Conflict and the Consequences of Isolation: A Comparative Study
by Hilmi Ulas
- Unrecognized States in the International System & Academia
The international ‘system’ usually behaves in a chaotic manner; we still do not know if it is ‘the evil within’ or ‘economic mechanisms’ or ‘political institutions’ which promote certain types of behavior, rendering the system unpredictable. Nevertheless, this system features one truth: nation-states exist, and their territories are non-negotiable, barring exceptional circumstances. Subsequently ‘unrecognized states,’ which are established following armed struggles and through the division of nation-state territories, pose a unique challenge to international law-making and policy-making, as well as scholarly analysis efforts, as they uphold the idea of sovereignty and territorial integrity as sacred.
Under such circumstances, unrecognized states appear as oddities; however, in the post-World War II period, almost two dozen have existed, with most continuing to exist. Not all unrecognized states are similar enough for comparison; yet, one post-Soviet and one post-colonial unrecognized state – namely the Apsny (the Republic of Abkhazia) and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) – exhibit enough commonalities to give us hints vis-à-vis the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), its current and potential effects on the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the potential ‘futures’ in store for the people of NKR and the Republic.
Meanwhile, the current focus in both the policy-making and academic worlds on unrecognized states is one which problematizes them. In the former realm, unrecognized states are regarded as black-holes in the international system, and are conceptualized as security threats which are ideal homes for criminal and terrorist organizations. In the latter realm, unrecognized states are either regarded as undefined variables, which leads scholars to look for ontological conceptualizations, or as marginal entities which have certain types of interaction with normal entities and which are in need of reintegration to the international system.[ii] Likewise, many theories of social action and conflict resolution, such as Skocpol’s structural theories[iii] or Tarrow’s grassroots theories,[iv] and Galtung’s theories of structural violence[v], treat the nation-state as a sine-qua-non factor which is both central and constant in socio-political life. None of these approaches can currently capture the unique internal and external dynamics of unrecognized states, wherefore they also fail to understand, explain, and provide resolution to their structural problems and conflicts. This article aims to address this gap in the literature.
II. A Quick Introduction to the Cases:
a) The Apsny: Abkhazia is a disputed territory on the south-western flank of the Caucasus which declared independence as a state and is only recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu as well as by fellow ‘unrecognized states’ of South Ossetia, Transnistria and NKR. Meanwhile, the Abkhazian territories are commonly considered to be part of the Georgian state, which has declared Abkhazia to be under Russian occupation. Subsequently, we can say that the status of Abkhazia is a central issue in the Georgian-Abkhazian and the Georgian-Russian conflict. Following the war in Abkhazia, where the Georgian forces suffered a military defeat, the Georgian population of Abkhazia was massively displaced and cleansed. Afterwards, a ceasefire agreement was signed in 1994; however, negotiations summarily failed. In the conflict over South Ossetia between Georgian and Russian forces, the Apsny entered the conflict taking sides with Russia and consequently gained official Russian recognition, resulting in the annulment of all peacekeeping efforts.
According to the Freedom House scores, the Apsny is partly free[vi]. Following their independence, Abkhazians have become increasingly dependent on their sponsor state of Russia[vii], while corruption and discriminatory oppression have become rampant[viii]. In fact, the Abkhaz president has declared that the Russian support – and thus the ceding of privileges to Moscow – was an economic and political necessity.[ix] While the Apsny has established a presidential republic with a parliamentary legislative system, the international representation of Abkhazian people has been delegated to Russia.[x] In the meantime, Freedom House and the International Crisis Group have indicated that minorities (Armenians, Russians, and Georgians) are under-represented in Apsny’s government,[xi] and many refugees have been denied the right of return in the post-war era.[xii] The Apsny has its own military, but most of its armament is supplied by Russia, who has a considerable contingent stationed in Abkhaz territories and has deployed air-defense missiles to the territory, whose navy patrols Abkhaz waters, and who has signed deals for additional military bases to be built in Abkhazia. Moreover, Abkhaz economy is integrated with Russia; they use Russian rubles as currency. Most tourists to Apsny come from or through Russia – where tourism is the highest-earning Abkhaz industry, – especially as Russian passport-holders can enter the Apsny without a visa. Freedom House underlines that Apsny’s economy suffers from corruption and widespread influence of criminal organizations.[xiii] Currently, at least half of Apsny’s state budget is supplied by Russia, and Russian companies and individuals have invested considerably in Abkhaz territories (accounting for 99% of total investment); indeed, the Apsny has ceded the control of its airport and rail system to Russia while also licensing a Russian company to explore for oil. The population of the Apsny is under dispute; however, all agree that the war and accompanying ethnic-cleansing has altered its demographics. As per its unrecognition, Abkhazia only has amateur sports leagues. All major Russian televisions and media channels are broadcast in the Apsny, while the government controls its own media with an iron grip. Ninety percent of the population reportedly holds Russian passports, and whether its elections are free and fair is a point of dispute.
