Part I of this article introduced the current discourse on the perspectives of Armenia’s foreign and security policy. It also introduced international relations concepts and terms that can be used to analyze its past, present and future tendencies.
Part II will present a brief overview and analysis of Armenia’s foreign and security policies between the restoration of its independence in 1991 up until the 2018 Velvet Revolution, in order to understand its current situation and future options.
Restoration of Independence
Soviet Armenia was one of the first republics in the Soviet Union where demonstrations began in 1988. Initially, these demonstrations were not anti-Soviet in nature but were aimed at self-determination of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, Armenians became increasingly frustrated with the Kremlin’s response to the issue. In 1990, the leaders of the Karabakh movement played an instrumental role in adopting the Declaration of Independence of Armenia.
Armenia, along with the Baltics, Georgia and Moldova, boycotted the USSR-wide referendum in 1991 that aimed to retain the Soviet Union. Instead, Armenia held a referendum later that year to secede from the Soviet Union. In this referendum, 99.5% of voters voted in favor of secession, with a turnout of 95%.
However, unlike Baltic states, the leadership of Armenia chose to avoid making a political assessment of the Soviet period when it restored its independence. In contrast to Georgia and Azerbaijan, Armenia declared itself the successor of Soviet Armenia rather than the First Republic of Armenia, which had a short existence from 1918 to 1920. History textbooks focused more on the positive aspects of Sovietization for Armenians, rather than the negative ones. Nevertheless, historians and archivists argue that the Sovietization of Armenia was highly controversial. There is overwhelming evidence that the Bolsheviks sacrificed Armenian interests for their collaboration with Kemalist Turkey, and a significant number of Armenians were targeted during Stalin’s repressions. Although there was awareness of the forcible integration of Nagorno-Karabakh and, to a lesser extent, Nakhichevan into Soviet Azerbaijan instead of Soviet Armenia, it was often referred to as Stalinism rather than a manifestation of colonialism. The cautious approach towards critically examining the complex period of Sovietization of Armenia is likely influenced by the legacy of the Armenian genocide and the need to ensure Russia’s role as a deterrent against the threat from Turkey.
CIS and CSTO Membership and the Alliance With Russia
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the restoration of its independence in 1991, Armenia has sought to maintain a balance of power in the region. It has pursued cooperation with Russia and Iran on one side, and the West, namely the U.S. and European countries and institutions, on the other.
However, maintaining this balance became challenging already in the early years of Armenia’s independence during the presidency of Levon Ter-Petrosyan. In 1991, Armenia became one of the former Soviet republics that signed the Alma-Ata Declaration and became a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This was not surprising, as most former Soviet states, except the Baltic states, which considered the Soviet period as occupation, signed the declaration. Many of them were CIS members for a period, and some remain members to this day, including Azerbaijan.
Ukraine and Turkmenistan signed but did not ratify the Alma-Ata declaration. Turkmenistan became only an associate member, declaring neutrality. Georgia gradually ceased its membership following the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, and Moldova has progressively suspended its participation since Russia’s invasion in Ukraine in 2022.
The CIS has given rise to other organizations, such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which fulfills security functions, and the Eurasian Economic (Customs) Union, which fulfills economic functions.
Armenia signed the Collective Security Treaty (CST) in 1992 and became one of the founding members of the CSTO in 2002, when the organization was established based on the treaty. Azerbaijan and Georgia signed the Treaty in 1994 but withdrew their signatures in 1999. Uzbekistan entered the CSTO in 2006 and withdrew in 2012.
Armenia and Russia also established a bilateral alliance in political, military and economic aspects. According to the 1992 Treaty on the Status and Operating Conditions of Border Troops of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Republic of Armenia, the Russian Federal Security Service, together with Armenian border guards, has been responsible for safeguarding Armenia’s state borders with Iran and Turkey. In 1997, Armenia and Russia signed a Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, which includes provisions for mutual defense. As a result, the two countries have entered into over 200 agreements and treaties. Additionally, the 102nd Russian military base is stationed in Armenia. This arrangement is due to the absence of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia, which is influenced by the Armenian genocide issue and Turkish support for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
It is important to note that the Cold War ended in 1991, and that Russia, under the rule of Boris Yeltsin from 1991 to 1999, was relatively democratic and favorable not only for Armenia, but also for global interactions as it was less confrontational. Nevertheless, there was a competition between Russia and Turkey in the Southern Caucasus.
