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On 3 September 2013, the president of Armenia shifted the long-praised process of initialing political association and economic integration with the European Union and announced Armenia’s decision to join the Russia-led Customs Union and participate in the processes of formation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Practitioners and observers interpreted it either as a U-turn or as a surprise move mainly assuming that what happened was the result of Russian pressure on Armenia. However, when tensions and uncertainty eased, it became obvious that what happened was a result of complex reasons. Geopolitical constraints and socio-political problems that had accumulated in Armenia during recent years coincided with an assertive expansion of Russia’s foreign policy. This research provides a number of explanations for that political decision to understand the primary determinants of that move. It also examines the political and economic implications of Armenia’s membership of the EAEU.
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Eurasian Geography and Economics
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Armenia in the Eurasian Economic Union: reasons
for joining and its consequences
Vahram Ter-Matevosyan , Anna Drnoian, Narek Mkrtchyan & Tigran
To cite this article: Vahram Ter-Matevosyan , Anna Drnoian, Narek Mkrtchyan &
Tigran Yepremyan (2017) Armenia in the Eurasian Economic Union: reasons for joining
and its consequences, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 58:3, 340-360, DOI:
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VOL. 58, NO. 3, 340360
Armenia in the Eurasian Economic Union: reasons for
joining and its consequences
VahramTer-Matevosyana, AnnaDrnoianb, NarekMkrtchyanc‡ and
aCollege of Humanities and Social Sciences, American University of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia; bPolitical
Science and International Affairs, American University of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia; cDepartment of
History, Yerevan State University, Yerevan, Armenia
On 3 September 2013, the president of Armenia shifted
the long-praised process of initialing political association
and economic integration with the European Union and
announced Armenia’s decision to join the Russia-led Customs
Union and participate in the processes of formation of
the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Practitioners and
observers interpreted it either as a U-turn or as a surprise
move mainly assuming that what happened was the result
of Russian pressure on Armenia. However, when tensions and
uncertainty eased, it became obvious that what happened
was a result of complex reasons. Geopolitical constraints and
socio-political problems that had accumulated in Armenia
during recent years coincided with an assertive expansion
of Russia’s foreign policy. This research provides a number
of explanations for that political decision to understand the
primary determinants of that move. It also examines the
political and economic implications of Armenia’s membership
of the EAEU.
On 3 September 2013, the president of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, announced
Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union (CU) and participate in the pro-
cesses of formation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). To make his move
more profound and convincing, he emphasized that since Armenia’s partners in
the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) were forming a new platform
for economic cooperation, it was “unfeasible and inecient to stay away from the
relevant geo-economic area” (Website of the President of the Republic of Armenia
2013a). The president concluded that it was a “rational decision” which did not
preclude dialog with European structures. This statement implied that Armenia
eectively backtracked from the planned initialing of the Association Agreement
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Received 5 July 2016
Accepted24 July 2017
Armenia; Russia; European
Union; Eurasian Economic
Union; Eastern Partnership;
CONTACT Vahram Ter-Matevosyan
College of Humanities and Social Sciences, American University of Armenia, Yerevan
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(AA) with the European Union (EU) that was negotiated for over three years. To con-
clude the process, 15 months later, on 4 December 2014, the Armenian Parliament
ratied thedocument “On Joiningof the Republic of Armeniato the Treaty of 29
May 2014 on the ‘Eurasian Economic Union,’signed in Minsk on 10 October 2014”.
The EAEU came to be formally operative on 1 January 2015. The next day Armenia
became a member of the EAEU, which is currently comprised of ve states from
the post-Soviet era (Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan).
The decision taken on 3 September was initially viewed as an isolated case; how-
ever, in November 2013 Ukraine followed suit and announced its decision to stop
the preparation for signing the AA with the EU. Three months later, Maidan protests
led to enormous reshuing of the political and geopolitical landscape in Eastern
Europe, resulting in the overthrow of the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich,
Russia’s seizure of Crimea, the “parade of sovereignty” in Eastern Ukraine, deaths
in Odessa, and Civil War in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine. These
events suggested that a paradigmatic shift in the regional integration processes
was underway.
This study aims to contribute to academic debate about the causes and deter-
minants of Armenia’s decision to join the Russia-led union and the real-term impli-
cations it had on Armenian politics and economy. It will also discuss to what extent
that policy met the expectations and anticipations set by the government. The
article argues that twofold factors; that is, geopolitical constraints in the rst place
(Nagorno-Karabakh conict, Turkish blockade, marginalization from regional pro-
jects), as well as domestic policies (dependence on Russia in economic and energy
sectors, oligarchical and monopolistic practices, question of regime survival) stead-
ily increased Armenia’s dependence on Russia and limited Armenia’sforeign policy
The road to the “rational decision”
In May 2009, the EU and Armenia, along with ve other Eastern European coun-
tries (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine), launched the Eastern
Partnership (EaP) with the main goal of creating “the necessary conditions to
accelerate political association and further economic integration between the
EU and interested partner countries” (Council of the European Union 2009). For
the next four years, following theobjectives of the EaP declaration, the Armenian
Government carried out a series of political and socioeconomic reforms aimed to
facilitate approximation toward the EU. Throughout the whole process, Armenia’s
political leadership has also emphasized EU’s civilizational importance. For instance,
during the 2011 address at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President
Sargsyan armed, “The people of Armenia have made their historic and irreversi-
ble choice. … For us, it is a homecoming to the European civilization and cultural
realm, to which we belong, and where we have been ever-present” (Website of the
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Council of Europe 2011). With Armenia’s completion of extensive political, legal,
and socioeconomic reforms, on 24 July 2013 the EU ocials announced that since
negotiations with Armenia were successfully completed, it was ready (along with
Georgia and Moldova) for initialing the AA during the Eastern Partnership Vilnius
summit scheduled on 29 November 2013. Recurrent assurances of the Armenian
and European leaders on Armenia’s deserved place in the European family left no
doubts that concluding the AA along with the DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive
Free Trade Agreement) at the Vilnius summit was inevitable.
However, already back in 2011 and 2012 some political circles both in Armenia
and Russia hinted about possible setbacks and reactions from Russia. Prior to that,
the Russian leadership had rarely shown any visible indications of discontent with
the EaP. Starting from mid-2012, Russia, however, moved to increase the costs for
association with EU by oering various (dis)incentives to the EaP participant coun-
tries (Ademmer, Delcour, and Wolczuk 2016, 12). To counter pressure from Russia,
Armenia had developed a working formula of “both … and,” meaning that Armenia
is ready to work both with Russia and with the EU. Meanwhile, a few European
(mainly Swedish and Polish) politicians and observers were insisting on another
formula, “either … or,” hoping that Armenia would make an informed decision
between EU and Russia by staying away from the latter’sincreasing assertiveness.
For quite some time, Russian political leadership had revealed no visible discomfort
with the Armenian determination to initial the AA. That stance was in line with
Putin’s declared strategy that Russia “is not going to either hurry or push anyone
[to join the EAEU]. It should be the sovereign decision of any state directed by the
long-term national interests” (Putin 2012). The Armenian political elite was also
careful not to provoke unfriendly reactions and was keen to proceed with the EaP
commitments without pursuing a hidden agenda. To that end, Tigran Sargsyan,
then the Prime Minister of Armenia, noted, … our strategic partner Russia is kept
informed about Armenia’s integration projects and views them with understand-
ing. We hide nothing from our partners and this is our strength” (Kommersant
2012). In that interview, he also famously stated that Armenia is not interested in
the Customs Union.
