The Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday strongly criticized NATO for attempting to cut off Armenia and Azerbaijan from their alliance and cooperation with Russia.

By inviting Azerbaijan and Armenia to the NATO summit, the West wants to cut them off from cooperation with Russia, Andrey Nastasin, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said at a news conference on Wednesday. He said this was “another attempt by the Americans to spread their destructive influence in all regions of the world.”

Amid rising tensions between Yerevan and Moscow, it was announced last week that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has invited Armenia and Azerbaijan to a NATO summit in Washington later this month. Armenia’s Foreign Ministry said Yerevan had accepted the invitation and would attend. Baku has so far made no indication that it will participate.

The spokesman also criticized the Baltic states for promoting NATO’s agenda, saying that these countries “are pursuing a destructive policy in the South Caucasus.

This comes after Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan visited Estonia earlier this week and later met with leaders of other Baltic states in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Nastasin, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the Baltic countries “are doing their utmost to cut Armenia off from Russia, remove it from our shared integration mechanisms, including the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and integrate (Armenia) with a Euro-Atlantic perspective.”

He also accused NATO of arming Armenia and helping Yerevan rebuild its defenses while NATO diplomats visit Baku to maintain relations.

Nastasin said NATO’s approaches “further increase tensions between the two republics, do not contribute to the Armenian-Azerbaijani talks and provoke an arms race in the region.”

He reiterated Moscow’s position that the universal basis for the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains the tripartite agreements of 2020 and 2022. Moscow is convinced that stability and security in the South Caucasus can and should be ensured by the countries of the region, within the framework of the principle of regional accountability.

“The imposition of their ‘prescriptions’ by Euro-Atlantic officials, who are far removed from the nuances of the region, will lead to new dividing lines in the South Caucasus and will have devastating consequences not only for the region, but also for pan-Eurasian security. We hope that Baku and Yerevan understand this well,” Nastasin said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk said his country still considers Armenia an ally, citing the continued and rapid growth of trade between the two countries.

“We assume that Armenia is our ally,” Overchuk told Russian media. “And we see that we have very positive economic relations. Our (2023) trade turnover with Armenia is $7.3 billion. If we look at the statistics for January-April (2024), it has doubled compared to (the same period of) last year.”

Overchuk went on to praise Yerevan’s “very constructive contribution” to the Eurasian Economic Union, the Russia-led trading bloc made up of Russia, Armenia and three other former Soviet states. Earlier this year, Armenia assumed the rotating presidency of the EEU.