Akdamar Island, one of the four islands in Lake Van and is home to a 10th century Armenian cathedral, which was recently opened to tourism. The island is a popular spot for locals and tourists.


Armenia cold-shoulders Russia and post-Soviet security umbrella


Armenia has snubbed a Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CTSO) assembly meeting, in a further sign that the country is moving away from Russia’s security umbrella.

The decision not to take part in the December 19 meeting follows Yerevan’s absence from the post-Soviet military alliance’s summit in Minsk last month.

Armenia was one of the six founding members of the CSTO in 1992, which emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union. It is based on an agreement that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Armenia has expressed an intention to move closer to the Europe Union.

Nana Shakhnazaryan, a geopolitical analyst based in London, said after the apparent end of its recent conflict with Azerbaijan: “Armenia has been searching, and with varying degrees of success, finding alternative security partners – including with France and India.”

Shakhnazaryan said the chief threat to Armenia may not be Russia but “other regional actors benefiting from Armenia being more vulnerable than ever, given Russia’s admonishment”.

Its Government “is actively distancing itself from Russia and creating opportunities with new partners”, she added.

Russia and “state-run media outlets like TASS and RÍA are taking notice” of Armenia’s search for external support, Shakhnazaryan said.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said Armenia’s Government is trying “to sit on two chairs” and so risks falling somewhere between the West and Russia.

Armenian Prime Minister Niko Pashinyan told Parliament last month his Government was “looking for other security partners”.

Pashinyan and his senior officials “have been clear about how they do not believe the CSTO has come to the support of Armenia as it engaged with Azerbaijan, even outside of the question of Nagorno-Karabakh”, Shakhnazaryan pointed out.

The “main draw” of the CSTO for Armenia, she said, was lower rates on arms supplies from other members.

Zepyur Batikyan, a Russian and Armenian language trainer at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, agreed, saying the CSTO “is a dysfunctional organisation that serves the interests of Russia only”.

Armenia has not participated in recent CSTO exercises in Kyrgyzstan or ministerial meetings of the organisation.

Instead, it has held joint military exercises with the US, and its Government has concluded arms deals with France and India.

Armenia’s defence ministry agreed military co-operation programmes on December 18 with Greece and Cyprus.

It is not as strong militarily as its neighbour Azerbaijan. Numerous arms deals with Israel and Turkey have left that country’s army in a more powerful position.

Azerbaijan also possesses vast oil and gas resources, which enables it to replenish the weapons and ammunition it depleted in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war with Armenia.

Azerbaijan would likely be capable of taking control of swathes of Armenia in a short space of time. While relations have improved and prisoners have been exchanged, there has been speculation that Azerbaijan could be eyeing further land grabs on the back of its success in Nagorno-Karabakh. That might include securing a route to its exclave the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

Connecting Azerbaijan to this area of nearly a half million people would bisect Armenia’s Syunik Province.

From the perspective of Azerbaijan and Turkey, creating such a route – often called the “Zangezur corridor” – would link Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan to Turkey and the rest of Turkic world. Russia could see benefits from such a development as it could solidify its access to the markets of the Middle East.

Minor interventions by the West have, so far, often hindered as much as they have helped Armenia.

A small civilian mission the European Union deployed in February 2023 on Armenia’s side of the border angered Russia, which in turn thwarted Western efforts to foster talks between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian leaders in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan’s swift move to seize the province in September was seen, in part, as a reaction to that initiative.