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August 24, 2010


In a series of interviews timed with the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Yerevan, Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) Director Richard Giragosian commented on the revised basing agreement between Armenia and the Russian Federation that extended the duration of the Russian base by 24 years.  The ACNIS director was interviewed by the Russian “Rosbalt” news agency on August 20th and by the “Zhamanak” newspaper on August 24th.

Commenting on the issue in an interview with the Russian “Rosbalt” news agency on August 20th, ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian admitted that he was “fairly critical of the Armenian-Russian relationship,” adding that “although I support the policy of close relations between Russia and Armenia, I see significant problems with the process of relations.  Specifically, Armenia has not earned Russia’s respect, and is treated more like a “vassal state” than as an equal partner or ally.  Of course, this reflects the asymmetry of the relationship, but it also reveals the fact that Russia does not appreciate Armenian loyalty.”

Giragosian continued by warning that “as the only reliable Russian partner in the region, Moscow is risking the longer term value of the relationship, especially as Armenian-Russian relations are more durable only if based on mutual respect and partnership, rather than on Armenia’s submission to Russia or based on Russia’s mistreatment of Armenia.  Otherwise, Armenia may well be seen as little more than a ‘Russian garrison state’ in the South Caucasus.”

In the August 24th interview with the Armenian “Zhamanak” newspaper, Giragosian noted “several problems” with the recent signing of the extension of the contract for the Russian base in Armenia.  He noted that “first, it seems quite unnecessary and one-sided for Armenia: what drove the Armenian government to agree to such a long extension, through 2044, when it receives so little in return.  After all, this is the only Russian base outside of the Russian Federation where the local host country has to pay for all costs of the base.  For example, even Kyrgyzstan receives millions of dollars from Moscow for rent of the Russian base there.”

Giragosian added that “second, in military security terms, there is little to benefit Armenia and suggests a ‘colonial approach’ by Russia’s desire to extend its basing rights but offering little more than vague suggestions or aid and assistance.  Even Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed in a television interview in Yerevan that the mission and mandate of the Russian base will not change in terms of any significant military capability.”

The ACNIS director then explained that “this agreement reveals the deeper problem—that there is an imperative for a correction of current Armenian-Russian relations, to a more equal or even respectful level, but this visit will certainly not accomplish this, especially as the Armenian side is still far too reluctant to demand more from its Russian partner.”

He went on to say that “since independence, Armenia has generally tried to follow a balanced policy centered on two basic concepts: a pro-Russian stance that was based on Armenia’s strategic partnership with Russia and a natural alignment with the West, with strong ties to both the United States and Europe, in part reflecting the consideration of the strong and politically active Armenian diaspora communities in the US and Europe.  Yet such a policy of balancing, or what was termed “complementarity,” defined by mutually pro-Russia and pro-Western leanings was inherently contradictory and was subject to the broader fate of periods of competition or cooperation between Russia and the West.”

Giragosian concluded by stressing that “in recent years, however, much of the balance of this policy has weakened, and Armenia has become seriously and dangerously over-dependent on its alliance with Russia, to the detriment of its ties to the West (and its relations with the US, NATO, and the EU, etc.).”

Related links: Full interviews in Armenian and Russian

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

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