The dominant counter-argument against the CU, regularly stated by the
Armenian ocials, referred to the fact that Armenia did not have a common bor-
der with the Russia-led CU. On several occasions both the president and the PM,
as well as other high-ranking ocials argued that the lack of common border
with the CU would make Armenia’s participation in it “meaningless” (Kommersant
2012). In a statement just 12days before the 3 September decision, the Deputy
Foreign Minister of Armenia once again claimed, “there is no precedent of a country
becoming a member of a customs union without having common borders with
other member-states.” He also noted that joining the CU would mean the end of
sovereignty. He further elaborated that the government’s self-condence was an
indication that everything was proceeding as planned (Armnews 2013). Moreover,
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observers were of the opinion that the Armenian president’s planned working visit
to Moscow on 3 September was an ordinary one reminiscent of dozens of identical
meetings that had taken place in the past. However, what occurred on that day
and afterward became a harbinger of drastic changes not only in Armenia’s foreign
policy, but also in Russia’s attitude towards the EU and the EaP.
On 3 September 2013 after a discussion behind closed doors, Russia’s president,
Vladimir Putin, as host, was the rst to share the news about Armenia’s decision to
join the CU; he also pledged to support Armenia by all possible means. Putin went
on to share a few numbers, which emphasized the level of the Russian presence in
the Armenian economy. He particularly mentioned that Russia is Armenia’s leading
trade partner with a trade turnover of USD 1.2 billion in 2012; Russian investments
in the Armenian economy were over USD 3 billion; about 1300 Russian companies
work in Armenia; and a number of strategic assets in Armenia were owned and
run by Russian companies. Moreover, developments in cultural and educational
spheres, according to him, also constituted an important component of bilateral
relations (Website of the President of Russia 2013). Only after this presentation
Armenia’s president took the stage and conrmed Armenia’s decision to join the
The decision received dierent interpretations both in Armenia and abroad.
First, it created uncertainty in the Armenian society as a new period of ambiguity
came to prevail in the public discourse. Reactions from the European leaders were
unequivocally critical: some saw no compatibility between the Russia-led Customs
Union and the DCFTA with the EU, while others considered that Armenia’s decision
was made under Russian pressure and blackmailing. In order to react to the ow
of critical remarks, on 4 September, the head of the presidential administration
was the rst high-ranking ocial to provide an explanation to the decision. Vigen
Sargsyan’s remarks and clarications (Radio Liberty 2013a) added more ambigu-
ity as he claimed that the initialing of the AA with the EU in Vilnius remained
on Armenia’s political agenda; therefore, he hoped the EU would help Armenia
to disintegrate economic and political components of the AA and initialize only
the political part of it. More interestingly, he touched upon the argument about
the lack of common borders and stated that experts have prepared solutions to
assure ecient and eective membership of the Republic of Armenia in the CU
(2013a). For the next 10 days, the European Commission and its Commissioner for
Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy, Štefan Füle, made a few statements aimed
to counter Armenia’s revised intention to conclude only the political component
of the AA. Commissioner Füle stressed, “the political association and economic
integration must go hand in hand and they are integral parts of the AA. We cannot
therefore decouple those two essential building blocks of the Agreement.” He also
added the EU was informed about Armenia’s decision to join the CU only on 31
August – meaning just three days before Sargsyan’s visit to Moscow (Mediamax
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Security and regional considerations
During negotiations with the EU, the Armenian Government was so determined in
its cause to nalize the deal that little or no public debate was initiated to foresee
potential obstacles. However, with the benet of hindsight, it is possible to identify
a chain of primary and proximate causes that inuenced the government’s decision
to favor the Eurasian Economic Union. Even though members of the ruling elite
started to back up the president’s decision and asserted that Armenia’s economy
and national security were at stake, little eort was invested to unpack what was
beyond “security,” which became an umbrella term for a host of domestic and
regional complexities that Armenia was facing.
One of the important foreign and security policy goals of Armenia continues to
be the conictresolution in Nagorno Karabakh. The dispute over Karabakh, which
resurfaced in 1988, went through a number of stages. Despite international media-
tion eorts in the framework of the OSCE Minsk group, the leaders of Armenia and
Azerbaijan have failed to agree on the basic principles of the conict resolution. As
a result, the prospects of nding a lasting solution to the most violent conict in
the post-Soviet space remain vague. The cease-re agreement that was agreed by
Armenian, Azerbaijani, and the Nagorno Karabakh authorities in May 1994 ceased
the hostilities for over a decade. However, in 2008 the hostilities resumed, spark-
ing a series of unprecedented violations of the cease-re regime. The ruling elite
in Armenia, which emerged in the Karabakh war, continues to rationalize many
of its foreign, domestic, and security-related decisions based on the conict in
Karabakh(Iskandaryan, Mikaelian, and Minasyan 2016). In addition, both govern-
ments have invested massively in the military buildup: only in 2016, the Armenian
Government spent USD 430 million on defense and security (4% of GDP), whereas
Azerbaijan’s military budget was four times higher – USD 1767 billion (5.61% of
GDP). It bears mentioning that when Ilham Aliyev started his presidency in 2003,
Azerbaijan spent only USD 175 million on defense and security.
The diculties in negotiations with Azerbaijan and incessant hostilities on the
borders between Karabakh and Azerbaijan are accompanied by Turkey’s hostile
attitude to Armenia. Its refusal to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia and
to lift the quarter-century blockade over the last closed border in Europe, which is
also EU’s customs border, remains a perplexing challenge for the regional stability.
Even though Turkey was one of the rst counties to recognize Armenia’s independ-
ence in 1991, it refuses to establish good-neighborly relations with Armenia by
interpreting it as a support towards Azerbaijan. By inventing a “one nation, two
states” formula, the leaders of Turkey and Azerbaijan have worked closely since
the early 1990s to marginalize Armenia from regional energy and communication
projects. Suce to say that because of the sealed borders, Armenia is one of the
unique cases in the world that has 80% of its land borders closed. Borders with
Georgia and Iran are the only ones open, which, in turn, makes Armenia overly
dependent on them; particularly on the Georgian one, as 70% of Armenian foreign
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trade goesthrough Georgia. In addition to these factors, Azerbaijan and Turkey
have increased their political and economic presence in Georgia, which many in
Armenia perceive as an emerging challenge to the regional security and balance
of power.
Based on these realities, all the interviewees of this study with the members of the
ruling Republican Party of Armenia repeated security-related arguments (national,
economic, and energy) to justify Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union.
