To update a phrase from Bismarck, Russia has the appetite of a jackal, only with rotten teeth.
In his time, in the 1870’s, Bismark was actually referring to Italy as the skittish beast of prey. But the phrase fits Russia so well today — especially along its southern flank…that we can visualize the fragile teeth on its lower jaw, as it were.
One tooth — Armenia — is falling out, the other tooth — its naval facilities — has crumbled away.
In the case of Armenia, the presence of 85 American soldiers is giving Putin heartburn.
Eighty five American soldiers and 175 Armenians are taking part in a joint military exercise called Eagle Partner 2023. The aim is to prepare for cooperation in international peacekeeping missions.
Armenia is no stranger to peacekeeping. It was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity, in 301 AD. It gained the independence to be able to make that decision five hundred years earlier, and after vicissitudes it regained that freedom in 884 AD. But by the 1900’s it was part of the Russian Empire, and stayed under the Soviet Union until that structure dissolved. Since then, it declared independence in the great Soviet melt-down in 1991. It joined the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union — which has been disintegrating ever since.
Armenia’s disappointment with Russian leadership comes from its conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Nagorno-Karabakh’s regional legislature passed a resolution in 1988 declaring its intention to join the Republic of Armenia, despite its official location within Azerbaijan. Russia has not been able to halt the fighting.
It has gotten so bad that Armenia refused to host military drills this year by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a Russian-led alliance of post-Soviet countries. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that Russia had failed to protect Armenia against what he called continuing aggression from Azerbaijan.