Is Armenia Welcomed in the West?

Two articles recently published by leading Western institutions became the topic of active discussion within the political and public circles in Armenia this week. The first one was published by the Rand Corporation and was called “The U.S. Can’t Guarantee Armenia’s Security, Despite Azerbaijan’s Threats, but It Can Help,” and the second, Politico’s reference to Armenia, was called “Armenia’s EU Dream Faces a Big Obstacle: The Russian Army.”

Rand Corporation is one of the leading American think tanks, preparing recommendations and analyses on policy for such institutions as the White House, Department of State, Pentagon, US Congress, etc. The article published by the RAND Corporation contains two main points: “The United States should provide Armenia with the capabilities to defend itself while setting clear expectations about the limits of its commitments,” and “Armenia’s national interests will be best served by protecting its security. Relations with Russia without unnecessarily alienating Moscow, giving it up altogether.” As a leading research center, the RAND Corporation undoubtedly offers such recommendations to political decision-makers in Washington, D.C.

In its turn, Politico suggests that even if Armenia decides to move to the West, it will be very difficult to finalize this path: “Armenia’s previous government left in 2013 to join the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union; part of that calculation was how a close alliance with Russia could prevent disaster in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave entirely within Azerbaijan’s borders.” It concludes: “Full integration into the bloc while Moscow’s troops are present opens up a host of practical, security, and legal issues, even if aspiring members are able to deliver on rule-of-law and anti-corruption reforms.”

In recent months, discussions have intensified in Armenia about Yerevan looking towards the EU, but at the same time, there have been no clear actions taken by Armenia to leave the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) or the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). If a member state has the intention to terminate its membership, it must officially submit a memorandum to the CSTO six months in advance. As for the EAEU, the period is one year, according to the treaty.

On my Facebook page back on March 11, I shared inside information about the visit of the Secretary General of NATO to Armenia, yet officially, it was announced only on March 16. Notably, before the visit of NATO’s chief envoy, Western research and media centers such as those mentioned above tried to clarify the situation and not create high expectations in Armenia. They actually present their reservations about Armenia’s possible membership in the EU and NATO, explaining that they can help but cannot provide Armenia’s security guarantees against possible Turkish-Azerbaijani aggression.

Of course, the Secretary General’s visit is regional, but it is obvious that NATO does not have a particular agenda with Baku because Azerbaijan never spoke about any intentions for joining NATO at any level, unlike, let’s say, Georgia, which has been trying to become a member state of NATO and the EU for decades. Moreover, there is an impression that the visit to Baku was made purely to ensure the balance with Armenia. As for Armenia, the situation is different. In recent months, there have been active discussions about the prospects for Armenia to leave the CSTO, and Yerevan is looking towards the EU to boost its economy and gain a security umbrella. According to the official information provided, it seems that the issue of Armenia’s possible membership in NATO was not discussed during the meeting, but some mechanisms of unique cooperation between Armenia and NATO were discussed. It cannot be ruled out that Armenia discussed status as a major non-NATO ally.

Originally published in the Armenian Mirror Spectator