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March 27, 2008

ACNIS Focuses On NATO’s Enlargement Toward the Caucasus

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a foreign policy roundtable to discuss NATO’s Caucasus enlargement policy and its impact on Armenian interests. The meeting brought together diplomatic representatives, leading analysts, policy specialists, public and political figures, and media representatives.

ACNIS director of administration Karapet Kalenchian welcomed the audience with opening remarks. “In today’s discussion, we will attempt to elucidate the primary measures Armenia needs to undertake in light of possible military and political rearrangements taking place in our region,” Kalenchian said. “In which direction should Armenia turn if our neighbor Georgia becomes a NATO member sometime in the future? What challenges will our country face? Which will be the best option for guaranteeing the security of the Armenian people and the state? Will we benefit or suffer from our continuing cooperation within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization?”

The day’s first speaker was Armenia’s former deputy minister of defense Vahan Shirkhanian, who not ruling out a repeat of the Balkan scenario in our region, looked into Armenia’s security threats against the backdrop of Georgia’s probable accession to NATO. In Shirkhanian’s viewpoint, if and when the unfolding events take a certain course, Armenia could face not only food shortage, but also confront possible military actions. Expressing his concern, Shirkhanian explained that “once the territorial integrity of Georgia is restored with NATO’s assistance, Azerbaijan likewise will start a marathon race towards NATO membership. As a result, Armenia will be surrounded by the three countries of the North Atlantic Alliance and therefore will rely solely on Iran”. On the other hand, according to him, the great victory achieved in Karabagh might be the price Armenia has to pay for sprinting toward NATO membership.

In his talk, ACNIS senior analyst Hovsep Khurshudian explored the process of democracy in Armenia and the country’s external security challenges. In Khurshudian’s view, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) prefers to defend the political regimes of its member nations rather than guarantee the actual security of those countries. “In terms of civilization orientation, there is a significant difference between the aspirations of our people and the current political system and mode of operation of the authorities. The bulk of the Armenian body politic is inclined toward Western values, whereas the country’s administration is devoted to the letter and spirit of the CSTO,” Khurshudian noted, underscoring the fact that Armenia will become isolated if Georgia enters NATO. He also pointed to the need for further developing Armenia’s relations with NATO regardless of the fact as to when a full membership can become a reality.

In his intervention, independent analyst Manvel Sargsian spoke about the changes that are likely to occur in the Caucasus if Georgia becomes a NATO member. He emphasized that in contrast to Georgia, the probable changes will bring forth entirely different problems for Armenia. In Sargsian’s assessment, these problems depend specifically on the possible threat of neighbors, the lack of appealing natural resources, and on the fact that the Artsakh conflict to date remains unresolved. “In global politics, the geopolitical importance of Armenia is being linked to its regional role as a factor that holds back the politico-military activeness of Turkey and Azerbaijan,” Sargsian asserted.  Sargsian continued that such a role is equally acceptable for both NATO and Russia who are more interested in the impact that the Armenian factor has on Turkey.

The policy roundtable concluded with an exchange of opinions and policy recommendations among Nino Aptsiauri of the Georgian Embassy; ACNIS senior analyst Tatul Hakobian; political scientists Edward Antinian and Ara Sargsian; director Tevan Poghosian and analyst Ashot Khurshudian from the International Center for Human Development; and several others.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s 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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