‘Russia wins a little, but loses a lot more’

‘Russia wins a little, but loses a lot more’
‘Russia wins a little, but loses a lot more’

Russia appears to be well on its way to regaining part of Ukraine’s sphere of influence. But if you look further, a different picture emerges. Namely from a Russia that has less control over ex-Soviet states such as Armenia, which for a long time listened meekly. This is what Robbert de Witt (EW) writes.

If you focus too much on what is happening at the front, you will miss what is happening far away at the same time. In Ukraine, Russia appears to be winning and on its way to bringing Ukraine back (partly) within the Russian sphere of influence. But if you look a little further, a completely different picture emerges.

Namely from a Russia that has increasingly less control over countries that have long listened meekly. Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia: all these ex-Soviet states have chosen the West in recent years, at the expense of their historic relationship with Moscow.

Recurring bloody violence in Armenia

The most recent – ​​and least noticed – example is Armenia, the former Soviet republic in the Caucasus. A bit out of sight of most Europeans, the other side of the Black Sea is also very far away. For the past thirty years, the country has relied on the Russians. More out of necessity than love. Because there was no other country that wanted to protect tiny Armenia (the mountainous country is about the size of Belgium, but barely 3 million people live there).

The Armenians are unfortunate that their country is in an unfortunate place. The Christian country – the first nation in fact where Christianity was the official religion – is almost entirely surrounded by Muslim countries: Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran. Only with Georgia does Armenia share a Christian character. Relations are okay with neighboring countries Iran and Georgia, but not with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Armenia and Azerbaijan were both republics within the Soviet Union. Since the implosion of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the two countries have gone to war several times over old border disputes.

Armenia could count on Russians

The Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in particular was the site of recurring bloody violence. Mostly ethnic Armenians lived in the area, but the area is located in the middle of Azerbaijan. That is asking for trouble, because Azerbaijan wanted to annex it.

But while Azerbaijan was supported by Islamic Turkey, Armenia was assured of Moscow’s support. The Russians always managed to prevent Azerbaijan from using its military superiority to permanently drive the Armenians out of the enclave. During the penultimate clashes, shortly before the corona pandemic, the Kremlin sent two thousand soldiers to safeguard the fragile peace.

But then Vladimir Putin turned his attention to Ukraine, and all military resources were needed to keep that former Soviet republic within his sphere of influence.

Last September, the Azeris conquered Nagorno-Karabakh in one day, and a hundred thousand Armenians fled – a shameless land grab that unfairly received little attention, because everyone was so busy being indignant about Israel and the Palestinians shortly afterwards. Putin did nothing to help the Armenians. And that was the sign for Armenia to finally turn away from Moscow.

Partnership with Russia: ‘Strategic mistake’

Armenia now buys weapons from France and India, where it previously relied on Russian weapons. It has held military exercises with the United States.

The country is cautiously siding with Ukraine, and not automatically with Russia anymore because it needed Moscow to keep the Azeris at bay. Recently, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said his country is considering applying for membership of the European Union. And Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that Armenia is temporarily ‘freezing’ its membership of the CSTO – a loose military counterpart of NATO, under strict leadership from Russia.

The head of the Armenian National Security Council declared that the partnership with Russia was a “strategic mistake.” Ouch, they must have thought in Moscow.

Russia is losing client states

As mentioned, these developments remain largely unnoticed in Europe. While it is a major geopolitical shift. Moscow is losing more and more client states. Because citizens no longer tolerate the whims of the Kremlin and because Russia can no longer offer any protection at all.

Precisely because the usefulness and strength of free, democratic countries are increasingly doubted, Western countries should be more concerned about countries like Armenia. If we drop that, we will indeed have little to brag about.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Russia wins loses lot


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