Ex-President of Armenia: It is naive to believe that the CSTO will respond if Armenia is attacked
Ex-President Kocharyan’s comment
“It seems that this government does not need a combat-ready army, the main component of the country’s security after the 44-day war is still not in the best condition”. This opinion was expressed by ex-president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan at a press conference on February 17. He stressed that the Armenian government had done nothing to rebuild the army.
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Armenia-Turkey: “We shouldn’t act like beggars”
Robert Kocharyan emphasized that he was never against establishing relations with Turkey and opening the border, but he believes that everything should have been done in accordance with the procedures accepted in international practice, and not “in the current format”:
“The establishment of relations should occur naturally: exchange of notes, establishment of diplomatic relations, opening of embassies, then discussion begins on how to overcome the problems between the two countries. What is happening now is beyond my understanding. In fact, the format that I see today is not negotiations with Turkey, but with the Turkey-Azerbaijan tandem, where the agenda is formed by Azerbaijan and voiced by Turkey. This will not yield good results. This is the wrong way to normalize relations”.
According to the ex-president, Armenia should not “beg” Turkey to open the borders, because the Turkish side will benefit more from this.
Kocharyan believes that talking about benefits for Armenia is absurd. He recalled that from Yerevan to the border with Russia is 400 km, a significant part of the transportation is carried out by trucks. And the situation for Armenia will not change, because the Russian Federation is its main partner:
“If we carry out cargo transportation by the Azerbaijani railway, the route will double in length. This will further remove us from our sales markets – the Krasnodar Territory and Moscow. Don’t these people [the current government] look at maps? Or do they simply hate maps? I am not saying that there is no need to open borders, but we need a program for 3-5 years to protect our markets – introduce subsidies or taxes on Turkish products, for example, there are different models for this”.
In his opinion, the Armenian economy in the first 5 years after the opening of the borders “will be in shock”, therefore he insists on the need to protect local producers from the influx of cheap Turkish goods.
According to him, a situation is being created where Turkey can have a dominant position in the Armenian economy and full influence on the political elite:
“This is possible if Russian influence starts to be replaced by Turkish. This means that Armenia may abandon Karabakh altogether. This is one of the preconditions under which such an alternative for Armenia can operate. This policy will enjoy the support of the United States, since the confrontation with Russia suggests that in this way Moscow’s influence can be limited”.
“Useless to pin hopes on the CSTO”
According to Robert Kocharyan, there are three main components in ensuring the security of Armenia:
- armed forces of the country,
- the CSTO military bloc, of which the country is a member,
- allied relations with Russia.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization is a military bloc operating under the auspices of Russia. Armenia is a member, along with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
He believes that today the Armenian army is not able to protect the borders and security of the country on its own, since after the 44-day war, practically nothing has been done to restore its combat capability.
As for the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the ex-president believes that it is necessary to maintain membership, but at the same time not to place hopes in terms of security on this structure:
“There is no other structure that could replace the CSTO. We must stay, cooperate, but not hope for protection․ There will be nothing but statements [by the CSTO]. It is naive to believe that the CSTO will react in case of an attack on Armenia”.
According to him, the member countries of the organization have warm relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan. And in general, this military bloc works smoothly only when the interests of all participants coincide – as was the case with Kazakhstan.
According to Kocharyan, the guarantee of the country’s security is cooperation with Russia. He considers the creation of a new military-industrial complex and the supply of ammunition from Russia to be of particular importance. But at the same time, as the former president says, it is necessary to understand how ready Russia is to unilaterally support Armenia:
“During the war [in Karabakh in 2020], a sharp increase in the role of Turkey in the region was revealed. I do not see any serious steps now that could change this situation”.
“We should not be afraid of integration”
According to Kocharyan, there are models of integration in the world that everyone admires, for example, the European Union. He says that the Russian-Belarusian process is far from the level of integration processes in the EU. One should not be afraid of them, but make a cold calculation and “evaluate what we will get and what we will have to give up” instead. He spoke about this, referring to the recently discussed statements of the President of Belarus that Armenia “has nowhere to go”, and it will have to enter the Union State with Russia.
The ex-president says that during the years of his work such an issue was not discussed, but he is in favour of a pragmatic approach to such processes.
According to Robert Kocharyan, it is necessary to have strong relations with Russia, since there is no other country that would be “interested” in Armenia:
“It is beneficial for Russia to have a strong ally in the South Caucasus, as we were before the last war. It is beneficial for Turkey to have an extremely weak Armenia, since only in this case will it not become an obstacle to the implementation of its programs. Polls show that people are not ready for this option. […]
This is not about whether we are loyal to Russia or not. When we talk about state interests, we need to soberly assess what we can gain in either case, which option will lead to a stronger, more organized Armenia, so it will be able to play an important role in the region”.
The former president is waiting for the current Armenian authorities to present their vision, but believes that “it is more convenient for them to remain silent and not present any concept”.