In an interview with “Zhamanak,” a senior member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), Davit Shahnazarian, expresses concern over the possible sale of Russian S-300 air-defense systems to Azerbaijan. “If that sale goes ahead after all, Nagorno-Karabakh’s capacity to strike back at Azerbaijan in case the latter provokes a war will be substantially limited,” says Shahnazarian. He criticizes the Armenian government for avoiding any public reaction to news reports about the possible Russian-Azerbaijani deal.
“Hayots Ashkhar” says that with the United States seemingly losing interest in countries of the former Soviet Union, Turkey and Iran are emerging as Russia’s main rivals in the South Caucasus. The paper says the formation of a single command for Russian troops stationed in the North Caucasus, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Armenia is aimed at countering Turkish and Iranian influences.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” says the biggest flaw of a new Russian-Armenian defense pact extending Russian military presence in Armenia by 24 years is that “we don’t know how Armenia is going to use the time provided by it.” “If the policy of preserving the status quo [in the Karabakh conflict] continues, we must already think about what else we will pay for that luxury with,” editorializes the paper. “We have already given [the Russians] the energy sector, the railway, the telecommunications sector, the gas distribution network, the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, and are giving the Russian base all possible and impossible privileges.”
“Aravot” says it is extremely difficult to tell apart pro-Western and pro-Russian elements within Armenia’s ruling elite. “If you import petrol, flour or sugar from Russia without paying all taxes, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are pro-Russian,” editorializes the paper. “Or if you speak English and politely smile to representatives of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank and then distribute their money with huge kickbacks, that doesn’t testify at all to your Western orientation.” The paper says neither Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, nor his supposedly pro-Western and reform-minded entourage stand a chance of becoming someone like Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
For all his “failings and adventures,” Saakashvili has lived up to some of his nation’s expectations since coming to power in 2003, continues “Aravot.” “As is widely known, there are no people with such reputations in our government,” it says. “If Western power centers try to turn any of our ministers into a revolutionary, they will be deeply disappointed.”