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Tensions Rise as Armenia Considers Abandoning Russia for Ukraine

Tensions between Russia and its longstanding ally, Armenia, have escalated dramatically in the wake of a top Ukrainian diplomat’s visit, signaling a potential shift in Armenia’s geopolitical allegiances.

Russia and Armenia’s Historic Bond

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For decades, Russia and Armenia stood as steadfast allies, with close political, military, and economic ties.

However, the ongoing dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan, has strained relations between the two countries.

Ethnic Strife and Land Disputes

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This conflict’s origins can be traced back to the Soviet era, making it a deeply rooted issue. Nagorno-Karabakh’s core problem revolves around ethnic tensions and conflicting land claims.

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Soviet Union’s Role

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The region is predominantly Armenian but located within Azerbaijan’s borders, fueling recurrent conflicts. The Soviet Union effectively managed the situation for years.

Armenia and Azerbaijan Began Fighting After USSR Broke Up

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However, with the Soviet collapse in the 1990s, Armenia and Azerbaijan engaged in intense fighting following Nagorno-Karabakh’s declaration of independence.

First Nagorno-Karabakh War

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The ensuing war resulted in substantial casualties and refugees, with a Russian-brokered ceasefire in 1994 leading to a de facto independence for Nagorno-Karabakh, though clashes persisted.

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Second Nagorno-Karabakh War

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Cross-border attacks in 2020 escalated into a full-scale war, only ending with a Russian-mediated agreement. This underscored Russia’s crucial role as Armenia’s ally.

Russia’s Ongoing Support & Impact of Ukraine Invasion

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As a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), akin to NATO, Armenia had Russia’s military support and international backing. However, Russia’s global influence was significantly diminished following Vladimir Putin’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, weakening its position in the South Caucasus region.

Azerbaijan Seizes Opportunity

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Azerbaijan recognized Russia’s vulnerability and exploited it, taking control of Nagorno-Karabakh territory, including areas within Armenia’s borders. Azerbaijan’s military prowess exceeded Armenia’s, resulting in a precarious situation along the border, favoring Azerbaijan.

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Russia’s Limited Intervention

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Crucially, Russia did little to thwart Azerbaijan’s assault on Armenia, prompting Armenia’s leaders to seek alternative allies in the West. Armenia faces genuine concerns that a future conflict with Azerbaijan could result in a swift and unfavorable outcome.

Declaring Ineffectiveness

Brussels, Belgium. 5th March 2019. The Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and the President of EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker give a joint statement to the media following their meeting. — Photo by Ale_Mi

Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, publicly declared the ineffectiveness of their alliance with Russia, signaling a major policy shift.

Armenia’s Outreach to Ukraine

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In the aftermath of Nagorno-Karabakh’s takeover, Armenia intensified diplomatic efforts, culminating in a significant visit by Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba. Kuleba emphasized Ukraine’s commitment to peace in the South Caucasus, based on international law and regional cooperation.

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Russia’s Displeasure

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This developing alliance between Armenia and Ukraine drew strong condemnation from Russia’s Foreign Ministry, placing blame on Armenia for its shifting foreign policy.

A Risky Path

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The decision to forge closer ties with Ukraine poses a considerable challenge to Moscow and raises questions about Russia’s waning influence on the global stage.

South Caucus In Turmoil

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As Armenia navigates a potential shift from its historical ally Russia to Ukraine, the geopolitical landscape in the South Caucasus undergoes significant changes, highlighting the complexities of international alliances and their evolving dynamics.

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