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Armenia is taking steps that worsen its situation: interview with Nikolai Silaev

Caucasus (, - Will the adoption of the new Constitution help ensure the security of Armenia? How will Moscow react if the Armenian authorities, in the process of creating the so-called “Fourth Republic”, undertake a complete revision of alliance relations with Russia? Nikolay Silaev, leading researcher at the MGIMO Institute of International Studies of the Russian Foreign Ministry, answered these and other questions from the VERELQ IAC.

— Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan raised the question of the need to adopt a new Constitution into public discourse, as this will help ensure the security of Armenia. How would you comment on this?

— Well, I must make the traditional disclaimer that this is an internal matter of Armenia. Now, regarding the content of the question. I must admit that I was mistaken, because when I was first asked about replacing the Constitution, I replied that Pashinyan simply wants to become president. Now, judging by the changes that are being discussed, we are talking not only about changing the name of the position of the first person, the position of the head of state. In my opinion, and I will even say that this is not the view of a political commentator, but the view of a researcher and only a researcher, for Armenia, for Armenian nationalism, in this case I use the word nationalism as a term, that is, non-evaluative, characterized by a gap or even a contradiction, between the idea of, if you like, eternal Armenia, of a people, of a nation that has existed for more than a millennium and which has experienced many tragedies and found the strength to rise after these tragedies, whose history is filled with heroism, self-sacrifice, feat and loyalty to oneself, to one’s language, their faith, their culture on the one hand and loyalty to existing state institutions on the other.

This is an incorrect expression, ordinary nationalism, because they are all very original, all peoples’ ideas about themselves are always very original. But this is natural if states, national states, national state institutions seek to rely on a national myth. Again, I use the word myth here not as a synonym for lies, but as a synonym for metaphor, as a synonym for self-description. So, usually nation states strive to rely on a national myth. In Armenia, this never happened, in my opinion. Partly because many figures of Armenian nationalism are characterized by some contempt, that is, absolute respect for the eternal Armenia and some contempt for the Armenia that exists, for the existing state institutions.

As Garegin Nzhdeh once formulated it: “not a homeland, but a homeland.” By homeland he meant Greater Armenia; I am not talking about its territorial borders. By birth angle he meant the republic that existed at the moment when he uttered these words. The tragedy, in my opinion, of the intellectual class and political elite of Armenia is that it has still not been possible to unite the national myth and national state institutions. And, in my opinion, the Armenian authorities are following the simplest path, trying to simply abolish this national myth. That is, remove references to ex-constitutional history, remove references to genocide, remove references to the Armenian Apostolic Church, which historically was the most important, if not the key institution through which the nation was supported.

And remove references to Karabakh. Because, of course, what happened to Karabakh over the last 30 years very much fed the national myth. And the tragedy of Karabakh is not only the tragedy of the Armenians, who were forced to leave their homes in which they lived, in which their ancestors lived for many generations, but it is also the tragedy of the Armenian national myth.

— The current Armenian authorities, led by Pashinyan, claim that this will allegedly increase the security of Armenia and protect it from aggression by its neighbors. Although even some government officials criticized this argument, saying that “in fact, we were asked to stop being Armenians in order to stay alive.” And we see a statement by Ilham Aliyev, who directly states that changing the Constitution in Armenia is his demand. In your opinion, will abandoning the current Constitution really improve the security of Armenia? Even if the Armenian authorities take this step, will Aliyev demand something new tomorrow?

— I think that, of course, what is written in the Constitution influences the security of the country in many respects. But still, we are now talking about intangible things, and security is a completely material thing. It is determined, in the broad sense of the word, by the balance of power. This also applies to the forces that the state has, this also applies to its system of alliances, its relations with partners, with enemies and allies. It seems to me that in this scheme - to accept the demands of Azerbaijan and Turkey, and, let's face it, the demands are primarily symbolic, in this case, with the refusal to mention Karabakh in the Constitution, with the refusal to mention the Armenian Genocide, I don’t understand, What will Armenia receive in return? And how its security will be strengthened in material terms. Any diplomacy, even diplomacy in unfavorable conditions, in which, of course, Armenia now finds itself, presupposes, well, if you like, some kind of bargaining. It assumes that you do not surrender your positions automatically, but surrender them under some conditions. From this point of view, I now do not see bargaining, but I see unilateral concessions. And with these unilateral concessions, of course, you can refer to Russia, and to anything, and to the internal opposition, and to objective circumstances, and so on, so on, so on. But why these concessions are made is actually completely irrelevant. What matters is what the result will be. But the results have not yet been seen, absolutely none.

Well, let’s take Turkey’s demand to refuse to advance (the recognition process) of the Armenian Genocide. It’s exactly the same thing as rejecting this concept altogether. Moreover, this concept is now enshrined not only in the Constitution of Armenia, but also in the decisions of the highest legislative bodies of power in many other countries. One of these countries is Russia. That is, if it was necessary to make a concession to Turkey in this area, then it could have been done much easier than changing the Constitution. The same thing, in fact, applies to the point about Karabakh.

Armenia is still taking some steps that in some way worsen its situation. Like, for example, steps towards Russia. If Armenia spoils relations with its key ally, this worsens Armenia's position. It is completely unclear what Armenia gets in return. I don't see any clear political benefit here.

— Regarding alliance relations with Russia. According to a number of experts, and the authorities themselves do not hide this either, the new Constitution will actually be a rejection of the Third Republic. The end of the Third Republic and the beginning of the Fourth. The Third Republic was founded on the Karabakh movement and the victory in the first Karabakh war. And one of the main symbols of the Third Republic was the alliance with Russia. Is there any fear in Russia that with the Third Republic, allied relations with Armenia will also sink into oblivion? And how will Moscow react if the Armenian authorities, in the process of creating the Fourth Republic, go for a complete revision of allied relations with Russia and a non-aligned status, as some Armenian media mention?

“Of course, this will not cause joy in Moscow.” It seems to me that it is too early to discuss the details of the reaction. I think that the question will also be about preserving Armenia as part of the Eurasian Union (EAEU). Of course, for Russia this will be a foreign policy defeat, a foreign policy failure.

In my opinion, in Moscow now there is no readiness and desire to fight at any cost to preserve alliance relations. I now emphasize, “at any cost.” Of course, such a struggle (to maintain union relations with Armenia) is going on, and it will continue, but at the same time, judging by the statements that have been heard for several months, including from the very top, the position is approximately such that we cannot respond for the choice that the Armenian leadership will make.

Armenia is taking steps that worsen its situation: interview with Nikolai Silaev