Moreover, the interviewees pinpointed that the 3 September was not something
unexpected, but rather a rationally calculated choice, based on the historical inter
connections between Armenia and the CU member-states, particularly Russia. They
have also interpreted it as an absolute necessity, which had to be handled through
extraordinary measures and with increased pace. For instance, vice-speaker of the
National Assembly, Eduard Sharmazanov, emphasized that Armenia’s decision to
join the Customs Union stemmed from Armenia’s national interests: military coop-
eration, security, and the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conict: The security
issues of Armenia can be considered resolved after the decision was made to join
the Customs Union” (Personal interview with Eduard Sharmazanov, 8 September
2014). The chair of the Armenia’s National Assembly’s standing committee on sci-
ence, education, culture, youth, and sport, Artak Davtyan, indicated that the 3
September decision to join the Eurasian integration projects was the only optimal
decision. He also added that the initiation of the AA with the EU was too vague and
hypothetical, and with the unresolved Nagorno Karabakh conict, the Republic of
Armenia primarily sought security where it exists (Personal interview with Artak
Davtyan, 11 September 2014). The chair of another standing Committee on Foreign
Relations, Artak Zakaryan, also highlighted security-related determinants behind
Armenia’s decision. He also mentioned that with two of the state borders closed,
it was the most advantageous at this stage for Armenia to deepen its economic
relations with the unied Eurasian economic space (Personal interview with Artak
Zakaryan, 19 September 2014). Interestingly, the statements of these and many
politicians came to downplay the importance of the CSTO that Armenia was a
member of. As a result, Armenia’s membership to the CU, in their minds, was meant
to primarily entail security benets followed by economic ones. The interviewees
also failed to explain to what extent the security-related questions were discussed
during the negotiations with the EU.
Using the operational framework of Buzan, Waever, and de Wilde (1998, 24),
we argue that Armenia’s leadership “securitized” the integration decision and pre-
sented it as an extraordinary matter that required emergency measures (i.e. taking
the decision without consulting the wider public, without an advance notication
of EU partners, etc). Buzan, Waever, and de Wilde (1998, 29) also posit, “securitiza-
tion should be seen as negative, as a failure to deal with issues as normal politics.
Ideally, politics should be able to unfold according to routine procedures without
this extraordinary elevation of specic ‘threats’ to a ‘pre-political immediacy.’”
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The decision taken on 3 September received mixed blessings from the opposi-
tion and civil society. Former members of the coalition government, the Prosperous
Armenia Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Party, have largely
supported the decision, mainly referring to the “security” argument of the gov-
ernment, whereas the Armenian National Congress, the Liberal Democratic Party,
and the Heritage party were against it. They also did not appreciate the way the
decision was made, as it was widely seen as “one of the fateful decisions” struck
behind closed doors. Some political parties not represented in the parliament
(e.g. Republic Party, National Self-Determination Union) and civil initiatives ercely
opposed the move and calling their supporters to go to the street and start pro-
testing. Most of them saw the CU as “USSR 2.0” and did not want Armenia to have
anything in common with it. Despite calls for protests, no major rallies were held.
Some policy analysts, too, put more concentration on “security” as an important
determinant behind Armenia’s decision. In the words of Iskandaryan (2013), the
director of the Caucasus Institute think tank, … whenever Armenia has to choose
between security and anything else, it chooses security.” Sergei Markedonov, a Russian
expert on South Caucasus, also stressed the need for Yerevan not to be deceived by
the European visual appeal and thereof understand that Russia’s role in maintaining
Armenia’s security and ensuring the status-quo in the NK peace process cannot be
substituted (Markedonov 2013). To support his argument, he further underlined the
EU’s lack of “hard power,” the EU’s strategic partnership in the eld of energy with
Armenia’s long-time rival Azerbaijan, and Turkey’s possible tougher actions against
Yerevan (2013). Furthermore, some supporters of the decision came to question the
insightfulness of the European politicians and diplomats who missed the messages
that, according to them, the Armenian president and members of the political elite had
sent out on numerous occasions. For instance, Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan
stated that the Armenian Government had told Brussels throughout the three-year
association talks that it would not forge closer links with the EU “to the detriment of
our allied relationship with Russia” (Radio Liberty 2013b). Karen Bekaryan, a senior
analyst in the presidential administration, mentioned a list of promises that were given
by the EU well before 3 September but were never delivered, causing the Armenian
Government and society to turn suspicious. For instance, he refers to the fact that the
EU intended to hold a donors’ conference for Armenia but had never implemented it;
moreover, that the EU had promised to do its best to make Turkey open its borders
with Armenia, but they remained closed (Obozrevatel 2014).
Armenia’s dependence on Russia, what Delcour (2016) coins “vulnerability,” is
driven by multiple factors. The conict in Nagorno Karabakh and closed borders
continue to shape Armenia’s security cooperation with major powers. Being a stra-
tegic ally of Russia and a CSTO member state, Armenia continues to rely heavily
on military assistance from Moscow. Russia provides Armenia credits to purchase
weapons, and Armenia buys weapons mainly from Russia at discount prices. Russian
military shipments to Armenia include high-precision short-range ballistic missile
systems (9K720 Iskander, 9M79 Tochka); multiple-launch rocket (9K58 Smerch) and
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air-defense (S-300) systems; ballistic, anti-tank, and anti-aircraft missiles; electronic
warfare vehicles; armored personnel carriers; andtank upgrades (Sanamyan 2016).
In addition, Armenia and Russia have worked to create the Caucasus Unied Air
Defense System as well as a joint Russian and Armenia military group (Romanova
2016). The 102nd Russian military base (around 5000 personnel) in Gyumri, the
lease of which Russia extended to 2044, and,its air-force component, the 3624th
airbase (squadron size) in Erebuni airport in Yerevan belong to the Southern Military
District of the Russian Federation.The Border control divisionof theFederal Security
Service (FSS) of the Russian Federation, togetherwith Armenian partners, pro-
tects Armenia’s borders with Turkey and Iran. 4 detachments of Russia’s FSSBorder
guardsare positioned in Gyumri, Armavir, Artashat and Meghri border regions, and
a separate unit of FSS border guardsoperatesin theZvartnots airport in Yerevan.
Overall, the FSS of Russia has around 4500 personnel in Armenia. Despite the
presence ofthe Russian base in Armenia and close cooperation between the mil-
itary agencies of two states, there are contradictions that surface from time to
time. For instance, more people in Armenia debate about whether the Armenian
Government should pay the expenses of the Russian base in Gyumri.
A number of commentators and practitioners in Armenia have always been
critical about the security argument being used in integration processes. This was
particularly relevant to the arguments raised by critics who strongly doubt the
viability of the CSTO, a six-member security alliance dominated by Russia, and
the strategic partnership between Armenia and Russia. The conict in Nagorno-
Karabakh contributes to that sense of suspicion, as some CSTO member countries,
especially Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, according to them, peri-
odically refrain from adequately condemning the Azerbaijani oensives into the
territory of Armenia. Soon enough, the security argument that the ruling party
used in order to rationalize its 3 September decision became even more problem-
atic. During the Four-Day War in Nagorno Karabakh in April 2016, which was the
most violent escalation since 1994, Russia did not intervene on Armenia’s side,
as some in Armenia expected, which led many commentators and politicians to
voice critical remarks about Russia, the CSTO, the EAEU, and Armenia’s decision
to join it. In the face of the documented facts of delivery of Russian weapons to
Azerbaijan before and after the Four–Day War, the Armenian-Russian “strategic
partnership” came to be heavily criticized. In such circumstances, many voiced
questions concerning the prospects of Armenia’s membership in the CSTO and
in the EAEU. Particularly, the leaders of two founding members of these organi-
zations, Belarus and Kazakhstan, openly took sides in the conict, which left the
Armenian Government and society visibly disappointed in the EAEU and CSTO
partners, which, except Tajikistan, are the same.
