Vartan Oskanian and the political West in Armenia - October, 2012

Seeing its meddlesome presence in the Russian Federation coming to an abrupt end with the return of Vladimir Putin to the highest office in the Kremlin; watching Ukraine succumb to Mother Russia's gravitational pull; watching Central Asian republics pledge an allegiance to Moscow; watching Georgians begin the gradual process of turning away from Tbilisi's Washington-backed tie-eating dictator; and unable to stop the prosecution of Vartan Oskanian in Armenia, Washington may finally be coming to the somber realization that their destructive bullshit in former Soviet republics for the past twenty years may finally be coming to an end.

Commentaries and analysis produced by well known pundits and mainstream information outlets in Yerevan are presenting Oskanian's case as a simple matter of political infighting between the incumbent president of Armenia on one side and a former president (supposedly with renewed presidential aspirations), a restless oligarch and a repatriated diasporan official (i.e. Oskanian) on the other side. 

This is, in my opinion, somewhat of a misrepresentation or a half-truth of what is actually taking place. Domestic politics does naturally play a role in the political soap-opera currently playing-out in Yerevan, but so does geopolitics

In my opinion, Oskanian's plight in Yerevan is one of the many manifestations of the tug-of-war taking place in the south Caucasus between Russian Federation and the United States. It should also be added that had Moscow not been encouraging Armenia behind the political scenes, Yerevan would not dare touch one of Washington's most important men in Armenia.

The fact of the matter is that Oskanian has been one of Washington's men in Armenia from the very beginning. Like Raffi Hovanissian and Paruyr Hayrikian, Vartan Oskanian was more-or-less sent to Armenia to represent Western interests in the fledgling state. Due to Moscow's relative weakness throughout the 1990s, Armenian officials had no choice in the matter but to allow these men to obtain various positions within the country. In a sense, these men were the human assets with which Washington seeded the Armenian political landscape hoping to reap benefits at a future time.

This type of political seeding of course worked very well for a certain time period following the Soviet Union's collapse. 

Similar to what their counterparts did in eastern Europe, the main task of Washington's men in Yerevan had been to facilitate the expulsion of Russia from Armenia. Their grand geostrategic plan - known in some circles as the Great Game -  was to curb the political/economic growth of Russia (as well as that of Iran) essentially by turning the south Caucasus into one big Turkic-Islamic cesspool funded by a consortium of Western energy interests. This agenda is currently being pushed under the unassuming banners of "fighting corruption", "women's rights", "minority rights", "gay rights", "free speech", "free elections", "democracy"... 

All of Washington's men in Armenia - some consciously, some unwittingly - continue to feverishly work on the Western agenda to remake the south Caucasus, similar to how their Arab counterparts have been working on remaking the Middle East.  Needless to say, if allowed to take root, their agenda may prove deadly for the Armenian state.

But we have been fortunate that in recent years we have witnessed a series of fundamental changes in the political climate of the globe. Most important of these changes has been the unexpectedly fast rise of the Russian Federation as a global power. Georgia's defeat in the summer of 2008 heralded Russia's splendid comeback. After reaping great benefits throughout Eurasia throughout much of the 1990s as a direct result of the sociopolitical and socioeconomic chaos brought upon by the Soviet Union's unexpected demise, Washington began suffering a series of setbacks in recent years. Moscow's resurgence during the last decade as an independent superpower pursuing its national interests on the grand chessboard of Eurasia has been one of the main factors behind Washington's setbacks.  

The following is a brief look at some of Washington's most notable failures with regards to Eurasian geopolitics:
Its inability to stop the rise of Russia as a Eurasian superpower; its inability to stop the reversal of the political direction in Ukraine, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia; its inability to stop Russia from liberating South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008; its inability to freely exploit Central Asian energy via Azerbaijan; its inability to setup anti-missile sites in Europe against Russia; its inability to stop the Russian-assisted nuclear development program in Iran; and its inability to, thus far, oust the Russian-backed Assad regime from power in Damascus...
There have been of course other major geostrategic failures such as Venezuela, Iraq and Afghanistan, but these are outside the scope of this commentary. Nevertheless, Oskanian's fall from grace is hitting cold-blooded reptiles in Washington very hard because it symbolizes empire's loss of influence as well as the loss of its fear factor. 

Washington is finding itself increasingly difficult to persuade, bribe, brainwash, blackmail or threaten violence to get its way around the world these days. 

Since Armenia isn't one of those countries that can be bombed into submission (due to Russia's military presence there) and since NATO's two decades long economic blockade of the nation has proved ineffective (due to Armenian resilience), Washington is calling on
their propagandists, many of whom are deeply imbedded in Armenian society to bombard us with their bullshit instead. Utilizing its servants to spread disinformation inside Armenian society when political developments in Armenia don't go their way has been one of their favorite methods of putting pressure on Yerevan and turning Armenia's Hollywood-struck peasantry, both in and out of the homeland, against their state.  

Speaking of our Hollywood-struck self-destructive peasantry, I took the freedom of posting below this commentary several of the hastily produced Western articles in defense of Vartan Oskanian. Please read them to acquaint yourselves with their psy-ops and media blitz.

Pay particular attention to the angry rantings of John Hughes, the horse-faced American agent in Yerevan who is also the director of the "independent" news organization known as ArmeniaNow, and David Ignatius, the thoroughly-assimilated-self-hating Armenian that has been on the empire's payroll for most of his life. It was particularly amusing to read Ignatius' comments in the anti-Armenian propaganda outlet known as the Washington Post. His handlers in Washington must have really rushed him because Mr. Ignoramus' diatribe against Yerevan is full of errors, not the least of which is his misspelling of the main object of his concern. 

ArmeniaNow, Radio Liberty, EurasiaNet, Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Hetq and of course the ARF's Asbarez and Armenian Weekly are all getting into the information war against Yerevan by defending one of Washington's main operatives in Armenia. Washington is clearly worried that its once powerful control levers in former Soviet states, including Armenia, are gradually disappearing one by one. Therefore, by bringing out their army of propagandists and doomsayers they are attempting to pressure Armenian officials to fall back in-line, at the same time hoping to incite Armenians to rise against their leaders.

But times have begun to change. Their powerful methods of inciting the global sheeple with their psy-ops may no longer be working as well as it had been for the past several decades. Seeing Washington-sanctioned crimes against humanity in places such as Serbia, Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, political awareness, long dormant, is slowly awakening in Armenians. Syria's bloody plight in particular may have finally brought home to us Armenians the very uncomfortable truths of Washingtonian style politics around the world, and may be helping us to finally understand that Washington does not in fact care much about minorities... or gays... or women... or the ecology... or free and fair elections anywhere. 

People are slowly beginning to understand that Washington's main purpose around the world has been to keep its declining empire intact at any cost. And with regards to Armenia, Washington's main concern is not the lack of "democracy" in Armenia but the lack of "America" in Armenia. The main purpose of Armenia's Captain America's has been to replace the Russian presence in the country with that of America's. 

Guess what folks, it's not going to happen. That train left the station a very long time ago (it actually departed on October 27, 1999) and will not be returning anytime soon. Fortunately, the Caucasus is slowly yet surely headed towards Pax Russicana.

The good news is that Armenians are not the only ones awakening. Information technology is in fact helping the civilized world to reawaken from a deep slumber that back began in 1945. 

Yes, the political climate of the world is gradually changing, a multi-polar global community is coming into existence and Washington and friends are looking awfully impotent as of late. But we cannot rejoice as of yet because the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance continues have a massive following of destructive zombies around the world; it continues to appeal to mankind's animalistic nature; it continues to control most global levers; and it continues to pack a lot of deadly poison.

Nevertheless, perhaps with some prodding from Moscow, the leadership in Yerevan seems to have negatively assessed Oskanian's political ambitions. Therefore, the process that has started against him should be seen as a preventative measure.

Let us once again recognize the fact that the Caucasus is Russia's strategic and vulnerable underbelly and that Armenia is the last Russian stronghold in the south Caucasus and one of the few reliable partners Moscow has in the world. Knowing the crucial importance of the Caucasus to a resurgent Kremlin, it should not come as a surprise that Moscow would be willing to lay waste to the entire region before it allows it to slip from its grip. Similarly, Moscow will turn Armenia up-side-down before it allows a Western-backed leader to take the strategic Caucasus republic out of Russia's political orbit.

Therefore, those trying to lure Armenia Westward are in fact playing with her life. Those who represent Western/Washingtonian interests in Armenia, despite their humanitarian facades, are dangerous and should be looked upon as traitors to the nation. In my opinion, bringing Oskanian down before he got higher on the political ladder in Armenia was a very important preventative measure carried out by Yerevan and Moscow. 

The following blog posts will help the reader place all this in better context -
Hillary Clinton Reassures Armenian Rights Groups (2010):
Serj Tankian, Dashnaktsutyun and the Continuing Media Blitz Against Armenia (2011):
Washington's Media Blitz Against Armenia (2011):
President Sargsyan and Armenia (2011):

Vartan Oskanian Placed Under Investigation by Armenia's NSS (2012):
Needless to say, many in our politically ignorant American-Armenian community today are foaming at the mouth over Oskanian's ordeal, and many are again enthusiastically readying themselves to cut Armenia out of their lives as a result of the supposed "persecution" of a repatriated official. However, those who are foolishly cheerleading for agent Oskanian and his Washington-funded-homo-centric Civilitas would do well to ponder the following instead:
Institutionalized corruption is rampant in the United States. The American empire is in fact one of the most corrupt political entities on earth and American society is slowly turning into a police state. Democratic elections, the kind of which Washington promotes around the world, has not existed in the United states for generations. And Washington continues to be the most warmongering and gluttonous political entity in existence today.
Knowing this, let's now ask ourselves the following questions:
Would Washington accept advise from others on how to run the American empire? Would Washington allow foreign entities to meddle in America's domestic affairs? Would Washington allow Chinese or Russian NGOs for instance to open shop in the US to encourage better governance in America's poor urban centers or on Indian reservations? Would Washington allow Cuba or Venezuela for instance to fund institutions in the US that advises American officials about social welfare? Does the US have politicians serving foreign state interests? Does the US have politicians on foreign payrolls?
The American empire is strictly a closed-circuit operation for all except British and Jewish officials and money men.
Knowing America's very strict exclusivity despite its very serious sociopolitical flaws and knowing that America became highly developed/wealthy essentially because of centuries of human exploitation, ethnic cleansing and global wars, why should humanity now be expected to unquestioningly accept Washington's self-serving meddling in developing nations going through natural growing pains? Why do so many Armenians mindlessly expect Yerevan to follow American dictates? Why are there so many Armenians willing to allow Washington to pursue its imperial ambitions in the south Caucasus via neo-imperialist institutions such as the IMF, USAID and the NED; meddlesome NGOs such as Civilitas; CIA front-offices such as Radio Liberty and ArmeniaNow; and human assets such as Vartan Oskanian and Raffi Hovanissian?
More important questions:
Does Huntsman Sr. really care so much about Armenia that he decided to donate over one million dollars to Oskanian's Civilitas in Armenia, or is the money in question intended to be used towards a Washingtonian political agenda instead? Why is there a Zionist Jew by the name of Peter Rosenblatt on the board in Civilitas, is it for the promotion of "democracy" in Armenia, or is it for the promotion of other agendas? Moreover, why was Oskanian so silent about "corruption" in Armenia when he was a high ranking official there? Finally, why did Oskanian closely ally himself to one of Armenia's most notorious oligarchs, was it for the promotion of "democracy" in Armenia, or was he simply being a political opportunist in Washington's service?
Folks, let's face it, Vartan Oskanian is clearly a foreign agent in Armenia. Worst, he is Washington's agent in Armenia. In my opinion, Oskanian patiently played the game as foreign minister during Robert Kocharyan's presidency because Armenia at the time had not yet solidified its alliance with Moscow. He parted ways with Yerevan in mid 2007 when it became apparent that Serj Sargsyan would be president and Armenia would seek closer relations with the Bear. Under Serj Sargsyan's leadership Armenia has enjoyed very warm relations with Moscow and Yerevan has managed to institutionalize its very important military alliance with the Russian Federation. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that since stepping down from his position in Yerevan back in 2007, Oskanian has been openly towing a Washingtonian political agenda. 

Therefore, recognizing Washington's agenda in the Caucasus (i.e. pushing Russia out of the region and exploiting Central Asian energy) and recognizing who are Washington's traditional allies in the region (i.e. Turks and Islamists), it can be rationally argued that Oskanian and the rest of those who are currently towing a Western agenda in Armenia are in fact traitors.

