must move towards the “Fourth Republic”.
  • In March 2021, Pashinyan said Armenia may move to presidential republic (critics claim this was a pretense for changing the constitution)
  • In April 2021, Aliyev first mentioned that Armenia must change its constitution since it contains territorial claims against Turkey.
  • In December 2021, Pashinyan held a closed door meeting with the members of the Constitutional court (sans Hrair Tovmasyan and Arevik Petrosyan, who objected to the legality). Weeks later, he created a commission on changing the constitution. A
  • Mid-year 2022, the commission’s mandate expired. Pashinyan didn’t accept their recommendations. He formed a new commission. Important to note that in all public statements, there was only talk about amending the constitution not forming a new one.
  • January 2024, Pashinyan says we need a completely new constitution and not amendments.

Topics from the Panelists

  • Hovik: Fear of war with a loser like Pashinyan at the helm of the country
  • Anna: Inspiring kids with Army Day to grow up with a winner’s mentality

Wrap-up

We hope you found our Week in Review helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions, you can find us on most social media and podcast platforms. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts.

Guests

Anna Karapetyan

Anna Karapetyan

Dr. Anna Karapetyan is the Director of the Insight Analytical Center for Applied Policy and Research. She has a PhD in political sciences, and is a lecturer at the Russian-Armenian University.

Hosts

Hovik Manucharyan

Hovik Manucharyan

Hovik Manucharyan is an information security engineer who moved from Seattle to Armenia in 2022. He co-founded the ANN/Groong podcast in 2020 and has been a contributor to Groong News since the late 1990s.

Asbed Bedrossian

Asbed Bedrossian

Asbed is founder of the Armenian News Network Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.