ARMENIAN DEMARCHE?: DISCUSSION OF GEOPOLITICAL CHOICES ON IN YEREVAN AFTER SARGSYAN SKIPS TWO MAJOR EX-SOVIET SUMMITS

ANALYSIS | 31.05.13 | 10:53

By NAIRA HAYRUMYAN
ArmeniaNow correspondent

Discussions are on in Armenia regarding what other arguments Moscow
may use to persuade Armenia to join the emerging Eurasian Union, a
major post-Soviet reintegration effort initiated by Russian President
Vladimir Putin.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan did not attend the Russia-led
Collective Security Treaty Organization's (CSTO) summit in Bishkek,
Kyrgyzstan, on May 28, nor did he travel to Astana, Kazakhstan,
the following day for the EurAsEC summit there, which gave rise to
speculations that thus the Armenian leader showed his determination
not to bow to Russian pressure.

On May 30, while answering questions in the National Assembly,
Armenia's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shavarsh Kocharyan
reaffirmed that Armenia is going to initial Association and Deep and
Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreements with the European Union in
November, and if it joins the Russia-led Customs Union, it will not
be able to do so. At present Armenia is a member of the Commonwealth
of Independent States Free Trade Area, and that's enough, Kocharyan
hinted.

In order to attract Armenia to its reintegration zone Russia has
recently used several methods. In particular, it has stated about
the strengthening of its military base in Armenia and, through some
experts, has been spreading rumors about the possibility of renewed
hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone.

Sergey Kurginyan, a Russian pundit who ardently advocates the
establishment of the Eurasian Union, visited Armenia recently. He
frightened Armenians with gay marriages and a possible law on incest
in Europe, suggesting that Armenia should not deal with such Europe
but should rather choose a healthier way - the Eurasian Union. He
also said that Armenia alone would not survive and it had to join
one of the empires.

Kurginyan also said that the United States and Turkey were building a
Sunni zone in which Armenia will not survive without Russia. Earlier,
Russia raised the price of natural gas for Armenia, which resulted
in some anti-Russian sentiments in the country.

A number of Armenian pundits have also begun to actively promote
the Customs Union and the continuation of the Armenian-Russian
"strategic alliance". In particular, many of them have tried to
present Sargsyan's decision to attend the summits in Bishkek and
Astana not as a demarche against Moscow, but as an ordinary matter,
saying that relations between Armenia and Russia remains "brilliant".

Meanwhile, the latest CSTO and EurAsEC summits were very important
for the future of these organizations. The CSTO summit discussed
the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan planned for 2014 and
the possible deterioration of the situation in Central Asia in this
regard. The CSTO decided that it was responsible for this zone,
which can become a hotbed of terrorism and drug trafficking.

By refusing to travel to Bishkek, Sargsyan, in fact, declared
about Armenia's non-participation in the CSTO's future operations in
Afghanistan or around it, which could spell a demise for the Russia-led
defense pact of six post-Soviet nations that does not have combat
experience yet.

As for the EurAsEC summit in Astana, Ukraine submitted its application
for an observer status in the Customs Union during it. Ukraine also
intends to sign an Association Agreement with the EU in November.

Russia has failed to make Ukraine abandon this plan. The absence of
Sargsyan from the summit could also mean that Armenia does not want
even an observer status in the Eurasian Union.

One can already now come across headlines in the Armenian press like:
"It only remains for Russia to send troops to Armenia" or "Who else
would Moscow send to persuade Yerevan?".

Meanwhile, Artur Baghdasaryan, the secretary of the National Security
Council of Armenia, on Thursday denied any political motives behind
President Sargsyan's absence from the summit in Bishkek, stressing
that Armenia's relations with Russia remain "excellent."