Staunton, October 16 – From the beginning of this round of fighting in the South Caucasus, it has been obvious that Moscow wants to see Armenia punished for its government’s independent-mindedness as far as Russia is concerned but does not want to see it lose to Azerbaijan lest that cost Moscow status and leverage in the region.
Now, several Russian commentators profess to see the emergence of splits within the Armenian government, with pro-Western politicians losing out to pro-Russian ones in Prime Minister Nicol Pashinyan’s government (ura.news/articles/1036281292 and svpressa.ru/war21/article/278772/).
Pashinyan has fired one official Moscow has long blamed for Yerevan’s shift away from Moscow, and his speech to the nation two days ago does appear to have been designed to create a new sense of national unity despite the losses at the front, the pandemic, and declines in transfer payments from Armenians abroad.
But it is as yet uncertain whether what these Russian commentators are suggesting is as profound as they imply or whether they are looking for some Russian success in the region and drawing conclusions that go beyond what the facts so far justify. In short, they may be taking their own wishes as the new reality.
What is clear, however, is that if Moscow believes that the Pashinyan coalition is weakening, it may step up its pressure on Yerevan for further changes before offering the Armenian side in the conflict the kind of help it needs to withstand the continuing Azerbaijani advance.
If that is the case, however, Moscow is ignoring two realities that may come back to haunt it in the future. On the one hand, most countries and Armenia in particular respond to foreign attacks by uniting rather than dividing unless the shock is far greater than the Azerbaijani advance has been so far.
And on the other, Armenians will remember what Moscow is doing now, something they will see as a betrayal of what Russia’s commitment to Armenian security. They will remember that long after the guns are silent. And that will dramatically add to the differences of any modified or post-Pashinyan regime in Yerevan.