By Noah Blough
Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution,” has neared completion. The people who originally staged in the # MerzhirSerzhin (Reject Serhz), became revolutionaries when former journalist Nikol Pashinyan took control of the movement, compelling Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan to step down propelling Pashinyan into the office a few days later. In the wake of the protests, observers were quick in making comparisons to other movements in former-Soviet nations, including the Ukrainian Euromaidan Protests and Georgia’s Rose Revolution, expecting Armenia to shrug off the reins of Russian influence. Unsurprisingly to those who knew the underlying truth of Armenian politics, no shift in relations occurred and the two nations retain close relations.
Though showing Western bias, this misunderstanding is understandable because of the movement’s lacking clear direction after the ousting of Sargsyan and successful ascension of Pashinyan. However, underlying political discourse in Armenia is the necessity to commit to Nagorno- Karabakh, more currently referred as Republic of Artsakh, against the incursions of the internationally recognized owner, Azerbaijan. Pashinyan is not an exception and his bellicose position regarding the breakaway nation, was clear signaling of his intention to keep close with Russia.
The reasoning is clear, for although Armenia and Azerbaijan were evenly matched immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan’s economy boomed with the exploitation of gas and oil after the war. This growth has been continuing in recent years due to economic reform and committed investment into agriculture, science and technology. Despite receiving benefits from similar economic reforms and liberalization, Armenia’s economy largely is restricted due to being landlocked and blocked by its neighbors, making the nation heavily reliant on Russian trade, and resulting in a keen economic difference with its rival .As a result Azerbaijan has been able to invest heavily in a sizeable modern military, while the Armenian army continues to be a small post-Soviet relic.
Consequently Russia is not only Armenia’s economic lifeline, but its looming shadow serves as the primary deterrent against Azeris restoring controlling Artsakh. The intertwining of the militaries can be seen in the presence of Russia’s 102nd Military Base, a joint air-defense system, and most recently the creation of a joint border force.
Therefore, any threat to the Armenian-Russian relationship threatens the small Republic’s tenuous control over the region. This tension was demonstrated during the protesting, when the Azeri Armed Forces began marshalling on their side of the border of Artsakh, ready to take advantage if Armenia drifted into turmoil. However, the smooth transition of power and Pashinyan’s requisite dedication to the Republic of Artsakh ensured not only security, but Armenia’s continued reliance on Russia. Until Armenia is able to find equally economical and military beneficial patron, commentators should rest assure at Armenia’s continuing commitment to Russia.