The significance of U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide


Like each U.S. chief earlier than him, President Joseph Biden issued a commemorative assertion on April 24 to mark the annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.  But this 12 months’s assertion was eagerly anticipated, because the Biden Administration was extensively anticipated to interrupt with the earlier place by boldly acknowledging and affirming the Armenian Genocide.  

Unlike earlier American presidents, these hopes and expectations had been met with no political equivocation or use of semantics.  Breaking with latest priority, President Biden absolutely embraced the struggling of the Armenians by referring to the massacres and compelled dispossession in 1915 as clear elements of the crime of genocide.  

Although with some nuanced language within the assertion’s reference to Ottoman Turkey relatively than the fashionable Republic of Turkey, the U.S. president’s commemorative recognition of the Armenian genocide was important for a number of causes.  

Clearly, for Armenians each in Armenia and all through the worldwide diaspora, the ethical readability and ethical braveness of the Biden assertion, which immediately and explicitly refers back to the Armenian genocide twice, was hailed as a long-sought vindication of a decided marketing campaign to safe official U.S. recognition.  And as an emotional vindication, the assertion was particularly welcome in Armenia, in gentle of the lingering shock from an sudden loss to Turkish-backed Azerbaijan within the warfare for Nagorno Karabakh late final 12 months.

But in actual phrases, the Biden assertion has no authorized and even coverage implications for Armenia.  Nevertheless, it does prolong important credence and political capital to the Armenian quest for recognition and reassurance.  It can also assist to finish the harmful and counter-productive state coverage of genocide denial by the Turkish authorities. 

This latter level additionally supplied a second important issue, whereby different Western international locations, such because the UK for one outstanding instance, will probably be hard-pressed to observe go well with and are available below stress to now not again or buttress Turkish denial of the genocide.  In this manner, the Biden recognition solely exposes the ethical weak point of different Western leaders who should still cling to Turkey’s coverage of denial and historic revisionism.

And third, it was a move to not essentially punish Turkey, however to assist Turkey to extra sincerely take care of its troublesome previous.  It was not vindicative, however relatively, was a vindication of historical past.  

But a fourth issue of significance stems from the choice by the United States to name the bluff of the Turkish authorities and to face down the bellicose threats from Turkey over genocide recognition.  In this manner, the U.S. assertion demonstrated that geopolitics are now not an efficient excuse for genocide denial.

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A toddler sits on his father’s shoulders holding an Armenian flag as hundreds participate in an illustration to commemorate the anniversary of the Armenian genocide in entrance of the Turkish consulate in Los Angeles, California. EPA-EFE//ETIENNE LAURENT

From this angle, the genocide recognition is partially a move to regain a few of the United States’ ethical standing that was misplaced below Donald Trump and stands out as a component in a broader technique to right the coverage errors of the previous as a course correction.  And whereas it’s precedent-setting, making it troublesome for any U.S. president to retreat later, it additionally helps Washington to start to regain and restore the ethical excessive floor in worldwide relations. 

And transferring ahead, the U.S. assertion additionally makes the genocide difficulty much less confrontational for Turkey and presents a recent alternative for Turkey to reengage within the earlier diplomatic effort with Armenia to “normalize” relations.

But most significantly, the Biden announcement is extra about defining a principled ethical stand to defend the historic veracity of the Armenian genocide and fewer about Turkish sensitivities or excuses.  And its relevance is lasting, for not solely affirming the previous however to additionally safeguard the long run to discourage any future reoccurrence of genocide or associated heinous crimes towards humanity.