Opinion: How will Europe's involvement in Armenia affect its future and ties with Russia
Recently, Armenia has received an increasing number of European guests. Moreover, in parallel with the visits, statements are made about significant financial assistance. The last guest was the President of the European Council Charles Michel himself, who confirmed the EU’s readiness to provide Armenia with the financial assistance of 2.6 billion euros. The activation of Europe in Armenia causes jealousy and is perceived ambiguously by Russia, which considers itself the main player in the region.
What does Europe’s intention to play a more active role in solving the problems of the South Caucasus mean, how can events develop further and can Russia interfere with the EU’s plans? The opinions of Armenian analysts.
- European Council President in Yerevan: EU is ready for a constructive partnership
- Armenia to receive substantial financial assistance from the EU
Hovsep Khurshudyan, Head of the NGO Center for Support of Civil Initiatives “Free Citizen”
Pashinyan’s credit of trust
The revitalization of Europe’s assistance should be viewed as a sign of solidarity with Armenia on the issue of post-war rehabilitation and economic development. The European Union announced its intention to allocate financial assistance to Armenia, which, for comparison, is 1 billion more than the amount promised to Ukraine within the framework of the same Eastern Partnership.
Europe wants to support Armenia in the issue of resistance to the plan of joining the Russia-Belarus Union State imposed by Putin, from which Lukashenka himself has so far been successfully evading.
This means that Nikol Pashinyan has a credit of trust not only in his own country but also in Europe.
Pashinyan is pursuing a fairly independent policy within the framework of what is possible.
Europeans understand that Armenia is stuck between three dictators (Putin-Aliyev-Erdogan). Since so far they cannot give Armenia concrete military-political alternatives, at least they are trying to support it economically so that Pashinyan continues his independent policy.
Is Europe supporting the right of nations to self-determination?
Europe also wants to support Armenia’s position on the Karabakh issue. Charles Michel’s visit showed that Europe reaffirms its adherence to the Minsk agreements and the Minsk format, within the framework of which negotiations were held to resolve the Karabakh conflict before the war in the fall of 2020.
Thus, the EU also confirms its adherence to the well-known principles, including the right of nations to self-determination – up to the possible recognition of the independence of Artsakh within the borders of the NKAO plus the “Lachin corridor”.
The first step towards this will be the recognition of the intermediate status of Nagorno-Karabakh. This means that both Shushi and Hadrut, which came under the control of Azerbaijan during the war, should be returned to the jurisdiction of NK, regardless of its status.
North-South will help bypass Turkey and Russia
It is noteworthy that of all the programs that the European Union wants to finance, a special place is given to the construction of the North-South road, more specifically, the complex section of the Kajaran-Sisian highway. And for this, a significant part of the financial support is provided (600 million euros). Bridges and tunnels will be built here, which will shorten the road by tens of kilometers.
Thanks to this project, Armenia can become a transit country. From the north, the road will connect Armenia with Georgia and provide access to the Black Sea and European countries. From the south, the highway will connect the country with Iran. The construction of the highway began in Armenia in 2012. In 2019, the road was planned to be fully completed and commissioned, but so far about 20 percent of the highway has been built. Moreover, according to experts, these are the lightest sections of the road.
In addition, it will be a safer road compared to what we now have, taking into account the new military posts of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces that have appeared in some of its sections.
The Europeans show that they are interested in this project, which will link the southern flows of cargo transportation from the entire water area of the Indian Ocean and from the Persian Gulf to Europe through Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and the Black Sea.
In fact, this road will bypass Turkey and Russia, which means that the influence of Turkey and Russia on this global transport corridor will be zero.
Russia has a negative attitude towards this project, in connection with which there are some risks for its implementation. But it has no leverage to prohibit cargo transportation through the Armenian territory.
Otherwise, it will mean that Russia is an enemy of Armenia which is openly presenting its involvement in international economic projects, and, by this, is, hindering its development.
Europe intend to gain a foothold in the region
And it does not hide its intention. This is evidenced not only by the statements and actions of France but also by the visits of the Romanian, Lithuanian, Dutch Foreign Ministers to Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. They all openly say that Europe is not going to go anywhere.
