Will Armenia turn into new Ukraine for Russia?
Armenia's situation with anti-Russian sentiments is close to critical, the political scientist Karine Gevorgyan said recently, speaking about the lack of the Russian authorities' work with the societies of the allied countries, while the West conducts this work very actively.
"There are a lot of [Western] funds and pro-American politicians in Armenia ... However, there is a lack of influence of the Armenian community in the US ... We do not have any pro-Russian resource, any pro-Russian politician in Armenia. The same situation as in Ukraine - and we are on the verge of collapse in this situation," she warned.
The director of the Institute of Contemporary Economics Nikita Isayev, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, pointed to the same problem."Armenia has become a hostage of President Serzh Sargsyan, who is associated with Russian influence, while having an extremely low rating. The level of confidence in Sargsyan, and, consequently, in Russia, is very low now," he said.
"Literally, all the government institutions in Armenia have a low degree of legitimacy now, which directly influences attitudes toward Russia. Therefore, Armenian society demands the government to turn to the West," Nikita Isaev stressed.
The problem is aggravated by the activities of local media. "As a matter of fact, only Sputnik-Armenia and, possibly, News Armenia can be called pro-Russian media in Armenia. By and large, all other media are either neutral, or occupy a pro-Western position. Of course, Western intelligence agencies, primarily by the British, French and American intelligence. Western and Russian support for humanitarian, infrastructure and economic projects in Armenia are not comparable, and I'm afraid that we have not just begun to lose Armenia, but we may even get a direct enemy in its face in 2-3 years," he predicts.
This situation means significant external risks for Russia. "Russia's risks are the rejection of its interests, the loss of the last official Russian outpost in Transcaucasia and the gateway to the Middle East, and a decline in the level of world support. The most radical scenario is a possible direct armed conflict, in which Russia can be a rival of Armenia as a member of NATO or an ally in the North Atlantic alliance," Nikita Isaev said.
To prevent such a situation, effective use of "soft power" is necessary. "It is necessary to invest in this work everywhere in the post-Soviet space. Russia needs to adjust to real economic projects in the sphere of small and medium-sized business, to ensure deeper integration of Armenian entrepreneurs into the Russian economic system. It is necessary to work more effectively with the media and humanitarian projects," the head of the Institute of Contemporary Economic called on.
The director of the Institute of Political Studies Sergei Markov noted that outbreaks of anti-Russian sentiments have started in Armenia a long time ago. "We have been observing for a long time that the Armenian authorities show insufficient rigidity in suppressing foreign financing of anti-Russian campaigns and themselves creating a material basis for anti-Russian policy, glorifying such Nazi collaborators as Garegin Nzhdeh," he said.
"For me, Karine Gevorgyan's statement was a surprise, I think that the expert community should pay more attention to this process and understand the situation," Sergei Markov suggested, adding that Armenia following Ukraine's path would mean high risks for Russia.
"The risks are quite serious: either the Maidan, or the evolution of the Armenian government along the anti-Russian path, which could lead to Armenia's withdrawal from the Eurasian Union and the expansion of military cooperation with NATO. In perspective, Armenia is able to turn into another hostile state like Ukraine, or the Baltic states, or Moldova," he said.
Sergei Markov suggested that Yerevan should take over part of the work on confronting anti-Russian sentiment in Armenia. "The main work should be carried out by the Armenian government. It should close those foreign funds that are engaged in the promotion of anti-Russian propaganda. And I think they should also pass a law banning anti-Russian propaganda," the director of the Institute for Political Studies concluded.