Against this background, it is important to note that statements made and pol-
icies undertaken both during the negotiation process with the EU and afterward
reveal a set of contradictions. One of the most important determinants of the 3
September 2013 decision derived from obvious security concerns and the challeng-
ing regional environment. The long-simmering conict over Nagorno-Karabakh;
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frequent violations of the ceasere both in the Karabakh frontline and on the
Armenian-Azerbaijani border resulting in hundreds of casualties annually; the
arms race; and Azerbaijan’s increased military spending, as well as closed borders
evidently limited Armenia’s strategic choices. The mentioned constraints have also
reduced the strategic maneuvering space for Armenia and limited its options. In
turn, despite the contradictions among the EAEU and CSTO member states vis-à-vis
the Karabakh conict as well as obvious displeasure of the Armenian Government
towards Russian military shipments to Azerbaijan, the political leadership, the
opposition, and the wider public continue to perceive Russia as an irreplaceable
strategic partner and a security guarantor.
Understanding socioeconomic constraints and implications
A security argument that the government has continuously promoted alone can-
not explain Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union. A host of the structural
deciencies in Armenia’s economic and energy security can also be qualied as
no less important reasons for Russia to promote its foreign policy goals. Those
dependences also serve as a source of policy transfer in Armenia (via the EAEU)
(Ademmer, Delcour, and Wolczuk 2016, 12). Although both the EU and Russia are
key external trade partners of Armenia (as will be scrutinized in detail below), back
in 2013 Russia led in terms of accumulated foreign investments in Armenia with
40% share. A dozen of Russia’s corporate giants are 100% share holders of Armenia-
based CJSCs. They are active in key sectors of Armenian economy, including energy
supply, renement and distribution, transport, telecommunications, banking,
insurance, and mining (Website of the President of the Republic of Armenia 2013a).
The study conducted by the Eurasian Development Bank in 2013 assessed the
eects of the integration initiatives on the overall economy as well as on the energy
and transport sectors ofArmenia. The forecast indicated an additional growth of
Armenia’s GDP of approximately 4% in two years, counting on reductions of gas
and oil prices. Among the major advantages from Armenia’s membership in the
CU, the report also emphasized Armenia’s integration with the CU single labor
and capital market, which would provide further annual increase inremittances
of about USD 36 million (by 3%) (Tavadyan et al. 2013, 44). Thus, the government
favored the EAEU, which oered full-edged membership within ashort time, as
compared to the benets that the EU was ready to oer in the mid-term and long-
term perspectives (visa liberalization; a number of legislative, administration, and
institutional reforms; access to the European single market of 500 million people;
development of agriculture; a better-functioning judiciary; a strengthened rule of
law; increased transparency; an increase of Armenia’s GDP; creation of job oppor-
tunities; better opportunities for SMEs, etc). Other than adoption of a set of laws
to synchronize Armenian legislation with the EAEU countries and some economic
benets, the EAEU-members states could hardly set standards for liberalpolitical
and legal reforms, neither could Armenia hope to improve its democratic indicators
thanks to the EAEU membership. In fact, compared to the EAEU member states
Armenia was well ahead in democratic standards and rule of law.
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However, as it will be demonstrated later on, the Armenian Government failed to
harvest even the anticipated short-term economic benets as the timing of acces-
sion to EAEU coincided with economic recession in Russia. Moreover, the Armenian
leadership downgraded the impact of the much-debated and anticipated tari
increases on the Armenian economy. Particularly, the EAEU has much more pro-
tectionist trade policies in place than most post-Soviet states do, with Russia’s
tari levels taken as a basis for its own tari provisions. Thus, for example, Russia’s
trade-weighted average tari agreed in the WTO for 2011 was 9.9%, whereas in
the same year it was 3.6% for Armenia (Popescu 2014). In practice, raising customs
duties means that importing from third countries becomes more expensive; that
is, prices for food and other commodities imported to Armenia from, for instance,
the EU and China, will be more costly for the population. Additionally, in Armenia’s
case, problems may arise in bilateral relations with those countries it has negoti-
ated trade agreements with based on WTO principles of opening and liberalizing
the markets, as the EAEU’s supranational institutions will be responsible for nego-
tiating trade and customs policies of the union. In fact, during the preparations
on accession to the Customs Union, Armenia has negotiated exemptions from
higher customs duties on about 900 commodity groups. Duties on natural gas,
petroleum products, and rough diamond deliveries from Russia were annulled,
saving Armenia around USD 200 million annually (Minasyan 2015). Observers add
that the EAEU needs to liberalize its trade policies at least in relation to the key
economic partners of its constituting member states, otherwise the benets from
the EAEU membership will cost some of them dearly.
Based on the explanation provided afterward, energy security issues as well
as considerations related to the foreign trade also played no secondary role in
the 3 September decision. According to the former Minister of Energy, Armen
Movsisyan, Armenia decided to join the Customs Union and sold the remaining
20% of ArmRusGazArd shares to Russia in order to get the USD 300 million national
debt waived (Hayrumyan 2013). Thus, the price of gas becomes an important tool
in the hands of Russia to inuence and achieve its objectives in Armenia through
the manipulation of not only military but also energy security issues. Such kinds
of policies towards Armenia have been implemented by Russia at least since 2006
when the Armenian Government and Gazprom concluded an agreement to avoid
a doubling of gas price to USD 110 million till 2009 at the expense of transition
other energy assets of Hrazdan to Gazprom (De Souzaand Vinhas 2008). This
agreement also granted Russia exclusive opportunity to take control over 75% of
the Iran-Armenian pipeline, hence limiting Armenia’s opportunities to diversify
its energy and preventing the country from becoming an energy transit country
(Minassian 2008).
In January 2014, during his visit to the Czech Republic, President Sargsyan had
an o-the-record meeting with the representatives of the local Armeniancommu-
nity Diaspora. His reections, which leaked to the Aravot daily nine months later,
shed light on Armenia’s choice of the CU. When answering the question about his
decision to join the CU, he particularly mentioned,
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We cannot sign the free trade agreement [DCFTA] and increase the gas price and the
electricity fee three-fold. If it turns out that cognac does not meet the European stand-
ards, we would not grow grapes, and so on. Is this what you want? I do not think that
we would be able to sell even 150 bottles of cognac per annum in Europe in the future,
whereas we sell 150 million bottles of cognac in Russia. We are organically tied to the
economy of the CIS countries; this is the reason for going to the Eurasian Union. We
clearly understand that the economic relations in Europe are 20–30years ahead, but
what should we do, to sign FTA and increase poverty in the country? (Aravot 2014)
This rather concise deliberation of the president reconrmed the practical benets
that the Armenian Government was looking to get from the CU.
Deriving from this, the next claim has to do with the question of regime survival.
It adds to the “rationality” argument of the 3 September decision not only from a
security or economic perspective, but also from the purely political one as a tool
for securing the regime’s legitimacy and even survival. Furthermore, the political
elite’s broad consent for Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union derives from
its oligarchical and monopolistic position caused, on the one hand, by the lack of
accountability of authorities, and on the other hand, by restrictions brought to
market competition by the same monopolies (Delcour and Wolczuk 2015). Besides,
it shall be argued that the ruling elites of Russia and Armenia have mutual inter-
ests that most of the times shape their joint policies. In other words, one may
put Armenia’s distraction from European integration in quite simple terms: the
Armenian political and business elites, who rule over what Acemoglu and Robinson
(2012) have termed “extractive political and economic institutions,” could hardly
agree to get rid of “strategic” partnership with the Russian Federation. That collab-
oration provides attractive opportunities to continue their extractive relations in
order to further concentrate the power and resources in their hands.
