Armenia to Join Russian Led Customs Union

For several years Yerevan had been signalling that is was willing to - and was in fact preparing to - enter into a closer relationship with the European Union (EU). European officials had increased their contacts with high ranking Armenian officials in recent months and Yerevan was being widely expected to sign a cooperation document with the EU this November.

Some political observers, however, had been of the opinion that Yerevan's overtures to the EU was a ploy and that it was being jointly coordinated with Moscow. Some political observers also felt that Yerevan was trying to gain maximum benefit by dealing with both sides but would ultimately drop the EU and seek closer economic cooperation with Moscow.


Moscow officials must have known that despite what happened Yerevan would be going nowhere. After all, the strategic Caucasus has traditionally been recognized as Russia's zone of influence and, as we saw during the summer of 2008, Moscow showed the global community that it is willing to go to great lengths and resort to drastic measures if need be to stop a Western foothold from forming in the region. With Turks patiently waiting on both sides of the Armenian borders, with the Middle East on the verge of exploding, what Armenian official in his right mind would seek to anger the Russian Bear?

European and American officials, however, were naively hoping that with a lot of empty promises as well as dissemination of anti-Russian propaganda in Armenia - and perhaps some money under the table - Yerevan could be somehow convinced to embrace the EU. This hope of theirs was essentially why they tolerated the Sargsyan administration in recent years.

 
To the utter dismay of American imperialists, Eurofags, Armenia's opposition chobans, Western activists in Armenia and nationalist nutjobs in the Diaspora, President Sargsyan showed his courage, foresight and political prudence by taking the opportunity during his September 3 visit to Moscow to surprise everyone by publicly announcing his decision to join the Russian-led Customs Union (thought to be a gateway to the Eurasian Union).

In my opinion, a proven grossmeister in politics, President Sargsyan was able to manipulate EU officials. By leading them on for several years, President Sargsyan was able to effectively neutralize them during times when he was most vulnerable - specifically during the last presidential elections,
during which Washington's political operatives in Armenia were constantly putting the pressure on him. Now that it's quite obvious that President Sargsyan played them like a cheep fiddle, Western officials will earnestly begin their propaganda assault against him... But it's too late.

The only thing that surprised me about President Sargsyan's announcement was its timing. I did not think President Sargsyan would announce his decision this early. President Sargsyan's government wanted to play the "complimentary" card as long as possible. Yerevan wanted to extract maximum benefit from both sides of the political fence. But it was time, as it seems.
 


I personally think the early announcement was because of the volatile geopolitical climate prevailing in the region. As I have pointed out on numerous previous occasions, Armenia, which hosts a significant Russian military presence, is located very near the Middle Eastern powder keg. And, needless to say, there is an air or urgency in Moscow. At a time when Moscow is desperately trying to ward-off a Western aggression against Syria and Iran, and secure its zones of influence throughout Eurasia from Western inroads, Russian officials seemed to have had enough of Yerevan's flirtations with the West (regardless of Yerevan's true intentions). 

Although Yerevan would have willingly joined the Moscow-led Customs Union eventually, I personally think that the September 3 announcement was essentially due to political pressure from Moscow as a result of the region's political tensions and Moscow's burning desire to reinsert direct influence in former Soviet territory.
 
On September 4, merely a day after the historic announcement by President Sargsyan, Western activists in Armenia organized a small but noisy protest against the president's decision in front of the presidential palace in Yerevan during which some of them clashed with the police. Needless to say, many of Armenia's Captain Americas (including Washington's longest serving operative in Armenia, Paruyr Hayrikian) were present to spew their political illiteracy, Russophobic hysteria and hate rhetoric. Interestingly, an Amnesty International report stated that during the evening of September 5, merely a day after the protest at the presidential palace, two participating activists, Haykak Arshamian and Suren Saghatelian, were severely beaten by unknown assailants.

I can only hope at this point that the beatings in question were directly connected to Haykak's and Suren's well known professions as anti-Russian propagandists in Armenia. Incidentally, this Haykak was the same Haykak that wrote the following article in the rabidly anti-Russian opposition propaganda outlets known as Lragir about two years ago -

I had responded to his Russophobic nonsense in the following blog commentary -

I sincerely hope that suppressive actions against Western activists will become more frequent, now that the region of the world where Armenia is located in is on the verge of a major war as a direct result of Haykak's and Suren's spiritual bosses in Washington, London, Brussels, Ankara and Tel Aviv.
Therefore, what happened to Haykak and Suren after their anti-Russian protest in front of the Presidential Palace in Yerevan may be good news and I hope hear more such good news in the future. But, there is even better news. A day after the historic announcement by President Sargsyan, Eurasian Development Bank’s Deputy President Sergei Shatalov officially announced that his bank will be willing to allocate $100,000,000 to Armenia for the construction of the strategic north-south highway -
This is really good news for those who thought Moscow is only capable of pursuing aggressive politics for here we clearly see Russian 'soft power' at work. If all goes well, I have a strong feeling that next on Moscow's soft power list will be the realization of a Russian-sponsored strategic railway that is envisioned to traverse Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Iran.

And sure enough, on September 6, this piece of good news came out -

Iranian, Russian, Chinese companies interested in participating in construction of Armenia-Iran railway: http://en.trend.az/regions/scaucasus/armenia/2186987.html

That wasn't all: On September 9 and 10 the following three pieces of news made headlines -


Armenia seeks observer status in Shanghai Cooperation Organization: http://en.rian.ru/world/20130910/183345225/Armenia-Seeks-SCO-Observer-Status.html

China to Provide Additional $16-Million Grant to Armenia: http://news.am/eng/news/170588.html

Moscow recently announced it will lift the 30% tariff on its gas deliveries to Armenia and has offered to subsidize Armenia's nuclear power plant. There is renewed interest in promoting Russian language schools in Armenia. In a sign that there has been a serious deepening of Russian-Armenian military relations, the Russian commander of the 102nd military base in Gyumri, Armenia said in an interview that Russian forces may intervene to protect - Artsakh - from an Azeri attack. In a sign that there is a serious deepening of Russian-Armenian business relations, it was announced that more than 500 business leaders from Russia will be visiting Armenia for a business forum scheduled to be held in early December. And just recently, Russian-Armenian tycoon Ara Abrahamyan announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay a state visit to Armenia, also in early December -
Putin to visit Armenia next month, says Russian-Armenian tycoon: http://armenianow.com/news/49857/armenia_visit_president_putin_sargsyan_ara_abrahamyan
Several of the news reports in question are posted on this page. Make no mistake about it, all these new developments are connected to Yerevan's decision to embrace Moscow's Customs Union.

Regarding the oft asked question:"why couldn't Armenia trade with both economic zones?"

Although our Russophobes claim that Moscow has been using strong-arm tactics to pull Yerevan away from the EU, it has in fact been European officials that have been placing strong preconditions on Yerevan. Armenian officials have expressed - and continue to express - their strong desire to have close ties with both economic blocs. Western officials, however, have been publicly claiming that Yerevan's entry into an economic pact overseen by Moscow will disqualify it from any dealings with the EU.  

Nevertheless, regardless of what Yerevan wanted, Brussels wanted Armenia without Russia and Russia wanted Armenia without Brussels. In other words, Armenia was dealing with jealous partners with no desire to share anything. Therefore, Armenia could not have its desired ménage à trios.

Thus, in the big picture, Armenia had no choice in the matter. This was, from the start, an arranged marriage between Moscow and Yerevan. Although arranged, I am however very happy about the partner in question.
 

As a partner, Russia may not be perfect (then again, who is, the West?) but it has been a very good provider for an embattled Armenia in a nasty place like the south Caucasus for the past two hundred years. [In fact, October 12, 2013 was the two hundredth anniversary of the Treaty of Gulistan which saw the liberation of Artsakh from Islamic, Persian rule by Czarist Russia.] Russia may also be an overly jealous partner - and it does act brutish at times - but it knows how to protect its turf and we Armenians knows how deal with it. As mentioned above, we Armenians have been dealing with Russia for the past two hundred years. At worst, Russia is the devil we know - very well. 

Nevertheless, Where would our Captain Americas, Russophobes and nationalist nutjobs be today had Russia not invaded and not stayed in the Caucasus some two hundred years ago? 

As in 1812, Russia is once again resurgent. Russia is once again on the rise. Russia is the alpha and the omega of the Caucasus. Russia is winning the Great Game in Eurasia. And with the decline of Western powers and the emergence of nations such as Russia, China, India and Iran, we are at the crux of a new world order. Moscow is in the process of earnestly reinstating its power and influence within former Soviet territory, and because of its status as Moscow's strategic ally in the south Caucasus, Armenia has the unique opportunity now to firmly establish itself within Russia's foreign policy calculations. A free and independent Armenia is in a strategic alliance with a major world power. As I have been proclaiming for many years, this is a historic opportunity Armenia has not had in well over one thousand years. 

Enjoying sovereignty over the largest landmass in the world and in possession of immense natural wealth, and wielding a potent military to protect it all, I firmly believe Russia will be in the driver's seat - politically, militarily and economically - within the twenty-first century. My wish is to simply see Armenia at the very least in its passenger seat.

The key to Armenia's future success in the south Caucasus is found within the highest offices of the Kremlin. Instead of the constant complaints and fear-mongering over Russia's growing influence in the south Caucasus, Armenians would do well to accept reality and embark on a pan-national/collective effort - similar to what Jews do in the West - to promote Armenia's national interests within Moscow. Do Armenia's sons and daughters have the foresight to take advantage of this historic opportunity, or is the legendary Armenian mind only reserved to be used for personal matters or against other Armenians? 

Nevertheless, now that it has been decided, what does all this mean? What does ascension to the Customs Union ultimately mean for Armenia? 

Simply put: What Customs Union membership for Armenia means is closer, more effective political, economic and financial cooperation between former Soviet states - and not the lose of Armenia's "independence" as our Western funded Russophobes are desperately trying to convince us all. Yes, the pact in question is Russian-led and will thus be Russian dominated for the most part - just like the European Union is German led and dominated, just like NATO is US led and dominated, etc. 

Unlike many of our Captain Americas, Cold War rejects and nationalist nutjobs, I do not fear the return of Bolshevism nor do I think the Russian nation has the appetite - or is stupid enough - to seek the resurrection of the Russian Empire. When we talk about greater Russian involvement in the context of former Soviet republics, what we are essentially talking about is a Russian-led confederation of independent states closely working with each other. Suggesting anything else is nonsense derived from political illiteracy and paranoia. 

In fact, Armenia has a much better chance of preserving its national character in such a Russian-led pact than it would have in the stinking, perverted, multinational melting pot of the European Union. After all, in stark contrast to the genocide of a number of peoples under Western/European rule, dozens of ethnicities have been able to fully preserve their national identity inside Russia after hundreds of years of Russian rule. 

As I said, what Customs Union membership ultimately means for Armenia is more efficient economic trade amongst regional member states. What Customs Union membership ultimately means for Armenia is a massive, readily accessible market where its products are well known and better appreciated than anywhere else on earth. More importantly, membership in the Customs Union lessens the importance of the Armenian-Turkish border, lessens Armenia's current total reliance on the US Dollar and lessens the corrosive effects of Globalism and the English language. Which brings me to the topic of Globalism and the English language. After decades of hearing just how important it was to learn English, I would now like to use English to talk about the dangers of learning English, now that we are living in an English speaking world.

The dangers of Globalese

If we want to speak their language, sing their songs, dance to their music, watch their films, live in their lands, learn in their universities and trade with their currency - how can we ever be able to recognize them as the enemy?

Through television programming, the republic's educational system, so-called aid agencies and propaganda outlets disguised as news agencies, Western "values" began penetrating Armenian society very soon after the Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s. To put it as briefly as possible: With the void that the sudden fall of the Soviet Union had left in Armenia, Armenians simply woke up one day to see that: Washington had built the world's second largest US embassy in Yerevan; English had begun replacing Russian as the second language in the country; and most of the nation's English speaking opposition leaders, rights advocates, political activists and independent journalists were more-or-less on Western payrolls.

Armenia's youth, those who did not live during Soviet times, have been most susceptible to the most corrosive aspects of Western Globalism. Although alarming, it was therefore not surprising that English has been making serious headway amongst Armenia's youth as less-and-less of them are learning Russian. 

By enthusiastically embracing the English language and celebrating Anglo-American cultural elements (low quality, modern pop culture in particular), Armenians are unwittingly adopting Anglo-American values and identity, and all that comes along with it. With values and identity comes politics and mentality. Knowing the English language makes their job of delivering sociopolitical messages that much easier. Knowing the English language makes their job of social engineering via cinema, publications, television and music that much more effective. 

The English language has thus become a catalyst of change and a tool of manipulation and conditioning. When it comes to English, unbeknownst to the sheeple, alongside Shakespeare comes the very toxic tenets of Globalism. Multiculturalism, interracialism, anti-nationalism, anti-Christianity, consumerism, individualism and the celebration of feminism and homosexuality travels very-very close behind the spread of the English language around the world. 

Therefore, it is no surprise that one of the Western world's most powerful weapons today is the English language itself. In fact, English today is the language of Globalism. English is Globalese. This is why we have seen the active promotion and spread of the language around the world in recent decades. This is why Washington alone has spent billions of dollars on the proliferation of the language: It's part of the strategic agenda to tether the world to it's global order. The US Dollar, American entertainment and the English language play very fundamental roles in the Anglo-American-Zionist global order. 

Recent years (post-Soviet years in particular) has made things much easier for the Western powers for they no longer need to actively promote their language or their values because tens-of-millions of sheeple across the world have taken the Anglo-American task upon themselves to do all they can to act "western" and learn English.

Now, with thoroughly Anglicized human assets numbering in the many millions around the world, Western-funded NGOs have begun championing politically motivated causes around the world, causes that ultimately serve Western imperial agendas. This is essentially why every kind of obnoxious street movement we see around the world today - from Armenia's "Barevolutionists" to Arab Spring activists to Russia's Pussy Riots - have English speaking spokespeople, office branches based in English speaking countries and placards written in English and not in their native languages. English has essentially become the unifying language of freaks around the world. 

Where there is the recent spread of the English language today, there is decadence. Where there is English, there is cultural decline. Where there is English, there is moral decline. Where there is English, there is crony capitalism. Where there is English, there is consumerism. Where there is English, there individualism. Where there is English, there is political instability or political subservience to the Anglo-American-Zionist order. 

And what are the wonderful options generally waiting for the masses of Armenia's English speaking youth? 1) Migration to English speaking countries. 2) Working for Western/Globalist organizations based in Armenia. 3) Obtaining information about the world from English language sources. 

A language as important as Russian in a nation like Armenia is giving way to a language as corrosive as English and this is happening with the full consent of the Armenian sheeple, including Armenia's politically illiterate politicians. With the corrosive effects of Globalese permeating throughout Armenia in recent years, Armenia needs to reestablish Russian learning institutions as a strategic countermeasure. I was very encouraged to hear from Ambassador Kovalenko that Moscow will begin actively promoting the Russian language inside Armenia - 
Ambassador Kovalenko stresses the importance of Russian language in Armenia:http://arka.am
Of course the Western press in Armenia was ready with a response -
Whether we like it or not, Armenia will remain in Russia's orbit for the foreseeable future and the largest and most successful Armenian Diaspora is located in Russia. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, after Armenian, Russian will be the single most important language in Armenia. The first and second languages in Armenia needs to be Armenian and Russian respectively. Other languages that need to be taught in the country are: German, French, Persian, Arabic, Chinese and of course, English. Moreover, there should be a strict ban of English language street signs or advertizements in Armenia. 

Thankfully, we may have finally begun seeing the commencement of the long-overdue demise of the English speaking world, a global order that has ruled much of the world uninterruptedly since the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte two hundred years ago. The rise of nations such as Russia, China, Iran and India will usher in a new era. 

Recent events in the Middle East have shown that we are witnessing the birth of a multipolar world where Western powers no longer reign supreme, a world where Western powers can no longer commit crimes with impunity. Yes, the Western world is in decline. But the battle is not yet over. Although Armenia has been placed on the right track, the struggle between West and Russia will continue in the country for Western powers continue to be represented by a large number of obedient servants deeply embedded inside Armenian society. Western powers continue to enjoy the services of Armenian mercenaries.

