.
A

rmenia, Russia’s nominal ally in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), seeks to distance itself from the Kremlin. Although Yerevan seems to aim to align with the West, at this point the landlocked Caucasus nation is unlikely to cut ties with Moscow and leave the Russian-led military bloc. But can Russia preserve the status quo in the region that has traditionally been in its geopolitical orbit?

On 23 November 2022, during the CSTO summit in Yerevan, it became quite obvious that the Russian-dominated organization cannot reach a consensus on crucial matters, such as the security of its own members. Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan refused to sign a joint CSTO declaration because it did not include a "clear political assessment" condemning Azerbaijan's incursions into Armenian territory in May and November 2021 and September of this year.

"Right up to today we have not managed to reach a decision on a CSTO response to Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia. These facts do grave harm to the image of the CSTO both inside our country and outside its borders, and I consider this the main failure of Armenia’s chairmanship of the CSTO," Pashinyan stressed.

Moreover, during a “family photograph” of leaders of CSTO countries—Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan—Pashinyan stepped away from Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was a symbolic message to the Kremlin that Armenia has started turning its back on Moscow. Indeed, latest polls suggest that most Armenians do not see their future in an alliance with Russia. Asked whether they think the former Soviet republic should withdraw from the CSTO, 27.1% of respondents answered "definitely yes" and another 16.2% "rather yes," while 19.6% said "definitely not" and 19.7% "rather not."

Prior to the Yerevan summit, hundreds of Armenians, unhappy about Putin's visit to their country, gathered at two separate rallies in Yerevan. More importantly, some Armenian opposition leaders have started openly accusing Russia of betraying the Caucasus nation of around three million people. For instance, Tigran Khzmalyan, leader of the European Party of Armenia, claims that sporadic clashes along the Armenia–Azerbaijan border break out whenever Yerevan enters into negotiations with the United States and the European Union, or when Armenian leadership refuses to obey the requirements of the Kremlin.

However, Khzmalyan leads a non-parliamentary opposition party, which means that his statement does not represent the voice of the entire Armenian opposition. The parliamentary opposition, according to Armenian political analyst Benyamin Poghosyan, has rather pro-Russian views, while the ruling Civic Contract party seeks to keep a balance between Russia and the West.

Indeed, despite growing anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia, the trade turnover between Russia and the Caucasus nation in the first nine months of this year amounted to $3.2 billion. Last year it reached $2.6 billion, which indicates that the two countries have strengthened their economic ties amid Russian isolation in the global arena. On the other hand, the number of Armenians who leave the Caucasus nation to work in Russia continues to decrease, which is likely due to anti-Russian sanctions that the West imposed on Moscow following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Further, in an attempt to end its political dependence on the Kremlin, and improve Yerevan’s positions ahead of negotiations with Azerbaijan, Armenian leadership has recently asked French President Emmanuel Macron to chair peace talks with Baku. Such a move indicates that Yerevan does not see Moscow as the only arbiter in the South Caucasus anymore.

At the same time, Yerevan reportedly aims to strengthen political ties with the United States, a move that should worry the Kremlin.

“Armenians are saying that their standing relationships with Russia are not meeting the needs of Armenia today. And currently, the United States and Armenia are having a very important conversation about how we can be helpful to Armenia as it continues seeking a more democratic and secure future,” said Lynne Tracy, U.S. ambassador to Armenia, on 30 November 2022.

To keep its presence in Armenia, Russia will have to play a more active role in the strategically important South Caucasus region. Following the Yerevan summit, Putin held talks with Pashinyan to discuss “bilateral relations and regional issues,” which could be interpreted as Moscow’s attempt to improve relations with Yerevan. However there are indications that the Kremlin plans to continue doing business as usual vis-à-vis Armenia. Sergey Kopirkin, Russian ambassador in Armenia, openly said that the Kremlin does not plan to use “soft power” in the former Soviet republic.

“We are not used to doing such PR stunts, and playing some games around this. It does not correspond to our mentality,” Kopirkin stressed.

But other actors, namely Iran, the European Union, and the United States, will almost certainly seek to benefit from Russia’s relatively ambivalent position regarding Armenia. As a result, in the long-term, Yerevan may completely change its geopolitical vector and eventually end its nominal alliance with Moscow. Still, Armenia is unlikely to take such steps as long as the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh remains dependent on the presence of the Russian peacekeepers.

About
Nikola Mikovic
:
Nikola Mikovic is a freelance journalist, researcher and analyst based in Serbia covering foreign policy in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

Russia Risks Losing Armenia as an Ally

Yerevan, Armenia. Photo by Levon Vardanyan via Unsplash.

