Armenia's anti-Russian turnaround

After Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan criticized Yerevan’s dependence on Moscow for security, the Kremlin publicly denounced his remarks. However, Russia is aware of Armenia’s growing distance from its sphere of influence, primarily due to the “three-day victorious special operation” against Ukraine. The United States is positioning itself to step in and fill this void. At the same time, in the background, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his coalition partner Ilham Aliyev are engaged in their maneuvers behind the scenes.

Russia’s protective umbrella in the South Caucasus is crumbling. Sochi, Russia. October 31, 2022.Photo Sergey Bobylev/Pool/SPUTNIK/Reuters/ Forum

Russia is currently experiencing a strategic mistake at its core

During an interview with La Repubblica, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Russia of not providing adequate security for Armenia against what he perceives as aggression from Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. Despite having a military base and defense treaty with Armenia, Pashinyan suggested that Russia may not view his country as pro-Russian enough. He also voiced concerns about Russia’s potential withdrawal from the South Caucasus.

– This example illustrates that reliance on one partner in security affairs is a strategic mistake, said Nikol Pashinyan 

The Armenian Prime Minister acknowledged that Yerevan is attempting to broaden its security partnerships and mentioned efforts to strengthen ties with the European Union, United States, and other regional nations.

The statement made by Pashinyan has not come as a huge surprise. The Second Karabakh War ended through the tripartite agreement, where Russia was the peacemaker and ensured the ceasefire. Russian troops were sent to the disputed territory as a part of this deal. However, Russia still needs to fulfill its role as Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, a strong regional power, is still putting pressure on Armenia by deploying troops at the Nagorno-Karabakh border. Armenian media recently reported concerns about a potential third war with Azerbaijan. The self-proclaimed republic’s authorities have warned about Azerbaijan’s possible full-scale invasion.

The risk of a new conflict in the South Caucasus remains in its early stages, with informational and psychological pressures playing a pivotal role. The parties constantly blame each other, a recurring feature in military-Azerbaijani relations.

The United States is responding to increased tension by organizing the “EAGLE PARTNER 2023” exercise in Armenia from September 11-20. The goal of the exercise, announced by the Armenian Ministry of Defense, is to improve the coordination of units participating in international peacekeeping missions. This move by Washington aims to balance the situation, which favors the Baku-Ankara coalition due to Russia’s inability to fulfill its promises to Yerevan.

The sound of frantic stuttering can be heard in Moscow

Due to the inability to secure a political solution, the Kremlin has resorted to using aggressive rhetoric in the information space, which has become commonplace during the year-and-a-half conflict in Ukraine.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the announcement of military exercises arouses fear, especially in the current situation, and that Moscow will analyze it thoroughly. Peskov tried to explain why Russia cannot secure safety guarantees for Yerevan. He noted that since the signing of the tripartite treaty between Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia in 2020, new events have occurred and affected the region.

– However, Russia’s activity in the region will not be limited. Russia still plays a key role as a security guarantor, he voiced.

Vague and ambiguous statements from the Kremlin suggest a breakdown in Russian policy towards the South Caucasus, potentially allowing for Western expansion in the region.

An economist from Austria named Günther Fehlinger, who leads the European Committee for NATO Enlargement, recently declared his interest in Nikol Pashinyan’s decision to join the North Atlantic Alliance. In reaction, Armenia’s Deputy Minister of Affairs, Vahan Kostanyan, said that his country has collaborated with NATO in various ways and is willing to maintain the partnership. Kostanyan believes Fehlinger’s opinions hold little significance as he only participates in the discussion. While this dialogue has no immediate consequences, it suggests Armenia is moving away from its pro-Russian security stance.

The role of Turkey 

On September 4, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan traveled to Sochi to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Despite generally positive media coverage of their meeting, the two leaders could not reach a consensus on any agenda items during their talks. The fate of the grain agreement that Russia did not extend in July remains uncertain. Additionally, Erdogan stated that there is currently no sign of an end to the war in Ukraine.

Turkey has been striving to act as a mediator between the West and Russia to bring the conflicting parties to the negotiation table. However, this perspective must also appear on the Ukrainian front. In order to reach a successful negotiation, both sides must come to a mutually satisfying agreement. Additionally, Ankara acknowledges that exerting indirect pressure on Russia through the soft underbelly of the Orthodox power – the South Caucasus – is a viable option.

It’s nothing new that Turkey is encouraging Azerbaijan’s military actions. The current tensions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh have a dual purpose. The actions taken by Ilham Aliyev aim to regain territorial integrity while also putting pressure on Russia. Removing Armenia from Russia’s sphere of influence could benefit Ankara by weakening Armenia and allowing for broader dialogue options.

The South Caucasus is seeing a decline in the protection it once received from Russia. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is causing limitations in the Kremlin’s ability to make strategic decisions, resulting in a decreased influence in the region. It is yet another setback for the Kremlin, as the war was initially initiated to regain power lost during the significant geopolitical disaster of the 20th century.

Leon Pińczak/

Translated by PEV