The crisis of statehood in Armenia is becoming more and more threatening. The country, it would seem, is accustomed to political upheavals, the endless confrontation between supporters and opponents of the government, and even revolutions. But the current political crisis has become perhaps the most serious in its entire recent history. During his short reign, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan managed to make many enemies, and after a humiliating defeat in the Karabakh war, he lost his last support. At the same time, the “people’s prime minister” retained his characteristic aggressive rhetoric in dealing with opponents and continued to make mistake after mistake. One of the latter was an inappropriate statement about the combat effectiveness of the Russian Iskander-M missile systems, which are in service with the Armenian army. As a result of the scandal, he lost his post. General Staff, and this time the most formidable force in the country – the army – opposed the prime minister. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Armenia is on the verge of chaos and civil war. Details in the material.
The released Iskanders did not explode or exploded by 10 percent. Probably, it was a weapon of the 80s this statement was recently made by the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan in an interview with one of the republican media, talking about the Karabakh war. Pashinyan has always been famous for his ability to puzzle the interlocutor with a sudden turn, but this time the prime minister’s words discouraged not only the journalist but the entire Armenian society.
The Russian Defense Ministry has already responded to Pashinyan’s interview. The department with bewilderment and surprise read the statement of the Prime Minister and replied that according to the available objective and reliable information, confirmed, among other things, by the system of objective control none of the Iskander-type missile systems was used in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Rumors about the use of Russian Iskander-M tactical missile systems during the hostilities in Karabakh in the fall of 2020 circulated earlier, but no one confirmed it. But even such a vague statement by Pashinyan could not be considered an official confirmation either. How many were launched? Why didn’t they explode? What does this 10 percent mean? What is it all about? Journalists rushed for comments to competent people, including the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the national hero of Armenia Tiran Khachatryan.
Hearing what exactly he was being asked to comment on, the general laughed for a long time. And then he concluded that the author of this statement clearly did not understand what he was talking about. Sorry, but this is not serious. I don’t know who said what, but it’s impossible, Khachatryan said and was immediately dismissed by Pashinyan. In response the entire leadership of the Armenian Armed Forces (AF) unanimously demanded the resignation of Pashinyan himself, accusing him of incompetence and inadequacy. The statement of the General Staff, published on February 25, was signed by more than 40 high-ranking officers, including the entire leadership of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia.
Neither under the current nor under the previous authorities did the army ever openly get involved in politics. Its political role was reduced to an electoral stash a strategic reserve of votes in the elections. Otherwise, the military has always remained neutral and did not interfere in politics. But the lost war in Karabakh, which became a national tragedy, changed a lot. The army has accumulated many unpleasant questions for the high command. And the dismissal of the national hero for, in general, a sober assessment of the inappropriate statements of a person who did not serve in the army, was the last straw. From now on, the Prime Minister and the Government of Armenia cannot make adequate decisions in this crisis and fateful situation for the Armenian people.
Pashinyan’s response was not long in coming. He did not find anything better than to gather a meeting according to the good old tradition. According to various estimates, the prime minister came out to support 10-15 thousand people. Speaking to his supporters, he called the demand of the military an attempt at a coup and decided to dismiss the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Onik Gasparyan. But the general categorically refused to leave his post. His decision to ignore the will of the prime minister was supported not only by the military but also by the former presidents of the republic, behind whom are the political and business elites who were ousted from power after Pashinyan’s velvet revolution.
Moreover, Armenian President Armen Sargsyan also hesitates with the formal dismissal of Gasparyan he must either sign Pashinyan’s order within three days or send it for consideration to the Constitutional Court. Pashinyan is annoyed by this. If he does not sign it then what?. Does he join the coup d’état? Pashinyan told his supporters at the rally. In response, the presidential administration pointed to the inadmissibility of pressure on him under martial law. Sargsyan’s office said in a statement that Gasparyan’s dismissal was not just another personnel reshuffle, but a matter of state security.
The President of the Republic does not support any political force, has never supported and will never support it. In carrying out his functions, the President is guided exclusively by the interests of the state and the people. after the release of this material, the president returned to Pashinyan the decree on the dismissal of the head of the General Staff with objections. Sargsyan stated that the decree is contrary to the constitution and refused to sign it.
This whole scenario quickly began to acquire new characters. The special services took the side of the prime minister. On the other hand, the police leadership supported the army. More and more important departments authorities social institutions, and even external players sometimes quite unexpected ones are getting involved in the political crisis.
After the defeat of Armenia in the Karabakh war, a dozen different small parties united in the Movement to Save the Motherland, organized rallies, processions, demonstrations, demanding, in fact, one thing Pashinyan’s resignation. And although the popular support of the prime minister himself has melted over the past few months, like ice cream on a sultry July afternoon, people are in no hurry to support the opposition.
The main reason is that the new opposition movement is strongly associated with the previous authorities of Armenia, as it is supported by former presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharian. Their anti-rating is still so high that it overshadows that of the current Armenian leader. As a result, more and more people, not wanting to make a choice between two evils, fall into political apathy and withdraw themselves. On the one hand, this allows the rejected Pashinyan to hold the post of the prime minister, on the other hand, it leads to a gradual fading of the protest movement.
But the scandal with the dismissal of Tiran Khachatryan and the reaction of the General Staff that followed it added fuel to the fire, which was used by the Movement to Save the Motherland. In parallel with Pashinyan’s rally, they called their supporters into the streets, of whom there were about the same number as the prime minister, and possibly more local media reported that Pashinyan’s supporters were being taken to the rally by force.
