Protester in Yerevan, Armenia, taking part in mass protests against high electricity rates, June 22, 2015 (original photo by Vahram Baghdasaryan)
Vladimir Putin and his fellow siloviki are again showing, in the case of Armenia as they have in Ukraine, the limitations of their worldview, according to Igor Eidman. They simply cannot imagine that people can and do protest on their own and, consequently, he and they are always seeking to identify the supposedly hidden “’hand of the West.’”
In the Russian elite today, the Moscow commentator says, “people who have emerged from the special services are playing a leading role” from Putin on down. Such “narrow specialists often think exclusively within the framework of their own profession” and treat very different problems as one and the same.
In particular, Eidman continues, they are inclined to view everything that happens through a paranoid lens in which their colleagues in the special services of other countries are responsible, a view that reflects their own self-assessment but that gets in the way of understanding the world as it is.
Such people, he continues, “simply cannot imagine that people are capable of protesting against a government of their own free will to seek changes, democracy and so on. In their picture of the world, the special services of competitor countries must stand behind all such events.”
“This corporate narrowness of thought to a significant degree defined Putin’s attitude toward the Kyiv Maidan,” leading him and the Kremlin to “seriously” think that their “American colleagues” were behind everything happening in Ukraine. That fed “their professional self-regard” but otherwise got in the way of even Russia’s national interests.
One result of this was that their “tilting at windmills” led to “a real war” and real victims. “Let us hope,” Eidman says, “that the Chekist psychosis concerning events in Armenia will not have such terrible consequences” and cause Moscow once again to get involved in the uncritical defense of its allied government and the suppression of the Armenian population.
In Armenia as elsewhere, the Kremlin “considers every manifestation of popular dissatisfaction against its allies as the result of an American conspiracy. This of course is absolute nonsense,” Eidman says. “But undoubtedly, these events are being viewed in Russia with great concern and the fear that Armenia will cease to be a Russian ally and reorient itself toward the West.”
A more dispassionate analysis of the situation, the Moscow commentator says, would show that there are no real preconditions for such a change in Armenia’s geopolitical alignment. “Armenia is very dependent on Russia’s position regarding the Karabakh conflict,” and Russian businesses have “very strong positions” in that south Caucasus country.
But if Moscow misreads the situation and acts according to its own lights, Eidman’s analysis suggests, the Russian government could push the situation in exactly the direction it assumes is true, allowing the Armenian government to ignore the complaints of its own people and driving the Armenian nation away from Moscow despite everything.