So far, the Armenian "European integrators" are talking about European values, imperialistic ways of a big, evil Russia and some kind of civilizational choice of Armenia in favor of the "good West", which is really "necessary", is at stake more than ambiguous values. It is obvious that Armenia, albeit not on its own will, was faced with a difficult choice. Dealing with two geopolitical competitors, each of which launched its own integration project, Armenia will have to decide which camp to join. Attempts by the same Armenian "European integrators" to imagine a rapprochement with Europe and participation in Eurasian integration in the form of complementary processes are designed in the form of school essays and do not stand up to scrutiny. Moreover, they are not accepted as an argument by either Europe or Russia.
It would seem that the choice is simple and logical - Russia is the security guarantor of Armenia, acts as the largest foreign investor in the country's economy, supports it in the international arena, annually accepts tens of thousands of labor migrants and so on. The EU, in fact, does not offer Armenia anything. But for some reason, the so-called “European integration of Armenia” continues, and the details of the negotiations between Yerevan and Brussels are kept in the strictest secrecy. A well-known Russian political scientist, head of the Alte et Certe analytical center, Andrei Epifantsev, in an interview with REGNUM, presented his view of the current situation and made a prediction on what threatens the Armenian-Russian relations with the further deepening of this process.
REGNUM: In Armenian and Russian expert and not only circles, today the question is often raised that Yerevan-Moscow relations are experiencing an ambiguous period. Most often it fits in with two integration projects: one is initiated by the European Union and is called an "association", the second is Russia, the generic name is Eurasian integration. There is an opinion that Armenia was faced with a choice between these two projects, and its unwillingness to choose the Russian version leads to complications in the plane of bilateral relations. How do you generally assess the current state of affairs in the Armenian-Russian relations?
In my opinion, the Russian-Armenian relations have reached a certain problem point, and now we need to choose in which direction to go further - either one way or the other. Problem issues have been accumulating for quite a long time and have not been resolved in any way, which led the Armenian side, at least, to overestimated expectations. The problem of high expectations is that you invent your own goals that do not coincide with reality, and when these goals are not realized, it is always very painful, even psychologically. The desire of Armenia to conclude an alliance with any strength that would solve its problems is understandable, but at the same time there is some mental imbalance between us. Now Armenia and Russia are strategic partners, and Armenia, in my opinion, has too high expectations from this status, pinning too high hopes on it. It seems to Armenia that Russia, being a strategic partner, should solve all its problems, even to the detriment of its own interests. Russia has rather high demands: it is expected that its policy should proceed solely from considerations of strategic partnership, and, in addition, should be fraternal. If Russia does not fulfill the demands of Armenia, it immediately faces attacks and accusations of violating the principles of strategic partnership.
REGNUM: Do you, in words, represent the point of view of those people who have taken the position of high expectations?
Yes, and recently, the voice of this category of people is becoming stronger and stronger, scoring the voices of those who are more balanced in assessing the situation. Strategic partnership, fraternal politics is all well and good, but at the same time people advocating "fraternal" relations simultaneously put forward slogans about the need for Armenia to pursue a rational pragmatic policy. As a result, the following picture emerges: Russia, you solve the problem of Karabakh to us, write down our debts, and if you don’t do this, then you violate the principles of the declared "fraternal" policy. In turn, when any demands are made to Armenia, then conversations begin that we are an independent state, we are conducting a pragmatic policy and otherwise we can’t do it - look at the map. Well, if our answer does not suit you, then you are chauvinists and try to strangle us in your arms.
The essence of the urgent problems of Armenia is that it is not possible to solve them at the moment; neither Russia nor the international community can do this. There is an unequivocal, clearly visible discontent towards Russia from a significant part of the Armenian establishment, which was fueled to a high degree by our Western "friends" who had been working in Armenia for a very long time, while Russia was losing its positions, so to speak. All this period of accumulation of problems, Russia was silent. I can tell you that in Moscow it was considered inconvenient, politically incorrect to talk about the growth of anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia and overstated claims against Russia. I was personally repeatedly corrected by our Armenian friends, leading political analysts (I will not give names), who said that this rhetoric is conducted only by marginals, and that one should not judge the Armenian mood by posts on Facebook or by chatting. And it was a mistake. It was necessary to initially respond. Today we clearly see that dissatisfaction has taken shape in the desire to pursue complementary, I would even say sharply complementary policy. Although the concept of complementarism itself does not imply abruptness, but in this case, in relation to the current international situation, it is this definition that suits the foreign policy course of Armenia.
