Paris “Bulldozer’ for Euro-Atlantic Integration of Armenia

Paris “Bulldozer’ for Euro-Atlantic Integration of Armenia

By Anush Levonian

Reaction of Armenian citizens on the decision of the Senate of France to criminalize the responsibility for denial of genocide was extremely emotional. It was up to that some participants of the action "Merci, France!", who gathered by the building of the embassy in Yerevan tried to kiss the hand of French Ambassador coming out to them, which confused the diplomat greatly. Some excuse for such “Eastern spontaneity” although can be the fact that in Turkey and Azerbaijan emotions (naturally negative) are also extreme. One of Baku radio stations, for example, banned French music in its air.

Expert community tries meanwhile to understand why Paris needs to actualize “Armenian issue” right now moreover in such radical way. Popular version states that the President Nicolas Sarkozy attempts to gain electoral support of local Armenian diaspora in the light of oncoming elections. By this they somehow miss that there is about half a million of Turkish origin citizens living in France and it’s not clear why French leader decided to stake on pretty limited electoral segment as Armenian voters. They say that Sarkozy “paid a tribute to anti-Turkish spirit of compatriots in order to gain the votes of a part of nationalistic voters. Except for that, he punished Ankara for cooling of its relations with Israel and attempts to revive of neo-Osmanism in Near East at the cost of French interests, and also made the approach of Turkey to the EU even more complicated, etc.

The unanimity of views is observed only in one point: having made this step, Paris followed some yet not evident own interests. Meanwhile all the specified versions, probably, comprise separate fragments of “puzzle” which gives full image of the strategic move of France, as well as its delayed animated consequences.

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Obviously, that from now on French influence on Armenia shall grow and that it’s very important not only in the sphere of policy and economy, but also in the sphere of psychological public preferences. Noteworthy is that it happens at the background of clear unwillingness of Russia to follow the example of France. It has already been reported that Armenian organizations in the Russian Federation started gathering signatures under the address into the State Duma, in which they suggest to adopt a law, similar to French one, with attributing denial of genocides to penal acts. That would be logic as yet in the midst of 90-s Russia became one of first countries to acknowledge the fact of Genocide of 1915. The kind of decision would have strengthened more sympathy of Armenian society towards Russia, and eventually also strategic union of two states. But something opposite happens. Russian politicians call this initiative “provocative step, threatening inter-national peace”. One can imagine disappointment and irritation of Armenian people, when Moscow refuses even to discuss the kind of issues. Moreover, that the reasons are evident – non-desire of Russia to sacrifice fast growing mutually beneficial trade-economic relations with Turkey. Russian-Turkish interests in general are perceived by Armenian society (in Armenia as well as in diaspora) with great caution.  And now the case shall inevitably be about that as in the beginning of 20-s of past century, “Armenia risks again to find itself between Russian hammer and Turkish smithy”. According to broad consensus which established in Armenian society, then the union of Bolshevists with Kemal Atatürk occurred at the cost of interests of Armenia and Armenians.

And such attitudes today are being actively actualized. In particular, with much caution in Armenia they perceived the fact of recent talks in Moscow between the heads of the Ministries of Internal Affairs of Russia and Turkey Sergey Lavrov and Akhmed Davudolgu, when the declaration was adopted where they particularly point that the status-quo existing in Karabakh can’t be maintained for a long time. And although it fully fits the context of all former declarations of the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorny Karabakh, in Yerevan they state that “Moscow tries to involve Ankara into peacemaking process.” Which is naturally absolutely unacceptable for Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh and forces to doubt the reality of the value of Armenian-Russian union.

However a great consolation for Armenia is the fact that the decision of French Senate starts affecting Turkish-Azerbaijani relations. Turkish papers are puzzled by that the President Ilham Aliyev hasn’t expressed his attitude towards the things happening. And they remind that Ankara blocked the ratification of Zurich (2009) Armenian-Turkish protocols on normalization of bilateral relations and relief of border closed since 1993 exclusively due to negative attitude of Baku. "Eventually, exactly Azerbaijan in the last moment forced us to refuse of Armenian-Turkish protocols. If they would have been accomplished, neither French Parliament nor Senate would adopt such bill.  Having refused of the protocols Turkey demonstrated the example of the best brother relations and support”, writes Hurriyet. And although a deputy Sinan Ogan who visited Baku tries to protect Aliyev from critics, having reported that in private talks Azerbaijani leader “didn’t hide his anxiety and directly told us, that Azerbaijan stands by Turkey and supports it in this issue, making everything possible within this direction”, the expectations of Ankara are related exactly with public and not lobby support. Noteworthy that the silence of Aliyev is approved also by a significant part of Azerbaijani society itself, which condoling Turkey.