Armenia's foreign led political opposition

If there ever was a shining example of a destructive political opposition on the payroll of foreign entities, Richard Giragosian's "Regional Studies Center", Raffi Hovannisian's "Heritage" party and Paruyr Hayrikian's "Self Determination Party" have to be it. After the September 3 announcement, I thought it was only a matter of time before the country's destructive opposition peasantry took their treacherous, anti-state agenda to the next level. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. We recently had the displeasure of seeing Zaruhi Postanjian, one of Raffi's street whores in action in Europe -
Zaruhi makes a mockery of Armenia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71mQB3bhHNo
Paruyr Hayrikian, the CIA's longest serving operative in Armenia and the one-time Soviet dissident with Jewish kids in the US who still claims the "KGB" and "Imperial Russia" are after him, has also been making a lot of weird noises lately. Some of you may recall that some time ago I had stated that this so-called "nationalist" reserves more hatred towards Russians than towards Turks or Azeris. In fact, it's common to hear from his devout followers that "Russians are worst than Turks". Simply put: Paruyr's lifelong obsession has been to form a united front in the south Caucasus with Georgians and Turks (of course with Western and Jewish support) against what he terms as the dangers of  "Russian imperialism". His recent comments from Georgia speak for themselves -
Hairikyan believes that Putin wants to restore the Russian empire: http://en.aravot.am/2013/09/18/161688/
Of course Richard Giragosian could not remain silent with regards to Yerevan's September 3 decision. After all, undermining Russian-Armenian relations is specifically what he is in Armenia for. Therefore, it was not a surprise that agent Giragosian, one of Washington's seasoned professionals in Armenia, has been on a fearmongering tour lately -
Richard Giragosian: It was really disgraceful on Armenia's part to surrender to Russia so easily: http://www.arminfo.info
More on Richard Giragosian, who's move to Armenia was facilitated by none-other-than Raffi Hovanissian, can be read in the following blog commentary -

Forget the Kardashians, meet the real whores of Armenian society: http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2011/03/forget-kardashians-meet-real-whores-of.html

Surprisingly, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, the outspoken former ambassador to Armenia recently criticized Richard Giragosian in an interview he gave to an Armenian news agency -
Former Russian ambassador to Armenia is indignant at Richard Giragosian: http://www.arminfo.am
It is encouraging that the former ambassador is remaining active in Armenian politics and it is very encouraging that he has decided to single out Richard Giragosian. Interestingly, the ambassador also raised the concerns about the possible creation a Western-led "fifth column" within Armenian society, now that Yerevan has made public its decision to join the Moscow-led Customs Union. In my opinion, this comment is particularly alarming due to recent events in the region where Western-led opposition groups have instigated bloody civil wars in countries targeted by Western powers. The former ambassador's not-so comfortable choice-of-words is something all Armenians need to closely listen to. More importantly, officials in Yerevan need to stop their pandering to Western powers and start curbing the activities of Western led, funded or inspired subversives. The following is a partial list of individuals and organizations that need to be placed under counter-terrorism surveillance:
Richard Giragosian, Paruyr Hayrikian, Raffi Hovanissian and family, Zaruhi Postanjian, Levon Petrosian, Vartan Oskanian, Andreas Gukasyan, Levon Zurabian, Manvel Sargsian, Shant Voskerichian, Artur Sakunts, Babken DerGrigorian, Shant Arutyunian, Ruben Gevorkyants, Avetik Ishkhanyan, Jirayr Libaridian, Nikol Pashinyan, Yeghia Nersesian, Gayane Abrahamyan, Armen Martirosyan, Hilda Grigoryan, Salpi Ghazarian, Jirayr Sefilian, Edik Baghtasaryan, Arpine Galfayan, Emil Danielyan, Levon Parseghyan, Van Krikorian, Harry Tamrazian, Susanna Muradyan, Hranush Kharatyan, Georgy Vanyan, Igor Muratyan, Jhanna Makhyan, Ara Manoogian, Robert Davidian, Onnik Krikorian, David Grigorian, Arpine Galfayan, Vardges Gaspari, David Sanasaryan, Vahan Martyrosyan, Sassoon Kosian, Hovnanian family, Zaruhi Poghosyan, Lara Aharonian, Nanore Barsumian, Larisa Minasyan, Mamikon Hovsepyan, Naira Hayrumyan, Sona Ayvazyan, Ara Papyan, David Shahnazaryan, Yekaterina Poghosyan, Tigran Khzmalyan, Daniel Ioannisyan, Garo Ghazarian, Garegin Chugaszyan, Liana Aghajanian, Arevik Saribekyan, Anush Sedrakyan, Arman Babajanyan, Tsovinar Nazaryan, Gevorg Safaryan, Karine Aghajanyan, Angel Khachatryan, Alex Yenikomshyan, Alexander Arzumanyan, Eduard Abrahamyan, Boris Navasardyan, Gayane Mkrtchyan, Maro Matossian, Varujan Avetisyan, Marianna Grigoryan, Edgar Khachatryan, Karen Hakobian, Tony Halpin, Anna Nemtsova, John Hughes, Kirk Wallace, Rick Ney, Anton Ivchenko, Blogger Unzipped, Rotary Club of Yerevan, Transparency International Anti-corruption Center, Gala TV, Open Society Foundation Armenia, Armenian Assembly of America, Pink Armenia, Policy Forum Armenia, Armenian Renaissance, ACNIS, Civilitas, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, Peace Dialogue, Armenian Environmental Network, NGO Center of Armenia, Rights and Support Foundation, UIC Armenia, British Council of Armenia, Women’s Support Center, Rights and Support Foundation, Caucasus Research Resource Center Armenia, Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Founding Parliament (formerly Pre-Parliament), Heritage Party, Radio Liberty, Asparez Journalists' Club, Caucasus Center for Peacemaking Initiative, Women’s Resource Center, Arajinlratvakan, ArmeniaNow, Armenia Today, Aravot, Hetq and Lragir
The above mentioned men and women should once again remind us that Armenia's worst enemy has always been the Armenian. These people represent the kind of internal filth that has been responsible for Armenia's sad plight for centuries. They represents the kind of internal filth that has historically dragged Armenia though dirt merely for the sake of their selfish desires, arrogance, ignorance and malfeasance.

These filth are the spiritual reincarnations of the filth that beheaded the great Mkhitar Sparapet and presented his severed head to the Turkish Sultan as a peace offering. 

While bloodless, what Zaruhi Boztanjian did in Europe was essentially the same: She figuratively beheaded her nation's leader in a public square in front of foreign leaders. I'm sure that in an earlier time period or under different circumstances, her beheading of President Serj Sargsyan to appease foreigners would not have been a figurative one. It must be pointed out that Zaruhi Boztanjian's homecoming from Europe was very revealing of the destructive gene in Armenians that has plagued Armenia for centuries: Instead of being met by insults and jeers by masses of angry Armenians, she was greeted by flowers and cheers by adoring fans -
Opposition MP gets hero’s welcome from supporters in Yerevan:http://armenianow.com/news/48980/armenia_zaruhi_postanjyan_airport_welcome
The pursuit of "political freedom” or the "freedom of expression" should not be an excuse for destructive behavior in our embattled, little nation surrounded by enemies in the volatile Caucasus. Let’s face it folks, we Armenians do not know what political freedom means and will not do so for some time. Therefore, in the meanwhile, God save Armenia from Democracy. God save Armenia from its destructive peasantry. As long as we have Armenians that will exhibit the kind of behavior exhibited by Armenia's political opposition and their utterly braindead followers, Armenia will not deserve full independence. If this is the caliber of people that are currently in position to takeover the reigns of power in the country if God forbid the current government is toppled, I much rather we simply give back the house keys to Moscow. Here is a most recent example of the quality of Armenia's political opposition -
A deranged nutjob named Shant Harutiunyan and a few dozen of his brain-dead followers attempted to incite a revolution in Armenia today. Needless to say, this revolution of their was stillborn. In my opinion, this was just another measure to punish Sargsyan's administration due to Yerevan's recent decision to join the Russian-led Customs Union. As we have been seeing, ever since Yerevan's historic announcement on September 3, Armenia's Western-led opposition freaks have been very active. And with Russian President Vladimir Putin's long overdue visit looming in Armenia, we can expect more mischief by them. Nevertheless, I have been warning about situations like this for a long time.

Enough of this "complimentary politics" bullshit. Armenian officials need to stop giving Western-led NGOs and propaganda outlets the freedom to destabilize Armenia. We as a people need to stop tolerating Armenia's Western-led political opposition. There is too much political freedom in Armenia. There is too much political freedom in a country who's citizens do not understand what political freedom means. The Armenian government is too lenient when it comes to domestic political matters. This freedom and leniency is being looked upon as weakness by Western powers and their operatives inside Armenia.

A good way to stop these operatives is to break-up their support groups and stop their funding. And if that does not work, spill some blood. Eliminate a few of their ringleaders and jail the rest and we'll have the sociopolitical peace and stability needed to help the Armenian state continue its evolutionary course. What's interesting is that had these people tried to pull-off something like this in the US for instance, they would have been either shot dead or beaten, pepper-sprayed, tased, beaten some more, arrested, interrogated as terrorists, beaten some more and thrown into jail - and then raped by police batons. Do Armenian authorities have the balls to at least put these nutjobs away for good?

As long as Yerevan tolerates its Western-led political opposition freaks and bestows upon them legitimate sounding titles such as "patriot", "political activist", "musician", "rights advocate", "environmentalist", "expert" or "journalist", Armenia will remain a weak state, not taken seriously by any of the world major powers, including by our only ally in the north. The global community only understands the display of power and unity. The global community only respects those who respect themselves. This is why Turks have historically been successful. This is why nations such as Armenia and Greece has historically been failures. 

As much as I hate to say it, and I know many of my readers will disagree with me, when it comes to serious political matters pertaining to Armenia, I have more trust in Russian officials than I do in Armenians. Until Armenia begins giving birth to capable nationalistic leaders with vision, courage and political acumen and a populace that stands-by its leadership - unconditionally - I will continue to looking north for Armenia's salvation. As long as Armenians are not rallying behind their state unconditionally, at least on the international stage, Armenia will forever be looked upon as vulnerable and will thus be subject to foreign machinations. 

As long as Armenia has a "fifth column" ready and willing to attack the Armenian leadership at any given opportunity, as we recently saw in Europe, the international community will continue looking down at Armenia, Western powers will continue funding subversive activities in Armenia and Moscow will continue holding Armenia on a very short leash. Nevertheless, I am very thankful that psychopaths like Shant Harutiunyan and Raffi Hovannisian's Heritage party has finally made us all (even the rigidly naive and/or ignorant ones in our society) realize just how destructive and how utterly delusional Armenia's political opposition is and how lucky we are to have the government we currently have - despite all its flaws. 

Armenia needs a high colonic

As a result of the region's "Great Game" (i.e. the political wrangling between Moscow and the West during the past twenty years) and as a result of Yerevan's "Complimentary Politics" (i.e. the policy of appeasing both Moscow and the West), Armenia's political opposition and the country's so-called "rights groups" have been hijacked by Western interests. 

Consequently, Armenia has suffered over twenty years of systematic infiltration. The Western cancer (represented by an army of organizations, politicians, experts and social activists) is deeply embedded in the country today. If allowed to grow, this cancer will prove deadly. Therefore, drastic situations require drastic measures to remedy them. 

Let's not make the fatal mistake of underestimating Washington's lemmings in Armenia. I'd dare say Armenia's Western-led political opposition represents a majority of Armenians today. The only thing they are lacking currently is unity and the right opportunity to take control. There is not a single soul in all of Armenia's political opposition today that can even remotely be considered a normal human-being. The only way, therefore, to politically stabilize Armenia and secure its future is to cleanse its internal filth. 

I say Armenia is sick and in dire need of a high colonic.

Now that Yerevan has plotted its future course, I wish to see Yerevan become more proactive, more aggressive in combating Western activism in Armenia. We have seen too many Western-led organizations and individuals creating too many problems around the world for too many years: Central and South America of the 1980s, the Russian Federation of the 1990s and the Middle East of today are glaring examples of how destructive Western entities can be in developing countries. 

Therefore, in conjunction with Russian security forces, Armenian counter-terrorism units need to identify all Western and Globalist centers of influence throughout the country and begin reassessing their operations. All Western funded NGOs, Western funded activists, Western funded propaganda outlets disguised as news organizations and think tanks, and all Western sponsored learning institutions (including the American University of Armenia, including the Yerevan State University who's journalism department for example was founded by Western entities in 1991 and continuous to be supported by them today) need to be placed under surveillance. The list of names and organizations I posted above is a good place to start. 

Simply put: Armenia can no longer afford playing host to a host of Western operatives seeking to use Armenia's natural growing pains to foment political unrest in the country and undermine Yerevan's ties to Moscow. Armenia can no longer afford to allow Western Globalism (a modern form of Bolshevism) to corrupt its national identity. Armenia can no longer allow "Democracy" - as prescribed by Western powers - to weaken the Armenian state by empowering those on the fringes of society.

I'd also like to see Russian officials get more proactive inside Armenia. Moscow is also guilty of allowing Armenia to turn into a Western playground during the past two decades. Russians officials cannot continue thinking that by merely dealing with Armenia's top leadership or controlling its infrastructure they will have no worries in Armenia. Moscow's negligence and old world tactics has allowed Western interests to setup deep within Armenian society. Moscow needs to step into the modern world and recognize the paramount importance of Public Relations, Social Engineering and, more importantly, Soft Power. 

In this regard, Ambassador Kovalenko's recent activities are encouraging. After years of working primarily behind-the-scenes, we may be seeing a more proactive, hands-on approach to Armenia by Russians officials. In his interview where he criticized Richard Giragosian recently, I'm glad that the ambassador also called into question the wisdom of seeking membership in the European Union.

The case against European integration

As beleaguered nations such as Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus and Italy have vividly shown us in recent years, Armenia's membership into the EU would have done nothing positive for Armenia. 

For a small, impoverished and vulnerable nation like Armenia, "Western integration" would have meant adopting an Anglo-American-Zionist agenda (i.e. slavery to the US Dollar, slavery to Western energy interests, slavery to Western corporations, multiculturalism, inter-racialism, sexual perversions, destruction of the traditional family unit, destruction of the national church and the death of nationalism).

For a small, impoverished and a south Caucasus nation like Armenia, "Western integration" would have also meant indirect subordination to Ankara. So blinded by their political illiteracy and Russophobia, our EUrotic idiots and Captain Americas were failing to realize that Armenia's primary route to the EU would NOT have come via Georgia - but via TURKEY! Our West-leaning fools today fail to understand that for Armenia "independence" from Russia will ultimately mean DEPENDENCE ON TURKEY. 

I would like to bring another angle into this: During the past twenty years, the only thing that has stopped American, British,  European, Turkish or Israeli firms or individuals from hopping aboard an airplane, going to Armenia and practically purchasing the entire country in one financial transaction has been Russia's security services and, believe it or not - Armenia's oligarchs. Closer European integration would have replaced Armenia's homegrown oligarchs with bigger and nastier (but better dressed and better educated) oligarchs based in New York, London, Brussels, Istanbul and Tel Aviv - and would have financially enslaved the nation to Western banksters. 

As bad as they may be, Armenia's oligarchs are much preferable to Western, Turkish or Jewish oligarchs. Moreover, closer European integration would have further buried Armenia under western and Turkish products, ultimately killing Armenia's small and struggling domestic production industry. 

Although a strong case against European integration can be easily made with EU member state Greece or Spain, I would like to single-out Bulgaria simply because of all the aforementioned EU states in trouble today, Bulgaria perhaps compares closest to Armenia. Therefore, let's take a quick look at how EU membership has helped Bulgaria -
In Bulgaria today corruption is rampant (even western Europeans are participating in it), violent crime is high, unemployment is high, energy costs are high and hundreds-of-thousands of Bulgarian are fleeing their country to the EU's power-centers (i.e. France, Germany and Britain). Similar to Greece, which has been systematically reduced to being a subsidized nation barely making a living on German handouts, EU member Bulgaria is on the verge of becoming a failed state. 

Interestingly, in stark contrast to Western news reports about Armenia, reports about Europe's most destitute nations are seldom covered in detail by mainstream news agencies or NGOs in the Western world. In other words, they can't complain about Bulgaria's "oligarchs" because all of Bulgaria's "oligarchs" reside in Brussels, London and Washington. They cant even blame Moscow this time. Therefore, there is no Western agenda to foment political unrest or a regime change in places such Bulgaria. As a result, Western propagandists avoid seasoning news stories with political incitement. As messy as Bulgaria is, as far as Western officials are concerned, Bulgaria is slowly developing and progressing... because it is bending-over to Western institutions and not Moscow or anybody else. 

The most important lesson a nation like Bulgaria should be teaching Armenians is that Western or European integration is not and will never be a cure for any of Armenia's most pressing problems. Armenia's most pressing problems today are geographic (location), geopolitical (superpower politics) and bio-cultural (Armenian culture). Armenians need to understand is that closer integration with the Western world will not help it in any tangible way... other than perhaps increase the numbers of suicides, drug abuse, rapes, homelessness, child pornography, pedophilia, sex tourism, marital divorce, single parenthood, teenage pregnancies and homosexuals.

With closer EU integration, Armenia will be - literally - sold to the highest international bidder. But the average Armenian today is too blinded by emotions, too arrogant and too politically illiterate to understand any of this. The multicultural/multiracial theme park known as the EU is imploding under its artificially induced weight. What Armenia did NOT need was a haphazard entry into a sinking ship like the EU.

Armenians also need to understand that despite it being tiny, remote, impoverished, landlocked, blockaded and surrounded by enemies in one of the most violent regions of the world, Armenia has done remarkably well. And, as noted above, as primitive and nasty as they may seem at times, our "oligarchs" in Armenia are much preferable to any Western-based multinational mega corporation that would be running the show in Armenia once the nation is subjugated by Western powers.

The lure of Europe today is based in Europe's achievements in the past. Its beauty, its civic order, its high standards-of-living, its open-mindedness, its cultural vitality are all a product of its past achievements. However, the European spirit of yesterday no longer exists today. Europe, western Europe in particular, has been a civilization in decline since the defeat of National Socialism during the Second World War. Rife with rigid bureaucracy, Holocaust worship, sexual decadence, ultra-liberalism, militant-feminism, multiculturalism, inter-racialism, consumerism, individualism, high taxes, fiscal waste, third world immigration and bloated with a amalgam of peoples with little in common with each other, Europe is dying a slow death. If Germanic nations do not produce another Adolph Hitler, western civilization will certainly die within this century.

Therefore, those who pursue "European values" today are pursuing phantoms of the past. 

Armenia has a much better chance to preserve its national character under the Russian umbrella. Armenia has the best chance of economic progress within the Russian orbit. Armenia has the best chance of survival as a nation-state in the south Caucasus as Russia's strategic ally.

As I have been saying for years, despite it being tiny, remote, impoverished, landlocked, blockaded and surrounded by enemies in one of the most violent regions of the world, Armenia has done remarkably well - thanks in large part to its decision to remain under Moscow's protective umbrella ever since its independence from the Soviet Union. We all need to somehow put aside our massive egos, debilitating emotions and Cold War biases and recognize that Armenia's future, for better or for worst, lies with Russia. In my opinion, Armenia needs to pursue its Russian course even if it has to shed its ties with the Armenian Diaspora to do so. At the end of the day, and in the big picture, Armenia's future looks brighter than that of most European nations. At the end of the day, and in the big picture, Armenia's future looks better than that of its immediate neighbors. In the meanwhile, our hysterical compatriots in the Diaspora and our Captain Americas in Armenia need to stop their poisonous and self-destructive nonsense and begin the long and arduous process of nation-building - within a Russian/Eurasian context.

Armenia needs to look North, South and Far East 

For the past twenty years Armenians have wasted too much time and precious resources  pursuing Western values (e.g. Darwinian capitalism, mob rule, Turkish-Armenian friendship, gay rights and vagina monologues) with nothing but a desperately impoverished and politically unstable nation to show for it.   

Official Yerevan needs to stop wasting time and start concentrating efforts on further developing its north-south axis (i.e. Russia and Iran) and seeking emerging markets in the East (i.e. China and India). Only with such a political approach will Armenia gain a direct and unhindered access to developing markets in former Soviet territory to the north and to Iran and beyond to the south. Only with such a political approach will Armenia be poised to become a major regional trade hub.

Through Russia and Iran, Armenia will have direct access to markets stretching from western Europe to the Far-East. With its economic - and financial - emphasis placed on its north-south axis, Yerevan will be able to negate the adverse effects of the NATO imposed blockade the country has been made to suffer for the past twenty years, negate the importance of corrosive globalist entities such as the IMF and the USAID - and negate the importance of the Turkish-Armenian border.

No matter how one looks at it, Armenia's only hope for a better future will come with closer integration within Russia's political and economic zone, where Armenia as a nation-state plays a strategic role and where Armenian products are well known and better appreciated.

At the end of the day, we Armenians will prefer Russia's harsh honesty to the West's polite lies and hypocrisy. And here, incidentally, is a most recent example of Russian honesty -
Russian Ambassador says losing part of sovereignty in economic union natural: http://armenianow.com/news/48610/armenia_russian_ambassador_customs_union_sovereignty 
Yes, Armenia may lose some sovereignty by entering the Customs Union. But did we think this would not be the case with European Integration? Armenia would have lost practically all of its sovereignty in the EU. The fundamental difference here is that Russian officials tell it as it is, while the Western officials lie and deceive. At the end of the day, Armenia will be able to better maintain its national identity within the Russian umbrella where unlike in lands colonized by genocidal Europeans, hundreds nationalities have been able to preserve their identity within Russia for centuries.