The global nancial-economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 has profoundly aected
the Armenian economy. Experiencing one of the dramatic declines in the world, it
took several years for Armenia to recover from the economic downturn. Substantial
decline of FDI since 2008, heavy taxation policy on small and medium enterprises,
the size of the shadow economy, abundant monopolies in various import and
export sectors, and many other factors (dependence on a limited number of com-
modity exports, a dicult external economic environment, etc.) caused Armenia’s
economy to be both fragile and sensitive to external instabilities. These trends
intensied the labor migration, which headed mainly to Russia. According to the
Federal State Statistics Service of the Russian Federation (Federal’naja Sluzhba
Gosudarstvennoj statistiki [Federal State Statistical Service] 2017), 200,000
Armenian citizens went to Russia between 2008 and 2013. Chronically, the
Armenian economy has been heavily dependent on remittances coming mostly
from Russia, equal to USD 1.5 billion, or 15% of Armenia’s GDP. The purchasing
power of the population, trade turnover, and service sectors have dramatically
suered. As the Russian economy entered into decline, private money transfers to
Armenia declined by 30%, or USD 520 million, in 2014 (World Bank 2014). Private
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remittances received from Russia reduced by another 36% in 2015 (USD 916 mil-
lion), though still comprising 76% of total non-commercial money transfers to
Armenia (Central Bank of Armenia 2016). Naturally, the slowdown in domestic
demand also aected unemployment in the respective countries, which grew to
18.5% in Armenia in 2015 (Armstat (National Statistical Service of the Republic of
Armenia) 2016b). Meanwhile, many Armenians working in Russia lost their jobs or
earned less because of the devaluation of the ruble (Grigoryan 2015). Armenia’s
slow recovery from the 2008–2009 economic crisis and a number of sluggish eco-
nomic, structural, and social reforms increased the poverty rate in Armenia. As a
result, the percentage of the population living below the poverty line reached
32.4% in 2012, up from 27.6% in 2008(Armstat(National Statistical Service of the
Republic of Armenia) 2013). In other words, around 1 million citizens (out of 3
million) live below the poverty line.
Although the EAEU stands for the elimination of customs borders among its
member states; establishment of a single market with free movement of goods,
capital, services, and people; and provisions for greater integration in the future,
the economic interconnection between countries is deeply disproportionate.
Armenia’s economic security is highly conditioned by the Russian economy. Many
in the Armenian business class also expressed support for the U-turn in Armenia’s
integration process, primarily due to high standards and tough competition in the
EU market that Armenian products in spite of reduced taris struggle to confront
(Giragosian 2015). On the other hand, the markets of the EAEU are less developed
and more familiar to Armenian entrepreneurs and migrant workers because of the
cultural ties, shared historical memory, and non-existence of language barriers,
which create better chances for the demand of the Armenian products (Almasian
2014). Similarly, recent data from the Caucasus Barometer survey suggests that
the majority of the Armenian society continues to be more inclined toward the
Eurasian Economic Union (52% of respondents) than the EU membership (37% of
respondents) (Caucasus Research Resource Centers 2015).
However, the timing of Armenia’s accession to the EAEU coincided with falling
hydrocarbon prices, Western sanctions, and depreciation of the Russian ruble,
which led to the contraction of domestic demand in Russia. Being heavily condi-
tioned by the developments in the Russian economy, Armenia’s growth prospects
also fall short of expectations. Furthermore, according to IMF (2016) predictions,
the medium-term growth prospects for Russia remain limited, which has hampered
Armenia’s economic development . Overall, Armenia’s moderate 3.5% economic
growth rate in 2014 slowed to 3% in 2015 and 0.5% in 2016 (World Bank 2016).
The deterioration of economic activity in Russia – the major destination for
Armenian labor migrants and the largest market for its agricultural and manufac-
turing exports – aected the Armenian economy through lower Russian demand
for its exports and a signicant drop in remittances and FDI (World Bank 2014).
Armenia’s export volumes to Russia declined by 27% in 2015 compared to 2014,
comprising USD 244 million, which is still 95% of the overall trade with the EAEU
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member states (Armstat (National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia)
2016a; Eurasian Economic Commission 2016). However, for the rst time in years,
in 2015 Armenian imports from Russia decreased to USD 942 million. The underly-
ing reasons for slowdown in external trade between Armenia and EAEU countries
are domestic capacity constraints of the CIS markets emanating from geopoliti-
cal tensions and sinking metal and mineral prices as well as depreciation of the
Russian ruble,
which caused Armenia’s small economy to struggle to compete with
cheaper Russian goods (Gharabegian 2015). At the same time, in 2015, Armenian
exports to EU countries increased by 12.7% compared with the previous year,
amounting to USD 352 million (European Commission 2016). Meanwhile, in 2016
the Armenian exports to EAEU counties increased by 53%, equaling USD 392.1
million, of which USD 371 million went to Russia(Armstat (National Statistical
Service of the Republic of Armenia) 2017). The export volume to that country has
increased by 51.5%. Armenia was able to export to Russia textile, clothes, food,
drinks (wine, mineral waters), brandy, cigarettes, etc. Observers, however, are cau-
tious about the increase of export volumes, as they recommend contrasting them
with the decreased export volumes in 2014 and 2015 (Tunyan 2016).
Armenia’s integration preference also failed to attract foreign investments.
According to the National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia (Armstat
(National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia) 2015), net foreign invest-
ments in the real sector of the Armenian economy fell to USD 257 million from USD
348 million in 2014 (a 26% downturn), of which the volume of direct investments
amounted to USD 146 million, a decline of 40% in comparison to 2014. The leader
in terms of total foreign investments made to Armenia’s economy in 2015 was
Switzerland, with about USD 89.7 million and direct investment (FDI) amounting to
USD 85.5 million (2015). Russia emerged the second biggest investor in 2015, with
total foreign investments comprising USD 66.5 million and Russian FDI dropping
by 18% to amount to USD 74.8 million (2015). By 2017, 47% of total investments
in the Armenian economy belonged to Russia, even though investment volumes
decreased compared to the previous years.
Thus, Armenia’s accession to the EAEU has not yet yielded in any signicant pos-
itive economic impact. Even though in 2016 Armenia’s export to the EAEU single
market increased, Armenia imports more than it exports. Moreover, Armenia con-
tinues to export more to the EU countries, while Russia leads in terms of imports.
Russia’s own economic crisis and devaluation of the ruble need to be considered
Role of the Armenian diaspora in Russia
Armenia’s decision to side with the CU was visibly inuenced by another
codependent factor that is oftentimes understudied – the role of Armenians in
Russia. As important transnational actors, diasporas have considerable inuence
on the behavior of states in the international arena. Armenians in Russia are quite
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successful economically and professionally (Manaseryan 2004). After the collapse
of the Soviet Union, Russia received a new wave of immigration from Armenia
(Cohen 2008, 56, 57). As of 2010 the Armenian population of Russia was estimated
at 1.2 million according to the ocial population census (Federal’naja Sluzhba
Gosudarstvennoj statistiki [Federal State Statistical Service] 2010) and around 3
million according to President Putin of Russia (Putin 2015). At the same time, Russia
remains a top destination for many labor migrants from Armenia (Dyatlov and
Melkonian 2009, 103). In some regions of southern Russia, Armenians are the sec-
ond-most numerous ethnic group; in others they are the third (Rostov), and so forth
(Federal’naja Sluzhba Gosudarstvennoj statistiki [Federal State Statistical Service]
2010). A survey by the OSCE for the period 2002–2005 found that almost 90% of
labor migrants from Armenia went to Russia (ILO (International Labor Organization)
2009, 1–7). According to National Statistical Service of Armenia (Armstat (National
Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia) 2012) data for the period of 2008–
2011, 85% of household member labor migrants went to Russia.
