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June 26, 2008

ACNIS Examines Armenian-Russian Relations

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a foreign policy roundtable to take a comprehensive look at the new prospects of Armenian-Russian relations and to consider the existing military, political, and economic relations between the two countries against the backdrop of global developments and new realities in the broader region. The meeting brought together MPs, foreign embassy and mission personnel, leading analysts, policy specialists, public and political figures, and media representatives.

ACNIS director of administration Karapet Kalenchian welcomed the audience with opening remarks. “I am confident that in addition to presenting an impartial assessment of the current relations between Armenia and Russia, today’s interventions will shed light on the prospects for deepening the bilateral ties—which are based on the precepts of equal partnership and mutual interests—and giving a new meaning to these ties, and also elucidate the position of our country’s friend Russia with respect to Armenia’s present domestic political situation, specifically the post-election developments in the country,” Kalenchian said.

The day’s first speaker, ACNIS senior analyst Manvel Sargsian, analyzed Armenia’s internal political matters in terms of Russian interest. He noted that recently an apparent uncertainty was noticed in the relations between the Russian and Armenian leaders. As indicated by Sargsian, official Moscow is not in a hurry to open its arms to the new authorities of Armenia. It seems the Russian administration has come to understand that the traditional attitude of Russia toward its strategic partner, Armenia, has exhausted itself, “It already is clear for Russia that it is gradually losing the affection of the Armenian body politic. What is more, no assistance being provided by Russia to the ruling administration of Armenia does in any way reflect on the commitments of that administration and the consolidation of mutual ties,” noted Sargsian. Sargisian concluded that the incumbent Armenian government presented a slow-but-sure threat to the stability of Russia.

Armenia’s former minister of defense Vagharshak Harutiunian reflected on the security issues of Armenia and the relevant role played by Russia in the region. “So long as Turkey, one of our immediate neighbors, continues to keep its borders closed and brings forth unacceptable preconditions toward establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia, and we have the unresolved Karabagh conflict with Azerbaijan, our current membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is an imperative,” Harutiunian stated. He also reminded that one of the provisions stipulated in the military doctrine of the Russian Federation reserves that country the right to use nuclear weapons against any danger which threatens the security of Russia and its strategic allies and this, according to Harutiunian, stands as a restraining factor for any likely aggressor.

The next speaker, ACNIS senior analyst Hovsep Khurshudian, explored the economic perspective of Armenian-Russian relations and pointed to the relevant crying injustice which, as a rule, is not addressed. Khurshudian noted that Russia was always envious of Armenia’s attempts to integrate with the neighboring countries, or the state members in the European Union, and therefore it resorted to every means to keep Armenia in “complete check.” “And the most apparent evidence of this phenomenon is the notorious ‘Assets for Debt’ Deal. In line with this agreement, our several strategic enterprises which—despite assurances by the Russian side—are not in operation to date, were sold to Russia for approximately one-fifth of their actual value,” Khurshudian emphasized.  By presenting a number of facts which corroborated his standpoint, he maintained that such demeanor was the “defect” in Armenian-Russian relations.

In his turn, chairman Karen Bekarian of the “European Integration” NGO examined the Armenian-Russian relations in view of the policy of European integration. He remarked that these relations were rather imitational than real because Armenia’s upper class for long was accustomed to resolving matters with Russia, or receiving its “approval,” by way of shady and corrupt dealings. “It is quite easy to explain to the West as to why there is a Russian military base in Armenia because this has a certain objective reason. But it is fairly difficult to explain to the Europeans as to how the state-owned property of an ally country can be transferred over to Russia without an attempt to hold a formal tender,” Bekarian underscored. He also stated that the Armenian body politic had created political and geopolitical myths for many decades and had become the slave of those myths.

The policy roundtable concluded with an exchange of opinions and policy recommendations among former deputy minister of foreign affairs of Mountainous Karabagh Masis Mailian; chairman Boris Navasardian of the Yerevan Press Club; political analyst Davit Petrosian; ACNIS analyst Hovhannes Manukian; Heritage Party’s board member Gevorg Kalenchian; editor Hovhannes Nikoghosian of the Aktualnaya Politika monthly; journalist Artak Barseghian; and several others.

The roundtable discussants also included Political Officer Nigel De Coster of the US Embassy; Bulgarian Ambassador Todor Marinov Staykov; Captain Alexsander Frolov, Military and Air Force Attaché of the Russian Embassy; First Secretary Wu Lianwen of the Chinese Embassy; First Secretary Igor Skvortsov of the Ukrainian Embassy; Colonel Murtaz Gujejiani, Military Attaché of the Georgian Embassy; and Second Secretary Cătălin Balog of the Romanian Embassy.

Founded in 1994 by Armenias first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2008, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, democratic development, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

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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