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U.S. patience with Armenia’s new government under Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is wearing thin as the administration through influential mouthpieces is urging official Yerevan to end a game of cat-and-mouse and get down to work.
Washington is increasingly assertive in its criticism of Armenia’s ties with Russia and Iran, but it’s not clear whether it has the clout to do anything about its allies.
Paul Stronski, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, director for Russia and Central Asia, Georgetown University professor, addressed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan through a series of Twitter posts, demanding that the pro-American vector of Armenian foreign policy be strengthened. He recalled that Washington had already paid $25 million to the new government in Yerevan.
“Pashinyan should get down to work and stop playing politics with U.S. U.S. was highly critical of Kocharyan/Sargsyan in 2008; it pulled MCC funding for key road project because Armenia failed key democratic indicator (March 2008). That was big deal. Pashinyan’s recent criticism that U.S. has done nothing to support Armenia since 2018 velvet revolution is simply not true. U.S. increased its assistance significantly to the country after the transfer of power. Unlike the EU, which pledges money, but delivers slowly, $14million in additional assistance flowed into Armenia from U.S. within 6 months.
“In fact, U.S. provided over $25 million to Armenia last year,” Paul Stronski said in a tweet.
“That is on top of over $1 billion in U.S. assistance to Armenia since 1992. That is a lot of money. U.S. is readying to provide more, especially once Pashinyan’s government makes its policy priorities and action plans clear. U.S. understands Armenian interests in Syria because of diaspora. But Armenian deployment of deminers to Syria alongside Russia is a big deal to the U.S, especially because Russian paramilitaries attacked U.S. forces in Syria a year ago. Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus long resisted Russian pressure to deploy to Syria to support Moscow’s efforts to prop up man who used chemical weapons on own people. Armenia is so far only one that has. U.S. trained those deminers, as part of long-standing U.S. support to demining in Armenia. That is part of the $1 billion in aid given by U.S. to Armenia. So deploying them to Syria alongside Russia looks particularly bad to U.S. audience.
There seemed to be no messaging strategy to West, nor did there appear to be an understanding of how this would appear to Armenia’s European and North American partners. U.S.-Armenian relationship is strong, and this is an unforced error. But, Pashinyan has work to do and he should do it, instead of blaming the U.S.
In the meantime, political pundits familiar with the issue remain wary of developments between Armenia and Russia on the one hand, and Armenia-U.S. on the other. Kazakh pundit Sultanbek Sultangaliyev says it was expected that sooner or later, demands would be made for strengthening the “pro-American vector of Armenian foreign policy”, or rather, “the full Ukrainization of Yerevan’s foreign policy”.
Now U.S. is stepping up efforts to increase efficiency of U.S. aids channeled into the support of democratization throughout the world, especially in the Eurasian space. Actually, U.S. financial aids are just an excuse to demand the fulfillment of certain agreements reached between the leaders of the velvet revolution and the U.S. in exchange for unconditional support from the West, the pundit opined.
The Armenian leadership has found itself in a tight spot, as the populist anti-Eurasian rhetoric of the election promises has been replaced, obviously, by understanding the depth of unequivocal Russian-Armenian relations and Armenia’s presence in the Russian-led EAEU and CSTO. What seems to be one from the opposition barricades is different from the highest post with ensuing responsibilities and relevant actions.
In his opinion, the timing of publication of the article by the American expert with claims to the Armenian government is, most likely, not by chance. On April 29-30, a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Commission and the EAEU Intergovernmental Council will be held in Yerevan.
“The West will increase requirements for Armenia’s withdrawal from the Eurasian Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, as there may not be another convenient chance because the current political alliance that has arisen around Nikol Pashinyan is extremely unstable and lacking internal unity,” the pundit added.
Although after Nikol Pashinyan came to power in Armenia, many said that relations between the West and Armenia – in particular, between the U.S. and Armenia – would develop, we did not see much progress. And this is despite the fact that there are a lot of people working for Soros, including the closest associates of the Armenian leader Pashinyan in his team, pundit Zaur Mammadov says.
Of course, pro-Western elements and antipathy towards Russia are noticeable in the management style of Armenia. Frankly, in many countries and regions of the world today there is an ideological struggle between the pro-Western and pro-Russian representatives of the political elite, groups: some defend the pro-Russian direction, others – the pro-Western. However, Armenia is still highly dependent on Moscow, and Pashinyan has practically no opportunity to maneuver between the West and Russia. An indicator of this is his latest actions. True, after coming to power, he acted more as an independent candidate, together with his assistants criticized Russia at certain points. Today, if his assistants continue this policy, then Pashinyan himself avoids anti-Russian criticism, realizing that it is impossible to be at the same time in power in Armenia and be in opposition to Russia
As for the relations with the West, he continued, currently Pashinyan travels to Europe almost every month, asks for help, funding, and characterizes last year’s events in Armenia as a triumph of democracy, although it’s premature to talk about democracy in Armenia.
The U.S. expects Pashinyan to make resolute moves. Now they have openly demonstrated this, so that the Armenian society to learn about the actions of its leader. Armenian society, mostly young people, is pro-Western, so if they see that the authorities continue to pursue the same policy, this could result in Pashinyan’s resignation in years to come.