Motivation for Betraying the Motherland

Posted on January. 13. 2023

BY Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian 

“I know not what treason is, if  sapping and betraying the liberties of a people be not [is not] treason…?”–Gato the Younger (of the Old World)

“Treason is the highest crime of a civil nature of which a man can be guilty.” –Noah Webster (of the Modern World)

After so many centuries of the Armenian motherland, the Greater Armenia lands, being occupied by the sons of the Ottoman and Seljuk conquerors and others, the liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) province provided a great consolation and pride for many Armenians. 

It meant that Armenians are not only surviving, but that they are, in fact, thriving in many ways after the nadir in their history of 1915-1923 national catastrophe.  

In 2020, the sons of Artsakh fought valiantly against the odds to keep their tiny motherland’s sovereignty, but unfortunately a disturbing number of the Armenian and Artsakh  military men reportedly betrayed her with a Judas Kiss, most likely compromising her national security. 

To add to an already staggering number of cases of treason during the 44-Day War, in early December of 2022, the newspapers reported that the Armenian National Security Service had arrested an Armenian “major officer” of the Defense Ministry on grounds of espionage. The officer was charged with treason, and according to the decision of the court, he was detained for allegedly selling secrete military information to the enemy for the sum of $19,400. 

To stem the prevalence of treason, we need to understand the motivation behind betraying one’s country to the enemy. We need to specify the causes for committing treason.

To many Armenians, Artsakh symbolized Armenian people’s resiliency and patience to regain their occupied ancestral lands when the opportunity presents itself. However, its defeat to Azerbaijan and Turkey devastated the patriotic Armenian spirits around the world. 

To add insult to injury, we have had too many allegations, arrests, and indictments of Armenian military personnel who had supposedly collaborated with the enemy for personal gains and maybe for other psychological reasons. 

Treason is the crime of betraying your country, for example, by helping its enemies or by trying to remove its government using violence. 

Over the years, most traitors around the world were tried and found guilty of treason. Some of them were outright lynched to subdue the anger of the people.

Then as now, treason is one of the most detestable crimes in the history of humankind.

When some of the military personnel accused of treason and betrayal are found guilty, then we would also definitely add treason to a series of reasons behind the debilitating defeat to Azerbaijan. 

In this article, an attempt will be made to answer the question as to why some of the Armenian soldiers and their military leaders allegedly betrayed the motherland to the enemy. 

An alarming number of treason cases in Armenia were mentioned in the High Treason Against the Homeland article (published in the USA Armenian Life Magazine on August 26, 2022). Since then, the arrests of traitors have continued. For example, in October of 2022, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) arrested an Armenian military officer, a platoon commander, on the suspicion of spying. Many readers of Keghart, including me, have wondered as to why someone betrays his country in the midst of a devastating war against a genocidal enemy?

Unfortunately, the literature on treason is devoid of any comprehensive theory on how and why treason takes place. Hopefully, this article will fill that gap.

What, where, when, and how would be easy to answer, but when it comes to why, psychology finds it hard to come up with definite answers –only educated guesses are proposed for the human psyche is shrouded in the mist of human consciousness. 

As you know, a theory is an idea or a statement based on facts or evidence to explain how and why something happens –as in the Theory of Evolution or in our case, The Theory of Treason.

Before we proceed any further, it should be noted that the subject of treason is a very serious one. Unlike a murder against a person, treason is a serious crime against a nation. Therefore, due to its severity and extent, it is included in the constitution of the United States. 

The U.S. Constitution specifically defines what treason is “making war against the United States or giving aid and comfort to our enemies.” It is the only law written in the Constitution and it actually has a procedural element that treason has to be proven by the statements of two witnesses to an overt act or a confession.

When it comes to treason, there are too many descriptive articles to review, but very few studies on fragmented aspects of the treason behavior. However, after an extensive search and drawing upon studies of human nature, I came up with a framework (i.e., a theory or model) to explain as to why those Armenian servicemen born in the motherland, that is to say the natives, reportedly betrayed her to the enemy? This type of knowledge is crucial for the curtailment or discouragement of the temptation to sell the Armenian homeland to the enemy. 

