Armenia: time to turn its back on Russia?
Armenia plans to hold a joint military exercise with the US in September — against the backdrop of the crisis over the blockaded Nagorno-Karabakh region — but has cancelled joint drills with the CSTO military alliance comprising Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan recently described Armenia’s dependence on Russia in security matters as a mistake. Commentators agree.
The Kremlin is jittery
In a commentary piece in Echo, political scientist Hrant Mikaelian wonders how Moscow will react:
“Scheduling these drills is a step towards building security relations with the US. In view of the political competition over the South Caucasus region, the Armenian leadership has made up its mind and is pursuing the corresponding policy. Armenia is not the first CSTO country to conduct joint exercises with the US on its territory. A year ago, such joint exercises also took place in Tajikistan. Back then Moscow’s reaction was mild. But with regard to Armenia, we can already see that the reactions are far more critical. ... The question now is what will come out of this.”
Moscow losing control over its own backyard
The Kremlin is leaving Yerevan in the lurch, says Der Standard:
“For months, [Azerbaijan] has been blocking the Lachin Corridor, the only connection between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh with its Armenian-majority population. The humanitarian situation there is now catastrophic. According to the current agreement, Russian troops are supposed to ensure free passage. But Moscow’s interests currently lie elsewhere. Partly as a result of the Western sanctions, Azerbaijan and its trade routes are not unimportant for Russia. And nor does Russia want to alienate Turkey, Azerbaijan’s protecting power. However, this means that Russia is seeing Armenia turn away from it in disillusionment. Its control over its own backyard is dwindling.”
A peace treaty is the only solution
Radio Kommersant FM says it can understand why Yerevan is looking for new allies:
“The Republic [of Armenia] is losing Nagorno-Karabakh, and Russia is not in a position to influence this process ... Military drills, invitations to join NATO or threats from the West — which, by the way, are not forthcoming — won’t help its [Armenia’s] cause. The only way out is a peace treaty with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Nikol Pashinyan is being forced to admit this. But the bitter consequences of this de facto military defeat can be mitigated by blaming Russia for everything.... This doesn’t mean that the Armenian prime minister has no cause to be dissatisfied. After all, what is the point of having an ally if it cannot help you at a difficult moment?”