Will Armenia be the next pawn to go?

This article is a translation of "Armenië de volgende pion die gaat vallen?"

In the chess game that is supposedly to end with checkmate against ‘Putin’ and regime change in Russia, a further move has been made, or so it seems. Protests against a government decision to raise electricity tariffs by around 20 percent per August 1 have erupted in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on 22 June. Since this decision has been taken at the request of the Russian corporation that owns the Armenian electricity grid, InterRAO, an explosive situation has arisen. For the boss of InterRAO, Igor Setsjin, is one of het oligarchs who have committed themselves to the fate of the Russian president. 

On the map above, which shows how Dutch secondary school children are taught the intricacies of world politics, Armenia, hemmed in between Georgia on the Black Sea and Azerbaijan on the Caspian, is pictured under the claw of the monster from the east.

The demonstrators who have occupied Yerevan’s central square according to their own statements are not anti-Russian, but that can change. For as Maidan in Ukraine and a series of comparable insurrections have demonstrated, the demonstrators need not worry that will have to face things on their own.

Ever since Armenia became independent in 1991 (and immediately got embroil in a war with neighbour Azerbaijan over the enclave, Nagorno-Karabach), more than a 100 NGOs supported by the West have established themselves in the country, among them The Choice is Yours, and organisation dedicated to monitoring elections and reporting irregularities. This organisation is being financed entirely from the US and of course it serves a noble cause. There are various others, which among other things support the propagation of freedom of information, combating corruption, and cooperation between the ‘civil society’ or Armenia and its neighbours. The National Endowment for Democracy, founded in 1983 to expand American influence in the world along these line, gives examples of Armenian NGOs funded by it. But that of course is only the tip of the iceberg because there also activities which will not get into the NED annual report.

Anyone who has ever been involved in organising a demonstration of sorts will know that a good idea is not enough to get people moving, let alone get them into street. Resistance will only emerge when a social situation becomes untenable and in Armenia it is not different. But with one-third of the population under the poverty line, mass unemployment, and large-scale embezzlement by those in power, raising the electricity rates by 20 percent is sufficient to provoke demos.

The announcement by the demonstrators that they will not vacate the square and their rejection of the offer by president Sargsyan to talk with a delegation of those occupying it, may both be authentic decisions of the demonstrators. But the NGOs would certainly have given a different advice, because that is how, according to the recommendations of the theorist behind the ‘Colour Revolutions’, Gene Sharp, you force a government onto the defensive (I discuss these and other theories in my book, The Discipline of Western Supremacy).

If in addition, water cannon is used to clear the square, the opportunity for introducing more violence also arises, something Sharp is opposed to. But other components of the Western infrastructure for influencing this sort of situation, need not share this view—as we have seen on the Maidan square.

Since January Armenia is one of the member states of the Eurasian Union launched by Russia—the others are Belarus and Kazakhstan, whilst Kyrgyzstan has joined in practice pending ratification of the treaty. A week ago India has concluded a free trade agreement with the EAU. But as far as the US (or the EU) is concerned, the EAU will not be in existence for long.

The power of Russia suggested by the map above in practice turns out to be a lot less than what is presented to Dutch schoolchildren (or to the viewers of the national news bulletin, or readers of the mainstream newspapers etc. etc.). Moscow is badly equipped to contest the forces fielded by the West. In Armenia there are five or six pro-Russian organisations which in terms of competence and level of funding measure up to the more than 100 NGOs from the West.

Even more fundamentally, there is the fact that state capitalism in Russia (or in China for that matter), places large parts of economic power in the hands of oligarchs, or those in state companies who want to become one; but political power is out of their reach, or only partially controlled.

In the West, capital rules (see for instance how corporations literally buy up US senators for the vote on fast-tracking the TTP free trade treaty in The Guardian); in Asia, such processes are much more cumbersome. Hence any buying up appears much more as what we understand as ‘corruption’. That weakness will bring forth a lot more instability, and as long the Atlantic economy does not slip into a real depression, the West will retain the upper hand in it.

Kees van der Pijl

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