Home European News Armenia siding with EU and US after Russian betrayal

Armenia siding with EU and US after Russian betrayal

Armenia siding with EU and US after Russian betrayal

Armenia, the EU, and US have made a show of closer ties in the wake of what Armenians see as Russia’s betrayal on Nagorno-Karabakh.

The US secretary of state Antony Blinken, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, and Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan met in Brussels on Friday (5 April) to unveil a new Western aid package featuring €270m from the EU and $65m (€60m) from the US.

The money is to protect Armenia’s “economic and democratic resilience”, for instance by modernising its energy grid and boosting grain harvests.

Part of it will also be spent on helping the 100,000 ethnic Armenian refugees pushed out from Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous exclave, which was reconquered by Azerbaijan in September last year in a historic defeat — as Russian peacekeepers stood idly by.

Blinken spoke of a “moment of choice for the Armenian people and for its leaders” on Friday, regarding its recent overtures to the West.

Von der Leyen spoke of a “new chapter” in relations. “The European Union and Armenia are increasingly aligned in values and interest,” she said.

Pashinyan said he shared her “vision of a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous future” for his country.

Friday’s meeting was criticised by Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey — whose foreign ministry said it would “undermine” efforts to finalise a peace deal between Yerevan and Baku by “excluding” the Azeri leader.

“This initiative … will pave the way for the South Caucasus to become an area of geopolitical confrontation,” Turkey said.

But Blinken also threw the US’ weight into peace talks, alongside ongoing EU efforts, by phoning Azerbaijan president Ilham Alyiev ahead of the Brussels meeting to warn against any “increased tension on the border”.

Nobody at the mini-summit mentioned the other elephant in the room — Russia.

But speaking to media the same day, the US’ top diplomat on Eurasian affairs, James O’Brien, said Russia had a “historic role, legacy role” in Armenia, while complaining of its ongoing anti-Western “disinformation”.

“I hope it [Russia] can respect the choice of the Armenian people, as they choose economic reform and prosperity,” O’Brien said.

Blinken’s call with Aliyev on Armenia was “good and constructive”, O’Brien said.

Armenia had been planning to join Ukraine in 2013 in signing an EU association agreement, putting it on a path towards closer integration with the EU.

However, its then president Serzh Sargsyan joined a Russia-led economic bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), under Russian pressure instead.

But Russia’s actions in the Nagorno-Karabakh war last year showed Armenia that Moscow’s promises to keep it safe from Azerbaijan — as enshrined in the region’s Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) — were hollow.

Luc Devigne, the head of the Russia department in the EU foreign service, told MEPs last September Russia was squarely to “blame” for events.

“Did any of these [2,000 Russian] peacekeepers do anything? Nothing. They didn’t even put their armoured vehicles in the road … passively to block the [Azerbaijan] military operation,” Devigne said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s EEU has been largely inactive, while the 2023 war saw Armenia freeze CSTO cooperation and start holding small-scale military drills with US soldiers.

Armenia’s foreign minister said on Turkish TV in March that “new opportunities are largely being discussed in Armenia nowadays … that includes membership in the European Union”.

Armenia has “turned to the West”, said Anders Fogh-Rasmussen, a former Nato chief who works as a consultant for the Armenian government, in an op-ed in French daily Le Monde on Thursday.

“While all eyes are focused on Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine, another major geopolitical shift is happening in Europe, this time in the South Caucasus,” he said.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here