As we Armenians watched the president of the Russian Federation visit the memorial to our 1.5 million martyrs we should have asked ourselves the following: Why is Moscow going out of its way with this display of solidarity with Armenians despite their growing relationships with Turkey and Azerbaijan? Would anything have changed in Russian-Armenian relations had Medvedev NOT visited the genocide memorial? And why isn't Ankara or Baku speaking up against Moscow because of it?
For the past several years Moscow has been trying very hard to entice Turkey and encourage Ankara to move away from their transatlantic alliance. Moscow considers Turkey an important regional power it wants to have good relations with. Turkey controls one of Russia's most vital trade routes, the Dardanelles. Turkey is one of Russia's top trading partners. Hundreds of thousands of Russians tan themselves on Turkish beaches all along the Mediterranean. As we have seen, Moscow has just as many interests in Turkey, if not more, than the West. So, why isn't Moscow pathetically kissing Turkish behinds like Washington does by not recognizing the Armenian genocide?
Political sense would suggest that Moscow has every reason in the "political interests book" to ignore and/or to undermine the Armenian Genocide much like how Washington and Tel Aviv have been doing for many years. Since Russia has significant interests in Turkey, why is Moscow continuing to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and in such public manner? Why is it that Russia's official press continues to treat the Armenian Genocide as a historical fact, while the Western press places the term in quotation marks? Why is it that Medvedev, Putin, Lavrov, Ivanov and the Russian Patriarch have paid official visits the Armenian Genocide memorial every time they have been in Armenia, and we yet have to see a single Western official do the same?
[Does anyone remember how the president of our "best" neighbor, Iran, literally ran away from Yerevan the night before he was scheduled to visit the genocide memorial? How about Hillary Clinton's recent "personal" visit to the memorial complex where she insisted that no Armenian official accompany her? And where is France's Sarkozy? Why hasn't he paid Armenia and the genocide memorial an official visit? After all, hasn't France been entrusted with being Armenia's Western bait?]
The reality of the matter is that Russians do not have to do us Armenians any extracurricular favors simply because, as I have explained numerous times before, Armenia exists today as a result of Russian presence in the Caucasus. Moreover, by not doing us Armenians any favors like solemnly showing up in Tsitsernakaberd with flowers, Moscow can actually have a freer hand in its dealing with regional Turks (which would make perfect political sense for Moscow); and Armenia would still not have the option of breaking away from its total dependency on Moscow.
So, taking all the aforementioned political nuances into account, why does Moscow continue towing the Armenian line when it comes to a topic that has no political value for it? Besides, according to our Russophobes, wasn't Russia supporting Armenia for its selfish interests and nothing more? Moscow's selfish interests would naturally compel it to think: we already do enough for that barren tiny little speck on the map called Armenia, let's not totally ruin our relationship with the region's numerous Turks and Muslims over that genocide nonsense...
This may come as a shock to some but could it be that the Russian Federation in fact sees Armenia as a true partner, a natural ally that it truly wants to sustain and protect - unlike the West that sees everything as dollar signs and oil lines? I think our Russophobic "nationalists" seriously need to think about this one. I'd love to see/hear their lame explanations regarding why Moscow tows the Armenian line despite Yerevan's total dependence on it and its close relationship with Turks. After all, isn't that the excuse we constantly hear from Washington?
Nevertheless, Medvedev's visit to our genocide memorial complex at Tsitsernakaberd is a clear message to Turks and Armenians alike. Medvedev's visit to the "Hill of Honors" war memorial complex in Gyumri (see article at the bottom of this page) is also a strong message to Turks and Armenians, perhaps even more of a poignant message. The war memorial in question is a tribute to Russian officers killed fighting Ottoman Turks in historic Armenia. Does anyone else besides me see the symbolic significance of this newly built memorial complex and the Russian president's visit to it at such a volatile time in the region? The symbolism at hand is unmistakably Tsarist and anti-Turkish in nature.
