Viktor Krivopuskov: The matter of choice is always tempting

ArmInfo's Interview with Viktor Krivopuskov, Head of
Rossotrudnichestvo Office in Armenia, Counselor of Russian Embassy in
Armenia, Candidate of Philosophical Sciences, Doctor of Sociology,
honorary member of the Writers' Union of Armenia

by Emmanuil Lazarian
Saturday, August 31, 17:48

Mr.Krivopuskov, you are a diplomat, public figure, scientist,
political expert and historian spending much time on studying and
developing the Armenian-Russian relations. You are the author of
well-known books, such as `Rebellious Karabakh' and `Armenia,
Armenia...: 200 questions-200 answers about the country and the people
since biblical times to moderndays'. Today Armenia faces an `interim
choice' - to initial and sign the Association Agreement with the EU or
to start a re-integration process within the post-Soviet space around
the idea of the Eurasian Union. Actually, history has repeatedly
thrown Armenia into a dilemma. Today, also, the formula `either...or' is
perceived in Armenia more seriously than the formula `both...and'.

A choice is always a temptation. Russia has also faced the problem of
choice on its difficult historical path. The Strife in the early 17th
century, the epoch of Peter the Great, the Patriotic War of 1812,
October of 1917, the Great Patriotic War, the collapse of the USSR
were nothing but a possibility of a historical choice. But are there
any reasons to speak of a `great choice' today? One should understand
that the current situation in both Russia and Armenia is not so
critical. As a diplomat, politician and sociologist, I try to be
guided not by emotional `twists and turns' or speculations, but good
knowledge and clear ideas giving an answer to the question what the
appearing picture is. In fact, that picture consists of 2 parts. One
of them exists really, and the other one temps with its artistic
performance. Truth is always balanced and it is equality of weight
indices. Today, however, the `either...or' principle is imposed, i.e. it
is offered to make a tough choice, which, to tell the truth, implies
first of all destroying everything built over decades and even
centuries. The state policy must be based on the sense of reality and
the forecasts should also be realistic and should be based on the
complex of political, economic and humanitarian components of
development of the nation, country, and national priorities of both
Armenia and Armenian people. Therefore, I think that there are real
chances to take a sober and correct step.

Certainly, one should not forget history, which also participates in
today's debates as the main indicator of the reality. I have recently
published a monograph `Confidence as a Factor of Society
Consolidation'. It has a paragraph dedicated to the interstate
confidence in the post-Soviet area by the example of Russian-Armenian
cooperation. The matter concerns not only the historical basis, but
also the last 20 years, i.e. new Russia and the Third Republic of
Armenia. Here I point out the progress in all interstate cooperation
dimensions that interest the Armenian and Russian societies:
maintenance of peace, defense of our external borders, development of
economy, financial stability, science, culture, education, etc. By the
main international problems, the positions of our countries coincide
or are very close at least. Russia is interested in strong,
competitive Armenia, because it enhances our strategic allied
relations to a new level. The Russian-Armenian phenomenon of
interstate confidence is of big significance to consolidation of the
Russian society, because it mostly determines the condition of the
large Armenian community in Russia. Then I write that if one stakes on
interstate confidence as the basis for strengthening of the confidence
inside Russia, one can constantly gain the combination of the
confidence based on the sense of confidence in another state and its
actions with the confidence based on certain reckoning.

You are absolutely right to think that the issue of unambiguous
choice has no prospects. When studying the economic statistics of the
CIS countries, I was amazed to learn that Belarus has a
well-diversified trade and economic turnover, whereas the West is
rather critical of Belarus regarding the problem of choice. Almost
half of the commodity flow of the country falls on the European Union.
Living under the same Soviet roof, Belarus, Armenia and other
post-Soviet countries, including Russia, have gone through fire and
water, sometimes through tragic episodes of the contemporary history
and gained big success in economy, science and education.

