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The long-term threat of Armenian nationalism



According to the paradigm of realpolitik, states have no permanent friends or enemies- only interests can be permanent. This thought has been dominant in the foreign policy-making of the last centuries and, though subject to various mutations, has in general remained a dominant principle of international relations. However, there have been, and there still are, some exceptions. And one of the most persistent and seemingly counter-intuitive cases thereof remains the foreign policy of Armenia, a small landlocked post-Soviet republic in South Caucasus. The week of furious skirmishes along the border with Azerbaijan, that started on July 12, and subsequent tensions arising between Azerbaijani and Armenian communities in various countries of the world, have reminded the world about the destructive potential of this special case and at the same time invite us to think why this conflict has become so intractable and thoroughly outgrown its initial causes and interests.

To begin with, let’s remember the beginnings of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which started to unfold in 1988, three years before the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union. The demands of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians (constituting around 75% of the population of this area, which had a status of an autonomous region- “oblast” within the Azerbaijani SSR) for “reunification” (or “miatsum” in Armenian) with the mother-Armenia, were the trigger. The movement defined itself through the discourse of a national awakening and revival, and posed as an inalienable part of the process of democratization which was then beginning in Armenia, along with Azerbaijan and some other Soviet republics. Let’s for now remember this point- it is really important.

The “Karabakh committee”, as the leaders of the secession movement called themselves, of course put forward standard accusations of the violations of Armenians’ cultural rights in Azerbaijan. However, these accusations were, mildly speaking, ill-grounded, as the recently released documentary “Parts of a circle” may attest: the worst oppression cited by the region’s Armenians were the occassional inaccessibility of the TV and radio broadcasts from the Armenian SSR. Other than that, Nagorno-Karabakh had its high school education predominantly in Armenian, hosted an Armenian pedagogical college and a theatre. Moreover, Armenians constituted a significant and influential share of the population of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh, particularly in the country’s biggest cities- Baku, Ganja and Sumgayit, and were widely represented in the republic’s social and cultural elite. Up until now, you cannot find any document-based, hard evidence of systematic violations of the cultural autonomy enjoyed by the Armenian majority of the Oblast’. So, we cannot understand the motives of the Karabakh movement unless we put it into the context of the much wider, global revival of extreme form of nationalism among Armenians of the world.

In 1973, Kurken Oghanian, an elderly Armenian living in California and a refugee from the 1915 events in the Ottoman Empire, assassinated two LA-based Turkish diplomats, declaring revenge for the alleged genocide as the motive of his crime. This murder inspired a group of Armenian nationalists who in 1975 founded a group called ASALA (Armenian Secret Army of the Liberation of Armenia), whose goal was defined as forcing Turkey to recognize the 1915 events as genocide and make Ankara not only pay generous compensations to the Armenian victims and their families, but also to cede territories (!) of the Eastern Turkey, which, according to the never-ratified colonial Sevres treaty were supposed to become the homeland of would-be Armenian state. To achieve these goals, ASALA unfolded a campaign of full-fledged terror against Turkish diplomats, killing 46 of them in the period until 1990. After the particularly vicious attack at the Orly Airport in France, the group was recognized as terrorist by most major countries of the world, including U.S.

At the same time, nationalistic attitudes were slowly brewing among the Soviet Armenians, back then very loosely connected with the Diaspora. Since 1965, when the 50-year anniversary of the “genocide” was for the first time openly commemorated in Yerevan, these events started to be held every year on April 24, and in 1967 a massive memorial was unveiled at the site of the Tsitsernakaberd Hill, quickly becoming the symbol of Armenians’ anti-Turkish sentiment. The Soviet government tolerated these expressions of nationalism, which were in general all but prohibited by the official ideology of “friendship of peoples” partly because Ankara was considered a dangerous geopolitical adversary of the Soviets and a puppet of “American imperialism”. However, this produced shocking repercussions, when on January 8, 1977 three explosions took place in Moscow (including one at the underground station), claiming the lives of 7 people. Later that year, three Armenian nationalists were found guilty of these terror acts, the first ever to happen in the USSR. The court concluded them to be an isolated group, though claims about their links with ASALA, which was in the process of creation back then, were subsequently made.

