It should be particularly noted that the author himself proved that his theorizing (in a good sense of the word) is the basis of his practical and successful actions, so I am ready to participate both in the discussion of the problems stated in the concept article and in the practical steps toward implementing it. My thoughts on this subject can be found in the article "Spurgeon's Strategy: Sense of Existence and Development Prospects" (available in Russian). It touches more on the problems of the Diaspora, as this is the sphere in which I have experience in practical work and research. I hope the ideas expressed in the article will be helpful for our joint work. In my time, during the hard and troubled times of the 44-day war, I tried to convey to Ruben Vardanyan the idea of the need to be more actively involved in the situation in Armenia and Artsakh. I am glad that at present, while remaining a public figure, he still recognizes the need to be more actively involved in the political life of Armenia. This is extremely important, as there is a focal point of consolidation for all-Armenian forces, and Ruben is its worthy leader.
Commentary on the article "15 Principles of Armenia's Future"
I have already stated in one of the articles that I welcome Ruben Vardanyan's entry into Armenia's political sphere. Earlier, I also repeatedly spoke out on the topic that the Diaspora elite strangely withdrew from Armenia, limiting themselves to humanitarian handouts. For all 25 years, the Diaspora watched from afar how Armenia was being torn to shreds by the local kleptocracy, although it had every opportunity for political influence and intervention But alas… I emphasise that it is the responsibility of the elite, and not the entire Diaspora, because only the elite can really influence the processes. But she did not do this; moreover, she collaborated with the kleptocracy. Among other things, this was done by the traditional political parties of Spyurka. Since then, the thesis that Armenians have always dreamed of independent statehood has become another Armenian myth for me. If Ruben Vardanyan, together with his partners, can prove the opposite, I will be only glad.
Now about the article. It is very expansive, and it's impossible to provide a detailed commentary. The main thing I was looking for in the article was new political thinking, which is so necessary for Armenia. Too many lies, stereotypes and myths have been piled up by us over the last 30 years.
R. Vardanyan in his article sees Armenia's primary problem as a monopoly on decision-making, saying that a mandate of popular trust does not confer any rights to this monopoly. I don't quite agree with that. And the author himself immediately refers to the positive example of Lee Kuwang Yu – the man who created Singapore through a monopoly. So the problem is not in the monopoly itself but in its quality and orientation. The focus of the monopoly can be both for personal gain or a project for the creation of a successful country, as in the case of Singapore. It all depends on the personality of the "dictator". The main thing is not so much the legitimacy of the government as its effectiveness. Moreover, I entirely accept a non-legitimate entry into power, as legitimacy can also be earned at the expense of subsequent efficiency. Conversely, if legitimate power is not proven effective within a reasonable time, what is known as the "routinisation" of charisma occurs. This is precisely what is happening in Armenia now.
In countries like Armenia, the key problem of politics is not what to do, but who should and could do it? Personalities make history. In order to drag any country out of the quagmire, a regime of enlightened authoritarianism is necessary at the transitional stage. Purely methodologically, this would be an ideal option – during the transition period, the country needs an authoritarian leader by analogy with Lee Kuwang Yu, who has the appropriate motivation and the necessary competencies. But in practice, we cannot wait indefinitely for such an ideal leader to appear. What do we really have?
We now have an authoritarian, non-corrupt leader in the person of Pashinyan, who for the first time has the motivation to lead the country out of the quagmire, but, unfortunately, does not have enough of the necessary competencies. Pashinyan is an inefficient manager, and this is a fact. He failed to provide a sufficiently rigid regime of enlightened authoritarianism, which the country needed and still needs. Instead, we are witnessing a game of pseudo-democracy (and there can be no other in Armenia), which is quite dangerous for the country.