There is yet another troubling factor that needs to be addressed in this matter:

By their actions men such as Oskanian are driving a deep wedge between Armenians of Armenia and Armenians of the diaspora. By their actions these types of diasporans are essentially continuing what Bolsheviks started - creating a deep schism in Armenian society. By treating Armenia as a political test-tube or an exotic playground for their wild fantasies, diasporans such as Oskanian are fast becoming a serious liability for the Armenian state. Several of the articles featured on this page are some examples of what I mean. Please visit their sources and read some of the diasporan nonsense posted in their comments section.

At the end of the day, Yerevan cannot allow Western imperialists to meddle in its domestic affairs. In the big picture, Armenia's main problems are geopolitical and geographic in nature. Armenia is going through very natural growing pains in a very bad political environment. Armenia must be allowed a course to develop naturally and free of Western meddling. In other words, what Armenia needs is a sociopolitical evolution and not a Western funded revolution.  

Nevertheless, I have to admit that I'm encouraged by what I see in Yerevan.

By starting their case against Oskanian merely a week after the Whore of Babylon's visit to Armenia last summer, Yerevan may have been signaling to Washington that there will be limits placed on overly ambitious or aggressive American operatives in Armenia. By taking such an action, Yerevan may also be signaling independence and confidence. Yerevan's message to Washington is - "your Arab Spring crap won't work here and if your operatives get out of hand we will without hesitation round them up."

Although what is happening to Oskanian and his Civilitas is a good start and a good sign, Yerevan needs to do more. Yerevan needs to monitor every single American/Western entity in existence in Armenia today, and it needs to keep a close eye on the many Western operatives currently operating throughout the country. Yerevan cannot relent in its efforts to immunize Armenia against the West because Western designs for the region poses an existential threat to the nation. The Caucasus is an unforgiving place. Ignoring this threat may in fact cause the young republic's downfall.

Despite its cleaver humanitarian packaging and hype, the political West today is a serious menace to world peace and stability, and Western Globalism is a serious threat to apostolic Christianity, western/European culture, indigenous cultures around the world, the nation-state, nationalism and the family unit. 

We must recognize the fact that financial, economic, political and cultural levers of control are being manipulated and exploited by the Anglo-American-Zionist global order. The troubling realization that a very tiny fraction of human society (virtually all based in the West) controls vast amounts of the world wealth should be enough to scare any rational person. But as troubling as this all is, the situation at hand is a bit more precarious for the Armenian state. Two of the geostrategic levers traditionally utilized by the political West, namely Turks and radical Sunni Islamists, poses an existential threat to the entire Caucasus. The manipulation of these levers by Western officials during the past two decades has led to the region's stunted economic growth and political volatility. 

Thanks to Western meddling, the Caucasus is always one political disaster away from turning into a Turkic/Islamic cesspool.

Recognition of these characteristics of the region in which Armenia is unfortunately located in must serve to compel Yerevan not to take any chances with those representing Western interests in Armenia.

Yerevan needs to closely follow the Bear's footsteps by limiting its ties to Washington by curtailing its dealings with Western institutions. Yerevan needs to stop the operations of Western-funded NGOs that involve themselves in political matters in the country. Yerevan needs to shutdown any news agency that maintains Western ties. Armenian security officials need to keep a very close eye on any individual in Armenia that has any connections to Western institutions. I hope Oskanian will be the first of many more Western operatives to be silenced in the future. Finally, Yerevan needs to disallow Armenians from the diaspora (particularly those from the United States) from serving in the nation's governing structures. I say this with a heavy heart because the Armenian diaspora in the United States could have been a great asset for Armenia.

October, 2012


Curtailing an NGO - and political debate - in Armenia

By David Ignatius

The campaign against Western-backed NGOs is spreading to Armenia, where a former foreign minister is accused of “money laundering” because he accepted contributions from former U.S. presidential candidate Jon Huntsman to support civil-society projects. The target is Vartan Oskanian, a U.S.-educated Armenian who served as foreign minister from 1998 to 2008 and then started a nongovernmental organization called Civitas. The allegation is that Huntsman’s contribution of nearly $2 million, described in detail on Civitas’s Web site, violates Armenian laws. (Web links to the group’s site that were working early Friday were inaccessible by mid-morning for unexplained reasons.)

At the heart of the case, according to analysts in Armenia, is politics — and whether Armenia will have open, multiparty debates or follow Russia back into Soviet-style authoritarian government. The Armenian National Security Service has revoked Oskanian’s parliamentary immunity, in what’s described by the local media as a prelude to criminal prosecution. The move to prosecute Oskanian began after he allied himself in early 2012 with the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party and then announced that he would not support a coalition with President Serze Sarkisian and his ruling party. Sarkisian’s government has been a solid ally of Russia; Oskanian is seen as more independent and potentially pro-Western.

The legal battle in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, might seem like a small sideshow on the world stage, but it illustrates an important and worrying trend. In Moscow and other former Soviet capitals, NGOs are being squeezed by the authorities, who see them as potential vehicles for popular protest and political change. This month, Russia announced it was expelling the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has funded many Russian NGOs. A similar squeeze is evident in Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Belarus, as well as in many Muslim countries, such as Egypt and Pakistan.

The Civitas case is interesting in part because of the involvement of Huntsman. The wealthy former Utah governor and GOP presidential candidate has been an active philanthropist in Armenian since the 1988 earthquake, and he is said by Civitas to have contributed about $20 million to Armenian causes. When Huntsman International, a family company, decided in 2010, to close its Armenian subsidiary, Huntsman Building Products, the company directed in a written message that the proceeds should go to Oskanian for the benefit of Civitas. The sale produced about $2 million, of which $577,000 went directly to Civitas and $1.4 million to Oskanian, for future distribution. (Oskanian said he has already sent another $548,000 to Civitas, with the rest to follow.)

Civitas produces a newspaper and an Internet television news show, which are independent voices in a country where most media outlets are controlled by the government. Oskanian and Civitas have attracted international donations, including government grants from Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, the U.K. and the United States. They have also received private grants from the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and the German Marshall Fund (GMF). (Full disclosure:  I am a GMF trustee and have met Oskanian at several international conferences.)

John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, visited Civitas on Wednesday, along with a group of European ambassadors, and then spoke with a reporter from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Armenia service. He called the move against the organization “troubling” and added: “Civitas is a very important partner for us, and we think it’s really important for Armenia politically and for the media.” Civitas has an international advisory board that includes Stephen Bosworth, a U.S. former ambassador who is dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where Oskanian took a graduate degree.

The decision to go after Oskanian and Huntsman, two prominent and widely respected figures, is scary because it illustrates how far the authorities are willing to go in the former Soviet republics in curtailing debate. Just a few years ago, Russia and its former satellites were brimming with civil-society projects and NGOs, whose links to the West gave a cosmopolitan feel to once-dreary capitals of the old Soviet empire. You can see a figurative door swinging shut in the moves over the past year to suppress Western contamination — and the freer political debate the NGOs have encouraged.


Armenian Government Threatens NGO and Former Foreign Minister
By Olivia Kantardjian

An attack on a former foreign minister of Armenia is threatening to shut down one of the country's most active and innovative non-profit organizations. Vartan Oskanian, a U.S.-educated Armenian who served as foreign minister from 1998 to 2008, is being accused by the Armenian government of money laundering for a donation he accepted from the father (an American businessman and philanthropist) of former U.S. presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr..

After leaving his post as foreign minister, Oskanian established The Civilitas Foundation in 2008 in order to strengthen Armenia's civil society. Since its creation, the foundation has received funding from several Western governments, as well as the OSCE, a number of international non-governmental organizations, and individual donors from around the world. Jon Huntsman Sr. was one of these donors.

Huntsman Sr. contributed nearly $2 million to Civilitas in January 2011, and at the time, the Armenian tax authorities said nothing. In May 2012, Oskanian was elected to parliament as a member of the Prosperous Party on a platform of doing away with political and economic monopolies. Two weeks later, the Prosperous Party announced it would not join a coalition, a decision which Oskanian had championed. The very next day, the National Security Service opened a criminal file on money laundering and said that Oskanian and the Civilitas Foundation were involved. 

"It's hard to believe the timing was a coincidence," said Ophelia Harutyunyan, who worked as a producer at CivilNet and is now enrolled in the graduate film program at Columbia University. 

On Tuesday, the Armenian Parliament will vote to seek removal of Oskanian's parliamentary immunity, in order to charge him with expropriating funds and money laundering. If convicted, Oskanian could face four to 12 years in prison. With or without Oskanian's immunity being removed and whether or not he is put on trial, the Armenian government can also, at any time, freeze the Civilitas bank account and office resources, essentially shutting down the foundation, putting over 60 people out of work, and putting an end to the many successful development projects they have started in the country.

Most of Civilitas' employees are young adults who have been educated abroad, who work tirelessly to strengthen civil society by hosting debates, building libraries, and establishing microfinance development projects, to name just a few initiatives. 

"Civilitas has created a space for people like me to work and foster positive change in Armenia," said Diana Muradova, an editor at Civilitas. "Our country is facing hard socio-economic conditions and we have a severe lack of adequate-paying jobs, but Civilitas has given more than 60 educated people an incentive to stay here for development of civil society and free media."

With few professional opportunities, many educated Armenians choose to leave the country in search of work. In 2011, 43,800 people left the country, 1.3 percent of the population. Since 2000, 236,200 people have migrated from Armenia, which is 7.2 percent of the population. 

"What Civilitas represented for me was getting young, multilingual Armenians to believe that change was possible -- that you didn't have to leave Armenia for change to happen," said Greg Bilazarian, who worked as a producer at Civilitas and now attends Yale Business School. "This is going to severely hurt 60 people who have chosen to put their faith and energy into something that could change their country. The next step after that would be to leave the country. That's what we we're trying to prevent." 

In 2011, the foundation began to publish a daily newspaper and launched CivilNet, a multilingual online news channel with funding from the Huntsman donation. In a country where most media outlets are controlled by the government, CivilNet is one of the only reliable sources of information.

"We delivered a kind of journalism that most people hadn't seen before in Armenia. We never covered stuff simply for ratings. We let people work on stories that really mattered. It would be devastating if anything were to happen to Civilitas, especially if it happened in the name of politics to people who are not working for Vartan Oskanian to get elected, they're working to better their civil society, for women's rights, for the environment," said Bilazarian. 

CivilNet was very active during the Armenian parliamentary elections last May, producing videos of blatant election fraud, which the prosecutor's office failed to investigate. If Civilitas is shut down, the upcoming presidential elections will be covered mainly by media organizations controlled by the government. 

Full disclosure: I volunteered as a journalist at Civilitas for five months in 2010. I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such a talented, hardworking group of people in a country where inefficiency is the norm. As an Armenian American, not only am I am involved in the process of civil society building in Armenia, but I am also a member of the Armenian diaspora, which raises a lot of money for Armenian charities. If Civilitas is shut down, it would be a giant step backward not only in the fight for a less corrupt and more democratic Armenia, but also for all the members of the diaspora who work to make their motherland a better place, and for all those who believe in freedom of the press.


The “Oskanian Affair”: Thug rule wins again

By John Hughes

Today’s National Assembly vote that potentially paves the way for sending former Minister of Foreign Affairs Vartan Oskanian to jail is so wrong, ill-conceived and ill-timed, it is hard to know which of the legion of absurdities to address

At the top of the list should be one that seems to be of disturbingly little concern to Oskanian’s colleagues who voted to strip him of the immunity from criminal prosecution that comes as one of the perks included in a parliament mandate. The vote was 64-6 with one invalid ballot, and 58 members either absent from the vote or refusing to participate, on grounds that the vote was a travesty.

Today’s vote again proves to the world that Armenia runs on thug-rule at the expense of democratic progress.

But just a month ago and ever since, Armenia was embraced with tragically-won sympathy when the “Safarov Affair” alerted the world to the stark moral difference between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The latter’s deification of a convicted murderer was ample evidence of why Western democratic countries should stop treating the two neighbors with parity – or with preference bought by Azerbaijan’s oil – and accept the politically incorrect truth that Christian Armenia has a foundation for democratic principle that is not in evidence in Muslim Azerbaijan. Now, the “Oskanian Affair” shifts attention, and none of it is good.

Armenia’s KGB (calling the agency “National Security Service” may sound less spooky, but doesn’t change who they are) says Oskanian hid money that United States businessman Jon Huntsman, Sr. intended earmarked for the Civilitas Foundation, founded by Oskanian.

