ENCIRCLEMENT OF ARMENIA MAY BECOME TIGHTER
Vardan Grigoryan

Hayots Ashkhar Daily
02 Sep 2008
Armenia

If no non-standard steps are undertaken

Although, after the recent events in South Ossetia, the
Armenian-Georgian railway communication has already been restored,
the swift developments in the region come to show that in case of
relying upon the restricted communication resources our country may
face serious problems in the near future.

On August 28, right after Russia's recognition of the independence of
South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia broke off its diplomatic and all
kinds of other ties with Moscow. Tbilisi has not only terminated the
communication between the two countries, but also refused to comply
with its commitments within the frameworks of the International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO) which obliged the country to allow
the Russian air companies to carry out flights to Armenia via the
Georgian territory.

During the recent days, the Russian planes leaving Volgograd and other
towns have been arriving in Yerevan via the Azerbaijani airspace,
and our neighbor is trying to take advantage of the situation.

The Mass Media of Baku have already raised a wave of protest, however,
the Azerbaijani authorities say that Yerevan allows the airplanes
heading for Nakhijevan to fly over their territory, therefore they
can't create obstacles for the aircraft entering Armenia.

Following the re cognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia
has been facing the real threat of being cut off from Armenia, its
strategic ally. Moreover, there also exists the problem of helping the
Russian military bases located in our country to overcome the blockade
- a prospect in which neither Georgia nor Azerbaijan have any interest.

The threat of encircling Armenia may increase still further if
the recent publications of the foreign press regarding Israel's
plans of bombing the nuclear reserves of Iran with the help of the
United States become a reality this autumn. In that case, Armenia may
actually find itself in a total political-military blockade, as all
the roads ensuring the protection of our state will be closed. It
will be possible to import the required quantity of petrol, diesel
fuel and wheat via the Georgian territory at best till the beginning
of winter; as to the rest, we will have to take care of it on our own.

However, our country cannot feel totally secure in that sense
either. The thing is that, after the recent Russian-Georgian armed
conflict, Georgia has been looking upon our close military-political
cooperation with Russia in a kind of scowling manner. Now, the
Georgian propaganda never misses the occasion of reminding Russia about
Armenia's dependence upon the Georgian transportation-communication
channels.

"The Kremlin overlooked even the fact that Georgia could have used all
its economic levers against Armenia, its closest partner, in case it
wished so," a certain Fridon Dochia writes in "The Georgiana Times",
"and it could have done that at the time when the Russians themselves
were pouring oil on the flames." Such remainders often take the form
of obvious pressures, the improper delays in the entry of the trains
to Armenia being one of their manifestations from time to time.

And that these are political pressures is substantiated by the
publication of the same "Georgian Times". In an article entitled "
'Lookoil' and 'Rompetrol' Save Armenia from Blockade", the newspaper
conducts thorough studies of the companies supplying Armenia with power
generating substances and finds out that some of those companies have
Russian origins. Furthermore, the companies realizing the export of
the supplies from Burgas to Poti and form Romania to Batumi, i.e.

"Lookoil" and "Rompetrol", as well as the addressees, i.e.

the RA Ministry of Defense and "Flash" company, are studied one by one.

The whole information published by the Georgian correspondent has
also appeared in the Azerbaijani press which actively discusses the
possibilities for hindering the transportation of the supplies to
the relevant agencies of Armenia via the Georgia territory.

Regardless whether the above-mentioned publication results from
mere curiosity or is some provocation instructed to Fridon Dochia,
the correspondent of "The Georgian Times", it objectively becomes a
forewarning addressed to Armenia which, in case of undertaking any step
undesirable for Georgia, may be deprived of petrol and diesel fuel.

Naturally, the issue cannot be overlooked by the Armenian and Russian
Presidents during their meeting held in Sochi today. Armenia has
become faced with an extremely difficult and dangerous dilemma. And
our strategic ally should take that fact into consideration. Obviously
Armenia is not Belarus, and it has to demonstrate utmost cautiousness.

Russia in its turn is also undertaking active steps towards
accelerating the process of opening the Armenian-Turkish border. The
recent press publications on Russian customs officers' "delaying"
the entry of around 10 thousand big Turkish trailers into Russia can
probably be accounted for by this. It is also necessary to keep in
mind that Russia is the supplier of around 60 percent of the gas and
56.4 percent of the coal used in Turkey.

All that forces Ankara to adopt strictly cautious attitudes towards
the recent developments in Georgia. However, the Russian side is no
longer satisfied with that because the issue at stake is actually
concerned with the existence of its military base in Gyumri, the
only fulcrum it has in the South Caucasus, and the future of the
Armenian-Russian relations.

Thus,20the new barrier faced by Russia after the recognition of the
independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has become a new circle of
blockade for Armenia, with Turkey being the only way towards overcoming
it in a peaceful manner. Otherwise, unpredictable developments may
be expected in the region.