Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in all major cities across Armenia as the outgoing president, Serzh Sargsyan, is elected Prime Minister by the Parliament. The move is largely perceived as a power grab, as Sargsyan will largely retain the same powers that he held during his two terms in the Presidential capacity. This move takes place just after Armenia’s April 9th transition from a presidential system to that of a prime ministerial one.
Western backed Non governmental organizations (NGOs) have been heavily involved in post Soviet Armenia’s education system, community and charity works. These NGOs have been selling the public on the perception that Armenia’s economic woes are directly the result of their corrupt, Russia friendly government, as well as Russia itself.
Hence, the concept that Sargsyan’s government has only made matters for the population worse is the grievance upon which much of the unrest hinges. With Sargsyan seen as being in bed with the Russians, and his further development of Armenia’s ties with Russia, these protests therefore possess a potentially disastrous outcome, both domestically, for the Armenians, and also geopolitically, as it threatens Russia’s position in the region.
However, Armenia has been playing both sides of the fence in recent years, as it has additionally been moving closer to the European Union, signing itself to a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European bloc, attempting to deepen diplomacy and economic ties with the West, while simultaneously making commitments to Russia’s economic initiatives in the region. Russia gets a villainous wrap over the fact that Russia is playing both sides of the Nagorno Karabakh-Azerb conflict, as Russia is the benefactor of both players, the common perception, derived from the propaganda of these NGOs, is that Russia benefits by stoking the conflict.
The situation, in effect, represents a powder keg scenario, with all the elements in place to provoke the necessary popular discontent that would play into an attempt at regime change. And, indeed, this situation has all the markings of a color revolution, as the ring leader for this movement, Nikol Pashinyan, is already calling it a “velvet revolution”, an allusion to the regime change that took place in Czechoslovakia in 1989.
Pashinyan has called upon protesters to obstruct roadways and prevent the opening of governmental offices, and has been so bold as to declare that the Armenian government “no longer holds legitimacy”, and that all government agencies and police personnel should only be obedient to “committees” appointed by his revolution.
Keep in mind, however, that Sargsyan hasn’t, thus far, broken any law, nor violated the Armenian constitution, so, Pashinyan’s claim against Sargsyan’s legitimacy can only be viewed as a baseless instigation for further violence and an obstinate unwillingness to look for a middle ground scenario, or peaceful resolution to the situation at hand. An unwillingness to compromise satisfies one of the key factors that is commonly seen in many color revolutions.
The typical manner in which Western backed color revolutions unfold is when a peaceful protest about legitimate grievances are hijacked to become the catalyst for a violent revolution. If we consider the EuroMaidan revolution that took place in 2014, a peaceful protest turned violent after the slaughter of the “heavenly hundred” by mystery snipers, killing police and protesters both, in order to help the conflict along to a point of no return to peace.
To date, the situation on the streets of Yerevan seems to be going in a similar direction, as the protests have already turned semi violent, with police officers sustaining knife wounds. Note that this sort of behaviour is foreign to the Armenian psyche. Western provocateurs are often present to stir up mayhem when these tragedies occur. Pictured here are some of the assailants, observe also that the fellow on the left is not an Armenian.
In January 2015, Sargsyan made Armenia a signatory to the Partnership for peace, linking military cooperation with both Russian forces within Armenia and NATO, and joined the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union.
Within six months of these agreements involving Russia, the Armenian government faced popular riots aimed at regime change, with the uprising being dubbed “Electric Yerevan”, and the grievance being used to provoke the civil unrest being that of the proposed increase in electricity prices. Nikol Pashinyan, enjoyed the position of prominence in this movement, as well as in the one that is currently ongoing in Yerevan, and across Armenia today.
Approximately one year later, riots again broke out about the arrest of an opposition leader, with the protest quickly turning violent, leading to a hostage situation and the shooting of two on duty police officers, which saw the Western media and the US Embassy in Armenia taking sides with the hostage takers. In the following video, produced by German media, we can see that some of these factors appear to fit the recipe for a Western backed color revolution, and the geopolitical factors involved.
Many Armenians are of the persuasion that by changing their government and rejecting Russia as Armenia’s strategic partner, in favour of hopeful Western integration, Armenia will realize greater economic opportunity, and a vastly improved standard of living for the average Armenian. However, what does history show us about just what Western backed regime changes bring to their victim nation? Let’s observe the economic situation in the Ukraine before and after the coup d’é-tat, as reported by Vesti:
If we evaluate the results of the new government, they’re simply disastrous for the country. In the year before the coup, the GDP was estimated at $180 billion, in 2017 it’s expected to be half as much, $90 billion.
The average salary in the country was more than halved, from $408 per month to $196 last year. The exchange rate of the hryvna fell three and a half times, from 8 to 27 per dollar. As the main high-tech enterprises are destroyed, the economy acquired a colonial structure.
More and more raw materials are exported, being nearly 80% of exports. Half of this is agrarian. Total export volume fell by 57%. Foreign direct investment fell by at least four times, from 6 billion a year to one and a half. That’s practically nothing. And out of this nothing, however, most of the investment still comes from Russia.
The national debt has been increasing all the time and has now become difficult to be paid back. It was 64 billion dollars which then became 80 billion. Many millions of its citizens have left the country in search of a better life. Some of them went to the West, some to Russia. The health system and the education system have deteriorated.
The system of legal proceedings as well. Corporate raiding became the norm. Corruption increased. The country broke into pieces.
Poroshenko and his team deceived everyone: the West, and Russia, and their people in terms of the country’s prospects, the practices of the new government, and the Minsk Agreements.
An about face with regards to Russia, and an adherence to the West, however, not only fails to present the economic outcome that many Armenians might hope for, but it presents a very real danger in the form of a greater escalation of conflict with its neighbor Azerbaijan, with regards to Nagorno Karabakh, the last such major conflict costed the lives of some 6,000 Armenians, and approximately 30,000 Azeris.
Additionally, if these protests continue to move in a violent direction, and categorically seek regime change, if the government does not step down in favor of the opposition, but instead opts to call in the military to defend itself, then the situation could lead to a destabilization of the country. During such a period of chaos, it is not unthinkable that the Azerbs could seize the opportunity to launch a fresh campaign to take Nagorno Karabakh while Armenia’s government and forces are concerned with preserving order elsewhere.
Such a renewed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan produces results that are simply unpredictable, concerning the geopolitical implications regarding the involvement of Russia and NATO, seeing as Armenia hosts Russian military bases, while Azerbaijan is host to a NATO base, but if the Armenians have broken off its relations with the Russians in the favor of the West, Russian involvement is left in a state of bewilderment, while the conflict devastates Russia’s economic and military perspective in the region. This, therefore, holds the possibility of being the next proxy war between Russia and the West.
Therefore, these protests are exceedingly dangerous, not just for the region, but also relevant to the geopolitical balance of power between the east and west, due to the possibilities that could be unleashed if these protests escalate out of control. While protests against Sargsyan’s government isn’t anything new, considering the protests of recent years, the protests taking place at the present time differ from its predecessors in the sense that previous riots were confined only to Yerevan, whereas the current uprising is national in its scale, and therefore presents a much greater concern. Meanwhile, the well meaning populace of Armenia has no idea that their grievances are being played upon by international interests like a pawn on a global chess board.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.