A senior Russian official on Wednesday accused the United States of meddling in Armenia’s internal affairs and said Russia expects its South Caucasus ally to stand up to Washington.
“Against the background of radical changes taking place in the country this year, Washington’s interference in its internal and external affairs is becoming increasingly unceremonious,” charged Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.
“We expect that the current leadership of Armenia, which received a necessary mandate in the [December 9] parliamentary elections, will have the courage to resist the unhidden external blackmail and pressure and will defend its sovereign right to independently make decisions based on national interests,” he told the RIA Novosti news agency.
Karasin pointed to recent statements made by U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and Richard Mills, the former U.S. ambassador in Yerevan.
Visiting Yerevan in October, Bolton said that normalizing relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey would enable Armenia to break “historical patterns” that have shaped its traditional foreign policy. He also indicated that Washington is ready to sell Yerevan U.S. weapons and thus reduce Russia’s “excessive influence” on Armenia.
Bolton further stated that the administration of President Donald Trump will enforce renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran “very vigorously.” The Armenian-Iranian border is therefore “going to be a significant issue,” he said after talks with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Karasin claimed that Trump’s national security adviser “ordered Armenia to buy American weapons and join the anti-Iranian sanctions as soon as possible.” “If this is the public side of U.S.-Armenian relations then one can imagine what kind of arm-twisting is taking place behind the scenes,” he said.
The Russian official went on to note the “tragic fate” of Ukraine and Georgia which he said have been let down by the West. “Such obvious disregard by the West of the interests of countries which it has been drawing into its orbit must serve as a warning [to Armenia,]” he said.
Armenian officials earlier played down the significance of Bolton’s public statements. In particular, they insisted that Yerevan has received no concrete offers to buy U.S. military hardware.
Also, Pashinian made clear last month that Armenia will maintain its close relationship with Iran despite the U.S. sanctions. Pashinian said that the U.S. administration “understands our situation and policy.”
Earlier in November, a team of officials from the U.S. State and Treasury Departments visited Yerevan to explain implications of the sanctions to Armenia’s government and private sector.
Pashinian has also repeatedly ruled out any major changes in Armenia’s policy towards Russia ever since he came to power in May. He has specifically made clear that his country will remain part of Russian-led military and trade blocs.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was quick to congratulate Pashinian on becoming prime minister after weeks of mass protests that toppled Armenia’s former government. But Moscow subsequently criticized the new authorities in Yerevan for prosecuting Yuri Khachaturov, the secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and former President Robert Kocharian.
Putin made a point of telephoning of Kocharian in August to congratulate him on his 64th birthday anniversary.
Kocharian, who denies coup charges brought against him as politically motivated, was again arrested on December 7 two days before the Armenian parliamentary elections won by Pashinian’s My Step alliance.
Putin has still not congratulated Pashinian on that landslide victory. The Russian ambassador in Yerevan, Sergey Kopyrkin, downplayed this fact on Tuesday. Citing the “inter-state protocol,” Kopyrkin hinted that Putin will send a congratulatory message after Pashinian is formally reappointed as prime minister.
Putin congratulated former President Serzh Sarkisian two days after his Republican Party of Armenia won the previous parliamentary elections held in April 2017.