Hence, the 1980’s witnessed the rise in exclusive Armenian nationalism driven by ressentiment and a sense of pending revenge against the Turks. The Karabakh movement, though it succeeded in portraying itself as the vanguard of the Soviet-wide wave of democratization, was heavily imbued with this ideology, which equated Azerbaijanis, ethnically close to the Turkish people, to perilous “Turks” considered perennial enemies of Armenia. That’s why the initially peaceful protests gave way to an interethnic strife in a matter of months, and in 1988 most Azerbaijanis (around 170,000 people back then) were expelled from Armenia by force.

As the both republics became independent in 1991, Karabakh started to attract “fidains”- mercenaries who had their training at the ASALA camps in the Middle East, many of whom participated in the acts of terror and served prison terms for that. The most famous of them, Monte Melkonyan from California, who was among the organisers of the Orly attack, is now a much-revered national hero in Armenia. The arrival of these people with their fierce anti-Turkic stance, brought the primordial discourse of “much-oppressed ancient nation”, “Armenia from the Caspian to the Mediterranean”, to the fore. Presence of the “fidains” significantly increased the intensity of atrocities, the most vicious of which happened in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly where on the night of 26 February 1992 613 unarmed people (including children and the elderly) were slaughtered. And although the negotiation process conducted by the Azerbaijani and Armenian governments, served to bring the conflict to the international level as a “classic” interstate one, it never lost, at least for the Armenian side, its zero-sum “either we or you” character. The words uttered by former Armenian President Kocharyan, who used to be the leader of Karabakh Armenians during the war, in an interview to the British researcher Tom de Waal, that “Armenians and Azerbaijanis are genetically incompatible”, sound as something from the racist playbook. Yet this black-and-white vision of the Armenian history and interests reflect the dominant, if not usually articulated, thinking which among others defines Armenian foreign policies as well.

The major feature of the Armenian strategy ever since its independence- the reluctant but inevitable affiliation with Russian interests- is one example. The Armenian democratic movement perceived Moscow as no friend as well. However, as the conflict intensified and Turkey in 1993 ultimately closed borders with Armenia, Yerevan had no other choice but to fully embrace Russia as security guarantor. Ultimately, the presence of the Russian military base in Gyumri as well as the frequent engagement of former Soviet army units in hostilities on the Armenian side, were among the major factors behind the ultimate Armenian victory. Later on, as the idea of preserving the “security” of the Nagorno-Karabakh (which proclaimed itself an independent republic, not yet recognized by any sovereign state), and the seven adjacent districts occupied by Armenian forces, got entrenched in both the national state of mind and political strategy, any attempts to re-orient Armenia towards Western integration would fail against the need to preserve Russia’s exclusive leverage in the country in exchange for its security guarantees. The failure of the “compliant Armenia” strategy preached by the first President Ter-Petrosyan, encapsulated this permanent deadlock of the Armenian foreign policy. This strategy envisaged gradual shift of Yerevan towards the Western-centered global institutions, including NATO and EU, and distancing from militant exclusive nationalism that characterized Armenia’s attitude towards Azerbaijan and Turkey. Ter-Petrosyan supported the maximally quick return of the 7 occupied regions (the “buffer zone” in the parlance of Karabakh separatists) to Baku and even reportedly contemplated an option of the “single state” for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. Such prospects were rejected by the majority of Armenians, and the President had to resign in 1998, being replaced by the war hero Kocharyan, who quickly turned to considerably more nationalist rhetoric.

