Staunton, December 29 – One of the supposed constants in Eurasia is that Yerevan will support Moscow regardless of what it does because of Armenia’s geopolitical situation, but now there are growing indications that even Yerevan is being alienated by Vladimir Putin’s aggressive and unpredictable policies, according to Kseniya Kirillova.
Exactly what this means, of course, is uncertain. The fact that Armenian criticism is indirect, pointed at Moscow’s regional projects rather than at Moscow itself, may mean that it is simply an effort by Yerevan to attract Russian attention to its problems and get Moscow to do more for Armenia than it has so far.
But it may point to something far more serious for the geopolitics of the region, the growing interest in Russia of building ties with Azerbaijan and Iran even at Armenia’s expense and consequently the possibility that Armenia too like so many other post-Soviet states is ever more unhappy with Putin’s policies and wants at least as insurance better ties with the West.
In an article for RFE/RL, the San Francisco-based Russian journalist reports her conversation with David Shakhnazaryan of the Yerevan Center for Regional Research about the critical comments Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan delivered at the recent meeting of the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty (ru.krymr.com/content/article/27453419.html).
In remarks posted on the Armenian president’s official website, Sargsyan not only criticized that Moscow-led organization for its failure to defend Armenia against Azerbaijan but also cast doubt on whether such a structure was needed at all given its inability to fulfill its mission.
Shakhnazaryan, an opposition politician as well as an analyst, tells Kirillova that “undoubtedly, in his appeal, [Sargsyan] has in mind not all the Organization member states but rather Russia” given Moscow’s dominant role in that institution and thus implicitly raises the question “What is Armenia doing in such an ineffective structure?” given its security needs.
He continues: the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty “was never an organization in the full sense of the word and represents only a group of countries connected with Russia by security agreements.” By attacking it, he says, Sargsyan is showing that Yerevan is capable of “independent moves” and that its policies “are not defined entirely and completely by Moscow.”
“As we see,” Shakhnazaryan says, “both in the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty and in Eurasian formats, no one wants to connect his fate with collapsing structures and with the already appearing irreversible decline of Russia.”
That is all the more so for Armenia now given that the US has become both increasingly active in promoting a resolution of the Karabakh conflict, something Yerevan is more interested in than Moscow is, and increasingly critical of Baku, something Armenia sees as an indication of a shift in Washington’s position away from Azerbaijan.
Moscow in contrast has opposed US efforts on Karabakh and even has officially declared, as Kirillova says, that “in all international institutions, it intends to speak in defense of Azerbaijan.” That leaves Moscow and Yerevan at odds and means, Shakhnazaryan says, that Moscow is “not capable” of responding adequately from Armenia’s point of view.
Immediately after the meeting of the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty, Russian media outlets reported that Sargsyan had attempted to raise the Karabakh issue at that session but was not able to do so. “In fact,” Shakhnazaryan says, “”Armenian has never raised” that issue in the Organization, an indication that Sargsyan doesn’t want it involved in Karabakh.
Given that Putin wants that Eurasian structures to play the predominant role in such conflicts – or at least wants the member states to give lip service to that idea – Sargsyan’s new position is striking. Yerevan isn’t ready or able to break with Moscow entirely, but the Armenian president’s words underscore his country’s increasing unhappiness with the Kremlin.