Opinion: Armenia is stuck between the West and Russia
Armenia is balancing between Russia and the West
Armenia has found itself in a difficult situation stuck between Russia and the West. The Ukrainian crisis has further exacerbated this situation. Taking sides for Armenia is an excessive luxury. Such a step for it, according to most local experts, is deadly. And the authorities of Armenia still prefer to remain neutral.
At the same time, the situation in the region has worsened again. A soldier has been killed on the border of Armenia, and in Nagorno-Karabakh, peaceful settlements are being shelled along the entire perimeter of the line of contact. In addition, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces play a recording in Armenian through loudspeakers, calling on their residents to leave their homes in order to save their lives.
How can events develop, what kind of support can Armenia expect from the West or Russia? Comments by political observer Hakob Badalyan and chairman of the NGO “Free Citizen” Hovsep Khurshudyan.
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- What is the right strategy for Armenia, stuck between the foreign policy ambitions of Russia and Turkey?
Hakob Badalyan, political observer: "Between a rock and a hard place"
“Armenia has always found itself in a difficult situation, when the West and Russia entered a regime of tough resistance. Now the main task for Armenia is not to be on anyone’s side in terms of conducting practical politics. It is clear that Armenia is a member of the CSTO military bloc and the EAEU economic union [both operate under the auspices of Russia – JAMnews], that is, by default, it is already on this side.
But we are talking about a practical policy that can be adequately perceived in the West, even if they see some steps towards Russia.
The West understands that Armenia has many problems, including security, so no one is pushing it to take any action that could provoke an aggressive reaction from Russia.
That is why Armenia should strive for active neutrality, but in such a way that its policy is understandable to both Russia and the West.
Moreover, Armenia should work not only with Russia and the West, it should continue the dialogue with Turkey to improve relations, at least maintain the communication that has been formed today. This is important given the increasing political role of Turkey in the Ukrainian issue.
I would especially single out Georgia in this situation, for which, just like for Armenia, a stable situation in the region is very important, and it is very important not to get drawn into this the tension that exists between Russia and the West. And if we combine even the behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts of both countries – Armenia and Georgia – then the neutral policy in the current situation will become even more effective.
From the point of view of economic risks, Armenia should try to intensify work with the Arab countries, offer them projects that are attractive for their capital in order to neutralize the risks that may arise as a result of the sanctions imposed against Russia”.
Society is in a free float
“The authorities are behaving optimally so far, which cannot be said about the public, which, due to the lack of institutional leaders, elites, is subjected to both external and internal manipulations. Various rallies held in the country are proof of this. Moreover, manipulations are carried out both in support of Russia and in support of Ukraine.
But both pro-Russian and anti-Russian manifestos are dangerous for Armenia.
I doubt that this is being done at the behest of the Kremlin or the West. I see no reason to think that someone wants to drag Armenia into the Ukrainian crisis. These provocations come, most likely, from different groups from the same Russia, as well as from Russian satellites in Armenia, who are interested in selling their manipulations to political actors. And, unfortunately, our society is vulnerable in this regard – they succumb to these manipulations, they spread them on social media”.
In negotiations with Turkey, Russia usually concedes something
“Against the backdrop of a large-scale war in Ukraine, the situation in the Caucasus can become a tool for Russia. It can “play” with the situation in the Caucasus region if any political projects from the West are used against it. On the other hand, this situation may become a tool in the hands of others to put pressure on Russia itself.
Russia absolutely does not need instability in the Caucasus today because of its own serious problems in connection with Ukraine.
Russia does not need to get another instability behind its back and be forced to deal with it. Therefore, any instability can be viewed as a means of putting pressure on Moscow by those who have influence on Azerbaijan, who are able to force Azerbaijan to escalate by encouraging it to resolve some issues.
It should be noted that the situation in the region is escalating in parallel with the activation of Turkey in the Ukrainian issue. For a long time, Russia tried to reject Turkish offers of mediation, hoping for direct negotiations with the United States. But after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, America does not want to talk to Moscow, instead increasing the mediating role of Turkey.
It is possible that the aggravation of the situation in Artsakh is the very tool in the hands of Turkey to put pressure on Moscow in order to obtain a mediation mission in the Ukrainian issue. When Russia sits down with Turkey at the negotiating table, as a rule, it concedes something. For us, this is a very disturbing signal. That is why we must continue to work not only with Russia and the West, but also directly with the Turks, so that once again we do not become the subject of trade and be more flexible”.
Turkey disturbs France too
“The meeting between Nikol Pashinyan and Macron [took place on March 9, the French President invited the Armenian Prime Minister to Paris to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations] is not accidental. Any activity of Turkey puts strain on France as well.
France is already concerned about the whole situation in terms of the role of Europe and its sovereignty in the context of the Ukrainian war. France is concerned about the increasing role of Turkey in one of the key areas for Europe.
Against this background, Armenia, with all its problems, becomes a political tool for France to contain Turkey.
But Macron wants to solve his own problem at the same time. During the pre-election period, the Armenian community is an important factor for the President of France. The Armenians of France are too integrated into French life, the Armenian community has a high rating, and so much so that it can affect the position of the French themselves”.
What can the West give the Armenians, what Russia is not ready for
“Now we see what the West can give Ukraine. It provides weapons that Ukraine resists more strongly, but these weapons do not solve all problems. Ukraine asks to close the sky, but the West does not agree to this, so as not to enter into a direct confrontation with Moscow.
The significance of Armenia and the significance of Ukraine or the Ukrainian game as a whole for the West are incomparable. Therefore, in the event of a new war in Nagorno-Karabakh or Armenia, significant assistance from Western countries, in particular, the closure of the sky, can not be expected.
Talking about the inclusion of Russia in this case is completely pointless.
Russia does not have the resources to fight a war on two fronts, in addition, there is no desire to enter the war against Turkey.”
Russia is an ally on paper, but in reality it is not and never will be.
We do not have an alternative security ally, and there is also no possibility of acquiring one. In our case, war is the most undesirable development for Armenia, which can instantly turn into one ruin.”
Hovsep Khurshudyan, Chairman of the NGO "Free Citizen": "The Kremlin's plans for Armenia, how will the West respond"
“In terms of civilization, Armenia is Europe. It was enough just 3 years of democratic development after the Velvet Revolution of 2018, as in all international rankings, Armenia began to catch up, and in many positions even surpass the countries of the Eastern Partnership associated with the European Union in 2013.
Another thing is that the constant existential threat of 30 times the population and resources of Turkey and Azerbaijan and the zero military presence of the West led to the fact that Armenia has long linked its security with Russia.
Now the people of Armenia, even in terms of security, have less and less hope with Russia and more and more with the West.
But the question here is not only that Armenia is between the West and Russia. Much more dangerous is the Kremlin’s strategic plans for Armenia.
It is clear that before attacking Ukraine, Putin intended to create something like the USSR-2. Without Ukraine, such a project was obviously doomed. But if the Kremlin’s adventure in Ukraine had succeeded, there can be no doubt that Armenia would have been the next victim.
Moreover, Putin would act in close cooperation with Aliyev: Azerbaijan would attack Armenia, and Russia would begin to “save” it. As a result, we would lose another part of our territory, the return of which, of course, Russia would not provide. But as a “salvation” from the genocide, the rest would demand to join a new alliance, and with the worst conditions.
Therefore, Ukrainians are now fighting not only for their independence and the right to self-determination, but also for Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.”
Against the backdrop of the Ukrainian war, Baku took an aggressive stance
“Aliyev is again acting in cooperation with Putin, as was the case in 2020 during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as in May 2021, when the Azerbaijani armed forces invaded the territory of Armenia and occupied, according to my estimates and information, about 100 square kilometers territory [the Armenian authorities announced the figure of 41 square kilometers].
Russia and the CSTO [a military bloc under the auspices of Russia, of which Armenia is a member] not only did not stand up for their military and economic ally, but did not even condemn the Azerbaijani provocation and invasion, as did France and the United States.
The Kremlin put pressure on the leadership of Armenia not to boldly turn to the UN Security Council.
Despite the fact that French President Macron openly stated that he was ready to submit a special resolution to the UN Security Council if Armenia turned to it with this issue.
Therefore, the containment of Aliyev from further provocations can be effectively organized only with the help of the West.
On March 9, we saw the almost unanimous (with 635 votes in favor, 2 against and 42 abstentions) adoption of the resolution of the European Parliament “On the destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
The resolution condemns the anti-Armenian policy of Azerbaijan and emphasizes that the elimination of traces of the Armenian cultural heritage is carried out not only with the intention of harming, but also with the aim of falsifying history and erasing the traces of Armenianness.
Everything goes to the fact that the West is inclined to decide the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh according to the Kosovo scenario.”
The West has something to offer Armenia
“Pashinyan’s meeting with Macron during this period is not at all accidental. He invited Nikol Pashinyan to a meeting in Paris before the latter is due to meet with Vladimir Putin [the meeting with Putin is scheduled for early April].
So the French President clearly makes it clear that the West has something to offer Armenia, including in terms of security.
The West today is more consolidated than ever and has the greatest power to solve many regional problems. Especially after the failure of Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, and also after the achievement of a nuclear agreement with Iran, which I do not doubt for a minute, the West will have much more influence both on Turkey and Azerbaijan, and on the South Caucasus and the Middle East regions as a whole.” .