Sunday, September 23, 2018

Armenia’s Pashinyan Fighting Consequences, Not Causes of Corruption, Khzmalyan Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 23 – In the sixth months since protesters in the streets of Yerevan and other Armenian cities brought him to power, Nikol Pashinyan has been fighting corruption; but he has focused on its domestic manifestations rather than its roots in Russia’s neo-colonial rule of his country, according to Tigran Khzmalyan.

            As a result, the Yerevan analyst says, arrests of former leaders and destruction of the political reputations of the former dominant political parties “has not led to the destruction of the existing political-economic system that is founded on the rule of Russian state monopolies [in the economy] … and of [Moscow’s predominant role] in Armenia’s security.”

            In fact, Khzmalyan says, the first six months of Pashinyan’s rule “have only demonstrated the axiom that the struggle with corruption must be directed not at its consequences but at the causes of this corruption.” There, the new Armenian leader has done little or nothing (

                “Pashinyan’s personal honor has not been able to lower thieving prices on energy and transport, secure economic growth and investments, stop migration or lower military tensions on the borders since the levers of taking decisions in the politics and economy of Armenia as before remain in Putin’s hands.”

            “Colonized countries” don’t control either their domestic or foreign policies; those are set by the colonizing country. “The example of Armenia, and earlier of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova only confirm this rule,” Khzmalyan continues.

            According to the Armenian analyst, “the independence of Armenia, Georgia or Ukraine both at the beginning and the end of the 20th century was the result of one and the same process – the weakening and disintegration first of the Russian Empire and then of the USSR,” with tragic consequences in both cases to attempts to “democratize Russia.”

            “There is no basis to suppose,” he argues, that the course of developments will be fundamentally different. If democracy fails to win out in Russia, the consequences for its neighbors will again be dire. Tbilisi, Kyiv, and Yerevan recognize this but have responded in different ways.

            In Georgia, “Saakashvili undertook a heroic attempt to SIMULTANEOUSLY achieve independence from Russia while rooting out domestic corruption. The price of this became the territorial losses and the exile of the reformer president.”

            In Ukraine, “Poroshenko is trying to achieve sovereignty and the restoration of territorial integrity WITHOUT a serious struggle with the kleptocracy and often in a disturbing union with it. The prices of this has been a critical weakening of the economy which has undercut political efforts and reforms.”

            But in Armenia, “Pashinyan’s path has turned out to be still more paradoxical: he is trying to show society and himself that the domestic cleansing of the country is possible without a change of its external milieu and that the struggle with corruption and improvement of the economy are possible without a change in the country’s civilizational and foreign policy vectors.”

            Even if what he is doing is simply an effort to win time and hope for a weakening of Kremlin pressure as a result of some other reasons, “the price of [Pashinyan’s] misconception is becoming both losses in his own reputation and the political and economic isolation of the country” as his agreement to work with Russia on a humanitarian mission in Syria.

            In this situation, Khzmalyan says, one cannot fail to recall Churchill’s words that “those who choose between war and dishonor will get both.” His tragedy and that of Armenia is that Yerevan lacks the ability to deal with the dragon.  Nikol Pashinyan is no Lancelot.” He and Armenia need help from elsewhere.

            That should come from the Western democracies, but unfortunately in all too many cases today democracy is being replaced by demagogy. And that again brings Churchill’s observation that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.

            “Armenia,” Khzmalyan concludes, “apparently will yet again demonstrate to itself and to everyone this paradoxical axiom.  Almost six months after the replacement of the powers” in Yerevan, Pashinyan has still not set the date for parliamentary elections – even though that is the key to any real breakaway from the country’s dilemmas.

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