The West Foments Chaos in the Caucasus 

Wedged between Russia, Iran, and Eastern Europe the Caucasus are considered a crossroads in more ways than one. That can be an uncomfortable place to be nowadays as great power games pick up steam. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and if we throw Türkiye in here as well, are all struggling in their own ways to navigate the pressure cooker.

While Armenia is allowing itself to be used by Western powers to destabilize the region, Georgia is attempting to stop Western meddling. Türkiye, too, is now considering clamping down on “foreign interests” in the country while Azerbaijan looks sturdy for now.


For now, Armenia, whose government appears to have abdicated in favor of Western interests, looks to be the least stable and the most likely source of regional turmoil. What’s happening there is either the result of sheer incompetence or there are ulterior motives at hand. The latest from the West-led peace process has Armenia giving up more occupied land to its neighbor Azerbaijan with nothing in return, which continues a recent trend.

Many Armenians are predictably enraged by the deal, and large protests led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan are continuing into a second month and demanding the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Their complaints:

During a massive rally on May 12 in Yerevan’s Republic Square, which was filled with tens of thousands of supporters, Archbishop Galstanyan articulated the movement’s stance, stating, “We are not opposed to peace, delimitation or demarcation. However, what is currently happening, with unilateral concessions forcing us to our knees, is unacceptable. There is no precedent for repeatedly giving in without guarantees against war, especially under the threat of force. We seek definitive peace, a peace that is worthy and lasting.”

We have now arrived at the point that was obvious months ago. Pashinyan government, led by the West, has humiliated itself by ceding contested lands with nothing to show for it, which is generating mass public outrage. The same happened with the region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.

Against the backdrop of the new Cold War, mediating countries began to compete for the status of the main moderator of the Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations. Yerevan began to favor the West, and talks mostly moved to Western platforms. It was during those meetings that Armenia agreed to officially recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.

Once Armenia did so (and PM Pashinyan declared so publicly), the die was cast. The region was (and is) recognized as Azerbaijani territory by the international community but was overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Armenians. Roughly 100,000 of them fled to Armenia after Azerbaijan blockaded the region for months and then moved militarily to assert control in September – an operation that resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Despite moving the negotiation process under the guidance of the West and publicly recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as Azerbaijani territory, the Pashinyan government has sought to lay all the blame for its loss at the feet of Russia. And Pashinyan now largely refuses to participate in summits with Russia.

There has also been a step-by-stp poisoning of ties with Russia from Armenia’s side, including “freezing” its participation in the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, not allowing the head of the Russian Society for Friendship and Cooperation with Armenia into the country, and joining the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The ICC, which much of the world views as no more than a political tool of the West, has an outstanding arrest warrant for Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. That now means that if Putin were to visit Armenia he should face arrest there. Moscow called the ratification by Yerevan a “hostile act.” It’s certainly interesting timing on Armenia’s part considering the statute came into effect all the way back in 2002. The souring of ties culminated in Russia recalling its ambassador to Armenia on May 24.

As negotiations continue on disputed territory, Armenia is negotiating from a position of severe weakness. Azerbaijan enjoys military superiority, Armenia has thrown away its Russian security blanket, its new friends in the West don’t have the capabilities to effectively intervene and they’re also reliant on Azerbaijan natural gas.

And so we have a Western-led peace process in which Azerbaijan demands more and gets it.

The result is a humiliated, angry population in Armenia while the government tries to shift all the blame onto Russia. That seemed to work for a time in the aftermath of Nagorno-Karabakh, but Armenians by and large are no longer buying it. This much is obvious:

To what end, though? Just to set another bonfire in Russia (and Iran’s) backyard? The fears of other countries are that the West’s ultimate designs are to make a bloody mess of logistics through the Caucasus that are playing a major role in Asian integration. Both China-led East-West routes and Russia- and India-led North-South routes rely on passing through the Caucasus.

That course of action would be suicide for Armenia, which is surrounded by countries interested in seeing those trade routes developed. Armenia was dependent on Russian for protection, and its economy is also mostly dependent on Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union and has been doing quite well acting as a reroute point around sanctions.

The protests in Armenia are led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanian, a senior cleric of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It’s unclear if Galstanian has enough support to force a change in government. A few rallies he headlined have reportedly drawn about 30,000 people.

Galstanian was educated in the U.K. and Canada and in recent years has risen to prominence due to his opposition to any land deals with Azerbaijan. He has the support of much of the political opposition, as well as the Sasna Tsrer organization, an extra-parliamentary force that is anti-Russian, pro-West, and has perpetrated political violence in the past.

