By Armen Zakarian
An opinion poll made public by a private Yerevan-based think-tank on Friday showed Russia topping the list of countries that are considered friendly by the majority of Armenians.
Researchers from the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) said 89.2 percent of 2,000 people randomly polled by them across the country described Russia as a friendly nation. They said France comes second in the rankings with almost three-quarters of the respondents thinking well of it.
According to the survey results, only 46.8 percent described the United States as Armenia’s friend, while neighboring Iran got almost 50 percent support. They show that Georgia is perceived to be more neutral than friendly by Armenians.
The ACNIS pollsters said 77 percent of them stand for a deepening of Armenia’s already close relations with Russia. Just over half and one third of them would like stronger ties with the European Union and the U.S respectively.
This contrasts sharply with the findings of a parallel survey of political and economic experts conducted by the ACNIS. The vast majority of them want closer links with the West rather than Russia. Only about one fifth of the experts interviewed by the think-tank support the continued presence of the Russian military base in Armenia. Forty percent said they would be happy to see both Russian and NATO bases stationed in Armenian territory.
Predictably, Armenia’s two other neighbors, Azerbaijan and Turkey, were overwhelmingly identified as “enemies,” with 91 percent and 78 percent of the ordinary respondents subscribing to that view respectively. About half of them considered the threat of a new war with Azerbaijan to be the main challenge to Armenia’s national security.
The poll also suggests that less than half of ordinary Armenians explicitly support the reopening of their country’s border with Turkey, according to the ACNIS survey. About as many of them believe that a full reconciliation between the two peoples is impossible without Turkish recognition of the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, 56.3 percent said the Turks are capable of committing another genocide and should not be trusted.
(Photolur archive: Russian border guards marching in their base in Gyumri, Armenia.)