By Anna Saghabalian
A roundtable attended by representatives of Armenia’s different political forces on Wednesday in the main agreed that Armenia is still an unequal partner in declared relations of strategic allies with Russia, but commented differently on this “reality”.
Opposition lawmaker Shavarsh Kocharian, known for his pro-Western attitudes, made a historical excursus trying to prove that the legend that Russia has always backed Armenia has nothing to do with reality. He mentioned the fact that it was Russia that handed over Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan and supplied more weapons and ammunition to Armenia’s neighbor when the two countries were at war in the early 1990s.
“Life prods Armenia towards democracy, and Russia is performing the functions of the preserver of authoritarian regimes in the post-Soviet territories,” Shavarsh Kocharian said.
Aram Manukian, a representative of the Armenian Nationwide Movement that ruled the country during the years of the Karabakh war, disagreed with the opinion that Russia supplied more arms to Azerbaijan than to Armenia, saying that “one should not judge by official figures.”
He accused the ruling coalition for the current slave/master relations with Russia in which Armenia appears in the role of a slave.
Manukian also expressed his concern with Russia’s growing presence in Armenia. “If Armenia has more democratic, patriotic and pragmatic authorities tomorrow, it will face multiple difficulties, because Russian oligarchs will be a serious factor in Yerevan,” he said.
Another pro-Western oppositionist, leader of the Liberal Progressive Party Hovannes Hovannisian, reminded the 2003 presidential elections and the inauguration of the Armenian president attended by a small delegation from Russia.
“Six people came for the president’s inauguration from Russia, and no one else from the world came. The impression was that a governor of a Russian province had been elected and people came from Russia’s center to congratulate that governor,” he said.
Meanwhile, Artarutyun parliamentary faction member Hrant Khachatrian says Russia’s support for authoritarian regimes does not mean that “we should regard any proposal coming from the West as democratic and discard any proposal from Russia as the one containing risks of autocracy and dictatorship.”
Democratic Party leader Aram Sarkisian also blamed the Armenian authorities for the country’s low profile in relations with its “big brother” to the north. At the same time, he acknowledged the existence of a number of objective factors for that.
“If Armenia could ensure its national security itself it would be pointless to speak about any orientation, but because it can’t, it has to have this orientation,” he said.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian politician Aram Karapetian of the opposition “New Times” party fully justified the Russian economic presence in Armenia both in the energy sector and in other spheres. “The Russian capital already penetrates different spheres. But can we say that German or French capital is better?” he asked rhetorically to substantiate his point.
The only representative of Armenia’s ruling coalition at the roundtable, spokesman for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s governing Bureau Giro Manoyan called Russia’s treating Armenia the way it used to do in the Soviet years inadmissible.
“Another reality is that stronger parties in strategic alliances always try to have this type of relationship. But it does not mean that we must accept it,” he said. “If we are not strong enough, we will always become toys in the hands of anyone, be it Russia or the West. That’s why we must grow stronger internally, and the only way for that is democracy.”