US involvement questioned in Armenian standoff

MUSTAFA KIRIKÇIOĞLU @MKirikcioglu
ISTANBUL
Published 01.08.2016 23:31

A two-week standoff in Armenia's capital Yerevan ended Sunday after all 20 gunmen inside a police station surrendered. However, political debate has heated up in some circles over possible U.S. involvement in triggering the demonstrations. The armed attack in Yerevan, which coincided with the failed coup attempt in Turkey, in which some claim the U.S. was involved, set off massive protests across the country, left two police officers dead and many wounded, including opposition protesters. Some experts think that the two-week standoff was a power struggle between Russia and the U.S. Even though the public's focus in Armenian is in on its own government rather than outside powers, some say that the domestic unrest has more to do with Russia and the U.S. and their influences on Armenia.

A traditional key ally of Russia in the Southern Caucasus, Armenia is home to a Russian military base and has received aid in many fields from the country. The two countries are also both members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Eurasian Economic Union. After a flare up of violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh region with Azerbaijan between April 2 and April 5, some Armenians started to speak out against Russia, which has been developing closer ties with Azerbaijan and has become its main arms supplier.

The United States and some European countries have long been fighting for influence in Armenia. In the summer of 2015, the Electric Yerevan protests took place in the capital, which was also called "elektromaydan," in reference to the Europe-oriented Euromaidan protests in Ukraine. During the latest events, protesters from the group New Armenia shouted anti-Russian slogans. Misinformation about Russian snipers and Russian special forces allegedly operating alongside government forces spread.

Some people have inferred outside involvement from these developments. Eurasian analyst and journalist Eşref Yalınkılıçlı said even though it is unrealistic to claim or expect direct American involvement in the country, especially after the failed "Georgian experience," the U.S. has long used means like nongovernmental organizations, cultural organizations and financial circles to increase its influence in region. "The U.S. has very strong influence in the Armenian diaspora, and is trying to create a space for itself in Armenia with that power. Even though Russia's influence on the government is still very strong, the U.S. may push for change in politics in the context of a color revolution. Armenia has its own dynamics, and is a different country than Ukraine or Georgia, but similar to these countries in terms of the youth seeking a shift in politics. The U.S. could use this for its own purposes," he said.

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