Please revisit the following two blog commentaries for further insight on this topic -

As Eurasian Union nears Armenia, West goes into panic mode (December, 2012): http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2012/12/as-eurasian-union-nears-west-is-going_15.html

Moscow Warning Armenia Over European Integration Drive (July, 2013): http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2013-08-08T05:31:00-04:00&max-results=1

I reiterate: Geographically, politically, culturally and genetically Armenia is an Eurasian nation. Armenia's natural place is within the Russia-led Eurasian Union. Ascension to the Customs Union is a long-term, strategic step for Armenia, one that bodes well for the nation's future. 

But some of you may be asking, what about Artsakh? 

The final status of Artsakh may perhaps be the only subject of contention between Moscow and Yerevan.
 
What does this mean for Artsakh?

Turks and Azeris recognize something most Armenians either do not understand or choose not to see. Ankara and Baku know that the only thing standing between them and their prize in the south Caucasus - i.e. Armenia and Artsakh - is Moscow. In the big picture, Turks are not afraid of Armenia's tiny military, nor are they afraid of the big talking yet utterly worthless Armenian Diaspora. Historically, Turks have only been afraid of the Russian Bear. This is why Armenia's antagonists have been placing much of their efforts on trying to drive a wedge between Yerevan and Moscow. This is why Yerevan's decision to enter the Customs Union was a important strategic step to secure Armenia's long-term existence. 

With all due respects to the brave men and women serving in the Armenian armed forces today, without direct Russian support Armenia would simply be unable to mount an effective, long-term defense of Artsakh if or when her larger and wealthier neighbors decide to resort to sustained violence once again. We were able to liberate Artsakh during the chaotic years following the Soviet Union's collapse. But as my favorite Wall Street saying goes: Past performances do not guarantee future results. Armenia today is a demoralized (thanks to the country's opposition freaks), impoverished, tiny, remote, landlocked and a blockaded nation surrounded by enemies in one of the most volatile regions of the world - and the Armenian Diaspora is simply too busy obsessing over genocide recognition, too busy assimilating and too busy complaining about dirty toilets in Yerevan. Here we see where Diasporan priorities lie - 
Did it ever cross their "democratically" driven minds that a vast majority of Armenians in Armenia want nothing to do with their "western values". Why are they imposing their suicidal values on a people who do not want it or need it? Where's the democracy in that? Is this what the proud Diaspora been reduced to? While the oil rich dictatorship in Baku is busy spending billions of dollars acquiring a large arsenal of modern weaponry from around the world, we Armenians are busy infighting, pursuing Western fairytales and championing gay-rights. The Diaspora has effectively isolated itself from its homeland by continuing to do what the Bolsheviks started - driving a wedge between itself and the homeland. The Armenian Diaspora is no longer a factor in Artsakh.

Simply put, Armenians cannot afford to be under any illusions today. We cannot make the grave mistake of underestimating our enemies. Militarily, Azerbaijan is getting stronger with time. If for some reason Moscow gave Baku a green light to attack, we will, sooner or later, lose Artsakh. But Moscow will not give a green light. What will Moscow gain from strengthening Turkish, Islamic and Western interests in the south Caucasus by weakening Armenia? Had Turkish money been a factor in Russia's foreign policy formulations in the south Caucasus, Moscow would have given Baku the green light many years ago.

Artskah today plays a major very role in regional politics. Artsakh's existence as a Russia-friendly Armenian fortress serves the Kremlin's geostrategic interests. Artsakh's existence  serves to threaten Baku's Western financed energy transporation routes. Artsakh has been the Russian sledgehammer hanging over Turkish heads in the south Caucasus. More importantly, the unresolved dispute over Artsakh also ensures Yerevan's and Baku's political dependence on Moscow. Therefore - strategically, economically, tactically and practically - Moscow will be in no hurry to change the status quo in Artsakh. From an Armenian perspective, the longer the status quo is kept the better will it be for Armenia. Now that Yerevan's allegiance has been secured via Yerevan's decision to join the Moscow-led Customs Union, I expect Moscow to earnestly begin pursuing bringing Baku under its fold as well.

Of course a best case scenario would be if Baku continues to remain inflexible in its dealings with Moscow and Yerevan. There are encouraging signs that Western powers may be placing more emphasis on their dealings with Baku as a result of the September 3 decision by Yerevan. With a Russia-friendly government now in Tbilisi and with Yerevan firmly under Russia's wing, Western policymakers will do everything they can to keep a presence in Baku. The following is a revealing Washington Times article about  Azerbaijan that essentially reads like a tacky infomercial -
As you can see, Western powers will do everything they can - even paint a bloody dictator like Aliyev in peachy colors - just to keep Baku engaged. But there is not much else they can do to turn the tide in the south Caucasus. If Baku gives in to Moscow, which is what it will most likely do sooner or later, Yerevan will eventually be faced will coming to terms with a final settlement. As a final negotiated settlement with Baku, Yerevan may be expected to return some of the "seven regions" taken outside of Artsakh proper. My biggest concern here is the fate of the territories west of Artsakh, namely the strategic region between Karvajar and Berdzor. In return, Baku would be expected to recognize Nagorno Karabakh's independence or its reunification with Armenia and perhaps return some areas of Artsakh currently under its control. 

It is of paramount importance to mention that the degree and depth of the concessions that would be expected from Yerevan is ultimately up to the diplomatic acumen of Armenian politicians and the lobbying efforts of our political activists in Moscow.

Moscow will eventually want to resolve the dispute between Yerevan and Baku under terms that meet its regional interests. Therefore, if Armenians holding on to all of the liberated territories suites its interests, it will support it. In my opinion, the primary responsibility of holding on to every square meter of liberated Artsakh falls upon the shoulders of Armenian politicians and Armenian lobbyists. Instead of bitching and complaining and fear-mongering and threatening closer relations with Western powers, as some of our idiots tend to do when things don't go their way with Moscow, we Armenians need to draw on all our national assets and make a strong case for Artsakh within the walls of the Kremlin.  

Yerevan needs to convince the Kremlin that keeping Artsakh whole and powerful is in the long-term geostrategic interests of the Russian Federation. Therefore, Artsakh's ultimate fate is in the hands of our politicians and activists and subject to our ability to recruit, convince and/or manipulate Kremlin officials into our national cause. 

Sadly, however, I do not see much of an effort being put into this vital strategic matter by Armenians in Armenia or by our genocide recognition obsessed Armenians in the Diasporans. On one side, we have Russophobic Captain Americas attempting to spread fear of Russians and on the other side we have Russophile chobans expecting Russian officials to decide everything. In such a situation, Armenians simply need to be happy with whatever they (whoever they may be) decide for us. After all, hasn't that been the case for much of our history? 

As always, our time and energy in the Diaspora is being wasted on obsessing over genocide recognition and pathetically crying at the feet of Western leaders every April 24. Instead of wasting time in an anti-Armenian vipers nest like Washington or Brussels, Armenians need to make a pan-national effort within the walls of the Kremlin.

The recent controversy regarding political activist and intellectual Zori Balayan's letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin may be a sign that the dispute over Artsakh is beginning to take center-stage. Zori Balayan's letter may have been a sign that Moscow is seeking to get more involved in the region. Although I'd like to refrain from drawing too many conclusions from Balayan's words for now, I do think that what he did was an attempt to test the waters for direct Russian involvement in Artsakh. Here is a relatively unbiased report on the matter from ArmeniaNow -
Experts say 200 years on, Russo-Persian peace deal still relevant: http://armenianow.com/karabakh/49499/armenia_roundtable_treaty_gulistan_russia_karabakh
Unlike his most recent naysayers (i.e. armchair generals in the Diaspora and Western funded opposition freaks in Armenia) Zori Balayan is a genuine patriot and a man very worthy of respect. Balayan did not call for turning Artsakh over to Russia. Balayan is calling on Russia to remember the region’s political history and assume responsibility to settle the festering matter in Armenia’s benefit. In other words, with the south Caucasus coming back under the Bear's influence, farsighted patriotic men like Balayan are simply trying to prepare the field of play for Armenia's benefit. Therefore, unlike what our Captain Americas, nationalist nutjobs and Russophobes are claiming, the matter at hand is not about placing Artsakh under Russian jurisdiction, it's about deriving the best outcome from the current geopolitical climate in the south Caucasus. This issue should also be looked at within the context of the following conference -
Russian Expert: Nagorno Karabakh’s ties with Russia should be as strong as with Armenia: http://arka.am
Moscow is getting serious with regards to the dispute over Artsakh. The pro-and-cons of Russian involvement in Artsakh can be debated. Yes, Russia has indeed a historic responsibility in the region, a responsibility to correct the wrongs of history. But, again, I would like to emphasize here the paramount importance of Armenian lobbying efforts in Moscow. We cannot sit back and expect - or demand - that Russians to do the right thing for Armenia. Armenians need to embark on a collective, pan-national effort to make a case for Artsakh's territorial integrity. Armenians need to figure out a way to make Artsakh a strategic asset for policymakers in Moscow. Armenians need to work on making sure they will having a major input in whatever the final settlement will look like.

In the big picture, as long as the territorial integrity of Armenia and Artsakh are maintained; as long as Armenia and Artsakh maintains its armed forces; as long as Armenian remains the nation's official language; and as long as the reigns of power in Yerevan remains in Armenians hands, I have absolutely no problems with Russians increasing their presence in Armenia - or in Artsakh. Russo-Armenian interests in the south Caucasus converge for the most part. We are seeing this historic convergence of interests between the two nations extending to Artsakh as well.

Breaking all diplomatic norms, Moscow has again gone out of its way - risking serious political damage - to express its steadfast support for the Armenian state. In a recent interview, the commander of the 102nd Russian military base stationed in Gyumri, Armenia stated that if Baku attempts to subjugate Artsakh by military force, his troops may join Armenian forces in a retaliation against Azeri forces -
Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky: Russian Troops in Gyumri will Retaliate If Azerbaijan Attacks Artsakh: http://asbarez.com/115675/russian-troops-in-gyumri-will-retaliate-if-azerbaijan-attacks/
In my opinion, Baku did not need to hear this most recent Russian warning. Azeris have long known where Russia stands on the issue of Artsakh. Their fear of the Bear is the primary reason why Baku and friends have not initiated major military hostilities against Armenia and Artsakh in recent years. Westerners, Israelis, Turks, Azeris and Wahhabi Islamists know that the only thing standing in their way against the total subjugation of the south Caucasus is the Russian presence in Armenia.

In other words, the aforementioned antagonists are not truly concerned about Armenia's tiny military nor do they fear Armenia's big talking, under performing Diaspora. Simply put, they fear Russia. This is why Western agents (you know their names) have been tasked with disseminating Russophobia in Armenia. Their desire is to undermine Russo-Armenia relations so that it never reaches its potential. 

Whats more, the Russian commander's comments were not totally unprecedented. As I have documented in my blog, Russian officials - both military and civilian - have been making similar statements for many years - but we Armenians have been too obsessed with genocide recognition in Washington and too preoccupied with the pursuit of Western fairytales in Armenia to have noticed it. In other words, Armenians have been too busy with petty nonsense to be taking advantage of the pro-Armenian political culture prevailing in the Kremlin today. This leads me to believe that the comments by the Russian commander may very well have been directed towards Armenians. The timing of the comments, coming on the heels of Armenia's acceptance of the Russian-led Customs Union is also significant in this context. Needless to say, the Western press was quick to criticize the Russian commander's comments -
Russia Shows its Hand on Karabakh: http://euobserver.com/opinion/122032
Nevertheless, what's interesting here is how serious geostrategic calculations always trumps money and lobbying. Turks and Azeris have been much smarter than us Armenians in that they, unlike us Armenians, recognize the paramount importance of the Russian factor in the south Caucasus and have accordingly placed a lot of emphasis on lobbying Russian officials and spending large sums of money in Russia. Here we see billionaire Ara Abrahamyan, one of Russia's most prominent Armenians and one who enjoys close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, sounding the alarm about the lack of political activism by Armenians in Moscow - 
Thankfully, despite the very lucrative dealings Russian officials have with Ankara and Baku, when it comes to serious political matters we have seen Russian officials always placing national interests above profit. Needless to day, nations such as Syria, Iran and Armenia have enjoyed the fruits of Russia's mature foreign policy calculations. For better or for worst, Moscow is the alpha and the omega of Caucasian politics, and nothing and no one will be changing this reality for the foreseeable future. Therefore, let's all realize this, accept this, and try to exploit this situation for Armenia's long term benefit.

Convincing Moscow for common borders

Although Armenia is now on the right path, too many Armenians however continue to live only for today. There is no strategic effort or vision to lay the foundations of a powerful Armenia.
Armenians need to begin treating Armenia as they would a delicate seed full of potential. This seed first needs to be carefully sown and then it needs to be given a lot nurturing and time in order for it to grow and blossom. Armenia, as it currently exists, is not going to big places going ultimately because the seed is not on fertile ground. Even with the best of domestic circumstances, even if our despised oligarchs turn into lovable angels overnight, Armenia will continue to remain embattled simply due to its geographic location and its less-than friendly neighbors. 

Simply put, Armenia needs to expand if Armenia is to have a bright future.

Morality or ethics do not guide my thoughts. I am speaking in real political and economic terms when I say Armenia needs to breakout of its mountain prison. 

In order to do that Armenians first need to stop chasing their tails with nonsense such as "Democracy" and "Civil Society" and recognize that Armenia's expansion to the Black Sea or to the borders of the Russian Federation should be the one and only long-term strategic agenda for the Armenian nation.

Despite the wild fantasies of Washington's "Democracy Now(!)" activists in Yerevan, Armenians must understand that Armenia's main problem today is not its lack of "Democracy" or the absence "free speech" or "fair elections". Rather, Armenia's primary problem today is geopolitical and geographical. Being that Armenia is small, poor, landlocked, remote and surrounded by hostile nations in a volatile political environment, we must recognize that there are essentially three ways we can cure Armenia's serious aliments:
1) Physically move Armenia and place it next to a nation like Germany
2) Pray that Moscow creates Pax Russicana in the Caucasus
3) Extend Armenia's borders to the Black Sea and/or to Russia

Number one is a dream. Number two may be the most practical. But number three would be the most ideal. Obtaining a direct access to the Black Sea and/or establishing a common border with the Russian Federation should be the single most important agenda for officials in Armenia and for the Armenian Diaspora. In fact, such an agenda needs to be a pan-national pursuit and something that should somehow be incorporated into the Hay Dat. If we want Armenia to prosper - and to finally be taken seriously by international bodies - Armenians simply need to figure out a way of providing our small, impoverished, landlocked and remote nation in the volatile Caucasus with an opportunity to breakout of its geographic predicament. As long as Armenia remains in its current situation, it will continue begging at the feet of the great powers. Simply put, Armenia needs to break out of its current geographical predicament. Armenia needs common borders with the Russian Federation. When Armenians finally put aside their victim mentalities and stop looking at the political West for any kind of assistance, they may finally come to the realization that for Armenia to truly prosper it must gradually begin formulating a long-term expansionist policy in the Caucasus. It would be naive us to think Russians would never allow such a thing. Have we tried it to know what Russians will or will not allow?

"
I hope Armenia and Russia will some day have a common border"

The above comment was made by a Russian official in Yerevan several years ago. The official in question, who happens to be of Armenian decent, also called for another Russian military base in Armenia. The following is my commentary at the time -

I don't know about another Russian base in Armenia (although it wouldn't hurt), but Armenia having a border with the Russian Federation is certainly very desirable. I can only hope that a contingency plan to this effect is being worked on by Moscow and Yerevan. I can only hope that Armenian officials are doing their best to convince their Russian counterparts that establishing a land connection to Armenia is in Russia's best, long term interests. I can only hope that Armenian officials are doing their best to convince their Russian counterparts that having direct access to Armenia will level the playing field in the south Caucasus and give Moscow direct control over all three republics.
 

It is no secret that we Armenians are a very intelligent and talented people but our intelligence and talents are almost always misplaced and/or misused. We need to learn to apply our intelligence and talents to the strategic benefit of the Armenian state.

Had Armenians been politically sophisticated and thus farsighted, they would have at least temporarily shelved their "Western Armenia" urges and began thinking about extending Armenia's borders towards Russia via Azerbaijan or towards the Black Sea via Georgia. Those who still dream about liberating Western Armenia need to realize that the keys to Western Armenia lies in Moscow (and to a lesser extent in Tehran, if the regime there survives). In the meanwhile, Armenians who look forward to Western Armenia's liberation should stop placing hope in some worthless piece of paper being waved around by worthless pro-Western politicians like Ara Papyan.

If done right, Kremlin officials will listen. Armenia's presence in the Caucasus has for centuries been protecting Russia's vulnerable southern regions. Armenians have been an effective hedge against Muslims and Turks. Since Czarist times high officials in Russia have fully understood this. It is up to us Armenians now to effectively exploit this convergence of geostrategic interests between Russia and Armenia. The geostrategic significance of Armenia is as important for Russian officials today as it was for Czarist officials, if not more so. In a region that suffers from powerful Turkic and Islamic influences, Armenia's political independence and its close alliance with Moscow will be zealously protected by Russian officials for the foreseeable future. As a result, there exists a receptive political culture in the Kremlin for Armenians to tap into.

In the big picture, having a common border with Russia is not only more economically and geopolitically favorable to Armenia than extending into Turkey's most desolate, impoverished and still landlocked eastern regions - but it is also more doable.

 
The most important thing to do for Armenians today is to embark on a long-term, multi-pronged, pan-national campaign to convince high ranking Russian (as well as Iranian officials) that a larger and more powerful Armenia on their borders is much more desirable to the existing state-of-affairs in the south Caucasus. Armenians need to convince Kremlin officials, in particular, that having Armenia as a neighbor is in their best national interests. Behind closed doors, the following is more-or-less what Armenian officials and political activists from around the world should be communicating to their Russian counterparts:
Western powers, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and various other Islamic/Turkic tribes in the Caucasus are the main obstacles to a lasting peace and stability in the greater Caucasus region. The only way to pacify the strategic Caucasus region is to establish a common border with Armenia through Georgia and/or Azerbaijan. Geostrategically speaking, a powerful Armenia fully connected to and dependent on the Russian Federation is the only effective way to solve the Caucasus region's many pressing problems - including but not limited to Islamic insurgency, pan-Turkism and Western expansionism.
Dissecting the south Caucasus in such a manner would immediately drive the last nail in the coffin for Western interests in the region. Such a scenario would turn unreliable Georgia and Azerbaijan into hostages to Moscow. Such a scenario would be a major blow to the Islamic insurgency in the north Caucasus. Such a scenario would also preempt any future inroads in the region by Turkey or by Islamists - or even by Iran. By allowing Yerevan to establish a common borders with the Russian Federation, Moscow would immediately create a more effective balance-of-power in the volatile region where besides Russia there are four other major influences - Western, Turkish, Iranian and Islamic. Moreover, by establishing a reliable trade route to Iran via Armenia, Moscow can more effectively implement major regional economic projects. 

If Baku wants to get adventurous. If Baku tried to upset the prevailing status-quo in the region by resorting to military means to regain Artsakh. If Baku (and Tbilisi) continues being troublesome in the region - why not allow the establishment of common borders between Armenia and Russia? A detailed plan to establish an Armenian presence on Russia's southern border via Azerbaijan should be worked on and it should be reserved as a contingency plan. This is where men like Zori Balayan can be helpful. 