Actually, I am quite well aware of Armenia's history and I can say
that the USSR you are talking about seems to have been created for
Armenia. The Armenian nation had not had such prosperity and wealth in
its history before. I mean the development of town planning, science,
culture, technologies, and production. It is enough to recall that
during the Soviet time about 70 trains would daily arrive at the
Yerevan freight station and 70 trains would daily leave that station.
Furthermore, the commodity exchange was not only inside the Soviet
Union, but also with foreign countries. Soviet Armenia successfully
traded with almost the whole world. Moreover, it sold not only raw
materials but its labor products, which were technology intensive and
had a high added value. This was the reality of our joint rationality,
which is the basis of our countries' efficient interaction. Therefore,
those who say that Armenia's commodity turnover indices with Europe
are higher than with Russia are cunning. It is far from being true.
When the matter concerns investments that lie in the basis of any
country's economic development, the apologists of the idea of `choice'
splutter, roughly speaking. The thing is that everything, except the
partial raw materials going from Armenia to the West, is produced on
the Russian investment base and is designed for the Armenian-Russian
commodity turnover.

Economy is the daily bread. To break the traditional stable economic
ties is tantamount to death. Following the collapse of the USSR, all
of us experienced unprecedented downturn in production and the whole
infrastructure. And we started restoring it: Russia - at the expense
of its own immense resources, Armenia - at the expense of
international, first of all, Russian resources. Let's look at the
nuclear power engineering, the fuel complex, communication or the
railway. Which of the European countries suggested assuming the
mission of restoring these national infrastructures? Yes, they
implemented certain small projects, but no projects on global
infrastructure. Only Russia seriously invested in restoration of the
poverty-stricken energy complex, started rehabilitating the railway
transport and tuned the South Caucasus Railway into a high-yield
advanced enterprise. Let them call these investments `politically
motivated'. The most important thing is that these investments bring
benefit to the country and replenish its budget. Russia is still
criticized for the 5 enterprises it received against Armenia's debts.
But no one wants to see or hear that none of these 5 enterprises has
been destroyed. Moreover, when these enterprises were being
transferred to Russia's assets, it was announced that the deal should
be considered as new Russian investments in Armenia's economy. Some
time passed and all of these 5 enterprises became the largest
taxpayers of the country. The success of Mars CJSC, where the first
free economic zone in Armenia has recently been launched, is of
special significance. It is also important that these enterprises
fulfill big orders both for Armenia's defense and for other countries.

As regards the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory named after Viktor
Hambardzumyan, the project of rehabilitation of this important
scientific center of Armenia is being completed on the initiative of
our Rossotrudnichestvo Office. Now it is being upgraded and will
shortly become a priority facility in the system of space rubbish
monitoring on the low earth orbit. This is a very serious and
promising project that can make the Observatory financially strong and
independent. There are also a lot of examples of Armenian-Russian
close cooperation in the military and technical field.

I cannot help asking a question about the sale of Russian military
hardware worth 1 bln USD to Azerbaijan.

I dare to claim that since the epoch of Peter the Great and Israel
Ori, Russia's foreign policy with respect to Armenia has not changed,
there has always been mutual orientation though the kings and
secretaries general changed. Russia has always been committed to its
political principles even in the hard times. When the Patriotic War
1812 was running, the Emperor did not withdraw a single soldier or
officer from the Karabakh battlefield. Today we mark the 200th
anniversary of the Treaty of Gulistan. In March 2013 we marked the
185th anniversary of the Treaty of Turkmenchay. Let's read the books
by Hovhannes Tumanyan, Avetik Isahakyan, Catholicos Nerses
Ashtaraketsi, combat leader Andranik and other old and new Armenian
figures. Over 200 thsd soldiers and officers of the Russian imperial
army gave their lives for freedom and independence of Armenian people.
Today we defend Armenia's borders with Iran and Turkey together with
Armenians. The 102nd Russian military base performs a mission of peace
maintenance in the region at the request of the Armenian state. All
this allows understanding what lies in the basis of our relations and
what lies in the basis of the 1 bln USD. Does the fact of the arms
deal become a reason to make cardinal decisions? The important thing
is that our countries have already switched from the term `strategic
partnership' to construction of strategic allied relations. Believe
me, these relations are based on high-strength bricks and this fact is
worth understanding.

