"Armenia's pivot towards West will end badly"
Caliber.Az interview with Russian expert Dmitry Malyshev
INTERVIEWS 04 October 2022 - 10:26
Caliber.Az had an interview with Dmitry Malyshev, candidate of Historical Sciences, Leading Researcher at RAS IMEMO Post-Soviet Research Center after Y.Primakov, Associate Professor at the World Politics Department of Lomonosov Moscow State University.
- What is your assessment of Yerevan's desire to reorient itself toward the West? How will it affect Armenia?
- A certain pro-Western vector in Armenia's policy has been observed for a long time. For example, the country is an active participant in the EU's Eastern Partnership programme, and in March 2021, in particular, the Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Extended Partnership Agreement signed back in 2017, came into force. The Open Society Institute (better known as the Soros Foundation) is active there. And there are quite a lot of such facts. However, Armenia has not fully reoriented towards the West. It is still a member of the CIS, the EAEC, and the CSTO, and a dialogue partner in the SCO. One of Russia's largest military facilities abroad, the 102nd military base in Gyumri, is located in Armenia, and there is a Russian Air Force base in Erebuni (a suburb of Yerevan).
Yerevan is in no hurry to clearly define its pro-Western vector. This could create problems, especially in the current situation, in its relations with Russia, with the provision of serious socio-economic support to Armenia by the Russian Federation, and put the large Armenian diaspora living in Russia in a difficult situation. It was evident that the various actions in the country in support of the country's pro-Western course and even calls for Armenia to withdraw from the CSTO (which, however, were not supported by official Yerevan) provoked the recent visit to Yerevan by the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who essentially urged Armenia to make a conscious choice regarding withdrawal or further membership in the CSTO.
- In an interview with Public Television, Nikol Pashinyan expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of political-military assistance from the CSTO. In this regard, there is speculation that Armenia may yet leave the CSTO. How will Moscow act in that case?
- I believe it is unlikely in the foreseeable future. It is not only about the 102nd base on the territory of Armenia and the presence of peacekeepers in Karabakh (Russian peacekeepers, not CSTO peacekeepers). It seems unlikely that in the foreseeable future Armenia will withdraw from the CSTO, which is a certain guarantor of the republic's security, and the Russian Federation will use all the means at its disposal to prevent such a development.
I would like to recall that in September 2022, the most significant border clash between Azerbaijan and Armenia took place after the 44-day war of 2020, which, however, was quickly localized. At that time, the Armenian leadership, in particular Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, appealed for support to the CSTO, and only a few days after the incident, the monitoring mission of the organization led by Colonel-General Anatoly Sidorov visited the border conflict zone. And as we all saw, it ended up with proposals to de-escalate the tension that had arisen, and the incident was resolved.
But apparently, this was not enough for some forces in Yerevan itself and already on September 18, 2022 mass rallies were held in the Armenian capital, demanding the withdrawal of the republic from the CSTO. By some understandable coincidence, the centre of these rallies was the neighbourhood of the Cafesjian Arts Centre, where US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was staying at the time. These actions were organised by the European Party of Armenia and its chairman Tigran Khzmalyan. Khzmalyan himself explicitly stated that the aim of the protests was for Armenia to leave the CSTO and EEU and join the EU and NATO. Nevertheless, as you noted, these actions did not lead to any serious consequences.
- However, how do you think the flirting with the West and the US and the escalation of anti-Russian hysteria in Yerevan will end for Armenia?
- This will not end well. There are numerous examples of coups, "coloured revolutions", civil wars, etc. after flirting with the West, especially the USA. In Armenia, anti-Russian hysteria has been and still is being fomented permanently, but it is manifested at the level of certain non-governmental structures.
- As you know, Armenia is putting all kinds of obstacles in the way of the peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and the opening of communication in the region. Will the Russian Federation use any political instruments to compel Yerevan to implement the trilateral statements of 2020 and 2021, which envisage the signing of a peace agreement with Azerbaijan as a result?
- The process of peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations seems difficult because of the entrenched confrontation between the two countries. The last serious escalation of the conflict took place on September 13, 2022, and was again, as before, accompanied by mutual accusations of ceasefire violations. The conflict was resolved following the intervention of numerous international mediators. Of course, the signing of a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan could be a way out of the situation, but due to the irreconcilable positions of the parties on a number of aspects of this settlement, the signing of such a treaty looks unlikely. As for Russia, as the guarantor of the trilateral agreements, it will undoubtedly make every effort to ensure that they are implemented in practice by all parties to the conflict.
- How do you assess Iran's policy in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict? What is the reason for Tehran's favouring Armenia?
- There is a long history of relations between Iran and Armenia. Iran, due to its very difficult relations with Azerbaijan, has been actively supporting Christian Armenia since the early 1990s, despite the fact that it is a Muslim state. One important component of this policy is Iran's reluctance to see Türkiye strengthened in the South Caucasus and, as a consequence, in the foreseeable future in NATO. Accordingly, Iran does not want to see a pro-Turkish Azerbaijan on its borders.
Meanwhile, the Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission is now in place, and energy and logistics cooperation between the two countries is expanding. Iranian Supreme Leader (Rahbar) Seyyid Ali Khamenei has repeatedly voiced his support for Armenia. The relations between Azerbaijan and Iran are quite complicated, and Iran actively opposes any hint of blocking the border with Armenia. Overall, Armenia is very interested in supporting Iran, given the fact that significant perimeters of its border are completely blocked by Türkiye and Azerbaijan.
- So there is no hope that the Iran-Russia-Türkiye regional axis can develop into a strong political alliance?
- There is an alliance and a relationship, but it is more of an economic and humanitarian interaction than a military-political one. The three countries have historically had and continue to have numerous contradictions. It is therefore unlikely that the three states will be able to forge any strong and viable political alliance. Despite some isolated instances of political interaction, relations between these countries are essentially of a strictly socio-economic nature.
- What political processes, according to your forecasts, may take place in the South Caucasus before the end of this year?
- The situation in the South Caucasus remains complex and the situation in Ukraine, Russia's "Special Military Operation" and the process of incorporating "Novorossia" into Russia (inverted commas - Ed.) have a great impact on the region as well as on the former Soviet space in general. The situation in the conflict zones in the South Caucasus, in particular in South Abkhazia, Ossetia and Karabakh, is also likely to escalate. The unstable internal political situation may lead to isolated crises in the political sphere in Armenia and Georgia. But on the whole, it is hoped that a certain status quo will be maintained in the region and that the countries of the region will be able to avoid serious intra- and inter-country upheavals and crises.
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