Vladimir Putin and Serzh Sargsyan, 2017. Photo: Sergei Chirikov / Reuters
The turbulent events in Armenia cause one big bewilderment – why does Russia take such a restrained, outwardly calm, even detached position? After all, we are talking about her ally in the CSTO and EurAsEC. Let us also recall the prevailing view of Russia’s underscored negative attitude toward any events that somehow resemble “color revolutions”. And then the people on the streets, the country’s leader, under the pressure of the thousands of rallies, are forced to resign – and Russia behaves outwardly as if it is not Armenia, but some remote country in which it has neither interests nor investments .
The simplest answer, in which, of course, there is a fair amount of truth – in Russia there is a certainty that Armenia will not go away anywhere. That any government of the country will have to maintain allied relations with Moscow, so as not to be alone between Turkey and Azerbaijan. It’s unlikely that all Armenians like Russia’s military presence, but they understand that this is an opportunity to prevent Azerbaijani revenge in Karabakh. It is not surprising that the leader of the protests, Nikol Pashinyan, who acted as a representative of the minority opposition group against the Eurasian orientation of Armenia, now claims the need to preserve fraternal relations with Russia. And that it is impossible to develop relations with the European Union to the detriment of the Russian factor.
However, this explanation seems to be insufficient. To begin with, modern Russia is not the empire of Alexander I of the period of the Holy Alliance, when the Russian sovereign did not dare to support even the Orthodox Greeks who rebelled against their legitimate overlord, the Turkish sultan. The current Russian legitimacy is creative – following it depends on specific interests at the moment. When Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev decided to get too close to the United States, Russia supported the opposing opposition. And in 2014, a few months after the Kiev Maydan, Russia regarded the removal of the recognized Abkhazian president Alexander Ankvab as an internal affair of the republic – although it was no more constitutional than the dismissal of Viktor Yanukovich, which Russia unequivocally considers a coup d’état. Unless Ankvab was forced to sign a statement of resignation, since he could not run anywhere except Russia. And Russia supported the future leader Raul Khajibu. If one considers him the main post-Soviet legitimist, it’s the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko – but that’s another story.