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Pashinyan is wrong, Armenia Would benefit from Russia’s defeat

Nikol Pashinyan, the Prime Minister of Armenia, is a populist who is often contradictory in his views. He is incorrect when he claims that Armenia will not benefit from Russia’s military defeat in Ukraine. Taras Kuzio explains why.

Pashinyan warned Armenians recently that he had no idea what would happen to Armenia if Russia lost the war in Ukraine. His comment placed Armenia alongside China, Belarus and Iran, who all have strategic reasons to be concerned about a Russian defeat in Ukraine. Pashinyan, along with five Central Asian dictators attended the celebrations in Moscow on May 9, marking the end of the Great Patriotic War.

Armenia shares nothing in common these five dictatures and three autocracies. China and Iran want to stop Russia from losing the military battle because it would undermine their common goal of replacing a supposedly US-led unipolar world with a multipolar one. Belarus and Iran are afraid of a Russian military defeat, as it could lead to a regime change. The defeat of Russia would also end Iran’s dreams of becoming a regional power and nuclear weapons nation.

Pashinyan has been a civil society activist for many years in Armenia. His democratic politics are more in line with European values than the totalitarian Russia of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2005, Pashinyan was elected with the help of young Armenians as part of the Velvet Revolution. Armenia, which was tightly integrated with Russia in the 1980s and 1990s, was at risk of becoming an authoritarian state run by warlords that had won the First Karabakh War.


Pashinyan was the leader of Armenia’s Velvet Revolution, which took place in response to Serzh Sargsyan threatening a third term consecutively and against the Republican Party’s controlled regime.

In Pashinyan’s comment, two important elements of Armenian identity are buried.

First, Armenians have a hard time thinking beyond historical stereotypes about Turkey and Azerbaijan being existential threats to national security. Armenians are still haunted by the 1915 Armenian genocide, even though Turkey is a post-imperial state. Azerbaijanis are often mistakenly referred to as Turks by Armenians, despite their long history as separate from the Ottoman Empire and part of the Soviet Union.


Second, the Armenian perception that only Russia is their protector is due to their geographical location. Armenia is a founder member of CSTO, a Russian attempt to emulate the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact that opposed NATO during the Cold War. Armenia is home to two Russian military bases, and the FSB (Russia’s domestic security agency), which operates in the same way as its predecessor, the KGB, throughout the former USSR operates Armenia’s border.

Armenia retracted its signing of an Association Agreement with the EU in 2013. Armenia instead joined Putin’s EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), Putin’s alternative.

Armenia has supported the annexation by Russia of Crimea at the UN since the 2014 crisis. It erroneously views this illegal military invasion as an example for’self determination’ which could also be applied to Artsakh, the Armenian name of Karabakh. Armenia also abstained from the UN vote of October 22, 2022 on Russia’s illegal annexation four regions in south-east Ukraine. Belarus was the only former Soviet Republic to support Russia’s annexation, along with Syria, North Korea and Nicaragua.

Pashinyan is mistaken in his fear of a Russian defeat, as it would allow Armenia to pursue an independent foreign and national security policy. A weaker Russia after Putin would allow Armenia to Armexit from the CSTO, EEU and increase economic and trade ties.

Armenians are almost as numerous in Russia than in Armenia. If Armenia, like Ukraine, received a visa-free regime with the EU, Armenians would be able to live, study, and work within the Schengen Zone. The EU is the largest customs union in the world. Reviving the talks for an association agreement and DCFTA would lead to economic growth and foreign investment. The EEU is not interested in a DCFTA because it is a weak, stagnant, and corrupt actor compared to the EU.

Armenia, contrary to Pashinyan’s comments, has nothing to fear and everything to gain from a Russian defeat in Ukraine. Turkey and Azerbaijan do not plan to invade Armenia. Both countries are in favor of the US-EU-mediated talks towards the signing a peace agreement that recognizes the Armenian border with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan will provide guarantees to the relatively small Armenian minorities in Karabakh, estimated at around 50,000.

It is impossible to imagine a Russian victory in Ukraine after sixteen months of conflict. The Ukrainian offensive is likely to presage the beginnings of Russian defeat and possible regime change in Russia. Pashinyan must adopt a strategic approach and take advantage of the US-EU-brokered talks to legalise its borders with Turkey, Azerbaijan, and to use the opportunity provided by a Russian defeat to return Armenia back to the path towards European integration from which his discredited predecessor retreated.

Taras Kuzio teaches political science at Kyiv Mohyla Academy National University. His latest book, Genocide and Fascism – Russia’s War Against Ukrainians is published by the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy.

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