Russia’s Role in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War
a) Despite Azerbaijani claims, Russia did not assist Armenians against Azerbaijan
In 1988, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh launched a movement for the unification of the autonomous region with Armenia. This movement was inspired by Gorbachev’s reform agenda, and, upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan in accordance with Soviet legislation. However, the central Soviet authorities sided with the Soviet Azerbaijani authorities and rejected this aspiration. It has been reported that, during Azerbaijan’s massacres of Armenians in Sumgait, Kirovabad (now Ganja), and Baku, as well as the subsequent military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Soviet special purpose militia units (OMON) not only refrained from intervening but also assisted Azerbaijanis. Furthermore, Gorbachev’s administration covered up the extent of these massacres. The Soviet authorities also attempted to suppress the Karabakh movement in Armenia, which supported the aspirations of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians. This included the arrest of its leaders for several months in 1988-1989, and their subsequent detention in a Moscow prison, including Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who later became the first President of the Republic of Armenia.
The First Nagorno-Karabakh War, which was launched by Azerbaijan in response to the peaceful movement of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh for self-determination and lasted until 1994, resulted in heavy casualties on both sides and ended with the victory of the Armenian side. Over the course of more than two and half decades between the two Karabakh wars, Azerbaijan and its supporters have claimed that Armenia only won the first war with the help of Russia. However, it is important to note that Soviet troops aided Azerbaijani forces in carrying out Operation “Koltso” (Ring), which involved depopulating the Getashen and Shahumyan regions of Karabakh, as well as the Maraga massacre in 1992. Reportedly, Russia supplied weapons to both parties and that its different factions, including troops, volunteers, and mercenaries, have assisted either Armenia or Azerbaijan during different periods of the war.
During the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, Russia was not the only international actor involved in conflict management. The CSCE (now known as the OSCE) chairperson-in-office, co-chairs of the Minsk Group, and observers also visited Nagorno-Karabakh between 1992 and 1994. In 1992, France’s Minister of Social and Humanitarian Issues, Bernard Kouchner, arrived in Stepanakert to open a humanitarian corridor and personally delivered humanitarian aid to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Major international actors have recognized Armenians’ right to self-determination and their existential threat by Azerbaijan. In 1993, U.S. President Clinton called Yeltsin to suggest the deployment of a Russian-led peacekeeping force, consisting of equal numbers of Russian and other CSCE countries’ personnel. Yeltsin emphasized the need for an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, referring to the volatile situation in Azerbaijan.
At the same time, Russia mediated the Bishkek Protocol, which ended the war in 1994 with a cease-fire. However, this ceasefire never resulted in a peace agreement. Some nationalistic groups in Armenia question why Russia intervened to stop the war, as Armenia had seemingly won without imposing the capitulation of Azerbaijan or resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in favor of Armenia, such as through unification with Armenia or independence. Other Armenian forces argue that while Armenia may have won the war, it was also exhausted, so the ceasefire benefitted both Azerbaijan and Armenia.
It is difficult to determine which Armenian narrative accurately reflects the situation at the time. It is clear though that the Azerbaijani narrative, claiming one-sided Russian support for Armenians, is manipulative. In reality, Russia has not consistently demonstrated a preference for the Armenian side in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and has, at times, explicitly supported the Azerbaijani side.
Since the Russian mediated ceasefire, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by Russia, the U.S. and France, was mediating for the resolution of the conflict. The Group offered several solutions to resolve the conflict, including deploying international peacekeepers to ensure the security of civilians, granting an interim status and anticipating a referendum for the final status.
However, those proposals were rejected by either Azerbaijan or Armenia. Azerbaijan, starting in 2005, invested oil and gas profits in the defense sector and prepared for a new war. Armenia, after its victory in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, did not eagerly accept these proposals either as it seemingly benefitted from the status quo.
