ARMENIA ADJUSTING REGIONAL POLICIES

Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 8 Issue: 8

The U.S. waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act is having favorable consequences also for Armenia, paving the way for U.S. military and security assistance to that country as well. The suspension of section 907 made possible in late March the visit of Armenia’s top military official, Serge Sarkisian, to Washington for discussions on U.S. security assistance to Armenia. The discussions also mapped out plans for more substantive Armenian participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, and training of an Armenian peacekeeping unit with Greek assistance, for interoperable cooperation with NATO.

Sarkisian, who holds the posts of defense minister and secretary of the National Security Council concurrently, made a statement in Washington about the need for initiating U.S.-Armenia and NATO-Armenia cooperation in the military and security sphere. His remarks evidenced a concern to avoid one-sided dependence on Russia, preclude Armenia’s isolation in the South Caucasus, and to some extent counterbalance Moscow’s clout as military supplier to Armenia.

In Yerevan on April 4, Sarkisian and Foreign Affairs Minister Vardan Oskanian expounded on what seems an adjustment of Armenia’s foreign policy to recent developments in the South Caucasus and Eurasia. Both officials spoke after emerging from a specially convened, closed-door session of the Armenian parliament, which took stock of those changes in the regional security environment. Publicly, Sarkisian and Oskanian cited:

–Turkey’s growing importance as a factor in the South Caucasus,–the unstoppable momentum of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project,–emergence of the U.S. military presence in Georgia and–American leadership in antiterrorist operations in Eurasia.

From this, Sarkisian and Oskanian concluded that Yerevan’s policy requires some significant adjustments. These, according to Sarkisian and Oskanian, would have to entail: first, multifaceted contacts with Turkey, including a government-to-government dialogue, not leaving it up to unofficial bodies such as the semidefunct Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission; second, stepping up military relations with the United States, especially after the waiver of 907; and, third, promoting goodneighborly relations with Georgia, and supporting stability there.

The chiefs of staff of Armenia’s and Georgia’s armed forces, Lieutenants-General Mikael Harutiunian and Joni Pirtskhalaishvili, held talks on April 4-6 in Yerevan on establishing bilateral military cooperation. They signed documents on establishing joint working groups to plan joint military activities. At the concluding briefing, they described Georgian-Armenian joint military activities as unprecedented, and the signing of the memorandum of understanding as a “historic moment.” Meanwhile, Armenia’s ally Russia accuses Georgia of aiding and abetting terrorism or of preparing to use force against Georgia’s breakaway regions. Yerevan, however, is implicitly distancing itself from that propaganda and beginning to treat the Western-oriented Georgia as a legitimate and normal partner of security cooperation.

Sarkisian, Oskanian and other Armenian officials underscore that Yerevan will continue practicing its policy of “complementarity.” That policy has for years cloaked a heavy reliance on the military alliance with Russia. With the adjustments just promulgated, however, complementarity may finally turn from a slogan into a somewhat more balanced policy.

“The Fortnight in Review” is prepared by senior analysts Jonas Bernstein (Russia), Stephen Foye (Security and Foreign Policy), and Vladimir Socor (Non-Russian republics). Editor, Stephen Foye. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at [email protected], by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4526 43rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of “The Fortnight in Review” is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation