As Putin Tightens His Grip so Does the Noose around Armenia

By all accounts Russian President Vladimir Putin has been having a good week. And, it’s only Tuesday.

Putin and Erdogan in St. Petersburg (Photo:
Putin and Erdogan in St. Petersburg (Photo:

On Monday, he and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev were all smiles after discussing the Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh/NKR) conflict, following which they met with their Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. The three leaders, two of whom—Iran and Russia–claim a special kinship to Armenia as strategic partners, issued a declaration in Baku to deepen and develop cooperation on a wide range of areas, including trade, energy and banking. They also discussed loosening visa requirements for travel.

Then on Tuesday, Putin met with his recently re-christened “friend,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg to thaw relations between the two countries after Turkey downed a Russian jet late last year on its border with Syria. That incident seemed to have been a catalyst for strained relations between the two neighbors, until Ankara offered a tacit apology, turning the two foes back into friends.

The Putin-Erdogan meeting, the first since the helicopter downing, comes weeks after a coup attempt in Turkey has allowed Erdogan to tighten his grip over its citizens through purges and arrests that are reminiscent of another era in that country’s history, one that concluded with the Armenian Genocide.

Although both Moscow and Ankara have stressed that the Putin-Erdogan talks would focus on rebuilding their strained relations, it is a sure bet that the Karabagh conflict will be on the agenda. We all know what Erdogan wants when it comes to Karabagh, and it is looking more and more like Putin, along with the other Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group co-chairing countries, the U.S. and France, are pushing the same dangerous agenda.

A Turkey-Russia détente was hinted at a curious time as it came not long after another meeting in St. Petersburg, which brought together two other regional leaders—Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart Serge Sarkisian. They emerged from that meeting poised to continue their discussions around the Nagorno-Kararabagh conflict resolution and agreed to implement provisions that would quell the military attacks on the borders.

On Wednesday, Sarkisian will fly to Russia and hold talks with Putin. The two leaders have confirmed that the Karabagh conflict will be on the agenda of talks, but have also issued boilerplate announcements signaling that the meeting will be a routine discussion of issues related to the Eurasian Economic Union, which Armenia abruptly joined two years ago.

On the eve of the Sarkisian-Putin meeting, Armenia’s Defense Ministry announced that Russia will begin delivery of weapons that it had promised in return for a multi-million loan package it was guaranteeing to Armenia for that purpose. The delivery of these weapons were delayed and Armenia felt the brunt of it during the “Four-Day War” in April, when Azerbaijan used weapons it had purchased from Russia against targets in Artsakh.

When Armenia complained about continued Russian arms sales to Baku, Moscow asserted that it would remain an arms supplier to Azerbaijan, because if it doesn’t, Aliyev would seek them from elsewhere. It is clear that Baku is not relying on Russian weapons, as it is also acquiring drones and equipment from Israel, which made their debut on the battlefront in April.

Last month, Moscow sealed the deal when the Armenian Parliament approved legislation on a joint Russia-Armenia air defense initiative, which would essentially leave it up to Moscow to dictate air defense in Armenia.

While Russia continues to assert that it is not monopolizing the Karabagh peace talks, and it merely aims to assist Armenia and Azerbaijan to find a compromise solution for a better future for both people, it is doing its utmost to consolidate power and create levers of influence to advance its agenda in the region.

We can also be sure that the “Sasna Tsrer” situation, which has amplified local discontent in the Sarkisian administration, will be part of the Putin-Sarkisian meeting, as Russia is a key stakeholder in Armenia’s domestic situation, since this and successive administrations auctioned off everything to Russia ensuring Moscow’s choke-hold on both Armenia’s domestic and foreign policies.

(NOTE: Those calling for regime change in Yerevan, should propose concrete measures that will enable Armenia to emerge from Moscow’s shadow.)

From where I am sitting, Sarkisian will go to Moscow on Wednesday to get pressured from an ally who is acting more like feudal lord, as Putin tightens the noose around Armenia, while also tightening its grip on the region.


Ara Khachatourian is the editor of Asbarez (English), where this editorial first appeared.


  1. Armenians in the Diaspora have absolutely NOT RIGHT to demand ANYTHING. It is Armenians of Artsakh and to a lesser extent Armenians of Armenia that have the right to make a decision about land concessions. In the end, I believe Artsakhtsis have the courage and the foresight to agree to land concessions IF doing so will lead to genuine peace between the two nations. However, Armenia’s red line has to be Artsakh proper and the region between Armenia and Artsakh. The “five territories” can be returned if Baku recognizes Artsakh’s independence. We have to settle the dispute. Another 25 years of the geopolitical climate we have had during the previous 25 years will sink Armenia hopelessly deeper into a third world existence. The south Caucasus region desperately needs peace and stability for it to develop economically. If the powers that be (primarily Russia) can guarantee that land concessions will bring lasting peace, then so be it. Reminder: Even almighty Israel was forced by its American allies to concede lands to Egyptians and Palestinians.

