Gerard Libaridian, a prominent U.S.-Armenian scholar who had held senior posts in Armenia’s first post-Soviet government, on Wednesday downplayed the significance of a new Russian-Armenian military agreement that will be signed this week.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Libaridian insisted that the agreement can not serve as a safeguard against a renewed war in Nagorno-Karabakh and only highlight Armenia’s failure to make peace with Azerbaijan and Turkey.
“The country’s security will be tied to the military field much more than with the diplomatic one,” he said. “That means we have not managed to solve our problems with neighbors.”
The deal will take the form of amendments to a 1995 Russian-Armenian treaty that formalized the presence of Russian troops in Armenia. Libaridian served at the time as a national security adviser to then President Levon Ter-Petrosian. He was also Yerevan’s top Karabakh negotiator in the early and mid-1990s.
The amendments will extend Russia’s lease on the Armenia base by 24 years, to 2044, and upgrade its mission. They stipulate that the Russian troops will have to not only protect “interests of the Russian Federation” but also “ensure the security of the Republic of Armenia” jointly with the Armenian army. They also commit Russia to supplying its regional ally with “modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware.”
According to top representatives of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), this will discourage Azerbaijan from attempting to solve the Karabakh conflict by force. Some of them also say that the amended treaty will commit Moscow to supporting the Armenian side in case of renewed fighting in Karabakh.
Libaridian dismissed such claims. “The 1995 treaty has a provision, which I’m sure will remain in the new one, that if there are military hostilities within Armenia’s borders Russian won’t automatically come to [Armenia’s] aid,” he said.
“That is, if one party [to the treaty] is subjected to attack, there will be consultations with the other,” he added. “It’s the other side that will decide whether or not to participate [in the war.] And I don’t think that provision will be changed.”
Libaridian, who presently teaches Armenian history at the University of Michigan, claimed that Russia will definitely defend Armenia only if the latter is attacked by Turkey. “But in the case of Azerbaijan, I’m not sure that Russia would come to Armenia’s aid because I’m sure that Azerbaijan would not launch such an attack without Moscow tacit or vocal consent,” he said.
The amendments are expected to be signed during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Armenia that begins on Thursday. The trip will be followed by an informal summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led defense pact of seven former Soviet republics, including Armenia.