Swiss Ambassador to Armenia Lukas Gasser: Switzerland will try to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without questioning the established formats such as the OSCE Minsk process
by David Stepanyan
The more time is left till the November initialing of DCFTA and the Association Agreement with the EU by Armenia, the more the tension around this document to be signed in Vilnus. The content of this document consisting of 1500 pages has not been published yet because of an unknown reason. For this reason, when analyzing the reasons, aspects and arguments of the discussion that started between Armenian, Russian and European experts, we are forced to present not specific points of the agreement, but their general geo-political context. Anyway, we have to confess that because of several impartial reasons, the given way of the analysis has turned to be more effective than possible analysis of the text of DCFTA and the Association Agreement covered with a stamp "incognita".
From the very beginning of the negotiations between Armenia and the EU regarding these documents, the background of the negotiating process gained numerous myths which directly contradict the reality. The key one of them is the myth invented by the Armenian authorities and political experts, according to which the initialing of the agreements with the EU does not at all contradict development of relations with Russia. However, recent events are evidence of the contrary. First of all, I mean the growing pressure upon Yerevan, in which Russia and partly Europe are using secondary factors, which seem to be such at first sight. The pressure is still imposed through the non-stop discussion between Yerevan and Moscow, as well as in Yerevan between pro-Russian and pro-Western experts. The participants in the discussion submit any arguments but not the ones that meet reality. Let's offer several options, how Europe, the Euroatlantic community and Russia motivate the games around Armenia.
It turns out that the discussion around the Association Agreement of Armenia covers more global geo-political space than even the territory of six countries involved in the Eastern Partnership. After the "cold" war, the Euroatlantic community started creating a new "security zone" which supposes integration of the neighboring states. Incidentally, unlike the myths, which say that economy, communications and even pipelines lay on the basis of this integration, actually, the European security is in its basis, which undoubtedly, the USA is also interested in. Within the frames of this logic, the Association agreement with the "Eastern Partnership" countries is undoubtedly a political document of the Western policy influence in the 6 CIS countries including Armenia. In particular, a new format of the EU and NATO policy is being today formed at least regarding the two South Caucasus states. However, at present this format does not suppose obligatory membership of Armenia and Georgia in these two structures. This seems to be the key motivation of Brussels and Washington, why the Eastern Partnership Programme arose. Today this programme is simply supported by a new economic format, such as the Association Agreement and DCFTA.
It is clear that Russia is not pleased with such a situation, not only because of its natural and grounded empire ambissi0ons, but also the concern about its own security. The availability of the explosively dangerous North Caucasus, supported by Washington, Turkey as well as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, is enough. And Georgia and Armenia, neighboring to this region and involved in the circle of the Western security system, increase the fear of Moscow more. The "Eastern Partnership" programme idea was put forward by the EU at the suggestion of Poland, an "old friend" of Russia, out of spite of the integration ambitions of Moscow at the territories of the post-soviet space. But taking into account the availability of Ukraine which wanted to join Europe long ago, and which Russia cannot keep even with a help of the gas blackmail, undoubtedly this idea has all the chances to be completed successfully. In this context, Russia's Customs Union programme with a prospect of setting up of the Eurasian Union is a natural attempt of contradiction to the policy of the Euratlantic community on extension of its own influence space. The difference is that at the time of the Eltsin's Russia this extension was implemented through fast joining NATO of the former Warsaw Treaty countries, today it is being implemented within the frames of the soft power through the economic integration programmes.
We have to confess that both European integration and Eurasian integration promise certain economic dividends to Armenia. In this context, signing of the DCFTA supported by the promised aid 3-4 billion EUR, really looks to be attractive to Armenia. In general, Yerevan's stance is grounded by the fact that Armenia agrees to the Association agreement with the EU as it hopes for the economic prosperity. However, there is no calculation how DCFTA will affect the market and structure of the import-oriented economy of Armenia after joining the well-developed and competitive European market. Moreover, one cannot speak about competition with Europe in the sphere of industry and agriculture. For this reason, we have got an impression that no Association agreement and DCFTA can lead Armenia to the economic growth as it practically has no real sector. We cannot either answer the question if the Customs Union is beneficial to Armenia. Neither the government nor the political leadership seem to have the answer to these questions. In this context, we may agree to those experts which have got an impression that Armenia does not have an active dialogue with Russia, or it takes place at the top level, when one man defines the destiny of the whole people. They think it is inadmissible in both cases, as in such conditions external players do not know, what to wait from such Armenia and what surprises its authorities may bring. This results in total distrust in the complementary position of the Armenian authorities.
By the way, Yerevan has similar distrust in the West as well as Russia. First of all, just this circumstance makes the authorities of the republic look for the counterbalances between Moscow and Brussels. This distrust and concern have been recently demonstrated open in the statement by Armenia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Shavarsh Kocharyan, which said when commenting on the Moscow's statement that sale of weapon to Azerbaijan is just business, that "Armenia's intention to make the Association Agreement with European Union is also a pure business, whereas the sale of weapon always has a political context".
"One thing is when we speak about the Association Agreement or DCFTA. In these conditions we shall not lose our sovereignty and can adopt decisions about our own tax policy. But we shall lose certain sovereignty when resolving similar problems, if we become a member of the common customs system", - Kocharyan said.
Incidentally, the Armenian authorities put security into the hands just of the Russians, as in Yerevan as well as Moscow and first of all in Brussels they understand very well that Europe does not want and cannot ensure security of Yerevan and Karabakh because of several partial and impartial reasons. Today Moscow has been playing this part, especially thanks to deployment of the 102-nd Russian military base at the territory of Armenia. So, to put under blow the availability of the Armenian Karabakh and bad or good but independent Armenian state in order to please ghostly prospects of Armenia's European integration would be wrong and will not be the solution that reflects reality. Though it seems to be a paradox, but just unsettlement of the Karabakh conflict, preserving of status-quo of 1994 is the key tramp card of Yerevan in its relations with external players. In these conditions, losing of Karabakh will nullify the role and significance of Armenia in the regional policy and put the Armenian statehood under the threat of disappearance.
Undoubtedly, Russia unlike NATO can provide Armenia's security at present stage. The point is that Moscow alone cannot any more fulfill functions of Armenia's security guarantor. I do not mean even the problem of the weapon sale to Azerbaijan. The danger is that from time to time self-interest of some representatives of the Russian elite prevail over the interests of the state. Here is hidden the key danger for Armenia but not in the empire ambitions of Russia. In this context, the elite ruling in Armenia should be extremely careful when choosing the foreign political discussion between the West and North. At present, Yerevan must think not about the content of DCFTA or any other integration document, but how to become a partner in the developing geo-political combinations. There are many examples in the world, how even a small state may become a partner, for instance, Israel. So, on this way Armenia has to take part in various strategies, to work in the direction of becoming a partner, as it is very much dangerous to remain a raw material in the context of the above-mentioned.