Can Armenia become a new Georgia?
As the Artsakh blockade imposed by Azerbaijan entered its second month with no end in sight, the Armenian government increased the level of criticism of Russia. The new phase of anti-Russian rhetoric was launched by the secretary of the Security Council, who, in late December 2022, publicly claimed that Russia was using the closure of the Lachin Corridor to force Armenia to join the union state of Russia and Belarus and open an “exterritorial corridor” to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave via Syunik province. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced his comments as provocative and insisted that Russian officials have never told Yerevan to open the land corridor for Azerbaijan or join the Russian-Belarusian union state. While refraining from directly accusing Russia of participating in the closure of the Lachin Corridor, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan criticized Russia and its peacekeepers for becoming a “silent witness” to the depopulation of Nagorno-Karabakh.
During his January 10, 2023 press conference, Pashinyan stated that if it becomes clear that, due to objective or subjective reasons, Russia is unable to fulfill its commitments, it should ask the UN Security Council to either grant an international mandate to the Russian military contingent or send a new multinational peacekeeping mission to Nagorno-Karabakh. However, in the current international environment of Russia-West confrontation, it is implausible that the Western powers in the UN Security Council will agree to provide an international peacekeeping mandate for Russian forces. Meanwhile, during the same press conference, Pashinyan argued that in contact with Western countries, Azerbaijan explained its aggressive actions against Armenia with fears that Armenia and the Russian Federation could jointly take aggressive actions against Azerbaijan, and they were taking preventive actions. Pashinyan stated that the Armenian government drew the attention of Russian colleagues to the fact that in the absence of a Russian response, it turned out that the military presence of the Russian Federation not only did not ensure the security of the Republic of Armenia but also created a threat to its security.
On January 12, 2023, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova stressed that the statements from Yerevan that the Russian presence posed a threat to the security of Armenia were absurd. According to Zakharova, for decades, Russian soldiers and border guards have significantly contributed to ensuring Armenia’s security, guarding its borders. The current authorities of Armenia announced earlier that the military presence of the Russian Federation in Armenia corresponds to the country’s national interests.
Anti-Russian sentiments have been on the rise in Armenia in the last decade. Russian actions and inactions during the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war, as well as during Azerbaijani aggressions against Armenia in May, November 2021 and September 2022, as well as military escalations along the Nagorno Karabakh-Azerbaijan line of contacts in March and August 2022, have significantly increased anti-Russian feelings in Armenia. Constant criticism by high-level Armenian officials against Russia, blaming the Kremlin for not supporting Armenia against Azerbaijan and sometimes using Azerbaijan as leverage to force Armenia to provide concessions to Russia have worsened Russia’s image in Armenia.
Ordinary citizens in Armenia would contend that if, according to Armenian officials, Russia often acts with Azerbaijan against Armenia, it means that Russia is not Armenia’s friend; Russia is Armenia’s enemy. This logic then implies that Armenia should not be a part of military and economic alliances with its enemy, and the troops of its enemy should not be stationed in Armenia. Thus, it is unsurprising that the growing number of Armenia’s citizens demand the withdrawal of Armenia from CSTO and to push the Russian military base and border troops out of Armenia. These claims are accompanied by expert assessments, who argue that after Armenia leaves the CSTO, France and the US will start to provide Armenia with modern weapons to fight against Azerbaijan. At the same time, Western troops will be deployed in Karabakh to secure the local Armenian population.
Without making deep forays into the hypothetical possibility of American and French troops fighting a war against Azerbaijan in the territory of Nagorno Karabakh, which both countries strongly believe is Azerbaijan, we should clearly understand that if Armenia leaves the CSTO and demands the withdrawal of Russian military base and border troops from Armenia, it will immediately transform Armenia into a hostile nation to Russia. Given the current geopolitics of the region, Armenia cannot be an enemy to Russia and a friend of the US, while continuing to be a friend to Iran. If this scenario becomes a reality, Armenia will also significantly worsen its relations with Iran. In many aspects, this scenario will transform Armenia into a Georgia of the first term of President Mikheil Saakashvili (2004-2007), with clear pro-American and anti-Russian policies. Meanwhile, Georgia has cultivated a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan and Turkey, supported by the US, to resist Russia. Establishing the Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan triangle, where Georgia was the weakest point and relied on Turkey and Azerbaijan, was the only realistic way to pursue the anti-Russian policy. Despite tectonic changes in international security architecture for the last 20 years, the basics of geopolitics in the South Caucasus remain the same. Suppose Armenia wants to become anti-Russian, which also means an anti-Iranian outpost for the US in the region. In that case, Armenia should establish a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan and Turkey and rely on Ankara and Baku. Given the long-term strategic interests of Azerbaijan and Turkey, the only way to do that is to accept that no Armenians will live in Nagorno Karabakh. At the same time, Armenia will become a client state of Azerbaijan and Turkey under the joint Baku/Ankara protectorate.
Source : Armenian Weekly