Membership in the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will give a further boost to Armenia’s defense and national security, a senior official in Yerevan insisted on Tuesday.
Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker and the spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), said the Russian-led union will not only open up new economic opportunities for the country but also enhance “the level of our security.” He said this also applies to Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Joining the customs union is quite beneficial for us and I think that it will solve a security issue as well,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He declined to substantiate his claim, saying that the Armenian authorities will give relevant explanations later on.
President Serzh Sarkisian similarly cited security considerations when he unexpectedly announced his decision to join the union following talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on September 3. “I have repeatedly said before that when you are part of one system of military security it is impossible and ineffective to isolate yourself from a corresponding economic space,” he said.
Some of Sarkisian’s critics have suggested that he bowed to Russian pressure because of Moscow’s threats to end military cooperation with Yerevan, which is essential for continued Armenian control over Karabakh. But others claim that the Armenian leader’s main fear was that the Kremlin would plot to overthrow him.
Sharmazanov and other presidential allies have denied that Armenia was pressurized into pledging to join the customs union, however.