ArmInfo’s Interview with Ashot Manucharyan, member of the Karabakh Committee, national security advisor to the first President of Armenia
Do you think the current people’s movement resemble the movement of the late 1980s early 1990s?
In the 90s we could perfectly see many shortcomings in the system of the USSR and in the world. We are national movement, wherein the voice of the Karabakh Committee is the most important. We sought improvement simultaneously raising the issue of Nagorno Karabakh. The movement refused from the old life philosophy and chose the new one, which was the right decision. However, we regressed from the existing living standards. We wished our best, you know the rest. There was a public opinion that everything Western is a direct way to civilization, a step forward comparing to the Soviet life. He believes that everything negative we have now is a result of the wrong choice of the people, politicians and intellectuals based on the above stereotype. Today it is impossible to say what would be the right choice in the early 90s. Many parameters of changes we made then are still relevant.
What hopes do you pin with the current protesting people’s movement?
I have been pinning hopes with the national movement for already 25 years. I do not rely, however, on specific persons: Raffi Hovannisian, Levon Ter-Petrosyan and others. Over these years our people have been in the search. They have been political in the very sense of that word because politics is not a complex of intrigues, which our political field has been full with for a long period of time. In this light, I am sure that sooner or later we will achieve serious changes in Armenia.
Are the methods and technologies of the Karabakh Committee of the late 80s and early 90s applicable to the current situation for serious changes in Armenia?
The real power levers were not in the hands of the Movement in the late 80s. However, real processes were managed by the Movement, specifically, by the people who headed it. After the Movement had achieved its goals, those very people took the power levers, while the others went home killing the real people's power. Change of power for me is to make Serzh Sargsyan and others obey the public will. By the way, the Solidarity Movement in Poland adopted experience of the Karabakh Movement. Then on the threshold of the collapse of the Soviet Union we gathered people not in power, but with experience and knowledge. A similar system of management is possible also now and I am sure it will be realized. Replacing Serzh Sargsyan with Raffi Hovannisian will change nothing in the governance system. I don't think that the new president will be able to bring to power more clever and experienced people than we did in the early 90s. However, a couple of years later we saw that all those honest intellectuals became part of the predatory system that has been operating in Armenia till now.
Today the ruling party seems to be seriously concerned over the upcoming election of the Yerevan mayor on May 5. May the election catalyze public discontent in the context of the processes you have mentioned?
I cannot say if such a scenario will be realized, but there is a relevant potential. This will become possible, first of all, due to the mistakes and disarray of the politicians involved in the process, and second, due to insufficiently strong national self-government. However, there is a huge potential for that now. I hope it will be used.
It is impossible not to touch on the role of external factors in the local processes in Armenia…
They traditionally play a very important part in the domestic policy of the republic. In 1988 the Karabakh movement rose from the standard letters writing to Moscow with a request to settle the Karabakh conflict and suddenly KGB supported us, as it was interested in winding up of perestroyka, as they thought that Gorbachev's perestroyka will ruin the country. And they decided to put Gorbachev against the fact of violence. For this reason, KGB supported certain people from Armenia and Azerbaijan to organize bloodshed as a result of clashes. But as a response, the KGB had a one million political meeting in Yerevan, where the people said directly that violence against civilians was inadmissible. After that the KGB lost and we were controlling the situation. Today everything that is happening in Armenia, including rising of the people, is mostly the result of actions of external forces.
The fight for one of the most important geo-political points - Armenia, has been developing first of all between Russia and Anglo-Saxondom, in which Europe, Iran and China take part. As for the people's movement, it is also a part of the initiative of external forces. The ruling elite of Armenia is chiefly oriented to the West, and Moscow is very much irritated for that. For this reason, as of August 2012, Moscow had a ready decision to sweep away the entire ruling Armenian elite and replace it with the pro-Russian one, in the person of Prosperous Armenia Party, Armenian National Congress, ARF Dashnaktiutyun, etc. As a result, the West initiated certain actions after which Yerevan had to present to Moscow facts according to which Russia's interests in Armenia will be also observed by the incumbent power. I think that the arguments were telling, as Moscow refused its intentions. By removing all of its forces from the presidential race the Kremlin made it clear that it wanted the ruling regime to stay in power.
In other words, was the decision that Prosperous Armenia, the Armenian National Congress and the ARFD would not run in the Feb 18 presidential race adopted in Moscow?
Certainly, it was. Had the Russians expressed support for Prosperous Armenia, it would have certainly run but they just showed the party where it belonged and it had nothing left but to agree. Armenia is neither the first nor the last country that is ruled from outside. In fact, there is no sovereignty in the world. Similar things were once going on in Georgia, where the local authorities and opposition were from one and the same box. They pretended that they were fighting with one another, but that fight was having no impact on the country's policy. In Armenia the Russians have committed a big mistake: they have removed their 'opposition' from the political arena just because they have believed the promises of the local regime. This proves the presence of global corruption in Russia. Raffi Hovannisian is open about his plans to integrate Armenia into NATO and the European Union. This will be a real disaster. But the West could not help making use of Russia's blunder and turning things into its own advantage.
Has the pro-Western Armenian elite become pro-Russian now?
I wouldn’t say it has. It has just declared itself pro-Russian. Any power in Armenia is neither pro-Western nor pro-Russian. It is pro-money and aims to do one thing - to reserve the right to rob with impunity. Today this right is provided first of all by the West. At the moment the State Plan is in Washington, therefore, they make their way to Washington. According to the results of the latest public opinion poll, the political elite in Armenia is by 80% pro-Western, and the people are by 80% pro-Russian. It turns out that the West acts very effectively in Armenia. They have few cards in their hands but they play them brilliantly. As for Russia, it has a big truncheon; therefore, it is necessary to reckon with it. This is why the first thing whispered to any pro-Western politician in Armenia is the need to come to an agreement and to build bridges with Russia. Over the past 25 years the biggest anti-Armenian and anti-Russian sabotage in Armenia was the project of cession of the Meghri corridor. And suddenly the "master" of that project turned into the first pro-Russian politician of Armenia. Therefore, it is more than obvious that the level of corruptness of the Russian political leadership is quite high, because if Armenia had ceded Meghri, it would have faced the prospect of ceasing its existence, and Russia would have suffered big geopolitical losses.
What measures should be taken to prevent the current people’s movement from being used by the forces you have mentioned?
Foreign forces may take advantage of the current people's movement in Armenia. This threat has always existed. And today everything should be done to prevent this scenario. At present people understand most of the things they did not many years ago, though this may be not enough for the people to prevent the foreign forces from using them.
by David Stepanyan