According to most policy experts, Russia was also not interested in resolving the conflict, as it allowed Russia to maintain its influence and presence in the region. Levon Ter-Petrosyan claimed that after the end of the First Nagorno-Karabakh War and the launch of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipelines, he felt a change in attitude by Western countries in favor of Azerbaijan, as manifested during the 1996 OSCE Lisbon Summit. During the summit, it was planned to adopt a declaration with provisions dedicated to Nagorno-Karabakh. However, Levon Ter-Petrosyan vetoed the provisions of the declaration recognizing the territorial integrity of Armenia and Azerbaijan, and granting the highest degree of self-government for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. In his speech, Levon Ter-Petrosyan stated that if the Karabakh issue is resolved based on the principles proposed by Azerbaijan, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh would face constant threat of genocide or forced displacement. In 1997, he realized that if Armenia did not agree on the next “Step-by-Step” proposal by the OSCE Minsk Group, the subsequent proposals would be even less favorable for the Armenian side. He resigned after the proposal was rejected by the rest of the top leadership of Armenia and Karabakh.
b) Russia and the U.S. prevented Turkish military intervention to support Azerbaijan
During the first Karabakh war, while Russia did not support Armenia against Azerbaijan, it did play a role in preventing Turkish military intervention to support Azerbaijan in 1992-1993. However, Russia was not the only actor in this regard, as the United States also played a significant role.
The first reports about the consideration of sending weapons and troops to Azerbaijan to fight against Armenians date back to March 1992. Turkish Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, under domestic pressure, including from President Turgut Özal, to get involved in the inter-ethnic war, called President Bush. Demirel highlighted the enormous potential consequences for southeastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East if Muslim Turkey were to engage in a conflict with Christian Armenia. The Bush administration quickly understood the explosive regional implications of Turkey’s potential involvement in a war that could be interpreted as Christian versus Muslim, and disapproved of it.
The public pressure on Demirel to intervene in the armed conflict intensified in May 1992, following the liberation of Shushi by Armenian forces. Turkey began spreading news that Armenian forces had attacked the heights near the town of Sadarak in Nakhichevan, a claim denied by the Armenian side. The Turkish Cabinet of Ministers and the Speaker of the Parliament, Hikmet Zindoruk, issued warnings to Armenia. Özal even threatened to bomb Yerevan. Responding to indications that Turkish leaders may send arms and possibly troops to support Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia, the military commander in chief of the CIS, Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, warned that outside intervention in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh could potentially trigger “a new world war.”
Turkish President Demirel again called President Bush, who urged him to demonstrate restraint and avoid a military intervention against Armenia. President Bush also mentioned his conversation with President Ter-Petrosyan about the need for peaceful resolution of the conflict. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler stated that the U.S. government “does not support intervention in this conflict by any outside party.”
In April-September 1993, domestic pressure on then-President Demirel intensified, with Prime Minister Tansu Çiller also supporting a military intervention against Armenia. The Minister of Interior Mehmet Gaziogli, accused the Armenian government of having ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a pretext for invading Armenia. There were allegations that Armenia could pose a threat to Nakhichevan, for which Turkey was the official guarantor of security.
According to Hürriyet, 50,000 Turkish forces were positioned near the Armenian border, ready to intervene, and Turkish airplanes conducted surveillance flights along Armenia’s borders. In early September, there were a few exchanges of fire on the Turkish-Armenian border near Nakhichevan. Armenia denied any connection with the PKK or its presence in Armenia, as well as any intention to initiate military advances towards Nakhichevan. Armenia’s National Security Council placed Armenia’s Armed Forces on maximum readiness to defend against a possible attack from Turkey. Major-General Alexander Babenko, commander of the Russian border defense forces in Armenia, expressed concern about the presence of additional Turkish army subdivisions equipped with armored vehicles and artillery on the Armenian-Turkish border.
In response to calls from Turkish political forces, President Demirel noted that intervening on behalf of Azerbaijan would go against Turkish interests, as it would prompt Russia to intervene to support Armenia. Ter-Petrosyan and Demirel discussed the buildup of Turkish forces on the Armenian-Turkish border. Additionally, Ter-Petrosyan met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and Armenia’s then State Minister of Defense, National Security and Internal Affairs Vazgen Sargsyan held a meeting with Russia’s Defense Minister Grachov on September 15. Ter-Petrosyan had asked Yeltsin to clearly state his stance regarding the Turkish threat to Armenia. He also expressed his full support for Yeltsin during a coup attempt against him, as he had information that his opponent Khasbulatov had promised Turkey not to prevent a limited military intervention against Armenia.
