The World Abandoned Armenia, but Armenians Shouldn’t Abandon Ukraine
A small pro-Ukraine demonstration in Yerevan on 27 February. Photo: Stepan Grigoryan.
By Nat Hill
The world is captivated by the horror and injustice that Russia's invasion is intentionally inflicting on Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s delusional ambitions about recreating a Russian or Soviet Empire has only united the West’s resolve to stop totalitarianism and the wanton destruction of another Russian client state.
It is amazing to see the world rally around the Ukrainian people. The sympathy that Americans have for the Ukrainian people is palpable. However, as someone who has studied the former Soviet Union for years and as an Armenian-American, I cannot help but think back to when the world was silent as Azerbaijan invaded Artsakh in the fall of 2020.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Armenian news media have had a narrow focus on the large Armenian community in Ukraine and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s tacit support for Azerbaijan during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. While these are valid concerns, the war in Ukraine, like in Artsakh, is a struggle for freedom, humanity and justice that should cut across all ethnic, religious, and national divisions.
The parallels between the Azerbaijani invasion of Artsakh and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are striking. Like Russia, Azerbaijan is run by a totalitarian dictatorship that uses dehumanizing and genocidal rhetoric and military destruction to achieve its territorial goals.
While Ukraine has received a united Western response against the Russian aggression, Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh received only tepid “calls for peace” when their territorial integrity was threatened, breached, and dismantled by Azerbaijan. NATO and the EU’s desire to placate Azerbaijan’s main ally Turkey and gain access to Caspian energy via Azerbaijan takes precedence over the plight of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia sits in a tricky geopolitical situation vis-a-vis Russia. The recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states is something Artsakh long sought. The presence of an active Russian base outside Gyumri and Russian “peacekeepers” along the borders complicates Armenia's situation. Over a million Armenians live and work in Russia. Armenia still looks to Russia as its protector and guide. Furthermore, western sanctions have caused Russians and Russian businesses to flock to Armenia as an alternative.
Yet Armenians should recognize that Ukrainians are now also victims of invasion, war crimes, and perhaps even genocide. Armenians should see the invasion of Ukraine as a rallying point to reaffirm their commitment to fighting against tyranny and genocide. Armenia should join the rest of the world in supporting Ukraine.
It is important to note that Azerbaijan continues to threaten Armenian communities along its border and is destroying Armenian heritage sites in Azerbaijan's newly acquired territory.
A Genocide Watch report on Azerbaijan's cultural destruction and aggression in Artsakh will be released shortly.
Nat Hill is the Co-Director of Research at Genocide Watch and the Chief Editor of "The Call" Blog
The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Genocide Watch.