(Saturday, August 16)
“Zhamanak” chides the Armenian society for its “surprisingly calm” reaction to news of the upcoming prolongation of Russian military presence in Armenia. The pro-opposition paper claims that the Russian military bases in Armenia and Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be incorporated into Russia’s Southern Military District, something which means Moscow views Armenia as its “southern region.” “It is no accident that without asking our opinion, [the Russians] are declaring the base stationed in our territory a unit directed against Georgia,” the paper says. It quotes Van Bayburd, an ethnic Armenian aide to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, as denouncing these developments.
Karen Avagian, a pro-government lawmaker heading the Armenian parliamentary delegation at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, assures “Zhamanak” that NATO will not react negatively to the deepening of Russian-Armenian military cooperation. “In my view, they will not assess that fact negatively,” he says. “Membership in NATO is not on our foreign policy agenda, while our cooperation over various programs is continuing and nothing will hamper it.”
Speaking to “Aravot,” Yerjanik Abgarian, a senior member of the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) critical of Russia, points out that the new Russian-Armenian defense pact will specifically task the Russian base with protecting Armenia’s security. “In essence, this means that the Russian base [in Armenia] has until now defended only Russia’s interests,” says Abgarian. “And yet our ruling gang has always trumpeted that the Russian base was deployed to defend Armenia. In fact, with that amendment, the Russians have demonstrated that this has not been the case until now.” Abgarian also says the agreement does not clarify against whom the Russian troops will defend Armenia. He is worried that they might be used against the Armenian opposition. “The Russians are thus trying to gain a right to meddle in our country’s internal affairs,” concludes Abgarian.
“Hraparak” complains that Armenia is still unable “rid itself of the status of an outpost of the Russian Empire, the Soviet and post-Soviet legacies and the false and artificial CIS and CSTO systems.” “How can it rid itself of that when our economic is increasingly dependent on Russian capital and policy every hour, when they extend, rather than close, the military bases and are striving to gain Russia’s absolute sympathy in the South Caucasus?” asks the pro-opposition daily.