ArmeniaNow has been told by sources familiar with the investigation that, indeed, staff at Civilitas were asked to deposit portions of the Huntsman money into personal accounts. It remains unclear, however, whether Oskanian was involved in the alleged solicitations or whether such transactions would constitute the fraud with which he is being charged. In any case, investigators have not interviewed the Huntsman family to clarify their agreement with Oskanian which, as one lawyer pointed out today, would not require the NA voting on anyone’s immunity.

This is clear: If this former foreign minister goes to jail ahead of the next presidential election, it will not be for money laundering -- just as when his foreign minister predecessor, Alexander Arzumanyan, went to jail ahead of the last presidential election on the same charges. In each case – now laden with irony – the former cabinet members surfaced from political upheaval on the wrong side of power, a matter more politically perilous than whether or not they conveniently landed on the wrong side of the law.

General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepyan said today that Oskanian will not be arrested, nor will he be required to remain in Armenia during the course of the investigation.

Last week Hovsepyan took extraordinary measures to tighten the screws on Parliament Member Oskanian. But today, he says that citizen Oskanian, whom the Prosecutor General’s office believes to have defrauded the government in a $2 million scam is free to escape? If we believed Hovsepyan last week, Vartan Oskanian is such a threat to society that a rare act of Parliament should be invoked to assist in his prosecution. Now, the nation’s top law enforcement officer is practically tossing his suspect a “Get out of Jail Free” card? What sense does that make?

Yesterday Oskanian gave an interesting evaluation of the impact arresting him would have on Diaspora relations, which may or may not have prompted Hovsepyan’s odd announcement today. In effect Oskanian asked this: “Are Diaspora now going to think that I was laundering money for the 10 years (1998-2008 as Minister of Foreign Affairs) that they trusted me?”

He also raised a valid point that the government needs his services now as the Syria crisis rages, affecting tens of thousands of Syrian-Armenians. Oskanian, himself, is from Syria.Those, however, are not the questions that a voting public would be asking, were Oskanian to fulfill predictions and try to unseat President Serzh Sargsyan next February, or would use his influence in Diaspora to earn support for a candidate capable of doing so.

Vartan Oskanian is a statesman – duly experienced – who says he is ready to come to his country’s aid, five years after he – through his failure to do the right thing – almost helped destroy the republic he again solicits to serve. “Where were you when we needed you?” is a valid question in evaluating the veracity of the former foreign minister’s willingness to put public good above political gain.

Oskanian, Minister of Foreign Affairs on March 1, 2008, should have resigned his office that day, and in doing so proved himself above the very sort of reckless, political-power-as-personal-weapon decision-making that now has turned against him. But had he done so, he would have found himself crosswise with then-president Robert Kocharyan, with whom Oskanian now remains in favor as a member of the political party created by Kocharyan.

Those of us who believed Oskanian represented a rare voice of reason – or at least embraceable viewpoints -- in Kocharyan’s Moscow-controlled administration, were disappointed to watch him collude in brutality – “legitimizing” as one of his fellow party members now says of the current prosecution/persecution of Oskanian, “an illegitimate act”.

On that Bloody Saturday, Oskanian’s special assistant, with whom he would later found Civilitas Foundation, appeared on CNN to downplay reports that the capital was coming unhinged. And when members of the foreign ministry complained about the ministry being dragged into Kocharyan’s crackdown that would lead to 10 deaths and hundreds of injuries and arrests, Oskanian fired those staff.

To be fair: people would have died, property would have burned, the thinning fabric of Armenian democracy would have suffered another rip, no matter who headed the foreign ministry in the awful spring of 2008. But on that day, more than on this one that brings shame to Armenia and political martyrdom to Vartan Oskanian, we needed leadership that would say “this is not right”, just as people today are saying so on his behalf. We needed men like him to stand up by stepping down.

Oskanian didn’t. And his lack of guts on that day may have been forgotten by the “concerned” Diaspora, “spyurkahye” celebrities and foreign journalists who rally for him today, but it has not been forgotten by locals. Foreign Minister Oskanian's failure to enforce democratic principle may now be a blind spot in the U.S. State Department's mirror, but it is a glaring spotlight for Armenians who needed then, and now, courageous conviction.

It is near Shakespearean that Oskanian now finds himself on the same wrong side that his predecessor in the foreign ministry, Arzumanyan, found himself. Arzumanyan was jailed on charges which, like the Oskanian case, were trumped up because he sided with those who sought to unseat the existing regime -- at a time when Oskanian was part of that regime.

Some might call it karma. In any case, today's predictable outcome is a pity. Everybody loses. Except those who will do this again when necessary, because they know that they can.

Political Persecution Against Former Foreign Minister Oskanian

On Thursday afternoon, Sept. 27, the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Armenia, Aghvan Hovsepian, presented to parliament a petition to strip Vartan Oskanian, a lawmaker and the Former Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, of his parliamentary immunity. The petition is slated to be discussed and voted on by parliament on Monday morning, Oct. 1.

“This tells you how the government is using its resources in the pre-electoral period,” said Ghazarian. “Civilitas will go through all regular legal procedures until it reaches the European Human Rights Court to prove that this case was a political order since the beginning.”

Following the announcement, on Sept. 27, Oskanian’s lawyer, Dikran Atanesian, stated that according to the regulations of the National Assembly (NA) of Armenia, the president of the NA must inform the parliamentary member about said petition, which didn’t take place. “This is an obvious violation of law, and it confirms indirectly that this is political persecution,” Atanesian said.

The petition is related to the criminal case of money laundering filed by the National Security Service on May 25 against Oskanian and the Civilitas Foundation of Armenia. The former foreign minister is accused of “money laundering” because he accepted contributions from American philanthropist Jon Huntsman, Sr. to support civil-society projects. In the absence of other evidence, the prosecutor shifted his attention from money laundering to expropriation, and now claims that they are protecting Civilitas, the foundation Oskanian established, from Oskanian himself.

On Sept. 28, the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) called the petition “a political persecution not only against Vartan Oskanian, but also against the Prosperous Armenia Party.” The party has lent its unconditional support to Oskanian, a fellow party member, and has pledged to achieve justice by all legitimate means available.

After serving almost 10 years as the Armenian Foreign Minister, Oskanian in 2008 left office and established the Civilitas Foundation, which dealt with democracy and development through education, media, rural development, and environmental awareness, as well as several projects on foreign relations advocating for peace and stability in the Caucasus through dialogue and open intercourse. The foundation’s latest project is the research- and news-based internet channel, which has been, throughout its one year of existence, vocally critical of several political, economic, human rights, and environmental issues. Last week, it won the Golden Key award of the Freedom of Information Center in Armenia. Earlier this year, Oskanian had joined the PAP, which is considered the most prominent opposition to the ruling Republican Party; he was elected to the National Assembly on the party list last May. Oskanian has made it clear that he would not support a coalition with President Serge Sarkisian and his ruling party.

Al Jazeera today reported that the alleged charges are politically motivated and aimed at stopping Oskanian from running in February’s presidential elections. According to Salpi Ghazarian, the director of Civilitas Foundation and a longtime confidante of Oskanian, the case is no longer about Oskanian or Civilitas only. “This tells you how the government is using its resources in the pre-electoral period,” said Ghazarian. “Civilitas will go through all regular legal procedures until it reaches the European Human Rights Court to prove that this case was a political order since the beginning.”

In a show of international support, last Friday Oskanian hosted ambassadors from various EU states, the U.S., and Brazil, as well as the EU ambassador in Armenia, and representatives of the OSCE and Council of Europe. Oskanian explained the accusations he faces, and presented the necessary documents to rebuff those claims and charges. Domestically, most parties represented in the parliament declared their support for Oskanian, including members of the radical opposition Armenian National Council (ANC).

In a similar case in 2008, following the tragic post-election events of March 1, four members sympathetic to ANC president Levon Ter Petrossian were deprived of their parliamentary immunity and were politically persecuted. Zarouhi Postanjian, a National Assembly member from the opposition Heritage Party, in an interview with, stated that the process aims to target all those who think differently.

“Maybe this time they are feeling that danger from Oskanian,” she said. “There are many ‘bright’ figures in the National Assembly, who really need to be deprived of their immunity,” Postanjian added, referring to the notorious tycoons in the country who were elected to the parliament on the majoritarian lists of the ruling party.


U.S. Ambassador Voices Concern Over Armenia's Oskanian Charges

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern says criminal charges filed against former Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian are "bad for justice and democracy in Armenia."  Oskanian was summoned to the National Security Service on October 8 and formally charged with misappropriation of some $1.4 million donated by a U.S. philanthropist to Oskanian's Yerevan-based Civilitas Foundation in late 2010. Oskanian denies the charges, calling them politically motivated and aimed at derailing chances for his Prosperous Armenia party ahead of a presidential election scheduled for February 2013. Heffern also mentioned the timing of the charges against Oskanian were "troubling." Heffern called on the Armenian government to "live up to its commitments to the systematic, fair, and transparent implementation of the rule of law."


Vice Speaker to U.S. Ambassador: Don’t mix politics with legal matters

The Vice-speaker of the Armenian Parliament responded to the US Ambassador’s recent statement about Vartan Oskanian, saying that ambassadors should refrain from politicizing legal issues and connecting them with elections.

US Ambassador in Armenia John Heffern made a statement on Wednesday related to the fact that the National Assembly stripped Prosperous Armenia Party MP, former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian of his diplomatic immunity and then was formally charged with money laundering, saying that “it is bad for justice and democracy in Armenia”.

Ruling Republican Party spokesperson, parliament vice-speaker Eduard Sharmazanov said in his interview to RFL/RL on Wednesday that “it is impermissible and unrealistic to connect every legal process to elections”.

“Naturally, I do not share the honorable US Ambassador’s opinion expressed in his statement according to which ‘the case appears to represent the selective application of Armenian law’, because this is a purely legal matter. Our opinion is the same as before – it’s a legal matter and politicizing or making it a party-related issue is impermissible,” said Sharmazanov, pointing out that there are criminal cases on a number of Republicans, who are either in custody or in prison.

Heffern discussed the Oskanian affair with PAP leader Gagik Tsarukyan in a private conversation on Wednesday. Tsarukyan’s spokesperson Iveta Tonoyan reports that during the meeting Heffern expressed a hope that the Armenian authorities will fulfill their function and will ensure rule of law in dealing with this case. Tsarukyan said that he will see to it that the case has unbiased investigation and a just verdict is carried out.

“I have instructed the best lawyers to study the case which they have done and have confirmed that all the charges brought against Oskanian are groundless. During the party political board meeting I personally instructed all the faction members to make strict, principle-based statements and speeches,” said Tsarukyan. 


The Diaspora must act as an agent for change in Armenia

The National Assembly of Armenia voted on Oct. 2 to remove former Foreign Affairs Minister and Prosperous Armenia MP Vartan Oskanian’s parliamentary immunity. Oskanian is being accused of money laundering in what is widely perceived to be a political move to impede his return to active politics.

Around the same time, activists from Armenia and the diaspora gathered in New York and then in San Francisco and Los Angeles for the Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) Conference to discuss a range of issues from foreign policy, to civil society development and the rule of law in Armenia. While the presentations delivered at the conference are yet to be made public, there was a clear call from many of the speakers for the diaspora to be more active in the promotion of democracy in Armenia.

Ironically, the two events couldn’t have coincided better. Two decades on, the disconnect between independent Armenia’s realities and the diaspora’s understanding of these realities is striking.

In the past 21 years, entrenched Soviet legacies of corruption and a lack of respect for basic freedoms and fundamental rights have hindered the democratization of Armenia. A strategic alliance with Russia, a country that faces its own serious challenges when it comes to democracy, has not helped. Some have even argued that the lack of a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict has allowed Armenia’s rulers to cling to power and derailed democratization.

While the challenges for democracy to take root in Armenia have been many, the agents for change have been few.

Some external powers have tried to fill this role, yet have been limited in their ability to drive true change. A case in point is the impact Armenia’s integration into various European structures has had on delivering internal change. Armenia undertook formal obligations to adopt democratic reforms as part of its membership in the Council of Europe (since 2001), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (since 1998), as well as cooperation with the European Union particularly under the European Neighborhood Policy starting in the mid 2000’s.

Successive Armenian governments embarked on a series of legislative reforms in the judicial, electoral, human rights, and fundamental freedoms spheres. Constitutional reforms were adopted, election laws were reformed and refined time and again, and legislation relating to freedom of assembly and media freedom, to name a few, were amended in cooperation with experts from these organizations.

In practice, however, legislative reforms have failed to translate into behavioral change. In what democratization experts call cost and benefit calculations by governments, the potential threat posed by putting these reforms into practice has surpassed any benefit that may come out of implementing behavioral change. In other words, when it comes to democratic reform triggered by external pressure, the ruling elites in Armenia have talked the talk but failed to walk the walk.