Although Turkey did not launch a military intervention against Armenia during the first Nagorno-Karabakh War, it provided political support to Azerbaijan and started providing military-technical assistance during that period. In August 1992, the two countries signed the “Military Training Cooperation Agreement”, which led to the provision of military education and training. Turkey sent senior army officers to take part in the planning and training of military operations in Azerbaijan. Turkish fighters also participated in some military operations during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. In 1993, Turkey and Azerbaijan signed a military agreement, in violation of the 1992 OSCE decision to impose an arms embargo on the forces involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, under which Turkey undertook to supply light military equipment to Azerbaijan.
Not only the reactions of Russia and the U.S., but also Turkish membership in NATO and its aspiration to join EU played a role in discouraging Ankara from launching a military intervention in Armenia in support of Azerbaijan.
Complementarity: The Gap Between Declaration and Reality
During Robert Kocharyan’s presidency (1998-2008), Armenia announced a policy of “complementarity” between Russia and Iran on one side, and the West on the other. This period is controversial due to two opposite processes. On the one hand, there was an increase in Armenia’s energy and economic dependency on Russia through the conclusion of energy deals between the two countries and the concession of significant energy and industrial assets to Russia. On the other, there was a slight diversification of Armenia’s security cooperation through its significantly increased participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace Programme.
While the construction and operation of Western-sponsored oil and gas pipelines began in Azerbaijan, Kocharyan entered into energy deals and transferred energy and industrial assets, shares, and rights to Russia through the “Property for Debt” deal to repay a $40 million debt in 2002-2003, and the “Property for Gas” deal in 2005. Armenian-Russian energy agreements included a gas supply agreement with Gazprom, the transfer of units of the Hrazdan Thermal Power Plant, shares of the Sevan Cascade, the electricity distribution network, rights to the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, ownership of five Armenian hydroelectric plants, and financial management of the nuclear power plant to the major state energy companies – Gazprom and RAO Unified Energy Systems (UES) of Russia.
Those deals, or rather concessions, were influenced by Russia’s weaponization of energy as leverage. Russia issued warnings about a gas price hike and demanded debt repayment. Armenia was not included in the Western-sponsored gas and oil pipelines that originated in Azerbaijan and passed through Georgia and Turkey. President Kocharyan stated that Western energy giants showed little interest in the Armenian energy sector.
However, Kocharyan, who served as Nagorno-Karabakh’s former President and Armenia’s Prime Minister, allegedly rejected an American offer to convince Azerbaijan to agree on the construction of oil and gas pipelines that would bypass Nagorno-Karabakh. This reluctance was reportedly justified by concerns about the potential impact of such pipelines on the power dynamics in the region and potential of weakening Russian influence in the region.
The unfavorable energy deals with Russia sparked a public debate on Armenia-Russia relations. Politicians from both pro-government and opposition circles started questioning the alliance between Armenia and Russia. They argued that while Russia claimed to be an ally, it treated Armenia in a similar manner to Ukraine or Georgia when it came to gas prices. Some suggested that Armenia should reassess its notion of a “strategic partnership” with Russia, review the conditions for the deployment of Russian military bases in Armenia, and consider charging for their presence. Additionally, they proposed diversifying Armenia’s security options and advancing cooperation with NATO and the EU.
In response, then-Defense Minister Sargsyan stated that there was no need to link the gas issue with the presence of Russian military bases in Armenia. He emphasized that it was premature to conclude that Armenia should revise its military partnership with Russia. He also underlined that the Russian military bases were established and maintained in Armenia at Armenia’s request, not Russia’s.
In response to Armenian dissatisfaction with the gas price hike, Dmitry Medvedev, then-First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gazprom, clarified that the change of gas export tariffs to the South Caucasus was not influenced by political alliances. Ivan Ivanov, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, said that Russia is a market-oriented country and should adhere to those principles.
Under Kocharyan, despite increased energy dependency on Russia, there was progress in cooperation with the U.S. and the EU. Notably, Armenia made significant progress in its cooperation with NATO through the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Programme. During that period Armenia participated in various initiatives such as the Planning and Review Process, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, NATO-led Kosovo Force and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and adopted an Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO. Additionally, Armenia hosted NATO/PfP military exercises, conferences and seminars. The only remaining NATO PfP format of cooperation for that period that it did not join was the Membership Action Plan.
