20 Years of Leading Analysis
 
  • Armenia: Aftermath of a Massacre

    Posted by: Thomas de Waal January 28, 2015

    For two weeks, Armenians have had time for only one issue: the horrible murder of a whole family in the town of Gyumri and outrage at the way politicians have dealt with it.

    At first it was just a tragic murder. On January 12, a soldier broke out of Russia’s 102 military base in Armenia’s second city of Gyumri and, for reasons that are still unexplained, made his way to a family house in the middle of the city. He broke in and shot and killed six members of the Avetisian family, including a two-year-old girl. Then he fled on foot and was detained several hours later near the Armenian-Turkish border.

    The whole of Armenia followed agonizing health bulletins on the seventh member of the family, a six-month-old baby boy whom the soldier had stabbed with his bayonet. A week later, the boy too died of his wounds.

    By then, the alleged murderer, a 19-year-old named Valery Permyakov, was in custody at the Russian military base and the subject of a growing political row.

    The public reacted much more quickly to the tragedy than did either Armenian or Russian politicians. On the day of the family funeral, angry crowds demonstrated outside the Russian consulate in Gyumri demanding that the soldier be handed over to the Armenian authorities. At least 14 people were injured as the police beat back the demonstrators.

    The protesters voiced anger not just with the Russians but with their own leaders. On the fourth day after the murders, a veterans’ group criticized both President Serzh Sargsyan and the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church Karekin II for not speaking in public about the killings.

    We can presume that there were many private Armenian-Russian official conversations about what should be done with the alleged killer. Even though the crime had been committed against Armenian victims on Armenian soil, Russian officials displayed an amazing stubbornness in insisting that he should be tried under Russian law.

    In the first few days after the killings, the Russian media barely mentioned them. When Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov eventually spoke on the issue, he said that the trial would be held in a Russian military court. When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was asked about the killings at a press conference on January 21, he condemned them in the strongest terms but also stirred up resentment by talking about a “provocation” by “those willing to use this tragedy to obtain some geopolitical advantages,” implying that the demonstrators were working to a Western agenda.

    Russia is Armenia’s economic and political patron and sole provider of foreign security. On January 1, Armenia entered the Russian-led Eurasian Union. The Gyumri base, home to 4,000 soldiers and their families, is also the mainstay of the local economy. In 2010 its lease was extended until 2044.

    But that does not mean the relationship is an easy one. Periodically Armenian resentment at Moscow’s perceived high-handedness and colonial mentality boils over. That was the case in 1988, the year of Armenia’s anti-Soviet revolt, when Soviet troops opened fire on Armenian nationalist demonstrators at Zvartnots airport.

    On the Armenian side, the Russian alliance is in large part a forced marriage which Armenia has entered in order to maintain military parity in the Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan.

    Currently none of the political elite questions it. The three political parties associated with the current president and his two predecessors—the Republican Party, Prosperous Armenia and the Armenian National Congress—all swear loyalty to Moscow. The relationship deepened last year with the appointment of a new prime minister in the oligarch mold, Hovik Abrahamian. In October a prominent American-Armenian columnist wrote that the close relationship with Russia was founded on “existential strategic and economic realities” and that it was pointless to criticize Armenia’s joining of the Eurasian Union.

    The protests show that the Armenian public has a much broader spectrum of views than do their political leaders. The political fallout of the horrible Gyumri massacre will not result in a strategic orientation away from Russia. But it will further hollow out public support for President Sargsyan and his government.

     
     
     
  • What Is the Future for Donbas?

    Posted by: Alexey Malashenko, Balázs Jarábik, Andrei Kolesnikov Tuesday, January 27, 2015

    This past weekend’s intensified fighting and shelling in southeastern Ukraine, from Donetsk to Mariupol, escalated the Ukraine crisis to a new level. As more people die, political negotiations and eventual diplomatic compromise look less and less likely. What, under these circumstances, does the future hold for Donbas?

     
     
  • (Re)-Escalation in Donbas: Toward Minsk or Mariupol?

    Posted by: Balázs Jarábik, Andras Racz Monday, January 26, 2015

    After the weekend shelling of Mariupol and the loss of so many lives, the Ukrainian president may have no political choice but to mount a serious military response.

     
     
  • Uncertain Perspectives for the Syria Talks in Moscow

    Posted by: Nikolay Kozhanov Friday, January 23, 2015

    Russia’s purpose in arranging the meeting between representatives of the Assad regime and its opponents is to promote the idea that Syrian reconciliation can be achieved through dialogue between all non-extremist Syrian groups and without involvement from outside.

     
     
  • Nuclear Weapons in Russia’s Amended Military Doctrine

    Posted by: Vladimir Dvorkin Thursday, January 22, 2015

    Some experts’ concern that the amended version of the Russian military doctrine would significantly alter conditions for nuclear weapons’ use in the context of the Ukraine crisis and the resulting sharp escalation of the military and political situation has turned out to be premature.

     
     
  • Nazarbayev as Mediator

    Posted by: Alexey Malashenko Wednesday, January 21, 2015

    Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has managed to use the Ukraine crisis as a sort of stepping stone to elevate his international profile and Kazakhstan’s geopolitical status.

     
     
  • Ukraine Fatigue: To Be or Not to Be (Bailed Out)

    Posted by: Balázs Jarábik Tuesday, January 20, 2015 1

    Ukraine is teetering on the brink of default and its government is devoting more energy to public relations than actual reforms. Recent developments in Ukraine are likely to fuel the creation of a new black hole in Europe.

     
     
  • Ramzan Kadyrov as a Federal-Level Politician

    Posted by: Alexey Malashenko Monday, January 19, 2015

    Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic in the North Caucasus, is now firmly entrenched in Russian politics at the federal-level, and it appears that he is there to stay, because Putin and Kadyrov really need each other.

     
     
  • Why Does Russia’s Strategy in Asia Fail?

    Posted by: Petr Topychkanov Friday, January 16, 2015

    The current political crisis in Russia’s relations with the West gives a strong impetus to Russian rapprochement with Asian countries. However, many analysts are of the opinion that no significant progress in this area has been achieved as of yet.

     
     
  • What the Anti-Terrorist Rally Demonstrated

    Posted by: Alexey Malashenko Thursday, January 15, 2015

    An optimal model for the painless existence of Muslims in an alien cultural and religious environment has not yet been found and is unlikely to appear in the near future. In essence, Europe is dealing with a conflict of identities, which continues to increase.

     
     

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