The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) believes that Armenia had no choice but to extend and deepen its military ties with Russia through a new defense agreement, a leader of the influential opposition party said on Tuesday.
Armen Rustamian, the de facto head of Dashnaktsutyun’s organization in Armenia, also said that the collapse of the Turkish-Armenian normalization process was a major factor behind that agreement.
The deal, signed during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s recent visit to Yerevan, extended the presence of Russian troops in Armenia until 2044 and upgraded their role in ensuring the country’s security. It also committed Moscow to supplying the Armenian military with modern weaponry.
Presenting his party’s official position on the pact, Rustamian argued that no other foreign power is ready to give Armenia such security guarantees. “It is probably not a secret to anyone that 80 percent of our military security -- in fact, much more than that -- is today conditioned by our relations with Russia,” he told a news conference. “So in terms of military security, Armenia today has no viable alternative. This is a fact.”
“Therefore, any step aimed at enhancing that volume [of Russian-Armenian military cooperation] is by and large positive,” he added.
The Armenian National Congress (HAK), a more radical opposition force led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, has also reacted positively to the Russian-Armenian deal. Still, HAK representatives have said it would be offset by the possible sale of sophisticated Russian air-defense missiles to Azerbaijan.
The deal has been strongly criticized by another major opposition group, the Zharangutyun (Heritage) Party of Raffi Hovannisian. Zharangutyun leaders have questioned Armenian officials’ claims that the Russian troops would openly side with Armenia in the event of another war with Azerbaijan.
Rustamian, who also heads the Armenian parliament’s committee on foreign relations, said closer military ties with Russia are particularly vital for Armenia following the collapse its dramatic rapprochement with Turkey, which has been fiercely opposed by Dashnaktsutyun. He claimed that the process has only strengthened the Turkish-Azerbaijani relationship and increased the likelihood of renewed war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“We have created a much more dangerous situation for ourselves,” said Rustamian. “To a certain extent, this step [the signing of the Russian-Armenian pact] was dictated by that.”