In recent years civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have emerged as potential change agents in Armenia. NGOs were quick to mushroom in Armenia following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It has been argued that the Armenian NGO sector has been influenced by the availability of funds from donors who have not only played a role in shaping the issues raised but also the solutions proposed, often resulting in a mismatch with the local context (see Ishkhanian, A. Democracy Building and Civil Society in Post-Soviet Armenia, New York: Routledge, 2008).

While civil society in Armenia faces significant challenges, a number of civic initiatives have been able to rally and maintain enough popular support to register small successes. We have seen examples in the fields of environmental activism (for example, the “Save Teghut” initiative), domestic violence, and the protection of public spaces (the campaign against the demolition of Mashdots Park). Some of these initiatives have also resonated with the diaspora. Such was the case of the anti-domestic violence initiatives organized in the U.S. following the murder of 20-year old Zaruhi Petrosyan, beaten to death by her husband. 

By and large, however, the diaspora’s involvement in Armenia’s democratization has remained minimal.

There needs to be a deeper understanding in the diaspora of the serious threats that corruption, the absence of rule of law and accountability, and persistent violations of human rights constitute to the long-term viability of the Armenian state. More than 20 years after Armenia’s independence, it is high time for the diaspora to open its eyes to these realities and reassess its role in bringing change to Armenia.

What can we in the diaspora do? To begin with, we need to start talking about the serious internal issues that threaten Armenia today. We need to start talking about them not in a way that feeds into already well-established stereotypes, but in a way that creates meaningful public discourse and seeks solutions.

Do we have a vision for Armenia? What is it? How do we get there? These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves today as individuals and communities. The imperative for internal reforms in Armenia must become a topic of mainstream concern and discussion in the diaspora if we are to find ways to affect positive change in the country.

The structures and processes by which the diaspora can influence the course of democracy in Armenia is a topic that warrants serious discussion and one we are yet to start. However, in trying to bring change to Armenia, the diaspora can find an important ally in civil society. A generation of young and motivated Armenians who want better for their country exists in Armenia today. Let’s reach out to them, learn from them, empower them. They may become the country’s next leaders.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of an independent Armenia, the priority for the diaspora was to provide immediate relief to an impoverished country devastated by an earthquake and a protracted war. Now it is time for the diaspora to re-consider its priorities in Armenia and act as a much needed agent for change in the country.

Houry Mayissian is a communications professional with journalism and public relations experiences in Dubai, Beirut, and Sydney. She has studied European politics and society at the University of Oxford, specializing on the democratic reform process in Armenia as part of its European integration.


Don’t Silence Another 60

My next trip to Armenia is in December, but if it were tomorrow, I wouldn’t be very excited to get on the plane. In fact, right now I want to be as far away from Armenia as possible. And in this moment, I understand why hundreds of thousands of people have left during the last 20 years.

Currently, Vartan Oskanian, Armenia’s former minister of foreign affairs, faces charges of money laundering, embezzlement, and who knows what else.  Many people thought Oskanian a likely challenger to Republican incumbent President Serge Sarkisian in February’s presidential election, unless, of course, Oskanian is tied up in court, or worse.  Seemingly to correctly prove the hypothesis that the charges are politically driven, the ruling Republicans and their de facto proxy party voted 64-6 to remove Oskanian’s immunity and leave him open to charges, which followed a week later. Every political party boycotted the vote except, you guessed it, the ruling majority and its friends. Interestingly, a party historically loaded with parliamentarians sporting shoddy attendance records somehow managed to convince 96 percent of its membership to show up and remove Oskanian’s immunity. Meanwhile, Georgia just completed a legitimate election and power transfer, further widening the democratic gap between the two neighboring former Soviet states. And yet, this isn’t even the beginning of my frustration…

Oskanian is also the founder of the Civilitas Foundation, a think tank promoting an active civil society. The money laundering charge stems from a charitable donation made to the foundation by U.S. businessman Jon Huntsman, Sr. The foundation’s roughly 60 employees are predominantly young, multilingual Armenians working to improve their country by focusing on issues such as women’s rights, the rule of law, and the environment. Their main vehicle is the news and public affairs website,, which started from scratch with a team of inexperienced future journalists, and has since developed into a real source for independent, analytical news and dialogue. Unfortunately, that mission sometimes interferes with the establishment’s suppressive interests. During my 14 months producing for Civilnet, I learned twice as much as I taught about advocacy journalism and became exceedingly optimistic about Armenia’s future. Civilitas is an oasis for free-thinking creativity, safe from the desert of anti-progressive thought that sometimes pollutes Yerevan.

This all matters because the Armenians with whom I worked at Civilitas are extremely talented and mobile.  They’ve turned down full-scholarship opportunities in the U.S. and the U.K., believing they could improve their home country if they only stayed in Armenia. Even those who have left Civilitas and Armenia, including U.S. citizens such as this article’s author, have pledged to return and make Armenia their long-term home. But now, Civilitas is under fire, facing potential interference from the government, which claims it wants to “protect” Civilitas. Nobody knows what that means and nobody is optimistic about it either. While everyone is still fighting for Civilitas’ survival, some of my former co-workers and friends are second-guessing their desire to remain in Armenia.

At September’s Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) Conference in New York, one attendee astutely described Armenia as an unstable balloon that inflates with each repressive event, such as the one happening now with Civilitas. But as the balloon expands and seems ready to explode, people simply move out of the country, thus diffusing the pressure. We’ve seen it after elections and other events that sully the public. It’s why today Armenia’s population is definitively less than 3 million people.  So I suspect we’ll see more frustration and migration with this episode and the upcoming February election. And, unfortunately, the educated and mobile will be the ones to leave, further exacerbating the brain drain epidemic.

I will get on that plane in December, and my long-term plan to live in Armenia has not changed. I am excited to enjoy the city I love and see the friends I left behind a few months ago. I only hope some of them will still be there to greet me at the airport.

Greg Bilazarian is a first year MBA student at the Yale School of Management. He was the producer for in Armenia from May 2011 to July 2012. Bilazarian worked for four years as a television news reporter in the U.S. before moving to Armenia. He grew up outside of Philadelphia.


‘Armenia at 21’ Conference Brings Together Activists from Armenia, Diaspora

IMG 6754 1024x682 ‘Armenia at 21’ Conference Brings Together Activists from Armenia, Diaspora

Armenian-American activists and community members converged at Columbia University on Sept. 28-29 to attend this year’s installment of the Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) Cconference, dedicated to “Armenia at 21.” The conference featured 30 experts, activists, and academics from Armenia, Europe, South America, and the United States who addressed topics on the environment, foreign policy, economy, civil society development, and rule of law. “This was a unique opportunity for grassroots activists from Armenia and the diaspora to exchange ideas and strategies to affect change in the Armenian polity. Looking at 21 years of Armenian statehood, they saw how far we have come but also how far we must still go along the entire range of social, political, ecological, and economic issues,” said Dr. Dikran Kaligian, the chairman of the conference organizing committee. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and war correspondent Chris Hedges spoke at the opening session on Sept. 28. Sarah Leah Whitson, of Human Rights Watch, and Arpine Galfayan, of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights in Armenia, offered comments. Seven panels were held the following day. The Armenian Weekly will provide detailed coverage of the conference and publish some of the papers in the coming weeks.


Ambassador Djerejian: An Illustrious US Diplomat Tarnishes Own Reputation

On Friday October 5 Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian presented a lecture in Los Angeles titled “Arab Awakening, The Turkish Role in The Region and The Future of Armenians in the Middle East”. Nearly 500 Armenian Americans attended the event organized by Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Asbeds.

Holding himself true to his principle “as a diplomat to think twice before saying nothing,” Amb. Djerejian talked for over 50 minutes without making important revelations on the current situation in the Middle East and Syria in particular.  He went on to narrate the situation in the Middle East by delivering certain details with eloquence, mesmerizing his audience.  He also shared anecdotal stories during his tenure as US Ambassador in Syria.

However on the 56th minute as he shifted his focus to the Caucasus region, he dropped the nuclear bomb on his Armenian American audience when he claimed that 2014 is a potentially deadly deadline for Armenia and Armenians worldwide imposed by Azerbaijan. He sternly cautioned Diaspora Armenians about the so-called “Azerbaijan deadline” for political settlement of the Artsakh (Karabagh) conflict by 2014 “or else” face the dismal possibility of a new war. He tersely warned that a formidable military buildup by Azerbaijan spelled trouble for Armenia, and that the war this time “may not be as favorable” to Armenians as the first war. Many members of Southern California Armenian American community were concerned with his promotion of fear among Diaspora Armenians on the ‘dire’ consequences of a new war with Azerbaijan.

His lecture also agitated several members of the audience who were disturbed by his pro-Azeri claims that Armenians are ‘occupying’ lands that “belong” to Azerbaijan.

Before making such anti-Armenia and anti-Artsakh declarations, that the lands around Artsakh (Karabagh) are ‘occupied’, Amb. Djerejian should investigate for himself the true identity of the territories in lower Artsakh (Karabagh). His research will reveal the undeniable fact that the borders of Armenian Territory of Artsakh encompassing both mountainous and lowland Artsakh run from western border of contemporary Armenia to Kura River to the east of mountainous Artsakh; and from Gantsak (“Gendje” under Azeri rule) just north of Shahumian in the north all the way to the current Iranian border in the south.

Under infamous Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, the Territories of Artsakh and Nakhitchevan were carved out of then newly Sovietized Republic of Armenia and were ‘gifted’ to then newly sovietized Azerbaijan in early 1920’s thus completing ‘stalinization’ of Armenian territories. Artsakh Liberation War of 1988-1994 facilitated the reversal of that process which can be appropriately labeled ‘de-stalinization.’

He also underlined how Turkey is fast-becoming a regional super power. Then he expressed support for Armenian-Turkish reconciliation and normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey with “honorable terms” for Armenians on critical issues. But he did not elaborate on the issues. For a moment the former U.S. Ambassador sounded more like an Ambassador of Azerbaijan or Turkey rather than a veteran diplomat representing United States as an honest broker in Caucasus.

During the question-and-answer period, they caught him off-guard by presenting pointed questions such as whether Armenians in Artsakh should pursue or give up self-determination as opposed to capitulating to Azeri demands to settle for autonomy within Azerbaijan. The parade of inquisitive and intelligent questions reflected deep Armenian-American concerns for Armenia and Artsakh as Amb. Djerejian backtracked and modified his position to come across as a more ‘balanced’ diplomat.

Amb. Djerejian pointed out the proliferation of “ism”s such as “extremism” and “terrorism” in today’s world. Interestingly, his position on vital Armenian American issues has illustrated that he is influenced by petroleum interests, and is an adherent of “petrolism.”

A well-respected writer and political observer David Boyajian of Belmont, MA recently wrote: “Djerejian, whose parents were Genocide survivors, is a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Syria. He is now the Founding Director of the James A. Baker III Institute in Houston. The Institutes namesake is James Baker. He is a former Secretary of State and an Armenian genocide denier, as is Madeline Albright, an ex-officio member of the Institute.  Its Board of Advisors is filled with current and former executives of Chevron, Marathon Oil, Shell Oil, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and similar corporations, several of which also fund the Institute.

Not surprisingly, human rights are nearly invisible on the Institutes agenda. In a depressing political presentation to Armenian Americans in Texas in 2011, Djerejian uttered not one word of criticism of Turkey or Azerbaijan.  Nor did he mention Artsakh/Karabagh’s rights, human or otherwise. Instead, he took a neutral position on the issue, and approvingly quoted Azeri President Ilham Aliyev that ‘Azerbaijan has the upper hand.’  Regarding the Genocide, Djerejian noted only that ‘the Armenian Genocide can best be resolved within the context of improved state to state relations between Armenia and Turkey.’”

As noted above, ironically, many of Amb. Djerejian’s comments were echoes of his own remarks of 2011 in Texas.
Similarly, the following comments that were presented in 2011 in Texas are almost identical to his observations made in Los Angeles: “Armenia must look at current trends in the region. The Russian-Georgia conflict destabilized the Caucasus region and beyond. Russia is asserting itself in the “near abroad.” While Armenia’s relations with Russia will remain very important, Armenia must avoid becoming over-dependent on Russia. Turkey is looking westward, seeking to be part of the European Community, while strengthening its ties in the Middle East and Central Asia and improving its relationship with the United States. Georgia and Azerbaijan are actively pursuing stronger relations with the West. Iran’s future direction remains problematic, but it is a major regional player. Increasingly, change in Iran is not a question of if, but of when.

