“The very first minutes of 2021 should be the ‘zero point’ for us to usher in the outset of our new national rise,” Pashinian said in a televised address to the nation aired on New Year’s Eve.
“What do we need for this? First of all, to furnish a new security environment, the most important component of which is the launch of army reforms and the strengthening of relations with our primary security partner, Russia, and the creation, in this context, of new security guarantees,” he said.
Armenia already has close political, economic and military ties with Russia. It hosts a Russian military base and has long received Russian weapons at knockdown prices and even for free.
Moscow also deployed 2,000 peacekeeping troops to Karabakh as part of a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war on November 10. In addition, it dispatched Russian soldiers and border guards to Armenia’s Syunik region southwest of Karabakh to help the Armenian military defend it against possible Azerbaijani attacks.
Pashinian again praised the Russian peacekeepers, saying that their presence provides “substantial security guarantees” for Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population.
The vast majority of Armenian opposition forces, including the formerly pro-Western Bright Armenia Party (LHK), also support closer ties with Russia, saying that is the only realistic way to counter Azerbaijan’s military alliance with Turkey.
LHK leader Edmon Marukian called last week for the opening of a second Russian military base in Armenia. Marukian said the base should be stationed in Syunik.
Former President Robert Kocharian likewise made a case on December 4 for Armenia’s “much deeper integration” with Russia. Kocharian, who has a cordial rapport with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that only Russia can help his country rearm its armed forces and confront new security challenges in the aftermath of the Karabakh war.
“I am convinced that the further development of multifaceted Russian-Armenian ties meets the fundamental interests of our two brotherly peoples,” Putin said in a New Year and Christmas message to Pashinian sent earlier this week.
He said that in the course of 2020 Moscow and Yerevan “became fully convinced of the significance of friendly, allied relations between our countries.”