Blog - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 0:01 - 6 Comments

Defying Fear


The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution process has been anything but successful. We can come up with a long list of reasons why it failed – a very long and convincing list. Media, analytical reports and other sources of information engage in producing discourse saturated with words pertaining to fear and anguish – intractability, alert, war, resumption of military confrontation, humanitarian crisis, refugees, arms race, zero progress, etc. Fear is the main driving factor for mobilizing support on both sides of the conflict – in Armenia it serves to mobilize people to back up policies of no compromise, in Azerbaijan it serves to mobilize people to back up the policy of offensive military attack.

The politics of injecting fear into the people offers a post-partum incentive of all “rainbows and butterflies” – the a posteriori scenario of an offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh drawn for Azerbaijani people pictures an ending where Azeri people get to have the NK lands and live on them happily ever after. In this scenario, editors cut out of the script the many lives that will be lost, the post-war collapsed infrastructure of the region, the problems associated with co-habitations with Karabakh Armenians, the possible presence of peace missions, the possible failure of the offensive, the very lengthy road to reconstructing, the not-so-possible international recognition or justification of Azerbaijani military offensive, and most importantly the possible engagement of neighboring countries in the war offensive and the escalation of the war.

The Armenian politics of no compromise offers people another rosy scenario where there will be a big and prosperous Nagorno-Karabakh with all the adjacent lands. The editors of this scenario do not delve into how this would play out, how they are going to achieve independence for Nagorno-Karabakh without any concessions; they cut out of their scenario that the prolonged status quo and lack of proactive politics will lead to a possible resumption of military confrontation by Azerbaijan, which could have dire consequences for both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia; they do not delve into evaluations of how much longer Armenia’s economy can survive in the suffocating conditions of the blockade and almost total isolation of regional energy and transportation projects.

Both Azerbaijani spiteful politics of revanchism and Armenia’s standoffish politics of disdain propagate hostility, inject fear and are overall highly destructive.

It is time for people to start demanding real answers, unedited scenarios of the possible repercussions of proposed policies and actually demand the process of conflict resolution to be delegated to them. If politicians have real dividends in pushing for fear-driven policies, the societies of parties to the conflict have real lives to be lost if these policies reach the point of implementation.

I was struck by the simplicity and power of this quote by Og Mandino: “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” The first step for succeeding in the NK conflict resolution process would be the conscious decision that the process should be undertaken and should result in a win-win formula. It would be a complete transformation of the whole process of the NK conflict and the discourse around it. It will then proceed with the determination to utterly reject the idea of resumption of war and recognition that compromises on both sides are crucial for success. Purging fear and building trust would be the first milestones in cementing the mutual determination to succeed in the conflict resolution process. Yes, this process may take a very long time, a lot of hard work, compromises on both sides and mutual understanding, and I would choose this environment any day to the current fear-infused perilous situation. I hope many of you will make this choice.


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Sep 6, 2010 14:41

Stress must be made on the attitude with the help of which the article was written – it is one and the only way which neccessarily leads to any conflict resolution. This approach obviously results in the abovementioned concept of simplicity and power mixed together. Indeed, we must try the impossible to give birth to the possible. This can be determined as the other side of the same coin.
Sorry for unlimited philosophy, but I think in fact, it always leaves a trace of a true reality on the ground.
Thank you for an inspiring article.

Sep 9, 2010 6:49

Dear Irina,
I dont know how you imagine win-win formula for the conflict resolution, but one of them may be if we give back Qarvachar (Qelbajar) back to Azerbaijan, but in that case the whole water security of Artsakh will be challenged. I dont think that the conflict resolution will help us to participate in regional energy and transportation projects. “Compromises on both sides are crucial for success” what are you going to compromise? Security? “Purging fear and building trust” is this real or just a wish? No I am not making your suggested choice. I am for for strong and powerful Armenia with Artsakh, and in my daily life I am struggling for this idea, not the one which is more liberal and easy to think.

Onnik Krikorian
Sep 9, 2010 11:57

Armen, once you manage to counter the problems Irina mentions in Armenia and Azerbaijan, an environment is set for mutual trust and security. However, the problem is doing that. Sure as hell it needs to, though. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Kelbajar would not be returned until security and confidence building measures are in place. In fact, this is believed to be one of the obstacles at present. Armenia insists on its return after a referendum, whereas Azerbaijan wants it beforehand.

Meanwhile, regional energy and transportation projects are very possible indeed, and go some way to balance your water security issue. Firstly, we can consider that resolution of the Karabakh conflict would have a positive impact on the opening of the Armenia-Turkey border which makes Armenia very suitable for such transit routes. And, after the 2008 August war between Russia and Georgia, it is made all the more important given that the West wants to diversity such routes for its own security concerns.

At the same time it’s said that this suits Russia’s interests because it reduces the importance of Georgia as a transit route. Ultimately, however, Armenia is not going to be a strong country without resolution of the Karabakh conflict, open borders and inclusion into regional projects. And while Azerbaijan has oil, the perpetuation of the conflict does not help in its democratization or long-term economic development when the fossil fuels ultimately run out.

In fact, I’d argue, the only way the entire Caucasus region can develop and experience stability is through resolution of its conflicts, cross-border cooperation and the creation of a regional market. The problem is for now, however, is how is that attained?

Sep 10, 2010 8:32

Onnik!! Where is an environment set for mutual trust and security? Maybe in the boarder where there is always heavy gunfire or deadly border skirmishes? Or maybe in the speeches of political elite of Azerbaijan? I see mutual trust and security every day))) By the way I have never supported to give back any tiny land to Azerbaijan be it from Qarvachar or somewhere else! Georgia is part of regional energy and transportation projects, why dont we see rapid economic development or long term development there? And after you think that Armenia will if it will give back territories to Azerbaijan! Also why are you thinking that Turkey will open the boarder if the conflict is resolved? What about the Genocide? How are you going to solve this problem to meet Turkey`s demand in order to open the boarder. Armenia is going to be strong without giving back the territories. Levon Ter-Petrosyan 1998 said if we wouldnt solve the conflict and open the boarder with Turkey, we wouldnt have any economic development, but he was wrong!!!

P.S. Who cares about the region? Are you ready to compromise in order to see regional development?

Onnik Krikorian
Sep 11, 2010 4:02

Where is an environment set for mutual trust and security?

Armen, a very valid question and one I recognize in my previous comment. Basically, that needs to be the situation created for any long-term solution.

Re. everything else, just quickly I’ll say that Georgia has developed since the 2003 Rose Revolution. In fact, the country is not recognizable compared to the when I was visiting 1999-2003.

However, there are many problems still to be resolved — and in all three countries in the South Caucasus. Namely, they can be categorized in the following areas thus:

i) Democracy
ii) Corruption
iii) Human Rights
iv) Rule of Law
v) Conflict

When those issues are addressed and resolved, I can see this region being very viable indeed. However, nobody said it was going to be easy.

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