Iran’s policies will have important implications for Armenia, a neighboring border country. Armenia’s relations with the United States are very important and involve interaction on issues such as non-proliferation and border security, international narcotics, money laundering and the trafficking in persons, and the development of democratic institutions and sustainable economic growth. Washington also appreciated Armenia’s support in Iraq. Thus, the promise for Armenia’s security and prosperity rests with following the major trends toward regional and international integration. Armenia can no longer risk being “the odd man out.” Indeed, Armenia should rediscover and reaffirm its historic role as a bridge between the North and South, and the East and West.”

While sounding genuinely concerned with Armenia’s and Armenians’ future, Mr. Djerejian trashed Armenia’s performance as a viable state. Under succeeding US administrations of the last few decades, U.S. State Department has been siding with oil-producing dictators such as Pres. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan at the cost of trampling upon the human rights of people like Armenians of Artsakh (Karabagh). By doing so, US administrations risk exposing themselves to the ire of international public opinion in Middle East, the Caucasus and elsewhere.

Abundance of social and diversified mass media has helped the masses unmask this American double standard. It is obvious that he is not a champion of human rights for Armenians of Artsakh. But he could have at least steered clear of making anti-Artsakh (Karabagh) Armenian pronouncements by respecting his diplomatic rule of ‘thinking twice before saying nothing;’ and by declining to unfairly agree with Azeri false claims that Armenians “are occupying” lands in Azerbaijan.

Ambassador Djerejian noit only did not alleviate Armenian American concerns on U.S. State Department being a dishonest broker in Asia Minor and Caucasus in regards to Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Azeri issues, but he also ended up tarnishing his own reputation as an illustrious US Diplomat.


Vladimir Putin, the living legend, may be visiting Armenia - October, 2012

It is being reported that Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin - the living legend - is expected to travel to Armenia an official visit in the coming weeks. The last time the great leader of the Russian Federation traveled to Armenia was back in 2005. The trip back then was very brief and barely noticed. It was widely thought at the time that the trip's purpose was to ensure Armenia's political allegiance to Moscow. Having finally crushed Russia's Western-backed oligarchy and defeated the Western-backed Islamic insurgency ravaging the Caucasus by the early years of the new millennium, Putin's 2005 visit to Armenia was coming at a pivotal time in history when Moscow was just beginning to get off its knees and reasserting itself in regional politics. It certainly feels like that was a very long time ago. Times have certainly changed and this time around the trip and its geopolitical implications will be a quite different.

Yerevan does not need to be convinced of Russia's crucial role in the region anymore. The Great Czar of Eurasia will be in Armenia to build on the foundations he laid back in 2005. Putin will be in Armenia to bolster the small, landlocked and blockaded nation's political standing in the south Caucasus and to further cement bilateral relations between the two former Soviet nations. I hope to see powerful political symbolism to be on display during the historic visit. Naturally, I also expect Washington to bring out many of its street whores to spread fear, hate and disinformation. I can hear our Captain America's now - "Armenia is losing its independence"... "Armenia is being taken over by Russia"... "Armenia is being forced back into the Soviet Union"..."Armenia is a dirty Russian province"... "Armenia is being enslaved by Putin"...

Regardless of what our Western-led self-destructive peasantry will say or do, the Armenian nation will be deeply honored to host an illustrious leader like Vladimir Putin on Armenian soil. Although many millions of people around the world today have begun recognizing his crucially important role on the international stage, Putin's true greatness will be recognized only after he departs this world, when future generations look back and rationally assess the turbulent times we are currently living in. Men like Putin come about very rarely. In fact, pivotal leaders like him appear during times of great upheaval. The great leader of the Russian Federation was indeed born under a very bright star.

Coming on the heals of the unprecedented CSTO military exercises in Armenia, Vladimir Putin's appearance in Yerevan will be another very powerful message to Turks, Azeris and Western officials alike. In the aftermath of his historic visit, I hope to see deeper cooperation and collaboration between Yerevan and Mosow in all realms, be it business, military, political, financial, cultural or tourism. Moreover, I'm also hopeful that his visit will serve to boost President Serj Sargsyan's ratings. In short, I expect to see a few breakthrough developments. Interestingly, one such breakthrough has already been revealed.

Current Gazprombank vice president and former Yerevan mayor Karen Karapetyan will be accompanying the President of the Russian Federation.

When Karen Karapetyan prematurely vacated his short-lived position as mayor of Yerevan to assume a high level position in the Russian Federation, there were some rumors that Moscow was temporarily pulling him out of the political muck in Yerevan to groom him for the Armenian presidency. It is now being reported that Yerevan is preparing to offer Karapetyan a position as Prime Minister. Apparently, this is due to happen after the next presidential elections in Armenia in which President Serj Sargsyan is expected to win another five year term. If this report holds true, there is a very good chance that Karapetyan will be a presidential candidate in 2018.

Karen Karapetyan is an ideal manifestation of today's Armenia and Armenia's Soviet past. He is an example of a person that has drawn the best from both worlds. The man is well-educated, professional, wealthy, has stage appearance and, very importantly, he has very good connections in Moscow. He is an excellent example of what Armenian-Russian relations can be and should be. He is definitely not one of Armenia's 1990s era derived criminally-inclined-chobans-in-Armani-suits, nor is he one of Washington's many whores infesting the streets of Yerevan today. In my opinion, Karen Karapetyan would make an great president in Armenia. If he is in fact being groomed for the Armenian presidency, and I can only pray that he is, this means Moscow is taking Armenia's security and long-term political stability very seriously indeed. Putin's state visit and Karapetyan's reappearance within the political scene in Armenia are in my view some of the best political developments that have come out of Armenia in recent years. I'm very glad that Moscow is finally making its presence felt in the south Caucasus.

After a long period when Moscow's dealings with Yerevan were more-or-less confined to behind-the-scenes negotiations, we are now seeing Moscow get noticeably proactive - and public - inside Armenia of late. Although it seems a bit awkward, we are indeed seeing Western-style Public Relations (PR) coming from the Russian camp recently. Perhaps having learned dearly from the methods with which the political West sometimes gets things done around the world (i.e. before Western leaders resort to blackmail, sanctions, terrorism or war when things don't go their way), Moscow has clearly begun using an effective tool known as "Soft Power" as a means of promoting and projecting its political agenda as well. But Moscow has a very long way to go before it can truly compete with the West in this regard.

Since the rise and fall of Bolshevism and National Socialism, the Anglo-American-Zionist global order has managed to monopolize the PR market, and it has been exploiting it with deadly effect around the world ever since. In a sense, the political West became a "global leader" more-or-less by default. And by a psy-ops assault they conquered the hearts&minds of humanity. Several generations have now lived and died under a global "reality" crafted by Western officials. Nevertheless, what Kremlin officials have begun doing in recent times is a good beginning.

For much of the past twenty years Moscow executed politics in Armenia via traditional/conventional methods - disregarding the base and simply dealing directly with high level state officials and using strong arm tactics when need be. Such an approach is of course a lot less complicated and a lot less costly for Russian officials. However, such an approach also left a serious void. Because the top leadership in Yerevan were essentially spoken for, Western interests simply began working on the rest of Armenia, the bottom half if you will. Exploiting the services of an army of operatives, NGOs, Think Tanks, aid agencies, various USAID funded programs and western-style television programing, Washington began its efforts to hijack the fledgling nation from the bottom up. Therefore, Moscow's most serious flaw in Armenia had been its severe lack of PR in the country.
It could also be said that Kremlin officials, pressed with a multitude of serious problem throughout the Russian Federation, took Armenia somewhat for granted. After all, Kremlin officials were confidant that Armenians have historically been pro-Russia. After all, the Kremlin knew that Armenia is surrounded by enemies. Therefore, as far as Kremlin officials were concerned, where was Armenia to go? Needless to say, this flaw in approach (although understandable in the light of serious problems Russia faced during the past two decades) was exploited by others. The void created by the absence of Russian PR and soft power in Armenia was ostensibly filled by Washington and friends.

From television programming to the young republic's educational system, from aid agencies to news outlets, Western propaganda soon began permeating Armenian society. The youth, particularly those who did not live during Soviet times were most susceptible to the corrosive aspects of Western Globalism. To put it as briefly as possible, with the void that Russia had left in Armenia, Armenians simply woke one day to see that: Washington had built the world's second largest US embassy in Yerevan; English had begun replacing Russian as the second language in the country; and most of the nation's opposition leaders, rights advocates, political activists and independent journalists were on Western payrolls...

Having already lost Georgia and Azerbaijan, the Kremlin's indifference or inability to cultivate its playing field in Armenia could have in fact cost Russia the entire south Caucasus, and may have even cost Armenia its independence. Although much of the danger posed to Armenia by the West and its allies in the region has been dissipated in the years following Russia's bloody pummeling of Georgia in 2008, significant threats still remain.

The mental/psychological conditioning of the masses through Western-controlled aid agencies, information media and entertainment indistry, for instance, continues to pose a serious problem. For instance, the conditioning of Armenians in particular have been so thorough that despite how well Russia provided for or protected our small, poor, landlocked and blockaded nation surrounded by hostiles in the south Caucasus, Armenians (diasporans in particular) found ways to be suspicious of Russians and to bad-mouth Moscow. And despite how terribly Armenia was treated by the West, Armenians always found ways to compliment Washington and make convenient excuses for its anti-Armenian policies.

Seeing a nation that sustains you as an enemy and seeing an enemy that wants you destroyed as a friend is essentially what Western propaganda and psy-ops has been all about.

As Russian officials were scrambling to save their nation from literally falling apart, the immense power of propaganda was basically neglected by Moscow - to its detriment. Nevertheless, despite the West's massive and highly refined propaganda machine that for decades created alternative realities and stupefied and zombified masses of people around the world, the veil is now slowly lifting as more-and-more of us mortals see the bloodthirsty demon well hidden behind the humanitarian mask. The political West is in decline and reptiles in places such as Washington, Wall Street, London and Tel Aviv are worried about losing their iron grip over humanity. This is essentially the reason why the world today is standing dangerously close to a Third World War.

In this regard, Vladimir Putin's rise to power in the Russian Federation a little over twelve years ago was God sent; perhaps literally. Some point to the Stock Market crash and some point to the Housing Market crash to explain Washington's descent. In my humble opinion, the West began its historic decline when President Vladimir Putin took office in Moscow.

I dare any well informed and/or rational individual to imagine where Armenia would be today had Russia been pushed out of Armenia in the 1990s. I dare any well informed and/or rational individual to imagine where the entire Caucasus would be today had Russia been defeated there. I dare any well informed and/or rational individual to imagine how much worst the situations in the places such as Syria, Lebanon and Iran would have been had Russia been eliminated from the global stage. Russia's resurgence as a global power not only saved Armenia by stopping the Caucasus from turning into a Western-financed playground for Turks, Azeris and Islamists, it also saved the world from the clutches of the Anglo-American-Zionist global menace.

A good look at Moscow's brilliant political maneuverings in recent years can be observed in the paranoid rantings of a self-hating Iranian named Amir Taheri and in the diatribe by the infamous Heritage Foundation. The New York Post article titled "Putin's Power Plays" and The Foundry's "Obama’s “Reset” with Russia: A Long Retreat" are featured at the bottom of this page. Please read them. But, as always, I need to caution the reader that such works need to be read between-the-lines because they are written by Washingtonian presstitutes.

And a good look at the Russian PR taking place in Armenia lately is the Pravda article titled "Russia protects Armenia from Western influence" posted towards the bottom of this page. Armenian news has been saturated lately by coverage of various developments pertaining to Russian-Armenian relations. The Pravda article may be a form of Russian psy-ops coming ahead of the great leader's visit to Armenia. Having finally rid Russia of its Western parasites (e.g. Jewish oligarchs, IMF, homosexual activists, USAID, Pussy Riot, NED, Radio Liberty, etc), Vladimir Putin may be planning on doing similar things in Armenia. In the big picture, Vartan Oskanian's prosecution should be looked at under this light. As Russia grows in strength and the West retreats from the Caucasus, we can expect other misbehaving operatives such as Raffi Hovanissian to eventually be chased out of Armenia as well.

Armenia's only hope for progress and survival in the south Caucasus lies with closer integration with the Russian Federation. Armenia's most important diaspora is the Russian-Armenian diaspora. The only hope the Caucasus has for peace and stability is Pax Russicana. I have always maintained that if law and order was to ever descend upon Armenia it would have to come by the way of Moscow. I have always maintained that the only way Armenia would enjoy some semblance of a normal statehood is by the way of men such as Karen Karapetyan. Having taken some twenty years to get its act in order, a resurgent Moscow is now strongly invested in Armenia and it is displaying it for the world to see. Vladimir Putin's visit to Armenia promises to herald a new age in the south Caucasus.