b) The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC): The TRNC (to be referred to as NC for North Cyprus) is unrecognized on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean, established in 1983 after the sporadic violence of 1963-1974. The government of the Republic of Cyprus is the de-juro state of the whole island, and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has allocated the de facto sovereignty of NC with the Republic of Turkey. The NC is a semi-presidential republic, with a parliamentary legislature and a supreme court and uses the Turkish anthem. Negotiations are ongoing, and seemed to bear fruit when a U.N. plan for resolution was up for vote in two separate referanda in 2004, but thus far they have failed.
According to its Freedom House scores,[xiv] the NC is free; however, this assessment is disputed both domestically and internationally. Indeed, the Turkish Army maintains a strong presence on the territories of the NC, and the NC has become highly dependent on Turkey and is reportedly suffering from organized crime, corruption, nepotism, and oppression. For example, 2011 was spent in a constant state of civil unrest due to the opposition media, civil society organizations, and unions of the Turkish Cypriots protesting the secession of undue power to Turkey through economic reforms, while simultaneously sacrificing the incomes and pensions of government workers. Subsequently, the government responded through harassment of independent opposition media and journalists, as well as police brutality in several instances; some occurrences of torture have also been reported.[xv] Moreover, some authorities have assessed the NC to be a puppet state of Turkey as per the high level of influence Turkey exerts on its government, citing the NC’s isolation and the above-mentioned ECHR decisions as reasons for this relationship.[xvi] The NC employs mandatory conscription, generating an indigenous 5,000-man standing force; however, almost all of the officers in this army are drawn from the Turkish Army and led by a Turkish Brigadier General. Additionally, Turkey maintains a 40,000 strong contingent from the Turkish Army under the name of Cyprus Turkish Peace Force, and the Turkish Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard are all active on the island. These forces are internationally perceived as an occupation force and thus disrupt any talks of a resolution. Similarly, Turkey has declared that she might consider annexing the NC if a resolution is not reached.[xvii] The NC economy is dominated by the services sector, which in turn is almost fully owned by Turkish individuals or companies. Moreover, the TRNC is highly dependent on Turkey for economic support – it uses Turkey’s currency and relies on Turkey as its main trading partner, as goods can only be transferred to TRNC through Turkey. Additionally, international calls, mail, and flights also have to be routed through Turkey. The NC’s population count is under dispute,[xviii] some estimate that the Turkish ‘settler’ population currently outnumbers the Turkish Cypriot population, a claim that is not ascertained. Turkish Cypriots can only have amateur sports as per embargoes. According to the UN and the THCRF, the NC causes many of the human rights violations,[xix] even though Freedom House estimates the NC to be politically free and democratic.[xx] Although the ethnic minorities are mostly treated well, hostilities and discrimination have increased between Turkish and Turkish Cypriot populations.
c) The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (The NKR): The NKR was established in the South Caucasus, on the territories of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Oblast and several Azerbaijani districts, all of which are de-juro Azerbaijani territories (although there is debate on whether the old Oblast territories seceded legitimately or not; parties agree that the districts are under occupation[xxi]). Armenians and Azerbaijanis populated the Nagorno-Karabakh territory throughout the history. The conflict over these territories commenced in 1918 but was put on hold in 1923 due to Soviet control in the area. The dispute re-emerged and led to the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1991-1994), ending in a ceasefire and the NK’s declaration of independence. NKR is only recognized by Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. NKR is a presidential democracy with a parliamentary legislature.
