Armenia flirts with NATO

Armenia flirts with NATO

Georgia-NATO military exercises Agile Spirit 2017 will held at the Orfolo range and the armor center in Samtskhe-Javakheti from September 3 to 11. These exercises are designed to improve interaction of the United States, Georgia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania, Ukraine and Armenia and prepare the participants for joint operations within NATO operative forces.

"Armenia once again participates in NATO military exercises along with those countries that Moscow, to put it mildly, doesn't consider friendly. Armenian authorities continue to diversify their defense policy, regardless of aggressive nature of threatening rhetoric that was voiced by semi-official Russian expert circles. Last month, Armenia also took part in NATO exercises in Georgia. Perhaps Yerevan finally realized that it is meaningless to depend on the CSTO's help or hope that it will be able to somehow affect Russian-Azerbaijani military cooperation, and now tries to increase cooperation with NATO, integrate into its infrastructures and participate in all of alliance's programs," Armenia publication 1in.am wrotes in its article "Armenia deepens cooperation with NATO: how will Moscow react."

This is a case when the country, due to its status, can't say that it wants changes in foreign and defense policy, but tries to do it efficiently, even if it only takes small steps - without loud statements. Armenia is a member of the EAEU and the CSTO, and formally fulfills its obligations in the framework of these structures. On the other hand, Armenian authorities understand that they see a resource for development in cooperation with Western structures. It's no accident that over the past 10 days, president and prime minister of the country said that Armenia will sign a new framework agreement with the EAEU this fall. It's not a manifestation of self-confidence, but a preventive step. It is aimed at preventing recurrence of "September 3". The fact that Armenia participated in several NATO military exercises suggests that Yerevan is trying to make Armenia-NATO relations irreversible using new institutional basis. 

"Of course, Moscow is jealous and it doesn't like Yerevan's rapprochement with the EU and NATO. It is evidenced by statements of expert circles. On the other hand, Russia, isolated from the civilized world, doesn't have resources to influence Armenia's policy - especially since the supply of Russian weapons to Azerbaijan legitimized Armenia rapprochement with the West," 1in.am writes.

Serzh Sargsyan and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Many experts agree that the West only needs Armenia to destabilize the region, to carry out "foreign" geopolitical strategy. Armenia and NATO signed Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) in December of 2005, which envisages promotion of reforms in the field of defense and security, as well as development of capabilities of the peacekeeping forces of NATO Armenian contingent. However, diplomatic contacts between NATO and Armenia have recently become more frequent.

This summer, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai was met at the highest level by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, speaker of parliament Ara Babloyan and leadership of the Defense Ministry. They discussed one issue during all meetings: the expansion of Armenia's cooperation with NATO. James Appathurai then promised that NATO will develop "new programs that Armenia will be interested in."

Recently, William Lahue, NATO liaison officer in South Caucasus, mentioned possible membership of Armenia in NATO. He hinted that if Yerevan decides to join the North Atlantic Alliance, it will increase the number of opportunities for cooperation.

Yerevan continues its complementarity policy. In Armenia's case it means that it attempts to flirt with both sides. The question is, will it be able to do it successfully?

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