Armenia will put its national security and independence at serious risk unless it rejects “Western values” to fully align itself with Russia, a former Russian ambassador in Yerevan warned on Tuesday.
Vyacheslav Kovalenko claimed that failure to make a “final” geopolitical choice in favor of Russia could thrust the country into the kind of crisis that has plagued Ukraine since the overthrow of a pro-Russian government in Kiev.
“Armenia must make a choice because in order for the economy of a small country like Armenia to develop, it has to integrate, it has to join some integration structures,” Kovalenko told Armenian journalists in a video conference from Moscow. “And the choice here is stark. I think the situation will develop in such a way that we will require Armenia to make that choice.
“Armenia can’t endlessly balance [between rival foreign powers] in this complicated international situation. So a lot depends on Armenia’s historical choice: the future of the country, the future of the Armenian people and the future of Armenians in general.”
“Will Armenia remain an independent state with its own national policy, national interests and identity respected around the world?” continued the diplomat who headed the Russian mission in Yerevan until March 2013. “Will it embrace instead the Western values which … will exist as long as Western powers continue their aggressive policies?”
Echoing the official Russian line, Kovalenko claimed that the spread of those values was responsible for the Ukraine crisis. “It is very important that what is now happening in Ukraine, where such [conflicting] relationships have emerged between various segments of the population, is not repeated [in Armenia,]” he said.
“I think that the Armenians, who are one of the most ancient peoples in the world and outlived other peoples that are now non-existent, now live on thanks to right choices which they have always made at critical historical moments. Now is such a critical historical moment in which the Armenians must make a final choice for themselves.”
The ex-envoy, whose current status is not clear, did not clarify whether the Armenian government should only join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) or go further and freeze or downgrade relations with the West.
President Serzh Sarkisian has sought to deepen those ties even after unexpectedly deciding to make Armenia part of the EEU in August 2013. That decision is widely believed to have been the result of strong Russian pressure exerted on Sarkisian. The latter had previously planned to sign a far-reaching Association Agreement with the European Union.
Kovalenko exposed the Russian pressure in an interview published in July 2013. “By embracing European values, Armenia, it appears, could step onto a slippery path,” he warned.
The 68-year-old diplomat has had no official position in the Russian diplomatic ever since the end of his four-year tour of duty in Armenia. Still, in an indication of his lingering links with the Russian establishment, he accompanied Dmitry Kiselyov, Russia’s most famous TV journalist close to the Kremlin, on a trip to Yerevan in June 2014.
Kiselyov caused an uproar during that visit when he said that the Russian language must be granted an official status in Armenia. Kovalenko backed those calls rejected by the Armenian leadership.