HSBC Bank Armenia held the 14th workshop of its Trade Academy

Kamo Margaryan, Head of Global Trade and Receivables Finance, HSBC Bank Armenia, said that Trade Academy’s goal is to preset financial instruments, bank guarantees and less risky and expensive trade financing methods.

Margaryan noted that more than 350 companies have taken part in that kinds of events organized by HSBC. We do not lead businessman to our bank, we just present our services of financing the business. Our purpose is to support businesses both in Armenia and USA as our global coverage gives the opportunity. The academy workshops have enabled the bank to attract more clients. As a result, every day we can see they prefer to use trade financing instruments to prepayment. Thus they improve companies’ financial indicators and secure themselves against risks,” Mr Margaryan said. The aim is to show organizations trade financing services and instruments and advantages of such instruments. However, the HSBC Bank’s international reputation and universally available experience is of importance as well. The academy workshops have enabled the bank to attract more clients.

Thies Clemenz, Chief Executive Officer of HSBC Bank Armenia, hoped that the event will be of benefit to all the participants and they will have full information they can make use of the moment their businesses go beyond Armenia.

As we have already mentioned the event was held with the US Embassy because the USA is considered to be the sixth great investor of Armenia.
However, numerous companies have to choose between expanding their businesses in the domestic market and entering the international market. At such moments they have fears. The reason is that developing businesses abroad will inevitably entail problems. And investments are the major concern. This is the reason for the workshop.
Richard Mills, the last embassador of the USA in Armenia said that Armenian business atmosphere tries to improve business relationship with USA. Our goal is to improve the cooperation between the American and Armenian businessman that will lead to economic growth in both countries and also in new work places. ‘If Armenian and American businesses know more about each other we can enlarge the cooperation for creating new work places’ he said.

The companies such as ‘Ingo Armenia’ and ‘Gold’s Gym’ also took part in 14th workshop of its Trade Academy.

Realpolitik of the New World

To the main news of the first half of 2014 concerning the crisis in Ukraine and the Russian-Ukrainian war in the second half of 2014 come to change the news on ISIS and the struggle against the ISIS. Thereto the Ukrainian crisis is not over yet as well as the hostilities. We have not been able to completely absorb this situation, When such events that can probably create new centers of Islamic fundamentalism are taking place.

The United States of America which appeared on the international stage At the begining of the 20th century affirmed its solid politico-economical positions after two world wars, through which it succeeded in gathering around itself almost all of the world powers, including two former crucial opponent states i.e. Germany and Japan.
These countries were armless even during the Cold War and In this or that format of security system they always have been in the American field of security. Even the 2011 Libyan War showed that NATO is too much dependent on the power of the United States.

Today the West, continuing the dissolution of the Soviet Union, destroys those artificial states which were considered as USSR projects i.e. Georgia, Ukraine and some times later Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan can possibly be as well. All of these were USSR artificial projects. It will be naïve to insist that the West is doing it intentionally. These are irreversible processes, Just the strong diplomacy is availing itself of this. All of these should be implemented slowly and Which is the most important should be a part of multifunctional political steps e.g. simultaneous implementation of Ukrainian and Syrian politico-military scenarios. If they were separated their implementation would have been much more difficult. The Russian-Ukrainian war is the logical continuation of the local wars of the beginnings of 1990s as well as the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. In the same way Russia is trying to use the urge of independence of the Russian people and the Russia’s loyal people, defeats Ukraine; however this is a tactical victory. Russia is defeated in the strategic sense by loosing a vast territory and at the same time looses the opportunity to intervene in Syria and Iraq. Here the most essential strategic step is added to other strategic steps and factors, is the Islamic caliphate.

It is not a secret that today’s Middle Eastern borders are the consequences of British and French policies. The United States is changing this map either on purpose or by default. Hence a new phase for the development of the planet begins.
The Muslim world was a great threat for the West with its strong religion and birth rate. It is not a secret that the West has such issues as degradation of the value system and religion and on the other hand it has birth rate issue.

