Current Affairs

US president officially recognizes Armenian genocide

  • Posted By
  • Categories
    World Affairs
  • Published
    30th Apr, 2021
  • Context

    Joe Biden has become the first US president declare formal recognition of the Armenian genocide, more than a century after the mass killings by Ottoman troops and opening a rift between the new US administration and Ankara.

  • Background

    • The killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians was carried out as the Ottoman empire was collapsing and the modern state of Turkey was being born. Many victims died in death marches into the Syrian desert.
    • The slaughter is widely viewed as a crime on a monumental scale – and a grim precursor to the Nazi Holocaust.
    • Now, for the first time, the United States recognized the 1915 massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armeniansby the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
    • In 2019, the U.S. Congress passed resolutions calling the slaughter a genocide, but the Donald Trump administration stopped short of officially calling it so.
    • The announcement came on the day that Armenians worldwide mark Genocide Remembrance Day.
  • Analysis

    What happened in 1915?

    • The killings of Armenians occurred at the end of World War I during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey.
    • Worried that the Christian Armenian population would align with Russia, a primary enemy of the Ottoman Turks, officials ordered mass deportations in what many historians consider the first genocide of the 20th century.
    • Nearly 1.5 million Armenians were killed, some in massacres by soldiers and the police, others in forced exoduses to the Syrian desert that left them to starve to death.
    • Turkey has acknowledged that widespread atrocities occurred during that period, but its leaders have adamantly denied that the killings were genocide.

    What is genocide?

    • According to Article II of the UN Convention on Genocide of December 1948, genocide has been described as carrying out acts intended “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.

    The death toll

    • The number of Armenians killed has been a major point of contention.
    • Estimates range from 300,000 to 2 million deaths between 1914 and 1923, with not all of the victims in the Ottoman Empire.
    • But most estimates -- including one of 800,000 between 1915 and 1918, made by Ottoman authorities themselves -- fall between 600,000 and 1.5 million.
    • Whether due to killings or forced deportation, the number of Armenians living in Turkey fell from 2 million in 1914 to under 400,000 by 1922.
  • What can be the reason behind US’s decision?

    • Emphasis on human rights: A key factor in Biden's decision to release the statement, over the objections of its NATO ally Turkey, was a push by members of his administration to place greater emphasis on human rights in U.S. foreign policy.
    • Human rights are a pillar of Democrat Biden's foreign policy.
  • What is India’s stand on Armenian Genocide?

    • India has not formally recognised the Armenian Genocide.
    • The country has primarily adopted this stance in the interests of their wider foreign policy decisions and because of their geo-political interests in the region.
  • What is Turkey’s response on the development?

    • Turkey, a United States (US) regional ally and NATO member, has slammed the move as "political opportunism."
    • It is the first time that the United States has used the term to refer to the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces in 1915.
  • How would it impact international diplomacy?

    • Biden's statement appears likely to shake up diplomacy for powers active in the region, including Russia and China.
    • Turkey bought Russian-made S400 surface-to-air missiles in 2019 and is proceeding additional purchases.
    • Washington is strongly opposed to Turkey's moves to strengthen military cooperation with Russia, which NATO treats as a potential adversary.
    • If Turkey completes deployment of the missiles, further sanctions against it may follow.
  • The road ahead

    The acknowledgement would have little legal impact on Turkey, other than becoming a cause for embarrassment for the country and perhaps giving other countries the impetus to also acknowledge the genocide.