So, while Galstanian’s opposition is clear to the course Pashinyan has the country on, where he would take Armenia should he gain more power is unclear. For example, I have yet to see Galstanian direct any criticism at Pashinyan’s puppet masters.


Under the Pashinyan government, Armenia has remained on bad terms with Azerbaijan and Türkiye, and relations with Russia have gone down the drain. The country is somewhat allied with Iran, but that is being strained by Armenia’s opening the doors to meddling from the West – including hosting military drills with the US last year.

What exactly is the strategy here – if there’s one at all? So far all that’s happening is a slow motion car crash in Armenia; meanwhile its neighbors (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Türkiye, and Russia) strengthen ties in order to fend off the Western foothold in the region.

Speaking of Georgia and Türkiye, both countries are pursuing variations of a “foreign agents” law intended to squash foreign meddling in the countries’ politics and prevent an Armenia-like situation or color revolution attempt.


New legislation in Türkiye would jail journalists and researchers working for foreign “interests.” According to Turkish Minute, that would apply to “anyone who carries out or orders research on (Turkish) citizens and institutions with the aim of acting against the security or the political, internal or external interests of the state, on the orders or in the strategic interests of a foreign organization or state.”

Those convicted would face three to seven years in prison. Since the 2016 coup attempt in Türkiye, tens of thousands of people suspected of links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen have been arrested, more than 140,000 fired or suspended from their jobs and nearly 3,000 sentenced to life in jail.

The US has refused to extradite Gulen who has always denied involvement in the coup attempt. The newly proposed foreign interests law could be a sign that despite the massive crackdown on Gulenists, Turkish officials still fear that Western NGOs are attempting to destabilize the country.

The latest “coup” intrigue in Türkiye revolves around high-ranking police officials allegedly attempting to ensnare members of Erdogan’s ruling coalition in graft probes. Of course, the possibility exists that the politicians are indeed corrupt and labeling any investigation of them as a coup attempt and arresting the officers is a way to make the investigations go away. In recent years Gulenists have frequently been accused of targeting officials by eliciting fabricated statements from “eyewitnesses.”

Türkiye joins a handful of other countries and breakaway regions also working towards foreign agents laws:

The usual criticisms are being aired about Türkiye’s proposed law – that it would be a blow to rights and freedoms and take a toll on press and civil society. That take isn’t necessarily wrong; the law could be used to crack down on legitimate criticism.

At the same time, what is government expected to do when a certain country or bloc of countries use this openness to fund foreign organizations to destabilize the country from within and attempt color revolutions?


That’s what’s happening in Georgia, which just passed new restrictions on NGOs. Despite the law’s enactment, the tense situation is far from over as Western governments and NGOs are now expected to double down on efforts to topple the government in Tbilisi, and chances are it will get even uglier than it already is:

Zourabichvili is also promising to hold a referendum on the pursuit EU membership.

“We must prepare a real referendum. This energy that is in you today should be spent on collecting signatures and bringing them to me. I will sign the order for the referendum – do we want a European future or Russian slavery,” she said.

The Georgian law requires NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from foreign sources to register as organizations “carrying the interests of a foreign power.” It should be noted that the US has its own Foreign Agents Registration Act, and that Georgia’s law does not mean that these NGOs cannot operate; they just must register.

Tens of thousands of Georgians have protested over the government’s new law for days, claiming it is part of a pattern of assault against human rights in the country. Proponents say it is necessary to preserve the country’s sovereignty from constant meddling from the West. The Georgian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili who is a major kingmaker in Georgian politics says that the “global party of war” interferes with Georgia’s interests.

One of Ivanishvili’s fiercest critics is the incarcerated former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who accuses Ivanishvili of having him arrested.

In 2008, Saakashvili who was backed by the western NGOs and believed Georgia was soon to join NATO and that the alliance would have his back, started a war by bombing the breakaway region South Ossetia. Russia intervened and in five days Georgia was driven out of Ossetia.

Georgia is still mending ties with Russia, and as the West accelerates its efforts in former USSR countries, politicians and the oligarch Ivanishvili likely don’t want a repeat of 2008. That being said, they don’t claim to be “anti-West;” they just don’t want to be used as a battering ram against Russia.

Even Ivanishvili has said, “with sovereignty and dignity intact, by 2030, Georgia will join the EU.”

Yet, that begs the question: on those terms, would the EU even want them?

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  1. JohnA

    “Even Ivanishvili has said, “with sovereignty and dignity intact, by 2030, Georgia will join the EU.”

    Yet, that begs the question: on those terms, would the EU even want them?”

    What has the EU to do with any wanting? The EU politicians are US poodles and will do what the US wants and tells them to do. If the US wants Georgia in the EU, purely to spite Russia, despite the country being far from any EU border, the EU will simply say yes sir, three bags full sir!”.

