France-Armenia military cooperation jeopardizes the peace process in the South Caucasus (Op-Ed)
By Matin Mammadli
The partnership between France and Armenia is entering a new phase. In particular, the establishment of military cooperation between Paris and Yerevan brings the parties closer to each other. Although talks on France’s sale of weapons to Armenia reportedly started a while ago, in early October, both countries affirmed their determination to cooperate in the military sphere. Thus, during her visit to Armenia in early October, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna announced the conclusion of an agreement on military cooperation between Paris and Yerevan. Moreover, the top French diplomat affirmed her country’s commitment to supporting Armenia on all platforms.
On October 22, Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan paid a visit to Paris to reach an agreement on the purchase of specific types of weapons from France. During the visit to Paris, Papikyan and his French counterpart Sébastien Lecornu signed a bilateral agreement on military cooperation. According to media reports, Armenia is planning to buy air defense systems, anti-radar systems, armored vehicles, and other types of ammunition from France. Videos disseminated in the media suggest that France has also delivered Bastion armored vehicles to Armenia through Georgia. The bilateral military cooperation agreement also envisages the holding of training sessions by France for Armenian special forces. It is worth pointing out that France will send a military attaché to its embassy in Armenia.
The above-mentioned factors are testimony to France’s commitment to deepening its military cooperation with Armenia. In conclusion, France’s policy of strengthening Armenia militarily can be unequivocally considered one of the obstacles to ensuring lasting peace in the South Caucasus. Of course, if we take a formal approach to the arms deal between France and Armenia, we can say that cooperation in this field is the right of these countries. However, a thorough analysis of this issue indicates that such a move by France pushes Armenia towards revanchism and can provoke new conflicts in the region. First of all, it should be taken into account that France is arming a South Caucasus country, which had pursued its aggressive policy for almost 30 years after occupying a part of neighboring Azerbaijan’s territory. And this fact of occupation was confirmed by international documents, including the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Most importantly, Armenia has not yet abandoned its territorial claims to Azerbaijan even after the Second Karabakh War, and revanchism ideas are still prevailing in this country. Finally, the failure to solve serious problems between Armenia and Azerbaijan hinders the signing of a peace treaty. Without taking into account all this, France’s weaponization of Armenia, as mentioned above, can only aggravate the military and political situation in the region.
France’s weaponization of Armenia can be considered a part of the policy Paris has been pursuing towards the South Caucasus since the end of the Second Karabakh War. France, which still refuses to accept the new geopolitical realities that emerged in the South Caucasus after the Second Karabakh War, keeps pursuing a policy of defending Armenia and intensifying pressure on Azerbaijan.
In my opinion, the biased and inadequate policy that Paris has been striving to implement towards the region since the end of the Second Karabakh War is mainly conditioned by two key factors. The first factor is related to France’s geostrategic interests in the South Caucasus. More precisely, France is trying to fortify its presence and increase its influence in the South Caucasus through Armenia, which suffered a heavy defeat in the Second Karabakh War and was dissatisfied with its major military-political ally - Russia. The second factor is related to France’s domestic policy. Armenian diaspora and lobby groups in France significantly impact decision-making in Paris’ foreign policy. In any case, the result does not change, France, by preferring to cooperate with a defeated, weak and aggressive state in the region, poses a threat to its regional interests and hinders the peace process in the region.
Another paradoxical point in the French policy of arming Armenia is that despite all the existing contradictions, Armenia remains a military-political ally of Russia. Armenia is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), its borders are guarded by Russian soldiers, and there is the 102nd military base of Russia on the territory of Armenia. What kind of geopolitical benefits France, one of the leading states of NATO, the EU, and the West as a whole, will gain by arming Russia's military-political ally in the region also raises serious questions. On the whole, it is obvious that France's policy of deepening military cooperation with Armenia greatly complicates the situation in the South Caucasus from both geopolitical and security points of view and increases uncertainties.
Matin Mammadli, an expert at the Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center), exclusively for News.Az