How to get out of the foreign policy turbulence?

How to get out of the foreign policy turbulence?

The beginning of the parliamentary elections in Armenia was marked by a number of noteworthy visits made by the representatives of Russian scientific, analytical and journalistic spheres. Thus, well-known journalists Dmitry Kiselev and Vladimir Solovyev arrived in Yerevan to take part in the regular meeting of the "Griboedov Club". During the press conference, which was attended by the representatives of various think tanks, newspapers and television, Russian journalists touched upon numerous economic and military-political aspects of Armenian-Russian relations? In general, the discussion turned out to be quite interesting. However, the most memorable episode was Vladimir Solovyev's monologue about the external political passivity of official Yerevan and failures of the Armenian diplomatic mission in Moscow. The second most important thesis was the one of Mr. Kiselev who said that while selling weapons to Azerbaijan, Russia received certain tools to control it. This thought, as it was supposed, caused another resonance in the Armenian public.

However, the very fact that the representatives of the Armenian side systematically raise the same questions (often without changing the wording) demonstrates deep crisis. Traditionally, at such press conferences, it is the host that sets the discussion vector. Firstly, the Armenian factor should be put on the first place. As a rule, the representatives of political, analytical and journalistic spheres from Russia, the United States, France and other countries talk about Russian-Armenian, American-Armenian, French-Armenian relations, emphasizing the priority of the parties.  Based on this, in Armenia, the representatives of political and economic elites, academicians, analysts and journalists should place the Armenian factor to the forefront (at least in primitive formulations). Secondly, it is extremely important to focus on fundamental issues: finding out the place and role of Armenia in the Eurasian integration projects, identifying the main problems of interstate relations, understanding the strategic vision for the further development of the political dialogue.

The themes that we most often raise for our Russian colleagues are the sale of weapons to Azerbaijan, anti-Armenian statements of some high-ranking officials, transfer of the summit from Yerevan to Moscow, extradition of  the Russian-Israeli blogger by Minsk at the request of Baku and also the lack of reaction of the CSTO to the shelling of the Armenian border. These are just symptoms that indicate the existence of serious and fundamental problems. The main mistake lies in the fact that we persistently demand to remove the neglected symptoms that became indicators of an acute political disease. It arose because of the lack of state vision and absolute lack of understanding of how to work with Russia and other members of the above-mentioned integration projects. Not a single high-ranking politician has given clear answers to crucial strategic questions so far: how the membership in the Eurasian Union or the CSTO can help Armenia to solve political, military, economic and other tasks? As a rule, states that voluntarily give part of their sovereignty to a supranational level, acquire double and even triple benefits. For example, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus consistently and actively use the factor of their membership to solve their own problems of different nature. At each meeting, the leaders of these countries raise worrying issues, demanding solutions to the existing problems.

In turn, during the meetings, the Armenian side behaves extremely passively, artificially showing that it has no claims. Most likely, this behavior is due to reluctance to demand something from the partners. Moreover, official Yerevan seeks to demonstrate to Russia its ability to solve its problems independently, unlike other countries (which always complain). According to Armenian politicians, Moscow should appreciate such a line with the resulting political and economic dividends. However, the case of the Yerevan summit (and many other examples) showed that this approach was harmful and even dangerous. In fact, there is a situation when Azerbaijan, not being in the Eurasian Union and the CSTO, exerts powerful pressure on Armenia through Belarus and Kazakhstan, and develops military-technical relations with Russia quite rapidly.

Hence, a question arises: "Does Yerevan understand the long-term consequences of preserving such a configuration?" There is a quite simple recipe that will help to remedy the situation, to some extent: Armenia should squeeze the maximum out of its membership in these structures, making open claims and demanding reckoning with its interests. Like other members of the Eurasian Union, Russia has great respect for those countries and leaders that are able to defend their national interests. In our case, Russia hardly comprehends the long-term political aspirations of Armenia. Why is it so? The answer is transparent: Armenian politicians solve exclusively short-term issues. For example, official Yerevan may ask Moscow to exert pressure on Baku after another diversion. However, the Armenian side has no understanding of how to use its advantages to involve foreign policy instruments of Russia, the Eurasian Union and the CSTO against Azerbaijan.

Many experts and politicians suggest a different solution to the problem - the way out of Eurasian structures. However, supporters of this scenario should understand that Armenia, which does not have its own strategy and other external alternatives, objectively cannot afford such sharp maneuvers. Undoubtedly, neutral and nonblocked Armenia would be the ideal solution. However, to return that status, it is necessary to provide fundamental changes that will allow the country to acquire substantial instruments of influence. Promotion of national interests is closely connected with the country's resource-saving:  financial, political, economic, human and etc. Does Armenia have these opportunities today? The stubborn statistics says that it does not. In this regard, it is necessary: a) to strengthen Armenia's positions in the Eurasian Union and the CSTO; b) to get out of the foreign policy turbulence and find Armenia’s place in the modern crisis and chaotic world-system. How to achieve that?

Firstly, Armenia must devise a clear and consistent position on issues of national character. Basically, we are talking about the political future of the Republic of Artsakh. It is necessary to take a principled position on the impossibility of further negotiations without the participation of official Stepanakert. This will allow to change the discourse of the negotiation process (today Artsakh is the object of the negotiation process instead of being the subject). Yerevan and Stepanakert, being winners, should set the tone in these negotiations. They should not hold discussions about any territorial concessions. In fact, the very fact of negotiating with the aggressor party that was defeated in the war is a fundamental concession from the Armenian side (no more gestures of goodwill are required).

Secondly, official Yerevan should play the key role in uniting the Armenian-centric Diaspora forces around the world. Most of the current organizations in Diaspora are obsolete and are not able to lobby Armenia's interests at a proper level. In addition, many Diaspora organizations promote the political agenda of their countries of residence. Using the resources of such organizations is possible in those cases when the goals and tasks of Armenia coincide with the interests of these countries on various issues. In general, we need to form predominantly state-oriented influence groups for lobbying our interests at the highest level. To achieve this goal, the Armenian authorities must: a) understand and analyze the political nature of modern Diaspora; b) abandon the strategy of targeting narrow financial elites in Diaspora; c) develop mechanisms for long-term work with the broad public in Diaspora, nurturing and bringing up Armenian-centric elites.

Thirdly, systematic work with the countries of the Eurasian Union is also needed. It is extremely important to understand and accept the fact that the political behavior of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus will have a direct impact on Armenia. To neutralize threats, it is necessary to move from a reactionary policy to a preventive one. All the tools for the effective solution of this problem have long been invented and repeatedly tested: a) enhanced and high-quality work of diplomatic missions; b) formation of operating lobby groups in the political, economic, cultural, academic, analytical, information and propaganda spheres. Setting up the systemic work will help protect our interests and devalue the most dangerous and serious initiatives on the part of Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The survival of the country and the entire nation depends on how the leadership of Armenia will be able to solve these tasks. Undoubtedly, while forming long-term strategic goals, we should not forget about the importance of short- and medium-term tasks. However, it is extremely significant to remember that short-term focus only always leads to political stagnation with all the ensuing consequences.

Areg Galstyan - PhD, regular contributor to The National Interest, Forbes, The Hill and The American Thinker.

These views are his own.


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