Membership in the EAEU aimed to bring free movement of goods, services, and
labor, which are widely presented as important benets. According to that logic,
the access of the Armenian citizens to the Russian labor market would give them
a preferential status after the planned introduction by Russia of a new visa regime
for all citizens of the CIS, with the exception of those coming from CU member
states. Armenian leadership was, therefore, not in a position to be indierent to
the needs and policy preferences of Armenians in Russia. However, the supporters
of that argument failed to foresee that possible economic slowdown or recession
in Russia would lessen demand for Armenian exports and labor.
The largest number of diaspora investors also comes from Russia (29% of all
investors). Although many Russian-Armenian businessmen reveal unwillingness
to invest in the economy of Armenia due to a number of negative factors, like a
high level of corruption in Armenia (Galstyan 2013, 108) or small size of the market,
there are a few dozen Russian-Armenians who invested in Armenia, which makes
them the largest number of diaspora investors (European Training Foundation
and Caucasus Research Resource Centre – Armenia 2013). They possess inuential
business and political connections with both Russian and Armenian policy-mak-
ers. In 2017, seven Armenian businessmen were among the 200 richest people
in Russia with total net assets of USD 15 billion ( 2017). Some of the
largest companies are “Tashir Group”,“Rosgosstrakh”,Luding, “Reso”, “Uniastrum
bank”, “BAMO” etc. (Zakarian 2013, 98).
It is interesting that for years, according to “All Armenian Fund” annual reports,
the amount of nances directed to Armenia from the United States was usually sev-
eral times higher than that of Russia. However, over the past few years, the situation
changed when in 2010 the All Armenian Fund received 2.5 times more donations
from Russia than from the United States. Samvel Karapetyan,real-estate mogul and
the head of the TashirGroup”, has investedextensively in the economy of Armenia;
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he also bought shares of “InterRaouEes” in the “Electric Networks of Armenia” in
2015, after the Electric Yerevan protests in the streets of Yerevan.2 The founding
president of Bamo Company, Murad Muradyan, invested USD 130 million into the
Armenian economy. Another inuential Russian Armenian businessman, Ruben
Vardanyan,3 has started to play a prominent role in business,philanthropic,and
educational projects in Armenia. The Ruben Vardanyan Fund co-nanced the pro-
ject of “TatevRevival” in Armenia at a total cost of USD 45 million. Together with his
wife, he founded the RVVZ family foundation, which nanced the construction of
the Dilijan International School,which, in turn, became part of the United World
College in 2014.
Russian companies and Armenian businessmen living in Russia are also highly
involved in the mining and mineral sectors of Armenia. The correlation between
Russian businessmen and Armenian diplomacy is another aspect that draws the
attention of observers. For instance, in 2013,one of the Armenian billionaires in
the Russian Federation, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of “RESO-Garantia”
(a major Russian insurance company), Sergei Sarkisov, was appointed Armenia’s
Consul General to Los Angeles. His brother, Nikolay Sarkisov, was appointed Consul
General in Lyon upon the opening of that consulate in December 2013. Such
appointments tend to support the hard-to-prove speculations that some of these
individuals pursue their business interests while serving abroad (Ter-Matevosyan
and Drnoian 2016, 73).
Since assuming the oce, President Sargsyan has met with members of the
Armenian community on many occasions. For him, the Armenian community of
Russia is “special in many ways. Its ties to Armenia are much stronger and mul-
ti-sided encompassing political, cultural, and economic areas as well as family
ties, and it leaves its impact on the relations between the Armenians in Russia
and Armenia (Website of the President of the Republic of Armenia 2008). “The
largest Armenian community resides in Russia... [therefore] we have never made a
step aimed against Russia and have no intention which would compel us to make
such a step” he stated later (Website of the President of the Republic of Armenia
2013b). Consequently, the ow of capital from Russia’s Armenian community to
Armenia strengthens Russia’s position in the economic and political spheres of
Armenia. Given the nature of Russian Government, the Diaspora community can
hardly operate in Russia without conforming its interests with the economic, polit-
ical, and foreign policies of Russia. Thus, it can be assumed that many businesses
and nancial organizations of the Armenian Diaspora in Russia can be used as
tools in the hands of the Russian government. Meanwhile, it is dicult to speak
of the Armenian Diaspora in Russia in terms of commonly accepted social identity
and collective interests (Oussatcheva 2001, 20, 21). It also has weak institutional
development which has implications for the identity preservation of Armenians
too (Ter-Matevosyan et al. 2017).
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The article discussed a number of factors that lead the Armenian leadership to
abandon the prospect of association with the EU and opt for the Customs Union.
In addition to a complex set of primary and secondary determinants that shaped
bilateral relations of Russia and Armenia, geopolitical challenges, the closed bor-
ders with Turkey, and the conict in Nagorno-Karabakh also limited Armenia’s stra-
tegic choices. On other hand, the polarization of the integration policies was not
as rigorous back in 2009 as it turned out to be 2–3years later. After Putin’s return
to power as president in May 2012, Russia made a resolute step to accelerate the
building of its own integration alternative. Russia’s assertiveness coincided with
European eorts to build momentum and expand their relations with EaP states
and with the economic crisis in Armenia that has constrained regime’s short-term
choices. It is still dicult to exemplify or measure the level of explicit pressure that
Russia exercised on the Armenian government. Likewise, it is dicult to compre-
hend the depth of commitments that the Armenian Government assumed in its
relations with the EU. However, the fact of the matter is that Armenia successfully
concluded large-scale legal and institutional reforms and later backtracked, which
came to prove that Armenia was unable to overcome a set of domestic and external
predicaments. Post-integration developments also demonstrated clear contradic-
tions between announced policy objectives and outcomes. So far, the EAEU has
not been able to contribute to Armenia’s economy – quite the contrary; it has sig-
nicantly slowed economic performance, adding more weight to the arguments
that were utterly critical of Armenia’s decision to join Russia-led economic union.
1. The Russian ruble had fallen to 50% of its value against US currency at the start of 2014,
whereas the Armenian dram had fallen by only 17% over the same period (ARKA News
Agency 2016).
2. In June 2015, the central Baghramyan Avenue of Yerevan was occupied by thousands
of people who protested against the government’s decision to increase energy prices
by 17%. The civic initiative, which soon became known as Electric Yerevan, initially
attracted mainly young people. Protesters were particularly vocal about the reported
cases of poor management, fraud, and robbery in the energy company owned by
Russians. Some observers tried to trace anti-Russian sentiments at these rallies;
however, it soon became obvious that the protestors demanded from the government
able management of its resources. The Armenian Government responded to it by
agreeing to audit the company.
3. Ruben Vardanyan has been the president of Troika Dialog,” the Chairman of Sberbank,
the general director of Rosgosstrakh, and the Chairman of Ameria Bank. He is also the
coordinator of the development project “Armenia 2020,” "IDeA foundation,” and the
coordinator of the council under the president of the Russian Federation for National
Priority Projects.
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Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
This work was supported by the Norwegian Institute for International Aairs. Research Project:
“Research Beyond the Ivory Tower: Policy and Communications Training for University Teams”.
Grant no. - R QZA -13/0338.
