Pro-West NGOs, Armenian unrest and the destabilization of Russia

Protesters gather during a rally against a recent decision to raise public electricity prices in Yerevan, Armenia, June 22, 2015. (Reuters/Hrant Khachatryan/PAN Photo)
A number of pro-Western NGOs in Armenia perform various functions, including the support of political processes and even overseeing foreign elections. Now, as protests against an electricity rate hike drag on, these groups are getting a second look.

Protesters, demanding the cancellation of a 17 percent electricity price hike that is set to take effect on August 1, have spent another night on the streets of Armenian capital. The demonstrators have refused to meet with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan to discuss their grievances, opting instead to continue their street sit-in that began last Friday.

In the midst of these protests, and with the Ukrainian political crisis still smoldering on Russia's doorstep, attention is being given to some of the non-governmental organizations operating in the country. Many of these NGOs have been funded by the United States ever since Armenia voted for its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“The Choice is Yours” organization, for example, which is fully funded by Washington, actually performs in the election processes outside the territory of Armenia. In December 2004, during the third round of presidential elections in Ukraine, for example, over 100 independent observers from Armenia were sent to a province in Ukraine to monitor the elections. By the time the 2010 Ukrainian elections rolled around, the number of Armenian election monitors from this US-funded group appeared to more than triple.

An official from “The Choice is Yours” NGO told Armenpress that “450 short-term observers took part in the international observation mission in the Ukrainian presidential elections.”

However, proving that Washington is directly bankrolling NGOs lobbying on behalf of American interests in the political and socio-political sectors is “practically impossible,”writes Susanna Petrosyan, in Vestnik Kavkaza. “Armenian fiscal structures have information about the finances but they do not publish it.”

Meanwhile, other NGOs with an anti-Russian bias, such as the "Committee for Support of Ukraine," pop up like weeds for a short period of time and therefore are not registered at the Justice Ministry, Petrosyan says.

READ MORE: Armenia police vow to stay put as long as protests remain peaceful

Mger Simonyan, the president of the Fund for Development of Eurasian Cooperation, believes that the number of pro-West NGOs grew significantly since Armenia joined the Russia-led Customs Union and the Eurasian Union.

“Russian and pro-Russian public organizations of Armenia are far behind their Western competitors. Armenia has 5-10 competent Russian organizations and about 200 Western ones,” says Simonyan.

Meanwhile, some observers are cautious about drawing parallels between the current Armenian unrest and the violent upheaval that occurred during last year's Maidan protests in Kiev, Ukraine, which ultimately forced out a democratically elected leader.

"If American NGOs were directly involved in the Armenian unrest we would be seeing a lot of crude street slogans talking about the need for 'good governance,' which is just another way of describing politicians supported by Washington," Dmitry Babich, a political analyst based in Moscow, told RT. "The protesters all seem to be holding homemade signs demanding economic justice, while there has been no overt blaming of Russia."

"Armenians understand that Russia is not the source of their problems," Babich said.

Dr Paul Craig Roberts, the former US assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy, who actually predicted turmoil for Armenia due to foreign meddling, also shared his thoughts with RT on the role of NGOs and how they might be used for less-than-beneficent purposes in the realm of geopolitics.

RT:So how did you see this coming, when it seemingly caught most people by surprise?

Paul Craig Roberts: Well, it’s part of the destabilization of Russia. It is part of the regime change that neoconservatives in Washington desire to accomplish. So it was obvious that Armenia would be subject to this type of thing.

READ MORE: Armenian protests resemble Ukrainian Maidan coup scenario - Russian MP

Now this particular protest, it might be innocent, it may be a legitimate protest. But even if it is, Washington will make an effort to turn it into more. And the same thing is going to happen in Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan. If possible, Washington will destabilize Kazakhstan, they would love to do that because then they can also put pressure on China.

RT:So how do you see this unrest unfolding then, given your suspicions?

PCR: Well, it’s not suspicions, it’s just fact: the National Endowment for Democracy was set up in 1983 for the explicit purpose of causing a political dissension inside of Soviet Eastern Europe. And it is the main source of funds for these non-governmental organizations that are active, that exist in every former constituent part of the Soviet Union. In fact, you have hundreds of them in Russia itself. These were created by Washington and although the Russian government is finally taking notice of them and put some constraints on them, they are there. And of course they are in Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan; and they are being used against China in Hong Kong. So they are everywhere and they are used to try and put pressure on countries that are trying to exercise an independent foreign policy from Washington.

RT:Do you find these protests to be proportional to the issue of energy price rises?

PCR: Well, it didn’t unless they made a huge increase in the electricity price that people really can’t meet; it does seem to be an unusual thing to protest.

But even if it is a legitimate protest, it does not mean that Washington won’t jump on it and turn it to its own purpose. Sometimes Washington will originate the protest, other times it waits for one to happen. And then it puts its NGOs and various bought and paid-for local politicians into the mix. We saw this perfectly in Ukraine. And it happened in Georgia. All of these so-called color revolutions are a product of the National Endowment for Democracy funding of the NGOs in those countries. And the money is also used to pay politicians who will line up with Washington, such as the current Prime Minister of Ukraine.

RT:What do authorities need to do to ease the public mood inside of Armenia?

PCR: I don’t know enough about this particular situation, but the authorities everywhere that are on the periphery of Russia and were former constituent parts of the Soviet Union, or Russia itself, they need to understand that they are targeted for disruption. Because that is part of Washington’s policy of putting pressure on Russia. That’s what going on, and people need to be aware of it. So, what they have to do: regulate these NGOs, or watch them, or terminate the foreign funding? I don’t know, but they need to be aware that is what they are used for. They are not there to teach democracy and human rights and women's rights. They are there as fifth columns for Washington.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.