Common Sky: Parliaments in Armenia, Russia consider joint air defense system deal

Photo: Photolure

Last week, the Armenian National Assembly’s Foreign Relations Commission considered two major drafts – the agreement on creating a joint Armenian-Russian air defense system and the motion for the start of procedures to quit the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

The first agreement was approved by the Commission, and in June it will go to parliament for ratification. The author of the second one, opposition MP Khachatur Kokobelyan, agreed to postpone it for a year.

Both solutions concern the Armenian-Russian relations, which are seen as a key factor in solutions of not only issues relating to Armenia, such as economy, the Karabakh conflict, security, corruption, but also regional issues in general.

Many experts speak about the need to review the Armenian-Russian relations, clarification of the rights and obligations of each party. This is connected with Armenia’s strong dependence on Russia, which threatens to its national sovereignty and obstructs decision-making.

While Armenia feels this threat, there are no political forces or even civil groups that have been able to formulate demands for the revision of Armenian-Russian relations and their return to an equal partnership footing.

After the April war in Karabakh, three protests were staged in front of the Russian embassy in Yerevan to demand that Moscow fulfill its allied commitments and stop supplying arms to Azerbaijan. However, those demands did not grow into a political process as not a single political party in parliament raised any demand to Russia. Though, officials and MPs from all parties raised these issues at meetings with their Russian counterparts.

The motion by chairman of the Free Democrats party Khachatur Kokobelyan on withdrawing from the EEU can be considered as the first political step in this direction. This proposal was made after it became obvious that Armenia’s membership in the Union brings only economic losses on top of the fact that the EEU member states effectively refused to support Armenia during the latest clashes with Azerbaijan in Karabakh.

As substantiation of his motion, Kokobelyan cited figures and evidence that no one would argue with. Parliamentary Foreign Relations Commission Chairman Artak Zakaryan, citing “the current situation”, called for the proposal to be removed from the agenda, and the opposition lawmaker agreed to defer the matter for a year.

Instead, after discussions, the Commission endorsed an agreement on the establishment of a regional air defense system. During the discussion, representatives of the Ministry of Defense could not answer a simple question of some deputies – who will manage the joint Armenian-Russian air defense system or who will be giving orders if an Azeri or Turkish aircraft invades the territory of Armenia?

Nevertheless, the agreement was approved, and during the current month it is most likely to be ratified by the parliaments of Russia and Armenia.

The issue of specification of the Armenian-Russian relations is becoming a key one in solving the economic and security problems of Armenia. Many experts and some officials already acknowledge that without a reformatting of Armenian-Russian relations it will be difficult to solve internal problems in Armenia, let alone ensure foreign investments and the re-opening of communications.