So what do we do? And here R. Vardanyan's proposal to create a public council of authoritative representatives of the global Armenian elite, which would develop recommendations on the country's transformation in all these 15 directions, seems to be a very successful solution in this situation. Such a public council, being created independently of the will of the government, cannot go unheeded by the authorities and society at large, which would lead at least to a healthy debate about the future of the country. Society has lost its bearing and is in dire need of new moral authorities that will direct society's attention to the future. The Public Council can become a very successful addition to the current government. It all depends on the council's activity and who is involved in it. I don't see any obstacles to the creation of such a council. The faster it is created, the better. This is unequivocal.
As for the 15 principles, almost all of them are quite logical. It just remains to flesh them out, which the council can do.
In my opinion, one of the author's omissions is the absence of a thesis about the urgent need for peaceful coexistence with our neighbours. Strangely enough, in the hierarchy of Armenian values, peace was somewhere in the margins. Moreover, numerous media outlets, political scientists and experts joke about the proclaimed politics of peace, which speaks volumes about their sanity. The model of a besieged fortress and a belligerent nation clearly does not suit Armenia. It is necessary to speak out very harshly on this issue, to place accents more clearly, the people are fed up with this adventurous and fruitless foreign policy.
About Part 2. The previous social contract
I would remove this chapter or redo it. This is varnishing over reality. The former government had no social contract. Armenia has become a contribution to warlords returning from the Karabakh war. They carried out a state capture (this is the highest form of corruption) and engaged in looting by right of victory. Only the territory was not foreign...In doing so, they proved that the war in Karabakh had nothing to do with the interests of Armenia and the people. Classically – the revolution is made by romantics, while the fruits are enjoyed by scoundrels. By right of the invader, they were not going to share power or money with anyone. Therefore, relations with the Diaspora quickly reached an impasse. There was also no negotiation process with Azerbaijan – there was an imitation of it and sabotage. No one was going to return the occupied territories. That's why we lost Karabakh.
About Russia. It is traditionally a favourite pastime of Armenian political analysts to argue about which Armenia is more profitable for Russia, what is most in Russia's interests, etc. We should steer clear of this nonsensical discourse. If we adequately define our own interests, which we have been chronically failing to do for the last 30 years, we will help Russia to define its attitude towards us.
A few quotes with comments:
Quote: "When the majority of Armenians <...> quietly accept the defeat in the war and the loss of most of the lands of Artsakh, this means a loss of unity and a sense of collective responsibility. The loss of Artsakh can be just as easily followed by the loss of Syunik and then the Tavush region, etc. Disunity and indifference are the dangerous ills of our society that need to be addressed as soon as possible". (p. 1.)
Comment: In my opinion, this is an incorrect statement. There is no unity because we have been living a lie for 25 years. And what were we supposed to be united about – the occupation of Azerbaijani lands? The truth is that we constantly talked about Karabakh and its self-determination, but stubbornly hushed up the problem of the occupied territories, because of which the whole world considered Armenia an aggressor. And rightly so, by the way. But we ignored it for 25 years, like an ostrich burying its head in the sand. The defeat in the war is a reckoning for Armenia's monstrous foreign policy mistakes. Maybe that's why people calmly perceive defeat, because they subconsciously realise that this is actually a reckoning? And what would our victory have looked like? As a successful continuation of the occupation, moreover, the seizure of new lands, as promised by some hustling "patriots"?
Secondly, it is categorically impossible to extrapolate the situation in Artsakh to Armenia. This is dangerous political speculation that has become commonplace – there is no Armenia without Artsakh. These horror stories are misplaced. What does Syunik, Tavush, etc. have to do with it? Azerbaijan has no territorial claims against Armenia, as it has repeatedly stated, although we have given a good reason. Its aim was to restore its sovereignty over the occupied territories and regain Karabakh. The goal has almost been achieved, and Azerbaijan no longer needs to continue the military operation. There is a need to clarify the boundaries, which will take time. Therefore, if we really want to look to the future rather than engage in masochism, then we should acknowledge the existing reality, namely that we have strategically lost the conflict with Azerbaijan over Karabakh. It's foolish to swing your fists after a fight. This must be recognised purely rationally and coolly in order to move forward and build new relations with Azerbaijan.
