Armenia’s second most important parliamentary party led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian said on Wednesday that it supports, in principle, the country’s accession to a Russian-led “Eurasian Union” of former Soviet republics.
Tigran Urikhanian, a spokesman for the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), argued that Armenia is already part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-dominated military alliance, and has close economic ties with other ex-Soviet states. He said this can “serve as a basis” for Armenian membership of the union championed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“However, that declarative program [on the Eurasian Union] … is not yet underpinned by pragmatic provisions; no proposals have been presented on the basis of which we could deliver a final verdict,” Urikhanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Putin floated the idea of the union in a newspaper article published late last year. He said it would be built around the existing customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
The Armenian government has repeatedly ruled out Armenia’s membership in the customs union, arguing that Armenia has no common border with any of its member states. Successive governments in Yerevan have cited the same reason for not joining the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec), a looser grouping of Russia and four other ex-Soviet republics. Armenia has only an observer status in the Eurasec.
Galust Sahakian, a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), suggested on Wednesday that the Eurasian Union will hardly ever materialize. He claimed that Russia is mainly concerned with forging closer economic links with the rest of the ex-USSR.
Urikhanian disagreed with those who believe that the Kremlin and Putin in particular are keen to recreate the Soviet Union. “At the moment they are talking about the format of an international grouping,” the BHK spokesman said. “Even if it becomes something like a confederate state, then we will demand that such a union be based on the equality of nations, states and peoples.”
The BHK support for the Eurasian Union may rekindle media speculation that former President Robert Kocharian, widely regarded as Tsarukian’s political patron, is seeking Moscow’s backing for his alleged efforts to return to power.
Kocharian is known to have repeatedly met Putin in Moscow (most recently on March 15) since leaving office in 2008. In a May 3 interview with the Mediamax news agency, the ex-president noted his “particular mutual understanding” and “continuous relations” with Putin. He also again did not rule out his return to the political arena.