Tragedy of Artsakh Or Fear and Shame of Nikol Pashinyan

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Fierce debate over causes of the painful defeat in the Artsakh war has not stopped on Armenian online social media for a month now.

In fact, it has become a national disaster for Armenians.

Artsakh, which gained freedom at the cost of thousands of Armenian lives, suffered enormous losses under the devastating strikes by Aliyev’s Azerbaijan with support from Turkey and its Islamic mercenaries.

At a time when the whole Armenian society and the diaspora abroad are in a state of shock, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, has been desperately trying to get rid of the label as the main culprit of the humiliating defeat, blurring responsibility between the military command, the political elite and ordinary citizens.

The head of the government acts in accordance with the winged expression attributed to the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan”.

For example, justifying the inevitability of concluding an agreement over Artsakh that was extremely painful for the Armenian nation, Pashinyan referred to the highest military command point of view, allegedly having insisted on an immediate cessation of hostilities.

However, such a statement seems to be at least strange when it is said by the supreme chief commander of the warring country’s army.

The explanation of the reasons why Armenia and Artsakh could no longer continue the war with Azerbaijan was no less absurd.

“Not every aspect of our military resource was effective. There was no replacement for those who fought on the frontline. There were people on the front lines who had not been replaced for a whole month”, the Armenian Prime Minister said several hours after the conclusion of the agreement.

Against the background of such statements handed out by Pashinyan in the first days after the conclusion of the shameful agreement, Yerevan was engulfed with spontaneous street performances.

At that time, doubts whether the Prime Minister’s figure suits the status of the first person of the state, were raised involuntarily, even among his most loyal supporters, including in the Armenian diaspora.

Pashinyan had become (largely by chance) the leader of the Armenian “Velvet revolution”, which swept away the corrupt regime of ex-President Serzh Sargsyan in April 2018.

But the Prime Minister did not manage to launch the process of state reforms.

The Armenian leader just endlessly shuffled the deck of the staff being unable to gather a team of effective managers around him, despite the existence of a qualified pool of graduates from European and American universities.

The situation in the field of defensive capabilities is just as joyless.

The war in Artsakh exposed Pashinyan’s gross failures in preparing the armed forces to counter the enemy’s aggression.

The significant growth of the defense budget of the Republic of Armenia from $518 million in 2018 to $647 million last year was a symmetrical response to the increase of Azerbaijani military spending.

Despite this fact, the government of Nikol Pashinyan failed to manage available financial resources properly.

Greek Greeks Greece Dendias Armenia Armenians Armenian Artsakh
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias meeting in Yerevan on Oct. 16, 2020 to discuss Artsakh War. (Tigran Mehrabyan, Armenian Prime Minister Press Service/PAN Photo via AP)

Thus, during the fighting in Artsakh the helplessness of the Armenian army in front of enemy drones became apparent.

The main reason for this was the lack of a modern air defense and deployed electronic warfare systems in Armenia.

The first miscalculation is related to Pashinyan’s scandalous decision to purchase a few dozens obsolete Osa anti-aircraft missile systems from Jordan. Such a decision made many Armenian experts suggest a corruption component of this deal.

For example, the former chief of the general staff of the Armenian armed forces, Movses Akopyan, was surprised by the Prime Minister’s refusal to purchase the latest anti-aircraft missile systems, in particular the Tor, directly from Russia.

There are a lot of question connected with the acquisition electronic warfare systems.

Pashinyan’s team argued to the last if they should buy it from Russia or the West.

Later Pashinyan complained about the low efficiency of the purchased EW systems.

An important role in making reckless decisions was played by the endless personnel changes in the highest echelons of the Armenian military command, which was encouraged by Pashinyan himself, voluntarily or involuntarily.

Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh.
Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh.

The Prime Minister, who relied on new military personnel, brutally miscalculated. The head of the government completely lost control over the process of generation change among officers in the Armenian army.

Unfortunately, Pashinyan’s decision to initiate the large-scale dismissal of military leaders, who received combat experience in Afghanistan and the First Artsakh War, was not accompanied by the nomination of highly qualified military specialists for key roles.

Probably, that was the reason why the Prime Minister had to return to service the former chief of general staff Artak Davtyan and other retired senior officers in the face of impending the military disaster.

Apparently, the development of the sense of patriotism among a new generation of officers was not considered by the Pashinyan’s government as something important.

As a result, the decrease of the discipline followed by decline of an officer’s authority in the eyes of an ordinary soldiers was noticed in military units.

Centuries of traditions and the unique cultural code of the Armenian nation, which distinguished officers and fighters of the Armenian army from the first Artsakh war, now in many ways look like a rudiment.

This is likely the reason of circulation of rumors among Armenian journalists about the mass appeal of military personnel with a request for dismissal shortly before the start of the war with Azerbaijan.

After the outbreak of hostilities in Artsakh at the end of September, the leadership of Armenia, led by Pashinyan, essentially failed the process of general mobilization.

There are cases where many reservists who arrived to the conflict zone were never involved in the defense of positions. Other soldiers were not even called to enlistment offices for military registration in order to be sent to the front.

Now Pashinyan prefers to communicate with the nation on Facebook, avoiding meetings with an angry people. In general, the behavior of the Prime Minister can be understood.

An Armenian folk wisdom says: “Where is fear, there is shame”.

The shame of the Second Artsakh War undoubtedly became another deep historical trauma for the Armenian people.

And it makes Pashinyan feel fear in the face of reckoning for mistakes.

Due to his short-sightedness and arrogance, the Armenian nation faced not just a political crisis, which can be overcome by regime change, but a collapse of statehood, which is capable of turning freedom conquered by many generations of Armenians into ruins at any moment.

The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Greek City Times.

Arayik Oganesyan represents team of young experts of the Armenian diaspora in Ukraine.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor