Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 5

Armenia’s Defense Minister, Lieutenant-General Vagharshak Harutiunian, on February 8-10 paid a landmark visit to Belarus during which he and his counterpart, Colonel-General Aleksandr Chumakov, discussed a plan for “strategic and military-technical cooperation” between the two countries in 2000–the first annual plan for military cooperation among CIS countries militarily allied with Russia. Harutiunian’s meetings with Belarusan Prime Minister Syarhey Linh and government ministers focused on the possible use of Belarusan military plants for maintenance and upgrading of the Armenian military inventory. Visiting the Agat electronics plant and Belomo optical plant, Harutiunian pronounced them well suited for servicing Armenia’s military equipment. Protocols on military-technical cooperation and on training of Armenian cadets in Belarusan military institutions were signed. Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian will follow suit with an official visit to Belarus.

On February 7–the eve of Harutiunian’s departure for Minsk–the Armenian parliament ratified two Armenian-Belarusan military pacts. An intergovernmental treaty, signed in May 1999, provides for mutual military assistance in the event of aggression against Armenia or Belarus, or a “threat to the security” of either side. The treaty is valid for five years and can be prolonged automatically for another five. With the fine print of this document unavailable, it is difficult to determine whether it amounts to a full-fledged alliance that can be activated in a crisis. An agreement between the two Defense Ministries, signed also in 1999, forms part of a set of bilateral documents among the member countries of the CIS Collective Security Treaty. The Armenian-Belarusan agreement provides the framework for annual plans of military cooperation, focusing on joint operational and combat training and the repair and maintenance of military hardware.

Armenian-Belarusan political and economic relations have so far been meager. The bilateral trade turnover amounted to only US$3 million in 1999, and embassies are only now about to be opened in Yerevan and Minsk, complete with military attaches. Significantly, the expansion of bilateral relations now underway is being spearheaded by the military. The incipient Armenian-Belarusan military relationship is, in turn, a function of each country’s alliance with Russia. As such, the ties between Yerevan and Minsk represent a novel development in the CIS. They signal the formation of a Moscow-led military-political bloc and, at the same time, a deepening division between CIS member countries loyal to Moscow on the one hand and the independent countries on the other.

“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, 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