Artur Baghdasarian, the secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council, tried on Wednesday to allay domestic concerns over the anticipated extension and upgrading of Russian military presence in the country.
The Armenian and Russian governments are expected to sign soon an agreement that will assign the Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri a greater role in ensuring Armenia’s security. The agreement taking the form of amendments to a 1995 Russian-Armenian treaty will also likely extend its mandate, due to expire in 2020, for at least 24 more years.
Some Armenian opposition politicians and pundits have expressed serious concern about this development. They say it would make Armenia more dependent on Russia by giving Moscow more say in key government decisions relating to the South Caucasus state’s security.
Baghdasarian, whose council comprises Armenia’s top state officials and advises President Serzh Sarkisian, dismissed such concerns as “absurd.” “There are genuine concerns and mere [political] exploitations,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “If there are really concerned people, I will just tell them that there is nothing to be worried about.”
“The Republic of Armenia is a sovereign state with its own armed forces and the capacity to ensure its security,” said Baghdasarian. “But the deepening of bilateral cooperation with an ally and strategic partner like Russia in various directions can only be welcome.”
It is not yet clear whether the Russian-Armenian treaty will be amended during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Yerevan scheduled for next week. The Interfax news agency reported late last month that Medvedev has already received a “protocol” from the Russian government detailing the planned amendments. It said the document stipulates that the Kremlin will also supply the Armenian military with “modern and compatible weaponry and (special) military hardware.”