"Armenia does not yet have the resources to challenge Russia." Opinion

Dec 4 2023
  • JAMnews
  • Yerevan

Armenia-EU and Armenia-Russia relations

“The immediate threat to Armenia comes from Azerbaijan, now also from Russia – no less than from Turkey,” says political scientist Richard Kirakosian.

He believes that Armenia is entering a stage of new opportunities for itself, but warns that challenges have also become more numerous.

On the air of Azatutyun Radio (Liberty), the analyst expressed his opinion on the deepening Armenia-EU cooperation, defense reforms, the probability of acquiring weapons from Western partners and relations with Russia.

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Head of the Center for Regional Studies, political scientist Richard Kirakosian argues that in the position Armenia is in now, Russia should not be provoked into tough steps:

“Armenia does not yet have the resources to challenge Russia. Instead, the focus should be on discussing the terms on which relations can be built.”

The expert advises the authorities to take small steps and “talk little, show tact and prudence”. In his opinion, both the continuation of the policy of rejection of Russia and unrealistic expectations from the West are risky for Armenia in the current situation.

Kirakosian thinks it is premature for Armenia to seek NATO and EU membership. A weak country with no leverage “should not make mistakes.”

“After the recent meeting between the Armenian Foreign Minister and the special representative of NATO Secretary General, I expect that deepening cooperation with NATO, partnership, not membership, will be announced.”

Advises to pursue a small states strategy, to act as bridges and platforms of cooperation, and to diversify the security sphere.

“We need to acquire new friends and partners, from China to India to the West, but not to replace Russia, but rather to balance or compensate for its absence.”

Richard Kirakosian stated that the U.S. has never proposed an arms sale, but has long provided Armenia with military assistance, “from military medicine on the battlefield to military education”.

He claims that the weapons purchased from India are better than Russian ones. Besides, they are easy to handle compared to American weapons.

As for Armenia’s defense reforms, the political analyst believes they are going in the right direction, although much of it is not obvious to ordinary citizens:

“Armenia is moving away from the method of conscription inherited from the USSR. It is moving to a much more professional armed forces on a contract basis, which will be similar to an internal guard or territorial defense, taking into account the peculiarities of our geography. This new military doctrine is more in line with the country’s security needs than copying from the Russians, which we have been doing unsuccessfully for years.”

Kirakosian recently returned from Paris and Brussels, where he met with French Foreign Ministry officials, representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament.

According to his impressions, European partners are more interested than ever before in involving Armenia in partnership and deepening relations. The expert sees two reasons for these changes:

  • “Europe recognizes the democratic legitimacy of Armenia and the reforms that are designed to push Russia out of the region,
  • EU structures are disappointed with Azerbaijan, which is a consequence of the abuse of their patience”.

The fact that the European Union is ready to provide the Armenian army with non-lethal weapons through the European Peace Foundation is considered “significant and unprecedented” by the political analyst.

He reminds that Armenia is the only EU security partner that has a Russian military base on its territory and is a member of the Russian military bloc CSTO:

“Despite this, the EU has chosen Armenia as a partner. In addition to the importance of this fact in itself, its effectiveness lies in the message that is addressed to both Baku and Moscow”.

The analyst also notes that now it is not Armenian officials who go to Brussels to “ask for help”, but EU officials come to Armenia and offer support.

Recently, a joint delegation of the European External Action Service and the European Commission was in Yerevan. According to Kirakosian, who personally met with members of the delegation, the Europeans came to find ways to “promote defense flexibility and reforms in Armenia.”

According to the political analyst, the EU’s approach is realistic and correct from the security point of view. The EU seeks to strengthen only the country’s defense capabilities, not its offensive capabilities:

“Cooperation with the EU at this critical moment helps offset any potential danger to Armenia.”