Politics is known to be the art of achieving the possible and I think
that the `choice' is being bargained today. Moreover, everybody keeps
silence of this bargain as a purely commercial deal. There are only
assessments of some experts, but there is no certainty. I am concerned
with it. But some circles in Armenia think that if the `choice' is
actually imposed on us, the choice should be made through a nationwide
referendum. What do youthink of this idea?

It is hard for me to comment on the Armenian elite's attitude towards
the situation. As a sociologist, certainly, I support the instrument
of the referendum. XXI century is the epoch of knowledge-driven
economy. In this case, to know is to be sure that the decisions made
will be supported by the absolute majority of the population. Nowadays
it is the large corporations that are guided by science and sociology
to improve the system of production and management, but the state
policy, unfortunately, uses these principles rarely.

What about Russia? Doesn't it latently offer us `to choose'?

We do not speak of the `choice', we speak of intensification of the
trade and economic, scientific and technical, military and technical,
educational, cultural and humanitarian relations that have deep roots.
Unlike the EU idea, the Eurasian idea does not throw the country into
the `either...or' dilemma, but suggests developing together without any
obstacles from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Moreover, the statements about
the Customs Union and the ways of development of the Eurasian Union
clearly say that no one is persuaded to join the Union. Its
participants are equal regardless of their size or weight. The
Eurasian Union lays down no preconditions for accession and suggests
equal participation in its creation and construction. This means that
each country can take part in creation of the Union, first of all, the
CIS countries that are so much interested in integration processes and
expansion of cooperation on mutually beneficial terms. We realize that
the economy of XXI century is different, therefore, the emphasis is
put on restoration and development of not only trade and economic
relations, but first of all scientific and technical ties. This is why
we speak of an innovation cooperation program, which is gradually
becoming a reality.

This is why Rossotrudnichestvo pays so much attention to science and education...

Our Office serves to contribute to trade and economic, scientific and
technical, educational, cultural and humanitarian cooperation between
our countries. In each of these fields we already have good
professional practice, we have managed to implement a number of pilot
projects for the CIS countries. It is important that all our programs
are formed on a mutually beneficial basis in order to strengthen the
scientific brainpower here. Armenia is a science-intensive country.
The sooner we speed up joint efforts to rehabilitate the scientific
and technical potential of the country, the faster Armenia will make
progress. Russia needs strong Armenia as an ally. Therefore, our
mission is to pay special attention to close contacts with the
Armenian National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Science and
Technology, research institutes, and young scientists. Today this
interaction is quite dynamic and it helps restore the bridges with
Russian institutes and scientific schools. The Russian-Armenian Center
for Innovative Cooperation set up jointly with the Armenian Economy
Ministry in 2010 has already implemented over 20 such projects. There
is also a program on innovative cooperation with the Skolkovo
Foundation. We expect representatives of investment structures and
venture capital funds to come to Armenia to choose specific projects.
The ties between the Russian and Armenian universities are also
strengthened. We provide the Armenian public, school and university
libraries with books and other devices. There are six branches of
Russian universities in Armenia. Last year the branches of Timiryazev
Agricultural Academyand the Russian Veterinary Academy opened at the
Yerevan Agrarian University.

There was also a project on opening the Lomonosov Moscow State
University's branch in Armenia...

At the moment the technical and paper work is being done. Almost all
the issues are agreed upon and the idea will shortly be put into
practice. The Moscow State University branch will not become a
competitor for the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University and other
universities of the country. Moreover, the basic sciences to be taught
at the faculties of the MSU branch will be an asset to the higher
education system. I am sure that the MSU branch will become a good
regional center, which will attract the gifted youth from Diaspora,
the Middle East, the CIS and other foreign countries. The activity of
the MSU branch as a world-known brand will have a big multiplier
effect for Armenia and will give a fresh impetus to development of the
scientific and technical potential of the country and its
reintegration into the Eurasian and global innovative economy.

Thanks for the interview.