Russian Peacekeepers in Karabakh: Threat or Bluff?

    • Politics - 06 September 2017, 16:33
On August 23, after his meeting with Putin in Sochi, Serzh Sargsyan told the participants of Baze Youth Camp that he did not discuss the stationing of peacekeepers in Karabakh and the Karabakh issue in general. In addition, he didn’t specify what was discussed with the Russian president.

There is an opinion that one of the discussed topics was the participation of Armenia in NATO drill which started yesterday. On September 3 it became known that Armenia rejected participation at the last minute. There is an opinion that agreement on this had been achieved in Sochi or more exactly Putin “advised” Sargsyan not to take part in the drill. It is not clear whether it has anything to do with the issue of peacekeepers.

The last drill in NATO in which Armenia took part ended last week in Georgia. Though Armenia has attended NATO trainings several times and does not hide its cooperation with the alliance, this drill has caused a real storm in Russia and Armenia.

The U.S. Ambassador in Armenia Richard Mills has specifically underlined the participation of Armenia in NATO training as an example of a “sovereign decision” which stems from the interests of Armenia.

In Russia, on the contrary, the participation of Armenia has caused a sensitive reaction, with elements of blames for treachery.

And the reaction to Armenia’s participation in the drill was absolutely positive. None of the political forces and NGOs was against. In other words, cooperation with NATO and participation in its missions gets full support in Armenia, unlike its participation in other unions. For example, after the April war the public in Armenia held at least three protests in front of the Russian embassy, demanding to stop its support to Azerbaijan.

Against the “public support” to cooperation with NATO, Armenia suddenly refuses to attend the training. What has Putin “advised” or rather threatened Sargsyan? It is possible that the “price” of the question was the peacekeepers about which Sargsyan and Putin “have not talked”. At any rate, the authorities want it to appear in this way.

If we compare facts, we may conclude that Putin has promised not to actualize the issue of stationing peacekeepers in Karabakh in case Armenia refuses to attend this training because after the previous training Russia apparently had an impression that it is losing control over Armenia. There is a decision to use the “heavy artillery”, the issue of peacekeepers.

Serzh Sargsyan pretends believing. The point is that this issue, even if it seems real, looks like a bluff which Armenia could manage. The same was before and after the April war when some circles in Russia were trying to extort from Armenia a request for assistance. Armenia did not turn to Russia for help, which demonstrated that Russian peacekeepers are a threat to Armenia rather than a possibility to manipulate Russia.

Rejecting participation in NATO training is a tool for manipulation. Apparently, Serzh Sargsyan wants to demonstrate to the West that he makes such decisions, and if he wants, Armenia will participate, if he doesn’t want, Armenia will not participate, and he does not fear reputation risks.

Serzh Sargsyan needs to keep the leashes of politics and governance in his hands until next April and will not allow sudden turns because he may fall at the slightest wobble.