Vahram Ter-Matevosyan
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... Concerning the later, it was the former High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, who acknowledged that the EU's responses to and Moshes (2016) explored EAEU's ability to make a significant impact in the post-Soviet space to achieve deep integration; Vasilyan (2017) considers the challenges of being a member of the EAEU and the repercussions on the country's relations with the EU; Ter-Matevosyan et al., (2017) examines the political and economic implications of Armenia's EAEU membership, providing a number of explanations for that political decision, etc. The current paper focuses on potential possibilities for Armenia to achieve the Russian-European balance and to explore whether the multivector foreign policy can survive in times of raising great power competition. ...
... The European leaders reacted critically, considering that the Russia-led Customs Union and the DCFTA with the EU are not compatible. It has given rise to the prevailing opinion that Armenia's decision was made under Russian pressure and blackmailing (Ter-Matevosyan et al., 2017). According to Cornell (2014), the creation of the Eastern Partnership has intensified the forceful promotion of the Eurasian Union project by V. Putin, because the EU's "soft power" initiative was interpreted by Kremlin as an attempt of the EU to create a "sphere of influence". ...
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The article examines foreign policy challenges regarding Armenia's participation in integration models proposed by the EU and Russia, which have changed their role in the contemporary international relations. The discussion focuses on the case study of Armenia to explore how the country is affected by the growing tensions between the EU and Russia and whether it manages to combine two integration models. It argues that growing tensions between the EU and Russia have not allowed Armenia to achieve the Russian-European balance. However, the multi-vector foreign policy strategy allows to maintain and enhance political and economic cooperation with both parties.
... For example, the November 2014 'Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership' between Russia and Abkhazia triggered suspicion and concern in Tbilisi 15 , but the EU could do nothing more than reiterate its support for Georgia's territorial integrity. While Armenia chose to join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Yerevan welcomed the EU's enhanced offer under the EaP 16 . The 2008 conflict in Georgia and a failed rapprochement with Turkey made the country more vulnerable and the country needed urgency for greater economic modernisation. ...
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Abstract The European Union shares many common interests with the South Caucasus countries. After the last enlargement, the EU’s relations with the South Caucasus countries, have become one of the European Union's main external priorities and this enlargement brought the South Caucasus closer to the EU. In this framework, the European Union is seeking an increasingly close relationship and trying to strengthen ties with South Caucasus countries. The South Caucasus countries were included in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) the Black Sea Synergy (BSS), and the Eastern Partnership (EaP). European Union helps Caucasian states in the implementation of democratic reforms and supports the democratization process in South Caucasus. The aim of this article is to analyze the European union’s relations with the South Caucasian states - Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. This article also examines the historical relations between the European Union and the South Caucasus countries after independence in the 1990s, the EU policy on the South Caucasus region within the framework of the Eastern Partnership program and the recent negotiations between the European Union and the countries of the South Caucasus in different fields.
... For instance, it agreed to discounted gas exports to Ukraine in exchange of the 25year extension of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol, an agreement that was terminated after the annexation of Crimea (Pirani, Stern, and Yafimava 2010). In Armenia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, Russia committed to subsidised gas supplies in return of Gazprom's acquisition of strategic gas assets and a commitment by the partner country not to reform the domestic gas sector (Boute 2019a;Sagramoso 2020;Ter-Matevosyan et al. 2017). Gas supplies through the intermediary of Gazprom "serve as a tool for preserving Russia's geopolitical impact" in the region (Mitrova 2014). ...
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The common characterisation of European Union (EU) and Russian external energy relations as liberal versus realist does not do justice to the efforts of both entities to shape energy market regulation in their shared neighbourhood. This article aims to contribute to the understanding of energy regulation as a tool of strategic influence by examining from a geopolitical perspective how the EU, Russia and, to a lesser extent, China attempt to shape gas pricing and pipeline access regimes in the post-Soviet Eurasian space. A geopolitical analysis of regulatory convergence in the region helps understand how liberal concepts of energy regulation acquire a strategic function when exported to contested spheres of influence, with important consequences for the legitimacy and acceptability of these regulatory models. The EU, Russia and China recognise common principles of gas market regulation at the domestic level, but geopolitical considerations, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, prevent the implementation of these principles at the regional level, hindering the transition of this contested neighbourhood towards more efficient energy systems and reduced dependence on Russian supplies.
... This decision was crucial for Moscow, because its opposition to signing similar documents by Moldova and Ukraine (which are not Russian allies) had been ignored. Armenia's choice in favor of the EAEU was driven not so much by economic motives as by the strategic importance of Russian security guarantees [Ghazaryan and Delcour 2017;Ter-Matevosyan 2017]. ...
Since the second half of the 20th century, military alliance ceased to play an essential role in ensuring the security of major powers. Meanwhile, asymmetric alliances, in which a major power remained an incontestable leader surrounded by weak parties, proliferated across international system. The literature explains these relationships in terms of an exchange in dissimilar benefits between states, following the formula “security for autonomy”. This explanation seems generally plausible, but it does not reveal exact benefits for a major power from establishing control over the weak states. This article intends to deepen our theoretical understanding of why states resort to asymmetric alliances and to test the significance of suggested propositions through an in-depth analysis of the Russian record of alliances. Russia built allied relations with several neighbors but does not extend similar mechanisms to partners in other geographic areas. This policy is puzzling, since it comes into dissonance with the foreign policy stance that international security and global order should be built on the principle of the indivisibility of security and inclusive international institutions. In its foreign policy discourse Russia strongly condemns closed formats with limited participation. The study solves two interrelated problems. First, it helps to deepen understanding of Russian foreign policy strategy and the role of various instruments of military-political cooperation in ensuring national interests. Secondly, it allows to test the provisions of the theory of asymmetric alliances, assessing its applicability to a hard case. The article reveals Russia’s sensitivity to direct and opportunity costs as well as to potential risks of binding security commitments. However, it relies on asymmetric alliances with neighboring countries to reap the benefits of increasing power projection opportunities, legitimizing its foreign policy initiatives, limiting freedom of maneuver for its competitors, and stabilizing its strategic surrounding. The Russian experience of building relations with allies differs significantly from the American one, which, due to the scale of the US alliance network, is often presented as a model one. Nevertheless, it is quite consistent with the provisions of the theory of asymmetric alliances.
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On September 3rd 2013, President Serzh Sargsyan announced that Armenia would abandon its proposed Association Agreement with the European Union after years of negotiations. In place of this agreement, Armenia would pursue full membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Although this abrupt decision came as a surprise to Armenian political actors and many western observers, this development was the product of years of political maneuvering by Moscow towards Armenia as part of the creation of an alternative model of regional integration within the former Soviet Union. Considering that the European Union and Russia held relative parity with one another as trading partners of Armenia and both Brussels and Moscow held close diplomatic ties with Yerevan this begs the question: what specifically allowed Russia to pry Armenia away from its path of European Integration and secure Yerevan’s membership in the EAEU? In exploring Sargsyan’s decision, this paper will investigate the elements differentiating Russia and Europe’s trading relationship with Armenia, differences between Brussels’ and Moscow’s ability to act as an energy provider to Armenia, and Moscow’s role as a guarantor of security to Yerevan.