Another exemplary U-turn happened in 2013, when the Sargsyan government, preparing the association agreement with the EU, refused from signing it in the most unexpected manner days before the planned agreement date and a few days later joined the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The evidence indicates that this decision was obtained by Moscow through pressing hard on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, pivotal for Armenian politics. The newest case is the current president Pashinyan, who swept to power with the agenda of a more transparent and reforming Armenia and prioritized improving ties with the West. In the first year of his presidency Pashinyan did a lot to relieve the tensions with Azerbaijan, making 2019 the calmest year on the frontline in at least a decade. However, domestic pressure exerted by nationalists, who manipulated public opinion into believing that the President prepares a “treason” on Karabakh, and growing bitterness with Moscow, triggered Pashinyan to gradually adopt the traditional intransigent mode, and the latest escalation has been the logical outcome of the mounting tensions. In the aftermath of the July hostilities, he made a number of unprecedentedly pro-Russian statements, reassuring Moscow that Yerevan will remain its firm ally. At the same time, the officials and expert community in Armenia are again pushing the idea that only Russian umbrella can save their country from the destruction by “enemy Turks”. However, violence against peaceful Azerbaijani protesters in Los Angeles, Brussels or London, as well as rioting in Moscow, came as a shock and was the first time the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict really spilled over the territory of third countries and involved thousands of people with no direct links to the armed forces or politics. Given that the Armenian leadership never bothered to denounce such behavior by their ethnic kin, it must be concluded that the conflict in the eyes of most Armenians, despite of their appellations to international law and the language of realpolitik, is clearly an ethnic one which justifies war by all means. Among the Armenians who came on the streets of Western cities to confront the Azerbaijani crowds, were scattered people bearing the insignia of “ASALA” on their t-shirts, which also indicates the merging of Azerbaijanis and Turks in the radical-nationalist perception.

However, the most dramatic consequence of the intransigent, zero-sum policy of Armenia are the numerous wasted opportunities for the dynamic development of the whole region. Even in the 1990’s, when all the three countries of South Caucasus experienced the economic collapse of more or less similar magnitude, Armenian President Ter-Petrosyan warned about long-term adverse outcomes of the uncompromised attitude to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue for the country’s economic development. Since then, Armenia found itself isolated from the major infrastructural projects of regional significance, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, as well as many more international initiatives promoted by the Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan triangle. The absence of the border with Russia, together with economic problems Moscow is experiencing since 2014, mean that this partnership is not nearly as lucrative for Yerevan as the hypothetical collaboration with the direct neighbours could have been, and in fact the only serious boon from it is Yerevan’s ability to obtain Russian weapons for lower-than-market prices from time to time- which only strengthens “the party of war” and perpetuates the mentality of a besieged fortress. The resulting dependence on communications with Iran puts severe limits on Armenia’s attempts to deepen cooperation with the West. As a result, in the last 15 years Armenia’s GDP per capita consistently lagged behind Azerbaijan, for some years even falling to the half its level, and in the recent years has also been considerably lower than the respective figure for Georgia. Moreover, Armenian economy, compared to Azerbaijan and Georgian ones, is much more dependent on the inflow of investment from rather limited sources (particularly the Armenian diaspora), which makes it more vulnerable to various shocks and further constrains the range of available policy options, as diaspora money is usually linked with Armenia’s uncompromised and vigorous promotion of the issues of genocide recognition and Nagorno-Karabakh “independence”.The vicious circle of stagnant economy and bellicose rhetoric serves to reward the politicians most radical on Nagorno-Karabakh, since its “defense” from Azerbaijan becomes the only success that can justify the government’s performance.

