Armenia initially faced the coronavirus pandemic successfully, but now it seems that the situation is getting out of hand. Even Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his family members have been infected with the virus, leaving the country in survival mode.
In view of the critical situation, the first president of the republic, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who seldom comments on political developments, has issued a stern warning on ilur.am under the title of “Simple Syllogism.” In it he says, “1. Coronavirus has declared war on Armenia. 2. The burden of conducting the war falls on the shoulders of the leaders. 3. Whoever is fighting against the leadership, willingly or unwillingly, betrays the nation. The domestic political infighting during the war is madness, which has no justification.”
Ter-Petrosyan believes he has the moral responsibility to sound the alarm at moments of crisis. He did so also during the four-day war in April 2016, advising people to rally around the government of President Serzh Sargsyan, whom he did not like.
Surprisingly, very few people heeded his warning the last time around. On the contrary, many voices, from the ruling party and opposition quarters, joined to criticize him.
A realignment of political forces was in the offing before the virus struck. One dramatic development was the sustained effort toward the elimination of corruption, including illegal ways of amassing wealth and vote buying. However, before reforms could be implemented, the country was hamstrung by COVID-19.
The Pashinyan administration, while grappling with domestic problems, was also challenged in the foreign policy realm. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements on April 21 continue to reverberate in political circles and the news media. On that date Lavrov had stated that the negotiation process conducted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group could be stopped. Instead, he proposed a phased solution to the Karabakh conflict, with the first step being the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the areas outside Karabakh. Then, just to stress where Russia stood with regard to Armenia, he refused to lower the price of Russian gas, even when there is a glut of energy on the world market. He concluded his remarks by warning the Armenian government to stop its lawsuits against Russian interests in Armenia, namely challenges against Gazprom and the railway system.