El presente artículo tiene por objeto analizar la actuación de la Unión Europea en relación con el conflicto entre Armenia y Azerbaiyán sobre Nagorno-Karabaj. Con este fin, el trabajo describe, en primer lugar, la evolución a grandes rasgos del conflicto. En segundo lugar, el artículo analiza el papel de la Unión Europea en el conflicto y las medidas que propone para contribuir a su resolución en el marco de la relación que la Unión mantiene con los dos Estados implicados en el mismo, con los que colabora a través de la Política de Vecindad y la Asociación Oriental. Finalmente, el trabajo presenta una serie de consideraciones a modo de conclusión en las que se destaca el papel que la Unión Europea puede desempeñar en el futuro en relación con este conflicto.
The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is a regional association comprised of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. The EAEU is a highly asymmetrical entity with a single dominant power. It is also one of the most deeply integrated and densely institutionalised regional associations. This article demonstrates that although the dominant power retains the ability to disregard constraints imposed on it, smaller partners can exert more leverage in this context than most observers realise. The analysis of the dense institutional framework within the EAEU demonstrates how smaller states can exercise leverage in their asymmetrical relations with Russia and how binding commitments, voice opportunities and multilateralisation can trump material inferiority.
This article analyzes how China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has affected the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) as a project of regional economic integration. In particular, it examines whether the EAEU and the BRI are transforming the regional division of labor in the EAEU and providing the EAEU economic periphery new opportunities for industrialization and technological upgrading through insertion into international production networks. By comparing the EAEU and the BRI with other regional economic integration processes such as the EU, NAFTA, ASEAN+3 and Mercosur, it highlights the limits of the EAEU as a tool for economic integration and for enhancing Russia’s economic leadership in the region.
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The volume presents the results of a study of formal and informal groups and mechanisms within Armenia's political, economic and military elites, aiming to reveal trends in formal institution-building and the changing role of informality in Armenia's power system since its independence from the USSR. The study relies on data from over 50 interviews with elite actors, backed up by archive materials, media stories, and expert opinions. A separate case study looks at the emergence and evolution of the Armenian army.
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The article examines and compares the institutional structures of Armenian diasporas of Russia and Lebanon with the intention of identifying factors that could explain the diverging outcomes in institution building and identity preservation in these communities. The study also aims to contribute to the current understanding of how different diasporic communities of the same diaspora can have discrepancies in terms of their characteristics, institutional structures and policy outcomes. Based on the existing theoretical literature, the article explores the main factors that influence the characteristics of particular communities, including discussion of conditions in the hostland, the origins of community as well as the level of institutionalization of diasporic organizations. The article also explains the role of each of these factors and triangulates them with the results of in-depth interviews conducted with the representatives all core diasporic institutions in both countries. Concentrating on the characteristics of existing diasporic institutions, the article emphasizes the importance of interconnection and cooperation of those institutions in implementation of strategies and practices of identity preservation in the diaspora. The existing literature on the Armenian diaspora tends to either portray it as a homogenous entity or concentrate on case studies, that is, communities and subgroups. Hence, comparative studies of different communities within a single diaspora are understudied.
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While the geopolitical rivalry between the European Union (EU) and Russia over their common neighborhood has increasingly attracted academic and public attention, relatively little is known of its actual influence on domestic institutions and policies. This special issue aims to address this deficit by investigating the joint impact of the EU and Russia on the domestic dynamics of sectoral reform in neighboring countries (NCs) – a key declared goal of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and the Eastern Partnership (EaP) – in the areas of trade, natural resources, and migration and mobility. It examines the nature of the instruments deployed by the EU and Russia to change domestic reform processes and their impact on domestic actors in the post-Soviet space. This introductory article outlines the key research questions to which answers have been sought by experts in their respective fields and summarizes their key empirical findings in the context of broader conceptual debates. Overall, the contributions to this special issue find a strong disconnect between participation in the EU’s or Russia’s macro-frameworks for regional integration and domestic sectoral reforms. We show that despite the increasing external competition over the post-Soviet space, domestic actors remain the key agents to account for the pattern of change in the contested neighborhood.
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Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) are a cornerstone of the Deep and Comprehensive Free-Trade Areas (DCFTAs) negotiated between the European Union (EU) and Eastern European Neighborhood Countries (NCs) under the Eastern Partnership. These are expected to eliminate quotas as well as both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, thus improving the existing export opportunities for food and feed products from Ukraine, Moldova, and South Caucasus countries. However, NCs face multifaceted challenges in meeting the stringent EU regulatory and administrative requirements in the SPS area. Domestically, in light of Soviet legacies (including a food safety system which deeply differed from WTO-compliant standards), approximation with EU SPS standards requires massive reforms and involve high costs for partner countries – to be borne not only by state authorities but also private businesses. Yet reforms to comply with EU demands are also closely intertwined with regional interdependencies and Russia’s bilateral and multilateral policies. The article scrutinizes the interplay between domestic preferences, EU demands for reform and Russia’s policies. It points to a complex and multifaceted relationship between engagement into a macro-level regional framework and shifting sectoral compliance patterns. The paper highlights disjunctures between sector-specific compliance processes with EU demands, on the one hand, and macro-level relations between these countries and the EU and Russia on the other. As the article argues, this is because external actors’ policies are filtered by domestic interests, preferences, and practices. Ultimately, these shape the adoption and application of external templates.
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The question of why some countries adopt external policy is particularly salient with regard to Armenia. All indicators suggest that Armenia would be unlikely to respond to EU stimuli for reform. And yet, in the early 2010s, Armenia vigorously adopted EU policy and institutional templates. This article seeks to explain this conundrum by exploring how EU policies (especially under the Eastern Partnership) feed into the domestic context and meet the agenda of national elites. The article deliberately departs from the mainstream explanations of ‘Europeanisation beyond accession’ and argues that closer scrutiny of the domestic context is a sine qua non for making sense of the baffling discrepancies in neighbouring states’ responses to EU policies. The case of Armenia vividly demonstrates the imperative for re-assessing the approaches that have so far focused on EU-level factors and for bringing together EU variables with a detailed analysis of the domestic and regional contexts.
In a perceptive and arresting analysis, Robin Cohen introduces his distinctive approach to the study of the world's diasporas. This book investigates the changing meanings of the concept and the contemporary diasporic condition, including case studies of Jewish, Armenian, African, Chinese, British, Indian, Lebanese and Caribbean people. The first edition of this book had a major impact on diaspora studies and was the foundational text in an emerging research and teaching field. This second edition extends and clarifies Robin Cohen's argument, addresses some critiques and outlines new perspectives for the study of diasporas. It has also been made more student-friendly with illustrations, guided readings and suggested essay questions.
In the West are the 'haves', while much of the rest of the world are the 'have-nots'. The extent of inequality today is unprecedented. Drawing on an extraordinary range of contemporary and historical examples, Why Nations Fail looks at the root of the problems facing some nations. Economists and scientists have offered useful insights into the reasons for certain aspects of poverty, such as Jeffrey Sachs (it's geography and the weather), and Jared Diamond (it's technology and species). But most theories ignore the incentives and institutions that populations need to invest and prosper: they need to know that if they work hard, they can make money and actually keep it - and the key to ensuring these incentives is sound institutions. Incentives and institutions are what separate the have and have-nots. Based on fifteen years of research, and stepping boldly into the territory of Ian Morris's Why the West Rules - For Now, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson blend economics, politics, history and current affairs to provide a new, persuasive way of understanding wealth and poverty. And, perhaps most importantly, they provide a pragmatic basis for the hope that those mired in poverty can be placed on the path to prosperity.