Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on Monday, November 1, 2021.
Every now and then it’s good to step out of our local political scene and take a wider view of regional and global affairs. So, this week we will talk about the following international topics:
● Georgia’s Runoff Elections
● Turkish Drones in Donbas
● Iran-Turkey Tensions
● The G20 Palooza
And for this, we’re joined by
Dr. Pietro Shakarian, who is a Lecturer in History at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan. His research focuses on the history of Eastern Armenia and the Caucasus, especially Soviet Armenia during the era of Nikita Khrushchev’s Thaw.
On Saturday October 30th, Georgia held runoff elections following its local/municipal elections earlier in the month. Early results show that the ruling party, Georgian Dream, led by prime minister Irakli Garibashvili swept the runoffs. The opposition United National Movement party led by Nika Melia, who lost the mayoral race in Tbilisi, came up short despite the return and imprisonment of their former leader and president Mikheil Saakashvili.
Georgian Dream won the mayoral races in all 5 of the major cities, - Tbilisi, Batumi, Kotaisi, Poti and Rustavi.
The Georgian Dream party has a more balanced approach to regional geopolitics than the UNM, as they take a more nuanced approach to relations with Russia, Turkey, the West, and China. The UNM is a more polarizingly pro-West party. What should we make of these election results?
How do they affect Georgia’s relations with Russia? With Armenia? With Turkey & Russia?
This past week, Ukraine’s armed forces claimed that one of their soldiers was killed from shelling by pro-Russian forces in the eastern Donbas province. Following this Ukraine deployed one of their newly acquired Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones and destroyed a pro-Russian Soviet-era Howitzer D-30.
The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, expressed concern that the drones in the hands of the Ukraine military are a “destabilizing” factor.
We’ve talked about Turkey selling its drones to as many countries as possible on Russia’s borders. These drones seem to be like a ring of fire encircling Russia, spreading from Poland and Ukraine on its western frontiers, to Artsakh and Azerbaijan in the south, and to Tajikistan and Afghanistan in Central Asia.
How does the Kremlin sleep soundly under such circumstances? Does Russia have weapons to effectively counter this new threat? Do Putin’s comments at the Valdai Club give any hints about Russia’s continuing policy on Ukraine in the coming months?
Is Russia reevaluating its policy vis-à-vis Ukraine due to this new military threat, specially within the context of a Turkish-Ukrainian cross-Black Sea alliance? Note that Ukraine has even applied for observer status in the Council of Turkic-Countries (Turkic Council).
How about Russian policy in the Caucasus?
Since the 44-day war in Artsakh, Iran has lost significant influence and leverage in the Caucasus. While its stated policy was that Armenia should return territories adjacent to Artsakh back to Azerbaijan and find a peaceful resolution, it was quite happy with the status quo because so much of the Azerbaijani border with Iran was under Armenian control, and out of reach for Azerbaijan, Turkey and Israel, to use against Iran.
That has all changed. Seeing that Armenia has not defended its interests in Artsakh, and has even allowed Azerbaijan to encroach on its territory, and threatened to block Iran from Armenia, Iran has found itself needing to respond to Aliyev’s provocations, and Turkey’s expanding sphere of influence in the region.
What are the key geopolitical interests that Iran must defend on its northern borders?
What are the main causes of tension between Iran and Turkey?
Iran and Russia have been meeting to discuss regional and military cooperation. What does a Russo-Iranian partnership in the region mean, what form can it take?
After nearly 2 years the leaders of the G20 countries, the top 20 economies of the world, met in Rome starting on Friday. Leaders from Russia, China, Mexico and Japan attended remotely.
The main topics revolved around climate change, an international minimum business tax deal, the pandemic, and the global economic recovery from the pandemic. The Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) was a topic among US and EU leaders, as were China’s rise on the international scene, and Russia, as in Russia vs. the West.
On the sidelines there were many meetings of note, let’s just mention a couple of them:
● Putin attended remotely. Putin & Johnson discussed the JCPOA.
● Biden spoke with Lavrov, Biden stressed interest in further contacts with Putin
● Lavrov and Çavusoghlu were scheduled to discuss 3+3
Impressions from the G20 summit?
That was our Week in Review show, and we hope it helped you catch up with some of the issues in and around Armenia from this past week. As always, we invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on Youtube, Like our pages and follow us on social media. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Pietro Shakarian, Georgia, Georgian Dream, United National Movement, UNM, Georgia Elections, Local elections, Municipal Elections, Mikheil Saakashvili, Irakli Garibashvili, Nika Melia, Ukraine, Donbas, Turkey, Bayraktar, TB2, Drones, Russia, Kremlin, Dmitri Peskov, Valdai Club, Armenia, Azerbaijan, South Caucasus, Corridors,North-South, East-West, G20, JCPOA, United States, Iran, Turkmenistan, Oil, Gas, Energy, Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdogan, Sergei Lavrov, Volodymyr Zelensky,