Moscow might withdraw troops from Karabakh amid crisis - Armenian experts on anti-Russian sanctions
Anti-Russian sanctions will weaken Armenia
The political and economic isolation which Russia found itself in after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine cannot remain without consequences, in particular, for the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, including Armenia.
According to experts in Armenia, it is possible to expect a weakening of Russia, which challenged the West by starting a war with Ukraine.
This may divert the Kremlin’s attention from the South Caucasus. And this, in turn, is fraught with undermining the fragile peace that was established in Karabakh thanks to Moscow’s active participation.
If Russia’s military operation in Ukraine is successful, it will likely deepen Moscow’s isolation. And this isolation will spread onto Armenia, which is dependent on Russia, especially in military-political matters.
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“Armenia-NATO relations may end”
According to political scientist Beniamin Poghosyan, the escalation of the conflict between Russia and the West will go beyond the Ukrainian war. It may continue for a long time, resurrecting the specter of the Cold War.
The expert advises to be prepared for dire consequences.
“First of all, Armenia may have problems even in regards to its modest relations with the West”, the political scientist said in an interview with a Trajectories correspondent. “I do not rule out that Russia will offer us to refuse cooperation with NATO within the framework of the Individual Partnership Action Plan”.
Armenia and NATO have been developing cooperation in various areas since 2006 under the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), which is updated every two years.
The goal of the program, as stated in open sources, is to reform the defense and security systems of Armenia and increase the level of military cooperation with NATO.
However, Yerevan’s cooperation with NATO has significantly weakened due to the active intervention of Russia, and almost completely ended after the end of the second Karabakh war.
When Russian peacekeepers were deployed to ensure the security of the local population in Karabakh, Armenia’s dependence on Russia increased dramatically, and especially in terms of security.
Poghosyan argues that Armenia-NATO relations have become formal in recent years, but even this process can be put to an end.
“If Moscow abruptly freezes relations with the West, Russia may demand the termination of the Armenia-US strategic dialogue launched in 2019. There is little content in this initiative, but it is there, and this is an indicator of relations with the United States”, says Poghosyan.
“Without OSCE Minsk Group, legitimacy of Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh is questionable”
Political scientist Tigran Grigoryan also believes that the international isolation of Russia cannot bypass Armenia.
“The foreign policy field for maneuvering for Yerevan has already seriously narrowed, and this process can sharply accelerate. One can predict a significant decrease in the level of involvement of the West in the processes in the South Caucasus.
The issue of settling the Karabakh conflict has a sad prospect”, says Grigoryan.
“The collective West seeks to isolate Russia in every possible way. Therefore, it will hardly be possible to cooperate within the framework of the main facilitator in the Karabakh conflict – the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States.
This, in turn, could deal a serious blow to the international legitimacy of the Russian peacekeepers stationed in Karabakh.
Until now, they have been treated with understanding in the West, as they ensure the security of the local Armenian population. Now another logic may be applied to them. Steps to contain Russia will also be taken in the context of the Karabakh conflict”.
According to the political scientist, in this case, the negative consequences for the Armenian side may become more real.
“It is worth noting the fact that Baku considers the mission of the Minsk Group co-chairs completed and regularly expresses dissatisfaction with the activities of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. Meanwhile, there is no real alternative to it”, Grigoryan believes.
He predicts a sharp change in the position of the West, when the Karabakh conflict can be put on a par with other post-Soviet conflicts in terms of containing the Russian factor.
“The growth of authoritarianism in Russia can lead to a decrease in the sovereignty of Armenia”
“In conditions of isolation, Russia will move towards authoritarianism, and these trends may also affect our region.
In addition, the crisis resulting from isolation may accelerate the launch of new integration mechanisms in the Eurasian region. For example, in the form of the formation of a new union state. Moscow may require its allies to join this structure.
As a result, Armenia’s sovereignty can only decrease”, says Tigran Grigoryan.
“If sanctions weaken Russia, it is unlikely that Russian troops will remain in Karabakh for a long time”
“If the West succeeds in weakening Russia from within, achieving a coup d’état and, in the medium term, a pro-Western government, then it is unlikely that Russian troops will remain in Karabakh for a long time”, says Beniamin Poghosyan.
“There is a possible serious danger of losing Artsakh (Karabakh), as it will be difficult for Armenia to equip the army in such a way as to ensure its security alone”, Poghosyan says.
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