Russia & Turkey Isolate Armenia, While Protesters Want New Government

Harut Sassounian
Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian


This column attempts to explain the reasons for the sudden rapprochement between Russia and Turkey, which also welcome Azerbaijan, and tangentially Iran, into their fold, while a major confrontation was taking place in Yerevan between an armed opposition group and the police.

By setting aside their feud over the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkey near the Syrian border last year, Moscow and Ankara have now formed a “marriage of convenience” stemming from their perceived mutual national interests. This pragmatic decision by the Presidents of Russia and Turkey is intended to maximize their economic benefits and coordinate their foreign policies, enabling them to better withstand pressures from the West.

Russia has been suffering from a faltering economy, mostly due to Western sanctions after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Turkey, on the other hand, despite its membership in both NATO and the European Council, has been shunned from joining the European Union and accused of supporting ISIS in Syria. Moreover, Turkish President Erdogan is outraged that many European countries have been highly critical of his harsh measures against political opponents after the July 15 coup attempt. Erdogan is also unhappy that the United States has not extradited to Turkey the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of masterminding the attempted military coup.

Rejecting the “undue Western interference” in their domestic and foreign affairs, Russia and Turkey have decided to lay the foundation for a new alliance that will bring them out of their isolation from the West. To pursue that end, Russian President Putin met with Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev and Iran’s President Rouhani in Baku on August 8, and Turkish President Erdogan in St. Petersburg on August 9. These four countries signed a series of important economic agreements and discussed significant political issues impacting the region, including the Artsakh (Karabakh) conflict. The next day, Putin met with Armenian President Sarkisian in Moscow to brief him on the results of his earlier meetings.

While Russia’s rapprochement with Armenia’s arch-enemies, Azerbaijan and Turkey, could lead to heavy pressures on President Sarkisian to make territorial concessions on Artsakh, it could also lessen the possibility of unilateral military action by Azerbaijan against Artsakh, without President Putin’s consent. No one should be surprised if this new realignment between Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey would also revive the defunct Armenia-Turkey protocols of 2009, resulting in the opening of their mutual border in conjunction with a “conciliatory step” on Artsakh by Armenia.

Today’s wily Turkish leaders are following the footsteps of their Ottoman predecessors who skillfully pitted one major European power against the others for decades, and then switched sides when it suited them. Incredibly, Erdogan is cozying up to Russia while remaining a NATO member, thus benefitting from both parties. The United States and other NATO members should not fall for this Turkish trickery. They should warn Erdogan in no uncertain terms to choose either NATO or Russia! Should the Turkish President continue to side with Russia, he could be left with an empty bag when his alliance with the Kremlin collapses!

As dark clouds gather over Armenia and Artsakh, Armenians have been busy settling internal disputes. The July 17 takeover of a police station in Yerevan by a group of 31 armed men who are veterans of the Artsakh War created considerable concern among Armenians nationwide and worldwide. The group, nicknamed Sasna Dsrer, (Daredevils of Sassoun), demanded President Sarkisian’s resignation, release of political prisoners, formation of an interim government, and new elections.

After a two-week standoff — three policemen were killed, several of the armed men were wounded, and scores of demonstrators were injured or detained, including journalists — the remaining members of Sasna Dsrer surrendered. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of protesters held public rallies night after night to express their support for the demands of the veterans’ group.

The true roots of this tragic confrontation go back to the early days of Armenia’s independence. There has been a pent up anger and frustration among large circles of the population for the past quarter century during which over a million Armenians left the country to secure basic necessities for their families. Those remaining behind suffered many deprivations and inequalities, including corruption, fraudulent elections, unfair judiciary, uncaring bureaucrats, and monopolistic oligarchs!

As a result, most Armenian citizens have lost their trust in government. Although an armed attack on a police station is not an acceptable form of dissent, when people are in a desperate situation for a long period of time and see no other alternative to resolve their grievances, they are forced to resort to extreme measures.

While such internal dissension could jeopardize Armenia’s and Artsakh’s security, the protesters are adamant that having unresponsive leaders poses a greater risk. Ironically, all those protesting the possibility of turning over to Azerbaijan the buffer zone around Artsakh have helped strengthen President Sarkisian’s position in making the point to Putin that the Armenian people vehemently oppose any territorial concessions on Artsakh.

If government officials wish to prevent the repeat of further domestic unrest, they must take all necessary measures to show that they truly care about the welfare of the Armenian people. To this end, President Sarkisian recently promised to make drastic changes, including the formation of a “unity government.” Understandably, many citizens are skeptical since they have heard similar unfulfilled past promises.

In 2017, a new Parliament is scheduled to be elected, and a new President to be selected by Parliament members in 2018. Unless the next elections are fair and represent the various segments of the population, there may be more serious disturbances. The burden for freer elections falls not only on government officials, but also on voters who sell their votes!

A democratically-elected government is the only way to gain the people’s trust not only to govern them fairly, but also to properly manage the country’s foreign relations, including the negotiations on Artsakh. Currently, there is a considerable distrust that what is being negotiated behind closed doors in Moscow or elsewhere stems from the interests of the Armenian nation.