There are no other solutions to Armenia's core problems. Sooner or later, Armenia needs to expand. I'm not a dreamer. Therefore, I fully realize the complexities of such a suggestion. I also recognize that such a thing is wrought with risks. However, the point is that if we want our homeland to free itself of its severe socioeconomic and sociopolitical ailments and turn into a powerful state that Armenians will be proud of and would want to live in, Armenia's expansion to the Black Sea and/or to Russia is a historic necessity that we as a nation must collectively embark upon. This is a crucially important national project we Armenians must adopt and hardwire into our thinking. 

However, there is a catch. 

In order to convince Russian officials that a larger, more powerful Armenia will be in Moscow's long-term, strategic interests, Armenian officials must first cleanse Armenia of all its Western agents, Russophobes and it must refrain from playing footsie with Washington and/or Brussels. One of the reasons why Moscow has been somewhat nervous with its dealing with Yerevan is the ominous fact that Armenia's political landscape has been utterly infested by Western agents and Russophobes in recent years.

Armenia's Western-led political opposition represents a significant portion of Armenian society in and out of Armenia. Realizing that Armenia is saturated by Western operatives and that the typical Armenian today would sell his mother for a few Dollars or a Greencard, Russian officials would not want risking Armenia to grow too powerful, lest it loses control over Yerevan. Therefore, Kremlin officials have sought to contain all nations in the region, including their only ally, Armenia. While they have surely ensured Armenia's survival in the south Caucasus, they have nonetheless implemented a policy in the region that keeps all sides weak and in conflict. Simply put, while it treats Armenia as a strategic partner, at the same time Moscow fears that Armenia is vulnerable to Washington's political machinations and has therefore placed Yerevan on a very short leash.

Therefore, as a fundamental first step in alleviating the Kremlin's justified concerns and suspicions with regards to the political maturity of Armenians today, I am calling for a thorough purging of Armenia's dangerous Western operatives.

Pax Russicana

The only way the wild Caucasus can be pacified once again is through Pax Russicana. With Moscow acting as the sole arbiter in the region, Western powers and their regional Turkish and Islamist allies will retreat. Only with them gone will the "Great Game" end and will projects such as the north-south highway and the Russia-Armenia-Iran railway grow to fruition. Only then will Armenia have a direct and unhindered access to developing markets in former Soviet territory to the north and to Iran and beyond to the south.
 

The secret to Armenia's future success lies in its ability to manipulate/exploit the Russian Bear for its long-term benefit. We need to put aside our EUortic fantasies and American wet dreams and get to work. Armenians (preferably officials and business tycoons) need to be a constant presence within the walls of the Kremlin. While Armenia's military is its tactical advantage, Armenia's alliance with Russia has to be made its strategic advantage.
 
Russia today has proven to be the last front in the world against Anglo-American imperialism, Zionism, Globalism, Islamic expansionism and pan-Turkism. Russia's presence today as an independent superpower projecting its national interests upon the global stage is ensuring the survival of western civilization, apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state.

Syria has vividly shown us the great importance of Russian Bear on the global arena.  

Recent developments in the Middle East should again be reminding us Armenians of the cruel and unforgiving nature of the region in which Armenia is unfortunately located. We should be reminded that the obsessive pursuit of "democracy" in Armenia as per Western demands is a dangerous red-herring for there are much more important tasks that our underdeveloped and inexperienced nation needs to take on before it can afford to play around with such nonsense.

Armenian lobbyists, politicians, businessmen and military leaders must be a constant presence within the walls of the Kremlin. Recent years have clearly shown us that Yerevan's alliance with the Russian Bear is Armenia's number one security guarantee for without a strong Russian presence in Armenia there won't be an Armenia in the south Caucasus. Recent years should also have shown us that Western institutions are a grave threat for underdeveloped and vulnerable nations such as Armenia.

While Western officials keep our Democracy Now(!) idiots preoccupied with things like gay rights, civil society and free elections, keeping Armenia politically isolated and economically stagnant is their ultimate game. Therefore, it would be wise to look past the lofty rhetoric of Washingtonian whores such as Raffi Hovannisian and assess their actions in Armenia within the following geostrategic context -
 The ultimate goal of high level Western officials continues to be either the strangling of Armenia (through their NATO blockade) or its severing from Russia (through their political activists in Armenia).

Thus, it could be said that the West's ultimate intention is to either destroy Armenia or place it under the mercy of their Turkic and Islamic allies. After all, the primary reason why they are in the south Caucasus to begin with is to push Russia out of the region so that Western economic/energy interests can exploit Central Asian gas and oil without Moscow's meddling. The West realizes that without Russia in the Caucasus, the very strategic region in question will be their playground. However, we Armenians need to be sober enough to realize that without a Russian presence in Armenia, there won't be an Armenian presence in the south Caucasus.

Although we have countless idiots in Armenia and in the Diaspora that think we are living in an enlightened age where the "rule of international law" and "human rights" are respected, the fact is that Western powers, as well as the entire world, is still very much governed by the old adage of - might makes right.  

Let's never forget that "international law" is made by the powerful to control the weak.

Therefore, in this dog-eat-dog world, we Armenians need to be very grateful that we have a very powerful regional ally like the Russian Federation. We must be very grateful that a superpower is sincerely interested in Armenia's survival as a nation-state in a very hostile and unforgiving environment.
Whereas Armenia is nothing but a geopolitical nuisance for Western powers, Armenia is a strategic asset for Russia. 

This is what I mean -
"Armenia is more important to [Russia] than Israel is to the Americans"
These words are not mine, they are said to be the words of Alexsei Arbatov, a high level Russian official. The comment was taken from a book called - "Power Games in the Caucasus: Azerbaijan's Foreign and Energy Policy towards the West, Russia and the Middle East". The following is the full quote -
Armenia is our only classic military-political ally...Armenia will not survive without Russia, while, without Armenia, Russia will lose all its important positions in the Caucasus...Even though Armenia is a small country, it is our forepost in the South Caucasus.  I would say that Armenia is more important to us than Israel is to the Americans.
Alexsei Arbatov (Former deputy chairman of the Russia State Duma's Defense Committee)
Regardless of what weapons Russians sell to whom, and despite how some of our chobans are treated in Russia from time-to-time, what Alexsei Arbatov outlined above is more-or-less the prevailing political culture in Moscow, a culture we Armenians need to be cultivating. 

We Armenians need to be farsighted enough and clever enough to begin exploiting this political culture in Moscow. This is the kind of lobbying we Armenians should be pursuing as obsessively as we pursue Armenian Genocide recognition in the US. 

We need to be cultivating deeper Russian-Armenian relations. We need to be laying the foundations of a permanent Armenian presence within the highest offices of the Kremlin - because while Armenia's military may be its tactical advantage when it comes to protecting Armenia from its enemies, we must make Armenia's presence within the walls of the Kremlin its strategic advantage. 
 
We should not be giving any of Washington's whores a political platform to spew their dangerous agendas. We should not allow modern slave-masters such as the Goldman Sachs, IMF or the USAID any foothold inside Armenia. And we should not be fooling ourselves into thinking that European integration is a panacea for Armenia. 

At the end of the day, what it all boils down to is this: Any Armenian today that disseminated Russophobia or wants to see Armenian ties to Russia curtailed is ultimately a traitor to the Armenian state (regardless of his or her motivation). What's more, Russia is immeasurably more important to Armenia's survival in the south Caucasus than the Armenian Diaspora; and lobbying in Moscow for Armenian interests is incalculably more important than pursuing Armenian Genocide recognition in the Western world
 
While these words may be hard pills for many Armenians to swallow, digesting these hard realizations will no doubt help the Armenian state in the long run.
 
After our nationalist nutjobs, Captain Americas, Cold War relics and Russophobes are done talking their bullshit, the fact remains that a Russian presence in the south Caucasus has been the fundamental historic reason why we have an Armenia today to begin with. Allow me to put this in an another way to help the reader better understand:  

Imagine the south Caucasus as a table where Turks, Azeris, Persians, Georgians, Islamists, Armenians, Western energy interests and Russians sit. Now imagine this table effectively without its Russian occupant. In another words, imagine the region without a powerful Russia. Now imagine what clout or leverage or chances of survival our tiny, impoverished, remote, landlocked, inexperienced, embattled and blockaded homeland will have at that table. 

Make sense?

Well, this is in essence what our Captain Americas and nationalist nutjobs are seeking today. 

Again: At the end of the day, no Russia in the south Caucasus means no Armenia in the south Caucasus.

We as a nation can never lose sight of the fact that Russia is the alpha and the omega of Caucasian politics and pray it remains that way. We Armenians need to
learn to navigate the very turbulent waters of the Caucasus accepting this geopolitical reality. For the foreseeable future (i.e. for as long as the region retains its powerful Turkic and Islamic presence), Armenia will have to remain under Russia's protective umbrella. For better or for worst, Armenia is wed to Russia. Recognizing this, embracing this and exploiting this reality will help us Armenians go a very long way in the twenty-first century.
 We need to put aside our self-serving interests, political ignorance and emotional handicaps and for once recognize that Russia is a historic opportunity that we Armenians need to collectively wake-up to and take advantage of. 

Although Armenia is now clearly on the right track, the struggle between West and Russia will nevertheless continue in the country. Western powers continue to be represented by a large number of obedient servants deeply embedded inside Armenian society. As a result, Armenia's troubles will not end in the short-term, they may actually get worst as Western powers now increase pressure on Yerevan due to President Sargsyan's 'deceiving' ways. 

But on the bright side, Yerevan now has nothing to lose anymore and it can therefore push back against any Western incitement with total Russian backing.

Nevertheless, as predicted, the Russian-camp in Armenia has come on top once again. This tells us that rational minds are continuing to make strategic decisions for our tiny, impoverished, remote, landlocked and blockaded nation surrounded by enemies in perhaps the most difficult location on earth. For now at least, I can sleep a little better at nights knowing that my Armenian homeland is on the right path.
For now at least, I can sleep a little better at nights knowing that Armenian officials understand the paramount importance having Russian boots on the ground in Armenia.

God bless Russia. God bless Armenia. And may God help protect and preserve Russo-Armenian relations from enemies both foreign and domestic.

Arevordi
October, 2013

***

Armenia Chooses Russian Trade Deal Over EU

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Armenia has decided to hang its hat with its former Soviet ally Russia instead of joining a European free-trade agreement, President Serzh Sarksyan announced after meeting with Vladimir Putin. Armenia said it would join Russia in the Customs Union, as well as engage in the Eurasian integration process instead of negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU. The move is seen as a political victory for Putin, who has been rounding up former Soviet states to rival the EU, promising lower gas prices and other trade perks.

"Russia supports the decision by Armenia to enter the customs union ... We will fully work for this to happen," Putin said at the bilateral talk at his countryside house outside of Moscow.

Russia is Armenia’s largest trading partner and the largest foreign investor in the small, landlocked Caucasus country. Trade in 2012 reached $1.2 billion and Russian capital investment was over $3 billion, or nearly half of Armenia’s foreign investment, Putin said. In July Armenia engaged in technical talks on a ‘deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement' (DCFTA) with the EU, and observers largely expected the country  to initiate a free trade agreement with the EU at the Vilnius summit in late November. The EU has stated both publicly and privately membership of the Russia’s Eurasian Customs Union is “incompatible” with DCFTA.

The three-member customs union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus was founded in 2010 as a counterweight to the EU. Putin hopes to expand it into a ‘Eurasian Union’- a political and economic union of post-Soviet states like Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.

While President Putin said earlier the Eurasian Union would be built upon the 'best values of the Soviet Union', critics claim that the drive towards integration aims to restore the ‘Soviet Empire’. It has been suggested the Eurasian Union could also include other countries that have been historically or culturally close, such as Finland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cuba and Venezuela. This is expected to incorporate the countries into a common body where Russian would be the common language of communication and economic cooperation.

Russia has so far failed to lure Ukraine away from an EU trading alliance and relations with Belarus have soured after they detained and jailed the CEO of Russia’s largest potash producer, Uralkali. 

Russia Secures Positions in the South Caucasus

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For many years, Russian-Armenian relations were considered an example of a strong and chaste friendship. In fact, Russian military and border guards are involved in ensuring the national security of Armenia. Russia is a member of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno–Karabakh conflict, having its own ability to conduct negotiations. The Russian business presence in Armenia is also impressive. Last year, Russian investments accounted for half of the total volume of foreign investments in the country. 

However, in the past two months, relations between Yerevan and Moscow have resembled a kind of alienation. Until the very last moment, the recent visit by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan to the Russian capital was under discussion, as well as a meeting and talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Interest in the topic has been supported by the contributions of numerous experts, journalists and politicians, both in Moscow and Yerevan. At the same time, the leaders of the two countries refrained from comments and harsh evaluations during the Armenian president’s visit. In fact, there was a simultaneous layering of several thorny issues, ensuring their transition into a discussion about the quality of the relationship between the strategic allies. 

On the one hand, Moscow, being extremely jealous about any penetration into the post-Soviet space by European and American interests, showed concern about the signing of the Association Agreement between Brussels and Yerevan, which is to take place in November at the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Lithuania.

In this case, unlike its integration in security forums (i.e., the CSTO), Armenia did not show particular interest in participating in the Customs Union, and some of its officials even expressed skepticism about a union of countries that have no common state border. On the other hand, Armenia has been worried about the growing military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Baku: Even an ordinary Armenian voter expressed dissatisfaction with rising prices for Russian gas supplied into the Caucasus republic. It should be noted that all of these topics in the relations between the two countries have come up in the past. However, their connection in time has given the aforementioned negative effect.

It is no secret that Moscow has used leverages to exert pressure on its ally. Yet it would be wrong to explain the current compliance of Sargsyan solely by the "maneuvers" of Moscow. Yerevan understands as well as the others that the European vector, with all its visual appeal today, does not compensate the role that Russia provides for the security of the country and in ensuring of the status-quo in the Nagorno–Karabakh peace process.  The EU also has a serious lack of “hard power.” In addition, the European strategic partnership with a longtime rival of Armenia — Baku — in the field of energy does not incline Brussels to accept only the "truth" of Yerevan.

Considerable risks are also associated with a possible intervention in Syria and, in particular, with the potential willingness of Turkey to intervene in the civil conflict in this Middle East country. No one can guarantee that Ankara will not act tougher against Yerevan, leaving the latter without Russian support. From hence comes the rather pragmatic choice of Sarkisian. Should Moscow be celebrating a triumph? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, it has once again proved the stability of its interests in Eurasia, in general, and in the South Caucasus, in particular.

Russia does not need to rebuild its regional policy, and the loyalty of its strategic ally has been confirmed. On the other hand, Sarkisian’s choice in September is not the end of the history but the start of a new phase. It will therefore be interesting to see the reaction of Europe, the United States and other neighboring countries of Armenia (i.e., Iran and Turkey). Much will depend on the tone of Russia’s subsequent discourse.

After all, keeping such an ally as Armenia is beneficial for Moscow also. It is not only in Armenia’s interests. It is extremely important that Russian politicians and diplomats refrain from reveling in victory and operating on the principle of "you can’t run away from us." It is not enough to declare an appeal. It is important to be attractive in reality—and not only in the sphere of security and defense.

Sergei Markedonov is a visiting research associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.


China is determined to launch active cooperation with Customs Union

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China is determined to launch active cooperation with the Customs Union, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said during a meeting with his Armenian counterpart Tigran Sargsyan on September 10. The press service of the Armenian Government reports that the governmental delegation headed by Tigran Sargsyan left for China on September 9 to participate in the session of the World Economic Forum.
 
The Armenian and Chinese premiers discussed the prospects for regional cooperation. Sargsyan presented Armenia's decision to join the Customs Union. "China understands Armenia's desire to take an active part in the regional processes and China is also determined to launch active cooperation with the Customs Union", Li Keqiang said.
 
He also expressed China's willingness to increase investments in Armenia's economy and to import Armenian commodities. "We want to see Armenian brandy, jewelry and precious stones on the Chinese market", he said.
 
Sargsyan pointed out the significance of development of tourism and establishment of direct air service between Armenia and China. As regards the export of Armenian commodities, the Armenian premier said that Armenian producers increase the output of Armenian brandies and wine. He added that Armenia also produces cigarettes and asked his Chinese counterpart to promote the sales of these goods on the Chinese market. Sargsyan also called on the Chinese companies to take part in the free trade zone opened in Armenia.
 
To recall, on September 3 Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said that Armenia had made a decision to join the Russia-led Customs Union.

Armenia to Get $100M From Regional Fund for North-South Highway

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Armenia will get $100 million from a Eurasian Economic Community anti-crisis fund, a Eurasian Development Bank official said Wednesday. The 556-km corridor, designed to improve transport links between Europe, the Caucasus and Asia, in particular between Eastern Europe and western Asia, is to be completed by 2017. In January 2010, the Armenian government approved an investment program for the North-South transport corridor, and a framework finance agreement between Armenia and the Asian Development Bank worth a total of $500 million.  Wednesday’s decision came after discussions between the Eurasian Development Bank’s Deputy President Sergei Shatalov and Armenia’s Transport and Communications Minister Gagik Belaryan, the ministry’s press service told RIA Novosti.

Iranian, Russian, Chinese companies interested in participating in construction of Armenia-Iran railway

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Iranian, Russian and Chinese companies are interested in participation in the construction of the Armenian section of the Armenia-Iran railway, Secretary of Armenian National Security Council Arthur Baghdasaryan told journalists on Friday, ARKA agency reported. "Iran has already expressed its readiness to finance construction of a railway in its territory and through Armenia. Various Iranian, Russian and Chinese companies are interested in the project," Baghdasaryan said.

The Secretary of the Security Council stressed that the development of railway transport has strategic importance for Armenia and the construction of an Armenia-Iran route is very ambitious, but still an important state program. Baghdasaryan reminded that currently, Iran is building modern railway junctions which will link it with India, China, and Central Asia. Subsequently, ties with Iran mean a large diversification of destinations for Armenia.

The North-South (Iran-Armenia) railway will give opportunity to Armenia to use an alternative way of transporting energy resources and other goods and getting access to the external world. In November, 2011, then Minister of transportation and Communication Manuk Vardanyan said that the feasibility study of the project is ready, the group led by Deputy Transport Ministers of Armenia, Iran and Russia worked on it.

According to experts, around $1.7-2.8 billion is required for the implementation of the project. Currently, the construction of the railway is being discussed with Russia, Iran and China. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank expressed interest in this project. Currently, railway operations involve only Armenia and Georgia. A railway to Iran, which was declared a priority project, will give opportunity to open an alternative way for transporting energy resources and other goods.

Rasia Announces Achievement of Key Milestone for Southern Armenia Railway in Meeting with Armenian Prime Minister
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Prior to the start of the World Economic Forum, Rasia FZE announced in a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan the achievement of a key milestone for the Southern Armenia Railway, including the release of a highly favorable feasibility study and the recommended railway design route from China Communications Construction Company ("CCCC").

