Appendage Country – Armenia and Eurasian Union

The process, which formally began on 3 September last year, when Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan announced his country’s intention to join the Customs Union, ended on 10 October this year with the signing of a treaty on Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). This event can be assessed as the end of the “complementary policies” of Yerevan, for it will be extremely difficult for Armenia to navigate between different world centres.

What will accession to the EAEU give Armenia as a member of this organization and official Yerevan? This issue can be analyzed in several planes.

For Russia, Armenia’s accession to the EAEU is primarily even greater expansion of Moscow’s presence in the South Caucasus from a military-political point of view. Given the current geopolitical situation, when the West is gradually changing its aggressive rhetoric against Iran, trying to win it over and thus weaken the energy levers of Russia, as well as the growing threat of the “Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria, a military foothold such as Armenia further increases its signi-ficance for Russia.

Armenia’s accession to the EAEU, by and large, is also a consolation prize for Moscow against the background of the deplorable turn of affairs on the “Ukrainian front”. In other words, Armenia’s membership of the EAEU can contribute to sol-ving problems and some image tasks of this organization for Russia. According to the Armenian political scientist Armen Grigoryan, “in the EAEU, Armenia will only get the status of an appendage of Russia”. In an interview with Aravot newspaper, Grigoryan said that one of the causes of discontent in Kazakhstan and Belarus with Armenia’s membership of this organization is Russia’s desire to get an additional vote in coordinating various issues opposed so far by Astana and Minsk, which may lead to an imbalance inside the newly-created union.

If politically Armenia’s membership in the EAEU will give Russia some dividends, in economic terms, we can speak about the opposite. With the status of a political appendage, Armenia economically turns into a mere burden. The country with its moribund economy will depend not only on Russia but also on Kazakhstan and Belarus, which does not please the latter. Western sanctions have a sufficiently negative impact on the economy of Russia. Therefore, you should not rely on the support of Moscow in rescuing the economy of Armenia. As for the “prospects” of capital investments in Armenia, the situation around Nairit – the largest chemical plant in Armenia, which suspended production in 2010, is quite a remarkable example. After last year’s visit of the Russian president to Armenia, the two countries reached an agreement on the purchase of the chemical giant and large-scale investment in it by Russian Rosneft. However, recently it became known that Rosneft actually refused the deal, as stated by Armenian Minister of Energy Yervand Zakaryan at a meeting on the state of the plant. Moreover, according to the minister, the Russian side simply ignored all queries from the ministry.

It is not strange because “thanks” to Western sanctions, major Russian companies themselves are experiencing hard times. On the other hand, all more or less profitable and even strategic sectors of the Armenian economy are de facto in the hands of Russian enterprises. That is to say everything that could be bought has already been bought by Russia anyway.

However, even such eloquent facts do not prevent Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan from declaring that “the decision to join the EAEU was made by his country to give a new impetus to the deve-lopment of its economy”. In other words, if you believe Sargsyan, the EAEU is something of a lifeline for the Armenian economy. Maybe it is true, but certainly not for the economy of the country, but rather for the Armenian elite, the oligarchic and semi-criminal leadership of the country. The entire political leadership of Armenia is connected to each other with dark bonds, laws and concepts. And of course, thanks to membership in the EAEU, the political elite of Armenia could give itself a free hand to preserve its own power. Europe, which prefers more elegant and cunning oligarchs, is alien to the “princes from the Karabakh clan”. As part of the EAEU, the oligarchy can feel more comfortable.

