“Elder brother” or weak political thought?

Photo: aravot.am
Photo: aravot.am

This year more active military operations along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan border lasted only four days, but they had several important consequences.

One of them, the study of which this analysis is devoted to, is related to one of the main directions of the foreign policy of the Republic of Armenia, Armenian-Russian relations.

After April events, the policy towards the RA pursued by our strategic ally, CSTO member state Russian Federation intensively starts to be discussed both in public and political inner circles. At different levels, starting with the domestic environment and ending with state government agencies, heated discussions take place on the fact that Armenian positions are bombarded with various types of Russian production weapons. In the press, as well as some on TV channels, data on the types and quantity of weapons sold by Russia to Azerbaijan are publicized. All this naturally raises the complaints and anger of the absolute majority of Armenian society. Although both the Armenian and Russian parties express their attitude and opinion on the subject at the official level, they are not enough to calm down the anger of at least the active circles of society, without giving them the answers to a number of priority issues of their interest. The purpose of the analysis is not to criticize Russia’s policy toward Armenia or to present Russia as an enemy country, but to analyze briefly the recent 300-years history of Armenian social-political thought (if any has been), which will enable us to find answers to a number of issues: questions that we address to wrong recipients, such as Russia, Europe and others.

Historical Overview

The fact that the Russian Federation sells weapons and ammunition of large quantities to Azerbaijan, explaining that if it does not sell, others will do it instead (though these claims do not correspond to the reality as the sale of large-scale destruction weapons and other equivalent ones designed for long-range strikes that Russia sells to Azerbaijan is prohibited by law both in the United States and the United Kingdom and other countries that are the main countries producing such weapons) that Russia puts an equal sign between the actions of  Azerbaijanis  and Armenians of Artsakh fighting for their right of self-determination, should not at all be a novelty for us or form a hostile attitude towards Russia.

It is not a secret that our geographical position has always been and now is of great interest to big countries not only of the region but also of the world. This interest is not at all conditioned by the sympathy, gentleness or hostility of big countries towards our country. Simply, Russia’s control over our territory enables it to counteract the spread of Turkish and with the help of the latter US influence in the region. Besides, we create a barrier between the Muslim community of Russia and the Middle East Muslims. The Russian military base in Armenia is also important for the Russian influence in the Middle East. The West also has its mercenary goals with regard to our state. Although Turkey is still a US ally and member of NATO, Armenia and Armenians are additional weapons for the United States to curb the ever-increasing ambitions of its ally Turkey and the spread of its influence in the Middle East and in the Islamic world. The vivid proof of what is being said is the so-called “Armenian Question”, which was nothing else than weapon in the hands of the great States to interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey.

Besides, after the collapse of the USSR, both the union republics and Armenia have received material and other kind of assistance from the United States, which in this way strives to get us out of the Russian control zone and thus strangle Russia’s imperial aspirations in the region. If we add the economic importance of our occupied area and commercial roads, then the real motives of interest of the great states shown to us will become clear.

To understand that, it is not necessary to have academic knowledge, it is enough to look back on our history pages with the intention of learning from the past. As a result, we will see that similar cases in different historical periods have been repeatedly in the Armenian reality.

After the loss of statehood, the Armenian political thought has been focused for centuries on one idea- to find an external power, to win its patronage and to restore the Armenian statehood with the support of the latter. On the way to developing this view, representatives of the Armenian social and political thought have gone so far that they even have suggested the existence of  a document called “The Will of Nerses the Great”. According to the latter, “the Armenian statehood, which had been crushed because of our sins, had to be restored by the pious Christian king from the West.” Another proof of what is said is the so-called “Dashants paper”, according to which the Armenian King Trdat III and Roman Emperor Constantine signed a contract, and the latter on behalf of himself and his descendants, has always been committed to supporting Armenians. It does not matter here whether there was such a will or a contract. The fact is that the Armenian political thought puts the whole hope for the restoration of statehood only on the external power. Accepting the importance of cooperating with any external force in the process of restoring the statehood or reaching any other political goal, we still consider that our statesmen should give the primary role to the Armenian people. And it, besides beating on the doors of different European countries and asking for help, would require at first to deal with the preparation of people, both in military and ideological aspects (in this respect, Artsakh and Syunik in the 1720s are exceptions to some extent). But it was not included in their plans at all. Moreover, ignoring our own factor and putting our hope on the external power only, our statesmen by forgetting, or for other reasons, did not take into consideration the factor of interest. This refers to what extent a European country is  interested in it (apart from being Christian), for example France: in the period of restoring the Armenian statehood and helping Armenians, what were its interests in the case of war with the Ottoman Turkey, or how much were its chances to win in the same war? Asking for a help to any country without above-mentioned questions and relevant conclusions, is viewed as at least simplistic naïve. We find that before Israeli Ori Armenian political thought did not overwhelm him with such issues. And it was only Israel Ori who, after many years of wandering in Europe, understood that it was unrealistic to expect any help from Europe at the moment not because Christian Europeans were cruel or did not want to help their fellow Armenians but for their simple reasons: their interests were quite different. Ori establishing contacts with governmental and political circles of different countries in Europe (John Locke, John Wilhelm, and others) acquired sufficient political knowledge that helped him to understand that such problems were solved not by emotions but by basing on the material tangible interests. As a result, Ori was oriented towards newly developing Russia, whose interests in that period were largely coincided with our national aspirations.

