Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – the latter recently installed as Armenia’s leader following nationwide protests – had their first bilateral meeting in Sochi on Monday on the sidelines of the Eurasian Economic Union summit.
The summary of the exchanges between the two leaders provided by the Kremlin’s website shows that Putin took the opportunity to remind Pashinyan of Russia’s economic importance to Armenia, whilst Pashinyan for his part thanked Putin for Russia’s neutral position during the protests, and reaffirmed Armenia’s continued friendship with Russia.
Pashinyan specifically reaffirmed Armenia’s continued membership of the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union, and spoke of deepening Armenia’s military ties with Russia.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, colleagues,
I would like to welcome you to Russia and to congratulate you once again, this time in person, on your election to the high position of Prime Minister of Armenia.
First of all, I would like to say that we view Armenia, as everyone knows, as our closest partner and ally in the region. I am referring to both economic and security cooperation.
As you know, Russia is a leading trade and economic partner of Armenia. Its share is estimated at over 25 percent. Russia’s investment accounts for approximately 35 percent of all foreign investment in Armenia. Our trade has grown recently, also by some 25 percent. Armenian agricultural deliveries to Russia are growing at a fast pace, or more precisely, by 38 percent over the past few months.
Overall, this is very good progress and I hope that we will not just maintain but also boost it.
I would like to wish you every success on the post of the Prime Minister of Armenia. I hope that our relations will continue to develop consistently, just as they did before, and that we will continue to work together on the international stage as well as at international organisations, starting from the UN, where Armenia and Russia have always supported each other, and ending with regional organisations, both in security and economic development matters.
Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan: Mr President, thank you for your kind words.
It is very gratifying that, just a few days after I was elected Prime Minister of Armenia, I have this opportunity to have a meeting with you, because I think that we have things to discuss.
There is also something that does not need to be discussed: the allied strategic relations between Armenia and Russia. In general, I can assure you that there is consensus on this matter in Armenia, and nobody has ever questioned the strategic importance of Armenian-Russian relations, or ever will.
We are quite set on giving a fresh impetus to our relations – both in the political and trade and economic sense. We hope to develop our relations in the military technical sector as well as in other industries.
Many people from Russia visit Armenia, which is very good. I think Russians like Armenia very much, and Armenians also enjoy having so many tourists in Yerevan.
I would like to say that we highly appreciate the balanced position that Russia held in the course of our domestic political crisis, and I think it was a very constructive position; it is highly appreciated not only by our Government, but also in Armenian society in general.
Once again, please accept my best wishes on Victory Day. It was very interesting to watch the May 9 parade on Red Square. It is popular in Armenia and we are very impressed by the achievements that the Russian defence industry has made.
Thank you once again for this opportunity.
Pashinyan’s pledges of continued friendship to Russia will be judged cynically by many people, including by my colleague in The Duran Frank Sellers, who see them as nothing more than a device by Pashinyan to play for time whilst he sets about cutting back Armenia’s connections to Russia.
Many see hope in the fact that he plans to attend the Eurasian Economic Union summit next month and to meet with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, together with the fact that he admits that Armenia needs Russia as a military ally, but given his life story and participation in the events recorded here, there seems to be little real hope of that.
Is this a Western backed color revolution? It’s actually hard to cast doubt on that fact, given his connections with Soros funded NGOs who have as their purpose the remaking of Armenia into a NATO member state which looks somewhat less than fondly at Russia as the originator of Armenia’s woes.
With a perception that prosperity will surely be the Armenian inheritance of an integration into the Western political and economic bloc, which perception comes from anywhere but reality. It really can’t be doubted that this movement, led by a man with a history of hostility towards Russia and a long history of working in the interests of the US and its NGOs, is something that was hatched in Washington and delivered via the CIA’s vicarious operatives, the Open Society Foundation and its ilk.
The country’s post soviet poverty and Sargsyan’s perceived power grab are the grievances that were immediately capitalized upon in order to carry out this so called ‘velvet revolution’. Pashinyan says that he wants to maintain Armenia’s balancing act between the East and West, preserving ties and agreements with Russia while pursuing the partnership of the West, it should be noted that Saakashvili made a similar such promise upon assuming control of Georgia in a similar such incident.
Of course, he knows that he can’t be so bold as to immediately cut off ties with the Russians this early in the game, as Armenia is simply too dependent on Russia to make any real changes to Armenia’s foreign policy at this time, but that this represents his long term goal remains a matter to be seen.
I take the diametrically opposite view. I believe that whatever Pashinyan may have said in the past his pledges of continued friendship with Russia and of Armenia’s adhesion to the Eurasian Economic Union are genuine.
After all, as Pashinyan himself said over the course of his meeting with Putin,
…….there is consensus on this matter in Armenia, and nobody has ever questioned the strategic importance of Armenian-Russian relations, or ever will…..
Given Armenia’s economic and geographic realities, and the rapid military build up in Azerbaijan, Armenia has no real choice, even if the Armenian people wanted such a choice, of which there is no real sign that they do.
Armenia’s relations with Russia were not an issue in the recent protests, which at no point took on an anti-Russian character.
As I have pointed out previously, that is in total contrast to the Maidan protests in Ukraine of 2013 and 2014, in which passionate hostility to Russia was the main driving factor. That in itself is a major point of difference between the two sets of protests: the recent protests in Armenia and the Maidan protests in Ukraine.
I remain of the view that the Armenian protests were a strictly internal affair, provoked by the actions of the previous Sargsyan government, and have no geopolitical significance.
Moreover the very fact that – as Pashinyan says – there is “consensus” within Armenia about the importance of Armenia’s relations with Russia in itself places limits on what Pashinyan can do, even if he genuinely does seek to sever Armenia’s relations with Russia, which of course he denies.
Last but not least, there is the fact that even Western oriented commercially minded Armenians – and all Armenians, at least in their own estimation, are to an extent commercially minded – can see for themselves the huge commercial and economic benefits to them personally and for Armenia of Armenia retaining access to the vast Russian market through its membership of the Eurasian Economic Union.
By contrast it is impossible to see a good economic future for Armenia – or indeed (given the geopolitical realities) any real future for Armenia – if it severs its links to Russia.
For all these reasons, unlike Frank Sellers, I believe that when Pashinyan says he wants to maintain or even enhance Armenia’s relations with Russia, he means what he says.
He would be a fool if he didn’t, and whatever else he is, Pashinyan doesn’t seem to me to be a fool.
Time will show which of us – Frank Sellers or myself – is right.