US-EU-Armenia summit in Brussels marks the beginning of breaking the status quo in the South Caucasus


US-EU-Armenia summit in Brussels marks the beginning of breaking the status quo in the South Caucasus

Brussels results

On April 5, Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and USAID Chief of Staff Samantha Power met in Brussels. The main outcome of the summit was to reaffirm support for Armenia's sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity and socio-economic sustainability.


The final joint release emphasized the EU and US’ support for a stable, peaceful, secure, democratic and prosperous future for Armenia and the region. To this end, the signatories aim to expand cooperation, strengthening Armenia's resilience, political reforms, economic development and humanitarian assistance. While also expanding partnerships in areas such as mobility, governance, law enforcement, trade, communications, agriculture, energy and technology. To support these key areas, the EU and the U.S. plan to form a closer cooperation with Armenia.

The EU and the US intend to provide additional assistance to help Armenia reduce risks, diversify trade, and strengthen economic and institutional resilience. The US plans to provide $65 million in development assistance to Armenia in fiscal year 2023. In order to strengthen the new Armenia-EU partnership agenda, the latter will launch a €270 million program "Armenia's Resilience and Growth 2024-2027." The EU and the US also welcomed Armenia's commitment to improve interconnectedness with the outside world, including the  “Peace Crossroads” initiative, which will promote shared prosperity and diversify the regional economy and trade.

Overall, it is not the numbers of US and EU financial support provided to Armenia that are of primary importance. Although the foes of the Brussels summit from Azerbaijan, Russia and... Armenia expectedly focused on its "negligible" figures. What is important is the very readiness of Armenia's partners to make efforts to assist our country in the imminent process of its economic and energy diversification. A process that is to complement the military-political diversification that has already taken place. Within the framework of which the volume of Armenia's military-technical cooperation with Russia has decreased from 90% to 10% and is rapidly approaching zero. Armenia currently has arms contracts with five countries totaling $3 billion. These are France and India, the other countries are not named for obvious reasons.

Furthermore, within the framework of the Economic and Investment Plan launched in 2021, the EU has already attracted more than 550 million euros of investments in Armenia through grants, private and public investments. In total, the EU is going to invest 2.6 billion euros in Armenia by 2026 within the framework of this program. But what’s more important are the agreements reached at the end of Brussels; for example, with the same USA on optimization of opportunities for trade in technologies, increase of cooperation in the field of cyber security and expansion of technological infrastructure. The US is ready to support diversification of the Armenian energy sector, exploration of new peaceful nuclear energy options that prioritize nuclear safety and the highest non-proliferation standards. They are also committed to improving Armenia's food security, as well as facilitating the flow of agricultural products across Armenia's borders.

Most importantly, the US and EU voiced their readiness to support Armenia in addressing current problems: support and social integration of more than 100,000 internally displaced persons and refugees from ethnically cleansed Artsakh. Washington and Brussels expressed readiness to continue to support Armenia's efforts to provide housing, employment opportunities and psychosocial support to those in need, as well as to ensure decent living conditions for IDPs. Since 2020, the EU and the U.S. have already allocated 38.4 million euros 31 million dollars respectively for these purposes.


Reaction in the region

These are the brief results of the Brussels summit, which can be characterized as the beginning of breaking the status quo established in the South Caucasus as a result of Azerbaijani aggression in the fall of 2020. This is at least evidenced by the reaction of the participating countries in the 44-day conspiracy against the Armenian people: Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey. "The US-EU-Armenia trilateral meeting is directed against cooperation in the South Caucasus and aims to isolate Azerbaijan. The plan prepared for the South Caucasus may lead to a great catastrophe in the future," Baku said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry characterized the Brussels meeting as yet another attempt by the collective West to drag the South Caucasus into a geopolitical confrontation. "It is obvious that the West wants to turn Armenia into a tool for the realization of its extremely dangerous designs in the South Caucasus. We know that Washington and Brussels – under ephemeral promises – seek Armenia's withdrawal from the CSTO and EAEU, withdrawal of the Russian military base and border guards. We urge the Armenian leadership not to fall for the deception of the West and avoid choosing a path that could lead to a security vacuum, economic problems and deterioration of living conditions of the population. The financial support offered by Brussels is not comparable to the multi-billion dollar benefits Armenia receives from cooperation with Russia, the EAEU and the CIS," the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.

