NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller insisted on Tuesday that she has seen no indications that Russia has tried to prevent Armenia from forging closer ties with NATO.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Gottemoeller also again praised the “good and appropriate level of cooperation” between Yerevan and the U.S.-led alliance.
“I am really quite impressed with what Armenia has done over the years in terms of partnership with NATO,” she said during a visit to Yerevan.
Gottemoeller singled out the continuing participation of some 155 Armenian soldiers in the NATO-led security missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Armenia contributes more troops to those missions than any other member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), she stressed.
The deployments in Afghanistan and Kosovo have been part of Armenia’s broader efforts to step up military cooperation with NATO -- and the United States in particular -- while remaining allied to Russia politically and militarily. Yerevan pledged to continue deepening ties with NATO with a fresh Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) launched in April.
Asked whether she has felt any Russian pressure exerted on the Armenian leadership in connection with its dealings with NATO, Gottemoeller said: “No. That’s the short answer and that’s the true answer.”
Commenting on the possibility of such pressure in the future, she said: “It’s up to the Kremlin. Of course, they always have their own opinions about things but I really think it is important to stress that NATO is guided by decisions made by Armenia.”
“There is no zero sum game there from our perspective,” she added in reference to Russia’s and NATO’s ties with the South Caucasus state.
But she also stressed: “It is completely up to Armenia to decide the speed and intensity of your relationship with NATO.”
Gottemoeller met with President Serzh Sarkisian, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian on Monday. Sarkisian praised the “developing” Armenia-NATO ties and thanked the alliance for its “assistance provided to Armenia.”
“We will be working together more closely on interoperability, defense education and defense reform,” Gottemoeller said after her talks with Nalbandian.