By Luke Mandel; Image by Asbarez
The recent conflicts in 2020 and 2022 between Armenia and Azerbaijan have made it abundantly clear that Armenia’s current strategies are failing. The conflict in 2020 saw Azerbaijan retake much of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is inhabited predominantly by ethnic Armenians, but is internationally recognized as Azeri. Yerevan believed that it could rely on Russian assistance through the mutual defense clause in Article IV of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), but it received no such support. Both conflicts instead resulted in a Russian refusal to come to Armenia’s defense, instead opting for a diplomatic solution. Armenia has now been forced out of Nagorno-Karabakh, and is obligated to provide a land corridor to Azerbaijan to its exclave.
Armenia’s sole security guarantee comes from the CSTO, and it has demonstrated that it will not come to Armenia’s defense, even if Azerbaijan launches an attack on Armenia-proper. Unfortunately for Armenia, the war in Ukraine has diminished Russia’s will and capabilities to promote stability in the Caucuses. As Russia increasingly becomes a pariah-state, economically isolated and operating with little regard for international law, Armenia is reevaluating its relationship with the CSTO.
When Armenia joined the CSTO, it did so primarily because there were no other actors that could provide it security against the dual threats of Azerbaijan and Turkey. Russia has kept a military presence in Armenia that has deterred Turkey and supplied cheap weapons to the Armenian military, sustaining the status quo up until recently. The United States was not a viable security partner at the time because of its close relationship with Turkey.
But the United States may be a realistic alternative now. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently made a trip to Yerevan to show US support for Armenia in the face of Azeri aggression. This demonstrates US resolve to fill in the void Russia has left. The United States has been a strong supporter of Armenia through foreign aid since it gained independence, and is home to a sizable Armenian diaspora that has significant political influence in Congress. Given that the United States recently recognized the Armenian Genocide as Turkey becomes increasingly adversarial and undemocratic, the US may finally be a viable security partner for Armenia.
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