But for Ilham Aliyev in the given case it is impossible to make public statements. Exactly on January 23rd, in the day of adoption by French Senate of “Armenian law”, he at three-party summit with the Presidents of Armenia and Russia in Sochi signed another declaration on the need to intensify the work within the frameworks of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorny Karabakh. And Azerbaijani leader naturally can’t openly demand the change of peacekeeping format, exclusion of France from the OSCE MG as Turkey wishes. Besides, Baku has no grounds for official critics – the decision of Senate doesn’t touch Azerbaijan, and the reaction of Paris can be thus quite severe. As a result yet complicated relations of Baku and Ankara can aggravate even more. And this is one of obvious consequences of Senate’s decision. Paris gave Turkey subject lesson: one can’t sacrifice own interests to the Third party as it happened with Armenian-Turkish protocols. As one of Yerevan papers wrote about this, “Bravo, President Sarkozy! It’s a virtuoso job!”.

Thus, due to well-considered policy of the Elysee  and absence of clear political approaches from the Kremlin, which doesn’t even try to explain his strategic ally the sense of its steps (probably, by inertia considering that “Armenians have no choice even without it”) a pretty favorable background forms for extended and multi-lateral expansion in Armenia.  And let’s note that not only French. We remind that Armenian organization of the USA with support of the State Department and official Tbilisi try to establish targeted aid to Armenians inhibited region of Javakheti, where traditionally pro-Russian views are strong. This should not only reduce the danger of that in case of another escalation between Russia and Georgia, a part of Armenians of Javakheti can appear to be in the role of the “fifth column”. As IA REGNUM expert noted, this what establishes the bridge between west and Russian Armenians. Here one can conclude that France in this case plays the role of a bulldozer, clearing the path for regional Euro-Atlantic expansion in general. And as Armenia is a corner stone, at which bases the whole format of Russian military-political presence and influence within South Caucasus, it’s evident that such expansion threatens Moscow.

Symptomatically in the given context looks information in one of Yerevan edition where it is said as if “in the field” of Summit of the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in Sochi on January 23rd, who discussed the issues of Karabakh peacekeeping and regional problems, Russia let Serzh Sargsyan to understand that there are worries iabout “western heel” in the policy of Yerevan.  Information seems doubtful but as we see by preservation of current trends such issues may actualize. And this is able to incite within the Kremlin doubts in unconditional support of Sargsyan at next year Presidential elections in March in Armenia. Into this configuration fits the message in another local Mass Media that ex-President Robert Kocharyan already held a meeting with the representatives of Russian embassy in Yerevan, who tried to clarify “how real are the gossips of his return into policy”. And as if ex-President assured the interlocutors that he shall undoubtedly address with the correspondent public statement already in the days to come, and shall “present his approaches in relation with the oncoming elections to the Parliament and name political force of his preference”. By this ruling Republican party of Armenia headed by Serzh Sargsyan “is not the force”. It’s absolutely unclear what is the need to arrange the meetings of Russian diplomats with Kocharyan to reveal his political plans and preferences in Yerevan. As the ex-President is the top-manager (independent director) of Russian AFK “Sistema” and has long trips to Moscow where he also has political and business contacts much above the level of “embassy representatives”. However, this dubious message reflects the deep core of developing problem. If Moscow doubts current leader of Armenia, Kocharyan shall become its favorite automatically. And not only because he has the goodwill of pro-Russian activist. Robert Kocharyan in 2000-2008 closely and fruitfully cooperated with his Russian colleague. Vladimir Putin returns to the Kremlin. That is why in this light the temptation to repeat Russian scenario in Armenia can become a factor influencing the decisions adopted by Russia.

Without doubts, Serzh Sargsyan considers such risks. He probably shall explain Russian allies that fundamental vector of foreign policy priorities of the Republic shall not change and Armenia still shall follow  the track of regional interests of Moscow. However it’s complicated to foreseen the level of such promise accomplishment in the light of above specified French initiatives and continuing Russian-Turkish approach, accompanied by this with uncovered disdain towards the issues having for Armenians great moral-psychological sense.  As French saying sounds “only one step separates love and hatred”. That is why it is in the interests of Russia to undertake at all levels, first of all connected with the notions of mass psychology and mentality, some actions in order to avoid this one step. Alas, the actions of Russia at past presidential elections in Transnistria and South Ossetia don’t leave many hopes for that.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from REGNUM

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