by Ashot Safaryan
I think such methods of Moscow will have no significant result from the strategic point of view. Moscow will achieve nothing except hatred of its neighbors. Look at Armenia. They summoned the president of Armenia, screwed his arms, probably, threatening with no more military assistance in the Karabakh conflict, and made him suspend the Association with the EU and apply for accession to the Customs Union. I think it is absurd. Where is Armenia, and where is the Customs Union? It is not clear what kind of trade is possible inside the Union. Look back at the reaction of Kazakhstan and Belarus to Armenia’s decision. Lukashenko and Nazarbayev don’t like such political tricks of Putin either. Aspiration for enlargement of the Customs Union implies no economic benefits for Russia. These are mad imperial ambitions and colossal efforts to create a new Soviet Union. These are Moscow’s inferiority complexes. They can exert pressure on the post-Soviet countries, but no one needs a ‘chieftain’ in Moscow. Lukashenko will never agree to become secretary of the Byelorussian regional committee. It is the Kremlin’s fight for influence that gives birth of hatred of all its partners. Russia has no opportunity to become a center of positive unification.
Maybe, this is because of the political system…
Not only political, but also economic system. This is a criminal capitalism. This is not a market system. This is a system with no property institution. In this light, Armenia and Russia have much in common. Ukraine and Georgia somehow tried to get out of that system and make changes inside their countries. An integration union must be attractive, first of all. Meanwhile, neo-imperial ambitions, criminal-oligarchy cannot make integration attractive. Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine strive for the European Union. But for Moscow’s pressure, these countries would never abandon the Association with Europe.
Notwithstanding all the difficulties, the European model is more attractive today, whereas the criminal Russian capitalism is doomed. It is absolutely obsolete. Even the forecasts of the Russian Economy Ministry, not the oppositionists, demonstrate that until 2030 the Russian economy growth rates will be lower than the global economy growth rates. One thing is clear. Everything is rotten inside the power in Russia and it is impossible to make any forecasts. The system may collapse at any moment, but may even last for several years. The system does not work and there is no internal dynamics. And this dead system still seeks to keep its close neighbors under influence. The idea of the Customs Union is not good for Armenia. How could an idea of integration with criminal economy be good?
It is widely believed that the West has actually left the “Eastern Partnership” countries and what one can do now is to follow how Moscow is gradually closing the European integration project.
Against the background of Moscow's offensive political behavior the West looks cowardly, miserable and helpless. We saw Obama humiliated by Putin in the Syrian crisis. There have been no such low-level leaders in West for a long time. These are small and cowardly politicians and Putin is treating them as small boys. They do not want any troubles. Putin dispatches the Western politicians better than the former USSR member states. Lukashenko, Nazarbayev and Aliyev are resisting him somehow. Armenia's situation is the tightest due to its 100% dependence on Moscow. Armenia has been simply forced into a corner due to its geographic location and the Karabakh conflict.
You have mentioned just objective reasons of Armenia’s dependence on Moscow. Don’t you think that our leadership is guilty in that?
I cannot say that Armenian leaders lack patriotism. They are known to have participated in the Karabakh movement. But they have chosen a 100% pro-Russian strategy. Look at Azerbaijan. Ilham Aliyev is conducting a more flexible policy; it is maneuvering between the West and Russia. As for Armenia, it has forced itself into a geopolitical corner and I think everyone understands that.
Will Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union has any impact of the Karabakh conflict’s resolution?
Belarus and Kazakhstan openly declared that they do not want to spoil relations with Azerbaijan. They will agree only when Baku has nothing against Karabakh’s accession to the Customs Union, which is impossible. Yerevan has found itself in an awkward situation. Your president was forced to refuse the Association Agreement with the EU. It has turned out that no one welcomes him at the Customs Union either.
Considering the political system in the Eastern Partnership countries, wasn’t it clear from the very beginning that European integration could not be successful?
Why? Georgia, for instance, achieved big successes in democratic, political, and law-enforcement reforms under Saakashvili. Georgia’s experience could be exemplary for the other post-Soviet countries. Even Saakashvili’s opponents in Russia admired his police reform. That is why Moscow made such colossal efforts to overthrow Saakashvili and replace him with its minion Bidzina Ivanishvili. The latter, in turn, stole criminal money from Russia to bribe voters in Georgia