Yes, now the main problem for Armenia is the status of the remaining part of Karabakh. Personally, I have no illusions about this anymore. My forecast is that it will be economically absorbed by Azerbaijan within a few years. Judge for yourself., Aliyev promised to create an economic paradise in Karabakh, fortunately, all the resources are there. Does anyone doubt this? And then the refrigerator will defeat the TV…
As for the Minsk Group, on which we rely and for which we have grasped like a drowning man to a lifeline, it has done nothing for 25 years. It was the Minsk Group that was supposed to knock some sense into Armenia, but it didn't do it. The main task of the Minsk Group was to prevent a new war. It failed this task. Therefore, it also bears its considerable share of responsibility for the second war and our defeat in it. So what can it do today when Azerbaijan openly ignores it as unnecessary? Blessed are the believers.
Quote: "And now, a year after the war ended, the time has come to come to terms with the fact p. 7 2 that we can ensure peace only if we ourselves become strong, if we are united and can show this unity to the rest of the world. In no case should we put up with defeat, especially since for our neighbors, this victory is not enough, and sooner or later, they will strike again". T (p. 2.)
Comment: I recommend abandoning this cliched propaganda. How will we become strong in relation to our neighbors? In finance, economics, demography, allies? Nonsense!. We will be able to ensure peace only when we understand that we must be guided by the principles of "realpolitik" and not by the emotions and good wishes that still underpin Armenia's foreign policy. It is necessary to get rid of this dangerous disease. The problem of Armenia's security is solved simply – it is the proclamation of a policy of "zero problems with our neighbors". This is the axiom for any small country. To begin with, we need to stop speculating about the alleged hostility of neighbors. Azerbaijan did not become our enemy, we allowed ourselves to become the enemy of Azerbaijan. As for the resumption of aggression by Azerbaijan, it simply does not need it anymore. Of course, Azerbaijan is not completely satisfied, but it has enough other economic levers of influence. I would avoid theses like "In no case should we put up with defeat," because they contain dangerous ambiguity and a direct hint of revanchism that is ruinous for Armenia. We cannot but accept the military defeat. It is also ridiculous to talk about such a level of development of the army that will make any military encroachment on us impossible. It sounds nice, but this level simply does not exist. This is a facile optimism. This is not the way to solve security problems.
As for the neighbor's aggression, Armenia is probably the only country that considers Azerbaijan an aggressor. All the others congratulated Azerbaijan on the restoration of territorial integrity. Can we finally take the trouble to understand why? Here, too, we need new thinking.
Quote: "The main idea that I would like to convey in my work is my conviction that Armenia has every opportunity to become a strong country, and the Armenians a successful modern nation that will revive its traditional values, relying on its glorious past, while being future-oriented". (p. 2.)
Comment: I completely agree. These possibilities are there. The main prerequisite is the small inertia of a small country, which theoretically makes it possible to dramatically change the situation in a short time. A necessary (but not sufficient) condition is the cessation of conflicts with neighbors and the entry into a direct, intensive, constructive dialogue with them without any intermediaries, from which we still cowardly shy away.
ARMENIAN WORLD RELOADED: Tips for future policymakers
Armenia and the entire Armenian world are in a whirlpool of new dramatic geopolitical changes, which will undoubtedly affect the country’s future for many decades ahead. The multiple threats we are currently facing pose many questions to the country’s leadership and intellectual elite, pushing them to find critically important solutions, at least for short-term strategies for neutralization these threats and guaranteeing the country’s sustainable security. At the same time, many threats appear as external security issues, while there are those that are existent within the Armenian world and Armenia proper. We need to address these issues in order to understand their origins and evident consequences while trying to minimize the negative impact of the existing and upcoming threats and problems we are now facing.
How to record our history, especially current history?
