Senior Armenian government officials have made conflicting statements about the possible impact on Armenia of new economic sanctions which the United States has imposed on Russia.
The sanctions targeting the energy sector could further hurt the Russian economy that contracted in 2016 and 2015 amid falling oil prices. The first U.S. and European Union sanctions slapped on Moscow in 2014 added to Russia’s economic woes.
Russia is Armenia’s number one trading partner and main source of multimillion-dollar remittances from Armenians working abroad. Hence, fears in Yerevan about the fallout from the additional sanctions imposed by the U.S. Congress late last month.
“Sanctions [against Russia] have long been in force but as you can see, our economy has already adapted to them,” Armenian Minister for Economic Development Suren Karayan said on Thursday. “Right now I see no cause for serious concern.”
Finance Minister Vartan Aramian was less sanguine when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) last week. “I don’t think that these sanctions will create the kind of a serious situation which we saw in 2014-2015,” he said. “But in any case, they will certainly damage Armenia.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian likewise admitted on Thursday that a fresh economic downturn in Russia would have spillover effects on Armenia. “Obviously, when there are negative developments in the Russian economy they reflect on all of Russia’s neighbors,” he told reporters.
Kocharian said that Armenia is now seeking to diversify its foreign trading partners in hopes of minimizing g the impact of the U.S. sanctions.
Karayan also stressed the importance of diversifying Armenian exports. “In the first half of this year, our exports to the [Russian-led] Eurasian Economic Union rose by 25 percent, while exports to the European Union rose by 20 percent,” he said. “So we are trying to diversify our export markets.”
Last week, the government drew up a priority list of 14 nations with which it will be seeking closer economic ties. The list includes Russia, the U.S., China and the key EU member states as well as neighboring Georgia and Iran. The government pledged to foster greater Armenian exports to those countries and attract more investments and tourists from them.