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October 12, 2006

ACNIS Focuses on Regional Developments
and Armenian Security

Yerevan—Does the future of the Caucasus augur any changes in terms of politico-military and geostrategic interests? What is the current balance of interests held by world powers and the countries in the region, and what are the prospects of this balance? What can we anticipate from the GUAM pact—signed among Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova—which is now becoming more active? What impact will the events unraveling in the northern Caucasus as well as the strained Russian-Georgian relations have on Armenia and, more specifically, on the resolution of the Karabagh conflict? In light of the on-ground victory in Artsakh’s quest for liberty and self-defense, what are the reasons behind subsequent Armenian setbacks in the political arena? In order comprehensively to explore and offer an expert outlook on these and other pertinent contemporary issues, the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a foreign policy roundtable entitled “Political Developments in the Caucasus and Armenia’s Security.”

ACNIS director of research Stiopa Safarian greeted the audience with opening remarks. Next to welcome the participants and deliver comments was ACNIS director of administration Karapet Kalenchian. “In this policy seminar, we will try to delineate the realm of those matters which have a direct correlation with our security, and to expose the shortcomings of our foreign and domestic agenda with respect to the defense of national interests,” he said.

In her address, security specialist Naira Hambarian deliberated on the imperatives of Armenia’s security doctrine. In Hambarian’s assessment, ethnic conflicts and civil wars are an outcome of the intrastate and military changes taken place during the post-Cold War era. And these changes, in their turn, bring about corruption, poverty, environmental pollution, drug trafficking, terrorism, and other challenges to domestic, non-military security. According to the analyst, the most perilous of these, one which breaks the backbone of the country’s potential and destroys the body politic, is corruption—and especially the crimes committed by the ruling powers. “The union between criminal forces and the political elite is beneficial for both. Hence, such criminal partnership provides votes and financial dividends to the authorities, while the criminal factions not only receive protection against law enforcement but, enjoying the backing of the administration, are also free to engage in the shadow economy,” Hambarian noted.

In his turn, Yerevan State University lecturer Aram Harutiunian concentrated on the policy, pursued by some, of Armenia’s regional isolation and its probable consequences. He expressed confidence that the currently tense situation in the Caucasus has brought forth real threats against Armenia’s security, and these threats, in Harutiunian’s view, could become more complex. “‘Thanks to’ the persistent policy conducted by a couple of aggressive neighbors, the transnational corporations, and large financial circles, Armenia—lacking in natural resources and coping with a cleverly-orchestrated blockade—has become largely isolated. In actual fact, Armenia has been deprived of the opportunity to play any meaningful role in the region. That is to say, this situation creates an evident vacuum which, as is known, could result in unpredictable consequences,” he said. The political scientist concluded by offering his prescriptions for the challenges ahead. The bypassing of Armenia in regional projects, according to Harutiunian, is a dangerous process that could disturb the strategic equilibrium in the region, and this would significantly jeopardize Armenia’s future security.

The next speaker, political analyst Davit Petrosian, reflected on the current instability in the northern Caucasus, and presented a breakdown of the threats which Armenia might confront from that direction. “Should the Karabagh conflict be settled, one of the points in the relevant agreement will stipulate the deblockage of every single one of Armenia’s land communications, including the transportation links that pass through Azerbaijan and the northern Caucasus,” Petrosian asserted. He did not rule out, however, that in case of instability in the southern portion of the North Caucasus—in Daghestan, for instance—the aforementioned routes could be shut down once more, but this time by Russia. The transportation links across Abhkazia and North Ossetia, on the other hand, will remain closed for a long time in order to serve as reciprocal levers in the campaign against neighboring adversaries, he said.

In his talk, Armenia’s former deputy minister of defense Vahan Shirkhanian examined the military balance in the Caucasus. He demonstrated with facts and figures that the South Caucasus is the world’s most militarized region. In line with these statistics, in the last five years alone the military budgets of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia have increased approximately five, three, and two times, respectively. And what’s interesting is that these indicators surpass the economic growth index of these countries by thirty to forty times. Apart from this, the three Caucasus countries have found themselves in different geopolitical and politico-military extremities. Georgia’s bearing is in the direction of NATO, Azerbaijan looks toward Turkey, while Armenia sets its sights on Russia. “It seems the region will soon turn into a stage for military actions,” Shirkhanian said. He also maintained against this backdrop that Armenia needs to resign from its policy of complementarity, which practically has become unjustifiable, and to choose a precise and coherent system of security. The best course of action for Armenia, according to the former deputy minister, is to associate with the Eurasian Economic Commonwealth and with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization comprising Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The participants in the ensuing discussion included director Gagik Ter-Harutiunian of the “Noravank” Foundation; Gegham Harutiunian from the Republic Party; analyst Marine Karapetian from the Concord Center for Legal and Political Studies; Heritage Party board member Gevorg Kalenchian; chairman Alexander Butayev of “The People are Masters of the Country” civic union; 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 2006, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, 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

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