REGNUM: From your words it actually follows that Armenia demands a strategic partnership / fraternity from Russia, but it itself conducts a pragmatic policy of complementarism, and this is exactly the root of all evils and the contradiction in the position of Armenia itself?
Yes, but not only that. What you just said is one of the reasons for the unstable situation. When you, on the one hand, demand brotherhood and strategic alliance, but for your part, you are not ready to come forward from the point of view of the same, conditionally fraternal positions, but lead a policy of complementarism - all this, together with clearly overstated expectations, leads to some kind of conflict. He smiled for some time, but now, against the background of the fact that Armenia has come close to signing the Association Agreement with the EU, a watershed can occur. The moment came when the situation changed in a qualitative way, and Russia can no longer be silent. Armenia wants to take a stand when, figuratively speaking, affectionate body of two queens sucks. If you look at the situation with Armenian eyes, then this situation is just perfect. If the West cannot defend Armenia and give some other advantages, then it is necessary to secure it from Russia. But since Russia is not the most profitable partner in terms of the economy, social relations, the administrative structure of government, society, and so on, this should be taken from the West. This is an idyllic alignment, which, however, is extremely difficult to bring to life.
REGNUM: In Armenia, they may fear that too much will have to be sacrificed for security in other areas.
I actually understand the concerns of Armenia. Russia is far from an ideal state in terms of both the above aspects, and some others; we have a resource economy, a high-totalitarian style of government, a high level of corruption, which paralyzes certain state institutions, civil society, and so on. And this is objectively the case. Armenia is afraid of the fact that, according to the law of large numbers (Armenia is small, Russia is big) if the process of integration with Russia goes further, then willy-nilly, all these negative aspects will be adopted by it. And here passes the watershed. What is the strategic partnership with Armenia for Russia? The bottom line is that Russia considers the interests of both states to coincide so much that it assumes a number of obligations - deep, difficult and sometimes unprofitable. We are in the same economic, historical, military, mental field. Yes, we are different states, but we are in the same field. We have one way, you understand? If this path is one, then Russia is ready to give you gas at prices lower than world prices, much lower. Right now, the hype about the growth of the gas tariff has risen in Armenia, but for some reason no one says that gas comes only cheaper to Belarus? Ukraine pays for “blue fuel” twice as much as Armenia.
Another issue, for example, migrants from Armenia. Yerevan wants to receive a grant in the amount of one and a half billion euros from the West. But you see how much money migrant workers transfer from Russia to Armenia - much more. For Russia, migrants are a really big problem, one of the three most serious social issues. Candidates for mayors of Moscow and the Moscow region, Sobyanin and Vorobyev, unanimously declared that they would tighten the rules for the stay of foreigners, up to the introduction of visas. However, Russia is ready, despite all the difficulties, to accept Armenian migrants, provided that we are in the same field. The same applies to the military sphere. If we are in the same field, then the weapons will be supplied on the same conditions, but if we cease to be in the same field, then the situation changes drastically. See what is happening in Ukraine. Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin was not visiting there to kiss the patriarch, it could have been done in Moscow. He went to dot the i's, make it clear to Ukraine that if it joins the EU, it ceases to be a state of the same field. And then Russia will be forced to take some preventive measures. The most important industrial areas of Ukraine are metallurgy, pipe, petrochemicals, and so on. If we are in the same field, then Russia is ready to open its markets to Ukraine, while bearing some damage. After all, look, if we buy products of this profile in Ukraine, it automatically means that our factories are standing, our workers do not work, which means that the state not only does not receive the expected profit, but also assumes social obligations to pay unemployment benefits , keeping children unemployed, etc. etc. But we say to Ukraine: guys, if you are with us, then we are ready to purchase these, conditionally, pipes from you, placing the burden of social problems upon ourselves. But if you enter the EU, then the situation is fundamentally different. The EU is another center of influence, another center of gravity, another block.
REGNUM: If you call a spade a spade - your opponent and competitor.
Of course, with a very strong opponent and competitor. Russia 18 has joined the WTO for years, and if you look at the conditions imposed on Russia by some EU countries, it becomes obvious that Russia is a clear competitor who needs to gnaw at it with his teeth. The world is such, and it will not change, for good or for bad. So if Ukraine or Armenia are included in this unit, in this system, then they objectively begin to compete with us. That is, you, opening your borders, leading a brotherly policy, speak out against yourself and allow the rival block to gain the upper hand over you. From this point of view, I am impatient, honestly, I really want to read the terms of the agreement on associated membership of Armenia with the EU. The fact that it has not been published, and that no one has yet read it, is very suspicious. In principle, this is normal, before final approval, but, as a rule, in the case of very important contracts, the basic structural provisions should be presented to the public in advance. After all, not only the Ministry of Economic Development should agree with them, but also society as a whole. The fact that in Armenia they do not want to voice the main provisions of the treaty immediately suggests that the conditions may be enslaving. And they may indeed be. Or maybe there are conditions on the Karabakh issue that will not be perceived by society? Or maybe there are conditions that Russia will not support? Anything can happen! But we have examples of other treaties, by analogy with which we can imagine what awaits Armenia. The same contract with Ukraine - I know him. First, there is a system of standards here - there are about 20 thousands. After signing the Associated Membership Agreement, a certain time (a year or two) is given to bring its standards in line with European ones. There are business standards, and political, social standards. But at the end of this process, the country automatically drops out of space, not even from the Customs Union or the Eurasian field, to which no one has really invited Armenia yet, but to Russia itself. It's like two people who speak different languages. In addition, even with the naked eye it is clear that the policy of import, export, tax policy is absolutely not the same, and it turns out that if you keep the borders open, the products that have the lowest taxation will be transferred to the Russian market. We have been playing this game with Belarus for a couple of years, when the Russian market was flooded with Belarusian goods. But we pursued a fraternal policy and killed our own dairy industry. The same will be with Armenia. A situation will arise when Russia will be forced to defend its market from Ukraine, which was already said in plain language, and from Armenia. Under these conditions, it will be quite difficult to say that Armenia continues to be a strategic partner. This is an absolutely ambiguous position. How far can a country be considered your partner, being already in another dimension ?!
REGNUM: In fact, you want to say that today the issue of strategic partnership between Russia and Armenia is being resolved?
Of course. When the political and economic window starts to open for Armenia there, in Brussels, it will immediately begin to close in Moscow, in the CSTO, and so on.
REGNUM: You noted that, using the example of Ukraine, one can predict what will happen to Armenia. But Ukraine and Armenia are very different countries in very many aspects - economics, geography, demographic potential, etc. They can only be compared with great stretches and conventions. Moreover, it is known that the Association Agreements are not mirrored.
By the way, Ukraine is an interesting country in this respect. She initiated the agreement a year and a half ago, and after that for a year and a half she tried to change it almost to 70%. This is a kind of nonsense, but Ukraine eventually signs what is. There are no absolutely identical countries, and in the same conditions of joining the WTO, in the EU, you are right, there is a large variable part. But there are principles - principles of standardization, principles of exclusion of certain products from the free trade zone. This is when EU member states may try to impose certain restrictions on the free flow of products. There are a lot of such goods, and the West is trying to protect its market from cheap and high-quality products produced in countries that have recently joined it. If we think about who benefits more from joining the EU, we will understand that not all entering or not every entering state, but those countries that produce the cheapest and most quality products and can sell it in the most favorable position other countries. Because if you do not do this, then instantly you kill your industry, and your market is filled with products from other countries. Look at Bulgaria. This is a country that at one time provided almost the entire Soviet Union and the CMEA countries with agricultural products, and today their market is filled with tomatoes from Turkey. By joining the EU under similar conditions, Bulgaria, in fact, doomed its agriculture to ruin.
On what conditions did Ukraine enter - its business. But if Russia keeps its borders open (after all, we have a fraternal policy towards Ukraine and Armenia), then not even Armenian, but European products will flow to us. You see, we just open the window for European goods. We see all this in the example of other countries. The flow of cheap Western cars through Belarus once poured into the Russian market, because our taxation was not adequate, but fraternal.
