Suren Sargsyan

Pashinyan in Moscow: Deep or Superficial Contradictions?

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Nikol Pashinyan’s visit to Moscow had some interesting nuances. Pashinyan did not attend Vladimir Putin’s inauguration ceremony on May 7, citing the absence of an invitation. On May 8, he participated in a meeting of Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) leaders. However, on the early morning of May 9, he returned to Yerevan without joining the planned parade on Red Square celebrating the victory day in the Great Patriotic War (World War II) of 1941-1945, despite the presence of the presidents or leaders of other countries.

During his time in Moscow, Pashinyan chaired the regular session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council as part of the meeting of EAEU leaders. Shortly after the session, he had a tête-à-tête meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was the most crucial part of his trip considering the recent tense relations between Yerevan and Moscow. According to the official website of the Armenian government, Pashinyan mentioned that the two parties discussed the most crucial issues of bilateral relations and regional matters.

The official statement from the Russian President was more or less similar to the Armenian press release. But it was only an official side of the meeting. Given the complexity of Armenian-Russian relations, Armenians eagerly anticipated further details about these meetings, which were initially reported by pro-Pashinyan media. According to these sources, Pashinyan insisted in Moscow that all Russian forces deployed in Tavush, Syunik, Vayots Dzor, and other Armenian regions during or after the 44-day war should be withdrawn. Additionally, as per the pro-Pashinyan media reports, Russian personnel were to be relocated from Zvartnots International Airport.

Hours later, the press secretary of Russian President Putin commented on the meeting, mentioning that “Indeed, due to the fact that conditions have changed, Pashinyan and Putin agreed on this issue.”  Press Secretary Peskov added that at the request of the Armenian side, Russian border guards will remain on the border with Iran and Turkey.

Despite the verbal tension, Armenia has not taken any actions directly against Russia or Russian interests. Despite initial discussions about leaving the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Armenia has not formally applied for termination, which requires a 6-month notice. Yerevan mentioned freezing its CSTO membership, but the organization’s charter does not allow for membership freezing. Armenia also declared it will not pay the CSTO membership fee, which is a small administrative cost funding a CSTO staff.

As for the economic side of relations, they are experiencing growth, with Russia remaining Armenia’s top economic partner. Armenian-Russian as well as Armenian-EAEU trade are experiencing increasing numbers and high-level cooperation, as noted by Putin and Pashinyan during their recent meeting with satisfaction. It is obvious that Armenia has no plans to leave the EAEU, as often discussed in Armenia. Yerevan is required to provide a year’s notice according to the EAEU charter, which it has not done so far. Despite the aforementioned outward tension, Armenia in fact does not appear ready or capable of exiting Russia’s sphere of influence.

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