Joseph Borkowski, Chairman of Dubai-based investment firm Rasia FZE which owns the 50-year concession for the Southern Armenia Railway, highlighted the strong economic viability and regional importance of the railway, as demonstrated by the feasibility study. Having reached this key milestone, Rasia will now move towards securing essential regional cooperation for the following financing, construction and operating stages of the project.

The feasibility study results indicate that the Southern Armenia Railway will cost approximately US $3.5 billion to construct, have a length of 305 kilometers from Gagarin to Agarak, and provide a base operating capacity of 25 million tons per annum. The railway will have 84 bridges spanning 19.6 kilometers and 60 tunnels of 102.3 kilometers, comprising 40% of the total project length. The selected railway alignment is nearly 44 kilometers shorter than previously estimated from Gavar to Agarak and will include the Gagarin to Gavar connection to the existing railway network, operated by the JSC Russian Railways subsidiary South Caucasus Railway CJSC.

Mr. Borkowski expressed his sincere gratitude for the time invested by Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan in Dalian, China and for the strong support of Minister Beglaryan and the staff of the Ministry of Transport and Communication over the past year. Mr. Borkowski also reiterated his great satisfaction with the exceptional work and dedication of the CCCC team, enabling completion of the feasibility study ahead of schedule, and the positive technical cooperation with General Director Mr. Viktor Rebets and his team at South Caucasus Railway CJSC.

As the key missing link in the International North-South Transport Corridor, the Southern Armenia Railway will create the shortest transportation route from the ports of the Black Sea to the ports of the Persian Gulf. The Southern Armenia Railway will establish a major commodities transit corridor between Europe and the Persian Gulf region, with conservative long-term traffic volume forecasts of 18.3 million tons per annum. Once the railway is completed, transport costs and times for the region are expected to improve substantially, fostering greater regional trade and economic growth while dramatically strengthening the Armenian economy. The feasibility study suggests a National Economic IRR for Armenia exceeding 11%. The implementation of the Southern Armenia Railway Project is a top strategic priority for Armenia and the region.
 

Armenia May Take Advantages of Russia-Proposed Eurasian Corridor if Abkhazia Railway Section Opens

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Armenia may take advantages of the Eurasian corridor that Russia has proposed to open if the railroad stretching across Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia opens, Aram Safaryan, head of an NGO called Integration and Development, said Wednesday in Novosti International Press Center. The Russia-proposed corridor stretches from its Far East region to the European Union's border.

"Specialists have calculated that if this corridor works properly, in accordance with its technical and economic regulations, cargo transportation from the Far East to Europe will take less time, up to 50 days, in the future thanks to immense government investments, and it may become cheaper," Safaryan said.

"But only the opening of the Abkhazian section of the railway would give this advantage to Armenia."

Safaryan said if the Abkhazian railway starts functioning, it would  benefit Armenia's trade with Russia and its partners.

"China is our second biggest trade partner after Russia, and the first partner, if gas component is not taken into account. Our trade turnover amounted to almost $500 million in 2012."

Safaryan also said that prices for Chinese goods may be other, if the Abkhazian section is opened.

"The status of observer at Shanghai Cooperation Organization will become reasonable if we solve important problems within the Commonwealth of Independent States," he said. In his words, specialists find prospects for the opening very high given political processes in Georgia.

China to Provide Additional $16-Million Grant to Armenia

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The People’s Republic of China will provide an additional $16-million grant to Armenia. The respective agreement was reached Tuesday during the talk between Armenia’s Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan—who is in China on a working visit—and Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, in Dalian city. The Chinese premier thanked Sargsyan for attending the World Economic Forum in Dalian, informs the Armenian government press service. In turn Armenia’s PM reflected on bilateral relations.

“The development of relations with China is a priority for us. I would like to thank China for its balanced position on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. I am also happy that our relations are deepening,” Tigran Sargsyan stated, in particular.

“I know that you and the Armenian people give great emphasis to Chinese culture. In this regard, we stand ready to increase the number of your students at the institutions of higher education of China, and to expand the activities of the Confucius Center [in Armenia].

“We are prepared to guide our citizens toward visiting Armenia. Activities will be carried out toward increasing Chinese investments in Armenia. We are also ready to import a variety of products from Armenia to the Chinese market.

“We have made a decision to provide an additional 100-million-yuan [approx. $16 million] free financial aid to the Government of Armenia, to carry out joint projects. 

“China’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is that the parties should be able to reach a solution with restraint and talks, and peace should be established in the region,” specifically noted the Chinese premier.

Russia to lift 30% customs duty for gas supplies to Armenia 
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Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Armen Movsisyan dispelled the public’s doubts over the deal on Russian gas price hike for Armenia. The stir rose following Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan’s statement that no price increase agreement actually exists.Earlier, the Armenian National Congress (ANC) opposition party’s parliamentary group secretary Aram Manukyan expressed discontent over inability to procure the text of the gas agreement. As Movsisyan noted, commenting on the above, Manukyan was given the copy of the agreement, as instructed by Prime Minister, ARKA reported. 

Also, Russia is ready to lift a 30 percent customs duty on export of natural gas to Armenia, Movsisyan said. Currently Armenia pays $270 for one thousand cubic meters of Russian gas supplied to the country across Georgia. Of that amount $189 dollars is the price of gas, and the rest is the 30% customs duty. 

"We have done quite a lot of work with the Russian side. After the September 3 announcement on Armenia’s joining the Russia-led Customs Union, the gas delivery contract between the two governments will be revised and simplified. This means the Russian side will not apply customs duty on gas exports to Armenia. We hope that a revised contract will be signed before the end of this year," Movsisyan said. 

According to the minister, the price of gas for Armenia will be the same as in Russia plus transportation costs. However, Movsisyan said this will not affect the price for local consumers. “Our calculations show that revised contract will not entail a price rise or price drop,” he added.


Russia to Expand Military Cooperation With Armenia

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Russia plans to expand its military presence in Armenia, Haykakan Zhamanak daily said. According to the paper, a staff addition is scheduled at the Gyumri military base No. 102. Russian military officials with their families - up to 3000 persons – are expected to arrive for service at the military base. The Armenian city is getting ready for guests, with several Armenian families to be relocated to new homes.

At the same time, Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan neither confirmed nor denied the report. Yerevan and Moscow are planning to ratify an important agreement, envisaging direct purchases from Russian military plants, in the near future, Hraparak daily said earlier citing sources at parliament.

According to the daily, the deal will provide Armenia with exclusive rights. “There’s a similar agreement with Belarus, yet it contains some reservations, which the deal with Armenia does not,” the daily said.

In June 2013, during the visit of the Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev to Armenia, a military and technical cooperation agreement was signed with Russia. The agreement stipulates for each side to supply military products with the same specifications as for one’s own armed forces. The agreement also enables the supplier to exert control over the presence of products and their compliance with the intended use to be described in an additional treaty.

According to another deal, Armenia and Russia will form a joint defense enterprise as well as the border guards and emergency situation experts training centers. With Russia’s assistance, Armenia’s defense industry will launch production of ammunition, armory, as well as form a repair base for land, air and air defense forces.
  

Armenia Seeks Observer Status in Shanghai Cooperation Organization

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Armenia would like to acquire observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a post-Soviet Eurasian security bloc, and it will need support from China to get it, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said Tuesday. Sargsyan, on a visit to China, was assured by his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, that China would consider the matter with its partners in the SCO, the Armenian government press service said. Keqiang said China welcomed Armenia’s wish to become involved in regional affairs. The SCO will hold a summit meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on September 13. Founded in 2001, the SCO comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The organization aims to consolidate efforts to counter terrorism and radicalization among member countries, and to coordinate work in other areas such as politics and trade. Iran, Afghanistan, India, Mongolia and Pakistan have observer status in the organization.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20130910/183345225/Armenia-Seeks-SCO-Observer-Status.html

Russia Offers to Subsidize Nuclear Plant

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Russia is ready to finance 35 percent of the cost of construction of a new power unit for Armenia’s nuclear power plant, Vahram Petrosyan, the secretary of a presidential council on nuclear power safety, said today.

Armenian authorities said they will build a new nuclear power plant to replace the aging Metsamor plant. The new plant is supposed to operate at twice the capacity of the Soviet-constructed facility. Metsamor currently generates some 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity. But the government has yet to attract funding for the project that was estimated by a U.S.-funded feasibility study to cost at as much as $5 billion.

“We are looking for new investors. As for Russia, they are willing to participate in the project by funding 35 percent of its cost. The money will be used to purchase the necessary equipment,” Petrosyan said at a news conference after a meeting of the council.

The plant is located some 30 kilometers west of Yerevan. It was built in the 1970s but was closed following a devastating earthquake in 1988. One of its two VVER 440-V230 light-water reactors was reactivated in 1995. On September 3, Russian president Putin said experts from Russian state nuclear company Rosatom and Armenian experts will work to extend the service life of the Armenian nuclear power plant in Metsamor for another 10 years until 2026.

Petrosyan said the extension of the service life of the facility requires at least $150 million. On Wednesday, President Serzh Sarkisian met with the chairman of the presidential Nuclear Energy Safety Council (NESC), Adolf Birkhofer, who has arrived in Armenia to participate in the regular session of the NESC.

The President of Armenia and Chairman of NESC spoke about planned works aimed at the enhancement of the security level of the Metsamor nuclear power plant and its current state. In that regard, the parties stated that the Metsamor plant has the necessary projected level of seismic stability. Serzh Sarkisian and Adolf Birkhofer also spoke about issues related to the future operation of the plant, the construction of a new energy unit, and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including the results of the OSART mission.

After the meeting, President Serzh Sarkisian and Chairman Adolf Birkhofer participated in the session of the NESC. The President began by underscoring that it would be difficult to overestimate the importance of cooperation in the council, considering the special role that nuclear energy plays in ensuring energy security for Armenia. President Sarkisian thanked the IAEA, the governments of the Russian Federation, US, Czech Republic, Great Britain, and Italy, and the European Commission for their assistance.
“The Republic of Armenia has been constantly improving its domestic legislation and has been fulfilling, in good faith, her international obligations,” the President said.

The governments of the Republic of Armenia and the Russian Federation will soon sign an agreement on cooperation in the area of nuclear safety, the President said. The agreement will allow Armenia to:

– develop infrastructure for nuclear safety in preparation for the construction of new energy units based on Russian designs.

– train, re-train and upgrade specialists of nuclear safety, taking into consideration IAEA recommendations.

– expand the framework of cooperation in nuclear energy.

In October 2012, the Governments of the Republic of Armenia and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding pertinent to the energy (including nuclear energy) sector. The document allows the two countries to cooperate more closely in the area of peaceful use of nuclear energy.

President Sarkisian mentioned that a great amount of work has been done with the assistance of the IAEA and international experts towards improving the seismic stability of the Metsamor plant. In 2012, during routine, preventive renovations, supporting structures were installed to enhance the seismic stability of the main structures and components of the plant, which are pivotal from a safety point of view.

In 2013, the IAEA OSART sent a mission to Armenia that registered sufficient progress but also raised concerns related, particularly, to the management of radioactive waste. The President said experts have already started to develop a strategy on safe management of radioactive waste with the technical assistance of the European Union.

“Armenia reiterates her intention to develop nuclear energy which has a special place in the country’s energy development program. Only nuclear power can allow us to maintain the proper level of the country’s energy security and independence,” President Sargsyan stressed in his remarks.

Source: http://asbarez.com/115886/russia-offers-to-subsidize-nuclear-plant/

Head of union of Armenian banks welcomes possible arrival of new Russian banks to Armenia

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Head of the Union of Armenian Banks, Samvel Chzmachyan, has welcomed a possible arrival of new Russian players to Armenia’s banking sector. Speaking to reporters he said to the best of his knowledge a couple of Russian banks were exploring chances of either buying stock of local banks or opening their branches here. In his words, the arrival of new Russian banks to the Armenian market would bring additional resources and boost also competition.

‘Unequivocally this will benefit Armenia’s interests because a sound competition usually results in lower interest rates,’ he said.

In comments on the possible impact of Armenia’s anticipated membership in the Customs Union on the banking system of Armenia he said it will be very small. He said also Armenia’s accession to the Russia-led Customs Union is vitally important and is a correct move.

According to Armenia’s Central Bank, in 2012 Russian banks accounted for 15.3 percent of charter capitals of Armenia-based banks. EU member countries accounted for 31.6 percent. According to official data, non-residents account for over 73 percent of charter capital of Armenia-based banks.


Tourism industry executives from Armenia and Russia’s St. Petersburg meet in Yerevan for round-table discussion

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Tourism industry executives from Armenia and Russia’s St. Petersburg met today in Yerevan for a round-table discussion on how to boost mutual tourist visits “This is a step that may make bilateral relations in tourism area closer and that gives an opportunity for establishing new ties and exchanging experience,” Maria Baghramyan, head of Yerevan municipality’s division in change of tourism, told ARKA News Agency.  “We are planning to organize fun trips and press tours in the future to make Yerevan more attractive for Petersburgers,” she said. Some 30 representatives of Armenian travel agencies, hotels, restaurants, education establishments training specialists in tourism and editors of tourist magazines were present at the meeting. At the round-table discussion, St. Petersburg was presented as a tourist product that will be interesting to Armenian tour operators.

Source: http://arka.am

Former Ambassador Kovalenko: Armenia's Membership in Customs Union Increases its Prosperity

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Armenia's readiness to join the Customs Union meets its national interests, and will open up prospects for its development, will increase its prosperity and strengthen its position and prestige in the region and around the world, former Russian ambassador to Armenia Vyacheslav Kovalenko said today during a Moscow-Yerevan video conference.

"It is elementary, and it is unclear on what  Armenia’s aspiration to sign association agreement  with the EU was based, which would block, in my opinion, the only possible option for Yerevan to consolidate its allied relations with Russia through the Eurasian process ,"  said Kovalenko.

The diplomat said he never doubted that Armenia would  eventually choose the Eurasian integration, noting that the allied relations between Armenia and Russia are based not only on military-technical , trade and economic, but also on humanitarian cooperation.

"Humanitarian cooperation implies development of close human relationships: it is the Russian language, mutual enrichment between the two cultures, it is the planned opening of the branch of Moscow State University in Armenia,” said Kovalenko.

According to him, the creation of the Armenian branch of the University will allow young people from the southern regions of Russia to pursue higher education  not in Moscow but in Armenia and in the future to stay at homeland and serve it. He also stressed the importance of around 100 centers of Russian language in Armenia.

Director of the Caucasus Institute, Alexander Iskandaryan, said Armenia and Russia are interconnected by many threads, and neither side wants to cut them. "Russia is important for Armenia in terms of its security. Armenia in turn has strategic significance for Russia which wants to be present in the South Caucasus as a significant force,’ Iskandaryan said.

Director of the Armenian branch of the CIS Institute, Alexander Makarov, added that the military- political cooperation has always been a priority in relations between the two countries. "If we talk about economic cooperation, Russian investors are the main investors in Armenia, the Russian capital is present in almost all areas of the economy", he said.

Source: http://arka.am

“Armenia in Eurasia” Social Alliance is Formed
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The “Armenian Socialist Movement” social initiative and the “Eurasian Integration” NGO announced about the formation of the “Armenia in Eurasia” social alliance.  Their respective statement notes that they see the imperative of the development of Armenia’s economic, military, political, societal, spiritual and cultural life in the country’s accession to the Customs and the Eurasian Unions. “The alliance will come up with a series of initiatives to assist in the process of Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian family. “The ‘Armenia in Eurasia’ social alliance is open to the cooperation-supporting social and political organizations, and individuals,” the newly-formed alliance’s statement reads.

Source: http://news.am/eng/news/180158.html

Russian expert: Moscow can not ignore Armenian interests

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Russia is interested in keeping some balance in South Caucasus and for that reason it should develop relations both with Armenia and Azerbaijan. “Armenpress” reports making a reference on “RIA Novosti” that such opinion expressed Russian political expert Andrei Kazantsev. “By implementing such policy Russia will have opportunity to control the situation in its Southern borders,” he said. But experts think that it will not be easy for Russia to do so. “Armenia is the official ally of Russia, they are both members of Collective Security Treaty Organization,” said expert on international policy Andrei Suzdaltsev. In the opinion of experts the situation on Nagorno-Karabakh can have much more unpleasant continuation. Andrei Kazantsev mentioned that it is not accidental that Azerbaijan buys lots of weapons not only from Russia but also from the whole world. “In such situation it is very important that intermediary countries including Russia implement steps to weaken tension in the region,” he said.

Russia to Deploy Combat Helicopters at Armenian Basehttp://iliketowastemytime.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/blog_image/eastern-aviation-mi-24.jpg

Russia will strengthen its air contingent at the Erebuni air base in Armenia with a helicopter squadron in the next few months, the base commander said Friday. Russia’s 3624th Air Base at the Erebuni airport in Yerevan currently hosts at least 16 MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets operating under the framework of air defense agreements concluded between the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

“A decision has been made to form a helicopter squadron in addition to the fighter squadron at the Erebuni base by the end of this year or in the beginning of the next year,” Col. Alexander Petrov said.

Petrov did not specify the type of helicopters to be deployed at the base. Petrov said Moscow and Yerevan have agreed that Russian pilots will be able to practice bombing runs and missile launches with live ammunition at the nearby Marshal Bagramyan training grounds belonging to the Armenian Defense Ministry. The Erebuni air base is part of Russia’s 102nd military base located in Gyumri, near Armenia’s border with Turkey.

The 102nd base has been deployed in Gyumri since 1995 under a bilateral treaty that was extended in 2010 from 25 to 49 years, ensuring a Russian military presence in Armenia through 2044. Artur Bagdasaryan, head of Armenia’s National Security Council said in June that Russian military bases in Armenia will be modernized and upgraded over the next few years.


Russian Commander: Russian Base’s Main Task is Defense of Armenian Air Space

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The Russian air base of Armenia will soon be equipped with new helicopters. The Commander of the Russian Aviation in Armenia Alexander Petrov told about it to the journalists after the solemn ceremony devoted to the 15th anniversary of the formation of the Russian air base in Armenia. “The Russian air base in Armenia will soon be modernized and expanded. We have already an agreement and works are being carried out”, - said Alexander Petrov. Armenpress reports that concerning the activity of the base, the Commander of the Russian Aviation in Armenia stated that the main task of the air base is to protect the air space of the Republic of Armenia, which has been done and will be done with honor. “During the fifteen years of our activities we have had both difficulties and good days. During this period of time we have accomplished all the tasks successfully and will continue working with the same readiness”, - said Alexander Petrov. On October 18 the 15th anniversary of the formation of the Russian air base in Armenia was celebrated in Erebuni Airport. 

Source: http://armenpress.am/eng/news/737026/

Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky: Russian Troops in Gyumri will Retaliate If Azerbaijan Attacks Artsakh


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Russian troops stationed in Armenia could openly side with it in case of a renewed Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Nagorno-Karabakh, according to their top commander, Colonel Andrey Ruzinsky.

