Armenian untruth: Putin traded for Macron
    Serhey Bohdan's standpoint

    ANALYTICS  28 November 2022 - 10:41

    Serhey Bohdan

    Last week was memorable for events related to the attempts of the Armenian leadership to delay the peace process and save the remains of the separatist project in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. First, Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan made a scandal at a meeting of heads of CSTO states, then he refused to negotiate with Azerbaijan without the participation of the French president. Even after several years in power, Pashinyan and his team are prone to adventurist and ideological moves. The result is clear - a peace treaty is unlikely to be signed this year, and the tense situation is becoming chronic on the conditional Azerbaijani-Armenian border.

    Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on November 25 that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had agreed to a meeting with him only on condition that French President Macron would attend. It is the participation of the latter in the dialogue as "big brother" not as an intermediary - such is the EU representative Charles Michel, a politician who is quite friendly towards Yerevan. . As a result, the Azerbaijani leadership was forced to cancel a meeting with Pashinyan in Brussels scheduled for December 7. Pashinyan's condition is not just strange - it is unprecedented in its willingness to abandon the sovereign will of its own people in favor of ideological guidelines (pro-Western ethnic nationalism and antagonism with neighboring nations).

    However, this move by the Armenian leader was not an unexpected escapade. This is indicated not only by French-Armenian relations after the defeat of the Karabakh separatists. Another event last week, the scandalous discussion that erupted on November 23 at the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) summit in Yerevan, also hints at Pashinyan's intentional stance. Pashinyan expressed dissatisfaction with the unwillingness of CSTO countries to confront Azerbaijan in support of Yerevan's efforts to save the Karabakh separatists.

    In the end, Pashinyan refused to sign the summit's final declaration, calling it "incomplete". He said: "The lack of a clear political assessment of the situation and the non-acceptance of the above-mentioned decision may not only mean the withdrawal of the CSTO alliance obligations but also be interpreted by Azerbaijan as a green light from the CSTO for further aggression against Armenia." According to the Armenian leader, "starting from May 11, 2021, Azerbaijan used armed forces three times and occupied about 140 square kilometers of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia," but the allies did not help Yerevan.

    Pashinyan forgot to mention that the border clashes were due to the unwillingness of the Armenian side to agree to the restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders. But it is obvious to his CSTO colleagues, which is why no one wants to get involved in a war with the Azerbaijanis for the cause of great Armenian nationalism. As a result, none of the CSTO decisions in Yerevan met Pashinyan's aspirations: a remake of the CSTO online summit convened at the initiative of the Armenian prime minister on October 28, which was equally unsuccessful for him.

    Why Pashinyan's plan didn't work?

    Of course, Pashinyan and his associates have never concealed their, to put it mildly, not the particularly respectful attitude towards the CSTO, and it is unclear how seriously they tried to draw the states of this bloc to their side. Let's say some attempts were made, but the fact is that by the Yerevan summit Pashinyan had such a negative overall balance in relations with the CSTO members that it was impossible to expect any other outcome.

    Let's start with Russia, which dominates this organisation. The Armenian leadership has recently clashed with it on an additional and serious issue. On November 17, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin paid a two-day visit to Baku to attend the XI Azerbaijani-Russian Interregional Forum. According to available information, the transition from the usual trade exchange to building a common economic space through the development of transport corridors and industrial cooperation should become a key direction in expanding cooperation between the two countries. The latter is also related to transport corridors, following the related opportunities for processing cargo moving along these corridors.

    In other words, the current Armenian leadership's blunder at the CSTO summit in Yerevan took place in the context of Yerevan's attempts to continue blocking the communications in which not only Baku and Ankara but also Moscow are already interested. After all, the Armenian government is known to stand in the way of transport corridors in the South Caucasus. More specifically, it is about building transport and logistics infrastructure through Azerbaijan within the international corridor North-South.

