Episode 295 | Recorded: Nov 15, 2023
“What’s our vector, Victor?”
First, let’s begin with Armenia-West relations.
Armenia’s Foreign Policy seems like it’s all about attending conferences in the west and hosting European MP’s to tell them about Pashinyan’s Crossroads of Peace. and avoiding important ministerial and summit meetings on the Russian side. Armenian authorities made serious efforts to find any conference in the West that they could attend, so that they’d have an excuse not to attend a CSTO event.
Following Azerbaijan’s abrupt and dismissive boycott of western mediation in Granada then Brussels, the EU has amped up its language against Azerbaijan. Joseph Borell said that in the case of violation of territorial integrity of Armenia, the EU will review its relationship with Azerbaijan. A little stronger language than guaranteeing ahead of time that they won’t do anything. Germany’s foreign minister Baerbock visited Armenia, and in the past few days the council of foreign ministers of the EU showed strong support for Armenia. The EU announced:
At the same time, the foreign ministers of the G7 also expressed “grave concern” and support for Armenia’s territorial integrity.
There was also news that some French weapons shipments are already arriving in Georgia, destined to Armenia. Primarily we read this in Azerbaijani media.
If it wasn’t for the fact that just a few months ago, over 100,000 Armenians from Artsakh were ethnically cleansed, while not a single package of sanctions was applied to Azerbaijan, the news that the EU might help Armenia’s security would be almost believable.
Meanwhile, the Russian vector in Armenian politics remains just as strained as ever. This week Pashinyan informed Lukashenko that he would not be attending the CSTO summit. Lukashenko called on Pashinyan to not take rash steps.
Russia has been removing military equipment from Artsakh with the pretext of rotating equipment through repair, and so on. There is a lot of talk about Russian peacekeeping forces downgrading their presence permanently.
Russia is still talking about controlling a corridor through Armenia. At this point it seems like it’s their last hope to keep a presence in the South Caucasus, so they’re uniquely focused on Point 9 of the November 2020 ceasefire agreement.
We should note that these poll results may seem very paradoxal at first glance.
Whether you disagree with the sentiments expressed in this poll, it is important to try to analyze and understand these results and take informed action based on this data.
Multiple questions in this poll were asked about Armenians’ opinions about the quality of their life today and their hope for the future.
While it can’t be compared with the euphoric atmosphere of 2019, when more than 50% of respondents were satisfied with their lives, this metric of satisfaction with the present hasn’t taken any significant drop from April 2023 results. Similarly, the number of people who think they’ll be better off in the future has risen from 41.7% in 2021 to 49.1% currently.
On the question of “How much do you trust Nikol Pashinyan”:
Pashinyan’s “anti-rating” still seems to be high: 35.5 + 18.6 = **54.1%. **But Pashinyan’s favorable rating has gone up apparently to 20.4 + 13.2 = 33.6%
In May 2023, these numbers were:
Despite Armenians’ apparent satisfaction with their lives and relative rosy outlook for the future, when asked about Artsakh, the respondents time and time again give answers that make more sense.
Given the aftermath of the genocide in Artsakh:
More than half of the respondents said that they believe Armenia has political prisoners.
Multiple answers allowed.
Multiple answers allowed
If there were Parliamentary elections next Sunday, which party or bloc would you vote for?
In the past month, the parliament passed a national budget for 2024. Key aspects:
Finally, while the economy is hyped to expand somewhere between %5.5 and 7%, the Armenian industrial and mining outputs are shrinking. Only re-exporters are reportedly doing great, which means that the deep reliance on Russia, and especially the war in Ukraine, remains solidly in place in Armenia.
The reliance on Russia is also a cause for concern, particularly because it seems like Pashinyan is biting the hand that’s feeding his economy. If Russia were to respond economically, for example, tweak the remittances to Armenia; or disrupt the gas supply; or block the re-export vector; or whatever, it would absolutely cripple the Armenian economy and everyday life. Even the latte-snorting expats in central Yerevan might start feeling a pinch!
Alright, let’s wrap up our topics here. I’d like to ask each of you if there’s been something on your mind this past week that you want to talk about.
We hope you found our Week in Review helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions, you can find us on most social media and podcast platforms. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts.
Hrant Mikaelian, a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. He is also a senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute.
Hovik Manucharyan is an information security engineer who moved from Seattle to Armenia in 2022. He co-founded the ANN/Groong podcast in 2020 and has been a contributor to Groong News since the late 1990s.
Asbed is founder of the Armenian News Network Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.