Russian influence growing at American expense
As Russia increasingly flexes its military and petro-driven economic muscles, the United States continues to lose influence throughout the former Soviet world. Influenced by Russian activity and American negligence, the capitals of the Old World turn increasingly to the Kremlin for support. One need look no further than Western Europe’s voluntary surrender into economic enslavement through its support for Nord Stream 2. By the construction of this pipeline, Europe hands its economic independence to Gazprom as the Russian bear strangles its southern adversary of Ukraine.
At the same time, Russia’s prowess in Syria has led Turkey into buying the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system. India, as well, is returning to the Kremlin arms market. Risking U.S. sanctions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is completing a $5 billion weapons purchase from Russia.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a conflict since 1994 over the internationally-recognized Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. In the late 1990s, there was hope that the United States had influence over both these belligerents. In Azerbaijan, private companies signed the “Contract of the Century” to bring Caspian oil to the international marketwhile bypassing the Russian pipeline system. When the United States failed to react meaningfully to the 2008 Russian incursions into Georgia, however, Azerbaijan turned to Moscow for an estimated $6 billion in weapons purchases.
Despite its protestations of non-alignment, Armenia long has been in thrall to the Kremlin. Moscow owns most of the commanding heights of the Armenian economy, and Yerevan believes its defense treaties with Moscow are essential for its independence. There was hope that the recent assumption of power by opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan meant that Armenia might turn towards the democratic West. His predecessor, Serzh Sargsyan, had pulled out of negotiations for an association agreement with the European Union in favor of joining the Kremlin-centric Eurasian Economic Union.
Armenia’s Russian slant continues, however. Recognizing this, in July 2018Moscow shipped $200 million worth of weaponry to Yerevan. Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan bragged the equipment was so modern that it was not even in service in Russia’s own military. When meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pashinyan said there was consensus — within Armenia, no one ever doubts the strategic nature of Russian-Armenian relations.