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A Friend Full of Gas

The average observer, a thinking consumer of openly accessible political and economic news, will be mystified by the Russian-Armenian natural gas problem. In the public consciousness, the word “gas” has been associated lately with political pressure on Ukraine, and that pressure is logical, whether it is correct from the point of view of international relations or not. Some say that the Russians are acting unconscionably to take revenge with their energy resources on the Orange Ukrainian democrats who defeated pro-Kremlin forces the year before last. Others approve of that revenge because the overly independent should be put in their places by reminding them whose hand turns the valve. But no one, not even the most naive, fails to understand the essence of what is going on.

The situation in Armenia is completely different. Unlike loudly independent Ukraine and arrogant Georgia, Armenia has had an unswervingly pro-Russian orientation. A faithful friend might expect an allowance to be made in the form of cheap gas in light of the friendly feelings and good behavior. But then again… It turns out that obedient Armenia is being charged as much as willful (even pro-American!) Georgia. Can’t Russia be cajoled somehow? It could do Armenia a good deed if it wanted to.

Of all the possible explanations for Russia’s behavior, one cynical one sticks in the mind. It is that Armenia has been used to lend credence to the official Russian account of the causes of the gas war with Ukraine. That account sounds like a quotation from a Hollywood action film. “Nothing personal. It’s only business.” Please. They are even charging their friends money. It’s the law of the market and nothing to do with the Ukrainian Orange. Armenia was just the most convenient demonstration model. They even offered it credit for the more expensive gas, just as they did Ukraine. And if you don’t want credit, then pay with property like our real friends the Belarusians…

Leaving aside ethical fine points, the plan makes sense. But, as it often happens with Russian foreign policy strategies, they failed to reckon with at least one possible scenario that will completely foil their plans. What will happen just as soon as that pipe from Iran stretches onto Armenian soil? Russia had a faithful strategic ally, whose faithfulness was controlled by Gazprom. Now there will be one more offended and annoyed state in the Caucasus independent of Gazprom. It is well known that there are those who are always ready to soothe the offended and even help them materially. In any case, Armenia already has a plan for individual partnership with NATO and money is already on its way from America.

by Alexander Kabakov

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