In addition, no one canceled the Minsk Group. And even after the Karabakh war, Russia reaffirmed its adherence to this format. However, at the suggestion of Azerbaijan, it wants to postpone the discussion on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.
It is obvious that Putin is now acting in full conjunction with the two dictators of the region – with Aliyev and Erdogan. And in Armenia, it is no secret to anyone that Russia is betraying Armenia by not fulfilling its allied obligations set forth in the official documents of the CSTO military bloc and in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance of August 29, 1997.
Armenia needs to diversify its security
The Armenian authorities understand that otherwise, Russia will either swallow the country, or the division of the Armenian territories between the three dictators will continue.
It should be understood that Europe is returning to the region together with the United States. Moreover, not only to the Caucasus region but also to the Black Sea basin. During the Biden-Putin meeting, Russia was given a timetable for changing its behavior, and Putin was also introduced to the “new rules” Lavrov lamented about it in his recent article.
The irresponsible policy of isolationist Trump changed with the arrival of Biden, and the return of the United States and Europe to the region has already led to some changes in Ankara’s policy in the South Caucasus. Erdogan has become more cautious both in his statements and actions. And this gives little hope that Turkey will gradually return to the Western, Euro-Atlantic camp and will continue to pursue a more peaceful and responsible policy in our region.
Andrias Ghukasyan, Member of the Association of Political Scientists of Armenia
European support in exchange for reforms
The visits of high-ranking EU officials are connected with the entry into force of the Agreement on a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership between the EU and Armenia on March 1.
The European Union is interested in supporting Armenia in its political and economic development.
The EU is ready to allocate 2.6 billion euros for Armenia if the country fulfills its obligations under this Agreement and begins to modernize its national legislation in accordance with European standards.
Macron’s visit to Armenia is also planned, which is directly related to the issues of security and peaceful settlement in the region, including the settlement of the Karabakh issue.
Russia, naturally, reacts to all this with jealousy, because it understands that Armenia is getting the opportunity to become more economically and politically independent.
Armenia’s readiness for change
On the other hand, the alignment of political forces that has developed in Armenia after the elections does not give grounds to think that cooperation between Armenia and Europe can be of great importance.
Europeans show what they are ready for. But is Armenia itself ready for cooperation, what are the Armenian political forces ready for?
The alignment of political forces, which have now entered the Armenian parliament, suggests that they are not predisposed to cooperation with the EU – neither in the economic, nor in the political, nor in the security sphere.
Accordingly, it is unlikely that Armenia will yet be able to break away from the trilateral statement on Karabakh on November 9. And as a participant in this statement, Armenia will fulfill its provisions.
Europe shows its capabilities to the Armenian people. Before the elections, there was propaganda that Armenia is of no interest to anyone except the Russian Federation, that no one except Russia is ready to help it. And now the EU and France are clearly demonstrating to everyone that they are ready to provide assistance. And if this assistance is not accepted, it will not be the fault of Europe, but that of the Armenian political forces.
Hakob Badalyan, political commentator
Jealousy of Russia to the detriment of Armenia
Russia has always been jealous of the growing influence of the West in the Caucasus. But here we are faced with a paradoxical situation, because at the same time Russia calmly brings Turkey to the region and gives it half of the Caucasus, just to continue the struggle against the West.
But, by and large, Turkey is a member of NATO, and it perfectly understands that without NATO it will not be the same Turkey. Russia also understands this. And here we are already faced with the struggle of the rational logic of the Russians and their insecurities.
Rational logic dictates that it is better to come to an agreement with the United States and France and have a role to play in the Caucasus. And the insecurities lead the Russian Federation to do everything so as not to come to terms with the West, with the United States. Obviously, such an irrational approach for Russia is tantamount to slow death.
With this logic, it will simply be withdrawn from the Caucasus, and not only from the Caucasus. Today the question of Central Asia has already been raised. In this sense, Russia is facing a dilemma.