Russian President Vladimir Putin again welcomed Armenia’s plans to join a Russian-led customs union on Saturday as he congratulated the country on the 22nd anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.
“Russian-Armenian relations, which have deep historical roots, have now reached the level of allied partnership and are continuing to develop intensively,” Putin said in a letter to President Serzh Sarkisian. “This was confirmed in particular by the results of your recent [September 3] visit to Moscow.”
“I am confident that with joint efforts we will ensure a further strengthening of the entire scope of bilateral ties and expansion of construction interaction in different multilateral formats, including in the context of Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union. This undoubtedly corresponds to the fundamental interests of our brotherly peoples,” read the letter publicized by Sarkisian’s press office.
Sarkisian unexpectedly announced his decision to join the union comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan following his September 3 talks with Putin. A joint statement issued by them also commits Armenia to “participate in the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union” of ex-Soviet states. The Eurasian project aggressively promoted by Putin is widely regarded as an effort to ensure long-term Russian influence in much of the ex-USSR.
The Armenian government has been under pressure from Moscow to seek membership of the Russian-led unions over the past year. The Russian pressure intensified this summer as Yerevan inched closer to concluding an Association Agreement with the European Union. Russian diplomats and pro-Kremlin pundits warned that the planned deal with the EU would severely harm Russian-Armenian ties.