The last meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) took place in Minsk on November 3, 2023, and Armenia did not attend the meeting. Armenia’s failure to attend the meeting caused unrest among post-Soviet countries, especially Russia. The Karabakh War in 2020 ended in defeat for Armenia, and this caused disappointment in the Armenian public and administration towards the Russian-led South Caucasus security concept.
In his speech in the Armenian Parliament, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that Armenia would not attend the CSTO meeting on November 23, 2023, citing the fact that Armenia returned empty-handed after the CSTO meeting.1 According to Prime Minister Pashinyan, Armenia is searching for new partners in security matters, finding what it hopes for and signing new arms agreements. Although Armenian officials answering journalists’ questions stated that Armenia’s separation from the CSTO is out of the question, it is clearly seen that there is a rift between the Russian-controlled CSTO and Armenia.
The fact that Armenia could not find the support it expected from Russia in the 2020 Karabakh War can be shown as the first breaking point. With the Karabakh war in 2020, the dominance of the Karabakh region, which has not been physically controlled since the early 1990s, passed to Azerbaijan again and Azerbaijan won an absolute victory. Armenia, which did not get the support it anticipated from Russia in this process, has recently begun to establish dialogue with Western countries in the context of its search for security.A forum named “Strategic Future of Armenia” was arranged in Brussels on 9-10 November 2023, with the help of lobbyists from the Armenian diaspora in Europe. According to the declaration published at the end of the Strategic Future of Armenia Forum, support was given for Armenia’s application for EU membership in the context of its European integration and for Armenia’s separation from the CSTO, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). 2
In response that, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Maria Zaharova made a press statement and said that “the West is trying to distance Armenia from Russia.” According to Zaharova; Armenian media manipulated the masses and gave rise to the functionality of the CSTO to be questioned. Armenia both benefits from the advantages of being a member of the EEU and behaves against Russia’s interests by developing its relations with the West. Zakharova also criticized Armenia’s signing of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.Because Vladimir Putin is declared a war criminal for the Ukraine War by the International Criminal Court. According to Zakharova, what Armenia is doing is “sitting in two chairs at the same time, a strategy that has not benefited anyone so far.”3
Before this incident occurred, the United States of America (USA) and Armenia organized a mutual military drill in September 2023, and the military drill was named “Eagle Partner”. The Armenian army took “peacekeeping missions training” within the scope of NATO protocols. 4 In the week of the military drill, Nikol Pashinyan blamed Russia of “failing to fulfill its responsibilities in the South Caucasus” in an interview with the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”. In his interview, Pashinyan claimed that Armenian defense is 99% dependent on Russia. However, Russia is currently insufficient to even ensure its own security.5 For this reason, he said that it is natural for Armenia to look for new strategic partners in terms of security. In response, Russia summoned Armenia’s Ambassador to Moscow to the Kremlin and announced that it condemned the latest news. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a statement on the issue and in his statement, he reminded that Armenia had not participated in the CSTO military drills for the last two years, described the military drill conducted in partnership with the USA as “strange” and said that “Americans bring trouble wherever they go.”6
With the Ukrainian War, Russia has become increasingly excluded from the West and has made the situation of the post-Soviet countries, which it already sees in its sphere of affect, even more critical. The current representative of the phenomenon of NATO’s expansion towards the East in the South Caucasus is Armenia, and when this situation is examined together with the administrative crisis in Georgia, it becomes possible to say that the South Caucasus will gain more and more importance in the context of the Russia-West conflict. Now, the most critical issue that Nikol Pashinyan promises to the Armenian public is the signing of a reasonable peace contract for Karabakh. This situation reveals how the Karabakh War caused Armenia’s disappointment and fear of the future.
Although Armenia has said that separation of the CSTO is out of the question, it is a fact that the foreign policy and national security decisions taken by Armenia in recent months have created uneasiness in Russia. It seems that Russia does not beware of radical moves regarding the situation it is in. Armenia’s new foreign policy strategy challenging Russia has brought the already existing polarization in the South Caucasus to a new level. This separation was seen by Western countries and Armenian lobbyists in the West as a chance to create a new position against Russia, and Russia, on the other hand, perceived this separation as a “threat” to its own sphere of influence, as it had previously felt in Georgia and is currently in Ukraine.
1 “Ermenistan Rusya’dan giderek uzaklaşıyor: Paşinyan’dan ‘Başka ortaklar arıyoruz’ açıklaması”, NTV, https://www.ntv.com.tr/dunya/ermenistan-rusyadan-giderek-uzaklasiyor-pasinyandan-baska-ortaklar-ariyoruz-aciklamasi,ZuoFGmRbM0GaXaBZ9EqWWA (Date Accesion: 4.12.2023)
2 “The First EU-Armenia Conference: the Strategic Future of Armenia was Held in Brussels”, NTV, https://orer.eu/2023/11/13/the-first-eu-armenia-conference-the-strategic-future-of-armenia-was-held-in-brussels/ (Date Accesion: 4.12.2023)
3 “Russia warns Armenia against ‘trying to sit on two chairs’”, AA, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/russia-warns-armenia-against-trying-to-sit-on-two-chairs-/3055192 (Date Accesion: 4.12.2023)
4 “Armenia, US begin military exercise for peacekeeping preparedness”, AA, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/armenia-us-begin-military-exercise-for-peacekeeping-preparedness/2989612 (Date Accesion: 4.12.2023)
5 “US Troops’ Arrival in Armenia for Training Riles Russia”, Voa News, https://www.voanews.com/a/us-troops-arrival-in-armenia-for-training-riles-russia/7264316.html (Date Accesion: 4.12.2023)