Although the rallies were held in two different squares in Yerevan, the distance between which is about two kilometers, activists from different camps somehow managed to grapple. Serious clashes were avoided thanks to police intervention. Nevertheless, the opposition got a taste of power and called on its supporters to go out on an indefinite protest. The activists spent the night in tents on Baghramyan Avenue, in front of the building of the Armenian Parliament the action continued on February 26th. On Friday afternoon they were barbecuing in front of the parliament.
It is much more interesting to observe the external reaction to the events in Armenia. Turkey was one of the first foreign states to react. The head of the Foreign Ministry of the country Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed solidarity with Pashinyan that the actions of the General Staff of Armenian Armed Forces – is an attempt of coup d’etat, and strongly condemned it. Such support is understandable if we recall the results of the last Karabakh war.
As a result of the war, not only the positions occupied during the battles but also the territories of three more districts of the NKR retreated to Azerbaijan. The republic was cut off from Armenia. Turkey supported Azerbaijan from the very beginning of the hostilities in Karabakh. A joint Russian-Turkish armistice control center is currently operating in the Azerbaijani territory of the region. Turkey benefits from the preservation of the current leadership of Armenia. The fighting ended in favor of Ankara’s longtime ally and protege – Baku. And this significantly strengthened the Turkish position in the Transcaucasus. Pashinyan is bound by an agreement on the cessation of hostilities in the region with Russia and Azerbaijan, which secured the results favorable to Turkey, and will not try to take revenge. But in the eyes of the Armenians, the support of Pashinyan from Turkey, the historical enemy of Armenia and the instigator of the genocide, looks wild and does not benefit the prime minister at all.
The reaction of Russia added even more awkwardness to the situation. The Defense Ministry actually accused Pashinyan of misinformation about the Iskander. The Foreign Ministry tactfully refused to comment, noting that what is happening in Armenia is an internal affair. Pashinyan himself has not yet responded to the bewilderment of the Russian Ministry of Defense, although he got in touch with Moscow and called Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Armenian and Russian imprints on the results of this conversation differ. Pashinyan’s press service reports that Putin has expressed support for the legitimate authorities of Armenia, but the Kremlin’s website does not say anything like that.
Vladimir Putin spoke in favor of maintaining order and tranquility in Armenia, resolving the situation within the framework of the law. The head of the Russian state called on all parties to restraintPashinyan’s actions also sparked an unequivocal backlash in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). President Arayik Harutyunyan, who happened to be in Yerevan on February 25, called on the parties to show sobriety and common sense and offered his help as a mediator. The Karabakh oppositionists also protested to Pashinyan, but this is only formally. In fact, among them is the Karabakh ruling party Justice.
The party is run by an ardent opponent of Pashinyan, acting secretary of the NKR Security Council Vitaly Balasanyan. He was appointed to this post after the war and, although formally subordinate to the president of Artsakh, in fact, he is the military commandant of Karabakh and controls the entire republic. For example, he is going to prohibit the president of Karabakh from having a Facebook page, and they may obey him.
Populists Versus The Military
While Armenia is on the verge of a civil war, the prime minister himself assures that the coup has been suppressed and the situation is under control. The army does not agree with him. The head of the General Staff is not going to resign and reckon with Pashinyan’s opinion, and the military is ready to respond with force to any attempts to use it by the authorities. There is a consensus that the situation is extremely difficult and there is a threat of loss of statehood. Everyone must join forces to get out of this situation.
And the country found itself in such a situation just a few years after the leader of the street protest came to power. Numerous miscalculations of Pashinyan and his team not only exacerbated the problems already existing in the state but also gave rise to new ones. The main one is the weakening of the army in the face of growing external threats. But even if the army can somehow be pacified, it will not help overcome the political crisis.
Pashinyan will not be able to remain a national leader, too many ugly details about how the former revolutionary runs the country were revealed in the media after the humiliatingly lost war under his command. It turned out that throughout the entire period of his reign, the national pride – the army – was not only not strengthened, but methodically destroyed and plundered. And this even though intelligence continued to warn of the growing external threat. But these warnings were attributed to the machinations of Pashinyan’s personal enemies.
People found that they were openly lied to about the situation at the front. Meanwhile, their commander-in-chief perhaps drunk called the front and demanded at the cost of unnecessary sacrifices to take absolutely unnecessary positions, promising medals. He called the key ancient fortress of Nagorno-Karabakh Shushi the center of Armenian culture and history a colorless city and blamed some volunteers who refused to go to war for its surrender. Fired the honored general because he remarked the first lady, who appeared at a secret meeting. And many many others.
Pashinyan refutes such stories of the military and former officials, but they no longer want to believe him. He is literally not supported by anyone. The President, both Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, influential figures in the diaspora, public figures, and former heads of the special services – all are in favor of the resignation of the Prime Minister. They are not ready to wait until the early parliamentary elections proposed by the prime minister. Now they were joined by the army the sacred institution of Armenia, the stronghold of its statehood.
More or less well-known associates of Pashinyan have already managed to disown him. Nearby, there were empty shells incompetent in state affairs, who could only get into power thanks to the pressure of the street. Basically, these are push-button deputies who are only needed to boycott the opposition’s initiatives. But the Armenian prime minister either does not realize the tragedy of the situation or considers the best way out to wait until the last, staying in power for as long as possible. He had a head start: the weakness of the opposition and the lack of consolidation of the Armenian society allowed him to decide for himself how and when to leave, on what conditions, and under what guarantees.
Pashinyan did not take advantage of this chance, he continues to block opposition resources and blame his opponents for all the troubles and problems. But loud words from the rostrum and statements like you can shoot me if you want no longer impress anyone in Armenia. This strategy stopped working long ago. The only thing that the revolutionary government has fully provided for the people is endless political squabbles. From a revolutionary hero, Pashinyan has turned into a meme hero who desperately clings to an illusory power. But the trouble is that the price of this power may turn out to be too high and the whole Armenian people will have to pay.