Islam was capturing Europe and changing its landscape while their more fundamentalist section started to resist the Western values By all means At the beginning of 2000s , Islam preemptively entered into the West and Terroristic activities were conducted in the United States, in Europe and elsewhere, while immigration threatened to change the final landscape. Muammar Kaddafi- the leader of Libya, even said- “Why are we at war with the West? When we can just go and take over their land by living in Europe”. As a result of a strategic process, which is hard to prove that it was executed by clear and inviolable motives, the vectors have changed and the West entered into the house of Islam. As a result of 20-year-work all the fundamentalist activities are accelerated today, centralized into one place and quickly are being depleted. Islamists are arriving in Iraq and Syria from more than 80 countries in the world In order to get engaged in a war in the ranks of caliphate’s armed forces. Meanwhile, the The government of Iraq asks for the US to return to the region for the US return to the region, while Syria, put in mildly, is not against the American air strikes. Iran is also partly assenting to all of this. It is also understood that the United States is more hopeful regarding the comparative world power and the political organizations which are striving for final formation. Such a mission can be attributed to Kurdistan, Assad’s regime in some sense, also Turkey which does not rule out that as a result of these strategic moves will become dissolute. Naturally for any extremist Muslim state secular state is more preferable than a system. By entering into the house of Islam in 2003 the United States directly or indirectly prompted the acceleration of the fundamentalist processes, establishment of organizations and centralization. ISIL or ISIS became the most viable of these structures, which Ingested the former structure and now is much larger, flexible and aggressive structure. This structure for example is gladly accepting into its ranks people from other countries, It is also using evices, which make them more dangerous, however they distract people from their fundamental nature. On the other hand, this flow weakens this structure and makes the struggle against it easier. Their fighters are not getting necessary level of training and children are manning their ranks. Statistically US-led coalition lost around 30,000 soldiers since 2003, counting the civilian casualties as well the total number does not exceed 50,000, while Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other countries have lost several million people and around ten million have been displaced. The majority of them left Islam, while in those who stayed the number of people who day by day desire Mercedes, Coca-cola, Disneyland etc. increases. The following saying has become pretty common in the West- “From 1990-2000 5 out of every 100 were extremists, 10 were dreaming about civilian- American life, while the rest were undecided”. Today 10 out of every 100 are extremists, 10 are neutral, while 80 hates fundamentalism and dream about American life. Inhuman living conditions, men slavery, slave trade and other factors in the territories held under extremists contributes to this phenomenon.

The fact that in 2013 terrorism increased by 44% and victims- by 61% comprising 18 000 people also contributes to this phenomenon. In Afghanistan a mother killed 25 Taliban as a revenge for her son- this is today’s reality. In September-October of 2014 fierce battles were taking place for the Syrian town Kobani. Turkey had a clear anti-Kurdish stance and was obstructing the deliver of arms to the Kurds thus hampering the victory in Kobani. US and its allies were conducting air strikes which even though successful however without necessary land forces accompaniment could not achieve success. However in this hard and heart-breaking situation a very important and clear issue was being resolved. Islamists suffer heavy casualties, however by continuing the battles they are simply weakening. Meanwhile the suffering Kurds are reuniting more and will act more productively even against Turkey if in the future they receive the same Western aid. The fact of the Eastern value system, the moves on purpose to destroy the Islamic value system should be added as well. These moves are the computer and the Internet with their restricted domains and the drugs, which are being cultivated and gradually used, plus good cars and other material means. Today the profile of the Kurdish state is being more clearly outlined, which of course is going to be more secular state; today women there have equal rights as men and live in a minimal religious life. The question of the Kurdish statehood is neatly planned and is being implemented for around a decade. Even a year ago a small assistance given to the Kurds aroused Ankara’s anger, while today Peshmerga is crossing Turkish territory.

All of this is not coincidental.

Islamists are trying to give a battle while assembling their last forces, not understanding that they are being depleted faster. Meanwhile Europe is shaking- from one side protests and clashes between Islamists and nationalists, from the other side extremists are leaving Europe for their sacred war. At this moment around 11 thousand European and American citizens are filling up their ranks. European special services can greatly benefit from all of this. Here is the neat plan, the great influence which is hard to grasp at first and here it is where one cannot separately look into the situation in Ukraine. This joint strategic program The steps of which are completing each other gives an opportunity to suppress the Shiite flank by making Iran more pliable, weakening Russia’s and China’s influence in the region and other far-reaching strategic political and economic issues. US rapprochement with Iran is becoming quite obvious.

The United States has officially announced that it wishes to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. It will certainly contribute to the activation of Islamist, Taliban and other movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This will spread into the former Soviet Republics in Asia with a chain reaction; the same is also possible in the western Iran and western China. These destabilizing centers will create wholly different politico-military situation in the world. Not taking into account whether there will be any type of new joint Islamic caliphate in these territories, or there will be separate centers that will drive their own policy, the situation will turn very dangerous first of all for Russia, China and Iran. In early November of 2014 very shocking terrorist action took place in Pakistan. This can be considered as the start of that process. The most probable scenario of development might be the following China, Russia and Iran should permanently have troops stationed in their neighboring countries, make war, even if not conventional, rather so called “green midgets”. Russia should be involved in a constant war in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Everything will become more complex if the same situation which occurred in Ukraine will occur in Kazakhstan where new opportunities like Novorossiya will open for the Russian Federation. Vladimir Putin has already announced about Kazakhstan being an artificial state. He clearly omprehends the logic of this- he talks about manageable chaos. Vast resources will be allocated for the struggle against them, if it drags out these three states will weaken and will have to cooperate with the United States. Based on this scenario in order to withstand the dangers and not to be left out from these geopolitical situations Europe will militarize again. This process has already begun. At the same time the Islamic secular states will gain momentums, the creation process of Kurdistan will become more tangible, India might be involved in military actions this time as an US ally- counterweighing China. Extremist Islamists will have more casualties in combats, while in the long-term they will not be able to recover their loses. It is not coincidental that the President of the United States is talking about long struggle up to 10 years. It is right that they are still one billon, yet they are fighting against themselves and the moderate Islam is in the midst of ethnic upheavals.