After Israel Ori, the Armenian political mind, with immediate effect of his activity, was oriented from the West to Russia. This political orientation is still going on in our days, despite the fact that our interests do not always coincide with the imperial interests of Russia. In history the cases are not few when the Russians, naturally based on their national interests, left us alone against our enemies, sometimes even supporting them (the Russian-Turkish Treaty of 1724, 1915-1918, the Brest-Litovsk Treaty of 1918, the self-defense of the Republic of Mountainous Armenia, Garegin Nzhdeh (1919-1920), 1920-21). We are not trying to prove or even hint that the Russians betrayed us. First of all, we must finally realize that there is no category of betrayal in politics: there is only a match or conflict of interests. By re-evaluating our centuries-old relations with the Russians, we should finally give them the right assessment. While we have considered and continue to consider the Russians as our “elder brother” and always expect support from them, their attitude towards us is fully reflected in the response given to the Archbishop Hovsep Arghutyan: when the latter presented them the draft of the Armenian-Russian future treaty, they said, “Treaties are signed between the states, Armenians, as far as we know, have no state.” This is very logical in politics. We have existed and continue to exist for Russia in the scopes of its own interests. It’s high time for the Armenian political mind to understand this simple truth and to work on state-building and strengthening it by all means instead of looking for eternal allies or “senior brothers”. After all this, the statesmen who call Russia or any other state as “senior brother” can be characterized as at least as politically retarded. Despite all this, many individuals in the Armenian reality continue to attribute Russia the honorable role of the so-called “big brother”, the eternal ally, the reliable partner and the sponsor. It’s a pity that today such people are in the upper circles of government. And worse yet, such views of Russia over the course of time have entered the consciousness of the Armenian society, in which their special investment belongs to the 70 years of the Soviet power. Most of all that is the reason why Russia’s behavior during and after the April war has a cold shower effect in the Soviet-era generation. In spite of the latter, the generation of independence inspires great hope, which, being released from similar stereotypes, understands the logic of the cases and performs the correct analysis of the situation.


Let’s mention once again that our goal is not to form a hostile attitude towards Russia or any other external power. It is simply an attempt to learn a lesson from the past and not to blame others for our own misfortune, to find and uncover our own mistakes in order not to repeat them in the future. We believe that the history lessons are enough for our society, including representatives of the political power, to realize that Russia is not our “elder brother” or sponsor and has never been. Simply, in some periods of history, it has used us for its own interests, often violating our national interests and identity. And we are guilty of it, not them, as we have been wrongly interpreting relations between Armenia and Russia and instead of building statehood, we have been begging for “alms”. Today some of our “statesmen” speak of Armenian-Russian relations as follows: “Armenians are accustomed to being under the yoke of someone, Turks, Persians, in that case isn’t it better to be under the yoke of our permanent ally Russia than the Turks or Persians?” (Deputy of National Assembly, Mher Sedrakyan), “Russia has always been on our side, now that things are a bit worse, what to do? Leave him? … Russia is our friend, the border of Russia starts from Armenia” (Deputy of National Assembly, Seyran Saroyan), “What will we do without the Russians?” (Deputy of National Assembly, Samvel Alexanyan). We find it unnecessary and meaningless to evaluate such expressions, so we will be comforted by the thought that not everybody has such an opinion.

As the Anglo-Saxon political thought says, there are no permanent allies, there are only eternal interests. That’s the principle that our politicians will be guided in state politics. If at a point of time Russia was really considered as our ally, the situation has changed long ago. It is necessary for our statesmen to understand and take into account the aforementioned fact. In the conditions of the new international and regional situation, besides Russia, other external powers such as Iran, China, and why not the United States can become reliable and profitable allies for us. And the circumstance that Russia opposes the establishment of relations between the above-mentioned countries and us is not a good reason not to develop our allied relations with them in economic, political and military spheres. But that does not mean that we must break or ruin the relations with Russia. We just have to make the latter clear that we are an independent, substantive international entity and are guided solely by our national interests (or at least try to become such). And if Russia wants us to be economically and politically connected to him, then he has to offer more favorable conditions for multilateral cooperation than others.

Aware of the fact that countries with little resources like us cannot practically act independently in the present international relations for a number of objective and subjective reasons, we find that everything within the limits of power needs to be done in order to maneuver, and as a result, to get as much as possible more concessions from interested parties. Based on our current geopolitical situation, we find it extremely dangerous to cohere one of the power centers with 100% and serve their interests (although we think that sooner or later we will face the inevitable need to choose between them and it will be good that decision be made not by the logic of our “genius statesmen” and others like them but by basing completely on our national interest). Unfortunately, it should be noted that the current authorities have adopted a destructive policy, subordinating our national interests to the interests of external power, in this case, to the interests of the Russian Federation (this is evidenced by our membership to the CSTO, the EEU – structures that are obviously intended to serve only the interests of Russia, also the idea of creating a joint Armenian-Russian military unit and the current process and logic of the Armenian-Russian relations in general).

Let’s sum up: The Republic of Armenia has been an independent state for 25 years, which should no longer put any hope on another foreign country on the path of state-building and strengthening. This thesis does not mean that we reject the idea of having allies. On the contrary, in the current international situation, we should increase the number of our allies as much as possible, but we should never rely on anyone except our own power. The Armenian political thought should finally get rid of the past stereotypes, rise to a higher level of development, and be guided not by the emotional notions of “eternal brotherhood” or “constant hostility”, but with mature political logic built on state interest.

Author: Hayk Paytyan © All rights are reserved.

Translator: Anna Arushanyan