To get out of this newly-imposed precarious geo-strategic isolation, the authorities in Armenia and Artsakh have to emulate the long-standing Turkish tactic of “divide and conquer,” looking for opportunities to pit Russia against Turkey and Azerbaijan, thus undermining the possible consensus of Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Turkey on the Artsakh conflict!

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  1. Armen said:

    Don’t expect Putin to trust the Turks any farther than he can throw them, Pan-Turkism is a major threat to Russia. Plus NATO is like a street gang, you can’t just leave, it’s blood in blood out, I don’t think Turkey is going anywhere.

  2. State of Emergency said:

    Russia and Turkey have always isolated Armenian except when it serves their interests to extract concessions from each other.

  3. State of Emergency said:

    Can we all collectively now agree that we are all but dust speckles in history’s dust bin. We talk and boast but at the end of the day we’re toothless and impotent in the region in particular and the world in general.

    • Arman Kaymakcian said:

      Always remember, contrary to what things look like on the outside, we and our descendants were living, and cultivating land in the Armenian highlands long before Turkey or Russia were even a thought, and we will be living there long after they’re gone. Our people have stood the test of time because we,Armenians, who rely souly on God and his sovereignty never resorted to violence or thievery as did some other cultures to attain what we have, as proverbs states, “Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:8‬. May I suggest with all due respect that, we collectively rather than agree to that dreery description of us turn from our wickedness confess our sin and apeal to The creator of the universe and to our Lord Jesus Christ for mercy and salvation, may God bless you all.

  4. Vagarshak Ishkanian said:

    tourki thnound serjik sarkosian shot fuck off from ARMENIA FOR EVER .

  5. Harutik said:

    Very dubious title to an otherwise very rational article by Mr. Sassounian. Warming of Russian-Turkish relations should not worry Armenians. While hostile Russian-Turkish relations certainly has its benefit for Armenia, warming Russian-Turkish relations has its benefits as well. At the very least, Armenia can benefit from regional peace and stability and an increase in economic trade. Nevertheless, Russian and Turks are regional competitor, as they have been for centuries. Russian are expert diplomats, as they have been for centuries. Russians know the dangers of pan-Turkism perhaps better than us Armenians. The warming of relations between the Bear and the Wolf will thus be temporary. Theoretically, the only danger warming of relations between Moscow, Ankara and Baku poses to the Armenian side is the matter of land concession. If the Moscow manages to bring Turkey and Azerbaijan into its fold (which is highly unlikely), Armenia may be forced to trade land for peace. The lands in question are the five regions east of Artsakh proper. Artsakh proper (which includes the districts of Karvachar and Berdzor) is secure. Moscow will never turn against Armenia or Artsakh. Recent news articles pertaining to Russian-Armenian relations:

    Russian base in Armenia guarantees stability in Caucasus: official :

    Izvestia Daily: Armenia to Get Same Weapons from Russia as Azerbaijan:

    Military expert: Smerch is substrategic weapon in the context of Karabakh conflict :

    • hye said:

      HarutIK, moscow has always turned against Armenia, a good example of that would be Kars treaty. Remember there are turks and then blonde turks(russia) for Armenia.

        • hye said:

          1.Armen, who was Stalin on October 30, 1920.
          2. Do you know who Golytsin is, and what did he do in 1840’s
          3. Also, are you familiar with Koltso operation?
          Too many to list. But it is always Stalin or Hitler.

    • joe said:

      “Moscow will never turn against Armenia or Artsakh”? Articles on Russian relations doesn’t coincide with reality of them signing trade agreements, military agreements and supplying arms to our #1 enemy. Do you not think Russia already knew, (condoned) the 4 day war ahead of time? of course they did. Understand that these Turks and Azeri’s want us completely gone. Capitulation makes Armenia MORE VULNURABLE and less safe and more reliant on an unreliable ally such as Russia. Its clear to me that Armenia must rely upon ITSELF, its army and that is all. We all want peace. However even if peace were agreed upon, who’s to say the added commerce will have any benefit on the average Armenian as the current corrupt system is another major issue that oppresses and steals from it own. UNITY IS OUR ANSWER. ONE ARMENIA we lack it. .Politically my opinion is we get closer to Iran on every level. They are the ONLY ones who want the current status quo. Giving up lands is not something they want us to do as it would create less options for trade routs and create the need for foreign peace keepers at their border. They also have some distrust towards Sunni Tatar and Seljuk Turks and have a longer history of trade with Armenia.

  6. HIRAIR said:


  7. Hrant Apovian said:

    Excellent analysis.
    What is direly needed is
    an over hall of Armenia’s foreign policy
    to bring Armenia out of its isolation
    and a new approach to”unilateral concessions”
    The diaspora should be more active.
    It has to take a clear position
    to counter any surprise developments

  8. Norserunt said:

    100 years ago we made the mistake of not hopping-on board with Bolsheviks and we got the short end of the stick in the end. For better or for worst Armenia is wed to Russia. I suggest you people put aside your gungho attitudes and try to make the best of it. Russia may not be the best ally Armenia has but its the ONLY ally Armenia has.