December 14, 2022

Armenia, Russia’s nominal ally in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), seeks to distance itself from the Kremlin. While completely cutting ties with Moscow at this point seems unlikely, Armenia’s future geopolitical vector and alliance with Russia is uncertain writes Nikola Mikovic.

A

rmenia, Russia’s nominal ally in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), seeks to distance itself from the Kremlin. Although Yerevan seems to aim to align with the West, at this point the landlocked Caucasus nation is unlikely to cut ties with Moscow and leave the Russian-led military bloc. But can Russia preserve the status quo in the region that has traditionally been in its geopolitical orbit?

On 23 November 2022, during the CSTO summit in Yerevan, it became quite obvious that the Russian-dominated organization cannot reach a consensus on crucial matters, such as the security of its own members. Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan refused to sign a joint CSTO declaration because it did not include a "clear political assessment" condemning Azerbaijan's incursions into Armenian territory in May and November 2021 and September of this year.

"Right up to today we have not managed to reach a decision on a CSTO response to Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia. These facts do grave harm to the image of the CSTO both inside our country and outside its borders, and I consider this the main failure of Armenia’s chairmanship of the CSTO," Pashinyan stressed.

Moreover, during a “family photograph” of leaders of CSTO countries—Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan—Pashinyan stepped away from Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was a symbolic message to the Kremlin that Armenia has started turning its back on Moscow. Indeed, latest polls suggest that most Armenians do not see their future in an alliance with Russia. Asked whether they think the former Soviet republic should withdraw from the CSTO, 27.1% of respondents answered "definitely yes" and another 16.2% "rather yes," while 19.6% said "definitely not" and 19.7% "rather not."

Prior to the Yerevan summit, hundreds of Armenians, unhappy about Putin's visit to their country, gathered at two separate rallies in Yerevan. More importantly, some Armenian opposition leaders have started openly accusing Russia of betraying the Caucasus nation of around three million people. For instance, Tigran Khzmalyan, leader of the European Party of Armenia, claims that sporadic clashes along the Armenia–Azerbaijan border break out whenever Yerevan enters into negotiations with the United States and the European Union, or when Armenian leadership refuses to obey the requirements of the Kremlin.

However, Khzmalyan leads a non-parliamentary opposition party, which means that his statement does not represent the voice of the entire Armenian opposition. The parliamentary opposition, according to Armenian political analyst Benyamin Poghosyan, has rather pro-Russian views, while the ruling Civic Contract party seeks to keep a balance between Russia and the West.

Indeed, despite growing anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia, the trade turnover between Russia and the Caucasus nation in the first nine months of this year amounted to $3.2 billion. Last year it reached $2.6 billion, which indicates that the two countries have strengthened their economic ties amid Russian isolation in the global arena. On the other hand, the number of Armenians who leave the Caucasus nation to work in Russia continues to decrease, which is likely due to anti-Russian sanctions that the West imposed on Moscow following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Further, in an attempt to end its political dependence on the Kremlin, and improve Yerevan’s positions ahead of negotiations with Azerbaijan, Armenian leadership has recently asked French President Emmanuel Macron to chair peace talks with Baku. Such a move indicates that Yerevan does not see Moscow as the only arbiter in the South Caucasus anymore.

At the same time, Yerevan reportedly aims to strengthen political ties with the United States, a move that should worry the Kremlin.

“Armenians are saying that their standing relationships with Russia are not meeting the needs of Armenia today. And currently, the United States and Armenia are having a very important conversation about how we can be helpful to Armenia as it continues seeking a more democratic and secure future,” said Lynne Tracy, U.S. ambassador to Armenia, on 30 November 2022.

To keep its presence in Armenia, Russia will have to play a more active role in the strategically important South Caucasus region. Following the Yerevan summit, Putin held talks with Pashinyan to discuss “bilateral relations and regional issues,” which could be interpreted as Moscow’s attempt to improve relations with Yerevan. However there are indications that the Kremlin plans to continue doing business as usual vis-à-vis Armenia. Sergey Kopirkin, Russian ambassador in Armenia, openly said that the Kremlin does not plan to use “soft power” in the former Soviet republic.

“We are not used to doing such PR stunts, and playing some games around this. It does not correspond to our mentality,” Kopirkin stressed.

But other actors, namely Iran, the European Union, and the United States, will almost certainly seek to benefit from Russia’s relatively ambivalent position regarding Armenia. As a result, in the long-term, Yerevan may completely change its geopolitical vector and eventually end its nominal alliance with Moscow. Still, Armenia is unlikely to take such steps as long as the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh remains dependent on the presence of the Russian peacekeepers.

About
Nikola Mikovic
:
Nikola Mikovic is a freelance journalist, researcher and analyst based in Serbia covering foreign policy in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.