REGNUM: We can say that the position of Russia in relation to any country receiving the status of an associate member of the EU will be the same? Be it Armenia, Ukraine, Moldova, etc.?
Not. Now, if Georgia, or when Georgia signs an agreement with the EU, there will not be any particular problems, because the relations between us are at a very low level. We fought, and Russia has no obligations to it.
REGNUM: It is clear with Georgia, but in the case of Armenia and, for example, Ukraine? Should we expect that structural changes in Russian-Ukrainian relations will repeat in Armenian-Russian?
Of course, even more so. For Russia, Armenia is very expensive. Russia has undertaken very high obligations towards Armenia, and now a situation is emerging that is uneven, even in a moral sense. It turns out that Armenia takes away all the “benefits”, advantages to the West, leaving Russia with the most difficult and ungrateful functions. In fact - the very dirt. It turns out that Russia should be on the side of Armenia in the Karabakh issue and should quarrel over this with the whole world. Russia must accept migrant workers. And we accept them, although not everyone likes that Sochi and Adler are already practically Armenian cities. Russia should supply gas at prices lower than world prices, Russia should supply free weapons and so on. These are heavy obligations.
But the fact is that this does not happen. You can not sit on two chairs. I am sure that the experts will soon start talking about this. You can not be smarter than the Odessa rabbi. For a long time I tried to find examples of such unbalanced relations in modern politics during the period of the newest storiesbut I didn’t remember anything. No such examples exist!
Take the example of a strategic partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia. They have very strong partnerships. The Americans have bases there, they are trying to control oil prices there, to secure access to the Islamic world, and so on. But the US’s obligations to Saudi Arabia are much smaller than those of Russia to Armenia - they should not protect the Saudis, they do not supply them with free weapons worth billions of dollars and do not do much else that Moscow is doing for Yerevan and Stepanakert. And at the same time, Saudi Arabia fully supports both the US economic course and many other aspects of the policy of its strategic partner! Now try to imagine the situation as if the Saudis told the Americans, they say, "ensure our safety, supply us for free weapon, throw some money, accept hundreds of thousands of our migrants, and we will conclude an agreement on strategic alliance with China. ”Do you think how many nanoseconds after that the US would find out that there is no democracy in Saudi Arabia, that they support terrorists, and that the Americans should Immediately conduct a "friendly" bombing in the name of peace and progress? ... On the other hand, there are opposite examples when a country successfully and for a long time would remove the cream from all competing parties - and Figaro was "here and there" does not exist. Attempts This happened, but they ended, as a rule, very badly. Let us turn to the situation in Georgia at the beginning of the 18 century. Heracli II concluded an agreement on military and political cooperation with Russia, which, in essence, is similar to what Armenia has today with Russia, although we understand that in the case of Georgia it was a question of a protectorate, and here it was about cooperation. Just a couple of years later, in order to protect himself from the Turkish side, Heraclius also entered into an agreement with Turkey. As a result, when the Persians attacked, it was not beneficial for Russia to defend an ally, who was simultaneously an ally of its enemy, and the Turks, in principle, were Georgians indifferent. The consequence of such a short-sighted policy was the national scale disaster that befell Georgia, perhaps the most dramatic in the entire history of the existence of this state.
If we look at the historical experience of small but successful countries surrounded by big powers, we will understand that, as a rule, they have only two ways of development. The first is the traditional long-term alliance with a strong power, which carries both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages can be financial, military and other support, often even greater than that which a large state provides to its own citizens. But on the other hand, in the case of the decline or fall of a big power, with which a small one is in allied relations, the disadvantages can turn into a catastrophe for a small one, because, as a rule, big states pull the satellite countries to the bottom. The second path is the path of equidistant cooperation, in which the country balances between several megadders and megablocks. But this should be done in such a way that a small country would be interesting to them precisely in its status of an independent state, for example, Switzerland. Armenia acts radically in a different way, Armenia is now facing Russia and the West.
REGNUM: Since we are talking about the fact that the future of the strategic alliance Yerevan-Moscow is now literally being decided, therefore, will the further deepening of the European integration processes with the participation of Armenia affect, among other things, the military-political cooperation?
