Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Armenia Turning Away From Russia, Says Lavrov

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Armenia is reorienting its foreign policy towards the West at the expense of its long-standing alliance with Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview published on December 28.

“Unfortunately, official Yerevan, succumbing to the persuasion of Westerners, is trying to reform its foreign policy line,” he told the official Russian news agency TASS. ”It is exchanging the time-tested alliance with Moscow not even for concrete help from the West but only for vague promises.”

Lavrov was particularly concerned about what he described as Armenia’s deepening ties with NATO.

“Yerevan has been developing cooperation with NATO and its individual member countries lately,” he said. “This year, Armenia took part in several dozen events with the alliance. It continues to modernize its armed forces according to NATO standards, and the republic’s military personnel are undergoing training in a number of NATO member states. This cannot fail to cause us concern.”

“I hope that Yerevan is aware that deepening interaction with the alliance leads to a loss of sovereignty in the field of national defense and security,” he warned.

Earlier this week, a senior NATO official praised Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government for moving away from Russia and seeking “more cooperation and political dialogue” with NATO.

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“Armenia has decided very clearly to make some shift in their foreign policy, to take some distance from Moscow,” Javier Colomina, the NATO secretary general’s special representative for the South Caucasus and Central Asia, told Georgian television.

Pashinyan declared in early September that his government wants to “diversify our security policy” because Armenia’s heavy reliance on Russia has proved a “strategic mistake.” He claimed that Moscow is “unwilling or unable” to defend its South Caucasus ally. Armenia hosted a US-Armenian military exercise later in September.

The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced these and other “unfriendly steps,” accusing Pashinyan of “destroying” Russian-Armenian relations at the behest of Western powers. The rift between the two long-time allies deepened further after Moscow did not prevent or stop Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military offensive that restored Azerbaijani control over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Despite the heightened tensions, Pashinyan has announced no plans to pull his country out of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Pashinyan said in late October that his administration is also not considering demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from Armenia even if it sees no “advantages” in their presence.

Lavrov described as “harmful” any talk of such a withdrawal. He insisted that Armenia cannot successfully confront its grave security challenges with the help of the United States and the European Union.

Pashinyan’s domestic political opponents have also criticized his foreign policy moves while agreeing with his assertions that Russia is not fully honoring its security commitments to Armenia. They argue that the West is not ready to give Armenia any security guarantees or significant military aid.

 

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