WHITHER CSTO: RUSSIAN POWER, ARMENIAN SOVEREIGNTY, AND A REGION AT RISK
by Raffi K. Hovannisian
August 13, 2010
The second anniversary of blitzkrieg between Russia and Georgia
underscores the unresolved geopolitical undercurrents in this region
among the seas. Landlocked by the forces of history from the Caspian,
the Black and the Mediterranean, Armenia’s pivotal position remains
encircled by a neighborhood in strategic turmoil.
The inherent jeopardy flowing from Turkey’s now obviously disingenuous
engagement of Armenia, the challenges posed by Azerbaijan’s graduation
from its threatening language of war to its launch of a deadly attack
in June, and the general escalation of tension across the Caucasus
have combined to define the greater region as one at immediate risk
of deepening instability.
Against this backdrop of system-wide insecurity, Armenia is now facing
a dangerous alignment of outside interests and internal shortcomings.
While Yerevan’s “strategic” relationship with Moscow continues to
serve as the bedrock for regional peace and security, the nature of
the Armenian-Russian embrace is unduly lopsided.
The asymmetry of the Russian-Armenian relationship is most manifest
in the fundamental lack of equal and mutually respectful cooperation.
After all, Armenia’s hosting of the only Russian military base in the
area is no simple act of kindness, and must be anchored in a shared
regard for each other’s interests.
What is more, the Russian base is the only such facility outside
of the Russian Federation where the host country receives neither
rent nor reimbursement. Armenia pays for the totality of its costs
and expenses. Such a mortgaging of Armenian national security is
unacceptable and demands immediate redress.
In the new era, Armenian-Russian partnership, in order to be strategic
without quotation marks, must be sincere, really reciprocal and based
on horizontal respect, despite the differences in size and experience
between the two nations.
A case in point is the information recently leaked by the Russian
media and reactively confirmed by official Yerevan that the two
states, either bilaterally or under the auspices of the Collective
Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), intend to extend up to 49 years
the treaty arrangement for the Russian base and the deployment of
forces there. Matters of dignity aside, this flies in the face of
Armenian sovereignty, foreign policy independence, and vital national
interests. It also flouts the unlimited future potential of an actually
strategic partnership between us.
This holds especially true in view of the fact that the existing
base agreement does not expire until 2020 and can, if necessary,
be extended upon expiration for five or even ten years. Of further
consternation is the Kremlin’s military rapport with and sales to
Ankara, which stands in occupation of the historic Armenian patrimony,
has imposed a modern-day blockade of the Republic of Armenia tantamount
to an act of war, and continues to deny and shirk responsibility for
the Genocide and Great Armenian Dispossession of 1915.
A more contemporary source of outrage is Moscow’s military support
for Azerbaijan, which having launched a failed war of aggression
against Mountainous Karabagh and Armenia is today threatening renewed
hostilities, completing its occupation of the Armenian heartlands of
Shahumian, Getashen, Artsvashen, and Nakhichevan, and continuing with
impunity to destroy and desecrate the Armenian cultural heritage at
Jugha and elsewhere.
In this connection, in the event that Russia indeed carries through
with the reported sale of its S-300 weapon systems or other equivalent
armaments to the aggressive, belligerent, and revisionist regime of
Azerbaijan, Armenia should withdraw forthwith from the CSTO, of which
it is the sole member from the region, or at the very least require
full fair-market rent for the Russian base together with reimbursement
for water, electricity and other relevant expenses.
And finally, the ultimate achievement of Partnership between Russia
and Armenia, and between Russia and the West, will necessarily entail
an actual application of the Rule of Law-not only domestic but also
international-and hence the recognition of the Republic of Mountainous
Karabagh within its constitutional frontiers, as well as of Kosovo
Anything else is partisan politics, petty political gain and sui
generis dissimulation, all of which might make sense for some and for
the moment but at bottom run counter to the aims of peace, security,
justice and democratic values for the critical landmass amid the seas.
Raffi Hovannisian, independent Armenia’s first minister of foreign
affairs, currently chairs the Heritage Party and represents it in
From: A. Papazian