Armenian Prime Minister: We can’t rely on Russia to protect us anymore – Politico

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YEREVAN – Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in an interview with Politico magazine that Russia’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine means Armenia can no longer rely on Moscow as a guarantor of its security, even as fears grow of a return to open conflict with Azerbaijan.

Pashinyan’s unusually sharp criticism of Russia’s inability to act as a policeman in the Caucasus only exacerbates the sense that the Kremlin is losing influence — and its once-vaunted superpower status — across the former Soviet republics that Moscow once saw as its launching pad.

The disappointment in Yerevan could mark a major turning point for the country of 2.8 million, which delegated much control of its railways, energy sector and even its borders to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. When Armenia fought a 44-day war against stronger Turkish-backed Azerbaijani forces in 2020 — a conflict that killed thousands on each side — Russian peacekeepers were deployed to maintain the ceasefire.

Now that Russia is fully committed to the fight in Ukraine, concerns are growing in Yerevan about whether President Vladimir Putin’s soldiers are willing or able to keep the peace in the Caucasus. This is a pressing concern because there is a high risk that Armenia will resume fighting with Azerbaijan over the breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“As a result of the events in Ukraine, Russia’s capabilities have changed,” Pashinyan said, acknowledging that Moscow seeks to avoid antagonizing Azerbaijan and its close ally Turkey, both of which have increased in strategic importance for the Kremlin from the beginning. From the Ukraine war last year.

“Our strategy should be to try to minimize our dependence on others in this situation,” he added. “We want to have an independent state, a sovereign state, but we must have ways to avoid ending up in the middle of clashes between West and East, North and South… There can be no situation in which Armenia becomes a ‘proxy.’ This is not Permissible.”

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He said calling on the greatest protector – Russia in Armenia’s case – every time conflict erupts is simply unsustainable.

“The model whereby we have problems with our neighbors and have to call on others to protect us — no matter who those others are — is a very weak model.”

Tensions escalate

Within Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders but controlled by its ethnic Armenian population, the Nagorno-Karabakh region has been the scene of two wars since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with Russia intervening in both cases to ensure its security.

Now, Moscow’s ability to ensure the status quo appears to be evaporating.

“The security situation has changed sharply with violations along the contact line and the invasion of the Nagorno-Karabakh region,” Pashinyan said, accusing Azerbaijan of creating a “humanitarian crisis” by closing the Lachin Corridor – the only highway connecting the region with Armenia, which cost Moscow’s forces Guarded under the terms of the 2020 ceasefire.

Aid organizations say deliveries of food and fuel have been banned for months, with warnings of impending famine in the region. The Azerbaijani government called on Karabakh Armenians to lay down their arms, receive supplies from within Azerbaijan, and accept rule as part of the country.

Concerns are growing in Yerevan over whether President Vladimir Putin’s soldiers are willing or able to keep peace in the Caucasus | Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images

Pashinyan complained that this represented a clear signal that Russia was no longer exerting its weight.

He added: “All of this… was supposed to be within the scope of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping forces, and to the extent that these issues exist, the Russian peacekeeping forces have failed in their mission.”

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However, he added a caveat: “Although, I cannot say that if Russian peacekeepers had not been present in Nagorno-Karabakh, the situation would now be better.”

The frustration caused by the failure of Russian forces to help forms part of a pattern of deteriorating relations between Moscow and Yerevan.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said last week that it had summoned the Armenian ambassador for a “difficult” conversation over what it described as a series of unfriendly steps, referring to Yerevan’s decision to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine for the first time, along with Pashinyan’s wife. Anna Hakobyan makes an official visit to Kiev. Armenia also withdrew its representative from the Moscow-led CSTO military alliance of which it is a member, having previously accused the bloc of failing to act on its requests for support after Azerbaijan launched a cross-border attack last September.

Instead, it invited American soldiers to conduct joint exercises in the country as part of the exercises exercises It is codenamed Eagle Partner 2023. Russia objected to the decision.

Anthony Brenton, former British ambassador to Russia, said earlier Tuesday Reuters Moscow’s “modest performance in Ukraine” forced countries like Armenia that previously relied on it for support to begin “looking for other reliable protectors.”

In a speech delivered on the same day by Putin claimed Russia cannot do much in Nagorno-Karabakh after Armenia recognized it as Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory earlier this year. Pashinyan confirmed this position in the interview with Politico, but said it was now up to the international community to ensure that “ethnic cleansing” did not occur in the region.

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Neighborhood relations

Azerbaijani and Armenian forces have been placed on high alert along their shared border amid clashes in recent days, with the European Union’s civilian monitoring mission. Reports preparation “Rising tensions and exchanges of fire” along the border. According to Pashinyan, “an escalation scenario cannot be ruled out,” but he said that “the mobilized forces must return to their bases,” and insisted that “Armenia is ready to do so.”

The Prime Minister reiterated his support for talks brokered by the United States, the European Union and Russia, in an attempt to reach a peace agreement after decades of conflict with Azerbaijan. An agreement reached following the war that followed the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led to Moscow’s soldiers taking charge of patrolling Armenia’s borders.

“If we want to have a permanent and eternal state, we must first take very serious steps and invest very serious efforts to settle our relations with our neighbors,” he said.

At the same time as he acknowledged the need to break dependence on long-time ally Russia, Pashinyan acknowledged that there was a long way to go before Western countries were seen as providing the full support Armenia needed.

“Our partners, the European Union and the United States also support us when it comes to the agenda of democratic reforms,” he said, before adding: “I cannot say that the support and assistance we receive is sufficient to serve our goals and objectives.” “Our agenda.”

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