Armenia’s jailed former President Robert Kocharian heaped praise on Russia for its emerging role in global politics and leveled harsh criticism at what he described as the pro-Western government in Yerevan in an article published on the website of Sputnik-Armenia, a Kremlin-funded Russian news agency, on November 8.
Kocharian, who is being tried on coup and bribery charges and has seen his bail requests being repeatedly rejected by the court, also predicts “bad scenarios” for Armenia, warning of “graver-than-ever-before” consequences of a possible new war with neighboring Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The 65-year-old former Armenian leader with business interests in Russia also claims a diminishing role of the United States in the world.
“We are witnessing fundamental changes in world politics when the undisputed leadership of the United States is effectively challenged by new rising global players. The world leader that has exhausted the resource of its domination, but is not wishing to give up its positions is unsuccessfully trying to prevent the growing power and influence of emerging rivals. Such processes are known to history, are well studied by experts and are always accompanied by uncertainty, instability, and often also large and small wars,” Kocharian writes.
“The United States’ trade war with China, the contrived series of sanctions against Russia, the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the U.S. detachment from the unfolding Middle East drama, an unexpected rapprochement between Russia and Turkey in Syria, an impressive Russia-Africa forum – this is an incomplete list of convincing signs of the formation of a new multi-polar world order. The current situation requires deep understanding and a well-defined foreign policy that can neutralize new challenges and threats for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Kocharian goes on to say that this “new unfolding reality of world politics” has a direct impact on security in the South Caucasus region. “Just a few years ago, the United States and the European Union were the main allies and at the same time constraining factors for Turkey. However, the shouts from Washington and Brussels had zero effect on Turkey when its troops entered Syria. A warning letter from U.S. President Donald Trump to Recep Tayyip Erdogan ended up in the Turkish leader’s trash can. Only the Russian presence in Syria had a sufficient potential of influence that could stop the Turks. Today, Russia remains the only deterrent to Turkey in the region,” he writes.
Kocharian suggests that relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan have further strengthened in recent years, “becoming a cornerstone in the context of the revived pan-Turkist aspirations, which pose a direct threat to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“The recent statement by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev about claims to [Armenia’s] Zangezur that he made at the summit of Turkic peoples in Baku was by no means accidental. This is a step towards the actualization of the forgotten idea of geographical continuity of the settlement of Turkic peoples.
“In this situation, cooperation with Russia in the field of security becomes even more important for Armenia and obviously has no alternative for the country. Only irresponsible or recruited politicians can today insist on the withdrawal of the Russian base from the country. The Kurdish tragedy unfolding in northern Syria should be a clear lesson of consequences of political shortsightedness.”
Kocharian argues that Armenia’s current authorities are far from realizing these dangers and this lack of understanding, according to him, is partly due to the country’s “new domestic political reality.”
“With the exception of a couple of technocratic ministers that have no political clout the government and the core of the parliamentary majority are made up of people fed with U.S. grants. The media support to the authorities is provided exclusively by pro-Western media, at the forefront of which is RFE/RL (Azatutyun). All pro-government political parties, politicians and nongovernmental organizations have a clear anti-Russian orientation and as a rule receive Western funding,” the former Armenian president contends.
Among the political groups allegedly supporting Pashinian Kocharian singles out Sasna Tsrer, a political party founded by members of a hardline nationalist group that attacked a police compound in Yerevan in 2016. The ex-president notes that Sasna Tsrer “aggressively advocates for the immediate withdrawal of the Russian military base from Armenia.”
“In fact, the entire politically active base of support for the prime minister is openly pro-Western. And this is despite the continuation by the authorities of the country’s previous foreign policy and constant curtsies towards Russia.
“On the other hand, political parties and politicians oriented towards multifaceted cooperation with Russia do not support the current government and absolutely do not trust it. All of them believe that the pro-Western political views of the authorities, confronted with dependence on Russian energy resources and markets, get transformed into mercantile pragmatism,” Kocharian claims.
In the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict Kocharian accuses the government of Nikol Pashinian of “weakening Armenian positions in negotiations”, warning of a possible new war with Azerbaijan that will entail “devastating consequences incomparably graver than ever before.”
The former president accuses Pashinian of effectively nullifying the agreements on strengthening ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone achieved with Azerbaijan by the previous administration of President Serzh Sarkisian following a brief escalation of fighting in 2016. He also alleges “complicated relations” between the ruling elites in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and blunders committed by Armenia’s leadership in this regard.
“The prime minister’s statement that ‘Karabakh is Armenia, full stop!” has shifted the negotiations away from the principle of self-determination of peoples onto a plane of territorial integrity of nations, which is undesirable for us,” Kocharian writes.
Parliamentarians representing Pashinian’s My Step alliance have dismissed Kocharian’s criticism, accusing him of trouble-making and trying to derail Armenian-Russian relations.
Along with three other former officials Kocharian is charged in connection with a March 2008 crackdown on opposition protesters that left at least 10 people dead. He is also charged with receiving a $3 million bribe from an entrepreneur during his presidency.