The Russian State Duma (parliament) has just ratified an historic agreement for military cooperation with Armenia.
The agreement will see Russian and Armenian troops cooperate on measures including security in the South Caucasus and an anti-terrorism measures.
Armenia and Russia have a long shared history dating back to the Tsarist period. The eastern portion of the historic Armenian homeland became part of Russia in 1828 upon the singing of the Treaty of Turkmenchay between Russia and Iran following the last major Russo-Persian war.
The western portions of historic Armenia had a worse fate under the Ottoman Empire which became increasingly hostile to Armenians as the 19th century wore on.
In 1909 the Adana massacre saw 30,000 Armenians die and many more tortured at the hands of Ottoman ultras.
This was an ominous prelude to the Armenian Genocide of 1915 when the Ottoman state systematically murdered 1.5 Armenians. It is widely recognised as the first modern genocide.
Armenian struggles to regain statehood after the First World War became dashed when the western powers signed the Treaty of Lausanne with the Republic of Turkey which nullified portions of the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres between the western powers of the War and a vanquished Ottoman Empire. This affirmed Turkey’s gains in what was to be a modern Armenian state in Anatolia.
What remained of The First Republic of Armenia (declared in 1918) became the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1920.
Today, Armenia is militarily at peace with Turkey, although politically Yerevan and Ankara’s relationship remains tense as Turkey refuses to acknowledge let alone atone for the Armenian Genocide.
Today, the most pressing issue for the South Caucuses is the prolonged Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. An uneasy ceasefire signed in 1994 has been threatened after violence broke out in the region starting in April of 2016.
The decision was welcomed by the leader of the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), Vladimir Zhirinovsky who stated,
“Armenia is our second echelon of defence. It has always been so. Hundreds, thousands of our soldiers fought there, defended the frontiers, died there.
Armenia has always been grateful to us, it was there that the pressure on Armenians from Turkey began, the inter-ethnic struggle. Europe was silent, only Russia stood up. When the Armenians were cut out, the West did not say a word, only our rulers supported (them).
And now here we have a common defence space between Russia and Armenia that strengthens the security of the two states and will continue to extend the agreement”.
This comes Turkey has signalled its readiness to spend $2.5 billion to purchase Russia’s S-400 air defence system as similar systems from the United States proved too costly.
Russia’s ability to maintain and consecrate alliances and partnerships with former adversaries has been the hallmark of Russian diplomacy in the Putin era. Russia recently welcomed its traditional Indian ally as well as Pakistan to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation while the alliance between Russia and China is rightly understood as the most important in the world in spite of a period of opposition during much of the Cold War, the so-called Sino-Soviet split.
Russia’s reclaimed status as one of the world’s three super-powers could help bring the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to an end by fostering traditional fraternal partnerships and bringing regional foes to the peace table.