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May 3, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9315

Russian Expert Mirzayan: Biden's Recognition Of Armenian Genocide Is Designed To Pry Armenia Away From Russia

May 3, 2021
Russia, South Caucasus | Special Dispatch No. 9315

US President Joseph Biden, on April 24, 2021, departed from the policy of his predecessors and officially recognized the Armenian genocide of 1915:"Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring," Biden declared[1]

Russia could not be indifferent to this declaration. Armenia is a Russian ally, and Russia has troops stationed in Armenia. In the recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh, Russia took a hands-off attitude, and parlayed this neutrality into a Russian peace keeping contingent designed to protect the settlement between the two sides. Russia has also sought to wean Turkey away from the West despite the differences between Moscow and Ankara in Syria and Libya and recently in Ukraine.

Russian commentators refused to believe the Biden Administration was merely being consistent with its reemphasis of human rights in American foreign policy. It saw the move as American retaliation against Turkey for insubordination, as in the Turkish decision to purchase the Russian S-400 air defense system. However, although Turkey clearly resented Biden's declaration, Russian commentators did not believe that the declaration would have a major effect– either positive or negative – on relations between Washington and Ankara.

Expert Gevorg Mirzayan warned Russia not to ignore the possibility that Biden was making a play for Armenia, which was still smarting over Russia's lack of support in Nagorno Karabakh. Washington wanted to dislodge Armenia from Russia's sphere of influence. If that happened Russia's position in the Caucasus would be undermined.

MEMRI's report on Russian reactions to the Biden declaration on the Armenian Genocide follows below:


Armenian and American flags greet Biden's declaration (Source: Iz.ru)

Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov originally sought to duct the issue by claiming that it was a domestic US issue, [2] however on in a broadcast on Russia's first channel he denigrated the American decision:

“I think that to a greater extent, this recognition of the genocide by Washington, is most likely, an integral part of [America's] favorite game of carrot and stick.” said Peskov. The decision did not emanate from " a desire to sympathize with the Armenian people, nor from a desire to deeply understand the history of the Ottoman Empire."[3]

The Chairman of the Duma International Relations Committee Leonid Slutsky claimed that the decision was payback for the US against Turkey. "Insubordinate Ankara" is "an irritant for the American leadership." Slutsky added that cooperation with the Russian Federation, including the purchase of [the Russian] S-400 by Turkey, is also an irritant for the United States. "Therefore, yes, this (the S-400) is one way of viewing the basis for the decision by Biden and the State Department to recognize the Armenian Genocide."[4]

Television presenter Vladimir Solovyov, a take no hostages Kremlin surrogate, offered another explanation: "I believe that [Secretary of State] Anthony Blinken, in an attempt to do his best, simply dealt a colossal blow to Erdogan's neo-Ottoman ambitions. Probably, in this way the head of the State Department seeks to demonstrate that Turkey is not the legal successor of the Ottoman Empire. "[5]

The Fallout In The Relations Between Washington And Ankara Will Be Minimal

Russian commentators cautioned that an irreparable rupture in relations between Turkey and the United States was not in the cards. Senator Alexei Pushkov commenting on his Telegram channel believed that at most there would be a tempest in a teapot:

"I believe that everything will be limited to violent indignation from Turkey, and nothing more: A number of Turkey's NATO allies - Belgium, France, Germany, Poland - have long recognized the fact of this genocide. In 2019, Macron even declared April 24 as a national commemorative day of the Armenian Genocide. And in several European countries, criminal penalties have been introduced for denying the Armenian Genocide. And each time Ankara protests, but does nothing except for diplomatic demarches on this matter. Relations with France, the Federal Republic of Germany, and others were slightly strained, but preserved. Turkey has not withdrawn from NATO and will not leave. The same will most likely be the case with Erdogan's reaction to Biden's decision: a tempest in a teapot. At the same time, Biden's step will not contribute to the improvement of relations between Turkey and the United States, especially against the backdrop of numerous notable recent differences between Ankara and Washington."[6]

Gevorg Mirzayan: The Decision Was 'Obedience Training' For Erdogan

The newspaper VZGLYAD sought the opinions of the Middle East and Islamic Studies expert Professor Alexei Malashenko and Gevorg Mirzayan an associate professor of political science at the Financial University, who is both a Middle East expert.

Turkey-United States relations." claimed the expert.


Alexei Malashenko (Eadaily.com)

Mirzayan, believes that the Biden administration had decided to conduct "obedience training" on its unpredictable Turkish ally. This followed similar "obedience training" that the Biden Administration had resorted to against the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman: "The Americans are making it clear that if Turkey will exercise sovereignty and independence in the external arena, then the Turks will face bad consequences, because Washington will cross the established red lines in Turkey-United States relations. The recognition of the Armenian genocide is one of them."

Malashenko believes that Turkey will not go through with its threat to shut down Incirlik Air Base. Erdogan needs the base to maneuver between Washington and Moscow.  Additionally, closing the base is best used as a threat, and if Turkey actually closes it, the threat value is gone.

“If Turkey closes the base, it will simply lose an instrument of dialogue. However, one can endlessly threaten to close the air base (in fact this is what Erdogan has been doing for a long time). The Turkish follow a multi-directional policy, using various instruments in relations with the US and Russia. The Incirlik Air Base and Ankara’s indignation over the recognition of the Armenian genocide are among such instruments,” noted the political scientist.

“In general, one should not exaggerate the magnitude of Tayyip Erdogan issue for the US,” said Malashenko. “No one knows what will happen when the current Turkish leader leaves his post. The Americans have adapted to Erdogan, and vice versa. He will never take an unambiguously anti-American or anti-Russian stance."

Mirzayan believes that most commentators are overlooking the Armenian part of the equation in concentrating on the Turkish reaction.

He argues that Washington’s decision to aggravate relations with Turkey confers on Russia not only pluses, but also minuses, "Yes, the worse Turkey-United States relations get, the better for Russia. However, it should be noted that Biden does not only act within the framework of Turkey-United States relations, but also within Armenia-United States relations. The United States is trying to pry Armenia out of the Russian influence sphere and in so doing to undermine Russia’s authority in the Caucasus.”

Also, Washington is exploiting "the cooling in Armenia-Russia relations, which was a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan...Thus, Biden now is trying to present the US as an alternative to Russia for Armenia." Mirzayan emphasized. expert.

Mirzayan predicts that the beleaguered Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who direly needs to reinforce his position on the eve of special parliamentary elections, will try to play the "American support" card. "If Pashinyan crows that he deserves credit for the recognition of the genocide by the Americans, then the position of the prime minister can strengthen. Although it is obvious that neither he, nor the Armenian diaspora in the US has anything to do with it." Explained Mirzayan.

Mirzayan warns Armenia not to be seduced by promises of US support: "The USA can 'obedience train' Turkey, but won’t commit to Armenia in the Armenian-Turkish confrontation". In turn, Moscow should not condemn Biden, but it should closely monitor the developing situation, understanding the danger that the loss of Armenia portends:

"The loss of Armenia for Russia threatens the weakening of the country’s influence in the South Caucasus and [could] complicate any actions in the Middle East."[7]


Gevorg Mirzayan (Source: Radiokp.ru)

 

[1] Nytimes.com, April 24, 2021.

[2] Tass.ru, April 26, 2021.

[3] Vedomosti.ru, April 29.

[4] Ria.ru April 29.

[5] Vz.ru, April 29, 2021.

[6] T.me/s/alexey_pushkov, April 25, 2021.

[7] Vz.ru, April 25, 2021.

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