    This was a logical continuation of the Declaration on allied cooperation signed in February. The growth of trade turnover complemented official contacts: in 2021, according to Azerbaijani data, it was by 12% (in Russia - 16%), and in January-October this year by 20% (total of $3 billion). It would be an obvious distortion of reality to link this growth with the international situation around Russia - Baku's desire to restore communications in the region has been known for years, and the turnover itself increased long before the war, and in the past six years, it hit 80%.

    Therefore, the vice-speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian State Duma Konstantin Kosachev stated, when speaking about the position of Russia and the CSTO on the South Caucasus: "The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in my opinion, is beyond the competence of the organisation. Each of the CSTO member countries determines its attitude towards it independently. As for Russia, we know that we are supporting the settlement in the most sincere way.... To take a position supporting only one side in this conflict would mean aggravating it. We should take a position of peaceful settlement and help to ensure that the terms of this settlement are acceptable to all sides. For example, the fact that the West has taken an unequivocal position on the conflict in Ukraine - has this in any way contributed to its settlement? No, it has only delayed it. Look at the much more balanced position of Türkiye or China, other powerful players."

    Russia on the whole has no special reasons to get involved in a conflict where Yerevan cannot offer anything positive to it, but there is a risk to quarrel not only with Azerbaijan but also with Türkiye and Kazakhstan (taking into account strategic plans on transportation of Kazakhstan hydrocarbons through Azerbaijan, which would be inevitably affected in this case). In essence, Pashinyan has only to threaten the Kremlin with withdrawal to the West and continued blocking communications through Armenian territory.

    Central Asian members of the CSTO have even fewer reasons to support Pashinyan. For them, Azerbaijan is a traditional and important partner, whose value is only growing in the new geopolitical environment.

    Instead of looking for realistic ways out of this impasse, working with these actors, strategically important in terms of Armenia's foreign policy position, the Armenian leader flew away... to Tunisia! It was there that, on November 19, Pashinyan spoke at the summit of the International Organisation of la Francophonie before representatives of countries that, for the most part, have little to do with the South Caucasus. To them, Pashinyan presented the usual narrative about "Azerbaijani aggression" and then met with French President Macron.

    Talks for the poor

    But let's return to the main plan of the Pashinyan administration, the "departure to the West," which the Armenian leadership is hinting at. First, the Armenian leadership has chosen a very exotic way of approaching the West. France has always stood apart in the Western world, and right now it is facing a conflict within NATO with Türkiye and Britain. However, perhaps Pashinyan has no choice.

    Secondly, what can Yerevan count on anyway? Armenian nationalists, of course, can rejoice at articles in the liberal European press. There is no doubt that they print articles full of revanchist pictures and lovingly describe how Armenian children from the age of 12 are taught with a wooden mock-up of guns to fight with the Azerbaijani army against the "Azerbaijani imperialism" which allegedly won the war for the "Nagorno-Karabakh exclave" in 2020, expelling Armenians! Why clarify which Armenians, and why explain that the "Karabakh exclave" is a separatist entity? All this may look like moral support from the West, but it has zero value for Yerevan in real policy.

    Western analysts argue that the fighting on the border with Azerbaijan in September stopped only when the US, France, and the EU pressured Baku. Or maybe we should have remembered that the root cause of the clashes was Yerevan's unwillingness to give up the lands seized on the wave of nationalist expansionism in the 1990s and make peace with its neighbors, drawing a line under its separatist projects.

    Representatives of the Armenian establishment, of course, speak about something else - a new war in the South Caucasus: "It will be not only our problem but also a European one. That's why we, as well as Ukraine, need help from the West." To be more exact - heavy weaponry, and, they say, "there are already encouraging negotiations" on this point. Following such illusions, it is quite logical that some revanchists may drag out the negotiations.

    But this discussion should begin with the simple question of who will pay for new armaments for the Armenian army. Armenia has no money for heavy armaments. How about the West? But is its interest in Armenia so high? Even the pro-Western Armenian experts admit this. Speaking about the US, the main hope of all post-Soviet liberals and nationalists, the American expert Suren Sargsyan admits: "There is no substantial agenda in the Armenian-American relations. The recent intensification of contacts between Yerevan and Washington is aimed not at enriching the bilateral agenda but rather at advancing US interests in the region".