    • It’s true that President Sarkisian deserves universal respect, and his measures to cement a lasting friendship with Russia is a great achievement. But, Armenians, from the diaspora, can state their viewpoints via international forums for discussions, and the internet, without seeking to enforce their ideas as anything that resembles a “demand” for action.

      There’s an intellectual wealth in the Armenian diaspora, as well as a financial wealth, but the Armenian homeland doesn’t seem to appreciate it, or even welcome it.

      All of the area, currently controlled by the Armenian stronghold in Karabakh, has strategic value, and ensures the security for the people in the Republic of Nogorno-Karabakh. The weakening of Armenia’s strategic military positions is a dangerous game to play for the price of peace.

    • Fine, but Azerbaijan does not really want peace, nor does it want Artsakh to even get autonomy, never mind independence.
      It wants to create conditions such that it can eventually conquer Artsakh and expel or kill its Armenians. That is the Azeri plan.
      Azeris, like Turks, are liars and are out for blood.
      That makes it hard to deal with them.
      If Azeris come back to Artsakh for example, they’ll use it to start a civil war and Azerbaijan will use that as an excuse to attack.
      These are the things Armenians have to consider when you deal with Azeris and Turks. They are always out for blood.

  2. “From where I am sitting, Sarkisian will go to Moscow to get pressured from an ally who is acting more like feudal lord, as Putin tightens the noose around Armenia, while also tightening its grip on the region.”

    If this piece was thought of as a foreign policy analysis, it has come out as a newspaper article. As foreign policy analysis, it has fundamental flaws. I don’t know where the author is sitting, but in order to summarize his article as he did with this last sentence one must be sitting next to presidents Sargsyan and Putin. What tentative data or evidence has prompted the author’s conclusion that Sargsyan is going to Moscow “to get pressured from Putin” and that “Putin tightens the noose around Armenia”? The author has shown nothing in the article to support this speculation. In foreign policy analysis even a speculation needs to be substantiated, while emotional fervor and sophistry, such as “Putin acts like feudal lord” or “Putin tightens the noose around Armenia”, are simply unbecoming. In fact, nothing was reported to give us cause for concern that Putin “tightens the noose” around Armenia. Erdogan flew to Russia to make a curtsey to Putin and mend fences after the Russian Su-24 shootdown. Putin’s trilateral meeting with Aliyev and Rouhani was mostly focused on economic and regional cooperation issues. While his meeting with Sargsyan, based on preliminary reports, showed no signs of “tightening the noose” around Armenia.

  3. Very sensible comments by Harutik. Complements. Such a constructive move might help convince Turkey to open its borders with Armenia.

  4. Armenia is best served in its current capacity, as Russia’s ally and friend. President Sarkisian has taken a mature approach to his diplomacy with Russia. He should be commended for it.

    Armenia isn’t excluded from Russia’s list of important allies, when Putin makes diplomatic overtures to Turkey’s President Erdogan, and Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev. Signed treaty alliance papers establish a military alliance between Armenia and Russia; these signed papers guarantee that Russian troops will help defend Armenia’s border with Turkey, until 2044.

    This isn’t the time for the people of Armenia to create civil disturbances, which could destabilize and jeopardize Armenian sovereignty. Naturally, Armenia as a landlocked country, will be impacted by the hostility of Turkey and Azerbaijan, and the indifference of Georgia, with only Iran taking a benevolent role (among the countries that share borders with Armenia).

  5. Serzh Sargsyan is having a great week as well.
    He doesn’t even have to think about what to do, he just has to fly to Moscow to receive word from the great man himself, senor putin.

    Afterward, he can visit Brazil for an ‘official working trip.’ he can have a great time in casinos, the women and watch some olympic games. It seems fine to spend money and increase national debt, while continuing to oversee a steady decline and disappearance of the basic social services that a goverment should provide, ranging from healthcare, garbage disposal, military procurement and otherwise.

    private jets to brazil and hotels are expensive, especially during olympics.

  6. Mr Putin needs to remember that any loss to “Russia’s strategic partner” will amount to a loss for Russia in the long run. Russia can not rely on a long term friendly relations with Turkey or Azerbaijan but it can count on Armenia.

  7. To the first post, Armenians from the diaspora are the descendants of genocide survivors from Armenia proper (Western and parts of Eastern). Their parents and grandparents did not choose to relocate from Armenia for a better life; it was a matter of fleeing to survive or die or become muslim. Many of them have devoted their lives to the Armenian cause. Some fom lebanon and the US have even gone to fight in the fist Artsakh War. The descendants of genocide survivors have every right to give their opinions. They are not demanding anything. They only want and pray for the best for Armenian and Artsakh. Ultimately, the fate of the country lies in the hands of the people who live there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.