But why isn't Ankara throwing a temper-tantrum as they always do in such circumstances? Well, needless to say, everyone in the region, including Turkey which is sorely dependent on Russian trade and energy, is terrified of Russia these days (especially after what happened to Georgia in 2008). And that is precisely the reason why Russian officials today can freely pay Armenia an official state visit and publicly announce that it is bolstering Armenia's national defenses against Turks. That is why Russian officials today can freely lay flowers at the genocide memorial and honor Russian officers that died fighting Turks in Armenia - without Turks threatening, boycotting or complaining about anything. Yet, despite all this and much-much more, we still have Armenians today that complain about our relationship with Moscow. Go figure...
Thanks to Tsarist intervention in the Caucasus starting in the late 18th century, the Russian Empire created a geopolitical climate that eventually allowed an Armenian state to come into existence. Tsarist Russia defeated Turks in every one of the some two dozen major battles they fought against the Ottomans (the last one being at the battle of Sarikamish in 1915). Russians and Turks are natural competitors/enemies in Eurasia; they are destined to clash despite their economic dealings with each other; and any future clash between Russia and Turkey will undoubtedly create new geopolitical realities on the ground in Asia Minor, realities that will most definitely favor the Russian side. Today, with an Armenian state already in existence and with a reborn Russia clearly drawing inspiration from its Orthodox and Tsarist heritage, the Caucasus is once again becoming a fertile platform for active Russian-Armenian cooperation, one that can potentially create a geopolitical renaissance in the region. While some of our peasantry see grave risks here - I see great opportunity. When Russians and Armenians have cooperated, Turks have gone into decline. Yet, instead of us rushing forward to exploit and/or manipulate this unique situation developing before us, I see a significant portion of the Armenian nation today engaging in counterproductive rhetoric and Russophobic fear mongering. Hence, the term that I apply to these pathetic people - self-destructive peasantry.
For centuries the Russian empire, a Eurasian power virtually stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, fought Ottomans, Tatars, Mongols and Westerners alike. For centuries various world powers have coveted Russian territory. For centuries various world powers have taken their turn in attempting to break-up Russia; none successfully of course. Geopolitically, not much has changed today. Russia is still targeted by pan-Turkism, the West and Islam; and more importantly for us Armenians, this realization drives Kremlin policy makers today. This is where our unique capabilities as a people can come into play. Armenians are well placed in all levels of Russian society (they are by-far the most successful diasporan group we have); with some foresight and a pan-national effort we can be in Russia what Jews are in America. Our cooperation with the Bear can prepare the platform, the geopolitical climate, from which we can eventually move westward. Don't fool yourselves into thinking that international law or old pieces of documents mean anything to anyone (international law is written by the rich and powerful to protect their wealth and power), the only plausible scenario under which Western Armenia can be liberated is one that envisions Russian and Armenian troops side-by-side marching into Western Armenia. This is not wishful thinking, under right geopolitical circumstances and a genuine Russian-Armenian alliance, it can happen.
Despite what our agent provocateurs want us to believe, as long as Armenia stays firmly in the Russian camp, Russia will not be a liability for Armenia but a blessing; Russia is not going to annex Armenia; Russia is not going to sell Armenia to Turks; Russia is not going to force Artsakh under Azeri rule; nor are Russians going to convert to Bolshevism again... Our Russophobes are fast running out of excuses as well as credibility these days. Armenia will remain a sovereign state firmly within Russian orbit. What Moscow wants from us Armenians is a tight alliance with Yerevan, an alliance that it can genuinely trust going forward. If we manage to give them this partnership I am confident that significant opportunities will eventually develop for our embattled republic as a result. As the West sinks deeper and deeper into decline, the East continues its gradual rise. Political and economic observers are now unanimous in their forecasts that the twenty-first century will belong to the East. As one of the three major driving forces of the East, Russia, due to its vastness, potent military, geographic location and virtually limitless natural wealth, will by-far have the greatest advantages in the twenty-first century. If it continues on its current progression, Russia will be in the driver seat in the near future; at the very least, I would like to see Armenian in its passenger seat.
Dmitry Medvedev's Visit to Armenia (raw video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu6zmIESljQ&feature=search
The original base deal, signed in 1995, was due to expire in 2020. Using language often heard in reference to Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia and in support of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Medvedev cited regional peace-building as the reason for Moscow’s interest in the extending the lease on Gyumri. “We will make joint efforts to maintain peace and security,” declared Medvedev at a joint press conference. “We will use the potential to preserve peace in the Caucasus. We all need it. Armenia needs it, other countries need it, and Russia needs it. We will together tackle the dangers we still face, and we will help each other.”
