It took many years for the White House to officially recognize the Armenian genocide; however, the current American president sends the signal that the United States, after the short break of the last four years, continues to be the main proponent of the Western ethos. Nevertheless, everything in politics has just a single dimension.
First, it is imperative for the US to send a clear message to the rest of the world that the days of MAGA are finally over and that a new era of MARA (Make America Reliable Again, as I argue in my latest book) begins with Joe Biden. The end of the MAGA era is not just a normative formality but a strong message that is directly related to American soft power. After four years of neo-protectionism and generous doses of populism, America has started probing the “Shining City on the Hill” role again. Thus, the recognition of the Armenian genocide must be seen as a reintroduction of American values to the world.
Second, this is a clear message to Turkey that the days where Ankara was free to play with American prestige are over. This is a direct blow to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman agenda and his perpetual efforts to frost Turkey’s past with gallantry and chivalry – e.g. the film “Fetih 1453.” America’s recognition of the Armenian genocide will not affect Erdogan directly but Erdoganism instead. In the future, Turkish historians will admit that while Kemalism managed to avoid such a development, Erdoganism, with its profound maximalism, failed to protect the nation’s prestige. Anyone who understands the Turkish president’s way of thinking can understand that this will be his Sisyphean punishment in perpetuity.
Third, this is a brilliant move by the American side in Central Asia and the so-called Russian geostrategic red zone. Moscow brilliantly played the punishment card of Armenia in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, where the Armenian Army was left all alone to be crushed by the Azeri-Turkish forces. Moscow never liked the “complementarity” approach of Yerevan in international affairs, a sui generis form of neutrality regarding the American-Russian antagonism in the Caucasus or the hesitant striking steps of the country toward Brussels. Before the Nagorno-Karabakh defeat, large parts of Armenian society favored the adoption of the nation taking a pro-Western turn. The recognition of the Armenian genocide sends the message to the Armenians that Washington is not indifferent toward the political developments there and that a return to the days of a Russian monopoly will be no walk in the park.
The recognition of the Armenian genocide will be one of the most notable moments of the Biden administration, while it must also be seen as a triumph of the Armenian lobby in Washington. Furthermore, before someone starts drawing a comparison with the Greek lobby in the American capital, it is essential to comprehend the following. First, we should learn to trust the moves of our lobbyists in Washington, who do an excellent job in promoting the Greek and the Cypriot arguments there. Second, the whole procedure must be seen as a marathon. We have to work strenuously for the recognition of the Greek genocide in Asia Minor by the US and work toward the final resolution of Cyprus’ illegal occupation by the Turkish Army. It is a long way to Tipperary, but the Armenian case shows there are no lost causes in international politics, only wrong or right timing.
Spyridon N. Litsas, Ph.D is a Professor of International Relations at the University of Macedonia, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Grenoble, France, and the Supreme Joint War College, Hellenic Armed Forces. He is the author of “US Foreign Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean: Power Politics and Ideology Under the Sun” (Springer Nature, 2020), among others.