October, 2012


Vladimir Putin to Visit Armenia

The Armenian Time reported that the Russian President Putin's visit to Armenia will perhaps take place at the end of October or at the beginning of November. Putin's visit to Armenia was initially planned in September, during the CSTO exercises. The Russian ambassador to Armenia said a few days after the exercise that Putin's visit to Armenia is still due. Now the visit will be either at the end of October or at the beginning of November. According to the sources of the newspaper, the Russian delegation to visit Armenia is being formed by the ex-mayor of Yerevan Karen Karapetyan, the vice-president of Gazprombank. During the visit, Karen Karapetyan's appointment as prime minister of Armenia will be discussed. Governmental sources report that the prime minister will be replaced only after the presidential elections. Otherwise only in case no agreement is reached with Prosperous Armenia on this matter. In other words, if Serzh Sargsyan does not get PAP's support for his nomination, he will have to change the prime minister before the elections. Then, Karen Karapetyan will need crisp and clear guarantees that he will keep his office even after the presidential elections. Yesterday, Russian media reported that Vladimir Putin's visit to Turkey was postponed. It was planned to be held on October 14-15, while the Russian president meant to leave from Ankara to Baku. According to Russian media, yesterday, Putin and Erdogan spoke on the phone and Putin proposed to postpone his visit until November. This means that the Russian president decided to respect the parity and hold regional visits to Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia in November, the paper writes.


Putin Politics: Russian president’s expected visit likely to influence decisions in Yerevan

Several Armenian media, citing their sources, report the visit to Armenia by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was originally said to have been scheduled for mid-September, will take place in late October or early November.

The Russian leader’s visit was first announced in the summer by the director of the CIS Institute Konstantin Zatulin, who said that Putin will attend Collective Security Treaty Organization exercises in Armenia held in September. The Kremlin had neither denied nor confirmed that information, leaving Armenian experts guessing afterwards why Putin did not come to Armenia.

Now the discussion is centered around the entourage of President Putin on his possible visit to Armenia as well as what he will actually be bringing to Armenia. The price of natural gas remains high on the agenda of Armenian-Russian talks.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov said recently that his country was asked to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and offered as a “reward” a reduction of natural gas prices down to $160 per cubic meter. Otherwise, the price of this fuel would fluctuate around $440. Azarov said that Russia could thus lose its largest buyer of gas; he did not agree that his country should join the Customs Union.

One should assume that the same proposal will be made to Armenia. Armenia’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Armen Movsisyan acknowledged that the negotiations on the gas price with Russia are still continuing. And experts believe that Russia will offer to maintain or even reduce prices for Armenia if the latter agrees to integrate with the Eurasian Community, a new integration process in the post-Soviet space initiated by the Russian president and expected to get its flesh and bones by 2015.

Another issue that is almost certainly going to be discussed during Putin’s likely Yerevan meetings will be the upcoming elections in Armenia. Soon it will be the stage of nomination of candidates for president in Armenia, and the Kremlin has not yet expressed its preference on the candidates. In Armenia, the guessing game is around whether Putin will extend his support to the incumbent president, Serzh Sargsyan, or will back Robert Kocharyan, the former president.

The Haykakan Zhamanak daily writes that Putin will bring with him to Armenia Karen Karapetyan, a former mayor of Yerevan and ex-CEO of ArmRosgazprom, a Russian-Armenian joint venture distributing natural gas in Armenia. At present, Karapetyan is deputy manager of Gazprombank in Moscow. The Russia-connected top manager is tipped as a possible prime minister in Armenia, and the paper assumes it is the prime minister’s post and not that of president that Putin will be talking about during his visit to Armenia.

However, there is still one remarkable circumstance that could change everything. On October 10 Putin unexpectedly canceled his visit to Turkey, which was originally scheduled for October 14-15. The very next day Turkey intercepted a Syrian civilian aircraft operating a flight from Moscow to Damascus. Turkish air force jets made the Syrian plane land to be searched. Ankara insists component parts for prohibited weapons were found on board the civil aircraft.

Experts rushed to describe the incident as a sign of damaged relations between Turkey and Russia, which have been developing quite incrementally of late. The possible reason for the souring relations is the escalating situation around Syria and Turkey’s possible invasion of this embattled country. In Yerevan there has been a traditional concern that well-developing Russo-Turkish relations could come at the expense of Armenia. In particular, Russia, on the initiative of Turkey, could insist on the return of some territories around Karabakh to Azerbaijan, it does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh, has not contributed to the opening of an airport in Stepanakert, and so on.

The Turkish factor may also be crucial in what Putin offers to Armenia. In particular, Russia may want to strengthen its military base in Armenia that guards the border with Turkey. Whether the allied relations between Yerevan and Moscow grow in the future will also depend on the further course of the Russia-Turkey row.

If things around Syria develop according to their recent scenario, Turkey is likely to invade the Middle Eastern country, which will ultimately damage its ties with Moscow and create a new international situation for Yerevan.


Armenia has become object of battle between US and Russia – opposition member

The Civilitas Foundation founder, former FM, and Prosperous Armenia Party MP Vartan Oskanian’s prosecution was permitted by the United States itself, Karabakh Committee member Ashot Manucharyan stated during a press conference on Thursday. He noted that he does not believe the US ambassador is unable to prevent a persecution against a person in Armenia. “That is, they are not against [it] for the most part. Armenia has become an object of battle between the US and Russia, and the primary lever to dominate over Armenia is the presidential chair. Today, Russia is infuriated because they are attempting to snatch its influence in Armenia away from it, and, under such condition, the Russian side is capable of many things,” Manucharyan said.

According to him, this is why the US is trying to weaken and neutralize Russia’s main weapon with such small strikes. “Armenia’s ruling ‘regime’ begins persecuting a protected man, who is the second person of the Prosperous Armenia Party. At that time the party’s first person disappears while its remaining members, who used to hold state positions and make money unlawfully, begin contemplating as to what they would do with them if they are launching such actions against a man who is protected to such [high] level. Thus, the entire ‘Russian system’ is being neutralized by the actions against Oskanian,” he noted.

And in response to the query as to whether Oskanian’s nomination for next year’s presidential elections is real, Ashot Manucharyan said it would be better to pose this question to the Russian and US ambassadors because, according to him, they are the ones who decide which role is preferred for Oskanian to play: a presidential candidate, or a distressed prisoner?As Armenian informed earlier, the National Security Service (NSS) Department of Investigation has brought formal charges Monday against Vartan Oskanian.

To note, on October 2 the National Assembly voted—by 64 ballots for, six against, and with one invalid vote—in favor of Prosecutor General’s petition to include Vartan Oskanian as a defendant in a criminal lawsuit. A total of 71 MPs participated in the voting. On May 25 NSS Department of Investigation had filed a criminal lawsuit on charges of money laundering with respect to The Civilitas Foundation.


"Soft power" of Russia in Armenia

The presence of Russophobic sentiment in Armenia is already not a secret. The secret for the majority of Armenian society, including its Russophobic part, is the real causes of these trends in the country, which is considered an age-old partner and friend of the Russian people. It should be recognized that there is still some discontent with individual elements of Russian policy in Armenia and in the South Caucasus, as well as with the policies of any other country. However, in the case of Russia, these elements are artificially inflated and heated by the forces of pro-Western orientation. These forces are mainly funded by USAid and similar institutions, government organizations and political forces. However, it is believed that the presence of anti-Russian sentiment in Armenia is being heated at the official level...

Another catalyst of increasing Russophobia in Armenia was the statement by the governor of Krasnodar Territory Alexander Tkachev on establishing a "Cossack police" in the region. Tkachev substantiated the emergence of such a new structure in such a way: Stavropol isn't coping with the role of a filter "sifting Caucasians from Kubans." Some overseas-funded Armenian information resources of appropriate orientation immediately came to the paradoxical conclusion that the Cossack police would actually be engaged in the forcible deportation of the Caucasian peoples and, first of all, for some reason, the Armenians from Krasnodar Territory. In reality, only a mad man could imagine that the Cossack police would clean out Armenians from Krasnodar Territory and primarily from Sochi, where the number of Armenians amounts to about half the population. There is no need to be a genius to understand that the implementation of xenophobic attitudes in multi-ethnic and multi-religious Russia would do harm to its federal structure. However, somebody in Armenia does not want to understand it by continuing to disturb the minds of citizens, mostly living on transfers, which certainly do not come from overseas.

The reason for the talk "about the imminent loss of Armenia's independence," was the idea of ​​Vladimir Putin of the creation of the Eurasian Union. The idea led to intense discourse in post-Soviet space - some felt nostalgia and hope, others felt fear. In general, it seems that any idea of ​​integration with Russia will be welcomed in Armenia, traditionally and rightly considered to be a pro-Russian country. However, there are people who see the Eurasian Union and even its forerunner, the Customs Union, as a direct threat to the independence of Armenia. For some reason they do not see such a threat in the opening of the border, initiated by the U. S., with those who committed the genocide of the Armenians. Thus the main reproach against Russia remains its alleged lack of interest in a just settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

However, these criticisms of Moscow sound not only in Yerevan but also in Baku. And if the Armenians accuse Moscow of selling weapons to Azerbaijan, the peak of which was the sale of an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system in 2010, Baku is unhappy that Russia not only supplies weaponry to Armenia but makes a discount. These pro-Western Armenians somehow do not see this, as well as they do not want to see Russian efforts to reach a compromise in the Karabakh conflict. Moscow has a military base in Gyumri and supplies Armenia, as a CSTO member, weapons at domestic prices. The majority of Armenians are sincerely and deeply grateful for this. However, there are people complaining that Yerevan bears all the expenses for the maintenance of the Russian 102nd military base, according to the intergovernmental agreement for a period of 49 years. The same people, oblivious to the fact that the stay of the Russian base in Armenia fits the interests of Armenia, because it protects its external borders, and Russia is spending huge amounts of money on it, demand the withdrawal of the base as a "threat to the sovereignty of Armenia."

Today some politicians in Yerevan, having forgotten our history, including the latest, and their own conscience, do not want to remember the indisputable fact that it was the terrible cries of Moscow that stopped an imminent Turkish invasion of Armenia. And there is no doubt that the Kremlin today is interested in preserving the independence of Armenia, while the U.S. and the West, in the best case, can locate "peacekeepers" on the front line in Karabakh, which is certainly more likely to look in the direction of the south, that is, to Iran, than to engage in the preservation of peace in the South Caucasus. Not only Russia, but also any other state, and the U.S. in the first place, determining its priorities in a given region, is guided by its own national interests, and only after that - the interests of "brotherly states". And this is quite normal and accepted by people who have at least a remote idea about politics. However, given that a large part of the population has no idea of ​​this, opponents of Russian influence in Armenia managed to exploit even a military parade dedicated to the Independence Day of the Republic, which took place a year ago in Yerevan. The passage of Russian troops from Gyumri under a Russian flag caused rejection on the part of pro-American youth. Russian participation in the parade of the Armenian army was seen not as a political move to a certain direction, but as another manifestation of the "imperial ambitions" of Russia. Moreover, the protest meeting against the participation of Russian troops in the parade was dismissed by police only the next day.

The economy is also widely discussed. Recently, there were a lot of discussions in the media on the question of negotiations between Russia and Armenia on the increase in the price of natural gas supplied by Russia. According to replicated pro-Western media reports, from October 1, 2012, Russia plans to raise the price of gas from 180 to 280 dollars per thousand cubic meters. And from January 1, 2013, Russia will set the price of gas at about 380 dollars. Despite the lack of official statements related to the increase of the price of Russian gas for Armenia both from Yerevan and from Moscow, the very prospect of higher prices for the Armenian economy, which is not in the best position, also boosts the injection of anti-Russian sentiment in the country. It should not be forgotten that, even in case of a price of 380 dollars, the population of the country today with the price of about 180 dollars gets the gas at a price of 132 drams, that is, taking into account maintenance fees, it is up to 400-420 dollars per thousand cubic meters. In these conditions, pro-Western Armenians should have accused not Russia but their own government or "Armrosgazprom" for such pricing.

