Nikol Pashinyan’s Early Visit to Russia

By: Ulviye FILIYEVA ERKEC

The President of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan made his first visit to Russia even before the cabinet was formed, after winning the elections held on June 20, 2021. During the meeting between the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Pashinyan in Moscow on July 7, 2021, the military-political situation in the South Caucasus region became the main subject of discussion. As Ankara Center for Crisis and Political Studies (ANKASAM), we present to your attention the opinions we received from leading experts in the field of what Pashinyan’s visit means.

Prof. Dr. Oleg Kuznetsov (Russian Historian and Political Analyst-Azerbaijan University of Languages)

Kuznetsov stated that the first thing that stood out in the visit of Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Pashinyan to Moscow was that Pashinyan went to Russia with the status of Deputy Prime Minister so that even before the cabinet was formed. Although it is clear that the deputies would endorse him to the highest office, today he likens this visit to the situation of the medieval vassal appearing before the king. Underlining that Pashinyan went to Russia with a completely uncertain status, not as prime minister, the Russian expert said that such a visit shows that the national “humiliation” of Armenia and Pashinyan by the Kremlin continues at full speed. Kuznetsov: “I don’t even think that Pashinyan received any welcome ceremony at the airport.” said.

Kuznetsov, asserting that the Moscow meeting is also important for Armenia’s domestic politics, said, “It is certain that the fate of the “notorious Karabakh clan” (so-called former presidents) was discussed at the meeting. Pashinyan’s stance against the “old clan” is persistent and assertive, having defeated the Karabakh people twice with the “Velvet Revolution” in 2018 and the elections on June 20, 2021.” said.

Noting that the attitudes of Yerevan and Moscow on the Karabakh issue are fundamentally different, Kuznetsov said, “I am very confident that Pashinyan intends to leave Karabakh and is ready to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. This step will also undermine the opposition’s political plan and strengthen the one-man regime in Armenia. However, this will not benefit Kremlin. Peacekeeping forces play an important role in Russia’s foreign policy. If Armenia leaves from the Karabakh region, there will be no point in maintaining Russian peacekeeping forces in the Karabakh region of sovereign Azerbaijan. If they leave from Karabakh, this will set a dangerous precedent for the Kremlin, and then this [negativity] will also reach Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Donbass and even Crimea. In this sense, it can be thought that Putin wanted Pashinyan to ‘resist’ before the 2024 elections. Most likely Putin asked Pashinyan to give Zangezur in exchange for places under the temporary control of the Russian peacekeeping troops. Thus, Russia will be able to maintain its peacekeeping force in Karabakh for a period of time.”

Kuznetsov stated that we will see how all this will happen in the very near future, and said, “The only thing that is certain for now is the visit of the Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, to Moscow with an uncertain status, which shows that he has gradually lost its legal personality in the international arena and his country has turned into a state that is dependent on foreign control. It would be beneficial for the security and stability of the South Caucasus if this external control was Azerbaijan, not Russia.”

Shair Ramaldanov (Azerbaijan Retired Colonel-Military Expert)

Ramaldanov said that there was nothing surprising in the visit of the Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to Russia. By his words, “As you know, there are some issues waiting to be resolved. At a time when the declarations signed between Russia-Azerbaijan-Armenia on November 10, 2020 and January 11, 2021 were expected to be implemented. The elections held in Armenia due to the political crisis had intervened.” He added: “Pashinyan, who has now secured his place in the government and gained the trust of the people, must begin to fulfill the provisions of the documents he signed with his own hand.”

Ramaldanov emphasized that Pashinyan could not meet with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev because of certain reasons; therefore, he said that it is normal for Pashinyan to discuss these issues with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The expert points out there were some issues kept secret during this meeting, which will speed up the process. He said “I don’t think Pashinyan went to Putin ’empty-handed’, [so to speak]. Pashinyan will start to implement the signed declarations by forming a government that will not prevent him. Otherwise, the meeting would not have taken place. Armenia is now punished for its occupation policy. The opening of the Zangezur Corridor, as well as the cooperation in the region with Azerbaijan and Turkey, will certainly benefit the Armenian state. I expect the results of these talks to be positive.”

Prof. Dr. Fikret Sadıgov (Azerbaijanian Political Expert-Western Caspian University)

The political expert Sadygov said, “It is clear that the subject of discussion in this meeting is the realization of the tripartite declarations signed on November 10, 2020 and January 11, 2021. Besides this agenda, the post-war situation and other issues were also discussed. Pashinyan understood that there would be no peace and stability in the South Caucasus without the help of Russia. Security issues, the development of Armenia are issues that are closely tied to Russia.” Emphasizing that Armenia’s request for the placement of Russian military units on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border and the establishment of two military bases in Armenia were pushed into the background, Sadygov stated that Putin’s Press Advisor Dmitriy Peskov also stated that these issues were not discussed at the meeting.

Finally, Sadygov said, “The fact that no new documents were signed during the meeting also shows that Putin pointed to the validity of the previous documents. If Pashinyan wants stability and development in his country, he should discuss these issues with his supporters and come to a conclusion.”

Aleksandr Karavaev (Russian Academician-The Researcher of the Post-Soviet Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Karavaev, who said that although the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin sympathizes with the former President of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan and others, this does not invalidate the current situation. He stated, “In general, self-interest prevails in Putin. At the moment he needs to work with a politician who is in power and has proven to be stronger for various reasons, even if s/he is not a pleasant partner. After all, Putin’s view of foreign policy has always consisted of “updating” his interactions with the leaders of neighboring states. Thus, they are more predictable for the Kremlin.” Karavaev underlined that militarily weakened and deadlocked Armenia has had to comply with the action programs proposed by Moscow since November 2020, and said “However, this does not mean that Pashinyan is a puppet. Pashinyan has a lot of freedom of maneuver in domestic politics to find foreign donors that will help normalize the economic situation and to make reforms in Armenia.”

Rasim Musabeyov (Deputy)

Musabeyov said, “In Russia, they see that Pashinyan is now in the government. Therefore, considering the danger that the situation in the region could change at any moment, Putin called Pashinyan to his side. As you know, after the signing of the tripartite declarations, the process came to a standstill for certain reasons.” The political expert concluded his speech, “Although we cannot say what was discussed in bilateral relations in this meeting, it is clear that the recommendations in the formation of the cabinet and the implementation of the tripartite declarations were the main topics of discussion.”

The opinions and evaluations in this study belong to the authors and do not reflect the institutional posture of the ANKASAM.

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