“If Azerbaijan decides to restore jurisdiction over Nagorno-Karabakh by force the [Russian] military base may join in the armed conflict in accordance with the Russian Federation’s obligations within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO),” Ruzinksy told the Russian Defense Ministry’s “Krasnaya Zvezda” newspaper in a recent interview.

Ruzinksy answered a question about the mission of the Russian base headquartered in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri. That mission was upgraded by a Russian-Armenian defense agreement signed in 2010. The agreement extended Russia’s basing rights in Armenia until 2044. It also committed Moscow to supplying its South Caucasus ally with more weapons and military hardware.

The Russian base, which numbers between 4,000 and 5,000 soldiers, has since been bolstered with modern weaponry, reportedly including Iskander-M tactical ballistic missiles. The Russian military also plans to deploy combat helicopters there soon. The Russian air force unit in Armenia currently has 16 MiG-29 fighter jets.

Armenian officials and pro-government politicians have claimed before that the 2010 defense pact mandates direct Russian military involvement in the Karabakh conflict if Azerbaijan acts on its threats to reconquer the disputed territory. Russian officials have not explicitly confirmed this in their public statements made until now.

The Russian troops in Armenia hold joint exercises and trainings with Armenian army units on a regular basis. Around a thousand soldiers from the two armies, backed up tanks, helicopters and artillery systems, practiced a joint military operation as recently as in August. According to Ruzinsky, more such war games are planned for next year. “I believe that we need to further develop our field cooperation, if I may put it way,” he said.

The Russian base commander also revealed to “Krasnaya Zvezda” that a group of his senior officers and their Armenian colleagues recently jointly toured “areas of combat engagement.” “We plan to increase such activities next year,” he said without elaborating.


Russian Expert: Armenia more free in decision-making than Russia

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Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union was extremely important not only for Russia but first of all for Armenia itself, according to director general of EurAsEC institute.

Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan, Vladimir Lepekhin said that Armenia is much freer in taking decisions than Russia and can get lots of dividends from joining the CU. “This first of proceeds from Armenia’s interests and the country can set conditions for the CU membership and seek their realization,” he said.

According to him, Armenia’s main interests are tariffs for gas and the Customs Union membership will allow resolving the issue to Yerevan’s benefit.

Lepekhin agreed that Russia is in a way dependent on the West. “The dependence is rather strong, however, Europe is even more dependent. It’s possible to reach an agreement with Russia, as the problems mostly refer to resources, but we can’t say the same about Europe,” Panorama.am quoted him as saying.

According to Novosti Armenia, Lepekhin also said that the Customs Union is not an important geopolitical project but a union aiming to improve turnover between the member states.

During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sept 3, Armenian leader Serzh Sargsyan said Armenia is ready to join Customs Union, with further plans to be involved in formation of the Eurasian Economic Union. Mr. Putin supported the initiative, voicing readiness to assist Armenia in the process. He also noted that Russian Railways may invest 15 billion rubles in development of Armenia's railway network. The Customs Union was formed in 2010 to include of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia; Kirghizia and Tajikistan later expressed willingness to join the Union.
Economists Say Membership in Armenia’s Best Interest
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A group of economists have drafted a research upon the initiative of the Eurasian Development Bank on “Economic Calculations of Armenia’s Integration Processes with the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union.”

The group, lead by Ashot Tavadyan, head of the Faculty of Economic-Mathematical Methodology at the Yerevan State University of Economics, summing up the results of the four-month research told the press on Wednesday that in the event of Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union (CU) “an Armenian citizen will have a safer and better life”.

The economist shared an opinion that Armenia has not matured for European standards yet and could have found itself “in trouble”, just like Baltic countries have, if it entered the EU free trade area.

The experts have concluded that with the CU Armenia may have a 4-percent economic growth in the initial period, while in case of joining the EU free trade area that index would have ranged between two and three percent only (they referred to European experts’ analysis of Armenia’s Association Agreement with the EU to draw parallels).

As opposed to Bagrat Asatryan, former chairman of the Central Bank, who voiced rather pessimistic perspectives in this concern, Tavadyan claims the Customs Union agreement with Armenia is “about economic security, as part of security in general”.

“This is an agreement of unprecedented investments and employment growth,” stated Tavadyan. The economist says that the public transport fares will drop in Armenia, as Russia has promised to make a $470-million investment in that field.

“The other important factor is the $100 million investment by the Eurasian bank, which will ensure high tempo of economic growth in our country. As for the energy bloc, joining the CU means we will have a good chance of exploiting the nuclear power plant and building a new one in the future,” says Tavadyan, predicting that in the future Armenia, as a CU member, would import natural gas from Russia at a 30-percent cheaper price: today’s $270 per 1,000 cubic meter would cost $187.

“It will happen automatically, since the union ideology provides for fair competition, meaning that the gas tariff, in our case, would include only transportation and transit fees,” assures Tavadyan.

Another conclusion is that in the event of joining the CU Armenia's labor migrants would send 3 percent more remittances to Armenia, as they would have less trouble “finding employment and dealing with administrative issues”.

Richard Giragosian: Armenia is in danger of returning to a vassal state within the Russian orbit

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Armenia needs more maneuvers in handling its ties with the European Union and Russia in its foreign policies, an Armenia scholar said in an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday. There are two agreements pending between the EU and Armenia -- the Association Agreement (AA), or political document for integration with the EU, and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), an economic and trade document with the EU, said Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center. The two documents are closely related, said Giragosian.

"The AA has largely been negotiated under understanding that the key component will be that DCFTA. Therefore, if that is removed, what is left is seriously diluted -- giving Armenia very little, and giving the EU much less," he said.

Joining the Russia-led Customs Union closes the door for Armenia's access to European markets, and removes the availability of the DCFTA.

"Therefore, the EU reaction has been extremely negative but on a justifiable ground: it was a complete surprise, and it endangered several years of commitments and negotiations between Armenia and the EU," he said.

"More importantly, it also shows that EU investment and expectations in Armenia have been diminished. Therefore, Armenia is in danger of looking insincere and incompetent in the eyes of the EU," said Giragosian.

Armenia will lose an opportunity for much bigger markets if it turns away from Europe, while the Customs Union offers Armenia nothing in terms of trade with Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), he said.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has said that Armenia is ready to join the Russia-led Customs Union. Giragosian said Sargsyan took a very bold but unexpected decision to commit Armenia to joining the Customs Union at a recent meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In many ways this decision was a strategic mistake, which makes Armenia no longer be capable of signing the DCFTA with EU, he said.

"Four years of negotiations between the EU and Armenia has now been rejected, and unfortunately Armenia is in danger of returning to a vassal state within the Russian orbit," he said. "Armenia for the past five years has been struggling to strengthen sovereignty and independence and to pursue a foreign policy designed to give more options and more space to Armenia to engage with the West while remaining a security partner of Russia."

Yet, currently there is a reversal in this trend of diversification, and the real danger for Armenia now is that it is becoming a little more than a Russian garrison-state.

Giragosian believed that economically Armenia is looking to the EU, while militarily it keeps a security agreement with Russia. "This balance is now in danger of being lost," he noted. Giragosian said that Armenia's decision might be a result of Russian pressure, which would reveal a deeper problem of the nature of the relationship or alliance between Russia and Armenia. If it was not a result of Russian pressure, that's another problem because it shows the weakness of the Armenian leadership and government, he said.

But the real question for Ukraine, Moldova and other former Soviet states is how to balance the need to overcome isolation and the reality of having a strong, assertive and aggressive Russia on their borders, he said. Currently, Armenia has been actively developing ties beyond its reliance on Russia in the military cooperation, said Giragosian. It has deepened ties with NATO's Partnership for Peace Program as well as bilateral military ties with a number of other countries, including the United States, Germany and Greece.

Giragosian also said that over the past four years Armenia has been negotiating with the EU, and the Russians have never protested, opposed nor blocked. What happened over the past several weeks was a rather late change in Moscow to exercise greater control, power and influence within the so-called near abroad -- the former Soviet states, added the scholar. He said that Russia's playing the Armenia card was a message of strength to the West, to the United States, and more importantly to Ukraine and Belarus.

It is much more important strategically for Russia to bring Ukraine into the Customs Union. This is also linked to Russia's policy over Syria as well, in terms of confronting and containing any kind of Western or European interference within its own sphere of influence.

"It is interesting that the Russian position is based on inherent weakness, not strength. And this is actually a desperate move to reinforce the decline in Russia's long-term power and influence," he said. "But I don't think over the long term it will work, because there is no incentive, this is more of stick than carrot. But for a small country like Armenia, it is going to be difficult to try to regain more options and more strategic maneuverability," said Giragosian.

"Russian policy has been not very strategic -- a much shorter, tactical response, counterproductive I would argue as well. Because in the long run, Armenia within this EU framework is a win-win prospect," he said.

He added that there has not been any danger of Russia losing Armenia as an ally in this region. Moreover, Armenia is the only reliable country for Russia in this region, the only member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the only country to host a Russian military presence.

"Armenia should do a better job in actually manipulating its geographic isolation and vulnerability, and think strategically in longer term, rather than giving in too soon in exchange for a little benefit," noted Giragosian.


Former Russian Ambassador to Armenia is Indignant at Richard Giragosian

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The former ambassador of Russia to Armenia, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, comments on recent interview by political expert Richard  Giragosian with Arminfo news agency. Here is the full text of his commentary, as he asked: 

"In his recent interview with Arminfo news agency, the head of the Centre for Regional Studies, Richard Giragosian, has again cast doubt upon Armenia's decision to join the Customs Union. He said nothing new. Nevertheless, I think it is important to draw attention on arguments, which supporters of orientation towards  the EU (including Giragosian) use, saying that the way of further development chosen by Armenia is wrong. In this context, they separate not only the economic prospect  but also the fact that Armenia lost confidence as a partner of the western countries. Giragosian regrets that almost four years of work for signing of the Association Agreement and DCFTA with the EU which had to be signed in Vilnius in November of the current year, were in vain.  Coming forward from the position of Armenia's patriot, Giragosian regrets that from now on Brussels will start reducing its programmes that cost millions EUR, which were earlier foreseen for making reforms. In such an attitude I see, at least, two moments which do not enhance Mr Giragosian's "patriotic position". He seems to forget that not everything is sold in this world for money, that Armenia is sovereign state which does not accept diktat of the EU, and its conditions hidden under the pseudo-democratic principle "more for more".  What the EU offered in the form of the association relations, is not so much good for the national interests of Armenia. Why did the EU refuse Yerevan's aspiration to preserve its foreign political course, saying about incompatibility of Armenia's participation in the European integration and Eurasian processes simultaneously? The Europeans put the question point-blank" "either-or". which in fact would mean changing of the political course and canceling of the allied relations with Russia. Today, Giragosian says quite the contrary, that just joining the Customs Union will "become a dramatic changing of Armenia's course". He seems not to be aware that Moscow but not Brussels accepted both directions (European and Eurasian), and  thought that their simultaneous development is possible as they replenish  each other. Giragosian says nothing about it, but insists that Russia forced Armenia to refuse the European development course in order to please its empire ambitions.

Mr. Giragosian is not embarrassed to lie just to help the EU to save its face. He is not ashamed to call Armenia's position a shame, a strategic mistake, a lost opportunity. What he wants to say is that the EU is right in whatever it does, that its policy is a blessing for Armenia, while the Customs Union is nothing but a mistake for it. But by saying this he denies Armenia its right to choose.

What has the EU done for Armenia after all? Several millions EUR given to the country so it could unify the requirements to the products it makes for export, annual grants of some 200 million EUR, soft loans the country will have to repay one day and endless promises of financial assistance and investments. It's not very much, is it?

Kovalenko says that experts, like Mr.Giragosian, blame Russia for almost all difficulties and problems experienced by Armenia. "There is no secret in assessment of the trade, economic, and investment relations between the two countries. Russia is a major foreign trade partner of Armenia. Its annual investments total 3 bln USD (which is as much as the USA's investments throughout the period of Armenia's independence.  The private transfers from Russia to Armenia total 3 bln USD per annum. Russia is the key foreign labor market for Armenia's citizens. Big Russian investments in energy and communications are expected in relation to Armenia's decision to join the Customs Union", he says.

Kovalenko thinks that Mr.Giragosian should not frighten Armenia by hopeless future or loss of opportunities. "European commissioners realize this and are trying to make adjustments to the work with Armenia. Giragosian speaks about it frankly, but at the same time, he editorializes it, stressing that the context of cooperation will change, new demands will be put forward to the Armenian Government and the focus will be shifted from the ruling party and the Government to the opposition. Apparently, this means that the EU will actively start preparing a "fifth column" inside the country to trigger anti-governmental sentiments in the civil society and hold protest actions. Briefly speaking, this will lead to destabilization of the situation. If it is so, I'd like to recall that almost 80% of Armenia's citizens consider that the country's accession to the Customs Union will strengthen the economy and the national security system of Armenia.  This is an important remark and it should make the Armenian authorities take specific steps to formalize such sentiments of the overwhelming majority of the citizens and to switch them onto the track of public movement to support the Eurasian process. One shouldn't do such things half-way".


Georgian PM Doesn't Rule Out Eurasian Union

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While pledging to steer his country toward European integration, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has also called for warmer relations with Moscow. He told Koba Liklikadze from RFE/RL's Georgian Service that he will not exclude the possibility that his country could one day join the Eurasian Union, an economic and political body proposed by Russia that would bring together some former Soviet nations.
 
RFE/RL: You recently praised Armenia for its measured foreign policies. Earlier this month, Yerevan announced its plans to join the Russia-led [Customs Union, a precursor to the] Eurasian Union. Do you consider the Eurasian Union to be strategically advantageous for Georgia, too?
 
Bidzina Ivanishvili: At this stage, when the Eurasian Union is being formed, as the head of the cabinet, I say the following: "I am closely monitoring and studying this issue. If it will be advantageous for our country, if it will bring it additional profits, and if, at the same time, it does not counter our strategy, which calls for Georgia's integration into the European Union and NATO, then why not? I will never allow our country to be experimented with! This is why we are watching and studying what the Eurasian Union really means. In the very long term Russia will become a member of the European Union. They are neighbors and they need each other. Russia will also become a NATO member and a close friend of the United States.
 
RFE/RL: But the European Union is not dominated by one nation. The Eurasian Union, by contrast, is dominated by Moscow, which imposes its rules of the game on other countries.
 
Ivanishvili: We will not join such a union! We have gotten rid of masters once and for all. We want freedom, the respect of all human rights, equality, democracy, and the formation of democratic institutions. Therefore we are watching what principles the Eurasian Union will choose. If it turns out to be what you describe, then, of course, we will not join it.
 
RFE/RL: You say that you don't know what the Eurasian Union really is. Do you fully understand what the European Union is, what regulations and challenges await Georgia before it can join the bloc?
 
Ivanishvili: What we appreciate about the European Union is, first and foremost, European values. Europeans are the most successful and interesting people. Human rights, a competitive market, and the absence of corruption -- this is what Europe is about. People always strive for a better life. The current economic crisis did cast a shadow on the European Union. But the crisis will end. Modern civilization has not created anything better than the European Union.
 
RFE/RL: You have toned down Georgia's rhetoric on Russia and appointed a special envoy for relations with Moscow. At the same time, you said at a recent a meeting of Georgian ambassadors that Russia responded by fencing off South Ossetia with barbed wire.
 
Ivanishvili: We have made positive steps with both sides, I want to stress that. Without Russia, our exports would not be able to reach the Russian market so easily. The biggest breakthrough was the resumption of trade and economic relations. At the meeting of ambassadors I noted that this positive development is at odds with the fact that Russian soldiers put up barbed wire. This is baffling. Of course we will try to develop our relations with Russia. But Russia is a huge country and I do not seek to reeducate it. We must be tolerant, principled, and at the same time constructive and diplomatic. We must not scream hysterically and engage in saber rattling, like in the past.

 EurasiaNet: Georgia: Tbilisi Bracing for Russian Pressure

Georgia and the EU: Taking steps forward together? (Photo: European Commission)

Officials and political analysts in Tbilisi believe the Kremlin is ready to reach deep into its bag of tricks to try to coerce Georgia into ditching its European Union membership ambitions and embracing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Union vision.

Georgia traditionally has been the most pro-Western state in the South Caucasus. But in the almost year since Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition gained control of parliament, Georgia’s stance toward Russia has softened somewhat.

On November 28, during a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Georgia is expected to move closer to the European Union when it is expected to initial an Association Agreement, a major step toward potential EU membership. The agreement, which is also on the table for Ukraine and Moldova, will gradually reduce obstacles for closer economic ties with Brussels.

Some Georgians believe that prospect makes Moscow nervous -- not only because it will expand EU influence in a region the Kremlin still considers its “backyard,” but it will also place an economic obstacle between Russia and Georgia’s southern neighbor, Armenia, the lone Caucasian country to sign on to the Eurasian Union’s precursor, a Customs Union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Georgian State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Aleksi Petriashvili on October 9 predicted to reporters that Russia plans “to use all the levers available to it to exert pressure [on Georgia]” before it initials the Association Agreement.

Speculation began about Tbilisi’s intentions after an offhand observation last month from Ivanishvili that Georgia might consider joining Russia’s Eurasian Union, if it proved “interesting.”

Zurab Abashidze, a former Georgian ambassador to Moscow who represents Tbilisi in negotiations with Russia over humanitarian and economic issues, stressed that the Georgian government is not discussing the Eurasian Union with the Kremlin, or any sort of compromise on Tbilisi’s policy of European integration.

While support among Georgians for the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization remains strong (76 percent of 3,838 respondents in a recent poll for the National Democratic Institute), a chance exists that the public -- particularly in impoverished, rural areas -- could switch sides if Moscow makes the right offer, said Kornely K. Kakachia, a political-science professor at Tbilisi State University.

“If you ask people at the end of the day; ‘which one is more important, territorial integrity or Western integration?’ I am not sure Western integration will prevail,” Kakchia commented. The fact that many Georgians understand the EU integration process more in terms of theoretical advantages tomorrow than immediate gains today plays into this risk, he continued. “Moscow knows this, and Moscow tries to utilize it.”

In the wake of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, fences installed by Russian troops in Tbilisi-controlled territory as the “state border” of breakaway South Ossetia constitutes one of the ways Moscow is attempting to apply that pressure, Kakchia and other analysts believe.

Beginning in roughly 2009, Russian troops have been installing barbed wire and fences within areas of separatist-controlled South Ossetia that neighbor on Tbilisi-controlled territory. In recent months, though, they have moved the “border” into Tbilisi-controlled lands, effectively incorporating Georgian orchards, cemeteries and houses into breakaway South Ossetia.

Denounced by Tbilisi’s Western allies and, in a United Nations speech, by President Mikheil Saakashvili, the fence-building appears to have paused for now, Interior Ministry spokesperson Kakha Kemoklidze told EurasiaNet.org on October 11.

But the fences “squandered” any chance that existed for Tbilisi and Moscow to mend relations, much less consider an economic alliance, said Tornike Sharashenidze, a professor of international affairs at the Georgian Institute for Public Affairs and the former director of the NATO Information Center in Tbilisi.

