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Satenik Baghdasaryan

Armenia: Is the Eurasian Union an Alternative to the EU?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a geopolitical vacuum was created in the ex-Soviet states in terms of foreign policy priorities and directions. The Cold War and the existence of a bipolar world made the principle of “being with or against” quite prevalent.  However, the transformation of the policies and also, generally, geopolitical developments on the ground has totally changed the situation.

The Lake and the Stone Cross - Yerevan, Armenia, author: whl.travel, source: Flickr

The Lake and the Stone Cross – Yerevan, Armenia, author: whl.travel, source: Flickr

The foreign policy directions of the South Caucasus states, for example, became a topic of discussion from the very beginning of their independence. The interconnected and interdependent system of cooperation in the fields of the social, economic and political life created by the Soviet Union collapsed with itself and the post-Soviet states had to begin everything from the very beginning.  The new starting point was very challenging but it was also an opportunity for reviewing the foreign policy strategy of each state.

The idea of continuing the level of cooperation between the post-Soviet states is not new. There were several attempts to create a platform and format for cooperation but apparently all of them failed. Organizations such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova), Common Economic Space (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia), Eurasian Economic Community (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan  Tajikistan, Belarus), and even the Collective security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, (Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan  Tajikistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Belarus) have not had any tangible results or achieved any “success stories” so far.

Although the idea of the Eurasian Union is not new, it is still at its initial stage. First of all, there is no institutional structure behind that idea.  The Eurasian Union is considered to be Russian President Putin’s personal pet project or brainchild. The only possible background that exists and that can be expanded into the Eurasian Union is the Common Economic Space. However, taking even a brief look at the political and economic systems of the countries involved, it does not give much hope or motivation to join. Presidents Putin, Nazarbayev and Lukashenko, and the systems created by them, are not the best examples and role models for democratic governance and the rule of law.

Secondly, it is apparent that the possible creation of the Eurasian Union is mainly directed at the inclusion of Ukraine. Nobody has officially invited Armenia to be a part as of yet. Besides, Armenian foreign policy strategy clearly states that it is seeking more involvement in European structures and deepening the ties with the EU. Moreover, Armenian President Sargsyan has lately announced that Armenia has already chosen its foreign policy dimension– which is the European one.

Third, such recent developments as the latest document which is a non-binding memorandum that was signed between Armenia and the Eurasian Union Economic Commission or Foreign Minister Nalbandian’s visit to Moscow just after being re-appointed, have only a role of a symbolic gesture towards Moscow, taking into account the enormous Russian influence on Armenia.

Fourth, even if Armenia joins the Eurasian Union, cooperation with it does not necessarily contradict cooperation with the EU. In many spheres, the EU and Russia have common interests in the region. At least in terms of the official rhetoric, both of them seek security, stability and prosperity in the region.

Last but not the least, despite cooperation with EU, the Eurasian Union or other structures, Armenia’s foreign policy should be neither pro-Russian nor pro-European. It should be pro-Armenian only – it is important to emphasize that Armenia has its own interests and priorities which do not necessarily coincide with the interests and priorities of EU, Russia or any other players.

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Satenik is a research analyst at Regional Studies Center, an independent think tank based in Yerevan, Armenia. She holds a bachelor degree in Political Science from Yerevan State University and Master’s degree in European studies from the same University. Her research topics are conflict resolution in the Wider Black Sea region and European Integration in this context.

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