Is this a final break between Armenia and Russia, or is it a Ukrainian scenario in the South Caucasus?

14.06.24 12:35

The situation in the Republic of Armenia is becoming increasingly tense. The "Tavush for Homeland" movement, led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan and backed by Echmiadzin, and pro-Russian forces are escalating the situation by organising street clashes in Yerevan, demanding the resignation of the authorities.  It seems highly probable that these actions are intended to pave the way for an "uprising of workers and peasants," which the Russian Federation may respond to and carry out a forceful change of power. Despite the likelihood of bloodshed, the organisers remain undeterred.


On June 12, 2024, clashes broke out outside the parliament building, with police using flash-bang grenades to disperse protesters. As a consequence, 101 individuals sustained injuries, including 18 police officers. The probability of a violent coup d'état or civil war in Armenia, which had been considered unlikely, is increasing significantly.


Bagrat Galstanyan announced the next rallies for June 17, urging his supporters to gather on Baghramyan Avenue. Should this not occur on that day, new provocations and clashes are likely to occur in Yerevan soon. The regressive forces do not intend to retreat and are determined to overthrow the pro-Western government of Nikol Pashinyan, regardless of the cost. The underlying motivations of these forces are also becoming increasingly evident.


Two trends in the South Caucasus are evident: relations between Russia and Georgia are improving, while relations between Russia and Armenia, which are "allied," are becoming openly hostile. This poses a significant threat to the complete collapse of all Armenian plans for a "maritime Armenia" in the occupied Georgian Abkhazia and Krasnodar regions of the Russian Federation and its extensive "colony" in the form of the rest of the resource-rich territory of the Russian Federation.


It is evident that Armenian nationalists and their "deep organisations" are aware that should Armenia become an adversary of Russia, and even more so should it become a "new hostile Ukraine" for the RF, all Armenians on the territory of the RF will be treated as a "fifth column.". As is the case with Ukrainian citizens, Armenian citizens with passports from the Republic of Armenia will be subjected to a lengthy and humiliating "filtration" process at Sheremetyevo airport to gain access to the territory of the Russian Federation. This will be the first of many challenges that Armenians in the Russian Federation will face.


Subsequently, the various schemes employed by Armenian businessmen to exploit the resources and population of the Russian Federation will cease to be effective. Armenian business in Russia is already being subjected to rigorous scrutiny. This was not the case previously, when Armenian nationals were presumed to be trustworthy and beyond suspicion, allowing the Armenian diaspora and its business and criminal elite to amass considerable wealth. The Armenian businessmen are now confronted with the prospect of "unkulakization."


It is therefore evident that the prospect of a new wave of Armenians moving to Abkhazia and settling there is highly unlikely. Furthermore, should relations between Russia and Georgia continue to improve, there is a possibility that Russia may return Georgian refugees to Abkhazia. It is unclear what benefit there is in protecting Armenians who are initially hostile to Russia and their "rights" to alien, "trophy" real estate there when it is possible to gain a loyal Orthodox population on the Black Sea coast, which, unlike Armenian nationalists, will go for reconciliation with Russia.


Both representatives of the Armenian lobby in Russia and Echmiadzin are beginning to realise such prospects. As a result, they are beginning to act.


Their objective is to alter the balance of power in Yerevan to maintain Armenia within the "orbit" of the Russian Federation and prevent it from becoming an adversary of Russia. If necessary, this may be achieved through a coup d'état or military invasion. Their actions are not driven by a genuine affection for Russia but rather by an awareness that the prospect of success in Russia and the occupied territories (Abkhazia) will be severely compromised if Armenia becomes an adversary of Russia.


Given that Russia has no direct border with Armenia and the forces of the 102 base in Gyumri and border guards are insufficient for the "military return" of Armenia into Russia's orbit, there will be a question of a "military corridor" from Russia to Armenia, which can only pass through Georgia. Consequently, Russia can organise a "second front" for itself in the South Caucasus. Consequently, the aspirations of Echmiadzin and Revashists to maintain Armenia within the Russian geopolitical sphere may precipitate a significant conflict in the South Caucasus region, which represents a grave threat to Georgia's sovereignty.


At the same time, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is intensifying his efforts to distance his country from Russia and facilitate its transition into the Western camp.  Armenia has already ceased its participation in the CSTO and has declined to participate in its financing. On June 12, 2024, during the final discussion of the budget implementation in the parliament, Nikol Pashinyan explicitly stated that the next logical step in the context of the situation with the CSTO will be Armenia's withdrawal from the bloc: "The next logical step will be Armenia's withdrawal from the CSTO. When will it be?" Pashinyan indicated that the decision regarding the timing of Armenia's withdrawal from the CSTO would be made at a later date. He stated, "We will decide whether it will be in a month, a year, or three years."


Pashinyan continues to assert that the CSTO has breached its contractual obligations to Armenia. He claims that the organisation has failed to fulfil its obligations in the context of acts of aggression, citing the incidents on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in 2021 and 2022. These incidents, which occurred due to Armenia's fault, were a result of the organisation's refusal to fulfil its contractual obligations to Armenia. In other words, Russia is accused of a lack of willingness to defend Armenia, which has taken anti-Russian actions even before Nikol Pashinyan came to power and, after that, carried out one anti-Russian demarche after another.


Nikol Pashinyan also made hostile statements towards Belarus, which is allied with Russia. In particular, he stated that he would not visit Belarus as long as Lukashenko was president there and that Yerevan might change its attitude toward the CSTO if Lukashenko apologized to Armenia or Belarus withdrew from the organization. Thus, the current authorities of Armenia have made it clear that they are not going to remain in the CSTO and will deliberately destroy the organization. Such statements and behaviour on the part of a formal "ally" can only provoke both Russia and its supporters in Yerevan and Echmiadzin to new provocations to provide a pretext for an early "forceful solution" of the issue with Armenia. On the other hand, one can observe that Nikol Pashinyan intends to declare an "internal war" against Echmiadzin. He is already openly attributing responsibility for the Karabakh conflict and its failure to Etchmiadzin, using the term "Miatsum".


Pashinyan asserted that Karabakh should be part of Azerbaijan, but that in Armenian reality, this was misunderstood due to the Armenian public's lack of access to the Lisbon document since 1996. He further accused Echmiadzin of deliberately seducing the people with the idea of "miazum,"  which has no prospects for realisation. Pashinyan asserts that the Armenian "clerical-feudal elite" has deceived and misled the Armenian people about Karabakh to consolidate and retain power. He further alleges that Echmiadzin has allied with the Karabakh clan and brought the latter to power. This indicates that the current authorities may resort to repression not only against the Karabakh clan but also against the most odious representatives of Echmiadzin, despite their "spiritual" status. Nikol Pashinyan is declaring war on Echmiadzin. It seems likely that the Armenian Apostolic Church and its supporters, including Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan and the Tavush in the Name of Motherland movement, will seek to take control of the streets and centre of Yerevan. This could result in violence and unrest, with the intention of provoking external intervention from Russia and the outbreak of a regional conflict.


Varden Tsulukidze

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