The new Russian-Armenian defense agreement will make renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh less likely and in no way impede Armenia’s growing cooperation with NATO, President Serzh Sarkisian said in an interview published on Friday.
“You know, I did that with pleasure,” he told the Ukrainian magazine “Profil,” commenting on the August 20 signing in Yerevan of amendments to a 1995 treaty regulating the presence of a Russian military base in Armenia.
The amendments prolonged that presence by 24 years, until 2004, and gave the Russian troops a greater role in ensuring the South Caucasus state’s security. They also stipulate that Moscow will supply the Armenian military with modern weaponry.
“We live in a region where there are many threats and dangers,” said Sarkisian. “In some cases, some countries even question Armenians’ right to live in their historical homeland. For historical and modern reasons, the likelihood of armed clashes in our region is great.”
“This is a serious factor of non-resumption of hostilities, a good opportunity to rearm our army in accordance with modern standards,” he added in reference to the agreement. “Therefore, I think that this extension [of the Russian troop presence] stems from our national interests.”
Some senior figures in Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) have claimed that Russia effectively committed itself to siding with Armenia in case of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Karabakh. Russian leaders, however, do not confirm this and downplay the new pact with Yerevan in public.
Sarkisian also insisted that deeper military ties with Russia and membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will not affect Armenia’s growing cooperation with NATO, something which he said is part of its broader foreign policy strategy. “We manage to have very good relations with the USA on the one hand and Iran on the other,” he said. “With Russia on the one hand and Georgia on the other.
“Why? Because we are pursuing a policy of sincerity. We are not trying to draw benefits from disagreements between other countries. The best thing for us is when the interests of the USA and Russia converge. NATO and CSTO are not rivals.”
“Cooperation with NATO enables us to modernize our army, carry out reforms, and look for correct modern ways of building a security system,” the Armenian leader told “Profil.”
Robert Simmons, NATO’s special representative to the South Caucasus, similarly stated on Wednesday that the Russian-Armenian pact will not adversely affect the Western alliance’s ties with Armenia. “These two things are balanced and one doesn’t make the other more difficult,” he said.