Armenian PM's Moscow visit sparks speculation on bilateral relations
    Dilemma between East, West

    ANALYTICS  23 April 2024 - 11:19

    Matanat Nasibova

    Armenian media are actively discussing the issue of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's participation in the upcoming three key events in Moscow: President Vladimir Putin's inauguration on May 7, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) jubilee summit on May 8 and the Victory Day parade on May 9. In particular, as "Hraparak" newspaper notes, while the Armenian authorities are keeping the intrigue to the last, the government apparatus says that all the visits are reported in due order and in a timely manner. At the same time, a message by the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov to journalists has largely shed light on this issue.

    Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan will be able to personally discuss various issues in the short term, which most likely means that the Armenian leader's upcoming visit to Moscow is in question. Against the background of Armenia's recent outbursts against Russia, including those related to the recent Brussels meeting in the EU-US-Armenia format, Moscow has accumulated a number of questions for Pashinyan. Therefore, there is no doubt that the Armenian prime minister will have a serious conversation in the Kremlin, which was indirectly hinted at by Dmitry Peskov, emphasizing the issue of the withdrawal of Russian border guards from Armenia. Undoubtedly, this is a fundamentally important issue for Russia, as it predetermines the further presence of the 102nd military base in Gyumri and, in general, the further Russian policy in Armenia. For Moscow, this is an extremely sensitive issue, which is why Moscow is likely to demand specifics from Pashinyan.

    Meanwhile, responding to a question about the 102nd military base stationed in Gyumri, Peskov said there were no signals from Yerevan regarding the withdrawal of the Russian military base from Armenia. "Again, there have been no signals in this regard. We expect that already in a short period of time President Putin and Prime Minister Pashinyan will have an opportunity to discuss these and, if necessary, other topical issues in person," Peskov said.

    Further. At a briefing last week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russia expects a clear reaction from Armenia after information about "military-political agreements" with the United States and the European Union. The diplomat added that Moscow will not be surprised if it turns out that the US and EU representatives in Brussels have indeed imposed plans on Yerevan that imply replacing the Russian military base and Russian border guards with specialists from the US, NATO and EU. So, during the likely Moscow rendezvous, Pashinyan will have to clarify this issue as well. Yerevan has been made to realize that it cannot sit on two chairs for long.

    And one more important point. As is known, the Armenian leadership has recently been blatantly ignoring CSTO events, demonstrating a clear drift towards the West, but has not yet mentioned the EAEU. There is still an understanding there that no matter how much Armenia dreams of membership in the EU and NATO, it is now financially and economically highly dependent on Russia.  This fact is confirmed by statistics. According to open sources, the volume of exports from Armenia to EAEU countries in 2023 increased by 40.8 per cent, while imports from EAEU countries increased by 44.6 per cent. Moreover, the largest volume of exports from Armenia in 2023 went to Russia and amounted to $3 billion 418 million 641,006, increasing by 38.8 per cent compared to 2022. At the same time, Armenia's trade turnover with the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union in 2023 increased by 42.7 per cent, amounting to $7 billion 615 million 977 002.

    At the moment, Russia remains Armenia's largest trade partner, while the volume of trade with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus is growing in parallel. The fact that Armenia benefits the most in the EAEU in the proportional dimension was also stated last week by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an interview with three radio stations Sputnik, “Govorit Moskva” and “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, noting that 35 per cent of Armenia's economy is realized through participation in the organization.

    "In 2023, Armenia's trade turnover will be 20-something billion dollars and 37 per cent of that will come from the EAEU, 13 per cent from the EU and 3 per cent from the US. Armenia, being a small country, contributes much less to the EAEU than others, including financial contributions. But it has absolutely equal rights with everyone, including the Russian Federation, when decisions are made, when votes are cast. "Gazprom Armenia supplies gas at $177 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, the West pays two or three times more, and if they want to heat Armenia with their gas, I don't know how it will be," Lavrov said.

    Accordingly, it would be naive to believe that Armenia will so easily give up its real economic benefits in the EAEU, Pashinyan will rather try to continue bargaining with Moscow in order to stretch the terms of departure to the West.

    Attention should also be paid to the following aspect. Armenia assumed the chairmanship of the bodies of the Eurasian Economic Union on January 1, 2024 and formally committed itself to chair the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council and the Council of Eurasian Economic Commission during 2024, and this is also a serious reason forcing Pashinyan to participate in the EAEU summit. Although the Armenian side is likely to drag out the issue of withdrawal from the EAEU in order to raise the financial stakes in the West and Russia.

    Finally, Pashinyan's participation in Vladimir Putin's inauguration and at the Victory Parade also leaves no doubts, as well as the fact that after Pashinyan's return to Yerevan, new anti-Russian statements will be voiced there, up to the final decision to turn to the West.

    Vasily Koltashov, director of the Institute of the New Society, is of the same opinion. In a conversation with Caliber.Az, he questioned Armenia's readiness to withdraw from the Eurasian Economic Union. According to him, Nikol Pashinyan would like to use Russia to implement policies favorable to the West, while using the EAEU market.

    "This approach should provide Pashinyan with resource support for his policy, so Armenia will not withdraw from the EAEU. This is the essence of what is happening. The paradox is that the Armenian authorities are against Russia, but at the same time Armenia is not going to leave the EAEU. However, at some point they will have to break with the EAEU, but it will happen not now and not even soon," Koltashov noted.


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