A subtle warning to Armenia
By E. Azadian
The Nagorno Karabagh conflict remains one of the most intractable among the Caucasus political issues. It has been on the back burner since the ceasefire in 1994 between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Because of the impending war in Iraq, the international situation is focused on that country for now. But not for too long. As soon as the Iraqi issue is settled the Caucasus will emerge as the next current problem with international consequences, since this unresolved conflict bears directly on the exploitation of oil and gas reserves waiting to be tapped by the West. And no major power will tolerate instability in the region. The upheavals in the Middle East, on whose oil the US depends heavily, has provided enough lessons for the West not to step into another hornet's nest.
Therefore, the conflict will be resolved one way or the other, before oil starts flowing through the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline.
How may that problem be settled? A Russian commentator has already projected a road map for the solution of that Gordian knot. Commenting on Vladimir Pozner's Vremena TV program, the Director of the Russian Institute of Political Research, Sergey Markov, bluntly states that either Armenia will grow weak and Azerbaijan has the Nagorno Karabagh settled in a military way or a crisis emerges in Azerbaijan and Armenia will be able to consolidate the legal status quo.
The question is which way will the pendulum swing?
Analyzing the news emanating from the region, one may reach certain conclusions that are quite unsettling for Armenians.
While Armenians were caught in the Presidential election commotion, Azerbaijan's President Haydar Aliev visited Washington and was received at the White House. It is reported that President Bush has promised to pay more attention to U.S.-Azerbaijan relations once the Iraqi problem is removed from his plate.
The commentaries in the news media also assess that Aliev's invitation to the White House at this juncture in time indicates that Azerbaijan is the most important country for the U.S. in the region. And for good reason.
The history of the last decade has demonstrated that over and above all other nations and international bodies, the U.S. remains the all-powerful arbiter of all world problems, be it major or minor. That has been true even for the regions that were considered as Russian zones of influence. And Caucasus is one of them.
The odds that Azerbaijan may develop a crisis are less than Armenia getting weaker. The Presidential election is one of the tests for Armenia to prove its strength or weakness. Battle cries by losing candidates to depose Kocharian by force do not bode well for the future, even if those unruly activists fail to deliver on their threats.
We cannot rule out the possibility that some outside forces behind the scenes may be pushing Armenia to the brink of a civil war to exacerbate the ripe conditions to solve the Karabagh issue.
If we continue the debate in our traditional hotheaded manner, we may play into the hands of our enemies and someone else will solve that problem which we have not been prudent enough to solve for ourselves.
We believe it is time to draw the line between the petty and local squabbles and problems of global consequences before we miss the historic opportunity for Armenia's survival.
March 4, 2003