Armenian Revolution: Russian influence to remain amid power shift

Maksym Rozumniy
17:50, 24 April 2018
World
587
Opinion
The resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan is unlikely to lead to any substantial change the country's foreign policy or its positioning in both regional and global arenas. There are still many objective preconditions for Armenia's dependence on Russia.

First of all, this is due to a certain isolation of Armenia - it is surrounded by unfriendly states. First of all, it's about Turkey and Azerbaijan. This is also due to the complex and conflict-filled situation in the Caucasus. Among other factors, there's Armenia's significant orientation toward post-Soviet values, which is evidenced by the latest polls showing that the Armenians remain nostalgic for their Soviet past and feel sorry for the Union's collapse, even more so than the Russians are.

Therefore, we should not expect that the new leadership will decisively and drastically change the country's geopolitical orientation.

Protests and mobilization of civil society in Armenia erupted against a clearly negative trend, that is, a seemingly endless sticking to power by Serzh Sargsyan and officials affiliated with him. Meanwhile, the positive part of the agenda is yet to be cleared up. Obviously, it will be of a compromise nature. In particular, this is indicated by a voluntary resignation of a freshly appointed Prime Minister (also ex-president) Sargsyan. Apparently some agreements have been reached, guaranteeing his status and security, or even a certain continuity of power.

We should not expect that the new leadership will decisively and drastically change the country's geopolitical orientation

Therefore, the objective circumstances for Russia to preserve its influence over the country, the unclear nature of the new Armenian government, and the need for this Cabinet to seek compromise with their own people, their moods and expectations, as well as with the previous government - all of this leads us to suggest that the new authorities will make no sharp movements and transform the country at a light pace. This is especially true of Armenia's foreign policy course.

But, obviously, changes in Armenia will start from this very moment. An active search will start for alternative political models and alternative development vectors. Foreign-political contacts will intensify, although they never actually shrank under the previous government. That is, Armenia had quite active diplomatic and other types of contacts with the western world and never severed them. Besides, the West will now start perceiving Armenia from a different perspective. So it is quite possible that Armenia's foreign political vector, if it doesn't start to change dramatically, will certainly be adjusted. Thus, we will be seeing the country's withdrawal from being directly tied to Russian politics.

Moreover, the external factor that has a significant impact on this is the change in Turkey's positioning in the region and in its global policies. When Turkey is a U.S. ally and an active NATO Ally, it's one thing, but when Turkey sides with Russia and Iran, the United States, as a leading geopolitical player, is beginning to seek new allies and new coalitions. So, Armenia can take advantage of the trend and limit its dependence on Russia. Moreover, the Armenian diaspora is very powerful in the U.S.

But first, Armenia will have to overcome its own political crisis, then find some more or less viable economic model, and only then think about geopolitical alliances and a geopolitical game

Such are the starting conditions. But first, Armenia will have to overcome its own political crisis, then find some more or less viable economic model, and only then think about geopolitical alliances and a geopolitical game. It should be noted that along this path, pro-Russian forces in Armenia will keep trying to regain ground from time to time.

There is a difficult situation in the Caucasus: one thing is what we hear the parties declare and how we see them from our perspective and a completely different thing is what's going on there in terms of all sorts of local intertwining and political dependencies. Therefore, political rhetoric may vary. Armenia is a country with a rather mature political and national elite generally. Therefore, I don't believe there will be a purely ideological twist in either direction. But the internal struggle will be quite serious. Various groups and elites could exploit different slogans, while the "Russian card" will remain very active. After all, keeping a focus on Russia remains one of the obviously winning landmarks for a significant part of the country's population. But I think that in the end, Armenia will choose a vector that will be directed toward getting rid of any dependence on Russia.

Most likely, Sargsyan's resignation came as a surprise for Russia. And now, Moscow has taken a wait-and-see position precisely because the situation is being read so poorly understood, and little can be predicted. At the same time, Russia is not seeing a real threat to its influence on Armenia. They are not seeing any prerequisites for Armenia to become much stronger and more independent as a result of the latest events. Rather, on the contrary, Moscow expects that the internal crisis will weaken Armenia, and thus there will be room for control over the country. Therefore, Russia will keep waiting patiently and remain restrained in its response.

Maksym Rozumny is a PhD in Political Sciences, Head of the Center for Russia Research at the National Institute for Strategic Studies

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