The NKR’s scores for political liberties have declined and as of 2011, Freedom House has assessed NKR as not free.[xxii] Since declaring its unrecognized independence, NK has become dependent on Armenia and suffers from considerable corruption, oppression, criminal activity, and nepotism. Although the NKR is a multiparty democracy by design, their latest election did not feature any opposition, with a pro-government commission.[xxiii] Indeed, political opposition and deviance from Armenia are regarded as treasonous acts, which are security risks. The Armenian Republic and Karabakh militaries jointly secure the region; yet, Armenian forces outnumber the NK forces. Armenia also is the main arms supplier to the NK. Moreover, economics-wise, NK uses the currency of Armenia, the dram, and Armenia provides NK with economic aid, weapons, and military personnel. Nevertheless, NK has also been able to establish economic partnerships with other, recognized states, including the USA, Russia, and France – who are geo-politically powerful. Vis-à-vis transportation, NK depends totally on Armenia, as all official international access to NK is through Yerevan. Educational facilities have been established through logistical and economic help from Armenia and Armenian diaspora populations. When it comes to foreign representation, NK has established representative missions in several, diplomatically strategic locations. Demographics-wise it does not depend much on its sponsor state, and its census appears quite correct, although the question of forcefully displaced Azerbaijani population remains. Therefore, NK is in violation of the right of return in this case, and is party to the deprivation of proper facilities and declining health conditions to the IDPs. Corruption also appears significant and the territory suffers from a lack of civil liberties as it remains under martial law, the media is censored and controlled, and religious freedom is lacking. Law appears to be not applicable to powerful political, economic, and criminal groups. Nepotism, a result of economic activities being controlled by powerful elites, is also widespread. NK’s sports are also highly dependent on Armenia, and its sports teams participate in the Armenian leagues. But for telecommunication, NK has its own Lebanese-built system.
III. The Consequences of Isolationist Policies Accompanying Unrecognition
Generally, it is assumed that unrecognized states are inherently authoritarian, lawless/criminal, puppet-like, and thus are inherently threatening to the international community. This is incorrect. Very notable scholars such as Tilly[xxiv] and Sir Barrington Moore[xxv] give accounts of state-formation, which underline that it is a path dependent (past choices and currently available choices determining the path of a phenomenon) and dynamically evolutionary. Ultimately, these important theoreticians have us come to two conclusions: firstly, whatever unrecognized states are, they have become so as per the choices they had available; secondly, dealing with such states by removing choices from the table as is the norm – e.g. through embargoes – will only lead to the perpetuation of sovereignty-based disputes.
For the theoretical framework of this analysis, the author will employ the Power-Dependence Theory of Emerson, and the Tillian state-making theory. Firstly, Emerson’s sociological theory dictates that power is the ability to make someone do something that they would otherwise not do, and defines the P(ower)(of)A,(over)Bis directly related to the D(ependence)(of)B(,on)A; simply put, as the dependence of B on A increases as per the supply-demand continuum, so does the power of A on B. Secondly, the state-making theory of Charles Tilly, in sum, claims that there are four main factors leading to the formation of a certain type of government: a) the accumulation and concentration of capital, b) the accumulation and concentration of the means for coercion, c) preparation for war, and d) the geographical and political position of the government within the international system. Tilly goes on to argue that the struggle for the means of war unintentionally created the organizational structure of the state, where the government had to ‘forcefully’ extract the resources from the populace – which became especially true due to the extensive requirements of standing national armies. In forcing extraction of resources, the rulers met resistance, which led to their conceding rights and privileges to citizens – ushering in democracies. As can be seen, Tilly’s model ultimately incorporates the Power-Dependence theory, as the power of the people over a state, and thus the realization of a democracy, impinges upon the state’s dependence on its people.
Now that the theoretical framework has been established, the second step is to analyze some common properties observed across our three cases. First and foremost, one of the most striking facts is that all of these unrecognized states depend highly on their sponsor states. This dependence is not only monetary (all cases utilized the currency of their sponsor states and traded almost exclusively with their sponsor states, although this is less so concerning the NK), but also demographic and militaristic.
