‘Complementary’ maneuver: Armenia trying to get security from Russia, while economically integrating with Europe

The conflict between Russia and the West is apparently becoming the main dividing line in the domestic politics of Armenia. The split along this line occurs both within the opposition and pro-government forces.

Aram Sargsyan, the leader of the Hanrapetutyun party, who was number three on the proportional list of the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC), gave up his mandate in parliament and announced its departure from the ANC. As it turned out later, the main disagreement with the ANC was around the relations between Armenia and Russia.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service Sargsyan said that only pro-Russian forces now remain within the ANC. “I consider myself a citizen of Armenia. I see the future of my country linked to Western standards. I do not see anything we can learn from Russia,” said Sargsyan.

Hovhannes Hovhannisyan, the leader of the Liberal Party of Armenia that also left the ANC, is also known to be an advocate of Armenia’s pro-Western orientation.

Experts believe that the ruling coalition in Armenia is also being formed in accordance with the attitudes of political forces towards Russia and the West. Immediately after the May 6 parliamentary elections President Serzh Sargsyan left for Moscow where he attended the summits of the CIS and the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). However, he stopped short of making statements about the intention of Armenia to join the Eurasian Union, an emerging reintegration alliance proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moreover, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan simultaneously published an article in one of Russia’s leading periodicals, arguing that while joining the Eurasian Union would give Armenia some benefit, a qualitative change for the nation’s economy was only possible with European integration.

And on April 27, before the elections in Armenia, the Russian Rossiyskaya Gazeta published an interview with the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) Gagik Tsarukyan. In that interview Tsarukyan clearly pronounced in favor of the Putin idea of the Eurasian Union. “We have already stated that we are ready to work actively towards the dissemination of the idea of a Eurasian Union. The evidence of this is the international forum “The Role of NGOs in the formation of a Eurasian Union” that we are holding in Yerevan these days jointly with the Russian Eurasian Cooperation Development Fund,” he said then.

The fact that while in Moscow President Sargsyan was not received by President Putin was also evaluated by experts as the sign of Russia’s discontent with the results of the Armenian elections that gave a landslide victory to Sargsyan’s Republican Party. In fact, in the May 6 elections Moscow supported the PAP and the second president of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan, who is believed to stand behind the PAP. Moreover, according to media reports, Kocharyan is in Moscow these days. It is not clear whether his current visit to Moscow is connected to politics or his business interests.

However, not everything is as straightforward as it might seem at first glance. Unlike Georgia, which sharply terminated its relationship with Russia and made a turn towards the West, Armenia is trying to get security guarantees as part of its relations with Russia and within the CSTO, while relying on the European direction for economic integration. It is not yet clear whether such a “complementary” maneuver will work, but it is now patently clear that Armenia does not want to mix economy and security.