Nikita Isayev: "Armenia looks like Ukraine during late Yanukovich period"
Director of the Institute of Contemporary Economy Nikita Isaev discussed the actual results of Armenia's participation in the Eurasian Economic Union at all levels, the use of this union as an instrument in domestic politics of the republic and the possibility of suspending its membership in the structure in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- What is Armenia's current position in the EEU?
- Armenia, of course, is not a leading country of the EEU. The republic is interested in the union because it reduces import duties and make exporting its products easier. They don't have many products, since, unfortunately, both agriculture and industrial production in the country are at a pretty bad level, so today Armenia mainly has service market. Since it's not the most developed state economically, it is in the fourth place in the EEU. Armenia is also limited geographically from the point of view of transit and delivery of goods and services to its territory. It has to build relations in a complex regional polygon - which means that it is interested in trying to turn Russia into a guarantor of economic security in South Caucasus, as well as to get certain preferences, in particular in the energy sector.
- Has the life of ordinary citizens of Armenia changed significantly after the country joined the EEU?
- I'm afraid not. The situation changed for Kyrgyzstan, since the conditions of labor migration and legalization of their citizens on the territory of the Russian Federation as the main labor market have improved. As for Armenian citizens, due to their relatively small number and traditionally large diaspora in the Russian Federation, the number of labor migration is not so significant. I can't say that citizens feel the benefits of Armenia's participation in the EEU. Yerevan mostry joined this economic integration project because its following Russia's political lead.
- In other words, the EEU is more like a political project for Armenia, rather than economic one?
- Yes, economic component initially had much less significance than the political one. For Armenia, joining the EEU was a matter of political choice. It should be remembered that since Armenia's accession to the EEU, certain political realities have undergone changes, including those concerning the foreign policy vector of Yerevan. Latest activity of the authorities of the republic in integration with the European Union and military exercises with NATO countries, of course, greatly undermine the political prospects for the country's Eurasian integration. I think that in the near future we can expect a certain reset of Armenia as one of the active members of the EEU, as well as the country moving in the pro-Russian vector.
Armenia is very similar to Ukraine of late Yanukovich period: some politicians support European integration, talk about rapprochement with the EU, while pro-Russian politicians speak about the development of ties with the EEU. And remember, what was the result Kiev's similar behavior under Yanukovich, when he tried to please both Brussels and Moscow and couldn't choose a stable position, couldn't adequately balance position. This led to a coup and a subsequent civil war.
- Does this mean that Armenia is able to withdraw from the EEU or suspend its membership in the union?
- I don't think it can happen in the near future. However, this issue may be on the agenda if Armenia moves from negotiation process on integration with the European Union to specific steps, associated with various tax and other economic formats of the association. In the beggining, the European Union will be able to provide Yerevan with serious preferences, in order to make it jost the European project. In this case, Russia, which is in a de facto sanctions war with the EU, won't see a proper format for joint integration processes, since Armenia's behavior will come into conflict with the Russian-European sanctions policy. It should also be noted that possible changes regarding Armenia's withdrawal from the EEU most likely won't the result of tensions in the Russian-Armenian relations, but a result of serious external pressure - possible military escalation in the Caucasus or the US ultimatum. I believe that this won't happen in the next 2-3 years.