Between Realism and Idealism: Pashinyan’s speech and historical parallels


Between Realism and Idealism: Pashinyan’s speech and historical parallels

Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan’s parliament speech raised concerns as to his realistic approach in foreign policy matters. This evokes some historical parallels.

Text: Tigran Zakaryan 


Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a lengthy speech at the National Assembly in which he reaffirmed his previous visions on the issues of Artsakh and the peace with Azerbaijan.  

Commenting on the recent diplomatic meetings with different state and regional leaders, Pashinyan particularly said, “Under these new circumstances [we have to] understand what the world thinks [of the problem] and what they want, and make what we want and think even clearer to the world. In the meantime [we want to] to make our wishes and thoughts more harmonized with the global trends, to lead a more balanced foreign policy and a policy of balancing.”

While the Armenian Prime Minister stated that “a quickest possible signing of a peace treaty with Azerbaijan is part of our plan”, he did not exclude Baku’s possible attempt to derail the peace process. 
Pashinyan also suggested that the delimitation should “be based on documents that have a de-jure value rather than wishes or hearsays.”   
Yet again Nikol Pashinyan looks like an idealist, albeit trying hard to portray himself as a realist and it is not at all to be excluded that his “realism” could yield even less palatable fruits for Armenia.  
Armenia's current situation can be somehow compared to that in post-Great-War Hungary almost 100 years ago, which is a hardly known topic to the larger public.  


The fate of Mihály Károlyi

After the Austro-Hungarian Empire was defeated in World War 1 and dissolved its Hungarian part (the Kingdom of Hungary), it proclaimed a republic on its territory on 16 November 1918 under count Mihály Károlyi. He believed negotiating with the victorious Entente powers for Hungary roughly matching the pre-war borders would be the best option. However, after signing an armistice and committing to disarm most part of its 1-million army, Károlyi discovered that the neighboring pro-Entente states, including Romania as well as the newly created Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, would not stop at the armistice lines and pushed for more concessions from Budapest.  

Although Károlyi tried hard to win over the peasantry (by distributing his private lands among the farmers, a pattern that few among the landowners followed), the general failure to defend the country was highly disappointing. After an almost 4-month-long tenure Károlyi had to resign but the fate of the rump state of once an impressive European empire was sealed. It had to give up over 2/3 of its pre-war territory, where millions of ethnic Hungarians lived and this fact has remained a trauma in the collective national psyche.

Two lessons can be learned from this case. First, the hope that the victorious neighbors will be compassionate and limit their territorial ambitions under the influence of “humanist ideals” coming from the West is a mere self-delusion. Another lesson is that yielding to pressures from the “international community” trying to placate its decision-makers without receiving due guarantees is not the best option at all. 

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