Can Armenia leave the CSTO and head West?
Armenia’s rejection by the CSTO and turn to the West
Political processes in Armenia have greatly intensified after hostilities on the border on September 13-14. The Armenian government announced an invasion by Azerbaijan on its sovereign territory and asked Russia and the CSTO military bloc operating under its auspices for help. They not only did not receive help, but also saw no condemnation of Azerbaijan’s actions by either party.
Authorities at various levels expressed their dissatisfaction, albeit within an acceptable diplomatic framework. “All hopes that the CSTO response mechanisms will finally work have completely disappeared,” said Armen Grigoryan, head of the Armenian Security Council. Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan promised to “draw conclusions from this.”
This naturally elicited sharp criticism from many sectors of society and raised questions about Armenia’s membership in a military bloc with countries more friendly with Azerbaijan than Armenia.
The CSTO includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Armenia has chaired the organization since autumn of last year. But even this did not help Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan get the bloc’s help.
Some say it is necessary to leave the organization and cooperate with Western countries. Others, recognizing the uselessness of the CSTO, are afraid of Russia being “offended” and possible consequences. Yet most agree that without leaving the CSTO, no one will be able to provide military assistance to Armenia, which is an ally of Russia de jure.
Opinions of Armenian analysts Hovsep Khurshudyan and Stepan Grigoryan on the opportunities, risks and prospects of Armenia in this difficult period.
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Hovsep Khurshudyan, political analyst
Paper alliance with Russia
“There is a gradual change in the paradigms of the country’s security in Armenia. Until now the Armenian leadership and society had some illusions that Russia would at least somehow ensure our security, but now everyone understands that it isn’t really our ally. This is only on paper.
Russia is not fulfilling its treaty obligations under either the CSTO or the 1997 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.
Moreover, there is reason to believe that it is Russia who is setting Azerbaijan against Armenia. After all, before each attack by Azerbaijan, pro-Kremlin experts say that “Armenia must be finished off, Azerbaijan must again go on the offensive.”
Here the dividing line runs between democracy and authoritarianism, as Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, noted during her visit to Yerevan, mentioning Armenia along with Ukraine.”
“One of the geostrategic goals of Russia is to obtain a corridor through the Armenian city of Meghri and partially transfer it to Azerbaijan, after which its FSB will stand there as a controlling party. That’s why it needs military pressure on Armenia.
The corridor is a road that will connect Azerbaijan with its exclave Nakhichevan. Azerbaijan demands a “corridor”, which implies the loss of sovereignty over this territory by Armenia. The Armenian authorities have given their consent to provide roads, but categorically refuse the term “corridor” and the loss of control over any territory.
Armenia did not sign off on this. All that Armenia has signed is the tripartite statement of November 9, 2020, which refers only to the opening of roads.
Azerbaijan is also concerned about the presence of Armenians in any status on this road. It, like Russia, wants to remove Armenia in order to transport any cargo, including military and sanctioned goods, without control.
Turkey and Russia desperately want to unite. They cannot do this through Georgia – no matter how Ivanishvili tries to flirt with Moscow, Georgian society is completely pro-Western and limits the country’s leadership.
Nor can they get a corridor through Iran, so the Russians and Turks are trying to get a “corridor” through us.
So, in a sense, it turns out that now the Armenian army is fighting against the occupying forces of Azerbaijan, including for Ukraine and its victory.
It is not surprising that the West supports Armenia in this.”
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Awaiting the government’s decision
“The government understaands the role of Russia in Azerbaijan’s aggression and why the CSTO is inactive. The Speaker of the Parliament stated that ‘he will draw conclusions due to the fact that the CSTO, once again, has not fulfilled its contractual obligations.’
The Armenian authorities asked Russia and the CSTO for help in May 2021, when the Azerbaijani Armed Forces for the first time invaded Armenia and established positions here. Then, too, Armenia did not receive assistance.
I hope these are not just words, that the authorities will move on to deeds, because today the United States extended its hand to us. In addition to Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Armenia and her targeted statements about aggression against Armenia, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken intervened in the situation. He actually showed Aliyev a “yellow card”, calling on Baku to withdraw its troops from the territory of Armenia.
The next step would be that Blinken calls a spade a spade and declare that Azerbaijan has occupied Armenian territories.
The Secretary of State called Aliyev again, despite the ceasefire being maintained, as he received information through Nancy Pelosi about the accumulation of Azerbaijani troops along the entire perimeter of the Armenian border in the south. Including toward Nakhichevan.”
Future of Armenia
“If Armenia has any future, it is only with the West. Armenia has no future with Russia.
In any case, there is no future with today’s imperial, chauvinistic, revanchist, Putinist Russia. It is simply dangerous for us to be with this Russia.
With the West, Armenia can be present in different bodies. Armenia can also sign bilateral agreements. The process has begun. It is especially important that treaties are also signed with the United States.
In May of this year, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan signed a memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation in the civil nuclear industry. A month later, an agreement was signed on economic stability and the development of democratic institutions with a grant of $120 million.
An agreement was signed with the Spanish company SATLANTIS, thanks to which Armenia launched a satellite into low earth orbit. The satellite was launched from a US spaceport by Elon Musk’s SpaceX spacecraft.