While ordinary Georgians possibly “are not very well aware of … the benefits of the European Union, … they cannot help but see the aggression of Russia,” Sharashenidze said.

Political analyst Alexander Rondeli, founder of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, agrees. “[With the fences] they show everyone -- and Georgians first of all -- that everything, all negotiations, are by Russian rules,” Rondeli said. “It is [a] classical, old strategy: the powerful do as they wish, and the weak do what they can.”

Ivanishvili himself has said he does not plan to visit the affected villages since his presence “will do nothing.” Officials maintain that the fences are the fault of the 2008 war with Russia under President Saakashvili, but conceivably could be used to pressure Georgia to join the Eurasian Union. Yet the potential pressure points go beyond fences.

The Russian Federal Security Bureau (FSB) announced on October 4 that it has unearthed an international arms-smuggling ring, which it claims has been moving weapons from Georgian-controlled territory via South Ossetia into Russia’s North Ossetia. Tbilisi has not yet responded to the claims. Such allegations often accompany upticks in tension over South Ossetia.

Another barb aims at a Georgian weak spot, the economy. Just three months after Russia reopened its markets to Georgian alcohol and mineral water, the Russian state consumer-protection agency RosPotrebNadzor once again began questioning the quality of imported Georgian wine. Georgian wine producers, in the past have emphasized that they have diversified away from the Russian market.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry did not respond to questions in time for publication. Abashidze, the Georgian envoy, underlined that, no matter Moscow’s actions, Tbilisi intends to stand firm on its desire to gain eventual membership in Euro-Atlantic structures. “We stated from the very beginning that we know Russia has red lines … and we have our red lines -- territorial integrity and our free choice in international relations,” he said. “These principals cannot be discussed.”

Source: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/67629

EU Will Not Sign Agreement with Armenia, Commissioner Says

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EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule told journalists in Yerevan Friday that the European Union will not sign any documents with Armenia at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, scheduled for late November.

“The agreement on a deep and comprehensive free trade area is part of the Association Agreement. It is a single document, and one can not be separated from the other,” Fule said after an informal meeting of foreign ministers of the Eastern Partnership program’s member countries in Yerevan.
 
Asked about the possibility of preparing a document providing a new format of cooperation between the EU and Armenia, Fule said that such a serious document can not be prepared prior to the Vilnius summit. He added, however, that the EU does not refuse further cooperation with Armenia.
 
Speaking at the meeting, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said, “Over the past years, in cooperation with our European colleagues, the Armenian government implemented large-scale reforms, particularly in the areas of strengthening of democratic institutions and the rule of law, good governance, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, improvement of election processes and the electoral code, and the development of civil society.” Nalbandian added, “We are thankful for that support and look forward to continuing our reforms in the future.”
 
The Minister underlined that Armenia has allied relations with Russia, and this was the reason behind the decision to join the Customs Union.
 
“We have said on many occasions that we are ready to launch close cooperation with the European Union, but not at the expense of our strategic partner,” Nalbandian stated.
 
“Armenia is determined to maintain and advance the achievements and progress registered in the course of its relations with the European Union over the past years,” Edward Nalbandian said.
 
Stefan Fule, who was also at the meeting in Yerevan, stated, “The EU remains committed to advancing the Eastern Partnership with all six partner countries. Our intentions and policies are clear, transparent, predictable and differentiable – reflecting the ambitions of our partners and their commitment to values and principles that form the basis of our relations. We have always acted in this way and will continue to do so – in the run up to the Vilnius summit and beyond.”
 
“We are not in the business of building walls. We are in the process that could eventually lead to a free trade zone between Lisbon and Vladivostok,” Commissioner Fule said.
 
“The development of the Eurasian Union project must respect our partners’ sovereign decisions. Any threats from Russia linked to the possible signing of agreements with the European Union are unacceptable. The European Union will support and stand by those who are subject to undue pressures,” he said.
 
“I’ve come to understand what Armenia’s expectations are from the Vilnius Summit,” Commissioner Fule said, adding that the AA/DCFTA are part of one treaty that cannot be separated.
 
“The greatest expectations are connected with the Association Agreement and the creation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. Such agreements will be signed with Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia,” Fule explained, noting that Armenia’s announcement about its plans to join the Customs Union will not allow it to initial the Association Agreement, which had been negotiated for three years.
 
As for the statement made by the EU Delegation to Armenia on the recent violent incidents against activists and human rights defenders, the Commissioner said: “The EU has expressed deep concerns and called on Armenian authorities to take decisive action to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
 
Moldova’s Foreign Minister Natalia German stated that despite pressures, Moldova is ready to sign the Association Agreement. The Georgian and Ukrainian Foreign Ministers expressed the same.


Protests against joining Customs Union outside presidential residence

Protest against
 Armenia's decision to join Customs Union

A protest rally against Armenia’s joining the Customs Union was held outside presidential residence. The rally participants believe that by joining the CU, Armenia will make a step towards restoration of the USSR. Protesters are demanding resignation of President Serzh Sargsyan. As Heritage party representative David Sanasaryan told journalists, those gathered aim to express determination in disallowing a non-elected president or other officials to play games with Armenia’s sovereignty.

A clash broke out between the demonstrators and the police when the formers tired to gather in front of the presidential residence. Several activists were detained. The Asparez club chair and National Self-Determination Union leader Paruyr Hayrikyan participated in the action, with the latter noting that Armenia’s jointing the CU should have been decided through a referendum rather than the president alone, tert.am said. Those detained are expected to be released after a report is drawn up. Several demonstrators marched to the police department to support their friends.

The rally was planned in Facebook, with the further actions to be coordinated in the social network. Earlier, Armenia expressed intention to join Customs Union, with further plans to be involved in formation of EurAsEC. Russian President Vladimir Putin supported the initiative, voicing readiness to assist Armenia in the process. He also noted that Russian Railways may invest 15 billion rubles in development of Armenia's railway network. The Customs Union was formed in 2010 to include of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia; Kirghizia and Tajikistan later expressed willingness to join the Union.


Russia Has Never Guaranteed Our Security, Paruyr Hayrikyan says

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Seeking an alternative to the European Union and finding a refuge in the Customs Union means having health problems, leader of the National Self-Determination Union Paruyr Hayrikyan told a press conference today. According to him, for Moscow the Customs Union means restoration of the USSR and improvement of Russia’s image. Paruyr Hayrikyan’s opinion about the Customs Union is definitely negative. He believes that the EU will once expand its borders involving both Russia and Armenia. However, Armenia will then join the EU as an annex. Hayrikyan considers that the Customs Union will not exist long, as it has been created artificially to raise Russia’s price. The explanations that Armenia chose the Customs Union because of security consideration are also unacceptable to Paruyr Hayrikyan. Referring to some historic events, he noted that Russia has never ensured our security and added that NATO is the main guarantor of security.


Hairikyan believes that Putin wants to restore the Russian empire

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On September 14, during a meeting in Georgian village Tekali, Paruyr Hayrikyan presented his book “To absolute democracy”. In particular, he said,- “We all, Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijani peoples, are the victims of the Bolshevik dictatorship. All our problems are coming from there. We need to always realize it and understand that when there is no mutual understanding in us, it means the the dictatorship is ruling that is imposed on us. It is very important for us that we take our fate in our hands. The main problem in the post-Soviet period was that not people solve the problem, but the KGB’s former agents, in other words, the Bolshevik Empire now continues to exist with new rules, but the idea is still dominating. The issue of Armenian-Georgian border is a minor problem, but someone would like Armenians and Georgians live in peace, they managed to involve Azerbaijanis deep in the conflict, now they want Armenians to get into conflict with Georgians, then Armenia’s dependence on Russia will grow. They already succeeded in doing a lot. In recent days, all Armenians were shocked at how it turned out, we were saying that we live in European values, we are going to Europe, suddenly, one day, the President made a sole statement that no, we prefer Putin Russia. It does not refer to Russia, the matter is about Putin Russia. And who is Putin? Putin regrets that the peoples liberated from the Soviet empire, he has repeatedly said, we were forced to call the Soviet Union, but it was Russia, the Russian empire, and our goal is to restore the Russian empire.”

 Hovannisian Condemns Deal With Russia

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Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian described membership in the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan as a grave threat to Armenia’s independence as he again rallied supporters in Yerevan on Friday.
 
Hovannisian added the Armenian government’s pledge to join the union to a list of reasons why he believes President Serzh Sarkisian should step down. He said Sarkisian “single-handedly decided to subordinate Armenia’s sovereignty to others in a humiliating manner.”
“A government that steals elections, attacks citizens, ruins cultural values, fails to solve crimes in the army and elsewhere … and takes a step in Moscow that is not anti-American or anti-European but anti-Armenian,” he told several hundred people in the city’s Liberty Square.
 
The Zharangutyun (Heritage) party leader, who was Sarkisian’s main challenger in the February 2013 presidential election, called for the creation of a broad-based “national renewal front” that would campaign for regime change. “If we don’t come out of our corners and create that powerful fist nobody will forgive us for the loss of statehood,” he said.
 
“Armenia’s independence is jeopardized,” Zaruhi Postanjian, an outspoken Zharangutyun parliamentarian, said in a speech at the rally.
 
Hovannisian launched what he described as a new campaign of anti-government protests late last month, shortly before Sarkisian announced his decision on the customs union in Moscow. He has failed to pull large crowds so far.
 
The U.S.-born oppositionist called on other opposition and civic groups to join in the campaign ahead of the latest rally. Only a handful of small groups and individual figures heeded the appeal, however. Among them was Paruyr Hayrikian, another former presidential candidate who spent more than a decade in Soviet prisons for campaigning for Armenia’s independence.
 
Of all opposition represented in the Armenian parliament, only Zharangutyun and the Free Democrats party have explicitly rejected Armenia’s accession to the customs union. 

Human rights activist to appeal decision on joining Customs Union

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A leading human rights activist in Armenia is going to appeal the decision on joining the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan that was announced by President Serzh Sargsyan last month. At a press conference on Monday Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office head Artur Sakunts said that the decision announced in Moscow on September 3 was “not taken democratically, by means of discussions and consultations”, and contradicted earlier statements by power bodies. Sakunts said that he would seek the Constitutional Court’s declaring the decision illegal. The September 3 declaration by President Sargsyan following talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin came as a U-turn in the policies of Armenia that for several years before that sought an associated status with the European Union. In the wake of this major geopolitical decision officials in Brussels said that no agreement on association and forming a deep and comprehensive free trade area would be signed with Armenia at the upcoming EU Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.


Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardyan sees dangers of restrictions on press freedom in Armenia

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Head of the Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardyan fears that restrictions on freedom of speech will become a “more and more serious challenge” in Armenia in the time to come.
 
Navasardyan, who is also the national coordinator of the Eastern Partnership Civil Platform, links these concerns to the “lowered interest” of Armenia in deepening relations with the West, in particular with the European Union.

Now we have found ourselves in a little bit different situation [he refers to the choice of the Russian-led Customs Union over European integration] and it can be predicted that maybe not that fast, not in a very active and cruel manner, but restrictions on freedom of expression will grow to become a more and more serious challenge in Armenia and in that case the unwillingness of individual journalists to work in that situation, under such conditions will be understandable to me,” said Navasardyan.

 
The Yerevan Press Club’s president says the information field went through great disappointment after the elections.
 
“In fact, our well-known concern that the fairly high quality of election coverage was not so much a reflection of the freedom of speech as a matter of clear instructions from the government has been justified. Though, it is not bad either, but the instruction to be free should be for as long a period as possible, so that it becomes a customary thing for the media. Unfortunately, this period was too short for the tradition of being free to stay with some of our media representatives,” says Navasardyan.
 
International observers who monitored the most recent elections in Armenia positively evaluated the election campaign coverage, stressing that all the candidates and political parties had an equal chance of being covered.
 
Navasardyan emphasizes that only in the election period when Armenia was in the center of attention of the international community and, in fact, only due to the influence of external factors, the country managed to have a more or less positive period in terms of press freedom.
 
Editor-in-chief of Hetq.am Edik Baghdasaryan, known for his journalistic investigations, recently raised the issue of the distortion of the media environment and authorities’ taking media under their immediate control. He expressed the opinion that “Armenia’s authorities have managed to destroy the media field where journalists no longer are able to find their place and find themselves in an extremely hopeless condition, as the entire media field, and the journalistic profession, are distorted.”
 
“The media have become the most controlled field in Armenia. Control over materials, subjects, organization of their publication have become precise. The problem is that traditional sources of information no longer work. There is no longer a need to conduct journalistic investigations (and it often takes months), to find your own sources of information to present one issue or another comprehensively. Now sources of information have their own media and are able to spread the information at once framing it the way that suits them most. Now every official and department have their media,” Baghdasaryan said to Media.am.
 
Meanwhile, government representatives in Armenia have stressed on various occasions that freedom of the press and expression has not been subjected to pressure during Serzh Sargsyan’s presidency. And Sargsyan himself several times in his public speeches described it as one of the greatest achievements of his leadership.


Ter-Petrosyan sees no alternative to Sargsyan’s resignation

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Opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan believes that President Serzh Sargsyan must resign immediately if he is “sincerely concerned about the future of Armenia and Artsakh”.
 
 The ex-president made this call in an article published on ilur.am on Wednesday. Ter-Petrosyan, in particular, pointed out Sargsyan’s “adventurist” foreign policy due to which, he contended, Armenia is now viewed as an unreliable partner both in the West and in Russia.

The opposition leader clearly referred to Sargsyan’s volte-face in announcing last month Armenia’s decision to join the Russia-led Customs Union, calling into question the prospect of further political and economic integration with the European Union.

 
“Speaking in chess terminology, Sargsyan has appeared in a zugzwang situation in which any move he makes will lead to a defeat. Each day of his rule is a loss for Armenia and Artsakh,” asserted Ter-Petrosyan.
 
The ANC leader suggested that if Sargsyan agrees to resign, his move should not entail a “political vendetta”. Moreover, he said, the National Assembly must provide full immunity to his person and property.
 
Ter-Petrosyan emphasized that Armenia needs a new president “capable of restoring the country’s international reputation as a trustworthy and responsible partner.” At the same time, the former leader made it clear that he would not run for the top post should a presidential election be held. Moreover, he said that his successor Robert Kocharyan must not seek to return to power either “not least because he brought Sargsyan to power” through a deadly suppression of post-election street protests in March 2008.
 
“Time is running out. And if Serzh Sargsyan, as I already mentioned, has found himself in a zugzwang situation, then the Armenian people are in a time-trouble situation,” the ANC leader concluded.

Source: http://armenianow.com/news/politics/49637/armenia_opposition_leader_levon_terpetrosyan_serzh_sargsyan_resignation

Protest Turns Explosive in Yerevan

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Violence erupted on Mashtots Avenue on Nov. 5 as dozens of protesters clashed with police. The demonstration was sparked by a call for revolution by activist Shant Harutyunyan.

As over a hundred protesters gathered to embark on what police say was an “unauthorized” march to the Presidential Palace, they encountered resistance by law enforcement officials. Some of the activists hurled small gas-filled bottles that exploded upon impact. Others swung wooden batons at officers. Reportedly, up to 200 law-enforcement officials—including Special Forces and SWAT teams—were deployed to the scene. Some 20 activists were arrested, including Harutyunyan, while around ten police officers suffered injuries.

Just before clashes with the police, Harutyunyan told journalists that he and his supporters were prepared to fight until the last man.  He said they were armed with homemade explosives, batons, and rocks, among other things. Harutyunyan began a sit-in at Liberty Square on Oct. 31, next to a propped up sign that read, “I Am Starting a Revolution.”

Many among the protesters wore Guy Fawkes masks, a symbol of resistance, as well as the face of activists who identify themselves as Anonymous. The group Anonymous has no leader, and is made up of activists and hacktivists who work collectively towards a certain goal while maintaining anonymity. In recent years, activists around the world have designated Nov. 5—the anniversary of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and an attempt to assassinate King James I of England—as a day of protest against repression and injustice. This year, activists worldwide called for a Million Mask March through social networking sites. The “Heghapokhoutyun” (Revolution) Facebook page was set up in mid-September, posting content aimed at inspiring revolution, and quotes from Harutyunyan.

Earlier in the week, in an interview with CivilNet, Harutyunyan said, “Are there those in this population of three million who are prepared to take risks, to make sacrifices, and to endanger their own lives in order to protect a dignified life and a dignified death? I don’t know whether there are such people… but I imagine that if I am one such man, there must be others. And if there are such people, they will come and join me and pick up a bottle of gasoline. I have two hands and the most I can lift are two bottles of gasoline, and that I will do. But if I had 200 hands, I’d lift 200 bottles of gasoline…”

In an interview with Kentron TV in August, Harutyunyan talked about a “Revolution of Values” that the country needed, and said that among those who had played a formative role in the development of his ideas were Njdeh, Napoleon, Hitler, and Nietzsche. On multiple occasions he has invoked the French Revolution as inspiration, as well as the principles of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” 

He has been outspoken in his criticism of the Armenian government, which he considers a “slave” of the Kremlin.


Wall Street Journal: EU Stunned by Armenia U-Turn

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European diplomats have been stunned this week by the announcement that Armenia, which had been on track to strengthen ties with the European Union in November, will instead join a customs union led by Russia. Armenia was expected to initial an “association agreement” with the EU at a summit in Vilnius, strengthening trade relations while committing Armenia to democratic reforms.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin has been turning up the pressure on the countries sandwiched between Russia and the EU, pushing them to join forces with its own customs union and not the EU. The customs Union includes Belarus and Kazakhstan, but Russia is widely seen as the dominant partner. In the case of Armenia, Russia has powerful leverage because it’s the country’s natural-gas supplier and can determine the price of fuel. Thousands of Russian troops are based in Armenia and Moscow has formal security guarantees in place which have bolstered Armenia in its bitter conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Even so, the intensity of what Europeans see as Russian pressure tactics and the speed of Armenia’s U-turn have spooked Europeans. It was just six weeks ago – July 24 – that the EU completed years of talks with Armenia on the association accord and Armenian officials were assuring their Brussels counterparts that there would be no stepping back. While Mr. Putin said Tuesday it was Armenia’s decision to join the bloc, few in Brussels doubt that Armenia’s abrupt policy change came because Moscow raised the costs of pursuing closer EU ties.

“The pressures on Armenia were known, and in that sense it is not a surprise,” said Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a senior member of the European Parliament. “But the fact that the pressure succeeded in getting Armenia, under force if you wish, to change its decision—that is a surprise, and we profoundly regret it.”

Armenia’s shift was announced Tuesday in a statement posted on the Kremlin website during a meeting between Mr. Putin and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. The question now is whether Armenia’s move foreshadows similar decisions from other countries to the EU’s east. Countries in the Moscow-led customs union cannot be integrated into the EU, European officials say, because they have effectively ceded sovereignty over trade issues to Russia. This bloc is scheduled to evolve in 2015 into a more comprehensive Eurasian Economic Union, which Russian leaders foresee as a counterweight to the EU.

