During the last few years, different Russian officials have suggested numerous times that the RA Government should neutralize “non-governmental organizations that hinder Armenian-Russian friendship”, enhance control over NGOs, and even make legislative changes in order to facilitate control over the activities of the NGOs. Even if we put aside the fact that from the diplomatic point of view, such suggestions are unacceptable interference in the internal developments of another country and remind of KGB practices, we cannot help asking the question on what the reason of Kremlin’s anger at the Armenian civil society is.
The Armenian media field is much freer than that of the three EAEU founding members, namely, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. And it is freer than the media in Kyrgyzstan. This means that there is a certain amount of objective reporting of Russian-Armenian relations and EAEU integration processes in Armenia.
This, in turn, suggests that there are anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia as was the case after April of 2016 when wide public discontent over arms trade between Russia and Azerbaijan forced the Armenian Government to make some diplomatic statements and complain against such anti-Armenian policy of Kremlin. Hence, the freedom of media in Armenia creates obstacles for the “smooth” implementation of Russia’s regional policy.
Apart from coverage of Russia’s anti-Armenian actions, the Armenian media can also have influence on Russia’s domestic audience (the Armenian part) by providing alternative reporting on Kremlin while Vladimir Putin’s government has spared no effort to establish a respective legislative field for strict control over Russian media.
Organizations Involved in Enhancement of Democracy
Most of the organizations “hindering” Russian-Armenian relations are involved in enhancement of democracy in Armenia, namely human rights protection, development of political pluralism and civic consciousness. Why is Kremlin particularly concerned about democracy? The answer is simple. The less democratic Armenia is, the more homogeneous EAEU members will be.
Except for Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, EAEU countries are completely authoritarian, i.e. decisions are made solely on the presidential level and public opinion is of no importance. This, in turn, “facilitates” decision-making and their legitimization, especially decisions contrary to public interest.
Political systems of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia work in favor of the ruling authorities and their interests. In Armenia’s and Kyrgyzstan’s case, the society has some levers to at least complicate and reduce adoption and implementation of undesirable decisions. It is considerably easier to reach an agreement or impose a decision on authoritarian politicians than find a common language with the citizens of those countries. Hence, existence of organizations involved in strengthening democracy and civic consciousness is not in Russia’s interests.
Russian media and politicians try to label these organizations as Western spies and servants of the West, trying to create negative attitude among the Armenian society (especially the older generation that has instinctive distrust towards the West because of Soviet propaganda) towards those organizations.
Moreover, as it became obvious in August last year, when head of Analytical Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation Stepan Grigoryan was denied entry to Russia, Kremlin has a black list and monitors the activity of Armenian civil society members one by one, ready to take measures against any organization that might be unpleasant for it.
Thus, we can expect that Russian propaganda and repressions against the Armenian civil society will continue and become stricter on any suitable occasion.
“Union of Informed Citizens”