By Emil Danielyan
Armenians find accession to the European Union preferable to their current membership in the Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States and would like their government to forge closer links with NATO, according to an opinion poll released over the weekend.
Vox Populi, an independent polling organization, said only one in four persons interviewed by it across Armenia late last month wants to remain part of the loose grouping of 12 ex-Soviet states in the future. As many as 72 percent of just over 1,000 respondents said, with varying degrees of conviction, that their country’s future lies with the EU.
The survey also found unexpectedly strong support among Armenians, traditionally oriented to Russia, for closer ties with NATO, with 29 percent saying that Yerevan should primarily rely on the U.S.-led alliance for safeguarding national security. Another 29 percent believe that Armenia should maintain equally close military ties with both Russia and NATO. Only 38 percent of respondents said the military alliance with Russia should remain the bedrock of Armenian security policy.
Public opinion, according to the Vox Populi poll, is evenly split on the question of whether Armenia should be led by pro-Russian or pro-Western leaders. Each of the two foreign policy orientations is backed by approximately one third of Armenian citizens. Twenty-six percent want their rulers to be equally sympathetic to Russia and the West, the survey shows.
The findings of the poll are rather unexpected given the long history of pro-Russian sentiment in Armenia, a key factor cementing the close post-Soviet relationship between Yerevan and Moscow.
They seem to be in conflict with another poll conducted by the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) in August. It showed Russia topping the list of foreign nations considered friendly by the majority of Armenians. ACNIS pollsters found 77 percent popular support for a further strengthening of Russian-Armenian links.
This contrasted sharply with the findings of a parallel survey of political and economic experts conducted by the Yerevan-based private think tank. The vast majority of them wanted closer links with the EU and the United States as opposed to Russia.