Oct 17, 2020
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Pashinyan still looks to the West

The aggravation around the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) clearly demonstrated the weakening of the positions of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan: the head of the Cabinet, despite the brave rhetoric, fails to seize the initiative on the external circuit and has to face internal political problems. The situation forced Pashinyan to resort to tried-and-true tactics - to attempts to enlist the "intercession" of Moscow. The problem for Yerevan, however, is that the Kremlin in the Karabakh conflict observes an emphasized neutrality, and in fact stands on the side of Baku - like most countries in the world, recognizes the occupation of 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan by Armenia.

Internationalization course

Since the beginning of the escalation of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, Prime Minister Pashinyan has tried to play several scenarios at the same time in order to force Moscow to join the conflict on the side of Yerevan.

First, the head of the Armenian government immediately began to internationalize the conflict, trying to present the confrontation with Azerbaijan as a more ambitious one - the struggle of the Russian Federation and Turkey for influence in the Caucasus. So, on October 1, Pashinyan loudly announced that the NKR was fighting "international terrorism, which equally threatens the United States, Iran, Russia and France." And the president of the unrecognized republic completely hit the mainstream: the war is allegedly directed against Tehran, which has problems with Kurdish separatism.

The paradox is that these statements were made against the background of reports about the pulling together of Kurdish detachments in Karabakh for fighting on the side of the NKR. And the attempts of the Armenian authorities to "play off" Turkey and Iran were unconvincing, if only because Ankara and Tehran, despite a number of contradictions, closely cooperate in the military sphere. They are not only guarantors of the Astana format of negotiations on Syria, but also have common interests in the fight against the separatist movements of the Kurds. In 2018, the military of both sides signed agreements on cooperation in the field of "intelligence in the fight against terrorist organizations and armed gangs" on the border, and in 2019 they began joint hostilities. At first, Tehran tried not to advertise the participation of its special forces in raids against units of the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Iraq, but in 2020 Iranian artillery openly supported the Turkish operation "Tiger Claw" in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Secondly, Pashinyan began to manipulate and "pretend to be a victim." This was manifested in a demonstrative address to Emmanuel Macron, whom he called the most promising interlocutor in an interview with Al Jazeera (also listing the German Chancellor, Iranian President, UN Secretary General and Russian President). Probably not only because France is one of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, but also because it is in conflict with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean and has a large Armenian diaspora on its territory. In addition, the head of the Armenian Cabinet of Ministers on September 29 canceled the visit of the Armenian delegation to the Russian Federation for a meeting of the intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation.

And most importantly, official Yerevan pointedly reported that it had not yet applied for help to the CSTO. Obviously, he did this for two reasons.

On the one hand, too much negativity was caused by Pashinyan's maneuvers during the July so-called Tavush clashes. Then the fighting began allegedly after Armenia thwarted an attempt by a sabotage and reconnaissance group in an UAZ (!) To cross the border line. The strangeness of this version was noticed by Pashinyan himself: during the government meeting, he doubted that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces were trying in such a strange way to take new positions. Nevertheless, even then the Armenian Prime Minister made an open attempt to play on the Russian factor. He suddenly confirmed his participation in the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council in Minsk, although before that he refused to fly to Moscow for the Victory Parade, citing a pandemic. But then he failed to "build bridges" through the CSTO - a meeting of the Organization for Border Exacerbation did not take place, although four-day battles were fought directly on the Armenian-Azerbaijani sections of the border.

On the other hand, the attempts of the Armenian lobby (and the jingoistic patriots who spontaneously join it) to play out in the Russian media environment the thesis about “the need to help a CSTO member in any situation, otherwise what kind of organization is this?” Is based on emotions, and not on logic and international right. According to the resolutions and documents that diplomacy traditionally appeals to, Azerbaijan is conducting an operation in Karabakh to restore constitutional control, and the current conflict (Additional Protocol II of 1977 to the Vienna Conventions of 1949) is non-international in which Armenia is not a party.

Nevertheless, Yerevan tried to play on the emotional factor, and to build contacts with Moscow on the basis of "telephone diplomacy": since September 27, Pashinyan almost broke Alexander Lukashenko's record during the protests in Minsk, calling Vladimir Putin five times (even during the President's congratulations on on the birthday, the parties still discussed Karabakh).