The military security of Armenia is ensured in two directions - the CSTO and the guarantees of Russia. The CSTO is a somewhat vague organization, and has never been, as they say, in action. As for guarantees at the level of bilateral relations, they go in three directions. The first is that Russia officially guarantees the security of Armenia, the second is that Russia guarantees military parity, which is very important and the third is the base in Gyumri. What will happen? Again, look at the situation from the point of view of Russia. She sees that her orchestra ceases to be a strategic partner. But Russia has obligations in relation to this country, which is turning from a partner into a competitor. The process of distancing will begin (of course, not immediately). A certain critical mass must accumulate when we realize that we cannot trade freely, that the influx of the West into the political and economic spheres is very strong. Then Russia will start lowering the status of its involvement in Armenia. It is very likely that Russia will refuse guarantees. CSTO guarantees are likely to remain, but Russia will remove its own guarantees. Russia will simply say: “guys, if you see your economic and political future in Brussels, then make sure that it provides you with security too. Let Brussels give you cheap gas, let Brussels accept your migrants, let Brussels protect you in the Minsk Group , places base in Armenia, etc. I do not need it ". Slowly, this status will decline until it disappears. Than this is fraught for Armenia - judge for yourself.
REGNUM: In your opinion, Yerevan will be tightened up with all the nuts that can be done, will break the arms, and not from malicious intent, but by virtue of the existing geopolitical situation. We can say that they themselves will spin.
Yes of course. Look at Ukraine. It was worth Poroshenko to declare that Russia should come to terms with the process of European integration of Ukraine, like the chocolate of its confectionery factory "Roshen" instantly blocked the way to the Russian market. Thus, Moscow as it says to him: "If you go to Brussels, then sell your chocolate there too!".
REGNUM: And if you look at the question from the point of view of Armenia - a small, clamped, resource-free state with a weak economy and negative demographic potential? What is her choice in the current situation would be correct?
Good question. Now Armenia can get and already gets into an ugly situation. In Russia, a wave of a certain discontentment begins, believe me, on the sidelines, people are already saying much more. Some do not act simply because they are considered, and they themselves consider themselves friends of Armenia. I consider myself as such, and it is very painful for me to see what is happening now. But I will tell you the following: it may turn out that if Armenia changes its decision, this could provoke talk that Russia forced her to do it, twisted her arms. This will negatively affect the image of the country, the internal political situation will worsen, the attitude towards Russia will survive an even greater decline, and so on. The normal option, in my opinion, would be to initiate an agreement, but then finally not accept membership, or sign associate membership, do nothing to adopt EU standards, or sign it in such a way that the consequences for Armenia are miserable. In a word, with a head go into formalism. It should not allow the accumulation of a critical load of changes in its economic and social structure, which will allow it to be pushed away from Russia.
REGNUM: There is one question that is costly and contains only two words: Nagorno-Karabakh. What are the political and economic prospects of this region with one or another choice of Armenia, how can the issue of the status of this territory be resolved?
This is from the category of questions for which there can be no exact answer. I think that if Armenia achieves that state when products made in Karabakh will be sold by default under the sign "made in Armenia" in the West, then this will be the perfect deal. The same vodka, say. But here we must understand that already the European Union will set itself up and fall under the criticism of international organizations. The same Turkey and Azerbaijan will both attack the European Union, demanding the imposition of sanctions against it, and will speak from the rostrums of the UN and other authoritative international platforms. The European Union has enough potential to fight back, but whether it wants to take on such obligations is a big question. Wouldn't it be easier for him to simply oblige Armenia to put customs on the border with Karabakh and close its goods? And then, again, this will be a huge moral blow to the Armenian society, the voter, the Armenian authorities. Therefore, I focus on the text of the treaty, which I would very much like to read. The fact that the situation with Karabakh is unsolvable is absolutely certain. And Russia can not offer anything. This is an unsolvable situation, neither within the OSCE Minsk Group, nor within the EU. Only time can solve the problem. Russia cannot recognize Nagorno-Karabakh. This question is doomed to being in a suspended state, and it is important for Armenia not to aggravate the situation. Theoretically, time in this case works for Armenia.
REGNUM: That is, the question is hanging in the air, and not one of the external parties can offer Armenia preferences in order to persuade its choice in its favor?
