After the defeat of the Armenian side in the 44-day war unleashed by Azerbaijan on September 27, 2020, and following the statement signed on November 9, the Russian political and expert circles started to circulate the idea on the need for Armenia to create a union state with the Russian Federation. This provision was circulated by the Armenian media and figures representing various political parties.
“Union State” for the sake of salvation
According to the November 9 statement, the handover of 7 regions of Artsakh to Azerbaijan, in fact, disrupted the security system of the borders of the Republic of Armenia. Against the background of the vulnerability of Armenia’s state borders and new threats after the war, the pro-Kremlin propaganda machine, seizing the right moment, immediately started circulating the idea of Armenia joining the union with Russia, presenting it as the only alternative for the salvation of the Armenian state, the restoration of the border security system, prevention of a possible new Turkish-Azerbaijani aggression, and economic development.
Former member of the Russian State Duma, former presidential adviser, political scientist Sergey Stankevich was one of the first to refer to this issue. In an interview with a Kazakh media outlet, he claimed that for Armenia, making the decision to join the union with Russia and Belarus “means neutralizing the threat of a national catastrophe and finding a reliable historical perspective.”
And Leonid Ivashov, a former high-ranking officer of the Russian General Staff, claimed that “if Armenia realizes the gravity of the situation, immediate steps must be taken towards deep military and political integration with Russia, because salvation is not from the West, but from Russia.”
By the way, during the 44-day war, Ivashov had a completely different opinion about “saving” the Armenians. In an interview with Interfax’s Azerbaijani service on October 1, 2020, the latter stated that Russia should in no case protect or assist Armenia during the war, because, according to the former high-ranking officer, Armenia is “an unstable ally, and it will take it a week to make a turnaround and stand in line for NATO membership”. Ivashov added that Russia should not spoil its image in the eyes of Azerbaijan and Turkey for the sake of Armenia.
Along with presenting the creation of a union state with Russia as the only way to salvation, the Russian propaganda machine opposes the possibility of closer relations between Armenia and Western countries, strongly criticizing the cooperation with the West in various sectors. For example, one of the political scientists affiliated with the Kremlin, Sergei Mikheyev, stated that “Armenia’s sovereignty is defended by Russian soldiers, and Armenia has turned its glance towards France and America.”
The list of prominent Kremlin propagandists who support the idea of entering the same state with Russia is headed by Margarita Simonyan, the head of “Russia Today” news agency, whose substantiation, unlike the previous ones, is very sincere and direct. As a Russian citizen, she “regrets the collapse of the Soviet Empire” and longs for its restoration.
Armenian preachers of the Union State
The provision of the Union State moved from the Russian propaganda field to the Armenian information field with lightning speed, receiving the open public support of some political circles. On November 20, 2020, in an interview with 5TV Channel, the leader of the One Armenia Party, now a member of the Armenia Faction of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia Arthur Ghazinyan, speaking about the need to redefine relations with Russia, stated that Armenia “should also discuss the concept of security, economic progress, the solution of social issues, perhaps even the concept of a union state.”
In a short period of time, political and civil initiatives and movements were created in Armenia, which have declared the involvement of Armenia in the same union state formation with Russia as an issue on the agenda of their activities.
On December 26, the leader of the Alliance Party, former MP Tigran Urikhanyan, came up with such an initiative, and on December 28 he issued a statement on the “Strong Armenia with Russia: For a new union” initiative. Later, on February 6, the conference of the initiative was held.
The founding leader of this movement is former RPA MP Hayk Babukhanyan, who stated that “at least now we should say without shame that the only salvation of Armenia as a country is establishing of a union state with Russia”.
The alternative is turning into a subject of Turkey
Turning into a subject and “vilayet” of Turkey is presented as an alternative to the union state. For instance, Russian political scientist Modest Kolerov told the Hraparak daily that without a close union with Russia, Armenia “simply will not survive, it will turn into a desert, and the neighbors (referring to Turkey, Azerbaijan – Ed.) will occupy the country part by part”.
Former RPA MP Artashes Geghamyan also opposed the perspective of turning into a subject of Turkey to having a union state with Russia. In his lengthy analysis published on the website of the Russian Regnum news agency, Geghamyan claims that the West wants to oust Russia from the entire South Caucasus, including Armenia, to increase Turkey’s influence here, and in this case Russia is the only alternative for Armenia. “Armenia will be safe only in a union state with Russia and Belarus,” Geghamyan concluded.
“Armenia will maintain its sovereignty, will remain a member of the UN”
It is noteworthy that public figures who support the idea of a union state unanimously claim that Armenia will continue to maintain its sovereignty after joining the same state union with Russia.
According to former MP Tigran Urikhanyan, even after the formation of the union state, “Armenia will continue to be a member of the UN, a sovereign and independent country, which will strengthen its army and lead its own foreign policy course.”
Arthur Ghazinyan, a member of the “Armenia” faction, expressed confidence that within the union state “one can maintain maximum sovereignty, have one’s own system of government within the country, organize elections, have a president, a prime minister.”
“But with regard to some important issues, policy development needs to be synchronized – economic policy, the formation of the ruble zone,” he said, adding that our people “were not able to appreciate the sovereignty and statehood given to them as a present.”
Hayk Babukhanyan, the leader of the “Strong Armenia with Russia for a New Union” movement, claims that the rumors about the loss of sovereignty are speculation. The union state “does not even slightly undermine formal sovereignty, on the contrary, it protects, consolidates and develops it.”
As a justification, Babukhanyan quotes Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview with Russia 24 TV channel, in which the latter, speaking about the union state with Belarus, assures that “we are talking only about a certain high level of integration with full preservation of sovereignty.”
Union of Informed Citizens