Concerning their economy, all unrecognized states are under embargoes and/or suffer hardships and additional costs in trading as they must go through extra procedures to export, and must import through their sponsor states as goods cannot be transported directly. This decreases such states’ capabilities to buy and sell, and thus, to form trade partnerships with any party but their sponsor state – letting the sponsor monopolize trade. Moreover, all three of these states were observed to need assistance from their sponsor states to pay for their own government’s budget and to provide other necessary government expenses, such as schools in NK. Lastly, in all three cases, governments privatized considerably strong industries and key facilities such as airports, which were obtained by corporates or individuals from the sponsor. In smaller territories, this leads to the formation of monopolies in essential goods such as water and electricity. Ultimately, this means that 99% of economic transactions involve and/or depend on the sponsor states – leaving the economic fates of unrecognized states to their sponsors.
On the demographic side, all unrecognized states went through a period of mass displacement and/or cleansing of minorities loyal to the officially recognized states – i.e. Georgian, Azerbaijani, and Greek groups. Subsequently, in order to cement their claims to the land and to outnumber the ‘removed populations’ which continue to have claims to the land, these states imported workers and their families as well as military personnel from their sponsor states, who started their lives in these unrecognized territories. This trend of importing populations and changing demographics created undue tensions in the job-market and thus, spurred ethnic discrimination, while also impede on resolution, as ‘the removal of settlers’ has become a requirement that is hard – for the lack of a better word – to fulfill.
On the militaristic side, all of our cases are dependent on military personnel, the provisions/armament of their standing, and expertise. Additionally, all cases depend on the forces of their sponsors to patrol and secure their borders; indeed, even the police forces that usually ensure domestic security are tied to the sponsor states (especially true in the NC, where they report to the military). These military forces not only serve as a point of further dependence, but they also serve to disrupt talks of resolution, as the de-juro states view such forces as invasion forces and require their withdrawal.
Why do these unrecognized states depend so highly on their destructive relationship with sponsors? The reason lies in their isolation from the international community. Subsequently, these states: a) cannot trade much and can only receive minimal humanitarian aid, aside from the monetary aid from their sponsors; b) their security is not guaranteed – in fact it is threatened, usually by United Nations Security Council resolutions underlining that their independence is unacceptable, that they constitute the guilty party in the original dispute which led to their creation, and that the only possible resolution is their reunification with their de-juro state – by the international system and they must thus depend on their sponsors to secure their borders. The consequences of this are not hard to discern, especially when taking into account the Emersonian theory of power-dependence: these unrecognized states have only minimal power and thus minimal authority and sovereignty as they depend maximally on their sponsors – who thus come to hold all power. This is evident from the fact that even the European Courts have asserted that the de-facto sovereignty in the NC lies with the Republic of Turkey, as well as the fact that NK’s political will is mostly heard through Armenian authorities. Yet, the international community, especially through the U.N., asks that such unrecognized states reduce their cooperation with their sponsor states as a way to resolve the conflict. This is simply putting the cart in front of the horse; if the international community continues to isolate and punish these states, how can they break off relations with their sponsors, which have become their sole lifeline? For example, when NC came closest to reunification with the Republic of Cyprus was when the European Union and the United Nations offered NC the alliances and monetary support, decreasing their dependence on Turkey. Ultimately, it appears that the international community and system, through their insistence on indivisibility of state territory and on respect for state sovereignty, lead unrecognized states to a path of dependence and conflict perpetuation – whereas including such states increasingly in the international system might have better produced the intended results.
A secondary common property of unrecognized states is their authoritarian tendencies. Indeed, the Apsny is rated as barely partially free by the Freedom House scores, whereas the NK is rated as not free. Meanwhile, whilst the NC is rated as free with high scores, there is reason to doubt this as per the recent events of police violence on civil society, police ‘terrorization’ of anti-state/anti-Turkey media, Turkish attempts to further muslimize and turkify the people of the NC, and the increasing demographic replacement of Turkish Cypriots with Turks from the mainland. In any case, Tillian theories of how nation states have evolutionarily became democratic makes it clear that the reason is the state’s need to garner coercive and capital resources. In order to do so, states are bound to extract monetary and personnel resources to establish a standing national military and to set up the infrastructure to sustain this army and to further extract resources caused such states to negotiate with and concede rights and privileges to their people. However, such a process is impossible in unrecognized states.