In principle, this is not excluded. It seems to me that Russia, in any case, stands on this issue with more preferable positions for Armenia. We will not hide, and I am even saying this to Azerbaijanis that Russia, within the framework of the OSCE MG, being a formally neutral mediator, supports Armenia. Will the European Union act like that? I deeply doubt.
REGNUM: The West openly bet on Azerbaijan because of its energy resources and transit potential.
Of course, absolutely true.
REGNUM: Let's return to the general topic: if Armenia initiates and then signs the Association Agreement with the EU, will this be a fait accompli?
It is clear that Armenia will try to present it not as a choice specifically in any direction. For me, this is a big question that I cannot find, again, an answer. If Armenia signs an agreement and changes begin in the economic and political sphere of the country, and after a while Russia makes a formal invitation to the Eurasian Union - what will Armenia do? There will definitely have to choose. In the case of Armenia, this can be called a choice. It is impossible, for example, to be simultaneously in NATO and in the Warsaw Pact.
REGNUM: The Europeans invited Armenia, Russia did not do this, and today in Armenia, many of those who deny the very existence of the choice according to a strict "or-or" scheme appeal to the fact that Moscow did not make any proposals to Yerevan. Don't you think that the Russian side puts itself in an awkward position? Why so far no official invitations have been received?
I am a critic of the policy pursued by Russia in relation to Armenia and in the South Caucasus as a whole. Russia really makes a lot of mistakes. For example, the way it communicates with the authorities of Armenia, making an unequivocal stake on President Serzh Sargsyan and not communicating with other political forces, which leads to the opposition going to his opponents-Westerners, because they have no other way out. In fact, contacts with the opposition also happen, but all this happens at the level of the corridors and does not translate into anything serious. We do not conduct a dialogue with the Armenian society. The reason for this is our internal problems. The same situation with the Eurasian Union. This is a loose, not completely understandable education, the project of which was born not so long ago. It was believed that Ukraine should join it earlier than a number of other countries, which would make it more attractive for them. It is clear that now she will refuse to do this and we will have a certain trade conflict already, probably, from January-February. If we make the same proposal now to Armenia, which is two steps away from initialing, a second political and trade conflict will arise. Conducting two conflicts at the same time Russia can and can, but does not want. Therefore, Yerevan is unlikely to receive an invitation to this structure in the near future. Another question is why this has not been done before.
REGNUM: Was it a mistake?
Definitely. This had to be done at the same time when Belarus and Kazakhstan were invited there.
REGNUM: At the end of our conversation, I suggest you answer the so-called free question.
I want to express a seditious thought. The phrase “if Russia leaves Armenia, it will leave the South Caucasus” has come into use in Armenia. Society believes in it, and this phrase reflects reality. But on the other hand, what will remain of Russia from the Caucasus if Armenia signs the agreement and de facto leaves for the West? Nothing but unpleasant and serious obligations to her. We lost Georgia, again, because of our own big mistakes, because of big internal problems. Azerbaijan, we lost. Armenia remains, with which everything is fine now, but if it goes to the West, what will remain with us? Only obligations without any advantages. What should Russia do in this situation? She will try to compensate for the losses that she will suffer in another way. Paradoxically, I myself do not want to believe in it, but based on the theory of politics, the quickest, most effective move would be a bias towards Azerbaijan, accompanied by a partial change in policy towards Karabakh. This is not the best, not the most durable option, but in the short and medium term it would have an immediate effect. For some reason, in Armenia they think that Russia has a bad relationship with Azerbaijan, and it cannot do anything on this front. But believe me, if Azerbaijan today realizes that Russia is ready to change its attitude towards Karabakh, it will sign any agreements not even tomorrow, but just yesterday. Azerbaijan will do anything, believe me, if such an opportunity presents itself. Yes, in the long run it will not work, yes, this is not the best option, but what will Russia do if it wants to stay in the South Caucasus? Therefore, it is possible that Armenia itself pushes Russia to a step that would not even be neutral, but counterproductive for itself.
And the last. Not so long ago I was watching "Figaro", now for some reason it was remembered. You see, Armenia is not Sevilla, but the Armenian establishment is not Beaumarchais and Figaro. He cannot be both here and there. Must choose. This choice is hard, but sometimes it needs to be done. I would like Armenia to make a wise choice.
Interview conducted by Emil Babayan