Commentary: Prospects of a Putin Comeback

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

Azerbaijan has decided to have war games on the Nagorno Karabagh borders. Turkey has joined the same games on Armenia’s borders. They both have planned to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Khojaly “genocide” with many provocative manifestations. In Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the state-sponsored demonstrations were headed by Turkey’s interior minister. At the same demonstrations, the ultra-nationalist group, the Grey Wolves, hoisted banners with these threatening slogans: “Today in Taksim, Tomorrow in Yerevan.” Of course a full-page ad in the New York Times “commemorating” the Khojaly incident intended to bring the war drumbeat to the US shores. Oil money can buy anything but the truth.

Why all of a sudden is this war-mongering orchestrated by a country whose foreign minister was claiming that he had reduced Turkey’s problems with its neighbors to zero?

Furthermore, aggravating the situation is Israel’s saber rattling against Iran, rendering the entire region to a powder keg.

Within the context of war rhetoric and the rising tensions, Armenia has to consider its security arrangements. Armenians have shed too much blood to give any credence to lofty slogans, which the West is showering over the region, under the umbrella of nuclear warheads.

Many people had been questioning the wisdom of extending Armenia’s security arrangement with Russia to another 49 years. Even some politicians in Armenia had joined that chorus. Today the significance of the Russian base in Armenia comes through more vividly.

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Russia may not exercise the best brand of democracy as far as the West is concerned. That it has the nuclear deterrent to keep Armenia’s enemies at bay is the difference between life and death for our beleaguered ancestral land.

March 4 is a crucial date for Russia and its allies, because the presidential elections will take place in that country then. Vladimir Putin is the front-runner in those elections much to the chagrin of the West. In fact, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cold War has not ended. It still continues, admittedly at a lower intensity.

Former President Boris Yeltsin was the darling of the West who was in the perfect position to keep Russia in disarray. That is why President Bill Clinton supported him and befriended him to forestall or delay Russia’s return to the world political scene.

Enter President Putin. Under his leadership, Russia shaped up to assume its former role, although not with full potential.

The two-million-strong Armenian community in Russia, goaded with a sense of security, has rallied around the Putin candidacy. Both lay and religious organizations have mobilized their forces in support of Putin, because they see in him the guarantee of a strong hand to keep Russia’s social and economic life in order. Unfortunately, the economic upheaval and the political about-face in Russia in the past two decades, has given a freehand to the rise of fascists, neo-Nazis, extreme right groups and skinheads, who have descended on those from the Caucasus, harassing and even murdering them. Armenians are also ranked alongside those “undesirable” minorities be targeted for murder. Putin’s strong-arm policies will keep those gangs in check.

The Russian-Armenian community is the strongest economic resource for Armenia. That community tops all other communities in making cash remittances to families and friends in Armenia. Putin himself has engineered many investment and joint economic projects for Armenia. He is a proven hand, which does not have an alternative for the Armenians. Russia extended $500 million to Armenia to weather the recent economic crisis.

In a simplistic view, no US citizen should wish a competing power to rise to challenge US policies around the world. But throughout the Cold War, a bi-polar political system has kept the world in balance, unfortunately, through a balance of terror. But ever since the crumbling of the Soviet Union and the creation of a uni-polar system, many countries have fallen victim to so-called “democratization” and the trend continues.

Our Mid-East foreign policy, to no one’s surprise, is not formulated at Foggy Bottom. It was hijacked leading to the Iraq war, where blood is still spilling, and “democracy,” the stated goal of the neo-conservatives behind the scenes of the Bush II administration, is no closer than when Saddam Hussein ruled with impunity. It was hijacked to destroy a sovereign country like Libya and the drum beat is continuing to launch an aggression against Syria. Russia and China voted at the UN Security Council against an invasion of Syria, infuriating parties eager to bring regime changes in the Middle East for their own selfish needs, at the cost of US tax payers and the blood of uniformed citizens. There is no doubt that democracy is not a quality peddled — or valued — by the Assad clan in Syria. The killing of innocent civilians is deplorable. However, those who want to topple the regime, do so not to bring democracy there, but to put on the throne their puppet. As seen in Egypt and Libya, when the powerful leader is toppled, the ensuing chaos claims even more lives. The US is not a beneficiary of those wars, for which it pays the price. It only wins more enemies.

March 4 will prove to be a watershed for Russia where traditionally strong leadership is favored. It will be a watershed for Armenia too and hopefully will induce some balance in the world politics run berserk.

 

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