Recently a group of Russian experts have been critical on the participation of the Armenian armed forces in the NATO exercise in Georgia, interpreting this fact in an anti-Russian context. The deputy speaker of the National Assembly Edward Sharmazanov has responded to these experts, saying that Armenia is an independent country, has its own interests and serves its own interests only.
The government of Armenia would certainly refrain from participating in the NATO exercise unless it were sure of the loyalty of the Russian government. In 2009, for example, Armenia refused to participate in the NATO training at the last minute.
The group of Russian experts are worried by the approach of the Russian government rather than Armenia’s behavior. They wonder why there is no dissatisfaction with the participation of Armenia. The point is that in this case an entire system of corporate interests based on Armenia’s “Russian subordination” is at risk if the Russian government starts considering viewing the situation from a different angle.
Interestingly, Moscow is moderate in its expressions about the training in 2017. It is possible that Moscow is getting used to the deepening of NATO’s institutional presence in Georgia, being well-aware of how limited its own possibilities are to prevent it. At the same time, the problem is lying deeper and is relating to Russia’s problems in the South Caucasian security system which were revealed during the four-day war in April.
At that time, it became clear that the possibility of controlling the region through manageable wars, manageable clashes is getting smaller and smaller, and not everything goes on according to the scenario. Moscow saw that in the result of supply of weapons worth billions Azerbaijan did not become more controllable but on the contrary. Besides, considering Turkey’s factor, perhaps it is inevitable that over time the Russian-Azerbaijani tandem, not Russia, will become dominant. Russia is not able to resist this due to some political circumstances if it enters into a confrontation with the West, including NATO.
In this situation, the deepening presence of NATO in the region is an opportunity for Russia to avoid a scandalous failure of the role of the security pole, not resisting the process of a smooth growth of NATO’s role in regional security.
This makes the deepening of NATO-Armenia relations inevitable because without Armenia it is possible to achieve an effective solution of the regional security issue. This security is assured by the Armenian armed forces.
In this sense, Georgia will increasingly become a platform for NATO-Armenia relations, perhaps also as a compromise in the context of loyalty to Russia when Moscow gets a guarantee that Armenia will continue to be seen as the platform of Russian presence in the regional security, and in the medium-term perspective NATO-Armenia relations will not be a strategic threat to Russia.
At any event, the possibility of Armenia’s declaration on membership to NATO or such an objective now seems impossible, unimaginable but may be only months away from now.
A few months ago Serzh Sargsyan stated on TV that Armenia has no other place to go except CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Union, noting that not everyone in NATO are waiting for us.
However, a few months before 3 September 2013, on 18 March 2018 Serzh Sargsyan announced in a TV interview: “Don’t believe those who say that Russians are forcing us to join the Customs Union. This is not true. How many times can I repeat this? On the contrary, we may say that the members of the Customs Union are still reluctant to involve anyone, at least I haven’t seen such willingness towards us.”
Five months later Serzh Sargsyan announced in Moscow that Armenia intends to join the Eurasian Union.
So, there is no need to be surprised if five months later Serzh Sargsyan announces that Armenia intends to join NATO.
This is a joke, of course, and there will be no such statement in five months. Perhaps because the Armenian government will consider this as a provocation against Russia and will not go for such a step. However, the main reason for the lack of such a statement is that the dynamics and logic of the global and regional processes is such that at least in the Caucasian region the problem is beyond membership of one Caucasian country or another to NATO or even CSTO.
In this sense, the region is not treated as separate countries. The security system and issues of the Caucasus will always be interrelated and have a common logic. According to this logic, NATO simply appears in the region via Georgia but the main partner is going to be Armenia, and a membership card is not essential.