Debate goes on about the potential outcome of official Yerevan’s decision to join the Customs Union (CU). Armenian experts primarily criticize the leadership of the country on this issue. They have become sensitive in the wake of the Minsk Summit of the Customs Union. Apparently, those who doubt the correctness of pursued foreign policy course are growing in number.
Sacrifice of sovereignty: Armenian practice
Two aspects of Armenia’s membership decision discussed during the Customs Union Summit in Minsk were intriguing. First, conditions forwarded to Yerevan. Second, stages it was obliged to go through prior to membership. Although both of those processes are closely related, some delicate features deserve emphasis. The point is that even in the country itself, opinions are polarized with respect to membership to the CU. Closer look of those views reveals that Yerevan experienced yet another fiasco.
Geopolitical outcome of the CU membership is still vague in the Armenia’s political environment. Most experts agree that it was a mistake. Their chief argument has to do with a fear of loss, to a certain extent, of the country’s sovereignty. Advocates of this position are referring to the remarks by the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who namely said: “Sovereignty is not a dogma. There is a price to everything, and if we want to live better we must sacrifice something” (see: Наира Айрумян. Лукашенко Армении: не бойтесь потерять суверенитет/ “Lragir”, 25 October 2013).
Blunt remarks by Lukashenko provoked panic among Armenians. They are saying that Yerevan basically surrenders to Moscow. And that even Belarus’s President was considering withdrawing from the CU, should the gasoline tax not be wavered. Armenia’s leadership, on the other hand, is forbidden from making a mere statement on the issue. Armenian experts regard it as the acceptance of Armenia as a second-class country during accession to CU and subsequently, to the Eurasian Union.
Interestingly, during deliberations in Minsk a proposition was voiced to invite Turkey to the organization. Apparently, it was done to appease Armenia. Suggested by Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev, it appeared as a geopolitical security guarantee to Armenia. Reality reveals another picture notwithstanding. Since CU is yet to live up to the expectations as an established institution, membership of such a significant player as Turkey sounds hypothetical.
Apparently, Armenians are trying to make the best of selling themselves to the organization. They primarily raise the issues of security and Nagorno Karabakh, and even insist that it is still not too late to evade membership to the organization (see: ”Есть еще время избежать пасти зверя” / “1in.am”, 25 October 2013). Allegedly, Belarus and Kazakhstan have objections of their own with respect to the CU, and Armenia is only discussing the “road map” to membership. That is why official Yerevan may still revere to Europe.
Reality, however, is clearly different. First of all, Belarus and Kazakhstan are suggesting replacement of the CU with the Eurasian Economic Union that envisages broader integration. In fact, they suggest taking cooperation to the next level and streamlining mechanisms to meet the objective. Moreover, Armenia cannot trespass the boundaries of regulations set by the organization, whereas the country is yet unable to meet those requirements. Therefore, it is all right for the “road map” to consist of several stages. Third, Armenia would become CU’s weakest, smallest and impoverished member. Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus are true giants compared to Armenia. Therefore, official Yerevan must realize that it would always remain “little brother” in the organization.
“Minor prank”: policy of “stuck between hell and high water”
Revering towards Europe, under the circumstances, sounds like fable. If potent of doing so, Yerevan would not have taken the decision with respect to the CU accession. On the other hand, apparently Armenia’s European friends are gradually showing Yerevan the door. According to “Lragir”, European Parliament adopted a document that said the EU would stop supporting Armenia on the Nagorno Karabakh issue and Turkish-Armenian talks (see: Наира Айрумян. Пора Сержу Саркисяну выйти к народу и покаяться / “Lragir”, 24 October 2013). The document read that the Nagorno Karabakh conflict was to be resolved based on 4 UN Security Council resolutions adopted in 1993 and OSCE Minsk Group’s 2009 L’Aquila declaration.
Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister S. Kocharyan denounced European Parliament’s decision, describing it as conflicting with the official positions of the EU, and the OSCE Minsk Group (see: previous article). Nevertheless, Armenian experts believe that the European Union is harassing Armenia regarding its decision on CU membership (Айк Арамян. Европа приступила к санкциям против Армении / “Lragir”, 24 October 2013). The situation the country finds itself in is explained by the “minor prank” policy of the country’s leadership. Interestingly, Armenians have finally come to acknowledge these realities.
These developments expose deeper divides on the Armenia’s political stage in the wake of the Minsk Summit. Now experts speculate about Europe’s punitive measures against Yerevan. They predict that the West may calibrate its policy towards this region, including advocating Azerbaijan’s just position on the Nagorno Karabakh issue. There are many experts who share this view, but one aspect must not be ignored.
The point is that the rivalry over the South Caucasus has reached new heights. Both Washington and Moscow opt to conduct resolutely than ever in this particular direction. Completely dependent on external powers – Armenia is the weakest link in this process. Thus, both great powers are employing Armenia factor for the sake of their interests. Armenian experts likened the process to being “Russian hammer and Western anvil” (see: Наира Айрумян. Пора Сержу Саркисяну выйти к народу и покаяться / “Lragir”, 24 October, 2013).
Apparently, Armenia’s troubles emanate from the groundless foreign policy pursued for years. The blame game is pointless. The international community has finally seen Armenia’s true face exposed. For achieving their sordid objectives, they bend backwards for the powerful countries. Having failed to establish an independent and robust state, this is the way they aim to persevere. It is not accidental that today; Armenians turn to Armenia’s interest perspective deliberations on some historic treaties together with visiting diplomats, intellectuals and politicians, be it from Russia or Europe. Search is underway to identify “injustices” in the 1831 Gulustan and 1921 Kars Treaties, that would best suit the needs of Armenians (see: Два века спустя: итоги подписания Гюлистанского договора сквозь призму современной геополитики / ”Новости-Армения”, 24 October 2013). This, on one hand, indicates official Yerevan’s desire to draw away attention from key geopolitical problems of the country, but on the other, demonstrates diplomatic predicament the country finds itself in.
For those very reasons, Armenia’s geopolitical posture in the region has become uncertain. Moreover, there are no more reasons to believe that presidential elections in Georgia can generate trends to positively impact the plight of Armenia because official Tbilisi has repeatedly reiterated its resolve to further pursue pro-European policy. On top of that, B. Ivanishvili even invited Armenia to seek EU membership. In geopolitical terms, these developments signify imminently grave problems for Armenia while only time will show whether it can escape “Russian hammer” and “Western anvil”.