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Leading Armenia Down the Primrose Path

The Armenian prime minister may not know it, but he is playing a dangerous game.


Last week in Brussels, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced what has been described as a “landmark plan to help pull Armenia out of Russia’s orbit.” 

The plan calls for the EU to allocate €270 million to support the Armenian economy as part of what von der Leyen calls “a new and ambitious partnership agenda.”


This news comes amidst renewed tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. A major firefight broke out after Azerbaijan forces opened fire on Armenian defensive positions on the night of April 6.

But not all experts are impressed by the newly announced deal. According to Pietro Shakarian, a postdoctoral Fellow at the National Research University–Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg who recently taught at the American University of Armenia, “The popular view on the Armenian street is that those 270 million euros look a lot like Judas Iscariot’s thirty pieces of silver. This was the price Pashinyan paid for betraying Armenia, abandoning Artsakh, and exposing the country to severe security threats from Azerbaijan and Turkey. On the part of the U.S. and the EU, it’s a very obvious attempt to push Russia out of the Caucasus once and for all.” 

Pashinyan should be forewarned that this is a path that is well-trodden and extremely dangerous for those who have set out upon it. The University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer has famously described what the Victoria Nuland–led State Department did, by condoning the Maidan coup and supporting Kiev’s NATO ambitions, as “leading Ukraine down the primrose path.” Armenia might usefully learn from the experiences of Ukraine and, closer home to Yerevan, Georgia. Both nations believed the fulsome promises of Western integration, including NATO accession, from their Western patrons in Brussels and Washington. 

What reaction can we expect from Moscow? Artin DerSimonian, a junior research fellow in the Eurasia Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, tells The American Conservative that, “at a time of serious West-Russia conflict this is naturally perceived in Moscow as an affront. At the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, the situation remains very tense and the potential for further or significant escalation persists. How Russia would respond to this—given the above context—doesn’t inspire confidence. Yerevan appears more determined for a strong foreign and security policy ‘pivot’ rather than merely seeking to ‘diversify’ its security relations.” 

As is by now clear, the U.S. national security bureaucracy only knows how to play a zero-sum game, and they and their political patrons seem both unable and unwilling to envision a world in which Iran and Russia are not the apex-villains.  


As we can see with the recent Moscow terror attack and the ongoing atrocities in Gaza, that vision of the world stands at stark odds with reality. And the fact is, stark and unpleasant as it might be to the Washington establishment, that the best guarantors of Armenian security are Russia and Iran. 

As Shakarian reminds us, “A weakened Armenia has negative security implications not only for Russia, but also Iran. It is not without reason that Tehran has drawn a bright red line against any Azerbaijani or Turkish attack on Armenia’s southern Syunik province, as well as any effort to cut off Syunik from the rest of Armenia. Such actions would sever Iran’s only overland link to the Moscow-led Eurasian Union.” 

“Pashinyan’s giveaway of Artsakh and the subsequent ethnic cleansing there,” says Shakarian, “not only shocked Russian society, but also confirmed the view of Russian intelligence that Pashinyan is indeed acting on behalf of external interests, and not the interests of the Armenian state or people. His willingness to give away strategic territories in his own native province, Tavush, are viewed in both Russia and Armenia as further evidence of this.”

Washington may not like it, but if Armenia has any chance at a happy future—and a magnificent, ancient Christian civilization like Armenia certainly deserves one—we need to stop meddling in the Caucasus and limit the damage we have already done in the post-Soviet space.