By Anna Saghabalian
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on Wednesday publicly took issue with a senior Russian official who has described Armenia as Russia’s main “outpost” in the South Caucasus.
Boris Gryzlov, the pro-Kremlin speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, made the comment during a visit to Yerevan earlier this month. It was apparently meant to praise the Armenian government’s close military and political ties with his country. However, official Yerevan has since been facing embarrassing attacks from opposition politicians and media portraying Gryzlov’s description as a manifestation of Armenia’s “subordination” to its former Soviet master.
“I think that that word does not correctly express the nature of our relations,” said Oskanian. “I think that Mr. Gryzlov referred to our truly good relations. He just didn’t use the right word.”
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev was quick to seize upon Gryzlov’s remark. "We are confused: We have always considered Armenia a state, but now it turns out that it is an outpost," he said on Friday.
President Robert Kocharian hit back the next day, suggesting that Baku is “jealous” about the Russian-Armenian alliance. Oskanian, for his part, claimed that Armenia is more independent in the international arena than its ex-Soviet neighbors more oriented toward the West.
“Their dependence is much deeper and their room for maneuvers is more limited,” he said.