Armenia Asserts Its Sovereignty: A Shift in Foreign Policy and Defense Alliances

Feb 26 2024

In a bold assertion of national self-determination, Gagik Melkonyan, a deputy of Armenia's 'Civil Contract' faction, recently articulated the country's stance on navigating its foreign policy and defense alliances, signaling a potential shift in its long-standing relationship with Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). This comes amid discussions of Ukraine's President Zelensky's possible visit to Armenia and broader considerations of the country's international affiliations and defense strategies.

Central to Armenia's recalibrated foreign policy is the assertion of its sovereignty and the prerogative to make independent decisions that best serve its national interests. Melkonyan's statements underscore a growing sentiment within Armenia that, despite its historical and strategic ties with Russia, the nation must evaluate and potentially reorient its alliances in response to the evolving geopolitical landscape. This reevaluation is particularly poignant in the context of President Zelensky's anticipated visit, which symbolizes Armenia's openness to strengthening ties with other nations, even those in conflict with traditional allies.

Furthermore, Melkonyan criticized the dependency of certain CSTO members, such as Belarus, advocating for Armenia's independence in making military-technical contracts and decisions. This stance is indicative of a broader desire to diversify Armenia's defense and diplomatic relationships, moving beyond the sphere of Russian influence. Such a shift is not without its complexities, given Armenia's reliance on Russia for security and economic support, especially in the face of ongoing tensions with Azerbaijan.

The discussion of Armenia's CSTO membership, or lack thereof, reveals the country's dissatisfaction with the alliance, particularly in light of a year of non-participation in CSTO meetings. Melkonyan's remarks resonate with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's earlier expressions of disillusionment with the CSTO, especially regarding the lack of support Armenia received during the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. This discontent has prompted Armenia to seek alternative defense partnerships, notably with France, as evidenced by recent military-technical cooperation agreements aimed at bolstering Armenia's defensive capabilities.

Armenia's pivot towards enhancing its defense ties with France and other Western countries reflects a strategic attempt to modernize its armed forces and restore military balance with Azerbaijan. This move, while potentially estranging Russia, signifies Armenia's commitment to its sovereignty and security, free from the constraints of traditional alliances that have failed to adequately protect its interests.

Armenia's potential departure from the CSTO and its efforts to forge new defense alliances could have significant implications for the region's security dynamics. While seeking to assert its sovereignty and diversify its partnerships, Armenia faces the challenge of navigating its relationship with Russia, a key ally and economic partner. The country's strategic realignment underscores the delicate balance between maintaining historical ties and pursuing a foreign policy that reflects its current needs and aspirations.

Moreover, Armenia's stance invites a reevaluation of regional alliances and the role of major powers in shaping the geopolitical landscape of the South Caucasus. As Armenia explores new avenues for cooperation, it also contends with the reality of regional conflicts, particularly with Azerbaijan. The assertion of independence in foreign policy and defense strategy is a testament to Armenia's evolving identity on the international stage, striving for autonomy in a complex and often contentious regional context.

As Armenia charts its course through these turbulent waters, the international community watches closely, recognizing the broader implications of Armenia's strategic decisions for regional stability and the intricate web of global alliances. In this era of shifting loyalties and emerging partnerships, Armenia's journey underscores the enduring importance of sovereignty and the pursuit of national interests in the ever-evolving tapestry of international relations.

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS