Armenia: phase of political assassinations

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Baku, 12 February 2013 –

One of the presidential candidates was recently shot in Armenia. Local experts describe it as the new terror wave. In the meantime, experts believe this event will likely mount pressure on other candidates. According to forecasts the overall situation in Armenia is going to be intense.

New terror wave

Shots fired in Yerevan have shaken the country. Speculations are that certain underlying political and geopolitical factors are behind the assassination attempt on the National Self-determination Union’s Chairman Paruyr Hakrikyan. Some analysts describe the situation as the "start of the great terror wave”.

Those predictions are not groundless. Rise of terror prior to elections in Armenia is a pertaining feature of this country. Two distinctive aspects emerge here. The first one has to do with the domestic situation. Opposition is far from being a real force in the country while over 20 armed groups confront each other in their quest for power. Second aspect stems from the fact that Armenia is a Russian outpost. Armenia’s politicians, political scientists, journalists and analysts alike acknowledge that (see Джеймс Акопян. «Барабанная» дипломатия., 21 December 2012). P.Hayrikyan has blamed Russia for the attempt on his life (Кого подозревает Айрикйан., 01 February 2013).

General logic of the political developments becomes clear. This country is deprived of capability to produce independent policies and is compelled to carry the burden. There seems to be a connection between assassinations in the Armenian Parliament during the tenure of President L.Ter-Petrosyan (1999) and assassination attempt on Hayrikyan. Both events are the links in the political terror chain.

Armenian experts are emphasizing the fact that Armenia is exposed to pressure from Russia (see: Наира Айрумйан. От чего Паруйр Айрикйан спас Армению., 2 February 2013). This particular feature is related with the fiasco of the Armenian politics. Lives of other candidates are also jeopardized. Armenian media report that another, more dynamic candidate, Andrias Gukasyan may also face similar ordeal. In fact, the Armenian leadership is "reaping fruits” of ill-calculated foreign policy conducted for years.

The U.S., European and Russian diplomats have most recently visited Yerevan. Each delegation attempted to pledge security guarantees to Armenia. However, all those propositions emanated from the interests of large powers. "Ungrateful Armenia” demands more” was the ironic headline in one of the Armenian media outlets (see Наира Айрумйан. «Неблагодарная Армения» требует больше., 31 January, 2013).

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu spoke of the "new security components” during his recent Yerevan voyage. However, arrangements fell short of expectations and were limited to agreement on the establishment of maintenance service centers for military equipment and production of spare parts for "Kamaz” trucks. Russian minister’s visit was followed by the "grand agreement” suggested by the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern that envisages development of democracy and the system of governance. Experts reiterate that 32 million USD pledged for the project for next 6 years would only be sufficed to pay the 1 year salary of all the ministers. France has signed a military cooperation agreement with Armenia, but it does not stipulate comprehensive cooperation. It only addresses the issue of human resources development. Those are indications that it is by various promises that external powers are aiming to succumb Armenia to their interests. This country is not yet taken seriously while Moscow still wields clout in Armenia. Armenian experts warn of the dangerous game played around the topic.

Geopolitical threats

According to Armenian media reports "new security components” suggested by Russia envisage deployment of troops to the occupied part of the Nagorno Karabakh and to Armenia’s borders with Iran (see Наира Айрумйан. От чего Паруйр Айрикйан спас Армению., 2 February, 2013). Official Yerevan disagrees. Serj Sarkisyan is reluctant to face pressure from the West. This is the last thing that the Armenian President would wish for prior to elections. Hayrikyan’s assignation attempt appears dubious in this context – official Yerevan could also have orchestrated the attack. In any event, subsiding of political terror and geopolitical development in the region were taken into account.

There are certain treacherous aspects for Armenia itself. Armenians are troubled by the possibility of the military intervention into Syria. Tensions around Iran will likely to rise in the wake of the collapse of the Asad regime. Experts already speculate about Tehran’s of implication into the Syrian war. The region may face more perplexity should the situation around Iran aggravate. Thus, it is yet unclear what threats loom over Armenia.

Deployment of Russian troops into Nagorno Karabakh and next to the Iranian border will be a predicament for Armenia because it would immediately make the country a target for the West. Armenian politicians are acutely aware of that. Solutions are nowhere to be found as the country lacks proper foreign policy course. V.Khristenko, chairman of the economic board of the Customs Union compared Armenia to Russia’s Kaliningrad during S.Sarkisyan’s last Moscow visit. Indeed, this is nothing but an insult to the Armenian statehood. Notwithstanding, Armenian politicians could not object, because foreign policy of the country serves the interests of large powers.

Another dangerous aspect is dragging the region towards uncertainty. Apparently, presidential elections in Armenia have turned into a component of geopolitical games. Exacerbation of the criminal situation in the country attests to the likelihood of social outburst, which would only increase the tensions in the South Caucasus. Official Yerevan is unlikely to escape the situation. Its political courage is questionable. Some forces may use the assassination attempt on the presidential candidate as a warning to the authorities. Armenian media quotes Nikolay Bordyuja, Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, saying "an investigation has to verify whether this was an assassination attempt”. This is a clear warning and obviously is the method of intimidation.

So, Armenia is the source of uncertainty in the region. Even if, the presidential elections do take place, the country will continue to exert threat. Various forces will continue to utilize it for stirring tensions in the region. It also adds complexity to the settlement of the regional conflicts. Regrettably, large powers continue to neglect the fate of the region. Defending official Yerevan at all costs sets the region against the tide of new threats.

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