Aug 25, 2022
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On Crisis Phenomena in Russian-Armenian Relations

Fighters against “Russian propaganda” hysterically demand “to remove the sinister shadow of Russia from the Armenian-Azerbaijani process”

On August 24, the press service of the Kremlin reported on the regular telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, initiated by the Armenian side. According to official information, “The discussion of the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh continued. The importance of the consistent implementation of the trilateral agreements between the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan dated November 9, 2020, January 11 and November 26, 2021 was reaffirmed. At the same time, the role of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in ensuring stability in the region was noted.. In addition, there were “Some topical issues of further development of strategic partnership and alliance between Russia and Armenia were touched upon.”

On the same day, it became known that the Mayor’s Office of Yerevan had withdrawn the previously issued permission to hold an anti-Russian rally in the center of the Armenian capital. Activists who advanced on Svoboda Square under the flags of “free Russia” were carefully caught, preventing them from unfolding slogans in support of the Kyiv regime. Until recently, the Armenian authorities acted in exactly the opposite way, paying close attention to the actions of pro-Russian activists (such as Mika Badalyan and Armen Grigoryan, who died suddenly right in the courtroom), but not their loud “yellow-blakit” and “white-blue- white” opponents. Among those temporarily detained on August 24 are some Yuri Alekseyev, in whose name the initial permit for the rally and march was issued, and Oleg Rusakov, activists of the Yerevan branch of the Ark project organized by Khodorkovsky and his company.

Earlier, in the wake of the explosion in the Surmalu shopping center on the territory of the former Yerevan canning factory, some local media published provocative and completely unsubstantiated allegations about the involvement of certain Russian structures in them, which provoked a note in harsh tones from the Russian Embassy in Yerevan. It should be noted that among the versions of the tragic incident wandering in the republic, in addition to violations of safety regulations, there is also the topic of business showdowns with the mention of the name of the odious oligarch Khachatur Sukiasyan (“Grzo”), one of the sponsors of the ruling Civil Contract party. In addition, speaking on the occasion of the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on August 23, 1990, Pashinyan allowed himself another veiled attack on Moscow: “Independence for us is a strong allied relationship, but the allies are not always only your allies, but also the allies of those who are against you”.

The Armenian-Azerbaijani talks are hardly a secret for anyone, which are by no means being conducted only within the framework of a tripartite commission at the level of deputy prime ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. On August 19, another meeting of the Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Armenia, a pet of the “Soros nest” Armen Grigoryan and Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan Hikmet Hajiyev took place in Brussels. It is possible that they worked out the provisions of a certain peace agreement between Baku and Yerevan, without which, as Ankara has repeatedly emphasized, there can be no full-fledged settlement of Armenian-Turkish relations. In the context of the confrontation between Moscow and Brussels, the presence of several competing negotiating platforms, at least, introduces additional uncertainty and tension into regional processes.

As political observer Arshaluys Mgdesyan notes, the authorities of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh, with the mediation of Russian peacekeepers and with the knowledge of official Yerevan, also “maintain certain ties with the leadership of Azerbaijan”. Contacts and negotiations of the parties are aimed at resolving organizational and technical issues (the procedure for using and repairing communications, the evacuation of several settlements in the Lachin region, which was completed by August 25, inspection of the Sarsang reservoir, etc.), however, in the current electrified atmosphere, contacts are invariably politicized. In Nagorno-Karabakh, they call on Pashinyan, who once swore that there were no secrets from the people, to reveal the details of all agreements with Baku, including verbal ones. In any case, the confused and contradictory behavior of the Armenian side, periodic attempts to shift responsibility to Russian peacekeepers, the lack of intelligible information, the manipulation of public sentiment, the frantic search for those responsible for their own incompetence and failures – all this cannot but cause nothing but extreme bewilderment.

After the “velvet revolution” of 2018, the new authorities have repeatedly stated that Russia must accept the “new realities”. Moreover, having introduced chaos and confusion into the negotiation process within the framework of the Minsk Group, disorganizing the army and special services, they worked both to break the long-standing status quo and to surrender Nagorno-Karabakh according to a tough option. According to MGIMO professor Andranik Migranyan, “Armenian authorities are pursuing their consistent anti-Russian line. Pashinyan and his associates have always been in favor of squeezing Russia out of Armenia, from the South Caucasus, focused on establishing treaty relations through concessions on all issues to Azerbaijan and Turkey … The arrival of the Russians at the last stage of the 44-day war, the preservation of at least part of Karabakh, the presence of Russian peacekeepers became a blow to the interests and goals of Pashinyan and his team. For their consistent line always, and before coming to power, too, was the rejection of Karabakh as a burden that prevents, as it seemed to them, from establishing friendly relations with neighbors, attracting the West and the United States to the region and squeezing the Russians and the Russian military base out of Armenia”.

Unsuccessful for Russia, the course of the NMD in Ukraine can lead to the formation of a security vacuum in the South Caucasus, which Azerbaijan will use to finally resolve the Karabakh problem – this is the opinion of many Armenian and foreign observers. So far, such a scenario looks unlikely, and Russia’s importance as a key guarantor of the security of the small Caucasian republic has not diminished over the past two years. In particular, of the four sections of the external borders of Armenia, only the most calm, the Georgian section is guarded by the border troops of the republic; if until 2020 the border with Azerbaijan was covered by the Armenian army, today Russian border posts are being advanced in this direction (Tavush, Gegharunik, Vyotsdzor, Syunik). At the same time, the flirtations of certain circles of Armenia with the West objectively contribute to the transformation of the republic (in particular, its border regions) into a “gray zone”, fertile for provocations.

It can be assumed that, to some extent, it was precisely this scenario that developed in early August, when Baku, accusing the Armenian side of the death of an Azerbaijani serviceman, announced the start of the Retribution operation, taking control of the Sarybab and Buzdukh heights in Lachin and Kalbajar (Berdzor and Karvachar) areas. After the cessation of the clashes, Baku in an ultimatum form demanded that Yerevan complete the process of withdrawing the Armenian army from Karabakh, as well as the disarmament of “illegal armed formations” in the territory of the region. Pashinyan actually agrees with this, arguing that “In case of guarantees from Baku, the Artsakh Defense Army may not be on combat duty,” while accusing Moscow of inaction: “The events of recent days raise questions in the Armenian society about the content and essence of the peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Creatively developing the theses of the “varchapet”, patent fighters against “Russian propaganda”, hysterically demand “remove the sinister shadow of Russia from the Armenian-Azerbaijani process”. According to their logic, “our crises with our neighbor Azerbaijan… are staged, staged, inspired and guided by Russia”, allegedly being the “main beneficiary” of these crises. As ways out of this situation, in particular, the following are proposed:

– suspension (up to the withdrawal) of Armenia’s membership in the CSTO;

– the beginning of negotiations with the West in the hope of rearming the Armenian army with Western weapons instead of the “ineffective” Russian ones;

– denunciation of agreements on joint Russian-Armenian groupings;

– tougher rules for Russian military installations, including a ban on serving outside military camps;

– intensification of negotiations with Turkey and Azerbaijan at the “Tbilisi” and “Brussels” negotiation platforms

– diversification of economic ties, including the cessation of imports of Russian products;

– reform of special services and law enforcement agencies in a Western manner, etc.

The active imposition of such mindsets on Armenian citizens will inevitably lead to an aggravation of the crisis phenomena in Russian-Armenian relations.

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