In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) on November 8 Richard Giragosian, the founding director of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center, described the election of Joe Biden, a candidate from the Democratic Party, as the next president of the United States as “significant from an Armenian perspective.”
Still during the election campaign in October Biden called on President Donald Trump to “get personally involved” to put an end to the ongoing hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and promised that under his administration the United States will lead an international diplomatic effort to end the fighting.
“This election has been a long time coming in terms of changing the unpredictable behavior of the United States. But for Armenia this election didn’t come soon enough. In other words president-elect Biden will come into power at the end of January, meaning that until then there is little he can do to help a desperate Nagorno-Karabakh struggle and in terms of changing policy,” Giragosian said.
“Nevertheless, what’s different now... is that the context is changed. The United States faces a Turkey that is much less a NATO member and is much more the cause of regional instability. So I do believe the words and promises of President-elect Biden ever more.”
The political analyst also emphasized the factor of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who is from California where the Armenian Diaspora has a strong presence, and who has “a good background on Armenian issues.”
“We should expect a significant change, but it will take time, and we don’t have much time to wait,” he said.
While Biden’s ability to make changes is limited until January 20 when he officially becomes president, Giragosian believes that in the meantime Armenians could exploit “the perception even more than the reality” of his presidency.
“The perception of what the Biden administration means to Turkey and Azerbaijan is real. And we need to actually exploit the fear in Ankara and Baku of what a Biden administration means to Turkish aggression and empowering Azerbaijan in attacking Artsakh [the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh]. And in this way we have an advantage,” Giragosian said.
Along with France and Russia, the United States co-chairs the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has an international mandate to broker a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Still, three ceasefires brokered by Moscow, Paris and Washington in October did not hold, as ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani forces fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh accused each other of not respecting the agreements.
Giragosian stressed that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the only issue where Russia works with the West and not against it.
“There is a foundation for greater cooperation to push out the interloper Turkey in this context,” he said, echoing Yerevan’s claims that Turkey is directly involved in the conflict by helping its regional ethnic ally Azerbaijan in its fight against Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians, which is denied in Ankara and Baku.
“For Biden it’s an opportunity to build a new chapter of relations with Moscow based on shared interests,” the political analyst said.
Giragosian said that the ongoing war in Nagorno-Karabakh has several lessons for Armenia to learn. “This also causes a recalculation of our overreliance on Russia and the diminished expectations from the West,” he concluded.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Sunday congratulated Biden on his victory in the U.S. presidential election, expressing a hope that the new administration in Washington “will take active steps to stop the war and bring about a comprehensive settlement” of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.