In a country where the principle of the rule of law is observed even a little bit, it would be impossible to re-appoint Suren Khachatryan (criminal alias Liska) as governor of Syunik region. Liska, who has more than five convictions, is known throughout Armenia for his criminal past, and as governor of Syunik (Zangazur), he was in charge of drug trafficking, which, according to the Armenian media, involves many officials – from Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan to the president of the self-proclaimed republic of Nagornyy Karabakh, Bako Sahakyan. It was in the presence of the latter that a former candidate for mayor of Goris, Avetik Budagyan, was killed in the house of Khachatryan on 2 June 2013 and his brother Artak Budagyan, the commander of a military unit in Armenian-occupied Nagornyy Karabakh, was wounded. The conflict took place over redistribution of income from the sale of drugs produced in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. After this incident, Liska said that he was temporarily resigning as governor until the end of the investigation, although the law does not provide for anything like that. On 6 June last year, the government accepted Suren Khachatryan’s resignation at his own request. Needless to say, no-one was punished for the crime, but the most striking thing is the fact that recently the president of Armenia issued a decree to re-appoint Liska as governor of Syunik. Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan, who is also one of the prominent representatives of the Armenian oligarchy, admitted that the decision was taken at his request. In the context of analysis, this event is interesting due to the fact that it demonstrates the oligarchic chaos reigning in Armenia. Naturally, this kind of elite is in great need of external support from the EAEU.

However, it should be noted that the oligarchy in Armenia is represented not only in the government but also in the opposition (unless, of course, the political forces that present themselves as opponents of the government can be called the opposition). For example, the leader of one of the most powerful political parties in Armenia is Gagik Tsarukyan – an oligarch, sportsman, father of Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan’s son-in law and associate of Armenia’s second president, Robert Kocharyan.

In a recent interview with the Russian media, Tsarukyan said that it was wrong to compare the anti-government rallies in Armenia with Maidans in other countries, where anti-Russian rhetoric is clearly expressed. He himself is an advocate of closer relations with Russia and has “never uttered a single anti-Russian word”. The protests are nothing more than criticism of the Armenian authorities in domestic politics. That is to say the protests that took place in Armenia on 10 October – the day the agreement Armenia’s accession to the EAEU was signed – are essentially protests of a purely internal nature.

It is noteworthy that Armenia’s first president and current head of the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC), Levon Ter-Petrosyan, also confirms our words, saying that the issue of geopolitical orientation is not the priority for the current opposition. Such a question does not appear on the political agenda of the country, and Armenia’s joining the Eurasian Economic Union would have taken place sooner or later. The leaders of the opposition parties think that the purpose of the rallies is not to talk about the foreign policy of the country, but to “banish the current government”. In other words, the opposition swears allegiance to Russia to ensure its future existence. According to experts, the Armenian opposition, at least its backbone represented by Prosperous Armenia and the Armenian National Congress (ANC) led by Levon Ter-Petrosyan, does not fall under the definition of true opposition in our time unlike the Dashnaks and the pro-Western part of the Heritage party. And all protests are beneficial to the Armenian leadership to demonstrate to the Kremlin what risks and sacrifices it is taking for a rapprochement with Moscow. This is understandable: in the current environment in Armenia it is impossible to be an oligarch, the father of the prime minister’s son-in-law, an associate of other oligarchs and a real leader of the opposition without being afraid at least of losing your capital.

In an interview with 168 Zham, political analyst Armen Badalyan claims that the president of Armenia is not elected but appointed by the Kremlin. “In Armenia, power change requires three things: promoting Russia or the West, finances and a passionate society. Our powerless political forces do not have the support of Moscow. Let’s assume that Prosperous Armenia partially solves the financial issue, but we have no passionate society. Ninety-five per cent of Armenia’s population has turned into biomass, which will vote for money at best,” says Badalyan.

In that case, what will the Armenian people, whom Badalyan called none other than biomass, gain from accession to the EAEU? In contrast to the Customs Union, the EAEU respects the right to migration and movement of citizens of its member states. In recent years, the governments of Russia and Armenia agreed on two documents. Under the first document, Armenian citizens will now have an unlimited right to stay and work in the Russian Federation and under the second one, the FMS (Federal Migration Service of Russia) set up a commission that will consider at an accele-rated pace lifting the ban on the entry of Armenian nationals (and there are more than 70,000 of them today) who had no chance to get into Russia for one reason or another. Simplified immigration – this is the main “advantage” of Armenia’s membership in the EAEU for its people. Thus, it turns out that from now on the process of Armenia turning into an appendage country with a population immigrating more and more to avoid turning into biomass will intensify.

Mehmet Fatih ÖZTARSU

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