"The initiative, which does not include Azerbaijan, will pave the way for turning the South Caucasus into a zone of geopolitical confrontation. At a time when the success of the historic opportunity that emerged after the war in Nagorno-Karabakh to establish lasting peace and stability in the region is so close. The April 5 trilateral meeting will undermine the neutral approach that should be the basis for solving the complex problems of the region," the Turkish Foreign Ministry added.

Baku's "concern" over the Brussels meeting, which officially had nothing to do with it, was expressed by another act of aggression against Armenia. On the night of April 6, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened fire on the positions of the Armenian Armed Forces in a number of directions of the border zone in Gegharkunik, Syunik and Tavush regions. The houses of residents of the Tavush border village of Movses were also shelled. According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, these actions had a provocative purpose - to achieve a similar response from the Armenian Armed Forces. However, the latter, having assessed the situation, did not take actions contributing to further aggravation, after which the situation on the border calmed down. The Armenian Foreign Ministry gave a similar assessment of the Azerbaijani aggression, noting Armenia's disinterest in aggravating the situation in the region and calling on Azerbaijan to stop actions aimed at aggravating the situation.


Why the Brussels meeting is a breaking of the status quo

Having broken the status quo that had existed since 1994 as a result of the first Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, Azerbaijan, with the support of Russia and Turkey, established a new status quo. In the context of which it de facto collapsed the OSCE Minsk Group, squeezing out of the region and the settlement of the Karabakh conflict the co-chair states: the United States and France.

Having finally demolished the Republic of Artsakh in September 2023 through another armed aggression accompanied by ethnic cleansing, Azerbaijan and its patrons finally turned their attention to the Republic of Armenia. Their goal is nothing less than to deprive the country of sovereignty, independence and statehood. After that, to drag Armenia into the "Union State", where Putin's Russia has already succeeded in pushing Lukashenko's Belarus, yet still unable to do the same with democratic Ukraine.

Russia, of course, prior to Armenia's "voluntary" entry into the "Union State", will have to give Azerbaijan and Turkey their "share", already promised by Putin within the framework of the paper signed on November 9, 2020 on the results of the joint aggression against the Armenian people. Namely, the "Zangezur corridor", or even the entire Syunik region of Armenia. With the example of Artsakh, the Armenian people have clearly seen how Russia and Turkey first divided it into parts as a result of the 44-day war, which Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a conversation with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar did not hesitate to characterize as a "brilliant operation". After that, in September 2023, Russia, which was stuck in Ukraine, was forced to surrender, sell, give – call it whatever you like – "its" part of Artsakh to Azerbaijan, or rather to Turkey, which stands behind it. Why? apparently for the continuation of Ankara's loyalty in the Ukrainian issue. With great regret, first of all for Russia itself, this is how the Russian Foreign Ministry now imagines its own Caucasian policy.

However, at the same time, the US and France, deprived of the co-chairmanship status by Baku and Moscow, did not want to regionalize the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,and the current conflict unleashed by Azerbaijan against Armenia. Furthermore, they actively undertook to organize mediation in the negotiations on the establishment of peace between Yerevan and Baku. Such negotiations mediated by the US and EU were held in Prague, Brussels and Washington. Despite these efforts, Ilham Aliyev did everything in the direction of their failure. While agreeing to recognize Armenia's territorial integrity and finally close the issue today, tomorrow he would make new territorial claims against Armenia and abandon his own promises. This is what happened at the end of the Prague negotiations, and Aliyev did not even show up in Granada to sign the preliminary peace agreement at all.

Thus, it was the unwillingness of Putin's instigated Aliyev to solve the problem with Armenia peacefully under the auspices of the West that caused the Brussels summit in support of Armenia. Having finally realized that it is almost impossible to force Aliyev to peace through negotiations in a civilized way, Washington and Brussels decided to change the strategy. The parallel negotiations with Armenia and Azerbaijan to achieve a peaceful settlement were replaced by negotiations with Armenia alone. In efforts to strengthen Armenia, and thus breaking the current status quo; breaking the regional military, political and most importantly geopolitical balance. The Brussels summit was important, but not the first nor last steps coming from the US and EU in this direction. If one day Aliyev suddenly decides to join the negotiations with the US and the EU on an equal footing with Pashinyan, he will have the opportunity. On one condition, these negotiations must be about peace.


David Stepanian is an associate expert at the Armenian Institute of International and Security Relations.


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