One of the fundamental problems of our reality is that we continually fail to record and represent our past and current events properly without misuse and manipulations of the historical events and facts. This is a crucial issue we have to deal with, since any kind of manipulation while speaking and writing about history is a serious security issue for the country’s future. Unfortunately, manipulation of historical events, documents, existing realities and ongoing developments has recently become very natural. This has nothing to do with problems of censorship or pluralism. When academia of any country manipulates the history, especially the current history, then we have to deal with it as a serious security challenge. We consider this issue a fundamental problem of our reality, understanding the importance of impartial representation of the past and current developments as an essential prerequisite for establishing good governance and a nation state.
Soviet heritage and the challenge of the Armenian ‘deep state’
The Spring events of 2018, which took place in the very centre of Yerevan, consequently heralded the existence of yet another serious threat to Armenia’s future that we have to deal with and try by all means to overcome rather than take as a given. There is much evidence that we are now facing a new phenomenon in the constitution of the Armenian ‘deep state’. The problem of an institutional ‘deep state’ is very actual for many countries such as the USA, Russia, Turkey, etc., and we have to understand how we can survive as a nation when fundamental human rights and especially the right of free voting and public choice is now in question. Armenia is a small country, and the phenomenon of a deep state must be properly discussed and analyzed before developing any strategies for the country’s development and progress. Drawing multiple dividing lines inside Armenian society and the Diaspora itself appears to be an essential tool for the strategy of the Armenian deep state, which by every means tries to survive having no clear agenda and, more importantly, a chance to become an engine for the country’s progress.
Diaspora and Armenia relations
One of the most interesting approaches while formatting new Armenia-Diaspora relations could be positioning Armenia herself as the largest Armenian community among many others worldwide. Our current dichotomy of Armenian (Hayastanci) and diasporan (spyurqahaj) has a clear meaning of pejorative opposition. We have to eliminate the psychological and moral barriers and pose Armenia as primus inter pares, i.e. the first among equals. This could be an interesting starting point to move forward and begin real integration for merging the ideas and developing common strategies within the Armenian world. Armenia-Diaspora relations became a lost opportunity for 30-years. While trying to address these issues, we need to understand the origins of the existing atmosphere of no-trust, which, in my opinion, is an elite level crisis we still fail to overcome. I addressed this issue in one of my articles published in ‘Armenian Mirror Spectator’ back in September 2017. Unfortunately, many of my predictions have become reality. For reference, here is the article.
How to deal with archaic and rudimentary structures
We are talking about age-old mental and archaic structures which pose a heavy blow to any Armenian strategy of development and progress. Some structures, such as political parties in Diasporan communities, are very rudimentary and the crucial issue is how to absorb them while paving a way for future strategies. Diasporan community activities within the community, although building relations with Armenia, lost their way and became dysfunctional because of such outdated structures of governance and opposition, which in many cases turned into a bloody conflict and hatred within the communities. These structures, and the lack of understanding of current challenges, are an existential problem for the Armenian world, which is dispersed and has no institutional and solid long-term strategies to operate. A new generation should take up this challenge and develop a new agenda of community governance, interaction of the state structures of Armenia, thus, turning an effective tool of bringing all-Armenian interests within Diasporan communities and Armenia.
Secular Armenia and secular Diasporan communities
One of the principal aspects of the modernization and reformation of the Armenian world is what kind of role we want to reserve for the Armenian Apostolic Church. The latter is a conservative structure and, without any doubt, played a crucial role in preserving Armenian identity over many centuries. Today, we witness growing interest and interference of the Armenian Apostolic Church in many spheres of public life in Armenia, including education, charity, but also economics and politics. The instrumentalization of the church and its structures is yet another challenge for both Armenia and Diasporan communities. The divided church has a leading position in the communities and positions itself as the only structure responsible for governance and regulation within many communities. The Armenian Apostolic Church is also one of the main accumulators of financial resources of the communities. For many reasons, this status of the Armenian Apostolic Church and its divided/dual character is not a good prerequisite for Armenian modernization. Absolutely new and dynamic secular structures must be generated and empowered within the communities responsible for connection and interaction with Armenia and hosting counties.