    1. hk

      The question is, I wonder, if there will be an EU by 2030, at least a version that’s worth joining.

    1. NYT_Memes

      “That tweet…” By comparison, did JFK get a similar “consultation”? Just a thought, but I doubt it.

      1. digi_owl

        Nah, he already pissed off enough people by denying air support at the Bay of Pigs and sacking Dulles.

  2. Dave Hansell

    “Armenia’s imports from Russia have gone from around $100 mn per month before the invasion to $1.2 tn per month now.”

    Is the $1.2 trilion per month a typo? Is a small State like Armenia really on track to spend over $13 Trillion a year on imports from Russia alone?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Ignacio

      Yeah possibly a typo. May have it gone from $100mn to $120mn monthly.

      Now that the EU has become some kind of vassal geostrategic alliance which doesn’t give a damn on the citizens i want a “Spadiós” process.

    2. jsn

      The chart indicates 100 mn to 1.2 tn also.

      Is it dollars or local currency using the dollar symbol?

      Or is it massive transhipment of Russian exports to launder through sanctions?

      1. Revenant

        The chart indicates a jump from $100m to $1,200m, i.e. $1.2 billion (that a US billion, not $1.2 billion in historic French or British usage, which was $1.2 trillion US!)

    3. Hickory

      Agreed, seems like a typo. Still a massive increase allowing some skimming for sanctions workarounds. I wonder how much of that stays in the country.

  3. Mr. Woo

    Robin Brooks mixes up tn and bn in his tweet. Pet peeve of mine as moving the decimal point three places is important as more people will read the text than the graph

    1. britzklieg

      Well, since you’ve opened the door to pet peeves… and before I continue with my observation please know that i think Conor and his essays are fantastic and am so appreciate that Yves has found another compelling voice for NC, but…

      The formal function, in logic, of the phrase “beg the question” is quite the opposite of how it has come to be used by most. Indeed, in its original meaning it is a splendid and linguistically economical way to point out circular reasoning, i.e. to assume the conclusion – which illustrates how posing a particular question can be manipulative and destructive to reasoned argument by implying that one side of the argument should be dismissed, should not even be considered.

      Yes, I understand that language changes over time and that the phrase, as used to mean providing an opportunity to ask the question, is roundly accepted but at a time when journalism, more often than not, “assumes the conclusion” which the writer wants the reader to reach, it’s unfortunate to have lost its formal meaning to the more pedestrian usage. IMHO.

      1. Mr. Woo

        In Denmark we officially recognize incorrect uses of words and phrases if enough people use it incorrectly. Fx bjørnetjeneste (a bear favour) used to mean a favour that did not actually benefit someone, deriving from a fable where a bear wants to swat a fly off the face of his master, but thereby accidentally kills him. Nowadays it just means doing someone a large favour (a bear sized favour), because that’s how people use the phrase.

        1. vao

          “Bärendienst” in German, but the expression keeps its original meaning of making a favour that turns out to be detrimental to the recipient.

  4. K.M.

    The West is fomenting Chaos everywhere. Even at the pinnacle of its glory its chaos did not work or rather it backfired, let alone now that it is in decline.

  5. The Rev Kev

    It seems to be the modus operandi of the west to run around and set countries on fire, especially if they border countries that oppose the west. You see it in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, the Ukraine, Syria, etc. and here in the Caucusus. During the war in Syria, Putin remarked that he was tired how Russia had to run around and put out all the fires that the US had started. I’m trying to see what benefit Armenia may have for siding with the west but am seeing none. In the same way that the west forced Russia and China to come together into full time partners, the same process seems to be happening in the Caucus where all the countries that border Armenia – along with Russia, are coming together before they end up with a burning failed state in their midst. And as far as Georgia is concerned, they know from harsh experience that if they fully lined up with the west, that they would be used up and left spinning in the wind like back in 2008. Can’t wait to see how the Ukrainians react when the west eventually abandons them to go with their next project in Taiwan. It will be a study.

  6. Balan Aroxdale

    Georgia is still mending ties with Russia, and as the West accelerates its efforts in former USSR countries, politicians and the oligarch Ivanishvili likely don’t want a repeat of 2008. That being said, they don’t claim to be “anti-West;” they just don’t want to be used as a battering ram against Russia.

    It speaks a lot to the present level of western statecraft when you have foreign leaders pleading “I want to join your bloc; please stop destroying me!”. Our modern Melian dialog now begins with “Surrender AND be destroyed”. How long can this go on?