At the same time, Armenian policies have put significant obstacles to the whole region as well. Amid the growing weariness from the enormous Russian influence, the continuing presence of Russia’s 302ndmilitary base in Gyumri can now be justified only by the guarantee of the status-quo it provides for Yerevan. Unsurprisingly, after initial irritation at the CSTO and Moscow who didn’t rush to interfere into the border skirmishes with Azerbaijan, President Pashinyan had to change his stance and recognize the strategic importance of security partnership with Russia- a victory for Moscow but another blow to the sustainable peace in South Caucasus. The lack of such peace and the constant, if often understated threat of a new escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan causes skeptical assessment of the strategic importance and potential of the whole region in the West, which throughout his last decade has considerably diminished its presence here; since Obama’s presidency, South Caucasus has been downgraded in the list of U.S’s foreign policy priorities. The constant threat of war in South Caucasus was very clear to the whole world in the aftermath of the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, but the fact that Armenia is, unlike Russia, a small, economically backward state has blinded many analysts from fully recognizing its destructive role and put the Karabakh conflict to the back row, relative to the conflicts in Abkhazia and Ossetia. Yerevan’s rejection of compromises and desperate attachment to the Russian security umbrella made a long-term time bomb from Nagorno-Karabakh. The fact that many Armenians abroad perceive Azerbaijani embassies and peaceful rallies as a target, attests to the flawed thinking which perpetuates Armenia’s conflict with “Turks”. At the same time, it made as clear as never before that it would be in the best interest of the international community to return, after many years, to a pro-active role, and take a harsh stance against war-mongering and ethnic radicalism in South Caucasus. It must be finally made clear that Yerevan cannot pretend to be a flagship of democracy in the region and continue its occupation, preaching the ideas of militant primordial nationalism and disregard for international law.

Murad Muradov is a co-founder of Topchubashov Center, Baku-based think tank. His areas of expertise cover European politics, politics of identity and nationality and international political economy.

Eastern Europe

Azerbaijan Takes Advantage of Armenia’s Strategic Isolation to Resume Hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh

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Image source: azernews

It was only a matter of time before hostilities would resume in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region contested by Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians.  A war was last fought just three years ago between Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the breakaway Armenian state of Artsakh resulting in an Azeri victory and a Russian-brokered ceasefire.  However, due to Yerevan’s strategic isolation, it seemed inevitable that Baku would reinitiate military operations to take advantage of Armenia’s relative weakness.

Despite the implementation of a ceasefire in November 2020, Azerbaijan used ‘hybrid’ tactics to weaken the self-declared Republic of Artsakh.  Most significantly, the Azeris blockaded Artsakh in December 2022, cutting it off from the outside world, making it difficult for residents to obtain electricity, fuel, and water reserves.  By restricting access to the Lachin corridor, Azerbaijan was able to cut off Artsakh from Armenia and create better leverage to exact concessions.  The routes were only reopened this month.

However, on 19 September, the Azeri Presidential Administration declared that it would carry out an ‘anti-terror’ operation in the region. Baku demanded that ‘the illegal Armenian military formations must raise the white flag, all the weapons must be handed over, and the illegal regime must be dissolved.’  The Azeri government statement coincided with reports from local Armenian media sources and state news that there had been artillery, missile, and drone strikes conducted by Azerbaijan.  Five people have reportedly been killed and about 80 injured.

So, why is this happening now?  In short, Armenia is isolated and weak without realistic prospects for substantial foreign assistance.  Thus, Azerbaijan has made the realpolitik calculation that it should press its current advantage and assert its control over Nagorno-Karabakh sooner rather than later.

Armenia’s ally, Russia, does have a military presence in the region.  In fact, about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers are deployed along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor.  Historically, Armenia has viewed Russia as its security guarantor, but the Russian response to the most recent bouts of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been tepid as far as Yerevan is concerned.  Other members of the CSTO – the Russian-led alliance to which Armenia is a member – were even less resolved to assist Armenia during the previous Nagoro-Karabakh War in 2020. 