The period of improved relations between Russia and NATO contributed to the implementation of complementarity and pro-active security cooperation with NATO by Armenia. . NATO welcomed Armenia’s steps towards enhanced cooperation and even canceled a military exercise in Baku in 2004 due to Azerbaijan’s prevention of Armenian participation and the murder of an Armenian military officer by an Azerbaijani officer during an English training course within the NATO PfF programme in Budapest. This demonstrated NATO’s commitment to its principle of inclusive participation and human rights-based norms for defense governance, despite Azerbaijan’s oil and gas resources and NATO ally Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan.
However, Armenia’s security cooperation with NATO has remained mostly superficial and was overshadowed by its reliance on Russia. Despite hosting Russian military bases, in 2002 Azerbaijan began leasing its Gabala radar station to Russia, for $7 million. Furthermore, since 2005, Azerbaijan has been directing a significant portion of its profits from oil and gas pipelines towards its defense sector. With the support of Turkey, Azerbaijan has been modernizing its defense sector, violating the ceasefire and preparing for a war against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
Meanwhile, Armenia did not try to use the Kosovo precedent to seek a favorable resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through support from Western players, in spite of obvious similarities between the two conflicts. However, the OSCE Minsk Group had offered elements of international peacekeeping and interim status similar to the Kosovo model in several plans. Most likely Armenia’s choice was based on fears of Russia’s reaction, given its support for Serbia and non-recognition of Kosovo’s independence.
A Multi-vector Policy That Ended With a Forced Change of Mind
Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s third President, replaced the term “complementarity” with “multi-vector policy” to rebrand Armenia’s foreign policy. However, the substance of the policy remained focused on achieving a balance of power.
One of the most significant developments during his tenure was Armenia’s intention to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. Just weeks before the planned signing in 2013, Serzh Sargsyan was summoned to Moscow by Russian President Putin. During a joint press conference, Putin announced that Armenia had agreed to join the Russia-led Customs Union, which later became the Eurasian Economic Union.
This change of mind derailed five years of negotiations and prevented Armenia from signing the Association Agreement with the EU due to incompatible modalities of the two organizations. Importantly, this decision was made without a referendum or even a debate in the National Assembly of Armenia or a discussion in the National Security Council. The sudden change in policy was presented to the Armenian public as a choice between security and democracy, with the goal of preventing war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In 2017, Armenia signed a downgraded document called the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the EU, which did not include components related to security and a free trade zone.
At the same time, Armenia continued its Individual Partnership Action Plan, contribution to the NATO-led KFOR operation, and PfP activities related to defense institution-building, force planning and integrity. However, it stopped participating in NATO military exercises starting in 2012, which reduced Armenia’s exposure to NATO standards for armed forces and possibilities to develop interoperability with its members.
Eventually, Armenia fell behind in efforts to modernize its defense sector and security governance in the 2010s. Armenia’s defense sector and military education remained largely based on the Russian models and heavily reliant on Russian armaments.
Meanwhile, in parallel with military cooperation with NATO ally Turkey, Azerbaijan increased the requested price of leasing the Gabala radar station to Russia up to $300 million. As a result, it was no longer beneficial for Russia to rent the station. Given its low strategic importance for Russia, Azerbaijan aimed to make Russia refuse the lease, which eventually happened in 2012.
However, despite its military alliance with Armenia and role as a leading mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russia started selling weapons to Azerbaijan. This was based on defense contracts signed between 2009 and 2011. According to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, in the mid-2010s, Russia sold heavy artillery, multiple rocket launchers, anti-tank missile systems, armored vehicles, and other armaments to Azerbaijan.
Over the period of 2011–2020, Russia emerged as the largest exporter of major arms to both Armenia and Azerbaijan. It supplied 94% of Armenia’s major arms and 60% of Azerbaijan’s. Russia often provides arms to Armenia at reduced prices or as military aid, likely to maintain influence in the region. In contrast, Azerbaijan reportedly usually pays the full price for its Russian-supplied arms. According to Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev, by 2018, Azerbaijan had spent an estimated total of $5 billion on military equipment from Russia.
