Russia’s position in the region and relations with Armenia
Russia has been the main actor in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations for many years, but, as Armenian analysts believe, “in no way a guarantor of stability and security in the region”. Until recently, people had a positive attitude towards the presence of Armenia’s strategic ally in the region. But now trust in Russia has fallen to a critical point.
One can often hear the opinion that Russia’s position is determined by its own interests, which coincide with those of Baku, despite its allied obligations to Yerevan. Politicians accuse the Russian Federation that cooperation with Turkey and Azerbaijan is more important for it than the fulfillment of its obligations towards its ally. Armenian-Russian relations in this regard are badly shaken.
Political analyst Gurgen Simonyan comments on Russia’s changing strategy in the region and Moscow’s priorities, what its aggression against Ukraine has led to, and what could happen to Armenia if it does not give up Russian influence.
Gurgen Simonyan, political scientist
Armenia’s strategic enemy
“Russia is unequivocally a hostile country towards Armenia. It has enlisted itself in the list of countries hostile to us since 2010. At that time, a Russian government delegation headed by Dmitry Medvedev traveled to Azerbaijan. During the visit, agreements on Russian-Azerbaijani relations were signed. Moscow and Baku actually became strategic partners in spite of Russia’s strategic alliance with Armenia.
Russia sold offensive weapons worth more than 4 billion dollars to Azerbaijan. And thus became the top arms partner for Azerbaijan. Turkey is in third place, behind Belarus. Israel is in fourth place. Moreover, the gap between the first and second place is huge. The entire army of Azerbaijan was equipped with Russian weapons.
With the introduction of the Madrid principles and then the Kazan document on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Armenian positions in the negotiation process were devalued by Russia.
The interests of Azerbaijan and Russia coincide, they have a common strategy. The concept of Dugin’s Russia is developed in the context of Russian-Turkish alliance. Even to the point that the press secretary of the Russian president Dmitry Peskov is a Turkologist. The entire presidential apparatus in the Russian Federation consists of Turkologists”.
Alexander Dugin is a political scientist and philosopher whose views are labeled fascist by critics. He himself does not agree with this assessment. Dugin’s political activity is aimed at creating a Eurasian superpower through the integration of Russia with the former Soviet republics into a new Eurasian Union (EAU). Dugin has long called for the annexation of Ukraine.
Loss of a decisive role in the region
“The region was considered a zone of influence of Russia, and it was Russia that decided all issues here. But the situation changed with the military aggression against Ukraine, when the world challenged all former zones of influence of Russia. This applies to the territories south of the Caucasus Range, as well as Central Asia, Europe, etc.
But before the aggression against Ukraine, Russia dictated its will. In particular, in the negotiation process on the Karabakh settlement. And it was Russia that imposed a capitulation withdrawal on Armenia.
If we analyze the chronology of events, we will see that Moscow changed its strategy in the region since 2010 and essentially became an enemy country to Armenia.
In 2016, the so-called April War started. Russia stopped it and started pressuring former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan for the Armenian side to surrender 7 districts around Nagorno-Karabakh. They came under Armenian control during the first Karabakh war as a security belt. And for that reason alone, they have not been returned. However, Sargsyan traveled to NKR to convince them to give them up – under pressure from Moscow.
In 2020, we have already seen Russia’s failure to fulfill its allied obligations to protect Armenia’s security. Then we saw a violation of the commitments made in 2020 [talking about the trilateral declaration on cessation of hostilities in Karabakh]. And now the Russians are no longer hiding their anti-Armenian stance in the international arena”.
Intent to stay in the region at any cost
“Russia intends to stay in the region, but it will not succeed. It does not have such resources. It is being defeated in the Ukrainian war. The war in Ukraine is not just a Ukrainian war. In this war, the world will break Russia, thanks to the opposition of Ukrainians who took the fight and did not surrender. In the end, Russia will lose its influence everywhere.
It has lost our region twice. As they say, once was an accident, the second time was a pattern. Russia has left the region twice and will leave it again, even though it does not want to. Russia does not want to leave anywhere at all. And in order not to leave the region, Russia will fight, will go to all kinds of provocations. All we have to do is to stop them and overcome difficulties. We will be able to do it, despite all the consequences of this struggle.
There may be shocks, pressures, including in the information field, on political forces, individual people fighting for Armenia’s independence.
There may be difficulties with the import of energy resources, food products, but they can be replaced. Instead of Russian wheat, we can import Ukrainian wheat. If the only land road through Upper Lars, which connects Armenia with Georgia and Russia, closes, ferry transportation can be intensified. The territory of Turkey and Iran can be used.
Air transportation may become more expensive. But this is a struggle for freedom, and nothing should be spared for its sake. Liberation from Russia’s influence will allow Armenia to preserve itself. With the loss of freedom, the country will cease to exist. It cannot be replaced by anything”.
The list of threats from Russia also includes military action
“From the security point of view, Russia can resort to terrorist acts, political assassinations are possible, attacks on our borders. The mechanisms could be different. Fortunately, we do not have common borders with Russia, so the territories of third countries are supposed to be used for full-scale attacks. The most likely candidate is Azerbaijan.
But the big question is whether Azerbaijan will want to become a springboard for such attacks after Armenians take the path of struggle? Because by becoming such a springboard, Azerbaijan will find itself on the same plane as Russia, and Aliyev will find himself on the same plane as Putin.
I doubt that Azerbaijan will go for that. And the military-strategic and geopolitical situation for Armenia’s liberation from Russia is more favorable now”.
Russia plans to cut Syunik off from Armenia
“If hostilities start in Artsakh, Azerbaijan will find a hundred reasons to attack Syunik [Armenia’s southern region] as well. Nothing will prevent Azerbaijan from claiming alleged shelling from the territory of Armenia and moving towards it.
Therefore, any provocation on the territory of NK must be stopped there, including by Armenian forces. Any aggression against Artsakh means aggression against Armenia.
Russia is holding Artsakh hostage in order to capture Armenia. Both Russia and Azerbaijan see NKR and Armenia in the same security system. And they are right to do so. For them the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh has long been resolved.
Russia does not plan to stay in NK, it intends to move its entire contingent to Syunik. This is the Russian plan. And Syunik, as an extraterritorial black hole uncontrolled by Armenians, should serve the interests of Russia and come under the control of the FSB. Then Armenia, which has lost its strategic importance, will become an outpost for Russia.
This process must be stopped in Artsakh so that Armenia does not lose its sovereignty”.
Russia’s position in the region and relations with Armenia