Op-ed: “Armenia stays neutral in conflict between Russia and Ukraine”
Armenia’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Official Yerevan took a neutral position on the Ukrainian crisis. The Armenian government only “expresses hope that the existing problems between the two friendly states will be resolved through diplomatic dialogue” and declares its readiness to accept refugees.
Unlike the authorities, the society of Armenia reacts to the war in Ukraine extremely emotionally, and opinions of people are highly polarized. Harsh statements can be found both against Russia and against Ukraine. Many recall the total support of Azerbaijan during the 2020 Karabakh war. Unlike other countries, there are no mass protests in Armenia amid the war in Ukraine, as in other countries. However, some protests took place and people expressed their solidarity with Ukraine.
How objective are the reasons for such a position of the Armenian authorities and the Armenian society and what risks may Armenia face in connection with the war in Ukraine – the opinion of political observer Hakob Badalyan.
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Violation of neutrality will lead to unpredictable consequences
“Armenia’s neutral position on Ukraine is rooted in the country’s security issues and its own interests. Armenia’s task is not to be on anyone’s side, either politically or militarily.
Armenia should be as neutral as possible. Given its current security environment, this is the best position for the country.
Otherwise, the consequences may turn out to be the most unpredictable for it.
If Armenia takes the side of Russia, it will certainly have problems with the West. Conversely, if it is close to the West, problems will arise with Moscow.
The neutrality of Armenia in this case, I think, is quite understandable to Russia, Ukraine, and the West.
But how long Armenia will be able to maintain this neutrality, if there is any coercion on either side to position itself on the issue of Ukraine, is hard to say. Much depends on the development of events – from the balance of power in the war to the situation in the political negotiation process and in relations between the West and Russia.
Therefore, Armenia must be ready for any challenges and try not to take sides in any way, either in terms of statements, or in terms of political or military-political decisions”.
Public opinion is divided
“Unlike the authorities, people react more emotionally to the Ukrainian crisis, and the reasons for this are quite understandable.
There is no single public opinion on any issue in Armenia. It is always diverse and mostly polarized.
For the Armenian public, this is the norm.
Another question is where this trend comes from. In general, the Soviet legacy, the pro-Russian vector, is still present in the post-Soviet space. In Ukraine, which is not under the influence of Russia, pro-Russian sentiments can also be found.
Russia itself has been working hard for all these 30 years to form a loyal attitude towards itself in the societies of the post-Soviet countries. There has always been a struggle for influence here, and in this struggle with Russia the West competed with various methods and technologies.
The public of Armenia, due to the absence of elites for the entire period of its independence, with a deep awareness of the state system of values, fell under the influence of one or another external force. This led to the polarization of society. And today, during the Ukrainian crisis, it freely expresses its opinion, albeit polarized. Some adhere to a pro-Russian position, others are clearly pro-Ukrainian.
The emotional component in the reaction of the Armenian society is also large, and it is mainly related to the position of Ukraine and Russia on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.
People remember Ukraine’s unconditional support for Azerbaijan and Turkey, both at the level of the country’s leadership and at the level of ordinary citizens, when in the most vivid terms they wished the Azerbaijanis victory in the second `Karabakh war. Russia is also criticized for its policy towards Armenia over the past 20-25 years.
On the one hand, it is normal when the public is absolutely free to think sq it pleases, but on the other, we are faced with the lack of public guidelines”.
Sanctions against Russia will hit Armenia as well
“The sanctions imposed against Russia will undoubtedly affect Armenia, especially its economy. I don’t know how prepared the Russians are for them to avoid a painful fall, but the consequences for the Armenian economy will be tangible due to the dominance of the Russian market in the Armenian economy.
Russia is the biggest market for Armenia. The main source of transfers, which plays a significant role in the country’s economy, is also Russia. In this regard, it will be very difficult, and Armenia will have to try to find other ways.
From a political point of view, the prolongation of the war in Ukraine may lead to an even greater tightening of Russian positions in the post-Soviet countries. Specifically, in Armenia, additional problems will arise in relations with the West. Given that the Russian leader has ordered the deterrent forces to be put on special alert, such a scenario becomes almost inevitable.
The issue of security in the Caucasus is once again becoming more than relevant. The real question now is whether the Caucasus will again turn into a theater of military operations.
Russia, to some extent, has taken certain steps to neutralize such risks, and the declaration on allied cooperation signed with Azerbaijan is one of them.
The process of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations will also be of great importance. If Armenia manages to continue the process, then this will become an additional factor in neutralizing security risks”.