IN THE NAME OF SECURITY OR COMPETITION?: MILITARY BASE IN ARMENIA STRENGTHENS RUSSIAN INFLUENCE IN THE REGION
By Naira Hayrumyan

ArmeniaNow
01.09.10 | 12:50

Analysis

"Who, if not Russia, shall guard Armenia?"...

The August 19-20 state visit to Armenia by Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev triggered discussions in the country about what part of its
sovereignty and national security Armenia may delegate to Russia.

During Medvedev's visit, Moscow and Yerevan signed a protocol extending
Russia's lease on the Russian military base in Armenia and expanding
"the geography" of its actions. The amended 1995 treaty also commits
the Russian military base stationed in the Armenian northwestern
city of Gyumri to protecting the security of the whole of Armenia,
and not only along the borders of the former Soviet Union as before,
but along the entire perimeter of the Republic of Armenia borders.

Pro-government political parties unequivocally supported the treaty,
in particular, spokesman for the ruling Republican Party Eduard
Sharmazanov said: "Who, if not Russia, shall guard Armenia?"

The main opposition Armenian National Congress and the Armenian
Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) also deem that Russia is
the only guarantor of Armenia's security. ARF Executive Council of
Armenia representative Armen Rustamyan said on Tuesday that 80 percent
or more of Armenia's security is ensured by Russia.

Hardly no one has publicly voiced disagreement. At the same time,
each speaker finds he or she ought to note that the extension of the
deployment of the Russian military base in Armenia poses no danger
to the sovereignty of the country. The feeling is that politicians
respond to accusations that have not been presented by anyone. But
this, in turn, means that they are aware of the threat to sovereignty.

The main issue of the debate boils down to whether Russia would
intervene if Azerbaijan attempts to renew military operations against
Karabakh. President Medvedev gave an evasive answer to this direct
question, in fact, not promising interference in the conflict. Other
Russian officials also stopped short of commenting on that possibility,
but at the expert level, it has been openly stated that Russia would
not meddle in an armed conflict.

The leader of the International Eurasian Movement Alexander Dugin told
Vesti.az: "Russia may use the factor of its military presence only
for one purpose - to prevent a military conflict and, if you will,
to restrain Armenia lest it should want to unleash such a conflict."

There is another question: why was it necessary to extend the term
of the base's lease, if it still had 10 years to go? Experts believe
it is because Russia wants to solidly stake its claim for influence
in the region, over efforts from the West.

The United States reacted with great restraint to the extension of
the Russian military base's deployment in Armenia. The answer was
voiced at the level of a middle-ranking official, who said that it
was "a bilateral issue between Russia and Armenia." Nor has there
been any significant reaction from Europe. Armenia's neighbors have
not expressed an official attitude to this fact, and only Azerbaijan
policy experts tried to blame Russia, and several nationalists in
Baku organized a picket at the Russian Embassy.




From: A. Papazian