Armenia Nervous About Azerbaijan’s Possible Membership of Russian-led Military Bloc

Analysis 17 September 2019
Armenia Nervous About Azerbaijan’s Possible Membership of Russian-led Military Bloc

As President Vladimir Putin of Russia is hammering out new alliances in the Middle East and spreading the Kremlin clout out of its traditional territories, his pet project has come across a problem in Moscow’s outpost – Armenia.

What we are seeing is Russia steadily coming in and re-building ties, asserting its influence, being an active player in the region - at a time when the US policy in the Middle East is incredibly inconsistent and incoherent.

And another proof of what we are saying is his visit to Ankara and meetings with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hasan Rouhani when the latter has again come under renewed pressure over Saudi oil refineries hit by Tehran-backed Yemeni group.

In the meantime, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), through the help of which the Kremlin has cemented its relations with some of the former Soviet satellites, is facing expansion problems despite the fact that no country outside this bloc has yet tendered a membership application.

However, Armenia let the real boss of the military bloc know that Yerevan will block any efforts to bring in new members or observers as the amended charter of the alliance envisions so.

No doubt, the bone of contention is Azerbaijan though official Baku has no intention to pursue an observer status with this Russian-led military bloc and be represented with aggressor Armenia under the CSTO roof.

Official Baki is not planning to get an observer status in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Hikmat Haciyev, the chief of the Foreign Relations Department under the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, said.

"As of now, Azerbaijan is not considering participation in the CSTO in any form, including as an observer," the official said in comments made by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov about the possibility of granting an observer status to Azerbaijan in the CSTO.

As stated in the charter of the CSTO, its goals are “the strengthening of peace, international and regional security and stability, the collective defense of independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of member states”.

The organization was set up in 1992, immediately after the collapse of the USSR. Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan very soon left the CSTO. And now its six members are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.

Though there is no appeal by official Baku for any status with the CSTO, Armenia, to distract public attention from the overall developments inside this tiny country, is resorting to vague means to present the situation as real to invent ways of preventing Azerbaijan from joining the military bloc.

Former so-called Karabakh foreign minister Arman Melikyan called on Yerevan to prevent Azerbaijan from joining this organization. On September 12, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Borisov said in Yerevan that Russia was not opposed Azerbaijan’s obtaining an observer status in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, stressing the Organization’s readiness to cooperate with all former Soviet republics. Following Y. Borisov, the secretary general of the post-Soviet countries’ political and military union confirmed the readiness to accept Azerbaijan as an observer of the CSTO.

According to A. Melikyan, a possible membership in the CSTO will allow Baku to draw the attention of the CSTO member nations to the Karabakh problem. In this case, at the request of the Azerbaijani government, the Karabakh problem could very well turn into a theatre of special military operations. At a minimum, Azerbaijan will use CSTO membership as a new opportunity to build up pressure on Armenia, he claims.

The Armenian diplomat is convinced that Moscow has a logically justified interest in establishing as close cooperation with Baku as possible, including within the framework of the CSTO. In this sense, according to his prediction, an observer status can become only the first step for Azerbaijan prior to a full membership.

Melikyan is convinced that Yerevan should immediately react to block any steps aimed at providing Azerbaijan with an observer status or membership in the CSTO. The diplomat emphasized that in this particular case, it does not matter at all who will come forward with a corresponding proposal.

Armenia’s negative reaction towards Azerbaijan’s undeclared intention of obtaining an observer status in the CSTO was expressed by Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan at his meeting with the parliament’s foreign relations commission.

The amendments to the charter of the CSTO were discussed and some deputies were concerned that Azerbaijan could obtain an observer status or even a partner status in the military bloc, which includes Armenia. “Azerbaijan will never be a member or even an observer in the Collective Security Treaty Organization,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in October 2018.

Nikol Pashinyan added that Yerevan would never agree that a country that “shells” Armenian settlements for many years would become a member or even an observer in the “main military-political organization for us”. In other words, this behavior of Armenia actually undermines the initiative to expand the CSTO at the expense of observers and partners. And who can define the opponents of the CSTO member countries? An adversary for Armenia is not necessarily an adversary for Belarus or Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, heated discussions were held in the Armenian parliament regarding the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Yerevan is very concerned about the possibility of Azerbaijan becoming a partner or observer in the CSTO.

As a result, the Armenian National Assembly approved the introduction of the status of a partner of the organization into the CSTO Charter, but only with the consent of all members of the alliance. During the parliamentary hearings, the head of the Foreign Relations Commission of the National Assembly of Armenia, Ruben Rubinyan, said that Azerbaijan would not be a partner or observer in the CSTO, as Armenia would not reach a consensus.

The same Shavarsh Kocharyan said that Armenia would not allow not only Azerbaijan but also Pakistan to become an observer in the CSTO, since Pakistan is considered an unfriendly state in Armenia. Meanwhile, Moscow initiated changes to the Charter of the organization just so that different states could obtain observer status in the CSTO.

The actions of Nikol Pashinyan’s government confirm that Yerevan has taken a course to destabilize the CSTO. However, the reality is that the CSTO will exist and develop even without Armenia's membership in it. Although, I believe, this will not come to this. Rather, the people of Armenia will finally be disappointed in Pashinyan and his team, refusing trust and support, than Armenia will leave the organization.