It has been six months since the end of hostilities in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), yet Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev continues his psychological warfare against Armenia using some of his leverages, most notably refusing to release the remaining prisoners of war, in an effort to influence Armenia’s internal political situation.
The actions and public expressions of the Azeri dictator in the last few days, have shown that Aliyev continues to be in a state of “glow” with his victory in the war. Dressed in a military uniform, the dictator visited a newly opened “trophy park” where armored vehicles looted during the war, helmets, and other items belonging to Armenian soldiers were displayed for visitors to enjoy. With such blatant demonstrations, Aliyev is pursuing more than one goal – First, to create the illusion of an invincible leader among his people and secondly, to influence the psyche of the public in Armenia.
Another such attempt of psychological warfare by Aliyev, was the recent arrival of the airplane in Yerevan from Baku carrying Russian peacekeepers along with Russian commander Rustam Muratov. There were talks circulating that the plane would arrive with prisoners of war, in the light of the Putin-Pashinyan meeting in Moscow and the Putin-Aliyev telephone conversation. However, the plane returned empty, causing further frustration and anger among the Armenian public, particularity with the families of the captives. The growing frustration resulted in protests against the Armenian government.
Aliyev also spoke about the former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, indicating that during the 2016 four-day-war, Sargsyan promised to return the “occupied territories” to Azerbaijan within two weeks. He tossed a similar accusation against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, claiming that he too, after the 2018 Velvet Revolution, promised to resolve the issue, but asked for some time to settle his internal political matters. The accusations against the former and current leaders of Armenia also fall under this same strategy – to influence domestic political events and provoke disagreements in Armenia.
During a recent international conference held in Baku, to discuss the events in the South Caucasus region, Aliyev said that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict had been resolved and that Azerbaijan had no territorial claims against Armenia. It is not clear what he means when he speaks about the issue being settled. For the Armenian side, the only solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is envisioned by being independent of Azerbaijan. Contrary to Aliyev’s arrogance, more than 100,000 inhabitants of Artaskh, albeit on a smaller territory, continue to live outside the control of Azerbaijan.
Aliyev often declares the Zangezur region and even the capital city of Yerevan as being part of “historic Azerbaijan.” Now, when speaking about not having territorial claims against Armenia, he does not sound sincere, nor convincing. He is trying to appear as someone who is pursuing peace with his neighbor in front of an international audience. In reality, the Turkish-Azeri alliance has always considered Armenia as an obstacle on the road to their dream of pan-Turkic unification.
The non-stop military exercises, with the participation of the Azerbaijani and Turkish armed forces, during which the emphasis is on strengthening the cooperation between the two armies, also tend to pressure Armenia. The Azerbaijan-Turkey alliance is a threat not only to Armenia but also to Russia, whose leadership must address the fact that it can not rely on long-term “friendship” with these two countries, as evidenced by the recent developments around Ukraine where Ankara’s anti-Russian posture was evident.
Although weakened in the face of recent profound geopolitical events, Armenia must establish its internal stability, modernize its army, and be prepared to face the psychological warfare or other threats of Aliyev and his Turkish allies in the short and the long run.