With Russia currently embroiled in the war in Ukraine, it is highly unlikely that Moscow will divert resources to assist Yerevan, nor does it seem likely that the Kremlin would perceive much strategic value in doing so anyway.  In recent years, Russia has maintained a complicated relationship with Azerbaijan and its staunch ally, Turkey.  Russia does not stand to gain much strategically by assisting Armenia at this time and it can ill afford to further antagonise Turkey, which despite being a NATO member, has been fairly ambivalent towards the war in Ukraine.

Policymakers in Yerevan are aware that Russia is not a dependable ally and have made diplomatic overtures towards other potential security guarantors.  Some political figures in Washington are sympathetic to Yerevan and Armenia does possess an outspoken and visible diaspora in the United States that it can leverage for soft power gains.  Last year, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi overtly blamed Azerbaijan for hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and in 2023 Armenian and American troops conducted joint military drills

Closer ties with the Untied States may have buoyed hopes in Yerevan that the Americans might provide some form of assistance in the event of renewed hostilities.  However, the United States has relatively limited strategic interests in the region.  Military assistance is virtually out of the question but even the imposition of sanctions or diplomatic condemnations of Azerbaijan are unlikely.

There is an argument to be made that the United States could undermine Russian influence in the region by creating closer ties with Armenia, thus releasing Yerevan from dependency on Moscow.  However, similar arguments have been made for enhancing American influence in the region vis a vis Azerbaijan.  Moreover, Azerbaijan enjoys the advantages of being a major energy provider, with oil and natural gas reserves.  It is unlikely that Washington will do anything much to damage relations with Baku at this time, given that the latter has the potential to become a major Eurasian energy hub. 

The same can be said for the European Union, whose members are currently facing an energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and the decision to eschew Russian oil and gas.  Brussels has already demonstrated its appetite for Azeri energy and will not act in a way to jeopardize its access.

To make matters worse for Armenia, Azerbaijan enjoys a quantitative military advantage, with greater manpower and resources at its disposal.  Whilst its true that the Azeri and Armenian militaries are roughly peer competitors, with Armenia having won the First Nagoro-Karabakh War between 1988 and 1994; Azerbaijan demonstrated greater prowess in the most recent conflict.  Moreover, Azerbaijan will likely again have the support of its close ally Turkey, in the form of weapon systems and equipment from its significant defence sector.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen how another conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh will play out.  Armenia is not so outmatched at the tactical and operational levels that the result of another war is a foregone conclusion.  Although a great deal of fuss was made over the Azeri military’s usage of drones in the previous round of fighting, they were not so decisive that the war was a cakewalk for Azerbaijan. 

As explained by Eado Hecht of the Israel Defence Forces Tactical Command College, ‘The war was won by Azeri perseverance in the face of heavy casualties and many small defeats while gradually wearing-down Armenian forces no-less determined than the Azeris.’  What is potentially shaping up to be the Third Nagoro-Karabakh War may play out similarly – or it may not.

At the strategic level, however, Yerevan is playing with a bad hand.  Armenia has few friends to call on for significant aid and will likely be forced to face this conflict largely alone.

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Eastern Europe

The agreement was reached to stop the Azerbaijan’s Anti-TerrorOperation in Karabakh: quo vadis?

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nagorno karabakh
Image source: Azerbaijan Ministry of Defence

On September 19, 2023, the enduring and deeply entrenched issue of Karabakh, which has been a source of contention between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union, once more gained prominence due to the recent anti-terror measures in the area. Thus, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan has issued a statement elucidating the viewpoint, objectives, and continued endeavors concerning the anti-terror operation of Azerbaijan against the legitimate military targets of Armenia in the region. This anti-terror operation in the Karabakh region has thrust this issue back into the international spotlight, raising questions about the road ahead and the challenges that lie forward in achieving a stable resolution.