The reasons are easy to see. As underlined above, most of the monetary resources of unrecognized states come from their sponsors, not their citizens. Likewise, these states have very small standing armies of their own, sustained by compulsory conscription; in fact, these states depend on the military of their sponsor states to secure their borders. Henceforth, the state only needs to concede rights and privileges to their sponsor instead of their own citizens. Indeed, contrary to the democratization experience of nation-states, unrecognized states become more authoritarian as they must concede such rights and privileges to ‘outsiders’ from their sponsors while their citizens protest, wherefore such states need to oppress and force their will upon their own populations, in addition to ‘forcing’ identity assimilation with the sponsor state through the media, sports events, and schools. Some might think that civil disobedience and removal of personnel from vital jobs through strikes, etc., might force the unrecognized states to concede democratic rights to citizens; this thinking is also wrongful. Sponsor states benefit from their partnership with these unrecognized states, and thus have an interest to maintain a favorable demographic majority, wherefore they transfer considerable populations to the latter’s territories. These ‘settlers’ tend to come from poorer, more marginalized demographics which usually cannot find jobs in the mainland of the sponsor – whereby they are more than willing to undertake jobs which appear oppressive to citizens, and which can earn them citizenship in the unrecognized states. Normally, the international community does not allow forceful demographic changes; however, in unrecognized states, the census and thus the population count is always under dispute and is not deterministic, and the international community is unwilling to enforce laws, etc., in such lands in order not to appear to ‘recognize’ the unrecognized states. Ultimately, such policies serve to decrease the bargaining power of citizens, causing civil unrest, and thus to force these states to be more authoritarian and corrupt. Corruption is, as per Hibou’s analysis of Tunisia, a natural consequence of the state’s attempts to establish a system of nepotism and to deprive non-subservient populations from resources.
The above-mentioned factors culminate in a lawless space within the international system. This is not a natural consequence; it is one forced by the international community. The populations of unrecognized states, denied both the route of international trade and non-oppressive domestic work, are led to either search their fortune elsewhere or in non-law-abiding activities, such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms trafficking, racketeering, and possibly ‘hosting’ criminal organizations. The NC, for example, has served as the host for Turkish casino owners, who were outlawed in the Republic of Turkey – and who now almost exclusively own the most profitable sector in that country: the service and tourism sector (i.e. hotels). These hotels are now host to illegal activities, including gambling, drugs, and inter-human fights. Likewise, crime rates have reportedly risen to dramatic heights in the Apsny and NK, and thus in the Caucasus. Additionally, international crime-fighting organizations, such as the Interpol, refrain from pursuing activities in these territories, which – together with government corruption – make them ideal spaces for international criminal activities, such as smuggling of historical artifacts and human trafficking.
Lastly, in all three cases, a resolution to the territorial dispute has been impossible. This is not only due to the past grievances between the two ‘states’, although the question of missing persons and return of displaced peoples plays an important role. One of the reasons, as it has been mentioned, is that all these unrecognized states are home to ‘invasion forces’, which are not very willing to leave. Contrarily, their withdrawal would arguably compromise the security of the unrecognized states. This is due to the fact that the international community and system do not guarantee the security. This has especially been an issue in the NC as well as with NK, where Azerbaijani authorities require the removal of all Armenian forces for a negotiation in good-faith. Another reason has been that, due to the high levels of dependence on sponsor states, such resolution efforts have been subjected to the whims of the sponsors; indeed, these efforts appeared most fruitful in 2004 in the NC as per the Turkish backing due to impending E.U. membership talks. This renders such processes unstable, while also undermining the authority of the representatives of unrecognized states. Thirdly, unrecognized states appear to be liabilities whence unified as they underachieve economically (due to embargoes and isolations) and human rights and lawfulness-wise. The reasons for this – and its perpetuation – have been discussed above. Lastly, such unrecognized states also serve as ‘pawns’ in bigger conflicts; indeed, the conflicts between Turkey and EU/Republic of Cyprus/Greece are being played through the NC; the Russia & South Ossetia vs. Georgia conflict is being played out through Abkhazia; and NK is another stage for the conflict of Turkey & Azerbaijan vs. Armenia & Russia. This not only complicates the behind-the-scenes interests concerning the conflicts as many and powerful shadow-negotiators exist, but also makes territorial disputes much harder to resolve in the absence of a resolution to the ‘bigger’ conflicts, which are mostly not even on the negotiation table and ‘require’ the resolution of the territorial disputes first or simultaneously. Ultimately, these properties ‘lock’ unrecognized states in a trajectory of conflict perpetuation.