Armenia’s economy is relatively small, with a GDP of €7.5 billion. But Tuesday’s decision was a blow in part because EU leaders had conducted a long negotiation with the country over the association deal, and they saw its apparently successful conclusion as a diplomatic victory. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt reflected the widespread frustration among European leaders in a tweet: “Armenia negotiated 4 years to get Association Agreement with EU. Now President prefers Kremlin to Brussels.”

One Western diplomat with knowledge of the situation said Armenia had negotiated with the EU in good faith, but “they themselves did not expect this kind of pressure from Russia.” He said the EU will continue to work with Armenia on issues like easing visa procedures, and that Armenia could change direction yet again as it confronts Russia’s dominance within the customs union.

In a press statement after meeting Mr. Putin, President Sargsyan said: “This is a rational decision, it is a decision based on Armenia’s national interests. The decision is not a rejection of our dialogue with European institutions,” according to a transcript on the Kremlin’s web site. Armenia’s move illustrates the stepped-up pressure from Russia on countries that find themselves pulled between East and West, and could mean trouble for others considering linking with the EU. Ukraine, for example, is expected to sign its own long-awaited EU association agreement at the November summit, and Moldova and Georgia are scheduled to tentatively initial such deals at the same time—as was Armenia, until Tuesday.

“It is the general context which is so worrying,” Mr. Saryusz-Wolski said. “This pressure concerns all the four countries on the road to association. It’s part of the wider picture, and the fear that it might provoke a domino effect.” EU officials’ surprise was evident Wednesday in their hesitant initial responses. “We are seeking further clarification from the Armenian side,” said Maja Kocijancic, an EU foreign affairs spokeswoman. “Then we will be able to assess the implications.”

A European diplomat called Armenia’s switch a “wake-up call” on Russia’s aggressiveness. But he said it doesn’t necessarily follow that other countries will spurn the EU; Georgian leaders remain deeply angry over Russia’s 2008 invasion of their country, while Ukraine and Moldova have made strong public commitments to Europe. And Armenia is especially vulnerable to Russia. Most of Armenia’s energy network is Russian-owned or managed, and Russia is deeply involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is central to Armenia’s security.

“So Armenia is a very special case, as is Belarus. But I’m not sure that the Russians will find it so easy to pull off the same trick with Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine or Azerbaijan,” the European diplomat said. “We have still away to go to Vilnius and I think Vilnius can still be a big success – even without Armenia.”

The battle over the EU’s Eastern Partnership—which includes Armenia, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Belarus—is only one of the current flash points between Europe and Russia. Russia has complained about EU rules that force the splitting of giant energy utilities, with Mr. Putin repeatedly accusing Brussels of “confiscating” Russia’s investment in some EU countries. The EU, for its part, became the first entity to take Russia to the World Trade Organization over special taxes Moscow imposes on vehicle imports. European officials also blame Moscow for blocking efforts to isolate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


Vladimir Socor: The End of “Complementarity” in Armenia’s Foreign Policy

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“Complementarity,” the term purportedly denoting Armenia’s policy of balance between Russia and the West, has reached the end of the road, and that end is Russia.

Long assumed to be the guiding principle of Armenia’s foreign policy, “complementarity” has lost any meaning with Armenia’s decision to join the Russia-led Customs Union and prospectively the Eurasian Union. Presidents Vladimir Putin and Serzh Sargsyan jointly announced that decision on September 3, and the Armenian government started on September 7 the drafting of accession documents for the Customs Union (see EDM, September 5, 6, 11)

Yerevan’s choice, in effect, repudiates the European Union’s offer to conclude association and trade agreements with Armenia—an offer that the United States had also encouraged Yerevan to embrace. Instead, Armenia’s decision in favor of Russia’s economic bloc, compounding Yerevan’s military alliance with Moscow, brings the process of Russia’s satellization of Armenia close to completion.
     
As described by the prominent analyst Richard Giragosian (a rare critic in Yerevan of the September 3 decision), the “complementarity” principle supposedly combined reliance on Russia to protect Armenia militarily with reliance on the West to promote Armenia’s economic development (News.Am, Arminfo, September 6).

That duality, however, never applied in practice. The administrations of presidents Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sargsyan allowed Russia to establish an overwhelming economic presence in Armenia. That, along with endemic local corruption, discouraged Western investment generally and even the Armenian diaspora’s investment in Armenia. By farming out the economy to Russia, the two Karabakhi presidents ensured Moscow’s support for their rule in Yerevan and freezing the resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.
     
The long-serving minister of foreign affairs, Vardan Oskanian, had often invoked complementarity as the operational concept of Armenia’s foreign policy. In essence, however, this reflected neither equidistance between Russia and the West, nor a balanced pursuit of military interests and economic interests with Russia and the West, respectively.
          
Complementarity had long become a rhetorical device, behind which Armenia was falling more deeply into military and economic dependence on Russia. As early as 2004, the Russian Duma’s chairman, Boris Gryzlov, congratulated Armenia for turning into “Russia’s outpost in the South Caucasus.” Some in Armenia felt shocked by this description because it accurately summarized the process under way (PanArmenian.Net, December 17, 2004). That phrase remains a defining, oft-quoted byword in Armenia’s political debates to this day. Increasingly, Russian-Armenian relations took on the logic of relations between the metropolis and its outpost or exclave, as some Armenian observers conclude retrospectively (Lragir, September 4, 9).

Armenia’s main political parties basically support or accept Sargsyan’s decision on joining Russia’s Customs Union project. In this sense, the strategic choice rests on a political consensus across party lines. No coherent public debate can yet be observed in Yerevan on the economic merits of joining the Customs Union. Instead, politicians representing the main political parties justify this economic choice with reference to national security considerations. Explicitly or implicitly, this means Russian military protection of Armenian territorial gains at Azerbaijan’s expense.

Complementarity’s demise was not a pre-determined outcome. It is largely a result of Yerevan’s need for Russian support to maintain the occupation of six districts inside Azerbaijan, beyond Upper Karabakh.

Having renounced the European Union’s offer of association and trade agreements, Yerevan takes the position that it can only cooperate with the EU to an extent that would not contradict Armenia’s commitment to Russia’s Customs Union project. Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Nalbandian rushed to Brussels and Vilnius to inform the European Commission and the EU’s Lithuanian presidency of Armenia’s policy shift. The Armenian government made the same explanations to the EU’s Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fuele, in Yerevan (Arminfo, News.Am, September 11).

Limiting relations with the EU, as a deliberate policy, to a level that would not impinge on relations with Russia, means to all intents and purposes a Russia-First orientation; and Yerevan’s statements to that effect amount to an unofficial obituary of the “complementarity” policy.

“Armenia has said Yes to Putin and No to the European Union,” noted the European People’s Party (EPP, umbrella organization of Europe’s center-right and Christian-Democrat parties) in a statement deploring Yerevan’s decision. The EPP had strongly encouraged Yerevan and Brussels to conclude the association and trade agreements. The Christian-Democrats’ support all but guaranteed parliamentary ratification of those agreements in Europe, had these been signed. Instead, a disappointed EPP reminded Yerevan that the Customs Union would turn Armenia and other acceding countries into “Russia’s satellites” (PanArmenian.Net, RFE/RL, September 6).

If “complementarity’s” Western dimension ever operated in any real, practical sense, it was by using Armenian diaspora advocacy groups in the West to support Yerevan’s policy objectives. This activity was particularly visible in the US Congress, often contradicting the US administration’s policy objectives or complicating US relations with allied Turkey and strategic partner Azerbaijan.

Thus, Armenian advocacy groups and their allies unsuccessfully opposed the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project, successfully opposed the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railroad project (blocking EximBank funding for it), successfully imposed parity on US government funding of cooperation with Azerbaijan and Armenia, blocked or derailed several US ambassadorial appointments to the region, and urged US recognition of a “genocide” against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, in the knowledge that such recognition would explode US-Turkey relations (2015 will be a watershed year in this as yet unsuccessful campaign). Insofar as they negatively affect Washington’s allies and partners, those public advocacy efforts should lose credibility when traceable to a government in Yerevan that has dropped “complementarity’s” façade, choosing full-fledged satellization by Russia.

Slate: Russia’s Empire Strikes Back

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"Right makes might, and not the other way around," President Obama said in the Rose Garden a few weeks ago. We all know what he meant: In this age of soft power, great countries can win friends not through the use of brute force but through their books and movies, their sophisticated economies, their technological innovations, and, above all, through their attractive and inspiring national ideals. 
 
Maybe that's true, some of the time. But for those who find soft power difficult to wield, hard power is still available. Indeed, in the very same week that the American president made his Rose Garden speech, events on the other side of the globe were proving that might certainly can make right. Even while the world's attention was fixed on Russian-American diplomacy in Syria, back home Russian President Vladimir Putin was pulling off a much quieter but potentially more significant diplomatic coup. After three years of intensive negotiations, Armenia, Russia's neighbor, had been on the brink of signing an association agreement, including a comprehensive trade agreement, with the European Union. But on Sept. 3—right in the middle of the Syria crisis—the Armenian government abruptly declared that it would drop the whole project. Rather than aligning itself with the world's largest free-trade zone and some of the world's most sophisticated democracies, Armenia decided to stick with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, and to join the Eurasian Customs Union instead.  
 
No one pretends that Armenia was attracted by Russia's soft power. By way of explanation, President Serzh Sargsyan explained that Armenia depends on Russia for it security, and that Armenia has a large diaspora living in Russia. This sounds odd: Most security alliances, NATO included, don’t require their members to join a customs union, and the presence of immigrants in one country doesn't usually affect trade policy in another. But Armenia has been made anxious in recent weeks by Russian diplomatic overtures toward Azerbaijan, Armenia's main rival, as well as by anti-immigrant rhetoric from Russian officials. The Armenians took the hint: If they signed the trade deal with Europe, Russia might sell more arms to their rival and expel the Armenians who live in Russia.

The Armenians were no doubt watching Russian moves elsewhere in their immediate neighborhood, where a distinct pattern is emerging. On Sept. 11, Russia banned the import of Moldovan wine, on the grounds that it is a "health hazard." Ukrainian chocolates have suffered the same fate. Another old tactic, the use of gas pricing and supply as a tool of political influence, is being resurrected in Ukraine as well. In essence—and I'm summarizing here—the Russians have let the Ukrainians understand that if they drop their own negotiations with Europe and join the Eurasian Customs Union, the price of the gas they import from Russia could drop by more than half.

It's an excellent offer, so much so that—examined objectively—it seems extraordinary that the Ukrainians have not accepted it already. But Ukraine is hesitating, and has been for some time. Even the country's most Russo-philic politicians know that the decision represents not a short-term financial decision but a long-term civilizational choice, between the relatively open markets and open politics of Europe and the closed world of the former Soviet Union. One Armenian opposition politician explained the consequences of his country's decision to choose Russia over Europe like this: "Armenia, by choosing the customs union instead of agreements with the EU will remain a country of oligarchs and monopolies just like Russia."

Yet when examined objectively, it seems extraordinary that the Russians want their neighbors to make that kind of choice, too. Surely it's in Russia's own interests to share borders with countries that have broad international contacts, faster economic growth, access to Western markets, and therefore wealthier domestic consumers, who could buy Russian goods. Surely it's in Russia's own interests, in the long term, to have similar access to Western markets itself. If Europe did manage to craft association agreements with Armenia, Ukraine, and Moldova, there’s no reason to think that a similar arrangement with Russia would not eventually follow.

The explanation is as straightforward as it is sad: Russia's ruling elite, led by President Putin, does not act in Russia’s interests. Russian elites act in their own interests. At the moment, they are convinced that economic nationalism and the language of neo-imperialism will win them popular support, and possibly private profits. I wonder how long the rest of the Russians will put up with it.

Stratfor: 'Armenia's accession to Customs Union will change entire Caucasus's geopolitics'

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Armenia's Sept. 3 decision to join the Russian-led Customs Union solidifies Yerevan's place in Moscow's push to integrate former Soviet states into its orbit while limiting the influence of the West. Armenia's eventual accession to the economic bloc effectively closes the discussion over the country's inclusion into similar EU-led trade deals, and a day after Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian declared his country's intentions to join the Customs Union, the Armenian Parliament canceled hearings it was to hold over negotiations with the European Union regarding its association and free trade agreements. The decision will also impact the ongoing political evolution in the Caucasus region and could bring Armenia's neighbor Georgia further into Russia's economic and political orbit as well.
 
Analysis


Armenia has long maintained close economic ties with Russia, though it had been rather hesitant on the Customs Union issue. Moscow has sought to expand membership of the union (which it launched with Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2010) to other states in the former Soviet periphery, with Armenia serving as a leading candidate for expansion. However, Sarkisian remained aloof on such a proposal, preferring to cautiously expand trade ties with the European Union and other countries like Iran in order to diversify the country's economic options.


But Russia has been trying to dissuade countries on its periphery from expanding cooperation with the European Union, particularly as a key Eastern Partnership summit approaches in November. Moscow has pursued a stick-and-carrot approach in this regard, which in Armenia's case involved raising the price of natural gas exports while offering investment and trade benefits for closer integration. Sarkisian's announcement therefore reflects a success in Russia's strategy on the part of Armenia. Armenia's decision likely means that plans to initial the agreements with the European Union in November will be canceled. Though some Armenian officials have held the door open to the EU deals, both Russian and European officials have said that Customs Union membership necessarily precludes further integration with the European Union. Meanwhile, the already close links between Armenia and Russia can be expected to become even stronger, especially since the Customs Union is set to evolve into the Eurasian Union by 2015.


Armenia's potential membership (actual accession will likely take at least 1-2 years) will also have regional implications. Armenia does not share a physical border with Russia, necessitating a transit state for closer customs and trade links. Armenia's border with Azerbaijan is closed over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, leaving Georgia as the logical candidate to serve as a transit country. Indeed, Georgia has already seen a slow but significant opening to Russia under the leadership of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, with trade and visa links seeing limited resumptions. There have also been initial talks on reopening rail traffic between Russia and Armenia through Georgia and the breakaway territory of Abkhazia. Armenia's membership in the Customs Union will likely increase the prospects of such projects even further.


However, there are still many elements that could derail a complete transformation in regional economic and political dynamics. Armenia has already seen protests over the Customs Union announcement led by the opposition Heritage Party, though these have so far remained small. And while Ivanishvili has oriented Georgia more closely toward Moscow (he recently said that the details of Georgia's potential Eurasian Union membership are ''worth examining''), Georgia's political landscape remains fractured and such moves would be contested by other political elements, particularly those loyal to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. Azerbaijan, another regional country with close energy and economic ties to Georgia and one opposed to Customs Union membership, will try to dissuade Tbilisi from taking any bold moves that threaten its interests in the country.


Ultimately, Armenia's announcement shows that the battle between Russia and the European Union over the former Soviet periphery is intensifying, as countries feel pressured into making a choice between the two camps. Yerevan has chosen Moscow over Brussels, with both immediate and long-term implications for the other countries in the Caucasus region.
 

Hetq: Putin’s Grand Design to Destroy the EU’s Eastern Partnership and Consequences for Armenia

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In a surprising volte face at his meeting in Moscow with President Putin on September 3, President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia agreed to join the Russian-dominated customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Thus, in one short meeting, he scrapped the draft Association Agreement with the EU, which included a ‘Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement’ (DCFTA), whose negotiation over the past three years had advanced to the point that its initialling was firmly scheduled for the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November. And, at the same time, the Armenian President chose to deprive his country of the possibility to enter into free trade area agreements with other states, which any economy is free to do unless it is part of a customs union, in which case it becomes bound to a common external tariff.

This latter deprivation is particularly serious in Armenia’s case, since Russia’s external tariff is on average rather highly protective. In the process, Sargsyan has also precluded Armenia from pursuing the only plausible strategy to become an open, highly-skilled, small economy, following for example the model of Israel, with which it shares several features in common.

More broadly, it is worth noting that most of the world’s top-ten economies by GDP per capita, from Luxembourg to Singapore, are small but completely open countries. The economic case against joining the Russian customs union is all the greater because nothing in the DCFTA with the EU would have prevented Armenia from entering into a ‘high-quality’, free trade agreement1 with the Russian-led customs union.

Armenia is already party to the matrix of CIS free trade agreements, but many of these do not function well. Rather than join the Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia customs union, why should Armenia not simply negotiate a high-quality free trade agreement with it? President Sargsyan has offered two main explanations for his baffling behaviour: Armenia depends on Russia to guarantee its security and its large diaspora in Russia make it natural for the two countries to have a close economic relationship. One might challenge the first explanation by noting that no other collective security arrangement, e.g. NATO, requires its member states to join a customs union led by the principal nation.

Michael Emerson is Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS. Hrant Kostanyan is an Associate Research Fellow at CEPS and a BOF (Special Research Fund) Research Fellow at the Centre for EU Studies (CEUS) in the Department of Political Science at Ghent University.

Poll says 86% of Armenia’s residents support accession to Customs Union

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A poll requested by “Integration and Development” research and analysis organization showed 86% of Armenia’s residents are positive about the country’s accession to the Russia-led Customs Union. For most people joining the Customs Union means integrating with Russia, that is why most part of the Armenian society prefers accession to the Union, sociologist Samvel Manukyan said at Novosti international press center Friday. 

The poll showed 67% of Armenia’s population prefers cooperation with Russia, 17% considers cooperation with the EU a priority and 12% prefers neither Russia nor the EU. Apart from this, if only one cooperation format should be chosen – the EU or Russia, then 75% of respondents choose Russia and only 19% prefer the EU. 

Despite the fact that Armenia’s elites are of different opinion about the accession to the Customs Union, yet the mass support shows the decision about accession is justified, director of EurAsEc, member of Scientific Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences for Eurasian economic integration Vladimir Lepyokhin said.

1 comment:

  1. There is discontent driven and organized by selective groups, which act like poison weeds inside the nation. The government , with all its shortcomings, is not paying attention to these latent dangers lurking underground. They are anti national , un Armenian and basically in tune with alien and foreign influences. Those intellectuals obsessed with the drink of human rights, democracy ( kleptocracy) and every other phial of soporific slogans and sloganeering directed by aliens and foreigners are boring at the nations fragile foundations. These transplants from the diaspora are bringing with them the un enlightened and regressive internationalists philosophies which have brought the West down on their kness. One can not blame them, after all one is a product of his environment. To arouse Armenian unity, it seems that we need to be hurt and hurt badly,, otherwise we fall upon each other throats over petty and quarrelsome intrigues. Nothing , or little positive is heard about the country. We hear only of corruption, anti democracy, human rights violations , lack of these , lack of that etc, etc. these wise sages parleying enemy propaganda, wittingly or unwittingly their actions betray them, have a utopian dream which translates in human rights and democracy. All what one has to do is to look west and see human rights and democracy, the way it is practiced today, wreaking havoc and mayhem . Corruption ,nepotism, graft are ills that require addressing and eliminated, but it will not be achieved with internationalist formulas of human rights, globalization, democracy ( kleptocracy) and other liberal cliches. Armenians need to come to realize that the preservation of race and nation is paramount and above everything else. By all means have all the debates and any debates, have debating marathons if you wish, but ultimately, the preservation of the nation is prime priority and snookers every other experiment in social , political, economical , arenas.

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