Therefore, to grasp the essence of Azerbaijan’s anti-terror operation, examining the events and interactions between the conflicting parties following the Second Karabakh War of 2020 is essential. The Second Karabakh War, known as “the Patriotic War,” resulted in Azerbaijan regaining control of territories that had been occupied by Armenia since the early 1990s. Azerbaijan’s triumph was attributed to a combination of factors, including political determination, military superiority, and diplomatic support from Türkiye, as well as Armenian underestimation of Azerbaijan’s military buildup, the lingering optimism in Armenia stemming from the First Karabakh War, Armenia’s inadequate defense infrastructure developed during three decades of occupation, and, notably, Armenia’s diplomatic shortcomings in engaging major powers, especially Russia, in the conflict.

The War marked a significant shift in the regional power dynamic, but it was only the beginning of a long and challenging process towards peace. Thus, in the wake of the Second Karabakh War, the region has grappled with the complex task of finding a path to lasting peace.

Since the end of the War, despite various ups and downs, as well as political and military confrontations, the parties to the conflict engaged in a peace negotiation. President Ilham Aliyev constantly reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s determination for achieving the long-awaited peace with Armenia. Consequently, Azerbaijan has demonstrated a clear and logical stance on peace negotiations process, which is in line with the norms and principles of international law and could serve as a sole basis for signing peace treaty. The negotiations for signing a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia have been moving quite slowly due to irrelevant demands from the Armenian side, including about the so-called rights and securities of the Armenian population in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The issue of reintegration of Armenian residents living in Karabakh has been a main sticking point during the negotiation process. The Armenian community in Karabakh has been hesitant to engage in direct negotiations in Baku, instead preferring meetings mediated by international mediators, which has added another layer of intricacy to an already complex negotiation process. However, the stance of Azerbaijan is clear that the Karabakh issue is no longer on the international agenda since Armenia recognized Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the region.

In this regard, Hikmet Hajiyev, the Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan, emphasized that protecting the individual rights and safety of Armenian residents living in Karabakh is exclusively an internal matter for Azerbaijan. Baku has no intention of engaging in discussions concerning its sovereignty with any external parties, including Armenia. As a subsequent action, the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan extended an invitation to representatives of the Armenian community in Karabakh on March 13, 2023, for a second meeting. This meeting aims to address ongoing communication efforts regarding reintegration and the execution of infrastructure projects in Karabakh.

However, Karabakh Armenians declined the invitation to meet in Baku and instead expressed their preference for a meeting in Karabakh under the mediation of Russian peacekeepers. On March 27, 2023, Baku extended another invitation to the Armenians in Karabakh to discuss the reintegration and implementation of infrastructure projects in Karabakh. Nevertheless, the Armenian side once more rejected the prospect of direct negotiations with Azerbaijan in Baku, insisting on a negotiation format that is internationally recognized when engaging with Baku.

In addition to refusing to engage in talks with Baku, they persist in maintaining unlawful armed groups from Armenia within the internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan. In this regard, Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated that the continuation of the existence of units of the armed forces of Armenia in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, contrary to the provisions of the Trilateral Statement dated November 10, 2020, is a serious threat to regional peace and security. The only way to achieve peace and stability in the region is unconditional and complete withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and the dissolution of the puppet regime.

However, reports of systematic shelling of Azerbaijani positions, continued landmines in Azerbaijani territories, and the fortification of battle positions by Armenia’s armed forces have heightened tensions. Instances of reconnaissance-subversion acts, such as planting mines in previously cleared areas by Armenians, pose serious threats to civilians and military personnel alike.

Thus, in response to these concerns, Azerbaijan initiated a local anti-terror operation in the Karabakh region on September 19, 2023. According to the statement of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the objectives of the anti-terror operation include ensuring the provisions of the Trilateral Statement, signed on November 10, 2020, “suppress large-scale provocations in the Karabakh economic region, to disarm and secure the withdrawal of formations of Armenia’s armed forces from our territories, neutralize their military infrastructure, provide the safety of the civilian population returned to the territories liberated from occupation, the civilians involved in construction and restoration work and our military personnel, and ultimately restore the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan.”