There are also the beginnings of military cooperation with some European countries and India. There are hopes for the future, it remains to deepen it all.”
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To be or not to be in the CSTO?
“Now Armenia is faced with the task of withdrawing from the CSTO, because this organization contributes to Russia’s treacherous policy towards Armenians, thinking that it will get away with everything.
Russia thinks it can continue to trade Armenian lands and interests with Azerbaijan and Turkey.
It is necessary to leave the CSTO and make it clear that the ongoing anti-Armenian policy of Russia may lead to it being expelled from the region altogether, along with its military base in Gyumri, which is absolutely useless to Armenia. If anyone can keep Turkey from attacking Armenia it is the United States, not Russia.
Russia has already fully shown its worthlessness, uts weakness in the Caucasus.”
Two levers of influence on Armenia
“Now Russia has two levers of influence on Armenia. The first is an external factor, Azerbaijan, through which it operates.
Russia always negotiates with Baku to force concessions from Armenia.
The second lever is the “fifth column” in Armenia. This is an extensive network of Russian creatures consisting not only of full-time Russian spies, but also agents of influence, from whom Armenia has not been cleansed over the past four years due to the short-sighted and fearful policy of the government.
The Russian spy in Armenia works to destabilize the country. This is mainly in the parliamentary opposition. The sooner we clear Armenia of them, the less the chance Russia will have to blow up the country from the inside.
Nikol Pashinyan recently stated from the rostrum of the parliament that the country is teeming with foreign spies. He just didn’t name the country they serve. And in a few hours, these spies herded thousands of people onto the streets. They have a mobilization resource, they can manipulate, influence through their media to deceive a significant number of people, play on their fears and get them out into the street.
It’s time to end this. With such a burden, deepening cooperation with our potential allies in the West is difficult and constantly sabotaged.”
Stepan Grigoryan, political scientist
“Armenia simply has no future without close cooperation with the West. It is not only about economic and humanitarian cooperation and legal reforms. We are talking about cooperation in the field of security. And it is the recent joint actions of Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan that suggest this necessity.
These three countries now have interests that do not coincide with ours. They talk about it very openly on different forums and on different occasions.
Moreover, the interests of Russia and Azerbaijan not only coincide, they both have far-reaching plans to weaken Armenia.
Russia wants to weaken Armenia so that it can absorbed outright. Russia does not hide its intentions of wanting to drive both Ukraine and Kazakhstan into the union sttae. Putin has repeatedly said that the Soviet Union is a form of existence for Russia. He does not deny the right of the former Soviet republics to independence, but at the same time considers them part of Russia. This is his concept of Russia.
And the first candidate for joining Russia or some kind of union is Armenia, because today it is weak. The weakening of Armenia is beneficial to Russia, because tomorrow even the most ardent guardians of independence can say that we need to join the Russian Federation, otherwise we will lose everything.
Azerbaijan wants to weaken Armenia for another reason. They simply believe we are the enemy, and want to destroy Armenia as a sovereign entity.”
Influence of the States
“So the situation is serious. Only very large world players, such as the USA, France, Great Britain, the European Union, can act as a counterbalance.
There have always been various kinds of narratives in Armenian society. It was said that the United States is far from us, therefore they cannot help us.
Today we have clearly seen how one visit by Nancy Pelosi changed the situation. She sent positive signals about the readiness of the United States to provide political and diplomatic support to Armenia. And Anthony Blinken initiated a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Baku did not even dare to refuse this meeting, although Aliyev always insisted on the Russian format. This confirms the influence of the United States in the region.”
"Armenia is breaking free of Russia's clutches." Opinion
“The process Armenia’s liberation from the Russian Federation has begun. And it cannot happen without the support of the West,” political analyst Hovsep Khurshudyan maintains, concerning the working trips of two Armenian ministers – one to Russia, the other to the United States.
Leave the CSTO and save the country
“In order for the United States to provide Armenia, in addition to diplomatic and political support, also weapons, Armenia needs to withdraw from the CSTO. The States can provide billions of dollars in assistance to Armenia through Congress, but military assistance is another very serious topic. How can they give their modern weapons to a country that is Russia’s ally in the CSTO? It doesn’t matter that now Russia is with Azerbaijan. By law we are allies.
The same with France, which has provided strong support in the UN Security Council. France recognized Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia. But militarily, it also cannot support a country that is allied with Russia.
We need to decide. It is difficult for me to criticize the indecisiveness of our authorities, but as an expert I know for sure: we need to leave the CSTO.
When a year ago we said that it was necessary to appeal to the UN about Azerbaijan, we were opposed in the same way as now – this could offend Russia. They did not appeal – and we lost villages in Artsakh, the Lachin corridor, territories in Armenia itself.
This time we turned to the UN Security Council and it turned out that we have many friendly countries. No one came out openly against Armenia. Moreover, Armenia’s appeal received a huge response, which, even without the adoption of a resolution or statement, became a deterrent. Azerbaijan was not going to stop, but was forced to do so.
You don’t need to sit in the CSTO so that you are not punished, you need to leave this organization so that other mechanisms become available. This is not a move against Russia. This is a step to save your country. With its neutrality, the CSTO is now legitimizing the capture of Armenian territories.”
Armenia’s rejection by the CSTO and turn to the West