What happened
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support Thursday for Armenia’s crackdown on the opposition following a disputed February presidential election. The U.S. and other Western nations called for Armenia to lift emergency rule after weekend clashes between protesters and security forces killed eight people. (AP via Google)

What the commentators said
“Small, complicated and with names that are hard to spell,” said The Economist in an editorial, “Armenia has long been out of the mainstream of world news.” But what happens there affects the region, including Russia. A crackdown is no solution to the “underlying problems” of “corruption, low living standards, and an economic blockade by Azerbaijan and Turkey because of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian-populated enclave inside Azerbaijan that was conquered by Armenia in 1994.” Russia and the West will have to work together for the stability everybody wants.

“This is not a case of pure democratic virtue against pure authoritarian evil,” said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration). The vote was reasonably fair, although the vote count giving ruling-party candidate Serge Sargsyan an “overwhelming victory” was questionable. But opposition candidate and former president Levon Ter-Petrossian has a history of crushing demonstrations and “electoral manipulations” himself. Still, President Bush and other Western leaders need to speak up and tell Armenia it will “jeopardize future relations” if it keeps up this “unacceptable” behavior.

“A strong and unequivocal condemnation of the violence” is the least the West can do, said Levon Ter-Petrossian, who is under house arrest, in The Washington Post (free registration). “If these steps are not taken, Armenians will draw two very undesirable conclusions: that peaceful and lawful means of political struggle are ineffective and pointless, and that the West cares about democracy only when it is politically expedient to do so.”