Rally in Yerevan: Protesting Russia’s ‘Bullying’ or Loss of Hope to Live in EU Some Day?

About 1,000 people eportedly participated in a Dec. 2nd protest staged in Yerevan against Putin's visit to Armenia. Is that significant? It doesn't seem to be if compared to Kiev, where 100,000-150,000 have protested Yanukovych's snubbing of EU and crackdown on peaceful rally – that means every 304th-456th Ukrainian has taken part in the Kiev protests compared to every 3,000th Armenian in Yerevan. But if compared to "hundreds" or "thousands" who protested Gul's visit to Yerevan in 2008, the Friday rally does appear to signal a formidable discontent with Russia's policy vis-a-vis Armenia amongst Armenians. After all, Turkey has always been perceived by the majority of Armenians as an arch enemy while Russia has been seen as an ally or even a protector. More importantly, this seems to have been the biggest 'anti-Russian' protest in Armenia since early 1990s. So it was a significant development.
And, yet, I think it is not as much Russia's policies per se that the Yerevan protesters are protesting against, but rather loss of hope that they might be living in EU or 'almost EU' one day. Not that there has been any real chance that hope would be fulfilled anytime soon. But loss of hope is still traumatizing.
As for Russia, yes, it has applied pressure, but it has done so in pursuit of its vital national interests, so its behavior is not irrational, and it is also offering compensation, including the recent statement by the commander of the 102nd base on how it can participate if war over Karabakh resumes as well as economic perks, such as discounts for gas. Has EU offered at least comparable economic carrots or pledged buy more from Armenia to compensate if Russia punishes Armenia economically? I doubt that that EU has been more generous to Armenia than to Ukraine, for which, as Bill Clinton's ex-aide Weiss quipped, "what the EU has come up with is a kind of partnership on the cheap." That is, of course, understandable, since Germany and other net contributors to the EU budget are already upset with all thecash they have to fork over to poorer EU neighbors (including to Poland, which was the biggest net recipient of EU funds last year, but where political scientists have the gall to essentially call on Germany and other net contributors to cough up more generous compensation to EU association candidates to bankroll Poland's integrationist aspirations – see “Europe Needs Ukraine,” Slawomir Sierakowski, New York Times, November 19, 2013. ) but it doesn't change reality on the ground for Armenia. Yes, EU is much closer to ideal organization where interests of smaller nations and rights of individuals would be fully respected, but any state puts vital security and economic interests first and Russia has shown greater willingness and capability to either accommodate or undermine these interests of Armenia in comparison to EU.
That said, I think the Armenian government has made a mistake by failing to conduct an open debate on all pros and cons of integration choices and then putting the issue to vote.


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