Pelosi’s visit fires debate in Armenia over alliance with Russia

The US House Speaker could hardly have timed her trip better, as Yerevan questions the merits of relying on Moscow as its main security ally.

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a reputation for visiting hotspots. Her recent travels to Armenia raises debate about the country’s political allegiances | Karen Minasyan/AFP via Getty Images

BY GABRIEL GAVIN

SEPTEMBER 19, 2022 3:52 PM

YEREVAN, Armenia — Crowds lined the streets of Yerevan hours before Nancy Pelosi’s fleet of seven slick black cars pulled into the center of the Armenian capital on Sunday.

Waving American flags, thousands of people turned out to catch a glimpse of the speaker of the House of Representatives as she paid a historic visit to the Caucasian nation, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Those U.S. flags carried a significant political message about the country’s political allegiances. For years, Armenia chose to be a key strategic ally of the Kremlin, but many are now increasingly questioning whether Moscow can act as guarantor of the nation’s security against the superior firepower of neighboring Azerbaijan, which launched a massive artillery bombardment on Tuesday. Since then 135 Armenians and 77 Azeris have died in a conflict that looks at risk of breaking through a fragile ceasefire.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin mired in a war that is rapidly turning against him in Ukraine, Yerevan is finding that its appeals for help from a Moscow-led security grouping, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, are falling on deaf ears. That’s a pivotal strategic problem as the enemy in Azerbaijan is lavishly supported by Turkey, a regional military heavyweight that Yerevan associates with the genocide of the Armenian people during World War I.

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