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Russia’s Tight Embrace Undermines Armenia’s Independence

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Less than a year ago, Armenia appeared well on its way to taking its first substantial step in years toward European integration. Negotiations with the European Union had been finalized, and all but minor details had been overcome for Yerevan’s initialing of an Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the European Union at the November 2013 Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. For the briefest of moments, Armenia looked ready to venture outside of the pro-Russia system within which it had long been firmly ensconced.

But in early September, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan announced during a Moscow visit that Armenia was suspending plans to sign its EU association agreement and would instead be joining the Russian-led Customs Union and Eurasian Union projects. Yerevan’s volte-face had less to do with a sudden change of heart than with Russia’s overwhelming influence over the country. Armenia is flanked to the east and west by historical rival Turkey and arch-nemesis Azerbaijan, respectively; pro-West Georgia separates Armenia from Russia to the north, and the largely friendly but mercurial Iran, itself internationally isolated, sits on Armenia’s southern border. Landlocked and geopolitically isolated in the region, Armenia is almost wholly dependent on Russia for trade and energy, as well as security; Armenia’s membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) means that any attack on Armenia would oblige Russia to intervene on its behalf. ...

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