Armenia that so solemnly celebrated the 20th anniversary of its independence and is about to leave the jubilee year behind, now faces an apparently difficult choice: to intensify the relations with the European Union or re-orient itself toward the newly shaping Eurasian Union, which is a Russian, more precisely Putin’s idea with the hidden hopes for the reincarnation of the USSR. On November 18, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus signed in Moscow a declaration, proclaiming the intention to create a Eurasian Union, and appointed a special commission to work in this direction. The same days the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton paid an official visit to the South Caucasus, including Yerevan. During her visit Armenian officials once again assured that their country’s aim is to build a state, based on European standards. “Our goal is clear, and we have already made such statements several times: we see Armenia as a prosperous state, built on European standards, and we are ready to move forward just this way,” – said Serj Sargsyan, receiving Baroness Ashton. Promising assurances of being committed to the European standards were made by Prime-Minister Tigran Sargsyan in Brussels, where he presented the application of his Republican Party for membership in the European People’s Party.
Let us put away the sincerity of the Armenian leadership in their declarations and the question, whether such statements are supported by the political will or not. Sooner or later Armenia will be forced to declare its attitude to the Russian idea about the Eurasian Union. Moreover, Armenia has already started doing it: the Prime Minister signed in St. Petersburg a CIS free trade zone agreement, which Russia presents as an anteroom to the Eurasian Union. However, unlike Kazakhstan and Belarus, Armenia avoids expressing straight opinions about the Eurasian Union for the time being. After the Russian President Putin the heads of the two above-mentioned countries also published articles about this union, naturally, welcoming its creation and, taking into account the perspectives of the speed of the process, Armenia will be hardly able to avoid expressing its official position on the matter for any long time.
Can Armenia reject the Eurasian Union? Armenia’s justification of not joining the Customs Unions is the lack of common borders with the CU members, but in the case with the Eurasian Union, such justifications might not work.
Many could disagree, saying that there is no difficult choice at all, and Armenia can easily combine statements regarding the European Union and Eurasian Union, declaring them in here and there, as far as the initiators of the Eurasian Union – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan also insist that their Union does not oppose itself to the European Union. However, it is on the level of declarations. Actually, the Eurasian Union is unable refrain from opposing the EU just by a simple reason: the Eurasian Union is organized by the countries, the internal situation of which absolutely does not correspond to the values, lying in the basis of the European Union. Even more, the motivation to create the Eurasian Union was just the difference, stemming from the rupture in the way of thinking and the system of values. If we add to it the difference in the political interest, then we will see clearly that the European Union and the Eurasian Union are becoming antagonistic poles, approximately like the NATO and the Warsaw Treaty countries. Now this difference will be put on the political and economic levels, as far as the modern geopolitical realities do not permit putting the antagonism on the militarized level: all parties wisely avoid it, although many of them are forced to do it. However, this is an issue for some other discussion, not less extensive than the one, claiming that Armenia faces a difficult choice.
Armenia can combine packages of declarations, but it will be hardly able to combine the policies. In this case combining becomes fully impossible, because the Eurasian Union will require absolutely different internal policy from the one, required by the European Union. As a matter of fact, it will be very difficult to build a state according to the EU standards and be a member of the union, controlled by the countries, shaped and governed by completely different standards. So Armenia will have to give up the intention to build a state by European standards, or to reject the Eurasian Union, which would be equal to rejection of Russia.
Is Armenia capable to do it? Naturally, it is capable, and even more: Armenia is obliged to do it, as far as it makes a choice not between Europe or Eurasia. In fact, Armenia chooses or rejects security, prosperity, the possibility of becoming a compatible country. The question is not, which of the two Armenia should love more – the West or Russia? The question is whether we want to love our own state. If we want to love our state, it means that we should be guided by its interests. And this interest requires that Armenia should move on in line with the European system of values, because only in this case Armenia is able to realize its most important resource – the creative potential of people. And only in case of realization of this potential Armenia can become a state, enjoying maximal sovereignty, able to avoid the observer role in the issues, immediately concerning itself, as well as in the issues, posing a global interest. Armenia can sway its own destiny.
And again, the question is not by whom Armenia is loved more, Russia or Europe, presenting their own versions of the future perspective. Both Europe and Russia are guided by their own political and economic interests, which is quite natural for geopolitics. The question is that the current state-strategic interest of Armenia coincides with the strategic interest of Europe, which should be used by us as much as possible, because this interest is not perpetual and can change with time. But if we, as a state and as a society, will be able to take advantage from the harmony of interests and build a reliable state and public building on the European values, so we will not be afraid of divergence of interests, as far as we will stand firmly on our feet. And our internal compatibility will guarantee that Europe and all other forces would consider us as a partner, taking into account our interests, not as a victim or a token-money, as it had been for several hundred years.
Thus, although Armenia now faces the difficult choice, apparently, the state interest does not leave any choice for Armenia: the only way is toward European values and civilization space. Either Armenia moves forward this way, or Armenia will be led any other way, and we will not be able even to resist. Certainly, it may bring to upsetting situations in the relations with Russia. But in case of implementation of internal reforms, Armenia can become stronger, and on the one hand, it would be easier to overcome possible problems with the Russian leadership, because the reforms will provide the Armenian authorities with the public support, and on the other hand, the real and sincere reforms will let getting much wider support from Europe. By the way, Europe hinted quite clearly on the matter: on the level of high-ranking European officials, and by the words of the President of France, one of the pillars of Europe.
As a whole, the current situation proves that the twenty-year history of the independent Armenia has been ineffective, to put it mildly. Armenia faced a similar choice before gaining the independence. This choice supposes first of all the key orientation in the sense of the civilization space. Armenia has avoided any orientation all these 20 years, being afraid of modernization of the country and thinking that it is the interests of the authorities are priority, not the state interests. Meanwhile, it is the state that can solve the objectives of the authorities. If the matter of power is priority, it will inevitably cause problems for the state. So as far as after 20 years since gaining its independence the Armenian state still faces the civilization choice, and that from time to time this choice becomes more urgent, then it means that the past 20 years have been ineffective.
The 20th anniversary of independence of the post-Soviet Armenia should have been marked with a milestone of the already made effective choice, but not with a critical point of the vital dilemma.