"Multi-vector" with a bias towards the West

Like most post-Soviet leaders, the Armenian prime minister does not miss the opportunity to declare the multidirectional foreign policy of the republic. In fact, everything says that the declarative friendship with Moscow is nothing more than a screen for further movement towards the West.

Last week, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, on the air of the program "60 Minutes" on the TV channel "Russia 1", directly called Pashinyan a protege of American billionaire George Soros. This kind of statements (from different sides, not only from Baku) are not heard for the first time and have convincing grounds: Pashinyan, when he received the post of prime minister, really brought many pro-Western figures to power, no matter how hard he tried to refute such an inconvenient fact.

Sorosians seize power in Armenia ․ let's see what happened /

In particular, the ex-coordinator of the electoral programs of the Transparency International organization Armen Grigoryan immediately took the post of head of the National Security Council, and David Sanasaryan, the former leader of the openly pro-American Heritage Party, became the head of the State Control Service.

The Armenian press also reported that the brother of the head of the Special Investigation Service of Armenia Sasun Khachatryan is the chairman of the board of the Soros Foundation. And the Minister of Justice Rustam Badasyan is considered one of the "wards" of Larisa Minasyan, the head of the Armenian branch of the Fund.

The country's national security service was headed by Argishti Kyaramyan, surprisingly young for his achievements, who, according to opposition Armenian media, was behind the initiation of two criminal cases against the South Caucasus Railway (an Armenian 100 percent subsidiary of Russian Railways). It is symptomatic that he was recently dismissed: sources close to the situation believe that such a personnel decision was part of a backstage deal between Yerevan and Moscow. However, even if this is so, Pashinyan will not be able to resort to such tactics for a long time: there are too many pro-Western figures in the Armenian elite, and this cannot but cause irritation in the Kremlin.

Argishti Kä

Fueling nationalism

His family history, or rather, how he presents it, does not play in Pashinyan's favor. In the spring, a scandal erupted in Armenia related to the military background of the prime minister's grandfather. Shortly before the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War, Nikol Pashinyan spoke about his ancestor (they are full namesakes) and posted a photo of him on Facebook, emphasizing that he was proud to bear his name. According to the Armenian prime minister, his grandfather died as a soldier of the Red Army in the battles against the Nazis.

These words attracted the attention of political opponents of the ruling party and journalists inside Armenia, who immediately decided to check the truth of the politician's statement. The answer was found in the generalized data bank "Memorial" - a portal created in 2007 at the initiative of the RF Ministry of Defense and accumulating information about those who disappeared or were in captivity during the Second World War. Over the years of the archive's operation, specialists have scanned more than 17 million documents on irrecoverable losses and 20 million personal records about the dead soldiers of the Red Army, including those found in German archives. That is, the information received is not speculation, not unverified information and not rumors. The data of the official website is the very “ultimate truth”, which, if it is refuted and changed, it will be only in court and in the light of the discovery of new documents. And according to Memorial, a certain Nikolai Pashinyan participated in the Second World War, but not on the Soviet side, but “collaborated with the enemy”.

Nikol Pashinyan / Նիկոլ Փաշինյան /

This fact in itself, of course, is not decisive for the prime minister's political career. However, the fact that he may have distorted (deliberately) his grandfather's past, and after the information appeared in the media, could not provide convincing explanations, only weakens his position and strengthens opposition moods.

The story with Pashinyan's grandfather acquired a negative connotation along with other actions of the Armenian government. The republic's leadership has repeatedly shown a poorly concealed sympathy for the Nazi accomplices. The most illustrative case is the incident with the monument to Garegin Nzhdeh. In Armenia, he is considered one of the founders of modern statehood, despite the fact that his cooperation with the Third Reich is a proven fact. Ultimately, this cannot but leave an imprint not only on the domestic Armenian policy, but also on international relations, since the situation from the outside looks like a deliberate stirring up of nationalist sentiments by the new Cabinet of Ministers in the republic. Given the zealous attitude of President Putin to the history of the Great Patriotic War, Pashinyan's double behavior works against the Armenian prime minister not only on a political but also on a personal level.

Igor Nikiforov

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