Staunton, January 29 – When the Soviet Union disintegrated, there were widespread fears that Moscow would seek to use the embassies of other countries either to push its interests or as cover for its intelligence operations given that the post-Soviet states often drew on those with Soviet diplomatic experience to staff their foreign ministries.
Such fears have largely dissipated, but they have not disappeared, as evidenced by a recent charge made by Arman Babadzhanyan, a Lusavor Ayastan (“Enlightened Armenia”)
deputy in the Armenian Parliament. He suggests that in a number of Armenian missions abroad, staffers are working not for Armenia but for Russia (verelq.am/ru/node/41151).
Over the past 25 years, the opposition deputy says, Yerevan has appointed as ambassadors to various countries people “with doubtful biographies and criminal pasts.” Among the worst of these is Andranik Manukyan as ambassador to Ukraine who “over many years advanced to a greater degree the interests of Russia but not of Armenia.”
That is one of the reasons why, the deputy suggests, relations between Armenia and Ukraine are not what they should be. “Thank God,” he adds, “now steps are being taken to correct this situation.” Unfortunately, the situation with regard to Manukyan is far from the only such case.
Sometimes these connections have even led other countries to refuse to give agrément as appears to have been the case with Sergey Minasyan, whom Yerevan proposed as its chief of mission to Tbilisi. Moscow clearly hoped to use the Armenian embassy there as a listening post and channel of communications with the Georgian government.
The situation in the Armenian embassy in Moscow is also troubling. The ambassador has not lived in Armenia since 1992 and thus cannot adequately reflect the views of Armenians now. Vardan Toganyan’s appointment appears to have been the result of a commercial “deal” between those close to Serzh Sargsyan and Russian officials, Babadzhanyan says.
The deputy also criticizes the Armenian embassy in the US. Instead of standing up for Armenian positions when they might be different than those of Russia, he continues, the Armenian diplomats in Washington have acted “like ostriches” and sought to make themselves invisible lest they have to take a public position at variance with Russia’s.
Especially worrisome now, Babdzhanyan says, is that today in a number of countries, the ambassadors are people who were appointed by the old regime and who during the revolution denounced Nikol Pashinyan and his colleagues as traitors. Such people can hardly represent the new government and should be removed.
To correct the situation, he continues, “parliament must develop a procedure for the appointment of ambassadors, in correspondence with which candidates will speak before the relevant committees of the parliament and offer their ideas relative to their activities in this or that country.”
Only in that way can Armenia be sure that Armenia’s representatives abroad are working for it and not for some other country.