  7. Yaiyen

    I think Galstanian is wolf in sheep clothes. You can see from his ally that Armenia will go full speed ahead with west if some how he get elected. Georgia push to eu is hard to understand if they are surrounded by country’s who EU have put sanction on.

    1. Revenant

      Knowing nothing prior about the specific situation, that would be my take on it too: a Western-educated cleric raises a rabble against a weak prime minister in the name of lasting peace and no more territorial concessions but with no leverage or plan how to achieve this can only end in the mother of all territorial concessions and Western vassal status. Whether he is an innocent fool (we saw this with Syriza, if you give them the benefit of the doubt) or a cynic, that is where it will end. Pashinyan is damaged goods because of his concessions and, as only Nixon could go to China, only a new prime minister wrapped in the flag to popular acclaim can lead the final capitulation and (key part) keep the people in line (because they voted for it).

      Of course, there is an outside chance that we could be pleasantly surprised and he is a new Khomeini!

      Perhaps there is a religious dimension to the whole thing, as well, and the West wants an anti-muslim jihad by Armenians. A paranoid Christian bitter-ender hermit kingdom surrounded by Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and the Russian Causcases. Nice.

  8. Maxwell Johnston

    The president of Georgia (Salome Zourabichvili) is not simply a French citizen. She was educated at Sciences Po and then studied under ultra-cold warrior Zbig Brzezinski (he of the grand chessboard) at Columbia. Her postings as a French diplomat included Washington and NATO (Brussels), along with stints at two UN delegations (NYC and Vienna).

    Quite a background. I think no further comment is necessary.

  9. Philip RODDIS

    $1.2bn. $1.2tn pcm would make it by a long chalk the world’s largest economy.

  10. HH

    The simplest explanation for leaders of countries acting against the interests of their people is bribery. The U.S. government probably considers it a bargain to buy off people like Pashinyan.

  11. flora

    Thanks for this post.

    Your opening reminds me of Ukraine’s geographic position with regard to East vs West.

    “Wedged between Russia, Iran, and Eastern Europe the Caucasus are considered a crossroads in more ways than one. That can be an uncomfortable place to be nowadays as great power games pick up steam. ”

    Your assessment of the Caucasus reminds me that for hundreds of years the Ukraine, the borderland, has been overrun variously by Mongols, Persians, Ottomans, etc going east to west; and by Greeks, Romans, Poles, Swedes, Germans, etc going west to east.
    Not a comfortable place to be. An unfortunate geography. Turkey cannot be a direct path east to west; Turkey’s western edge ends in the sea.

  12. sausage factory

    I love the way that Zourabichvili frames the choice “A European future or Russian slavery” no acceptance of the fact that Georgia can just choose to be an independent sovereign state that makes bilateral arrangements to suit itself and its population. Of course in the West this is simply not allowed, no one can be independent from the US and its organs, The IMF, NATO, World Bank, the ICC .. nope, youre either with us or against us .. the EU shows its true allegiance when it throws its hissy fits, all signs of its waining influence, its own tawdry corruption and reliance on the corrupt security state of the US. It isnt enough that Georgia fell for this in 2008 and the US, of course, stabbed them in the back and did a runner as soon as the Russians turned up. How many Georginas want a repeat of that and how many Georgians want to be forced to join NATO? Much like in Moldova the majority of citizens do not want anything to do with NATOs machinations and manipulations and joining the EU is without any doubt, to be forced into NATO. Interesting times, the failing and flailing hegemon can only set its sites on slash and burn in the Caucasus and western Asia rather than offering anything other than crushing debt and utter subserviance to the US. Lets hope that the 10,000 NGOs in Georgia (1 for every 400 people) can be dismantled and the real desires of Georgian people be heard.

  13. Olivier

    I found the analysis in this piece rather tendentious.

    With regard to Armenia, the dispositive fact, which CG mentions but almost in passing, is Armenia’s radical military inferiority. We are regularly told on NC how Ukraine is done for and will eventually have to acquiesce to Russia’s terms, whatever they are, on account of its own military inferiority. Well, the situation is the same Armenia: having been asleep at the wheel while Azerbaijan was rebuilding and modernizing its army after its own defeat in NK long ago, Armenia has no choice but to acquiesce to Azerbaijan’s terms. It does not matter who is in office in Yerevan. And it is also true that Russia has been less than helpful in this because it has its own reasons to coddle Azerbaijan. Armenia’s courting of the West, admittedly a delusional move, may be more an act of desperation than some sinister machination out of Langley.

    With regard to Georgia, calling Salome Zourabichvili “a french woman” is both misleading and distasteful. First, she is of impeccable Georgian descent and, second, she holds the double French-Georgian nationality. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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