  9. Harutik said:

    Regarding Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan: There is a thing called “geopolitics” that Armenians, due to their emotions, arrogance and political illiteracy, almost always fail to properly understand. Allow me to therefore try to explain a few things in as few words as possible.

    Oil rich Baku has the money to purchase anything it wants from whoever it wants. Yerevan does not have that luxury. Moscow wants to keep leverage over Yerevan and Baku, as well keep the military balance between the two. Moscow will therefore sell Baku what Baku wants and give Armenia what Armenia needs. Russian officials also know that if they do not sell arms to Baku, there are a number of nations – like Israel, Turkey, Ukraine and China – that will. In fact, Israeli-made weapons proved most destructive during the four day war. Moscow wants leverage over Baku. Moscow wants military parity in the region. Moreover, Moscow is trying hard to keep Baku within its orbit essentially because it does not want to see Azerbaijan turn into yet another hotbed of pan-Turkic and Islamic extremism right on its border. In the big picture, this is in Armenia’s long-term interests.

    Russia is not abandoning Armenia (or even Artsakh). Russia continues to be Armenia’s one and only ally. Russia continues to protect Armenia’s borders with Turkey, allowing Armenia to concentrate its resources its border with Azerbaijan. That Armenian officials are squandering the task of properly fortifying Armenia’s and Artsakh’s borders with Azerbaijan due to graft and embezzlement of financial resources is all together another topic of discussion. That said, if there are problems or flaws in Moscow geostrategic vision towards the region, Armenians need to stop throwing temper-tantrums like little emotional children and figure out a way to work with their Russian counterparts to fix the problems that may exist. Our leaders cannot do this by enabling Armenia’s Western operatives or by running off to Western capitols to complain about Moscow.

    Armenians better realize that the Western world will never provide Armenia with the kind of security it need. Armenians better realize that the West can never be an alternative to Russia. Armenia will not survive the south Caucasus alone. Armenia therefore needs Russia. We as a people therefore need to wake-up and understand all this and figure out ways to more efficiently lobby Russian officials. In other words, we as a people have the desperate need to mature politically. I’m afraid maturing as a people may be a long and bumpy road for us Armenians. I just hope we don’t lose our statehood along the way.

  10. Barséghian said:

    Baron Sassounian i déragadevoutiounér, verloudzoumnér micht sour. Dzenérém spiyurk, 75 darégan, g’abrèm 25 dari tér soviétagan hayastan, hérou artaratadoutian, bédaganamédoutioun hasgetsoroutian, angidagidoutian medzamid, inknahavan, ampardavan, khavarnérits dours égadz andériag achxarki karakaganoutian, divanagédoutian, jarangort communistagan oképanoutian, hérou asgayn bédagan karaparakhosoutian. 25 dari khor diarabédéré ouj, soude, propaganda (agit prop) népotsime, gacharagéroutioun iper régavaroutian systém, arkélk polor zarkatsoumnéroun, dendésagan, socialagan, mechagouytaïn, karakatsiagan, karakagan : Hédévank ? Artakart …. Jorovourt oktakordzvadz iper kortsik, midjots dendésagan, gacharagér oligarknérou dzérkérou khékhtevadz, kerdink ayroun tapélou, péran pagél vakhits as autocrat féodalagan régavarnérits artchév. Intch garéli é espasél aysbési techvar, djenchevadz endaniknérits ? Mechag, Horadér endanik, Kur, azgi armad, sune, sarsapéli techvaroutian, mekherdjevadz bardkérov dramadenérits (ark 24%, grav denérits, horamasérits) Polor yérgri hamagark jarangort as nestevadzkin « tramacheroum, khaltakhoutian, sparnalik » kurabédaranits ezgesial, mangabardézits mintch hamasaran, hivantanotsits mintch tadaran, hasnélov té ezgesélov mintch régavarnér, yégérédzvo masin tchi xosénk. Pergoutioun ? Azgayn karaparakhosoutioun, makour kordzor SPIYURKI masnagédnér, gidnaganér dirabédér artaratadoutioun, arordjabaoutioun, kuradendésoutioun, lousavoroutioun. Hichenk aradjin hanrabédoutian garavaroutioun 1918-20, entorinagenk azgayn hokoun karapar iper garavaroutian IMK, nevirvadz Mechag Panvorin, kerdink hayroun tapor azgayn bachbanoutian. YERPEVITSE garéli é as soviétagan hayastanits makour régavaroutian himnél yété SPIURK ir gelkhavor masaktsoutioun tchi neviré. Barzé, 25 dari ants, inknakeloukh charounag médzamidnéri, pajakakhosnéri, ARTIOUNK ? Yév dzéz ge pendém vor penagan hédévank angaroutian angidoutian as yérdjanik inknagotch « vichi sort, génofond hayér » mechtagan dzarah « soviet miyoutian » achxarki tas devor hadgabés spiyurkin … “ARI DOUN” ?

  11. Ari said:

    Turks know how to play the West against East and vice versa. They have done this for centuries. The sad part is that both the Russian and the Western politicians always fall for the games. Neither realizes that islamification of the East and the West is on top of Turkish governments’ agenda.