    That is why the Armenian establishment is trying to fit into the new global picture, talking about its role in the current world confrontation. They say, "Azerbaijan has gas, and therefore the EU is establishing relations with it. And we sit on the sidelines of the crisis in the field of energy policy." Entire conspiracy theories are being created. Stepan Safaryan, head of the Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs, explains: "The Second Karabakh war was a kind of Putin's blueprint in preparation for the Ukrainian war. He tracked whether the West would remain silent when the attack took place on European soil." In Safaryan's opinion, Russia calculated everything in advance, first established itself as a kind of regulating force in the Caucasus, and now seeks trade dominance.

    Armenian officials aren't hiding the fact that Yerevan expects to join the West's global scenario. On November 17, Prime Minister Pashinyan and Armenian Defence Minister Suren Papikyan attended the inauguration of the Armenian Army Peacekeeping Brigade Training Centre, rebuilt at American expense. The ceremony was attended by the Director for Strategy, Planning, and Policy at US European Command Daniel Lasika, who announced the expansion of cooperation to other units of the Armenian Armed Forces. On October 31, during the meeting with Erin Elizabeth McKee, USAID Bureau Chief for Europe and Eurasia, Armenian Parliament Speaker Alain Simonyan announced that he is interested in "a deeper involvement of the US in the issues of security and economic development of the Republic".

    Representatives of the Karabakh separatists are particularly active in advocating a geopolitical reorientation. For example, Armine Martirosyan recently voiced the opinion in an analytical article that "remaining with Russia is a greater risk for Armenia than an alliance with the US". A former prominent member of the separatist leadership Hrachya Arzumanyan insists that if Yerevan credibly changes its course and declares its "withdrawal from the Russian Federation security system", the country will receive political and military support from France and the United States. According to Arzumanyan, the Armenian society is already ready to make a final choice, leaving "the ruling forces to announce it." Western journalists agree: "If it were up to them, many people in Armenia would not allow the summit of the Russian-led CSTO defence alliance to be held in the Armenian capital." True, according to the Armenian police, no more than 150 people showed up at the recent rally against the CSTO in Yerevan.

    Azerbaijan instead of Switzerland

    It makes sense to compare these attempts of Yerevan to change its orientation with the much more stable multi-vector course of Baku, which does not rush from side to side, scandalizing old allies and inviting new ones. For example, while maintaining an even relationship with Russia, Azerbaijan simultaneously held "NATO Days" all last week. A NATO delegation headed by Rear Admiral Gunnstein Brusdal, Deputy Chief of the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Forces in Europe, participated. During official meetings, they discussed "directions of joint activity on counteraction to existing and possible threats". Indeed, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry maintains regular contacts with NATO, the military undergoes advanced training courses, participates in peacekeeping operations and some NATO exercises, and many officers are trained in Türkiye, a member of the alliance. The same applies to Azerbaijan's relations with the countries of the "collective West" in non-military spheres - they are steadily developing.

    Azerbaijan is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement but maintains relations with all global players. At one time there were two types of neutrality - negative and positive. In the first case, countries refused contact with all military-political blocs or antagonists, and in the latter case, they tried to strike a balance and maintain contact with them all. Azerbaijan is now following this path.

    Switzerland - which has remained aloof from all world strife for two centuries - followed the same path for a very long time. In fact, it owes its prosperity to it. Recently, Switzerland has actually abandoned its neutrality, complying with the sanctions of other powers and blocs against third countries. So Azerbaijan may become a new model of such foreign policy in the future.

    Armenia, on the other hand, continues to suffer from the ideological bias of its establishment, which continues to lead the country into a deadlock of regional isolation and war. It is the ideological orientation towards expansionist nationalism and the construction of a future at the expense of relations with some distant ally (the West and/or Russia) to the detriment of relations with neighbors that continues to destroy this country.



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