Ministry of Defense has also emphasized that “Azerbaijan Army Units did not target the civilian population and civil infrastructure facilities, only legitimate military targets were destroyed by using high-precision weapons…  The protection and security of administrative, social, educational, medical, religious, and other facilities will be organized in line with the laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the norms of international humanitarian law. Women, children, elderly people, as well as people with disabilities and the sick will be rendered necessary medical aid and other assistance. They will be provided with drinking water and food.”

In addition, official Baku declared that the Azerbaijan side is ready for a meeting in Yevlakh with the representatives of the Armenian residents living in Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. However, the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan stated that in order to stop anti-terror operations, “the illegal Armenian military formations must raise the white flag, all the weapons must be handed over, and the illegal regime must be dissolved.”

In light of these statements by official Baku, it is imperative to mention that Azerbaijan maintains a balanced perspective and a commitment to constructive dialogue. The region’s residents deserve nothing less than a peaceful and prosperous future. Hence, reintegration of Armenians living in certain parts of the Karabakh region into the Azerbaijani society is also a high agenda of Baku. President Aliyev repeatedly said that the Armenian minority living in Karabakh being Azerbaijani citizens could participate in construction and restoration projects of the region and that Baku was ready to create conditions for them in the places and villages where they would live. But, in order to be integrated into the Azerbaijani society, the Armenian minority in the Karabakh region must first give up separatist aspirations, given Azerbaijan’s obvious goodwill reflected in post-war developments. The path to peace may be fraught with obstacles, but with genuine commitment and cooperation on post-conflict regional agenda, a prosperous future for the region lies within the recognition of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

Therefore, with the aim of compelling separatist factions to abandon their political aspirations and facilitate the attainment of a stable and prosperous future, comprehensive anti-terror measures persisted on the date of September 20, 2023. Meanwhile, at the onset of the same day, the Azerbaijani authorities reiterated their statement to the Armenian armed forces contingents stationed within the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, urging them to disarm and capitulate. It was explicitly conveyed that the suspension of anti-terror measures would exclusively follow compliance with this condition. In light of the contemporary developments, an accord has been achieved to halt local anti-terror measures in the Karabakh region. Thus, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan stated that considering the appeal by the representatives of the Armenian residents living in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, conveyed by the Russian peacekeeping contingent, an agreement has been reached as of 13:00, 20 September 2023, to stop the antiterror measures under the following terms:

–  The formations of Armenia’s armed forces stationed in the Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan and illegal armed groups lay down their arms, withdraw from their battle positions and military outposts and are subjected to complete disarmament.

– Simultaneously, all the ammunition and heavy military equipment is handed over.

–  Conducting the abovementioned process in coordination with the Russian peacekeeping contingent is ensured.

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Eastern Europe

Ukraine War’s Impact on Migrant Flow in Poland: Balancing Humanitarian Concerns and State Stability

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photo: © UNICEF/Vincent Tremeau

Amidst the complexity of traditional and non-traditional security threats resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war, the dynamics of immigrant flows in various European countries have become a crucial issue that needs further examination. The ultimate implication of the military power struggle between these two countries has led to a high intensity of civilian migration as a means of self-preservation. According to UNHCR data (2023), approximately 8,255,288 Ukrainian refugees are dispersed in various European countries, including Poland. Historically, Poland has been one of the European countries reluctant to accept refugee groups.

Poland’s resistance to the influx of refugees can be identified since 2015 as a consequence of the Syrian and Libyan Civil Wars. In the name of civilian security and regional stability, the Polish government firmly rejects these refugees as a precautionary measure. Poland’s constructed policy scheme demonstrates that domestic security stability is a crucial issue that needs to be accommodated first rather than prioritising humanitarian principles. Based on this track record, Poland can refuse the entry of Ukrainian refugees. However, this possibility is not the dominant strategy.

