No, Russia Isn’t About to “Lose” Armenia
Walter Russell Mead wonders if Armenia will alter its security relationship with Russia:
This festering tension has important geopolitical implications not just for Armenia and Russia but also for Iran. Tehran has been making overtures toward Yerevan recently, offering to expand economic and security ties. But if Armenia chooses to turn instead toward the EU and the West, and away from Iran and Russia, Iran might find itself more isolated than it already is.
This isn’t going to happen, but it’s still worth considering why it won’t. First, the Armenian government has no desire to rupture its relationship with Moscow, and Armenia needs Russia as a patron far more than Russia needs Armenia. Supposing that the Armenian government wanted to end its post-Cold War security relationship with Russia, how would it “turn” to the West? One of many reasons that Armenia remained in Russia’s orbit for the last two decades is that the U.S. mostly ignored Armenia and aligned itself with Armenia’s Turkish and Azeri neighbors after the Karabakh war. Russia and Iran have maintained good relations with Armenia for decades, and have prevented the country from being economically isolated, so what incentive would Armenia have to downgrade those relationships and seek closer ties with states that pay much more attention to Turkey and Azerbaijan?
Even if Armenia successfully joins the EU, which will presumably be a very long process in any case, it certainly isn’t going to become part of NATO. Armenia wouldn’t be able to join the alliance while the dispute over Karabakh remains unresolved, and there’s no evidence that Armenians in or out of government want to do this. Joshua Kucera summed things up last year in a report on Armenia’s relations with NATO and Russia:
It’s just understood that Armenia’s ties with Russia are so strong [bold mine-DL] that a few U.S./NATO cooperation programs here and there aren’t going to make any difference.
As angry as the Armenian public may be at the moment, most Armenians want to maintain good relations with Russia, a majority favors joining Russia’s customs union, and as of 2011 75% of Armenians approved of the performance of Russia’s leadership. This is not a country that Russia is likely to “lose” anytime in the near future.