Armenia navigates geopolitical waters amid CSTO membership debate
    Moscow's grip tightens

    ANALYTICS  24 June 2024 - 13:44

    Matanat Nasibova

    At the current challenging stage of Armenia-Russia relations, the issue of Armenia's continued membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) remains a key agenda item for the organization. Following each subsequent event of this body, which notably has occurred for some time without Armenian participation, questions arise on Yerevan's intentions regarding the CSTO and its broader involvement in Eurasian projects.

    The recent CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Almaty was no exception in this regard. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated during a post-event briefing that Armenia had not submitted any documents concerning potential withdrawal from the organization. Consequently, this matter was not discussed within the bloc.

    At the same time, he specified that Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan was not present at the meeting, but since no document was received from the republic, the expected consequences of such a step were also not discussed.

    CSTO Secretary General Imangali Tasmagambetov, responding to questions from journalists, somewhat optimistically noted that Armenia remains a CSTO ally and that all commitments towards Yerevan remain in force.

    "Armenia has been and continues to be our ally, all our commitments to Armenia remain in place," the secretary-general said.

    Curiously, Tasmagambetov did not ignore Armenia's refusal to finance the CSTO, noting the need to address this issue to the Armenian side.

    In early May, Armenia refused to pay the membership fee of 53.22 million rubles, which became another reason for Moscow's irritation. Moscow's displeasure over Armenia's non-payment of CSTO membership fees is quite justified, especially against the background of Yerevan's arms purchases from France. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said this on the day Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan arrived in Moscow for the EAEU summit, as well as met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Prior to it, in early June, at a meeting of the Council of the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly, Tasmagambetov demanded clarity from Yerevan on its relations with the organization. "We expect the country's political leadership to bring clarity to the prospects of its relations with the CSTO," he said, complaining that "over the past year, colleagues from Armenia have significantly reduced their participation in the organization's events."

    Note that Moscow has indeed accumulated a number of questions for Armenia, the answers to which directly depend on Yerevan's foreign policy choices. Obviously, Russia is not satisfied with the following nuances in Armenian foreign policy.

    Firstly, the fact that Armenia adheres to manipulative tactics - although it does not dare to take any drastic steps, for example, it does not withdraw from the CSTO, but it has significantly reduced contacts with Russia through its foreign policy and defence agencies.

    Secondly, Armenia demonstratively raises the degree of strategic cooperation with the United States and strengthens military cooperation with France, showing its readiness to turn to the West, but at the same time remains a participant in Eurasian integration projects, including the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Such frivolity of Armenia is clearly not to Russia's liking.

    Thirdly, maneuvering between the West and Russia, Armenia, in its typical manner, is trying to throw dust in the eyes of the international community by creating an image of an independent state capable of independent existence in international relations, which in fact does not correspond to reality. In this regard, Moscow regularly reminds Yerevan that the only "guarantor of security" for Armenia is Russia.

    In fact, unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia can preserve its existence only by being in the fairway of someone else's interests, in this case either the West or Russia.

    In fact, Armenia is interesting for the West and Russia not as an independent entity in the South Caucasus, but as a conduit of interests in the region. While Moscow needs Armenia to maintain control in the South Caucasus, the West needs it to penetrate the region and oust Russia from it.

    Therefore, even though Armenia continues to ignore CSTO events (although it is formally in the organization), Moscow is not formally abandoning allied relations with Yerevan.

    "We hope that in any case we will stick to partnership and allied relations," Kremlin spokesman Peskov assured last week, adding that "Russia will continue to work with Armenia to clarify its position on the CSTO."

    Thus, the conclusion is that Moscow has Yerevan in its clutches and is not likely to watch silently as the West "takes Armenia out from under its nose." The Russian Foreign Ministry regularly hints that Armenia risks repeating the fate of Ukraine if it retreats to the West. In fact, Moscow has already deployed diplomatic tools of pressure on Yerevan, as indicated, in particular, by recent statements by Zakharova and Galuzin.

    At the same time, another nuance should be underlined. Despite Pashinyan's categorical statements that Armenia will leave the CSTO, which he voiced relatively recently, as well as the substantial support of the Armenian population for his pro-Western policy, it is obvious that the Armenian leadership still fears that at some point Armenia will become a bargaining chip in the West's games.

    On the eve of the presidential elections in the United States, which will be held this fall, Armenia may be promised almost "golden mountains" for the sake of getting the votes of the Armenian diaspora. But the West is far away, and Russia is close by. And Moscow's pressure suggests that Yerevan will have to make a difficult choice, for which the "country of stones" is clearly not ready yet.


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