Op-ed: Armenia trusted Russia, but miscalculated
The opposition in Armenia continues to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, claiming it is due to ‘spoiled relations with Russia’ that Armenia did not receive support during the war in Karabakh.
Stepan Grigoryan, a political scientist, diplomat, former Armenian ambassador to Russia and author of a book about the 2018 Velvet Revolution spoke to the Russian Novaya Gazeta about how relations between Moscow and Yerevan will move forward and what awaits PM Nikol Pashinyan.
Here are the main points of his interview:
Why didn’t Russia help?
– The position of the Kremlin in the Karabakh war could have been influenced by the attitude of President Putin to Prime Minister Pashinyan.
It is known that Putin does not really like people who come to power through rallies, through revolutions.
– Russia did not help in the war. There were some minimal arms supplies, but it did not help [much]. The factor of Putin’s antipathy towards Pashinyan played a role in this, but it was not the main one. The main thing is that Turkey is very important for Russia.
– It is important for today’s Russian policy that Turkey creates problems for NATO, for the European Union. These are realities: Russia has a critical attitude towards the West, and Turkey plays a huge role here. I think this was the dominant factor in the attitude of the Russian authorities to the conflict.
– When the war began and it became clear that this was serious, Russia became interested in bringing peacekeepers into the region. Conversations about this have arisen from time to time, but the chances were slim. Now Russia realized that this could happen, so it did not actively help Armenia agree to the deployment of peacekeepers. In the end, this is what happened.
– Russia practically ‘gave’ Shushi and Hadrut to Azerbaijan so that it would agree to peacekeepers.
– The main factors were the role of Turkey, which is now vitally important for the concept of Russian power, and the desire to get Azerbaijan’s consent to bring in peacekeepers. How correct this is, how far-sighted on the part of Russia, time will tell.
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Is Pashinyan to blame?
– Now people are protesting against the authorities, against Pashinyan. But over time they will sort it out and realize that Russia did not help Armenia and that an alternative to Russia must be sought. We trusted Russia, but we miscalculated.
– The previous authorities of Armenia did not create a foreign policy alternative to Russia, and the new authorities did everything very slowly.
– Nikol Pashinyan is considered a pro-Western politician in Russia, and a pro-Russian one in the West. How could Armenian diplomats allow that such a reputation be created for him? In fact, he is classically pro-Armenian. And for the world to understand this, diplomats had to work.
– Claims to the state of the Armenian army are presented to the former authorities. But Armenia bought Russian Su-30SM fighters in 2019 – under Pashinyan. And now it turned out that they are not suitable for such a war. Why did you buy them?
In 2016, during the four-day war, Azerbaijan already used drones against us, and it was clear that these are weapons of modern warfare.
Why didn’t we buy drones and countermeasures, which are many times cheaper than fighters?
Should Pashinyan leave?
– I am not a supporter of Pashinyan’s resignation. And not because for me what happened is not a disaster. But you need to understand who opposes Pashinyan in Armenia.
They are not only political opposition, but also aggressive groups. It has already been proven, this was recorded on video, that among those who attacked the Government House on November 10 were representatives of the Republican Party, their relatives and so on. Armenia is a small country where it is easy [for a party to] establish [itself]. In addition, Pashinyan still has a high rating. And we need stability. His resignation will destabilize Armenia.
He himself does not say that he will stay forever. He asks to give him time until June and suggests reasonable steps that he will take during this time.
– There is a share of the people’s fault in everything that happened. A 70 percent rating is a mockery of a political leader. But people simply lost their heads, they did not have a critical attitude towards Nikol’s party. I understand them, they were so tired of the former that they were ready to vote for anyone. But in the end, we have one party with an absolute mandate.
I am against early elections in the next two or three months. Elections are always stressful. And now, when we have lost the war, when we have lost in the choice of allies, do you believe that people will go to vote wondering what kind of socio-economic programme a party has?
There will be another disaster. Because the elections will again be between ‘black’ and ‘white’, some party will again receive 70 percent – and for another three years we will be told that the people have given them an absolute mandate. Therefore, I am in favor of new parliamentary elections, but not in the next two or three months.