Distilled from some studies of human nature, we can safely assume that there are three kinds or categories of motives to assume a person would  betray his or her country: 1. Material: Money, Desired Objects 2. Psychological: Ideology, Revenge, Self-Esteem, Compromise National Security, Sympathy for the Underdog.  The Need for Thrills, and “Lack of Patriotism”. Ostensibly, one crucial variable is missing in the literature in the calculus of motives or reasons to commit treason and that is lack of a strong sentiment of patriotism. Therefore, I had to patriotism in the list of psychological motives. 3. Material and Psychological Motives Combined.  

For scientific research purpose, we can state that Treason is a function of the monetary and psychological motives, namely Treason=f(MD+IRS+CUTP); the “f” stands for function of or caused by. We can also use MD-IRS-CUTP as a long acronym for the motives.

Let us briefly elaborate on each kind of motivational factor contributing to the temptation to engage in treason: 

Material Motives. In this self-explanatory category, money is given as an incentive and reward for someone to sell out his or her country to his or her adversary. The proverbial power of money has been established for thousands of years. Money is wealth and wealth can buy almost anything conceivable in this world. Therefore, it has a strong magnetic attraction to tempt and persuade people to engage in wrong activities including risking the safety and security of one’s country. 

No study was found to conclude that treason is done solely for money though, but most treason case studies indicated that there were discussions of money. 

Related to money is the ability or affordability to buy Desired Objects, such as a new car, travel, remodel one’s house, etc. Contrary to many people who consider monetary incentives seem strong, often psychologists have rated it less important than the non-monetary incentives. However, the question of money is always included in the negotiation process for hiring someone to collaborate with a secret agent of the enemy.

Psychological Motives. In this category of motives, we have Ideology, Revenge, Self-Esteem, Compromise of National Security, Sympathy with or for the Underdog, the Need for Thrills, and Lack of Patriotism. 

According to psychologists, the motives of most of the international notorious traitors were ostensibly Ideological. To a lesser extent, traitors may also have a sneaking admiration for a rival, such as for a powerful national adversary like Azerbaijan nowadays presents).

In the treason notorious case of Marcus Klinberg (an Israeli scientist who spied for Russia), Klingberg claimed that he never received any money in return to disclosing top secret information, and that he only wanted to reward the Russians for having saved the world from Nazism. Klingberg insisted on his ideological premise, and that he never received anything material in return –only wanted to save the world. 

The motive of ideology is considered to be a superior motivational force for someone to go counter his or her country. However, I strongly subscribe to the belief (this is a hypothesis) that most Armenian traitors were victims of the power of money.

For the sake of brevity, I shall abstain from giving examples of actual cases of treason motivators in presenting the rest of the psychological self-explanatory motives.

The motive of Revenge is also a factor inducing the person to betray his or her country.  A military officer, who has not been promoted as wished, would hold a grudge or ill feelings toward the armed forces. To get even, he would be amenable to selling his country to the enemy and thus feel the satisfaction of getting even with its tormenters.

A person who has, let’s say, a powerful need for feeling Self-Esteem, because he didn’t get that as a child, would definitely be liable to turn to betrayal later in his life in order to attain it.

For Compromising the National Security, the satisfaction derived from compromising (i.e., endangering) one’s national security. Therefore, crimes of treason include those that compromise a nation, its government, or its sovereign. Acts of war against the nation, acts of support of the nation’s enemies, or direct collaboration with enemies give a sense of importance, a feeling of satisfaction to see one’s country struggling to survive in the face of dire difficulties. 

The Sympathetic experience of oneself as a victim of being an Underdog – and when a person experiences himself as a victim, he needs to help the weak, because the weak are actually one of him. Those are exactly the psychological components we try to discover. These people look upon themselves as “freedom fighters”.

The Thrill of doing something extremely dangerous and wrong and not being caught may move some people to persuade themselves to participate in negative or wrong activities. For the sake of thrill, excitement some people follow risky sports, such as sky jumping from a moving plane, rock climbing a steep mountain wall, canoeing in a river with high, choppy rapids, and other dangerous activities avoided by traditional people. 

