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Viktor Krivopuskov: The matter of choice is always tempting

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  • Viktor Krivopuskov: The matter of choice is always tempting

    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.