EU risks relations with Baku by flirting with Yerevan
    Between Scylla and Charybdis

    INTERVIEWS  28 February 2023 - 11:10

    Vadim Mansurov

    Prior to the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Azerbaijan, Moscow reacted more and more negatively to Yerevan's frameups and "surprises", especially to today's main irritant - the European Union's mission in Armenia. The Russian Federation clearly does not intend to turn a blind eye to what is happening and makes this clear in every message from the Kremlin. What is also clear in this regard is the blatant duplicity of EU policy, which cynically tries to flirt with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

    In this regard, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova's response to a media question about the situation in Armenia at a briefing on February 20 was absolutely substantive and clear. The Russian diplomat stressed that the EU representatives were dodging while speaking about the civil character of the mission. According to her, this mission is deployed within the framework of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy, therefore it should be treated accordingly.

    "Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have recorded the desire of the European Union and the West to gain a foothold in allied Armenia by any means," Zakharova added.

    Later, at a briefing on February 22, she echoed Moscow's view: "When they pass off a mission as exclusively civilian, they are telling an incomplete truth or untruth."

    The EU mission is for two years and includes police officers from Germany and gendarmes from France. These facts raise questions among many experts and analysts. This is perhaps the first time that the Russian ambassador to Armenia, Sergey Kopyrkin, who was previously very loyal to Yerevan, has criticised the political course of Armenia and its "friends". In an interview with 24news, he described the French president's statements on Russia's "destructive role" in the South Caucasus and its "neo-colonial policy" as opportunistic.

    According to Kopyrkin, "it is surprising that this is said by the president of the country co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group, which dealt with the settlement of the Karabakh conflict".

    "The French leadership must have a pretty good understanding of the goals and mechanics of the whole settlement process and how Russia works in this area. To me, these statements have some conjectural character. They are not related to what Russia is doing but to the confrontation imposed on Russia by the West," the ambassador said.

    In his opinion, the actions of the West, including sending the EU mission, and the rhetoric and accusations against Russia, are fully in line with the logic of turning the region into an arena of geopolitical confrontation.

    However, as Russian political analyst Stanislav Mitrakhovich, a leading expert at the National Energy Security Fund and the Financial University under the Russian government, noted in a conversation with Caliber.Az, this is a clear example of when the positions of Azerbaijan and Russia practically coincide.

    "Azerbaijan also expressed its negative opinion on the fact of the EU mission's arrival in Armenia and Russia. It is clear where Azerbaijan's position comes from, but Russia's position also has an implication. Moscow perceives the activities of the EU as an attempt to minimise Russian influence anywhere, including in the South Caucasus. I would say that one of the aims of this mission is to undermine Armenia's participation in the CSTO and its ties with Russia or, as Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova correctly noted, 'is a continuation of the EU's common security and defence policy', which includes a power component. Therefore, pretending that it is a purely civilian mission will not work," the Russian political analyst said.

    Here, according to him, everything is connected because the EU security policy is directly linked to the military strategic goals and objectives. Armenia is also a part of the EAEU, and therefore the emphasis is also made to tear it away from Russia economically. This may even include withdrawal from the organisation.

    "But I think that the EU while trying to be a partner of Azerbaijan, especially in the energy sector, finds itself in a situation where it can not play the double game at the same time. Because it is clear that Azerbaijan does not like such actions of the EU. They look very clumsy in this sense. Especially taking into account the fact that EU states like France started voicing quite negative opinions about Baku. I mean the calls of the French Parliament for sanctions against Azerbaijan and other such theses that started to sound in the European public sphere. It all looks like an attempt to flirt with Armenia, risking its relations with Azerbaijan. I believe that this is a difficult situation for Europe - an attempt to pass between Scylla and Charybdis," the political scientist believes.

    Such actions, Mitrakhovich believes, only emphasizes the selective instrumentality of the European policy, when words speak of the importance of values orientation, but in reality, the EU manipulates these values in each specific situation, including the current one.

    "Let's see how this mission works, maybe it will manage to persuade Pashinyan to initiate the procedure of withdrawal from the CSTO and the EAEU. But will the EU be able to provide Armenia with its economic and military needs? I don't think so. And will the EU really be ready to send its peacekeepers to any territories in the Azerbaijan-Armenia border zone, where hostilities may resume? Of course not, definitely not. The economic integration of Armenia into the EU is also hard to believe - the EU is not yet able to fully integrate even Moldova. It is therefore extremely risky for Armenia to hope for such a format of relations with the European Union instead of ties with Russia, trying to completely replace one with the other. But it is risky for the EU. And the positions of Baku and Moscow are converging on this matter, as surprising as it may seem to some experts and observers," the Russian analyst summed up.


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