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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 2,797 2,367 2,100 139
GNI per capita
 US $ 950 790 570 143
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Armenia

Update No: 345 - (24/12/10)

If one wants to know a country, one needs to know the person in charge.

The president of Armenia, a man very much in charge, is certainly an unusual person, very much so.

A bit of history is in order. From 1989 to 1993, Serzh Sargsyan led the enclave Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Self-Defence Forces Committee. He was the Minister of Defence from 1993 to 1995, crucial years.

He then held every important security post in the country for the next quandam number of years. From 2000 to 2007 he was the Minister of Defence at a very critical time. The war over Nagorno Karabakh with Azerbaijan was won, with help from Russia.

Elevated to the heights
Serzh Sargsyan was elected as a deputy to the Supreme Council of Armenia. On April 4, 2007, Sargsyan was appointed as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia. On June 7, 2007, he was re-appointed as the Prime Minister, taking charge of the Government formed after the National Assembly elections. He was elected president in 2008. He is indisputably the number one political figure in the country.

The Caucasian cauldron
Friction in the Caucasus seems to be eternal. There were skirmishes in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, in August and September, 2010, that left several dead and wounded on either side.

Armenia is in a curious plight - not unlike that of Israel. It is the odd-man out of its region. The Armenians are not really wanted by neighbours in the Caucasus, any more than the Israelis are in the Middle East.

Both peoples suffered an appalling action of genocide in the first half of the twentieth century. Both are now overwhelmingly dependent for their very survival on an outside super-power. Armenia exists thanks to Russia, every bit as much as Israel does thanks to the US. Is it so wise to base one's existence on an exterior power?
Well, neither has much of a choice, so long as they wish to remain where they are.

The Moscow-Yerevan axis forever?
Russia calls the shots in the Caucasus, if anybody does. The recent Russia-Armenia agreement (protocol) which extended the term of the Russian base in Gyumri until 2044, has given the task of defending Armenia to the Russian forces at this base. It has also allowed Armenia to obtain modern weaponry and special military equipment from Russia. Armenia is safe for the duration.

The pact has, nevertheless, created harsh reactions among opposition circles in Armenia. The main issue which is emphasized is that Armenia’s right of independence has deteriorated to a great extent, or has at least been damaged. Indeed, taking into consideration that Armenia’s energy transmission line, railways, nuclear power station, and various other facilities are in the hands of Russia and that Russia has invested about 2 billion dollars in this small country, with this protocol Armenia has also come totally under the guardianship of Russia in the area of defense.

The significant point here is that despite objections arising from opposition parties, various intellectuals and the diaspora, assuming that Russia is protecting the country against Turks and Azerbaijanis, a majority of Armenian public opinion easily accepts this situation.

Not so acceptable in Tbilisi
Armenian officials have reacted with surprise that Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze reportedly described Armenia's defence agreement with Russia as a threat to regional security.

Vashadze was quoted by the Azerbaijani news agency APA on September 7 as saying that the Yerevan-Moscow deal extending Russia's lease on a military base in Armenia until 2044 and upgrading its mission will impede "stability, security, and cooperation" in the South Caucasus. He was also quoted by APA as saying "the sole goal of the Russian military base is to heighten tension in the region. The extension of the term of that base's deployment in Armenia by 24 years and the change in its functions poses a big threat to the region."

Vashadze's reported remarks were at odds with Tbilisi's initial reaction to the Russian-Armenian pact that was voiced by Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalanadze.

Kalanadze said in late August that Yerevan remained "conscious of threats to Georgia emanating from Russia." She added that "we have no reason to suspect that Armenia is calling regional security into question in any way."

Commenting on the statement attributed to Vashadze, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan told RFE/RL, "We do not share that view." He also suggested that it was distorted by the government-controlled Azerbaijani media outlet. "In any case, no foreign official has the right to meddle in our affairs and make comments on our security issues," Balayan said. He added that Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian would telephone Vashadze to discuss the matter.

Vashadze met with Armenia's ambassador in Tbilisi, Hrach Silvanian, on August 31, less then two weeks after the signing of the Russian-Armenian accord. Vashadze's press office said they spoke about the "the need to further strengthen ties traditionally existing between the two countries and the importance of carrying out bilateral visits."

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