In April 2016, Azerbaijan launched a military offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh. The fighting lasted four days and was halted due to Russian pressure. Armenian authorities began criticizing Russia’s arms deals with Azerbaijan, pointing out that supplying arms to Azerbaijan goes against Russia’s military alliance with Armenia and encourages Baku to seek a military solution to the Karabakh conflict. However, Russian authorities dismissed this criticism, stating that they provide weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan to maintain a “military balance” in the conflict. They also justified exporting armaments to Azerbaijan based on economic interests.
Russian President Putin also denied that Moscow had increased the risk of another Karabakh war, implying that Azerbaijan, being oil rich, could have obtained offensive weapons from other countries. Furthermore, Russia has been providing substantial military aid to Armenia for a long time.
Israel, Belarus and Turkey were the second, third and fourth largest suppliers of major arms to Azerbaijan from 2011 to 2020. The volume of Azerbaijan’s arms imports during this period, estimated by SIPRI, was 8.2 times higher than that of Armenia. This significant disparity in arms imports has resulted in a military imbalance between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Not surprisingly, the proposed plans for resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were becoming increasingly less favorable for the Armenian side. This was due to Azerbaijan taking a harder position and Russia playing a larger role compared to other co-chairs of the Minsk Group. The 2015 “Lavrov Plan” authored by Russia’s Foreign Minister, amending the 2011 Kazan plan also authored by Russia, replaced the idea of deployment of international peacekeepers with Russian peacekeepers. Additionally, other provisions of the suggested settlement were also increasingly unfavorable for Armenia and favorable for Azerbaijan.
Between the restoration of its independence and the 2020 war, different Armenian administrations intended to maintain a balance between various power centers — Russia and Iran on one side and the U.S. and European institutions on another side. There was an intention to sign an Association Agreement with the EU and an attempt to diversify security cooperation through active participation in NATO’s PfP programme. Armenian leaders branded these attempts as complementarity and a multi-vector policy.
Those efforts largely failed and led to the sacrifice of Armenia’s partnerships with Western players. As a result, Armenia ended up bandwagoning with Russia and became trapped in a state of geopolitical determinism, i.e. the perception that due to its being surrounded with hostile states and having modest resources, it has no agency to conduct independent diplomacy and has no other option but to rely on Russia for its security. This situation was influenced by several factors:
1. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan has persisted for more than two decades, and the failure to resolve it requires a detailed analysis of the reasons and the responsibility of each actor involved. Such analysis is beyond the scope of this article but its determining impact on the foreign and security policies is unquestionable.
2. Armenia has been facing a security dilemma in relation to Turkey due to Ankara’s political and military support to Azerbaijan, based on the notion of “one nation in two states”. The historical context of the Armenian genocide also plays a role, as well as the Armenian perception of Russia as a deterrent against Turkey.
3. Despite claiming to its internal audience and even engaging in self-deception by inertia that its army is still the best in the region, Armenia started facing difficulties in catching up with hydrocarbon-rich Azerbaijan in terms of modernizing and equipping its military since the 2010s. As the military balance with Azerbaijan became increasingly unfavorable, Armenia increasingly relied on Russia for prevention and early management of offensives by Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh.
4. Russia has pursued a policy of playing on both sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since its escalation in 1988 and during the first Karabakh war. This is because of its lack of interest in resolving the conflict to maintain its presence in the region and exert influence over both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
5. The rising importance of Azerbaijan as a country rich in hydrocarbons has enabled it to position itself as an energy supplier for Western countries, Georgia, and an attractive partner for Russia. Azerbaijan’s policy of being a non-aligned country, “equally distancing” itself from major powers, has successfully established effective partnerships.
6. Russia has been weaponizing energy in its relations with Armenia resulting in “Property for Debt” and “Property for Gas” deals that have led to Armenia’s increased economic and energy dependency on Russia.
7. Armenia has failed to shape and communicate its narratives effectively to counteract Azerbaijan’s aggressive war of narratives, which aimed to stigmatize Armenia in relation to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In spite of bigger similarities between Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo conflicts, Azerbaijan has also aimed to create unfavorable associations between Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts and those in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Donbass and Transnistria to present it as Russian-inflicted, to gain political support of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, and antagonize them to Armenia.
8. Armenia’s passive foreign policy and diplomacy, its failure to conclude the Association Agreement with the EU under Russian pressure, decreased participation in NATO’s PfP activities in the 2010s, and its failure to develop strong alliances and diversified partnerships, have harmed its nation-branding.
