Armenia Pressured to Choose between EU and Russia
There still might be room for a substantial partnership between the European Union and Armenia, says Brussels, but it will depend on how exclusive the Caucasus country’s relationship is going to be with the Eurasian Union, Russia’s planned alternative trade bloc.
But, ever the jealous lover, Russia wants exclusivity. If Armenia cold-shoulders the bloc, that could mean a Ukrainian-like upheaval, a Russian envoy warned this week.
In the year since it spurned the first EU's advances for those of the second EU, Armenia, putting its chess prowess into practice, has tried to keep its options still open. But things are getting confusing.
“For [a] broad and new definition or redefinition of our relations, we need to have a complete overview and idea from the Armenian side as to what they can do in the new circumstance created by Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union,” Peter Stano, spokesperson for the EU Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle, told RFE/RL on September 24.
Armenia itself would like to know these details. It is not yet a member of the Customs Union, the core of the planned Eurasian Union. The specifics of Armenia’s likely terms of engagement with the bloc remain unclear and a subject of dispute among the current Customs-Union members, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Armenia also has some hesitation. For one, about what the Customs-Union deal will mean for ethnic Armenian, breakaway Nagorno Karabakh, which depends on Armenia to keep it de-facto apart from Azerbaijan. There is also a dose of homegrown backlash among pro-Western circles against Armenia alienating the European Union.
But Moscow does not want to be dumped. Particularly, not again.
The EU’s stance that there’s no pressure on Armenia to lay out the details of its relationship with the Eurasian Union apparently does not reassure the Kremlin.
With less than a month to go before October 10, the latest date set for Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union, Yerevan on September 23 received a warning from Moscow to stay away from Europe.
Former Russian Ambassador to Armenia Vyacheslav Kovalenko, who in the past instructed Armenia against any ties with the EU, now said that unless Armenia makes its pro-Russian choice final and binding, and turns its back on supposed “Western values” of aggression, it will face a Ukraine-style crisis.
As an ambassador to Georgia during its 2008 war with Russia, Kovalenko may know all too well how such crises come to pass.