Saturday, May 5, 2012

The day before Armenian Parliamentary elections: A critical juncture

(A reflection about the international context)

The Russian Federation’s security system echelon has been visiting Armenia since the beginning of 2012. In January Secretary of the Armenian National Security Council Arthur Baghdasaryan received a delegation led by Russian Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Valentin Sobolev to discuss the cooperation programme between the Armenian and Russian Security Councils for 2012-2013. In those days President Sargsyan was meeting in Sochi Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and Dmitrij Medvedev. In February Secretary General of the Russian Security Council Nikolaj Patrušeev arrived in Armenia accompanied by the Commander in Chief of Land Forces Alexander Postnikov, the Federal Military and Technical Cooperation Service Deputy Director Konstantin Birjulin, the Deputy Chief of Boarder Service Nikolaj Kozik, the head of the “Russian border” federal agency Dmitrij Bezdelov and other senior statesmen. Arthur Baghdasaryan held private talks in the Russian Federation Department of Border in Armenia. The delegation was then hosted by the Armenian President. The sides agreed to sign a new treaty and reached agreements on military technical, border defence and emergency situations issues. On 2 April Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov arrived in Yerevan.

Armenia and Russia have a long tradition of deep, comprehensive and friendly cooperation. But in view of the present crisis in the Middle East, Russia is probably focussing on the enhancement of its most advanced southern bases, including Gyumri in Armenia. According to the former Pentagon official and defence analyst Michael Maloof: “Moscow [is] increasingly uneasy in terms of instability in the region of what Syria is just one aspect of a larger problem […]. For example, Russia is moving more troops and modernizing its base in Armenia in anticipation of the whole crisis in the Middle East from Syria to Iran”.

The Syrian and Iranian crises do affect Armenia not only because of the Russian military resources located in its territory, but also because the two countries have significant Armenian minorities. So far Yerevan has not taken the step to repatriate some of them, like Moscow did with Syrian citizens of North Caucasian origins (Itar-Tass, Federation Council to evaluate security of North Caucasians in Syria, 17 Feb. 2012,; Itar-Tass, Working commissions for admitting compatriots from Syria set up, 26 March 2012, ). Still it is following the crisis and reports of incidents involving Armenians are widely reported by the media.

For Armenia an escalation of the Iranian issue is particularly worrying. The two states share a border and they cooperate on many fields. Squeezed between Azerbaijan and Turkey, Armenia has only two open land borders: to the north with Georgia and to the south with Iran.
These real or perceived threats may be a factor influencing voters’ behaviours, leading them to express a preference for continuity, provided that the latter embeds elements of development and social equity.

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