Thursday, May 10, 2018

Pashinyan Must Speak the Truth about Armenia’s Geopolitical Fate if His Revolution is to Succeed, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 10 --  Fresh from his election as Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan did exactly what his predecessors have done – he went to Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and thus demonstrated to Moscow and to his followers that “even after a popular uprising,” nothing essentially new had occurred, according to Vitaly Portnikov.

            It is possible, the Ukrainian commentator says, that this was not simply a gesture to Moscow that the Armenian revolution is not a threat to Russian interests but rather reflected his own deeply held convictions as well as those of his countrymen whose demonstrations brought him to power (

            In stressing the uniqueness of the Armenian events, Portnikov says, Pashinyan is following in the tradition of many in Georgia and Ukraine who continue to argue that their revolutions are unique as well.  “But all uprisings always resemble one another: However they are organized, they are always a protest against injustice.” 

            And that means, he continues, that “the most interesting things begin not during but after a successful uprising, because namely then it becomes clear whether the vector of the development of the country has changed.”  In Georgia and Ukraine, that shift away from Moscow toward the West was immediately evident.

            There was an understanding among many but far from all in both cases that a break with Russia was needed in order to overcome problems like corruption.  Over time, some Ukrainians have shifted away from that awareness and that failure helps to explain one of the ways in which present-day Ukraine is like present-day Armenia, Portnikov continues.

            But Armenia’s main problem, the one on which everything else hinges, is “its geopolitical fate.” As long as it remains locked in the Karabakh dispute, the Ukrainian analyst says, the Armenian state won’t be able to breathe and won’t be able to address the problems of corruption and inequality that sparked the rising in the first place.

            A revolution with those roots can “begin to change a country only when society is prepared to recognize the truth about itself and its problems and when the leaders of the revolution have the courage to speak this truth” to their followers.  Pashinyan had a chance to do so yesterday but didn’t.  And he must do so if real change is to happen.

            What is likely to come next? “Pashinyan will deliver flaming speeches, he’ll win the parliamentary elections, and he will solidify his role as undisputed leader of the country – or, on the contrary, in a few months, he will be viewed by his former supporters as a windbag. But what is most important: poverty and hopelessness will never leave the Armenian home.”

            And that in turn means something else, Portnikov continues. There will arise as a result “a natural disappointment in the uprising. Why did they go out into the street? People will ask, encouraged by Moscow and pro-Moscow propagandists; and because that is the case, the Kremlin is much calmer about the Armenian than the Georgian or Ukrainian events.

            It will then be able to use them to “once again convince Russians in the uselessness of all Maidans and other revolutions” and thus re-insure itself against a challenge to itself.

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