The Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday (7 July). This was the third face-to face meeting of the two leaders in six months. The two men also speak on the phone often.
“I want to congratulate you again – this time in person – on the election results”, Putin told Pashinyan. “I believe this is important to everyone, primarily, of course, to Armenia and the Armenian people, given that difficult, pressing and sensitive issues like these – pending issues – can only be resolved if there is an opportunity to work effectively. To achieve this, the most important thing is that people trust you. You have secured this trust, judging by the election results. This is very important; indeed, this is the most important thing. When the country is going through difficult times, this is, perhaps, the most significant need for further development. So, please accept my sincere congratulations.”
The wishes were genuine. The Kremlin was concerned that political turmoil in Armenia may lead to the unravelling of the complex web of arrangements that it is putting in place in the South Caucasus on the basis of the 10 November trilateral agreement (Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan) which ended the 44-day Karabakh War. A convincing election victory by Pashinyan’s party has greatly reduced that risk. But there is no shortage of problems on the horizon.
Whilst Russian troops deployed to Karabakh within hours of the signing of the 10 November statement, other aspects of the declaration, including the process of opening up land communications, have proven more difficult, with both sides giving different interpretations to what has been agreed. With Pashinyan safely back in government after the recent elections in Armenia, Putin is hoping for a swift resolution of all outstanding issues.
But whilst “Putin’s peace” between Armenia and Azerbaijan has so far held, the Kremlin must be under no illusion that it will be plain sailing going forward. There is still a lot of work to be done before Armenia and Azerbaijan commence the journey for peace and reconciliation, and the Russians may even have their own reasons for not wanting that process to move too swiftly. The alternative is tight management of the current arrangements, and that may mean many more Putin-Pashinyan meetings to come.