Armenia’s velvet revolution poses long-term risks

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan celebrates taking office
May 8, 2018: Street protests lifted Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan into power; the regional consequences of this “color revolution” have yet to unfold (source: dpa)
  • Armenia is the strategic linchpin of Russia’s position in the South Caucasus
  • The Kremlin seems oddly unruffled by the latest “color revolution” in Yerevan
  • While the new government is staunchly pro-Russia, reforms will create tensions

Following a long period of political stability and close relations with Russia, in mid-April Armenia was suddenly thrown into political turmoil. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets. Traffic in Yerevan was paralyzed. The metro was closed, and government offices were blockaded. As it became obvious that the army would refuse to be deployed, the government was forced to resign and a new prime minister was elected. In short, it had all the trimmings of a peaceful “color revolution.”

From a Russian perspective, this was a potentially alarming development. The Kremlin has over the past decade cultivated fears of foreign-backed regime change in its neighborhood that border on paranoia. It has proven its readiness to go to war, first in Georgia and then in Ukraine, to counter “color revolutions” in those countries. And the danger of further such instances features prominently in its security doctrine.

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