Books on Armenia
Update No: 345 -
If one wants to know a
country, one needs to know the person in
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
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
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
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 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
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."