Three to Tango?: Medvedev’s Turkey visit spurs talk on regional alliances

Three to Tango?: Medvedev’s Turkey visit spurs talk on regional alliances


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, as he was supposed to, gets a red carpet reception in Turkey upon arriving May 11

Closer Russo-Turkish relations and the latest indications that these relations may grow from economic cooperation into strategic partnership have caused concern among political circles in Armenia.

While there seems to be a relative consensus in Armenia that Yerevan will not yet lose its ‘monopoly’ as Russia’s most important strategic partner in the region, some still urge caution and call on Yerevan to be ready for possible surprises of the emerging Russo-Turkish tandem.

The talk of that sort intensified ahead of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s official visit to Turkey on May 11-12 focusing on energy projects and, as announced in the press, addressing some regional tangles, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

As the Turkish press writes, the visit is likely to become a crucial one. And Medvedev himself has stated that “Russia and Turkey are becoming strategic partners.”

Turkey, as believed by experts, expects Russia to help it get engaged in the ongoing international mediatory effort on Nagorno Karabakh as part of the OSCE Minsk Group with a far-reaching objective of promoting a settlement of the conflict that would favor its regional cousin Azerbaijan. Also, they say, Ankara hopes that the Kremlin will exert pressure on the Armenians to withdraw from the districts around Nagorno Karabakh currently controlled by the unrecognized republic’s military.

Representatives of the governing coalition in Armenia are unanimous that Russia will not make any concessions or moves at the expense of Armenia.

“Russia will not imperil its relations with its strategic partner,” Republican Party lawmaker Rafik Petrosyan told ArmeniaNow, invoking the strong bonds that currently exist between Moscow and Yerevan.

Meanwhile, many recall history when in 1920-1921 a similar Russian-Turkish rapprochement culminated in a Lenin-Ataturk arrangement that cost Armenia its historical lands of Kars, Surmalu, Ardahan, Nakhijevan and Artsakh (Karabakh).

Pro-opposition political analyst Marine Ghazaryan cites Medvedev’s article in the Turkish newspaper Zaman in which the Russian leader voices “deep respect for the great reformist Mustafa Kemal Ataturk” and calls the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations (between Leninist Russia and Kemalist Turkey) ‘an important date’. (Read the full article here:

“For us it is ‘important’ by the losses [that we suffered],” said Ghazaryan, talking to ArmeniaNow. “And today, 90 years later, the Russians sit down with the Turks to decide our fate, and our authorities see nothing dangerous in it.”

Political analyst and Turkey expert Artak Shakaryan also remembers that the ‘Russian-Turkish embraces’ did not have a good outcome for Armenia at the beginning of last century and that one needs to exercise caution. He thinks, however, that the current ‘embraces’ contain no major risk yet.

“The Armenian-Russian relations have stronger and deeper roots than the Russian-Turkish relations, and I don’t think that Russia will trade its long-term interests and relations with Armenia for short-term ties with Turkey,” Shakaryan said in an ArmeniaNow interview.

However, an expert for the Armenian Center for Political and International Studies Ruben Mehrabyan says that closer Russian-Turkish relations should be definitely a matter of concern for Armenia.

“The Karabakh conflict is a powerful weapon for Russia to maintain its positions and influence in the region. However, I do not rule out that one day other priorities will emerge for Russia and in that case Armenia will face serious challenges,” said Mehrabyan, adding that the only way for Armenia to meet these challenges is by becoming a truly democratic country.