One of the first factors which the anti-Russian forces in Armenia adopted was a project of the "debt-for-enterprises", realized during Robert Kocharyan's presidency, when in exchange for repayment of the Armenian foreign debt of 100 million dollars Russia received several businesses and the Hrazdan thermal power plant, which produced almost half of the country's electricity. The fact of the transaction did not shock anyone, because the above-mentioned companies were idle. However, Armenia hoped that the companies which the Russians got would make money, but most of them remained idle. After that some forces asked the following question: why, for example, did Moscow write off a hundred times more debt of $10 billion to Syria, but it did not write off the Armenian debt?

Many do not like the excessive influence of Moscow on local domestic life. However, geopolitics and economics just do not leave other options in Armenia, which, however, does not prevent the largely pro-Western opposition with no dividend on the proximity to Moscow from always looking around in search of other strategic partners. This could be considered a problem of the Armenian opposition. However, the problem is mostly still a Russian one, because Moscow has traditionally worked with the current government of the important countries, not maintaining contact with the opposition, as the West does.

As a result, this breach is used by geopolitical rivals of Russia, driving a wedge between Yerevan and Moscow.  From the point of view of the history of Armenian-Russian relations, Armenia may be an important strategic area for Russia only when the authorities are weak, because with a strong government Armenia will seek more independence, and this is not beneficial for Russia. However, the same can be said about the West. There is a version according to which President Putin is trying to increase the importance of Armenia, exchanging Serzh Sargsyan for Robert Kocharyan, who is not sufficiently popular in Armenia. Against this background, the preferred and non-alternative candidate for the U.S. is Serzh Sargsyan who has reportedly already started a "renovation" of Armenia. In this version, the anti-Russian wave rises in Armenia with the participation of official structures. Thus, by simulating the growth of anti-Russian sentiment, the ruling force tends to gain time and not to give the pro-Western opposition a chance in the domestic political struggle.

In general, there has always been anti-Russian sentiment within the statistical error in Armenia. But if in the first years of independence they were local in nature, not appearing in the media, and in general people were quite pro-Russian, nowadays the situation is different. The rejection of Russian policy in the Caucasus did not emerge suddenly; it proceeded step by step, at least in the last 10 years. However, people who are trying to drive a wedge in Armenian-Russian relations do not represent the whole Armenian people. Even recent Gallup polls show that three-quarters of the population of Armenia still view Russia positively. Unfortunately, there is no merit on the part of the Russian embassy in this case, since its public diplomacy activities, if they exist, are extremely subtle. However, the recent upheavals and increased funding of "Rossotrudnichestvo" demonstrate that Moscow is also seriously thinking about the effect and potential use of "soft power", at least in the countries of the CIS. For Armenia, not interested in becoming a second Georgia, this is very handy.


Tigran Sargsyan: Time to think about closer inter-regional cooperation between Armenia and Russia

The second Armenian-Russian inter-regional forum kicked off in Yerevan today. The opening ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan and the Russian co-chair of the Armenian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission Maxim Sokolov. Welcoming the participants of the forum, the Prime Minister voiced hope that the it will promote the development of economic and humanitarian ties between the two countries and elaboration of new initiatives.

“The relations between Armenia and Russia are of strategic nature. Political and economic dialogue has been established on all levels of state governance. Time has come for closer inter-regional cooperation,” Tigran Sargsyan said.

“I think we have much to learn from each other. The dialogue between the regional authorities of the two countries can suggest the mechanisms that will contribute to the development of regions. We must think about the development of inter-regional cooperation in different directions. We must not only maintain, but also reinforce the bilateral information space, consider the creation of the database of the supply and demand of the regional markets, present corresponding business programs,” he added.

Speaking about the proportionate development of regions, the Prime Minister said one of the priorities of the Armenian government is the development of regional infrastructures – roads, water supply systems, logistic and educational centers.

“We are making efforts to have the quality of life in rural regions correspond to that in urban areas. For that purpose we have started implementing a special programs to create regional development programs. A Techno Park has been established in Gyumri, the next will be opened in Vanadzor, a financial and educational center is being constructed in Dilijan,” the Prime Minister said.

The forum features representatives of central and regional authorities, NGOs and business circles of the two countries.

The Russian-Armenian joint Tourism Campaign will contribute to the development of the field of tourism in Armenia. As reported by the Deputy Minister of Economy of the Republic of Armenia Ara Petrosyan at the press conference held on September 27, the Tourism Campaign, to be held from September 30 to October 9, aimed at revealing the new tourism resources of Armenia.

The Deputy Minister highlighted the efforts of the state of keeping Armenia in the tourism focus. "The country works to create favorable environment for the development of the field of tourism", - stated Ara Petrosyan, as reported by Armenpress. According to him, the International Tourism Conference to be held on October 18-19 in Armenia will as well contribute to the growth of interest in the field.

The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Armenia Vyacheslav Kovalenko highly evaluated the tourism potential of Armenia, emphasizing the importance of the Campaign. "It is a very good and important start for the inflow of tourists to Armenia. The scientists and aspirants, involved in the Campaign, will contribute to the increase in the recognition of Armenia", - said the Ambassador. Vyacheslav Kovalenko highlighted as well the high level of interest of the journalists towards the Campaign.

The Director of the Armenian Tourism Institute Robert Minasyan stated about the attractiveness of Armenia for tourists. "Our main objective is to create a united tourism zone between Armenia and Russia", - said Robert Minasyan. The Armenian-Russian Scientific Tourism Campaign is to be held on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Armenia and Russia. The Campaign will launch from the city of Yerevan and will involve Gyumri, Dilijan, Sevan, Goris, Kapan, Meghri, Oshakan and Etchmiadzin cities. The diplomatic relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Russian Federation have been established on April 3 1992.


Armenia and Russia are activating cultural cooperation

Armenia and Russia will continue cooperation in cultural spheres for future. On October 12 in the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia was signed “The Program for Cooperation of Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia and Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation for 2012-2015”, that aims the regulation of Armenian-Russian cultural relation for the period mentioned.

As reports “Armenpress” the document was signed by Minister of Culture of the Republic of Armenia Hasmik Poghosyan and Deputy Minister of Culture of Russian Federation Andrey Bousigin. The program of cooperation includes 18 articles regulating Armenian-Russian relations in a number of cultural spheres. As Minister of Culture of the Republic of Armenia mentioned this is a clear program of activities. In accordance with the program the sides will support the exchange of soloists and collectives, international festivals and contests in both countries. This will help to make favorable conditions for cooperation in the spheres of fine arts, stage craft, cinematography, libraries and museums, design, amateur talent activities, circus, objects of historical and cultural heritage and national craft.

Minister of Culture of the Republic of Armenia said: “Notwithstanding, one thing is of an extraordinary importance for me, that both sides will continue supporting qualification and requalification procedures of the cadres”. Minister of Culture of Russian Federation stressed good relations between Armenian and Russian nations and administrative bodies and the importance of development of the cooperation between our countries.


Armenian-Russian humanitarian center to be established in Armenia

Armenian National Security Council Secretary Arthur Baghdasaryan, who is in Moscow on a working visit, on Tuesday met with Russian Federation (RF) Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.  Following their private talk, meeting of the Armenian and RF security councils’ representatives was held, during which they exchanged views on the current situation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) zone as well as on regional and international security. As a result of the talks, Baghdasaryan and Patrushev signed a protocol, whereby the arrangements were specified. 

On the same day, Arthur Baghdasaryan met with Vladimir Puchkov, the RF Minister of Emergency Situations. As a result of this meeting, the parties signed the protocol on the intentions to establish a joint humanitarian center in Armenia. Also, the Armenian National Security Council Secretary got together with CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha. This meting was followed by a roundtable discussion under the theme “The Republic of Armenia’s activities within the framework of the CSTO,” during which the attendees examined the interaction as well as the avenues to improve the organization’s activities. As a result of the meeting with Bordyuzha and the aforesaid roundtable, a protocol with several arrangements was signed.

In addition, Arthur Baghdasaryan met with Sergei Ivanov, the Chief of Staff of the RF Presidential Administration. The interlocutors discussed the military partnership between Armenia and Russia, and reflected on the implementation of the arrangements that were made during Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s and RF President Vladimir Putin’s last meeting.

Putin: Armenia remains Russia’s reliable ally

Armenia has been and remains Russia’s reliable ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote in his message of greeting to the participants and guests of the second convention of the World Armenian Congress (WAC) that kicked off in Yerevan earlier today. “Russians and Armenians have been united by ties of friendship, mutual respect and spiritual affinity for many a century now,” said the Russian leader, according to the Voice of Russia quoting the press agency TASS. “Bilateral relations have been successfully developing on the basis of good traditions and have reached the level of strategic partnership.”The Russian president reportedly wished the delegates “from the bottom of his heart” fruitful work and success, and wished the fraternal people of Armenia well-being and prosperity. The WAC, founded in 2003, is an organization led by affluent Russian-Armenian businessman Ara Abrahamyan. Its declared objective is to strengthen relations between Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora.

Russia will supply gas to Armenia on a privileged cost

Russia will supply gas to Armenia on a privileged cost that will be rather cheap. As “Armenpress” reports, this was announced by the minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Armenia Armen Movsisyan at the end of the session of intergovernmental committee, but he refused to tell what exact price he meant. The minister mentioned the following: “We are still negotiating about the price for gas. There will be special privileged price for Armenia, but the precise cost will be clear only after the end of the negotiations. Unlike other countries we will buy gas for very cheap prices.” According to him after the final cost is fixed the government will start thinking about subsidizing needy classes. Current gas price for Armenia is 180 USD for 1000 cubic metre. Speaking about the new energy station Movsisyan mentioned that presently they are working on the development of new financial schemes.


Gazprombank vice president may become candidate for president of Armenia

Karen Karapetyan, former Mayor of Yerevan and First Vice President of Gazprombank, may become a candidate for President of Armenia in 2013, News Armenia reports. Prosperous Armenia and the Armenian National Congress may for a consensus around the official. Russia may also encourage Karapetyan to go ahead. Karen Karapetyan resigned as the Yerevan Mayor on October 28, 2011, staying in office less than a year. He used to be the Director General of ArmRosgazprom, the monopolist of gas distribution in Armenia.


Early Endorsement: Russian-Armenian tycoon backs Sargsyan’s reelection

A Kremlin-friendly businessman leading the largest Armenian community organization in Russia on Monday voiced support for President Serzh Sargsyan’s plans to win a second term in office in an upcoming presidential election. Ara Abrahamyan said the governing body of his Moscow-based World Armenian Congress (WAC) officially endorsed Sargsyan’s reelection at a weekend meeting in Yerevan.

“We have no other [presidential] candidates yet. Nobody has nominated [their candidacy,]” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service ( during a WAC congress in Yerevan. Asked whether he and his group have considered backing an opposition candidate, Abrahamyan said, “You can’t become president in two months. You need a serious preparation for becoming president.”

The tycoon added that the WAC decided to endorse the incumbent president in recognition of his policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, pursuit of greater international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide and efforts to bolster Armenia’s ties with its worldwide Diaspora. He admitted that many Armenians are dissatisfied with their government’s socioeconomic track record but said Sargsyan does not have a “magic wand” to rapidly improve their plight.

Incidentally, Sargsyan attended and delivered a speech at the WAC congress on Monday. He again stressed the Diaspora’s importance to the country. The WAC was set up in 2003 as an offshoot of Abrahamyan’s Union of Armenians of Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin personally attended the WAP’s founding congress in Moscow to indicate his support for the Armenian-born tycoon’s attempt to create a global pan-Armenian structure.

The Armenian government’s reaction to the initiative was less than enthusiastic, with then President Robert Kocharyan openly expressing misgivings about the idea of putting all major Diaspora communities under a single umbrella structure. Leading Armenian organizations in the United States and Western Europe have also viewed the WAC with suspicion.

Abrahamyan announced on Monday that the WAC has decided to move its headquarters from Moscow to Yerevan in order to end Diaspora allegations that the group is furthering the Kremlin’s agenda. 


Russia’s Defense Minister Hails ‘Strategic’ Ties With Armenia

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov emphasized the “strategic significance” of his country’s relations with Armenia after meeting Armenian leaders and watching military exercises held by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) near Yerevan on Wednesday. Serdyukov joined President Serzh Sarkisian as well as his Armenian and Belarusian counterparts in monitoring the concluding phase of the five-day maneuvers held at the Armenian army’s Marshal Bagramian training ground. Kazakhstan’s top army general also arrived in Armenia on the occasion.

They looked on as about 2,000 soldiers from Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan simulated a joint operation against imaginary “illegal armed formations” invading a CSTO member state. The CSTO troops were backed up by tanks, armored vehicles, artillery systems, helicopter gunships and warplanes firing live rounds. The drills also involved unmanned aircraft designed and manufactured in Armenia. The Krunk drones were first demonstrated by the Armenian military during a September 2011 parade in Yerevan.

