Armenians wary of Russia's security guarantees - poll

Interfax news agency, Moscow
31 Jul 05

Yerevan, 31 July: Armenians have become more positive about the
country's possible accession to NATO, one of the heads of the Armenian
centre for strategic and national research, Stepan Safaryan, has
told Interfax.

In accordance with an opinion poll conducted by the centre among 1,500
Armenians in July, 34.7 per cent of the respondents backed Armenia's
accession to NATO, Safaryan said. At the same time, Safaryan said 33.9
per cent of Armenians believe that NATO membership is not beneficial
for Armenia.

Those who back Armenia's accession to NATO believe that the alliance
provides the most reliable security system (43.3 per cent). In
addition, 17.8 per cent of the respondents consider that without
becoming a NATO member, Armenia will not be able to enter the EU,
Safaryan said.

On the other hand, 24.9 per cent of those polled noted unsettled
relations between Armenia and Turkey, which is a NATO member.

Of those who are against Armenia's membership of NATO, 52.9 per cent
believe that Armenia should remain in the [CIS] Collective Security
Treaty Organization [CSTO] and view Russia as the guarantor of the
country's security.

Asked about the influence of foreign countries on Armenia, 58.9 per
cent said Russia was the country which had the most influence while
11.3 per cent said it was the USA.

Safaryan said "the Armenian public is increasingly wary about CSTO's
protecting Armenia in case of a foreign threat".

In the analyst's opinion, the property-for-debt deal has had a
negative impact on Russia's image. Under this deal, Armenia handed
over to Russia a number of its production enterprises to cover its
100m-dollar debt.

"The Armenian enterprises that were handed over to Russia are still
idle, though quite a long period of time has elapsed. When striking
the deal, officials of both countries vowed that the enterprises
would be put into operation and would provide Armenians with jobs,"
Safaryan said.

On the other hand, NATO has taken a number of steps aimed at boosting
its authority in Armenia, he added. "The most important step in this
direction was the decision of the alliance last year to cancel NATO
exercises in Azerbaijan after Baku had refused to accept Armenian
officers," the expert said.

"However, the increased popularity of NATO in Armenia should be viewed
with some provisos. In particular, many Armenians are still concerned
that the alliance's key player in the region is Turkey," Safaryan said.