Agency sees rapprochement between Armenia, NATO

Agency sees rapprochement between Armenia, NATO

Mediamax news agency, Yerevan
5 Apr 04

Armenia might one day bid for NATO membership, Armenian news agency
Mediamax has reported. The alliance’s presence in the Caucasus is only
a matter of time, and Armenia does not want to be sidelined, the
agency said. But Yerevan cannot ignore Russia’s interests in the
region, like did Georgia, thus spoiling relations with Moscow. On the
other hand, Russia does not have a clear-cut position on NATO
expansion, which gives Armenia an opportunity to get closer to NATO
“without much noise”, the agency said. The following is an excerpt
from the report in English by Mediamax headlined “Armenia sent NATO a
message” and subheaded “Armenia ready for the alliance’s ‘arrival’ in
the South Caucasus”; subheadings inserted editorially:

Last week, seven new members joined NATO, and the Armenian parliament
ratified the multilateral PfP Status of Forces Agreement (PfP
SOFA). This coincidence can be considered as symbolic, especially if
we take into account that both Yerevan and Brussels approach the
ratification of the agreement as something more than a simple

At first sight, there is nothing special in the ratification of the
PfP SOFA by the Armenian parliament. Armenia’s neighbours in the South
Caucasus joined this agreement several years ago – Georgia in 1995
(ratified in 1997) and Azerbaijan in 1998 (ratified in 2000).

However, if we take into consideration the specific character of
Armenia-NATO relations, there will be no doubt that making the
decision to join the PfP SOFA, Yerevan decided to send a definite
message to NATO, which can be interpreted as follows – Armenia is not
categorical any more about prospects of beginning a new stage in
relations with NATO as published , the result of which might one day
become a claim to join the alliance.

Summing up the results of 2003, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan
Oskanyan said in early January that “Armenia’s political dialogue with
NATO and our participation in the Partnership for Peace programme are
gradually acquiring a more purposeful and coordinated character”. But
in our opinion, Oskanyan’s most important statement was this one:
“Building armed forces compatible with the allies, Armenia will
contribute to the peacekeeping operations carried out by NATO.” The
representative of the Yerevan government for the first time stated
that Armenia would build armed forces compatible with NATO, and this
statement cannot be considered as accidental.

There is another nuance too: having ratified the agreement, Yerevan
deprived of a powerful trump card its neighbours, and Azerbaijan in
the first place, who had been trying to convince the alliance that
Armenia was not capable of pursuing an independent foreign policy and
acted “looking back” at Russia.

Another symbolic coincidence is that at the time when the Armenian
parliament ratified the PfP SOFA, the Russian State Duma adopted a
statement “In connection with NATO expansion”, which said that “NATO’s
military doctrine continues to take on an offensive character”.

Passage omitted: quote from Russian parliamentary newspaper

NATO values relations with Armenia

NATO’s reaction to the ratification of the agreement was also
noteworthy. Ariane Quentier, press officer at the NATO Press and
Media Service, said in a telephone interview with Mediamax that “we
welcome every step aimed at developing relations with Armenia and view
the ratification of the PfP SOFA in this context”.

Moreover, Ariane Quentier expressed satisfaction with the fact that
“the tragic Budapest incident” did not affect Armenia’s readiness to
develop relations with the alliance.

On 19 February, 26-year-old Lt Gurgen Margaryan of the Armed Forces of
the Republic of Armenia, who was attending the NATO Partnership for
Peace Programme’s English language training course in Budapest, was
brutally murdered while he was asleep. He was axed by an Azerbaijani
military officer attending the same course.

Passage omitted: reaction by the NATO secretary-general

The fact that the alliance representative herself mentioned the
Budapest incident speaks for itself. It testifies to the fact that
NATO values its relations with Armenia and that the alliance did not
want the Budapest incident to retard the intensive pace of

We must not overlook the fact that the demarche of Azerbaijan which
did not allow Armenian officers to Baku to take part in the planning
conference of the Cooperative Best Effort 2004 military exercises came
as an unpleasant surprise to NATO. The statement made in Yerevan last
week by Director of Plans and Policy, Headquarters US European
Command, Maj-Gen Jeffrey B. Kohler was more than unambiguous.

“The US government made it clear to Azerbaijan that we fully support
the participation of Armenian servicemen in the Cooperative Best
Effort 2004 exercises. When NATO is the organizer of exercises within
the PfP framework, they must be open to all the partners,” Jeffrey
Kohler said.

Most likely, a sober calculation is behind Armenia’s new policy with
regard to the alliance – the statements made recently by US and NATO
representatives testify to the fact that the alliance’s firm presence
in the Caucasus is just a matter of time, and Armenia does not want to
be sidelined.

Passage omitted: quotes from statements of different officials at
different times; quote from Armenian president’s statement two years

Armenia – “bridge” between Russia and NATO

The main factor affecting the pace and character of Armenia’s
integration into NATO has been the position of the Russian leadership,
which Yerevan cannot and does not want to ignore. The main reason for
the aggravation of Georgian-Russian relations in the last years was
not “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but the policy of the Georgian
leadership that demonstratively ignored Russia’s interests in the
Caucasus. It is obvious that Armenia will never follow this path.

On the other hand, if we trace the statements by Russian leaders on
prospects of relations with NATO made after Russian President Vladimir
Putin came to power in 2000, it becomes obvious that the Russian
leadership does not have a clear-cut position on this issue. It could
seem that this makes the situation more complicated for Armenia. On
the other hand, this gives Armenia an opportunity to think over real
steps to get closer to NATO and the alliance’s standards without much
noise and public statements. These efforts will not be in vain in any

Armenia, as well as Russia and NATO, understand that if it was not for
close Armenian-Russian military and political relations, which have
been and continue to be an objective necessity for Yerevan, Armenia
would have become the first country in the South Caucasus to declare
its desire to become a full member of the alliance. Moreover, there is
every reason to assume that the alliance, in turn, would have given
Armenia “the go-ahead” much earlier than to Georgia and Azerbaijan
because of a number of reasons.

However, this must not be spoken about with regret. The modern world
is changing rapidly and there can arise a situation when Armenia’s
role as a “bridge” between Russia and NATO in the Caucasus will be
extremely important to both Moscow and Brussels.