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Armenia stuck between ‘strategic ally’ and ‘another Ukraine’

Armenia’s recent attempts to diversify its security partnerships have left it with increased narratives of the country’s “Ukrainisation”.

In recent months, Armenia’s volatile security situation has motivated it to diversify its traditionally Russia-dependent security alignments and seek new cooperation with India and EU member states France, Greece, and Cyprus.

This new turn in foreign policy has made the country a target of Russian propaganda, and the official Kremlin has repeatedly accused Armenia of becoming yet another “unfriendly regime.”

Western backing over CSTO

Armenia, a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) since 1992, has started to question its security alliances following the 2020 44-day Armenia-Azerbaijan war.

The CSTO, which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Belarus, is, theoretically, supposed to come to the aid of a member state when it is attacked per Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty.

However, the organisation has repeatedly shown reluctance to support Armenia in its renewed conflict with Azerbaijan over the past years.

It has instead taken the role of a neutral observer, leading to open criticism of CSTO by Armenian officials.

According to Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the CSTO, contrary to its obligations, has not adequately responded to threats to Armenia’s security.

As a sign of protest, Armenian officials have systematically boycotted CSTO high-level meetings in recent months as a response to the bloc’s inaction in the face of Azerbaijani attacks while nominally continuing its membership in the organisation.

Armenia’s boycott of CSTO was followed by regular statements by Russian officials and state-controlled media, in which the country’s leadership has been portrayed as a “puppet” of the collective “West,” while the boycott of CSTO meetings was named an “an initiative” of the collective “West,” which has been trying to distance Armenia from Russia.

In November, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed the West for Armenia’s refusal to attend the CSTO summit.

“The West is obviously behind it [Armenia’s decision to skip the summit]. The West, whose plans in Ukraine have failed, is now gripping Armenia, trying to tear it away from Russia,” she told reporters.

Military losses

In the aftermath of the September 2023 attack on Nagorno-Karabakh and the forced departure of its Armenian population from their homes, Kremlin and Russian State-affiliated media launched a renewed campaign against the Armenian government.

The campaign allegedly aimed to save the image of the Russian peacekeeper contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh by shifting the blame for its inaction on the Armenian government.

In this regard, Russian officials have repeatedly claimed that the government of Nikol Pashinyan bears full responsibility for Azerbaijan’s victory in Nagorno-Karabakh due to its rapprochement with the West.

The Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, moved to suggest on his Telegram channel that Armenia’s “fate” was predictable, as Pashinyan, who considered himself “a stranger” to Russia, first lost the war, but “strangely kept his position. Then, he decided to blame Russia for his useless defeat. Then, he refused part of the territory of its country. Then he decided to flirt with NATO…”

In media guidelines created and distributed by the Kremlin to Russian Media outlets in September 2023, while covering the Azerbaijani attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, Kremlin-affiliated media were advised to stress that the assault was precipitated by Armenia and its Western “partners.”

To justify the inaction of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Kremlin suggested media outlets, blaming Pashinyan, who, together with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, made mutual assurances of each country’s respect for the other’s sovereignty in October 2022.

“The Armenian Premier was probably pushed to make these remarks by his Western “partners,” who should now fully share the responsibility for their consequences,” read the guidelines.

The guidelines that were obtained and publicised by Russian language independent news outlets were followed mainly by both Russian media outlets and allegedly Russia-affiliated Armenian media outlets,

‘Another Ukraine’

In parallel with attempts to blame the West for Armenia’s recent boycott of CSTO and to present Armenia’s government as a puppet of the West, in recent months, the Russian propaganda machine has accused Pashinyan of “actively following in the footsteps of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.”

These claims made headlines in Russia following the visit of Anna Hakobyan, the wife of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, to Kyiv, where she attended the “Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen” in September last year. The visit was the first open pro-Ukrainian move of the Armenian government since the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine in February 2022.

On October 17, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, while speaking at the European Parliament, openly criticised Armenia’s allies for not supporting the country during the 2023 Azerbaijani campaign in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pashinyan’s speech triggered a new wave of the “Ukrainisation” narratives in the Russian media.

“We [Russia] see how Armenia is trying to turn into Ukraine No. 3, if we consider Moldova as Ukraine No. 2, and Pashinyan is following in Vladimir Zelensky’s footsteps by quantum leaps,” Russian state agency TASS wrote, citing an unnamed high-ranking official.

The narrative of the “Ukrainization” of Armenia has also been systematically spread by allegedly Russia-affiliated Armenian language media outlets.

Some of them have in recent months regularly claimed that Pashinyan’s attempts to distance itself from Moscow is a Ukraine-style open confrontation with Russia and will turn Armenia into a shooting range and a battlefield for military activities between Russia and the West, with the inevitable “loss of Armenian statehood.”

Amidst growing Russian criticism and anti-Armenian media campaigns of Kremlin-affiliated actors, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has repeatedly denied claims of an imminent change in his country’s foreign policy vector.

These reassurances of the Armenian government, however, have not stopped Russian officials and media from generating targeted attacks on the country, which many in Armenia are expecting to increase in the coming months.

Source: Eura CTIV