Serdyukov praised the course of the war games when he held talks with Sarkisian later in the day. The Armenian president’s press office said they also discussed Russian-Armenian military ties and security “challenges” facing the region. Serdyukov said Russian-Armenian relations are currently “at the highest level” and are strategically important to both nations after a separate meeting with Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian. The meeting focused on what the two men called a “reorganization” of Russian troops stationed in Armenia.

“We have had quite good meetings today during which we discussed a broad range of issues related to the 102nd Russian military base stationed in Armenia and its reorganization taking place within the framework of a reform of Russia’s Armed Forces,” Serdyukov told journalists. “We are transferring about 10 facilities to the Armenian side,” he said without elaborating. “We also discussed the issue of material-technical supplies to the base and our relationships in that regard.”

The Russian minister appeared to refer to a redeployment of Russian army units in Armenia, which began in early 2011. In an apparently related development, the Russian military announced in June that it will double this year the number of its soldiers serving at the Soviet-era base headquartered in Gyumri on a contractual basis. It is still not clear if the total number of its military personnel will change as a result.

The Russian base is believed to have between 4,000 and 5,000 troops. It is equipped with hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles and artillery systems as well as sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air missiles and a squadron of MiG-29 fighter jets. A Russian-Armenian agreement signed in 2010 extended the Russian military presence in the South Caucasus nation by 24 years, until 2044, and upgraded its security mission. It also committed the Russians to helping the Armenian military obtain “modern and compatible weaponry and (special) military hardware.”


Russia protects Armenia from Western influence

The deployment of the 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri remains the subject of heated debate. Some believe that that the Russian base guarantees security for Armenia, while some are convinced that the base threatens the sovereignty of the country. Pravda.Ru talked to the Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Issues Konstantin Sivkov to get some clarity on the situation.

"Turkey has an overwhelming military superiority in the region, and Russia is unlikely to be able (in military terms) to stop the advance of the Turkish troops. However, in case of an attack on Armenia, Turkey would declare a war on Russia as well. The 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri has more of a geopolitical significance rather than military. Do you agree with this statement?"

"Any military base located outside of Russia is a guarantee that in the event of military action against any such country, Russia will enter the conflict on the side of that country. Otherwise, there would be no military bases deployed there. This is clear. If Turkey attacks Armenia, it will be treated as an attack on Russia. Russia would fight on Armenia's side with all its might. If necessary, Russia could use nuclear weapons against Turkey, both tactical, and if need be, strategic. This is defined in the military doctrine of the Russian Federation. Armenia is fully protected with the Russian umbrella of both conventional forces as well as strategic nuclear forces."

"Russia spent a significant amount of money on Gabala radar station (RS) in Azerbaijan, as well as its military bases in Central Asia. There are sales of Russian weapons, including the offensive ones, to Azerbaijan. Currently, Armenia and Azerbaijan have the same sore issue - Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Why is Armenia not charging rent for the Russian base?"

"This is because Russia and Armenia are allies. They have no commercial relationship like the one between Azerbaijan and Russia. Russia will not fight for Azerbaijan, but will fight for Armenia. Armenia is part of the overall defense of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Armenia cannot maintain effective means of defense because it's quite expensive. The presence in the country of the Russian Federation base equipped with anti-aircraft missile systems S-300 and MiG-29 and able to provide a reliable defense against threats to Armenia of a certain scale, that is, something that can be fought off with their own forces and resources. In case of a more serious threat, additional forces and air defense and fighter aircraft may be redeployed there.

"The question of who needs the base more - Russia or Armenia - often turns into a pointless debate about dependence. Given the strained relations between Turkey and Armenia, the Karabakh conflict and open support that Ankara provides to Baku in this conflict, the 102nd Russian base plays an important role in ensuring the safety of Armenia. However, the U.S. has reasons behind the encouragement of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations with the help of Zurich protocols. The goal is to eliminate Armenia's interest in the presence of a Russian military base on its territory. What do you think about it?"

"The Russian military base in Armenia is not just for defense from Turkey. As I mentioned earlier, at the moment there is only one front - the conflict with Azerbaijan. To some extent, NATO military may present some risk for Armenia. The presence of the Russian military base in Armenia is equally convenient for both sides. Russia wants to push the frontiers of air capture as far from its borders as possible. In turn, Armenia is interested in protecting its sovereignty. The presence of the Russian military base in Armenia implies protection of the interests of this country. If some Armenians serve in the Russian army, the base is a natural element of the economic system in Armenia and aids in the consolidation and development of the economy of the country.

"Do you think the presence of the Russian military base in Armenia is a threat to its sovereignty?"

"This position is likely shared by Dashnak Armenian nationalists who in the beginning of the last century called for sovereignty and independence of Armenia. But such a small country like Armenia cannot exist without the patronage of major powers. If Russia leaves Armenia, the United States will come back. This is the only possible solution. The mere presence of the Russian military base is a guarantee of the sovereignty of Armenia. Moreover, the composition and size of the military base, and its primary task of defense, rule out the possibility of any significant impact on the internal political life of Armenia. Fighter jets can in no way affect the political life of this country."

Defense Ministry: Russian missiles' deployment in Armenia

Russia is installing an advanced anti-aircraft missile system in its southern military region in reaction to Turkey’s deployment of a NATO missile system, Press TV reported citing the Turkish daily Hurriyet.Russian Col. Igor Gorbul said the army will complete the installation of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles by the end of this year. Gorbul also stated that the new missiles can destroy ultra-stratospheric and ballistic missiles and all types of airplanes. NATO’s missile system has been established in Turkey’s East Anatolia region. The Hurriyet report comes several days after Turkish fighter jets forced a Syrian passenger plane heading to Damascus from Moscow to land in the capital Ankara.

A military expert did not rule out the possibility for deployment of Russia’s S-400 missiles in Armenia. “Deployment of Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missiles in Armenia seems quite logical, considering current developments in Iran, as well as military partnership between Yerevan and Moscow,” David Jamalyan told a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry commented on the possibility for deployment of Russia’s S-400 missiles in Armenia. Considering the lack of Russia’s land frontier with Turkey, it cannot be ruled out that the missiles will be deployed in the territory of Armenia, where Russia’s 102nd military base is stationed. As the Ministry’s spokesman Artsrun Hovhannesyan told PanARMENIAN.Net “noting can be ruled out at the moment. With rearmament of the Russian military base in progress, renewal of anti-aircraft missile system might also be expected. However, we’re not sure as to the specific systems to be deployed.”


Obama’s “Reset” with Russia: A Long Retreat

The disgraceful firing of Radio Liberty’s loyal Moscow staff on September 20 and 21 is the latest chapter in the Obama’s Administration’s Russia policy retreat, also known as the “reset.” Forty-one dedicated and professional reporters with deep knowledge of Russia—and in particular its human rights record—have been given their marching papers by theU.S.government. Allegedly, this is because Russian media law is changing on November 10 to restrict AM broadcasting. But those who follow the Obama Administration’s Russiapolicy will see a familiar pattern. As the Russian government and media get more aggressive and more anti-American, theU.S. meekly retreats.

While the new Russian media law certainly does make the work of broadcasting more challenging, it is also a fact that Radio Liberty’s mission—to broadcast the truth and promote democracy—fits ill with President Obama’s accommodationist Russia policy. The “reset” policy was of course launched by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the presentation of a large red button to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov during her first year in office. This silly gimmick proved prophetic of the ineptitude of the policy it symbolizes. Under the “reset,” American national interests and those of its friends and allies have endured one setback vis-à-vis Russia after another:
  • First to fall by the wayside was the ballistic missile defense system agreed to under President Bush with the governments ofPoland and theCzech Republic.
  • Second was the U.S.nuclear stockpile, which the Obama Administration voluntarily cut in the process of the New START negotiations withRussia.
  • Then followed the withdrawal of for NATO membership action plans for Georgia and Ukraine, which had been standing policy under the Bush Administration.
  • Last spring, President Obama promised then-President Dmitry Medvedev (and was caught by an open microphone), “After my election I will have more flexibility” to negotiate nuclear cuts.
    • On September 20 and 21, the staff of Radio Liberty inMoscow was decimated.
    • On October 1, the offices of USAID inMoscow were closed without a peep of protests due to pressure from the Russian government, which accused theU.S. of domestic political interference.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty director Steven Korn attempted to defend the firings in an op-ed in yesterday’s Moscow Times. “This is not a calamity,” he wrote, which certainly is not the view of the fired journalists. “On the contrary, we see this as an opportunity to improve and strengthen Radio Svoboda and to accelerate our plans to move to digital platforms.” This simply does not pass the smell test, especially as the entire digital team of theMoscow office was among those fired. U.S.national interests abroad, including our security interests, continue to be compromised by the Obama Administration, andRussiais but one example. The worst part is that it is being done intentionally.


Putin’s Power Plays

Russia this week signed a contract to export $4.2 billion of weapons to Iraq — which is of special interest for two reasons. First, it is the largest arms-export deal since Putin became the effective ruler of Russia in 1999. Second, it marks Russia’s return as a top supplier of weapons to Iraq — a position lost in 2003 with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, after Putin had opposed the liberation of Iraq and tried to help Saddam cling to power. Nor is Russia’s dramatic return to Iraq confined to the arms bazaar. Russian energy companies are also making a comeback, seeking a share of Iraq’s massive oil reserves while US companies play reluctant debutante.

His take on Obama’s ‘reset’ button? Putin, here clowning at a Moscow meeting, is helping fill the power vacuum left by US global withdrawal. Oil and gas play a key role in Putin’s strategy for restoring Russia’s position as a major power, if not a superpower as in the days of the Soviet Union. The European Union, China and Japan heavily depend on energy imports from the Caspian Basin and the Persian Gulf, not to mention Russia itself. By establishing itself as the principal player in that vital region, Russia would have a crucial card to play in any future big-power contest. To that end, Russia is strengthening ties with the Islamic Republic in Iran and helping the beleaguered Assad regime in Syria.

Westward, Russia has regained much of its lost influence in Ukraine, a vital link in gas transit to European markets. Over the past four years, pro-Russian parties in Ukraine have won control of most levers of power. The pro-West opposition leader, former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, has ended up in prison. Putin has worked hard these past four years to recapture positions that Russia lost when the Soviet empire disintegrated. Despite occasional hitches, the despotic regime of President Alexander Loukachenko in Belorussia is now effectively in the Russian orbit. (Putin has even proposed a pan-Slavic Union of Russia, Belorussia and Ukraine.)

Southward, Putin invaded Georgia, annexing 20 percent of its territory in the two enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And this month a pro-Moscow coalition led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire linked to the euphemistically labeled “Russian business elite,” won the presidency, replacing the pro-American Mikheil Saakashvili. South of Georgia, Putin (with Iranian help) has managed to bully tiny Armenia back into the fold. He is now raising pressure on Azerbaijan, which (thanks to links with Turkey) still pursues a pro-West policy. Moscow is also making a comeback in Central Asia. Last month, the Russian army orchestrated a series of military exercises with units from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Russia has held similar exercises with China and Kazakhstan, ostensibly as part of a counterinsurgency strategy.

Everywhere, Russian advances have been facilitated by what is perceived in the region as a strategic retreat by the United States under President Obama. Ukraine and Georgia have all but abandoned their efforts to join the European Union and/or NATO. The Central Asian republics have frozen joint projects with NATO that date to the 1990s. And Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have terminated accords that let the US use facilities there to supply NATO forces in Afghanistan — increasing American dependence on problematic routes through Russia and Pakistan. The perceived “American retreat” started with the Obama administration’s rather comical “reset” offer in 2009. Criticizing President George W. Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy,” the Obama administration abandoned the missile-defense project slated to be sited in Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin said he appreciated the move — but offered no concessions in return. 

Instead, he saw it as a signal to intensify Russian efforts to force the United States out of positions gained in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia since the end of the Cold War. In the years since, signs of an American retreat have multiplied. In Iraq, Obama gave the impression that his sole wish was to walk away and shut the door behind him. Much of the influence that the US had gained by liberating Iraq and fighting to help it create a new political system has evaporated. Intent on depicting Iraq as a nightmare that is best forgotten, Obama has even excluded Iraq from Arab-American efforts to reshape the region in the wake of the Arab Spring upheavals. Putin is no doubt watching the US presidential campaign with keen interest. A second Obama term would offer the Russian strongman four more years to complete his grand imperial design to force Russia’s near and far neighbors into line by bribing, bullying and, when necessary, invading them.