April 24, 2018

Events in Armenia As an Indicator of a Systemic Crisis of the “Russian World”

Freedom Cannot Be Stopped!

The “Velvet” revolution in Armenia in April 2018 showed Russia's inability to stop the development of democratic processes in countries that are in the sphere of its influence in the post-Soviet space. Thus, mass protests of Armenian citizens disrupted the plans of the ruling regime of the country to maintain its power by appointing former Armenian President S. Sargsyan as head of state government with the extension of his powers.

Unlike the national-democratic revolutions in Ukraine (2004 and 2013–2014), Georgia (2003) and Moldova (2009), the protests in Armenia are not intended to remove the country from the sphere of Russian influence and are aimed at resolving purely internal problems. First of all, this concerns the possibility of a democratic change of power, which was actually usurped by the corrupt regime headed by S. Sargsyan.

At the same time, the events in Armenia confirmed the tendency to deepening the crisis of the entire integration system built by Russia on the territory of the former USSR within the framework of the expansion of the so-called “Russian World”. This is evidenced by changes in the foreign policy of Russia's allies under the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the future Eurasian Union (EAU), which are becoming increasingly apparent.

 

In particular, March 30, 2018, against the background of another exacerbation of relations between Russia and the West, President of Belarus A. Lukashenko made an open statement regarding the need to find an alternative to the Russian market for Belarusian goods. A. Lukashenko's statement was specified by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic V. Makey, who expressed Minsk's intention to intensify the development of relations with the European Union, the United States and the rest of the world. In this way, Belarus has essentially set itself in a certain opposition to Russia, which, on the contrary, has moved into an open confrontation with Western countries and international organizations.

Kazakhstan takes a similar position, despite its being considered one of Russia's closest partners. Thus, in President of Kazakhstan N. Nazarbayev's address to the people of the country in February 2018, one of the main priorities of the foreign policy of the Republic is deepening of cooperation with the European Union, including within the framework of the EU-Central Asia Strategy. At the same time, the development of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the United States is intensifying. Astana's intentions to bring the relations between the two countries to a qualitatively new level were confirmed by N. Nazarbayev during his meeting with US President D. Trump on April 16, 2018 in Washington, D.C. At the same time, many headline-making steps were taken in this direction. In particular, N. Nazarbayev approved the missile strikes of the United States, Great Britain and France on B. Assad's chemical objects in Syria, and immediately after that on April 23, the Parliament of Kazakhstan ratified an agreement with the USA on the possibility of using the Aktau and Kuryk ports of Kazakhstan for the transit of special cargoes to Afghanistan. It is also worth noting the actions of the leadership of Kazakhstan to exit from the cultural and informational spaces of Russia, in particular through the transition of the national alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin (before 2025) and wider study of English in Kazakh educational institutions as an alternative to Russian. This is a direct challenge to Russia and its interests.

Kyrgyzstan also relies on the EU. As part of the EU-Central Asia Strategy, there are plans for signing a new Partnership Agreement between Kyrgyzstan and the European Union. This issue was discussed during the visit of the President of the country S. Jeenbekov to Brussels on April 11, 2018. At this, he expressed Bishkek's being interested in increasing European investments into the leading sectors of the Kyrgyz economy.

In fact, Moscow's attempts to establish its control over Moldova by facilitating the election as President the leader of the Socialist Party of the Republic of Moldova I. Dodon in autumn of 2016, also failed. Thus, the pro-European ruling coalition in the Parliament of Moldova and the pro-western government of the country completely quashed all I. Dodon's attempts to shift the vector of external development of the country from Europe to Russia. In particular, for this purpose, I. Dodon is periodically suspended from power by the Constitutional Court of the Republic with the transfer of his powers to the Speaker of the Parliament or the Prime Minister of Moldova, who take all key decisions.

 

All this is the result of the profound differences of interest of the Russian Federation and its allies and partners, which became especially acute with the beginning of the Putin regime's armed aggression against Ukraine. Such actions of Moscow, as well as the transition of the West to the policy of strict restraint of Russia have completely changed the attitude to it of other countries of the former USSR. First of all, it concerns the following aspects:

firstly, most of the post-Soviet countries have lost confidence in Russia as a reliable partner and are convinced of the reality of threats on its part, including political, economic and military ones;

secondly, the negative influence of Western sanctions on the Russian economy has undermined the attractiveness of Russia as an economic partner;

thirdly, unlike Russia, the European Union, the USA and other countries, especially China, are opening wider and more prosperous prospects for the development of trade and economic cooperation with them. An example of this is Ukraine, which has already managed to reorient its ties to the EU. In turn, the countries of Central Asia are successfully reorienting to China.

Besides, the Kremlin's policy of imposing the ideas of the “Russian World” on the countries of the former USSR, which is aimed at keeping them in the sphere of Russia's influence, self-isolation and confrontation with the outside world, as well as conservation of totalitarian and corrupt ruling regimes, is causing an increasingly negative reaction of the population of the post-Soviet territories (including the Russian Federation itself). In fact, as in the period of the collapse of the USSR, the ideas of their own national development begin to dominate the ideas of integration around Moscow.

Under these circumstances, Russia's only instruments of preserving its influence in the former Soviet territories are the support of pro-Russian forces (regimes) in former Soviet republics and implementation of Russian interests through them, as well as the use of methods of blackmail and political and economic pressure on other countries, including elements of trade and energy wars. Manifestations of this are Russia's manipulating energy issues in relations with Belarus (including restrictions on the supply of energy carriers and raising prices for them), as well as the closure of the Russian market for certain types of Belarusian and Kazakhstani goods. For example, on March 31, 2018, Rosselkhoznadzor banned the import to Russia of dairy products of a number of Belarusian enterprises without specific reasons.

 

At this, as the experience of Russia's aggression against Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 shows, it will not stop before the use of military force against its allies under the CSTO and EAU. Scenarios of similar actions are openly practiced by Russia during the military exercises of the “West” and “Center” series.

In particular, one of the scenario elements of the Strategic Command-Post Exercise (SCPE) “West-2017” of the Armed Forces of Russia and Belarus was to bring Russian troops to assist the Belarusian authorities in suppressing the opposition's actions. In turn, the scenarios of the “Center” SCPE’s include preventing the possibility of Central Asia countries exit from the sphere of influence of Russia through their actual occupation under the guise of counterterrorism operations. By the way, Kazakh experts are already worried about the possibility of Russia's annexation of northern Kazakhstan under the pretext of “protecting” the Russian-speaking population of the region.

Given the lack of anti-Russian motives in Armenian events, Russia is still refraining from direct interference with the situation in the country. At the same time, according to Armenian experts, in case of a threat to Russia's interests in Armenia, Moscow may use military force to protect them. Moreover, Russian troops are already in the Armenian territory. In support of this, they cite the fact of Russia's annexation of the Crimea with the participation of the Russian Black Sea Fleet forces based on the Peninsula.

As the centrifugal tendencies in the sphere of Russia's influence on the territory of the former USSR intensify, and it loses its economic attractiveness and potential, Moscow will increasingly turn its attention to the forceful methods of preserving control over its integration unions. As a result, new “tension zones” and armed conflicts on the Eurasian space will arise, with the tendency of their possible spread on Russia's own territory.

The reality of such prospects is increasing concern in Russia's satellite countries. In particular, evidence of this was the protests in Belarus last year against the holding of the “West-2017” SCPE and the deployment of Russian military bases in the Republic under the slogan “Where There Is Russia, There Is War!”.