YEREVAN, Armenia –
Armenia’s prime minister on Tuesday accused Moscow’s dominant security alliance of leaving his country in the cold amid threats of renewed hostilities with neighboring Azerbaijan.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has repeatedly criticized what he described as the failure of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, to protect member Armenia amid its standoff with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Russia, which has sought to maintain strong ties with its ally Armenia while maintaining friendly relations with energy-rich Azerbaijan, has embarked on a delicate diplomatic balancing act, avoiding any forceful action. The Kremlin’s influence in the region has become more limited as Russia has focused its resources on the war in Ukraine.
Pashinyan said during a meeting with journalists that Armenia is not leaving CSTO, but, on the contrary, “CSTO is leaving Armenia whether we like it or not.”
“We are concerned about that,” said Pashinyan.
He emphasized that “the threat of escalation along the border of Armenia and in Nagorno-Karabakh is now very high”, noting the “increasingly aggressive rhetoric on the part of Azerbaijan”.
Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan rose in December when Azeri protesters claiming to be environmental activists blocked the so-called Lachin Corridor, the main road between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving its 120,000 residents without food and other basic supplies. Last month, the Supreme Court of the United Nations obliged Azerbaijan to allow the free movement of the road to resume, but the situation remains tense.
Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of Armenian-backed ethnic Armenian forces since the end of the separatist war there in 1994. In 2020, Azerbaijani troops defeated Armenian forces in six weeks of fighting that ended in a Russian-brokered peace deal. allowing Azerbaijan to take a large part of Nagorno Karabakh and take back the nearby territories that had been in the hands of Armenians for nearly two decades.
During the latest standoff, Pashinyan and other Armenian officials strongly criticized Russia and the Moscow-dominated CSTO for not ensuring free transit through the Lachin Corridor.
Reflecting its nervousness towards Moscow, Armenia canceled planned military exercises of CSTO members scheduled for this year and refrained from naming its representative to the bloc’s leadership.
Pashinyan said that in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, he raised Armenia’s concern about the situation and mentioned the recent protest of the residents of Nagorno Karabakh in front of the headquarters of Russian peacekeepers.
Amid tensions between Moscow and Yerevan, Armenian authorities denied entry to Margarita Simonyan, head of Russia’s state-funded RT television station, media manager Aram Gabrelyanov, and Konstantin Zatulin, a member of Russia’s lower house, who were critical of Pashinyan’s leadership. When asked about this step, Pashinyan said that they have shown disrespect towards Armenia, which has the right to use the tools that are convenient for it “to prevent actions against its interests”.
The head of Armenia mentioned “objective problems” in relations with the Kremlin, but said that he does not think that they have turned into a crisis.
In another sign of his anger towards Moscow, Pashinyan said Armenia would welcome other countries, such as the United States and Germany, to help negotiate peace with Azerbaijan.
He also noted that “the existing security architecture did not work”, adding that Yerevan is making efforts “to establish military-technical cooperation with many other countries”.