To most people, Evel knievel’s 25 most dangerous jump episodes are not only dangerous, but also very silly to act. However, in the 1970s, there were millions out there who loved to be thrilled by watching others like Evel Knievel take frightening risks. 

As for Lack of Patriotism, this variable is self-explanatory. My extensive review of the literature failed to disclose “lack of patriotism” as being a salient variable in triggering treason in someone. Arguably, patriotism as love for and loyalty to one’s country should be included in explaining and predicting treacherous behavior.  Therefore, I added patriotism to the list of psychological motives for treason.

Material Plus Psychological Motives. In most instances, the foreign recruiting agents use both material (e.g., money) and Psychological (e.g., ideological) motives to persuade a target to spy for them. For example, one Azerbaijani agent promised to pay $4,000 for some important military information from an Armenian solider. Although not known, the agent may have also appealed to the would be traitor’s sense of fairness in helping the return of the displaced Azerbaijani refugees (as a result of the First Artsakh War in 1994) back to their homes.

As you know, the major functions of science are to describe, explain, and predict a phenomenon. Ideas have changed the world; ideas can also help enhance its position in relation to its enemies. To help others do research based on a theoretical framework, I present the following simplified model 

Figure 1

The Theory of Treason

How and Why Monetary and Psychological Motives

Induce a Person to Betray His or Her Country

Input Process                                Output

Recruiting                  Appeal to Motives:       Succumb to

Foreign                               A. Material       Temptation

Agent’s         B. Psychological               or

Persuasion         C. Both A & B         Rebuff It


To summarize the theory, a recruiting foreign agent selects and befriends a target (e.g., an Armenian officer of the armed forces), and applies a persuasive communication by emphasizing various rewards such as monetary, psychological, or a combination thereof to provide some classified information in return. 

The targeted pigeon either succumbs to the temptation and becomes a traitor or because of strong scruples and patriotic feelings rebuffs the temptation to betray his or her country.

Feedback occurs when the output results of the system is routed back as input(s) of a chain of cause-and-effect that forms a circuit or loop. In this way, the system is considered to be fed back into itself.

This model can be used for theory validation or simply hypothesis testing by manipulating the motive variables in various situations in a scientific study (to satisfy the requirements for a master’s thesis or a doctoral dissertation). 

We already have here two variables of money and ideology that support the theory based on descriptive study; evidence for the rest of the variables can be obtained either from secondary data or an experimental study. Creating a betrayal situation for the experimental subjects upon which to manipulate the independent variables of different material and psychological motives would be a real challenge, though, but not an impossible one.

The model of motivation was presented to kill two birds with one stone: answer some of our reader’s question as to why certain individuals succumb to temptation to betray their country and also to present my answer to that question in an organized systematic approach to encourage some of our new generations to do research based on that theoretical model.

Based on the seven psychological motive variables in Figure 1, Armenia should have a valid treason potentiality test to be able to some extent predict a would-be soldier’s propensity to betray his or her country. 

Additionally, a separate battery of tests should be prepared to determine the degree of patriotism of the person whom shall be entrusted with secrete information about national security. If possible, it would be interesting to see what kind of tests is administered to candidates who would be working for the FBI, CIA, Pentagon, and the White House.

Incidentally, as a community service, I’d be glad to assist any serious student who may want to do this kind of research for his or her degree, provided the outcome of this symbiotic relationship will also help Armenia and Artsakh in continuing to build on this study to mitigate the problem of treason and betrayal facing the Armenian nation.

Traitor Stock Photos, Royalty Free Traitor Images | Depositphotos

Betraying a nation especially during an ongoing war is akin to submitting your country’s armed forces to the mercy of a frenzied college of “genocidal sharks” to be torn asunder for a small amount of money or for some kind of psychological satisfaction. While we cannot eradicate treason completely, we should endeavor to minimize its incidence as much as possible. Traitors should know that treason is a form of unconscious suicide. 

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