To conclude, the consequences of the policies of economic, social, cultural, political, and militaristic isolation – which currently accompany the policy of unrecognition – are certainly (yet unintentionally) counter-productive: they perpetuate the conflicts and the power-dependence dynamics that they aim to resolve. While attempting to reunite a break-away territory with its de-juro state, the measures taken against unrecognized states lead them straight into the hands of their sponsor states, which maintain economic monopolies and militaristic presences over these territories, thus, enmeshing such territorial conflicts with the conflicts fought by the sponsor state. Additionally, the measures taken to resolve the conflict through the carrots-and-sticks method renders unrecognized states to be economic and criminal liabilities, which are oppressive and authoritarian and certainly not tolerant of other groups. Ultimately, all these measures although are well-intended but perpetuate the conflicts. These are the real consequences of isolation – and if unrecognition is to achieve its intended goals, it must espouse more creative and constructive policies to get to the finish line.
- IV. The Implications of Cases on NK and the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict, and Conclusions
Is NK then bound to the same trajectory of dependence, authoritarianism-oppression, lawlessness, economic underachievement, and the perpetuation of the Armenia (and Russia) and NK vs. Azerbaijan and Turkey conflict? Realistically speaking, this will be the case. Already the NK is dependent on Armenia to high degrees, and it will be hard to lessen this dependence in the short run. Authoritarianism-oppression is also highly present, along with nepotism and corruption. While economic signs are not too pessimistic (as per the economic partnerships with powerful parties, as discussed above), criminal organizations are already rooting themselves in the region, certainly gaining momentum from the Apsny, as well. Negotiations over NK have been ongoing, but not fruitful. Azerbaijan requires the removal of Armenian troops if any resolution is to be reached, while Armenia insists that NK’s status should first be solved through popular vote, or its sovereignty should be recognized. The Turkey-Armenia conflict’s resolution appears deeply embedded in the NK’s sovereignty/territory conflict, and vice versa, while Russia and Turkey remain heavily involved in the peace processes as shadow-negotiators, acting as spoilers. On this note, a historic agreement between Turkey and Armenia fell through as per the former’s reported attempts to include a resolution to the NK issue. Likewise, the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict requires resolution on the issue of NK’s status, and vice versa. All signs are indicating a long and drawn out process – and the longer the process, the harder the resolution, due to the consequences of isolation.
Before we suggest any possibilities for the conflicts surrounding the territories where NK has entrenched itself, we must differentiate between the isolation and unrecognition policies, and differentiate among the aforementioned conflicts. As has been argued in the section above, isolation and unrecognition are not necessarily the same policy. Unrecognition dictates that a territory, which has declared independence is not recognized as a peer of recognized states within the international community and system, whereas isolation dictates that all recognized states must actively sever economic, social, etc. ties with that territory. While unrecognition is not counter-productive in and of itself (although we cannot know this as it is always paired up with isolationist policies), isolation is. To follow, I argue against isolationist policies; neither for nor against unrecognition.
Secondly, we must differentiate between the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, the NK-Armenia relationship, the NK-Azerbaijan conflict (not officially recognized as such in Azerbaijan, but an important differentiation for the purposes of this article), and the Armenia-Turkey conflict. The main thrust of the Turkish attitude towards the NK is a derivative of its friendly relations with Azerbaijan and the question of the Armenian Genocide. The latter of these is not connected to the NK and only delays it resolution. Additionally, while it is true that the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is over the NK territories, conflating this with the NK-Azerbaijan conflict would necessitate the assumption that Armenia and NK are the same in their policies, values, and interests. Although the parties are extensively similar, we must not assume they are the same. Focusing on Armenia’s needs at the expense of NK’s, and vice versa, would perpetuate the conflict. Ultimately, we can argue that the differentiation of all these conflicts would produce multiple, yet more focused and productive (vs. isolationist) negotiations.
Ultimately, all is not lost; currently NK has suitable grounds to be the first case of a successful resolution involving an unrecognized state since the case of Eritrea – certainly better than the Apsny and the NC. NK’s economic dependence of Armenia makes it hard to imagine the lessening of Armenian influence in NK territories; however, according to Forbes, Armenia has been economically underachieving (2nd worst economy in the world),[xxvi] while NKR has obtained alternative trading partners[xxvii] some of which are considerably powerful (USA, Russia, France, Italy, and Canada, among others).