Similarly, Sargsyan stressed that “[t]he strategic partnership with the Russian Federation proceeds from our people’s interests, and we’ll do our best to develop these relations.” Sargsyan, who formerly served as Armenia’s defense minister, added that the agreement will expand Russia’s “scope of geographic and strategic responsibility.” Under the terms of the new agreement, the base in Gyumri, along with the Armenian armed forces, will provide for Armenia’s security, as well as defend Russia’s own interests.
With an apparent ear to regional and domestic sensitivities, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on August 18 denied that the agreement will change the base’s role, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. Speaking on Armenian television, Lavrov also attempted to deflect concerns about Moscow’s alleged sale of an S-300 air defense system to Azerbaijan, saying that Russian leaders would “never supply arms to regions where such supplies may destabilize the situation.” S-300 anti-missile systems are already present at Gyumri. [For background see EurasiaNet’s archive ].
Such statements and reassurances, however, have done little to assuage the concerns of opposition politicians and some political analysts who see the base deal as an attempt by Russia to use Armenia to gain a tighter strategic hold on the South Caucasus. In this campaign, they worry, Armenia’s own national interests will be left by the wayside. “Apart from [national] dignity, this challenges Armenia’s sovereignty, the independence of its foreign policy and vital national interests,” declared Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovhannisian.
Political scientist Sergei Minasian, deputy director of Yerevan’s Caucasus Institute, noted that nobody can predict what will happen in the next several years, and how the current situation in Armenia, which, he says, now favors Russia, might change. “Russia is just trying to derive benefits from this situation and have as many guarantees for its military and political presence in the South Caucasus as possible,” said Minasian. “Similarly, availing itself of the moment, Russia extended the term for [its] Sevastopol naval base in Ukraine.” In April, Ukraine, under newly elected, Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovich, ratified an agreement that extended Moscow’s lease on the Crimean naval base by 25 years.
Representatives of the governing Republican Party of Armenia maintain that the lease extension is in keeping with Armenia’s national security interests. “When the Russian military base changes its functions and defends not only Armenia’s frontiers, but Armenia’s security as well, I’ll virtually exclude a military resolution of the Karabakh issue [with Azerbaijan] or hostilities in this region,” commented Republican Party spokesperson Eduard Sharmazanov.
Hovering in the background during Medvedev’s visit was one political leader who illustrates Minasian’s point about the changing backdrops for strategic alliances. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally-turned-antagonist for the Kremlin, arrived in Yerevan on August 18 for a “private visit” -- a visit seen by many local observers as an attempt to meet with Medvedev. Lukashenko has recently become the target of a sustained smear campaign by Moscow after Belarus balked at recognizing the independence of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Russian media reported that Medvedev, who will stay in Yerevan until August 22 to take part in an unofficial summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), had no intention to meet with Lukashenko; whether Lukashenko would attend the CSTO summit was not immediately clear. On August 20, Lukashenko instead met with former Armenian President Robert Kocharian, who enjoys warm ties with Moscow. A Kocharian spokesperson confirmed to EurasiaNet.org that the meeting occurred, but declined to comment further.
After signing an agreement, which would increase Russia’s military presence in Armenia until 2044, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is on an official visit to Armenia, said that “Russia treats its commitments as an ally very seriously.” The comment came in response to an inquiry at a press conference about Russia’s reaction to a possible events that would threaten the security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh given Azerbaijan’s continued threats of military action. “The task of the Russian Federation as a major state situated in the region, the most powerful state economically and militarily, is to maintain peace and order. But we also have our allied commitments that we have with members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Republic of Armenia is a member of this organization… Russia treats its commitments as an ally very seriously,” said Medvedev.
The military cooperation agreement was part of a slew of agreements signed between Russia and Armenia after meetings between Medvedev and President Serzh Sarkisian on Firday. The military deal, which upgrades a 1995 treaty allowing Russian forces to be stationed in Gyumri, extends the Russian military presence from the initial 25 years to 49 years, ending in 2044. The protocol was signed by Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov, with Medvedev and Sarkisian serving as witnesses. It also expands the Russian mission from protecting only the interests of the Russian Federation, to also ensuring the security of the Republic of Armenia and commits Moscow to supplying Armenia with modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware, reported RFE/RL.
