Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic the South Caucasus has witnessed growing Russian influence. Since the election of President Trump, the US has pursued a more nationalistic foreign policy, decreasing its involvement in several parts of the world including the South Caucasus. The EU was active in the region through its Eastern Partnership initiative, however, due to growing internal problems, such as Brexit, rise of right-wing populism and the debt crisis, the EU had neither the willingness, nor the capacities to put the region at the top of its foreign policy agenda. Meanwhile, Russia’s assertiveness was making efforts to regain its influence, viewing the South Caucasus as a part of its “legitimate sphere of influence”.
COVID-19 will most probably accelerate the main trends already underway, including the intensification of US – China antagonism and the transformation of the world order from a unipolar to a multi polar system. Thus, we have to prepare for a more chaotic and volatile world. Meanwhile, economic globalization will become more regional, enhancing the significance of regional and macro-regional blocs.
Armenia should emphasize on institution building, meanwhile actively seeking to exploit its position as the only “pure democratic state” within the Eurasian Economic Union, trying to convince Russia that its involvement in the EAEU gives credit to the Russian led bloc. Most probably, for at least a mid-term perspective, Russia will be the dominant player in the South Caucasus, and Armenia should continue its efforts to claim that the 2018 Revolution had no geopolitical connotations.
Benyamin Poghosyan, CivilNet’s host of the “Crossroad” project, discusses these issues with Dr. Anna Ohanyan, the Richard B. Finnegan Distinguished Professor of International Relations at Stonehill College, and a two times Fulbright Scholar in Armenia. Her co-edited volume with Laurence Broers on the Armenian Velvet Revolution will be out this September.
CivilNet thanks the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) for their cooperation and support.