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Sep 17, 2022
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Should Russia stand up for Armenia

“Russia is losing its regional ally, Armenia, in the South Caucasus.” Such phrases are increasingly being heard from Armenian experts who are dissatisfied with Moscow’s position in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, including during its recent outbreak.

Recall that the Russian Federation is a military-political ally of Armenia, and within the framework of bilateral and multilateral (CSTO) agreements, it undertakes to support the territorial integrity of Armenia. In 2020, during the Karabakh war, the Russian side did not actively intervene for quite reasonable reasons.

Firstly, the war was not on the territory of Armenia (which is subject to formal Russian guarantees), but on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which both Russia and Armenia itself (despite all the Jesuit formulations of Yerevan) consider Azerbaijani. Yes, during this war, Azerbaijan launched a series of strikes on Armenian territory and even admitted the fact of these strikes, but then – and this is the second thing – Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan purposefully refused to seek military assistance from the CSTO. That is, to put it simply, he did not fulfill the necessary procedural points.

However, in 2022, both conditions were met. Azerbaijan attacked the territory of Armenia. In Baku, they can say that this was done because of the “non-delimited border” or “the actions of Armenian saboteurs”, but in fact there was an attack on the territory recognized by the CSTO countries as Armenian. After that, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan officially turned to the CSTO and activated the fourth article of the Collective Security Treaty.

“If one of the participating States is subjected to aggression by any state or group of states, then this will be considered as aggression against all the participating states of this Treaty. In the event of an act of aggression against any of the participating States, all other participating States will provide it with the necessary assistance, including military assistance, as well as support with the means at their disposal in order to exercise the right to collective defense in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter. This is exactly what the text sounds like.

In response, Russia offered to send a special mission to Armenia headed by the Secretary General of the organization. Its task is to “assess the situation in the zone of conflict with Azerbaijan, prepare a report to the heads of state and develop proposals for the de-escalation of tension.” It was decided to send a mission to assess the situation in the conflict zone, as well as to call on the parties for peace. But the Armenians did not like such a limited response of the allies.

And who to help?

However, there is another side of the coin. And it is connected with the behavior of Armenia itself – both the authorities and the civil society of this country.

The fact that Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan is oriented towards the West is not a big secret. He was formed as a journalist and politician with the help of Western structures, and when he was an oppositionist, he demanded Armenia’s withdrawal from the integration structures created by Russia. Having come to power, he formally refused these requirements, but in fact he was organizing this exit. He cleared the Armenian government of a significant number of pro-Russian politicians and the military, actively developed relations with Western “partners”, supported anti-Russian information resources and forces.

Now, in fact, Pashinyan also wants to use Russia. Logically, if the state is attacked by an external enemy (who is also stronger), then the authorities must first defend themselves, and then ask for external help. That is, to put it simply, Pashinyan had to first announce mobilization, and then ask for help from the CSTO. Instead, the Armenian prime minister wants Russia to essentially fight for Armenia instead of Armenia. And when Moscow logically refrains from such an honor (preferring to resolve the issue through diplomacy), Armenian structures begin to disperse the myth that Russia is not helping. And, they say, the same France helps, the leadership of which unambiguously demands that Azerbaijan leave the territory of Armenia and convenes the UN Security Council on this occasion (that is, it speaks much more beautifully than Russia, but at the same time it cannot even close to provide the same economic and military help, like Moscow).

Well, the Armenians will say, there are questions for Pashinyan. But Moscow should not support him, but the citizens of Armenia, who are pro-Russian.

However, there are subtleties here too. The point is not even that in recent years the Armenian society has constantly grumbled because Russia does not break off relations with Azerbaijan for the sake of Armenia (which it should not have done) and that Russian-Armenian relations are unequal (which they cannot be, by definition). relationship between a great power and a small state). The fact is that they protect those who are ready to defend themselves.

During the April 2018 coup, the Armenian public knew that Pashinyan was an anti-Russian leader, but supported him. In December 2018, after almost half a year of Pashinyan’s rule with his anti-Russian policies, 70% of the population voted for his party in the parliamentary elections. After Karabakh was surrendered in 2020, crowds of people stormed his residence, and Pashinyan himself hid in one of the Western embassies – and then many experts said that the eyes of the Armenians were finally opened, that they would take Pashinyan out of power. However, the Prime Minister then not only held out – in the early parliamentary elections in 2021, he received almost 54% of the vote. That is, to put it simply, 54% of the population voluntarily voted for a Russophobic politician. Not surprisingly, a significant part of Russian society is cool about the idea of ​​protecting Armenia.

You can say as much as you like that Moscow did not work with the Armenian civil society when Western NGOs were stalking it. However, Moscow should not support the instinct of self-preservation in Armenians.

And does Russia need to fit in with such an Armenia now? Wouldn’t it be easier to limit ourselves to “sending a commission” and simply freeze the conflict?

Oddly enough, it’s not easier. Moscow must intervene for the sake of Russian foreign policy and security. Because in the event of the loss of Armenia – Russia’s ally in the South Caucasus – it will be much more difficult for Moscow to influence the entire region.

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