Medvedev told reporters at a joint press conference that military base in Armenia would maintain “peace and security in the entire South Caucasus,” stressing that peace in the region was high priority for Russia. At the news conference Sarkisian praised the deal, which he said would expand the sphere of Russia’s “geographic and strategic” responsibilities, meaning that the base will not only be responsible for protecting the perimeter of the former Soviet Union border, i.e. with Iran and Turkey, but also beyond them, according to RFE/RL. “The Russian side has made a commitment to ensure the military security of the Republic of Armenia and to cooperate in equipping our armed forces with advanced weaponry,” Sarkisian told the news conference, while stressing Armenia’s continued commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict “without application of force or threat of force.”
Sarkisian also thanked Medvedev for his mediatory efforts as well as for “understanding the meaning of the balance of forces in the region as an important factor of not allowing provocations and preventing militaristic ambitions,” reported RFE/RL. Medvedev, for his part, said he was ready to continue his mediatory efforts and work with both Azerbaijan and Armenia to help find a political solution “based on mutually acceptable agreements both within the general work of the OSCE Minsk Group and in bilateral contacts with Armenia and Azerbaijan,” according to RFE/RL. The two leaders then went to Gyumri to inaugurate Hill of Honor, the resting place of Russian officers killed during Russia-Turkish wars of the 19th century. The Armenian and Russian leaders laid a wreath at the memorial, which is a sculpture of a soldier mourning for his killed comrades-in-arms and an eagle over the soldier’s head with the Turkish flag in its talons.
“We will use the potential of these structures to strengthen peace and stability across the entire territory of the Caucasus,” Medvedev said at the opening ceremony of the Hill of Honor memorial in Gyumri. “This is essential for all of the countries in the region. It is essential for Russia,” he added. Sarkisian said Yerevan views friendly ties between Russia and Armenia as a key component in maintaining stability in the Caucasus.
“This enables us to respond adequately to many of the complex challenges of the modern world. It is with this in mind that we signed a protocol on the extension of the Russian military base,” added Sarkisian. Medvedev accompanied by his wife, Svetlana Medvedeva, arrived in Yerevan on Thursday on the state visit and were greeted at Zvartnots airport by President Sarkisian and his wife, Rita. The first stop for Medvedev was Dzidzernagapert, where he laid a wreath at the monument to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. He also visited the adjacent Memory Part, where he watered a tree he planted during his 2008 visit. Medvedev was accompanied by Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian. Accompanying Medvedev to Armenia are Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov, Transport Minister Igor Levitin, Russia’s Ambassador to Armenia Vyacheslav Kovalenko and other officials.
President Sarkisian and the First Lady hosted a state dinner honoring Medvedev at the Presidential Palace on Thursday evening. Following the dinner, the presidents took a stroll at Republic Square, around the Singing Fountains which in honor of Medvedev’s visit were streaming Russian classical music. At Republic Square, the two Presidents were greeted by the public and later sat down at a local café.
After the Armenian and Russian national anthems were performed, the Presidents welcomed the guests and the Gyumri residents. The Presidents’ speeches were followed by a pray for the repose of the Russian servicemen’s souls. The Hill of Honor is a cemetery founded on the order of Commander of the Caucasus corps, General Nikolay Muravyev in 1856. An orthodox church was later built there. Consecrated in 1886, the church has been preserved. The Russian President and his wife arrived in Armenia on August 19. On arriving in Yerevan, the Russian leader headed for the Memorial to Armenian Genocide victims. He laid flowers at the monument. On August 20, Armenian-Russian negotiations were held. The CSTO’s informal summit has opened in Yerevan. An opening ceremony of the Hill of Honor was held in Gyumri. The memorial was opened on the burial place of 156 officers of the Russian army killed during the Russian-Turkish wars in the 19th century. Participating in the ceremony were the Armenian and Russian Presidents, Serzh Sargsyan and Dmitry Medvedev. The Armenian and Russian leaders laid a wreath at the memorial, a NEWS.am correspondent reported. It is a sculpture is a soldier mourning for his killed comrades-in-arms and an eagle over the soldier’s head with the Turkish flag in its talons.