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Thursday, 25 January 2018 00:00

Why Armenia wants Russian troops off its state borders?

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By Azer Ahmadbayli 

A few days ago, several state and public figures of Armenia made statements, urging to return control over the state border with Turkey and Iran under the jurisdiction of the national border guards, by withdrawing simultaneously the border troops of Russia’s FSB (Federal Security Service), the Armenian Lragir reported.

Thus, as the statement notes, the country's sovereignty in the matter of protection of the state borders and the responsibility befitting a sovereign country in the frame of international relations will be restored.

In 1992 an agreement between the governments of Armenia and Russia delegated functions of protection of Armenia's state borders with Turkey and Iran to the Border troops of the FSB of Russia. As the statement says, "it was important for Armenia in the years of Karabakh war, because it enabled to free up resources to ensure the victory of Armenia in the war". At the same time, for Russia it was important to gain control over a segment of external borders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Thus, in a difficult historical moment, Armenia had to temporarily concede a part of its sovereignty to its ally.

Moreover, several years ago the border checkpoint at Yerevan international airport was put under Russian control, which was not stipulated by the aforementioned agreement.

The statement designated the specific timing (in the near future) of the transfer of control over the state borders to the Republic of Armenia; otherwise the authors will feel free to take decisive actions with involvement of the public.

The signatories must have agreed with the fact that for the full restoration of sovereignty they would have to demand the withdrawal of #102 Russian military base from the territory of Armenia, but for some reason they didn't.

Therefore, their sincerity unwillingly raises some doubts.

There are a few things to consider here.

Armenia is on the verge of holding presidential election. For many years Armenia was being ruled by the 'Karabakh clan', which came to power on the wave of the Karabakh war and the excitement of patriotism, as well as by means of killing political rivals and the brutal crackdown of the protests of its own people with numerous casualties.

Now the 'Karabakh clan' has the opportunity to re-gain power one more time, but with less responsibility for decision making, by shifting a substantial part of it onto the shoulders of Parliament, while President Serj Sargsyan is going to become the head of the government.


In the meantime, within his presidency he has made many enemies and just as many rivals. Moreover, public opinion of the active part of the population is not in his favor.

To be elected, Sargsyan’s only way is to get strong external support. To him Russia seems like the cure for the problem.

How to corner Russia and gain leverage in the possible bargaining with it? To claim that Russian border guards may have to leave Armenia, unless Sargsyan becomes Prime-minister and stops it from happening.

Maybe, in my view, I err on the respected authors by portraying them as promoters of Sargsyan’s goals, but in today's Armenian policy such games are not surprising.

Another version is not “deceit” of the signatories but their sincere desire to limit Russian influence.

It is no secret that a significant, if not to say, the majority of the population welcomes the drift of the country towards the EU. Before September 2013, Armenia was planning to sign an Association Agreement with the EU, and all was running like clockwork. However, in September, after a meeting of President Sargsyan and Russian President Putin in Moscow, a few days before signing the Agreement with EU, Armenia rejected it. Recently, the leadership of Armenia again began reapproaching the EU.

Armenia also imagined itself to be some kind of a bridge in the ties between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union without having common borders with any of them.

In this connection, the fact of existence of Russian troops on the state borders makes Yerevan feel itself handicapped.

It’s quite a good business to trade loyalty but it is also a chance to utterly spoil already scarce reputation. A state that frequently changes its foreign policy priorities should be watched out for.

There is one more technical detail important enough for both the Armenian government and the opposition as they immediately unite when it concerns Azerbaijan.

In the event Azerbaijan commences full-scale cleaning of its territories from Armenian military forces, Armenia will absolutely not be interested in Russia's FSB gain information and monitor how many members from ASALA terrorist group and other mercenaries from the countless Armenian nationalist organizations will pass passport control at the airport, to take part in the hostilities, as well as who they are by name and where they came from.



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