Secondly, while the Armenian military presence in NK appears there to stay, if a goodwill agreement and an accompanying guarantee agreement were signed among the NATO, EU, Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and NK to secure the de facto NK borders while the conflict is negotiated, at least some of this contingent might be withdrawn (this has precedence in Transnistria). These measures could help detach the NK’s territorial conflict from the Armenia-Azerbaijan and Armenia-Turkey conflicts as suggested above, thus making its resolution more probable.
This might also be effective considering human rights and civil liberties, which are being violated in order to ensure a stronger demographic presence of Armenian population in NK by denying the right of return to the displaced Azerbaijani population (and other minorities) from Nagorno-Karabakh. In order to strengthen the Armenia-friendly identity of the people in NK, oppression and prohibition of other identities are employed both institutionally and socially, as the Freedom House report on the NKR underlines that religious and educational institutions are not open to alternatives to Orthodox Christianity and Armenian-language schooling, respectively. These are indications that Armenian identity in the NK is as much forced in top-down fashion, as it is a free choice – although it should not be treated as conclusive evidence.
As revealed in our analysis, this is common in unrecognized states to ensure a perpetual and stronger alliance with the sponsor state and to ensure independence. The proposed measures would decrease dependence of the NK on the Armenian goodwill, while also hugely removing threats to the NK’s security as negotiations go on and decrease the perceived threat on the Azerbaijani side. Azerbaijan, in the meantime, can allow for transportation (especially international) to and from the territories (in stages, of course), which would further decrease NK dependence on Armenia, while building confidence. Through such measures, a resolution might (emphasis added) be plausible in a nearer future.
The above-mentioned measures might appear implausible; they probably are in the short run, as not much trust exists in this geography. However, all concerned parties must look at the consequences of isolation and decide whether that route is ideal. Conflict perpetuation would hurt all involved parties: Armenia’s Turkish border might never open, it would have to maintain a military force in the NKR territories – a costly process – and suffer from ‘security threats’ as per its negative regional relationships; Azerbaijan might see the perpetual suffering of NKR’s IDP population and the continued occupation, and likewise suffer from regional security threats; the NKR will suffer economically, and might have to share or transfer its sovereignty, while the people of NKR will suffer the decline in political rights and civil liberties and increased crime and corruption. All involved conflicts – as they would not be dissociated – would also be perpetuated, as the direction of negotiations among parties would still impinge upon the situation in the NKR. Human suffering and endless political negotiations are currently the ‘normal’ consequences of isolationist unrecognition, but they can be overcome by espousing more creative and constructive processes of conflict resolution.
Emerson, R. M. “Power-Dependence Relations” in American Sociological Review, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Feb., 1962): pp. 31-41
Hibou, B. The Force of Obedience: The Political Economy of Repression in Tunisia. Malden, MA: Polity, 2011.s
Tilly, C. Coercion, Capital, and European States, Ad 990-1992. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1990.
[i] The author sometimes utilizes sources in local languages, and at other times provides a few of the many resources available as examples. If need be, please feel free to contact the author firstname.lastname@example.org for translations or requests for additional information.
[ii] For more information on these approaches, see Unrecognized States in the International System by Nina Caspersen and Gareth Stansfield, eds., published by Routledge in 2011.
[iii] See Theda Skocpol’s States and Social Revolution, published by Cambridge University Press in 1979.
[iv] See Sidney Tarrow’s Power in Social Movement, published by Cambridge University Press in 2011.
[v] See Johan Galtung’s Violence, Peace, and Peace Research in Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 6, No. 3 (1969), pp. 167-191
[viii] Refer to http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2011/abkhazia / Political Rights section.
[xii] For further information, please refer to Milica Zarkovic Bookman’s works on the political economy of displacement.
[xvi] For an example, see Alan James’s Sovereign Statehood: the Basis of International Society, printed by Taylor & Francis in 1986.
[xxiv] See Charles Tilly. Coercion, Capital, and European States, Ad 990-1992. Blackwell, 1990.
[xxv] Barrington Moore. Social Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World. Beacon Press; Reprint edition,1993
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