Dangerous about-face in Armenia's foreign policy
    Pivot towards West

    ANALYTICS  27 September 2022 - 12:29

    Matanat Nasibova

    The pro-Western euphoria, which swept Armenia after the recent visit of Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, is characterized by the popular phrase "wait and see". It seems Yerevan seriously expects generous aid from the ocean, which "promises a carefree future for Armenia". And for that, the country only needs to change its overlord.

    Such a scenario is indicated by the markedly more frequent anti-Russian protests there. Demonstrators' recent anti-government slogans have been smoothly replaced by anti-Russian ones, with calls to withdraw from the CSTO and from Russia's influence. Curiously, this objective is openly reflected in the current policy of the incumbent government in Armenia, which is deliberately expanding the sphere of interaction with the West, in particular through reciprocal visits by senior officials. For instance, Secretary of the Armenian Security Council Armen Grigoryan has travelled to the US for the second time in the past few days and, according to media reports, this time he has gone to Washington. His previous visit was to New York, where he accompanied Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

    Meanwhile, the fact that the Armenian authorities are trying to boost ties across the ocean is confirmed by several of their actions at once. First, Armenian Defence Minister Suren Papikyan paid a working visit to the US in early September. Second, CIA Director William Burns visited Armenia in July. And thirdly, Nancy Pelosi recently visited Yerevan.

    As we can see, the intensification of Armenian-American ties is as obvious a fact as the systematic implementation of specific goals and objectives put forward by American and Western strategists for Armenia, which also has a logical explanation. Whereas previously the strategically important region of the South Caucasus was used by the Americans to push their interests through the mediation mission of the OSCE MG, after the actual collapse of this international structure and the removal of the Karabakh problem by Azerbaijan in November 2020, the new balance of power in the region has extremely minimized this opportunity. Thus, the changed situation has hit Armenia, which was defeated in a 44-day war with Azerbaijan, as well as US interests, which have lost their mediation mandate in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations.

    Consequently, American attempts to re-enforce its presence in the region are understandable. Theoretically, Armenian-American interests seem to coincide, but in reality, the US is merely using Armenia for its own purposes, rather than to solve its problems, as Yerevan hopes it will. It is hard to imagine that the US would aim to take charge of poor Armenia when it has enough problems of its own. By the way, the Democrats, now in power, have to hold elections and collect as many votes as possible in their support, and that is exactly why Pelosi came to Yerevan, but not for the Armenian people's aspirations; although she managed to shed a tear at the "Armenian genocide victims" memorial in Yerevan. In fact, the Americans are using the Armenian factor for their own purposes in many ways. On the one hand, they are trying to push Russia out of the region and provoke Armenia to leave the orbit of Russian influence in order to gain a foothold there themselves. As the anti-Russian protests show, this part of the American plan in the Caucasus has already been launched. Whether the Americans will succeed in implementing their plan on the territory of the Russian outpost is premature to say, but it is obvious that the process has started and may have unpredictable consequences for Armenia itself. It is unlikely that, in the event of a force majeure situation, the Americans will immediately rush to Armenia's aid. It is more likely that they will leave without saying goodbye. Until now, it is precisely this policy that the United States has demonstrated where they themselves provoked conflicts.

    Meanwhile, the involvement of the US in destabilising the situation in the Caucasus region is indicated by the following important nuance. Every visit of Armenian officials to Brussels and Washington is followed by a military incident provoked by the Armenian side on the border with Azerbaijan. Is it an accident or a coincidence? Probably neither. Obviously, each time there is a pre-planned action, which is carried out by the Armenian side at the instigation of third forces. In any case, in recent months incidents on the border have occurred on the eve or after visits of Armenian high-ranking officials to New York and Washington, or almost immediately after visits of representatives of the American foreign policy to Yerevan. We should therefore assume that the current visit of the secretary of the Armenian Security Council to the US could also provoke a new round of tension on the border with Azerbaijan, and we should be prepared for this.

    By the way, last December, during Grigoryan's regular visit to the US, during his meeting with US Presidential National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, the Armenian side started talking about so-called additional security guarantees, allegedly to establish long-term stability and peace in the region. As a rule, this traditional Armenian trick ("security guarantees") is often voiced by Armenian officials at meetings with representatives of the Western political elite, counting on the understanding and support of the international community for Armenia's position in the conflict with Azerbaijan. It is possible that Grigoryan will also touch upon this issue during the current visit to the US in exchange for a complete pivot of Armenia towards the West. It is not incidental, therefore, that Grigoryan's trip to the US coincided with Pashinyan's visit to France. Most likely, the Armenian leadership went to Washington and Paris for another briefing, ignoring the position of its closest ally, Russia.

    Interestingly, last week Grigoryan had a meeting with CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas in Yerevan, where a CSTO advance team led by Colonel-General Anatoly Sidorov, Chief of the Joint Staff, arrived to monitor the situation in several areas in Armenia adjacent to the border with Azerbaijan. It is thought that during this meeting, in addition to discussing the situation in the region and working out proposals to de-escalate the tension that has arisen, the Russian side conveyed its vision of the consequences of anti-Russian hysteria in Armenia, as well as the obvious sympathy of the Yerevan leadership for the US and the West. But judging by the Armenian authorities' hasty visits to Paris and Washington, the pro-Western line, which now runs as a red line in Armenian foreign policy, bypassing Russia's interests, is half a step away from the point of no return.

    For Pashinyan, who is by and large a protege of the West, this option is the most acceptable. First, because this step will boost his rating inside the country. It is known that after Armenia's defeat in the Second Karabakh War in November 2020, the prime minister's rating fell dramatically inside the country. A turn to the western flank is therefore another opportunity to retain power and mitigate risks within Armenia. But this move does not at all rule out external threats from Russia, which is most likely. It is naive to assume that Russia will stand idly by as it watches its longstanding vassal flee to the West. It is also noteworthy that Pashinyan managed to avoid a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, but did not miss the opportunity to meet with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. However, no matter how committed Armenia is to the West, playing up to US and Western interests and staging provocations on the border with Azerbaijan, the dangerous venture to change its foreign policy course could result in the loss of what remains of its statehood. And this is no joke, because Moscow, as we know, does not believe in tears.


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