The impact of these factors was not very visible or tangible with the status quo, but it became apparent and destructive in light of further developments, such as the Velvet Revolution, the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war and the subsequent security crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia to be addressed in Part III of this article.
 Hirschfeld, K., de Beurs, K., Brayfield, B., Melkonyan-Gottschalk, A., “The Karabakh Conflict, 1988–1994. In: New Wars and Old Plagues” (2023), Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-31143-7_3
 Sargsyan, S., “Armenia and Bush in Person”(2022), Yerevan. ISBN 9789939884462.
 Hakobyan,T., “Armenians and Turks” (2013), Yerevan, Lusakn. ISBN 978-9939-0-0706-9.
 This is based on an interview with a witness held under Chatham House rules.
Will Armenia turn away from Russia and adopt an explicitly pro-Western foreign and security policy, or will it only diversify its partners to reduce its dependence on Russia? Sossi Tatikyan explains.Read more
By the Same Author
Can the International Community Reverse the Ethnic Cleansing of Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh? Part 1
The collapse of Artsakh is the failure of preventive diplomacy, the end of the human-rights-based liberal world governance system and can embolden other autocratic states to use force against small entities claiming self-determination to subjugate or eliminate them in other parts of the world.Read more
Can the International Community Reverse the Ethnic Cleansing of Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh? Part 2
In the absence of political will to exert pressure on Baku to accept necessary preconditions for the security and fundamental rights of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, any calls for their return will only serve to legitimize and whitewash the ethnic cleansing that Azerbaijan carried out.Read more
Relations between Azerbaijan and Iran deteriorated following the 2020 Artsakh War. Did the visit of Iran’s Foreign Minister to Baku in July 2023 succeed in resolving existing differences? Or should ongoing tensions between Baku and Tehran be anticipated?Read more
Armenia trades with three of its four neighboring countries, except Azerbaijan. Land borders with Georgia and Iran serve as crucial lifelines for Armenia, connecting the landlocked country to the global market.Read more
Even a cursory examination of the events in Nagorno-Karabakh provides a solid basis to assert the existence of a potential case for a crime against humanity of forced deportation under the Rome Statute stemming from Azerbaijan’s attack in September 2023.Read more
This white paper explores how revisionism and manipulation of historical facts have played a role in facilitating recent events in Nagorno-Karabakh. It focuses on academia and argues that promoting scholarly rigor and intercultural exchange is essential to prevent politicized historical revisionism.Read more
Despite their differences, Russia, the EU and the U.S. all came together days before the Azerbaijani attack on Artsakh to ensure aid could reach the besieged population. Why did Aliyev risk going against them? Or did he? Tatevik Hayrapetyan presents a thought-provoking analysis.Read more
Armenia has faced significant challenges in arms procurement since the end of the 2020 war. This article looks at the timeline of defense cooperation between Yerevan and Paris as France is emerging as one of Armenia’s key defense partners.Read more
With the collapse of Artsakh, will the EU further enable Baku’s irredentist agenda to seize Armenian territory as part of the opening of the “Zangezur Corridor” or will Brussels show the same initiative to sanction and deter Azerbaijan that it deployed in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine?Read more
This article looks at the Wagner Group’s role in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the timeline of events that transpired in Rostov Oblast on June 23-24, and the implications of the Rostov Mutiny on the wider Armenian-Russian security partnership.Read more
Russia's perceived unwillingness to assist Armenia and fulfill its treaty obligations during times of crisis has compelled both the Armenian government and the general public to seek new allies. France, the U.S., EU and Iran have emerged as potential frontrunners.Read more
An interview by Gaidz Minassian with former French Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group and former French Ambassador to Ukraine, Jacques Faure, who discusses the Ukraine-Russia and Armenia-Azerbaijan wars.Read more
Armenia has been on a slow descent into turmoil, politically fractured and spiritually tainted by the corruption of men and their egos, writes Tigran Yegavian. Recent tragedies have shaken the Armenian nation forcing the need to reassess the foundations of the Armenian cause and formulate a strategic vision.Read more
While conspiracy theories and nationalist pseudohistories are a common phenomenon in the postsocialist space, something peculiar has happened in Azerbaijan; the eccentric ultranationalists, whose ideas are popular among the regime-aligned elite and are explicitly sponsored by the state, have proven triumphant.Read more