Many would guess Russia, but it is actually Argentina. Data on direct foreign investment shows that Argentina now ranks as the largest foreign spender in this South Caucasus country, better known for its politically prohibitive economic reliance on Moscow.
The official stats, reported by Hetq Online, suggest that Armenia’s trade, development, and even foreign policy options may not be as limited as its long dependence on Russia may suggest.
For years, Russia has been the single largest foreign investor in Armenia until France took over the title in 2012. A year later, Russia got pushed further down the list, below France and Argentina, which is now in the lead with just just under $118 million.
One man could be behind the seemingly unlikely Armenian-Argentinian connection. The full detail of Argentina’s investment projects in Armenia is not readily available, but Argentinian billionaire Eduardo Eurnekian, an ethnic Armenian by descent, could be behind the hike.
Argentina’s second richest man, Eurnekian is committed to turning Armenia into paradise on earth and has called on fellow members of the far-flung Armenian Diaspora to shoulder the task. The octogenarian airport and investment magnate has invested in upgrading and expanding Yerevan’s international airport, Zvartnots, and gifted an airplane to the new airport in Nagorno-Karabkh, the ethnic-Armenian-controlled breakaway territory.
France, which also boasts a sizeable Armenian Diaspora, is now Armenia’s second largest investor, majoring mainly in real estate. Russia, which appears to have been scaling down its once-dominant investment in Armenia just as it coaxed Armenia into entering the Moscow-led Customs Union, ranks as number three, with $86.2 million.
Yerevan motivated its choice last year of the Customs Union over the European Union by economic expediency – Russian companies, after all, invested in and control critical parts of the Armenian economy.
But with Argentina and France as its biggest investors, and the European Union now its largest trade partner, the Armenian economy is not synonymous with Russia anymore. Armenia may still depend on Russia for peace and security, but the growing income diversity may give Yerevan a freer hand in foreign policy.