Consciously resisting the high intensity of Ukrainian refugee inflow may disrupt Poland’s image since Poland has frequently imposed blockades on refugee groups in recent years. For example, the consequences of Poland’s blockade of refugee entry in 2015 resulted in the European Union Court of Justice prosecuting Poland for its non-compliance with legal regulations. As a result, there is a possibility of implementing severe sanctions, both formally and socially, by the European Union and even globally against Poland. If similar policies are implemented, the negative impression that has grown and developed against Poland since 2015 will accumulate and affect Poland’s image disruption in the constellation of international relations. Moreover, the European Union has formally applied the Temporary Protection Policy Directive for Ukrainian refugees until March 2024. Consequently, European Union member states are responsible for accepting and treating Ukrainian refugees as their civilians.

Conceptually, Poland’s option to accept Ukrainian refugee groups results from the calculation of loss aversion—an actor’s tendency to minimise losses rather than focus on gains. In other words, although blocking the entry of Ukrainian refugee groups may be an anticipatory approach to the double burden that the Polish government needs to bear, the potential losses from such a blockade would be more painful—possible social and legal formal sanctions by the European Union and even globally. Therefore, the Polish government should choose the latter option among the options of blockade or open acceptance of Ukrainian refugees. However, accepting refugees without anticipating the influx may lead to various negative implications, especially regarding domestic security stability. Hence, the Polish government needs to formulate different strategic policies so that the influx of Ukrainian refugees becomes an opportunity to enhance Poland’s utility.

Poland has at least 1.3 million Ukrainian refugees. In order to accommodate the high intensity of the refugee population, various policies can be implemented. Through the narrative framework of enhancing image and legitimacy, the Polish government can persuade multiple multinational companies to provide financial support to meet the needs of Ukrainian refugees through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. Amid scepticism from various parties that view CSR programs as mere abstract rhetoric, the involvement of multinational companies in Poland becomes an opportunity to improve their reputation and gain public trust. This collaboration scheme has positive significance for the Polish government, global companies, and Ukrainian refugees. Contextually, the burden on the Polish government to accommodate Ukrainian refugees becomes lighter due to financial penetration from multinational companies. At the same time, CSR funding for refugees becomes a strategic instrument to frame a positive image of international companies. Thus, the accessibility of refugee rights can be fulfilled through various aids—avoiding destitution.

Not only limited to providing access to facilities and infrastructure, the Polish government and various companies also need to provide a labour ecosystem for refugees. Conceptually, the narrative attribution of job opportunities for Ukrainian refugees and an intensified persuasive approach can shape the preferences of productive-aged refugees to work. Therefore, the empowerment of Ukrainian refugee groups is crucial.

With such policies, the Polish government can minimise the level of dependency of Ukrainian refugee groups on state aid. It cannot be denied that the Polish government has provided job opportunities to Ukrainian refugees. However, these refugees dominate low-skilled labour jobs. Accumulatively, as much as 56% of Ukrainian refugees are women with higher education backgrounds. This data indicates that the opportunity to amplify the quality of the workforce in Poland is significant, leading to an increase in effectiveness and efficiency in the national economic development scheme. Therefore, empowerment in the form of skill training and cultural adaptation becomes a crucial agenda that needs to be actualised, considering the presence of cultural relativism. Moreover, through relevant institutions, the Polish government needs to map the employment situation of Ukrainian refugees in their home country as a benchmark for the government to provide contextually relevant job opportunities.

Instead of becoming a double burden that could shake domestic stability, offering strategic policies based on humanitarian principles is a momentum for the Polish government to enhance its utility at the international level. These strategic policies form the basis of framing a positive image of Poland regarding the government’s altruism in responding to the implications of the Russia-Ukraine war. Simultaneously, framing such a positive image will discount the negative image of Poland that has grown and developed in recent years due to its resistance to refugee groups from the Middle East. Furthermore, the decision to accept Ukrainian refugees with various strategic policies manifests the practice of tit-for-tat.

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