In the world the more powerful and the more aggressive state is infringing the accepted laws and norms , destroys stereotypes. Moreover, this state creates new laws by which the world is living. This of course generates hatred, negative association, however it is also a progressive phenomenon, at times this is the driving force for humanity. Only these countries destroyed the old systems and created new systems, even if the destruction meant their own weakening. The United States is not for forever, however the new world that it is creating can also destroy them, yet it has chances that can be put in use. It is hard to imagine that people at a time hated Rome for its aggressive, conquering and looting policy, the same is true for Parthians, Alexander the Great and other empires. It is also hard to imagine that without Rome humanity would have the same kind of development almost in all the spheres.

At the same time for those who criticize the most powerful and the most aggressive, who were not less powerful and not less aggressive in their scales, it is easier. They can allow themselves to ask just/unjust questions, they have more perceivable positions in almost all areas. As affected, suffered, resisted and bearers of other titles, for them it is easier to win over hearts. They always build their strategy on criticizing the most powerful as aggressors and presenting them as saviors, however this is not always the case, sometimes there is no difference between them.

Whether we want it or not today a new global war is started or the birth of a new world has started. This new world is created by the United States along with its allies and for them mailnly. In this logic the United States is an empire that destroys old empires, which gives an opportunity for smaller nations like us. The old world which needs to be destroyed is the world which does not accept the industrial and informational societal revolution of the 1960s. That is the history of mankind, ancients resists as much as they can, however they are due for destruction. Today Russia has appeared in that field by default, which however does not accept these revolutions, mainly it does not want to accept the weakening of its role.

We face new developments in 2014-2015, as the elements of Muslim extremism are activating in Europe. This is a new reality of the world, that is beyond the frontiers of European mycroculture. At the same time we are witnesses of a new wave of intolerance from the side of European native people. For instance, despite German people have been afraid of speaking about any National issue for a long time, a lot of protests were held by the neonationalists last year. New legislation is adopted to restrain the immigration in Europe. The new law in Austria strictly prohibits financing the Muslim institutes. Thus, the new world war is inevitable. It is believed that the East will be completely modified, the Fourth world must be destroyed, as it is hampering the normal process of world development and Potsdam world order has already been out of date. The Third world war is in the progress in the Middle East, and the result will be the elimination of the extremism.

However development is a merciless occurrence and nothing can stop it. In general it is done through blood and it is always the case. This blood is the reason for hatred against the United States, however this is the progress, which is inescapable. We should keep in mind that we got independence after a global war and many states developed only after such upheavals. Nonetheless, in the long-term the policy of the United States is an opportunity for freedom and development for small countries like Armenia. It is a blow to narrow, rotten political and even religious empires i.e. the fundamentalist Islam or the western neo-dictatorships. Everything is heading towards bigger changes- opportunity for rapprochement with Iran, more fair relations with Turkey. No matter what, what was described above with or without any changes is being and will be implemented.

The question is how much Armenia will comprehend that and will make a use of all of that or will always be enamored to its old stereotypes by solving the problems of the day.

Van Sebastaci, Analyst

The contract between ACBA-CREDIT AGRICOLE BANK and American Express® was resigned

ACBA-CREDIT AGRICOLE BANK and American Express have resigned the contract, which allows the Bank to continue exclusive issuance of American Express Gold, Blue and Cashback cards, as well as acquiring merchants onto American Express network in Armenia.

The new contract was signed in New York by General Executive Manager of ACBA-CREDIT AGRICOLE Bank, Mr. Hakob Andreasyan and Mr. Colin O’Flaherty, Vice President and General Manager, Partner Card Services, Russia, CIS and Central Eastern Europe at American Express.

By extending the exclusive contact, American Express has once again expressed confidence in ACBA-CREDIT AGRICOLE and willingness to continue partnership with the Bank for the benefit of customers in Armenia.

The first contact was signed in August 2009, leading to expansion of card acceptance network in Armenia. In 2010 the first American Express Gold Card was issued, offering a wide package of benefits never seen before in Armenia. In 2011 the Bank issued American Express Blue Card, an innovative and trendy Card that rewards everyday spending and has benefits that complement their dynamic lifestyles. In July, 2014 American Express Cashback Card, a product designed for everyday use, which is the first card in Armenia to provide 2% CASHBACK for all transactions in a many supermarkets.

ACBA-CREDIT AGRICOLE BANK and American Express will continue offering new and innovative products in Armenia, aiming at offering a suitable American Express Card to customers with various demands and preferences.

Today’s Russia cannot enter a long-term cold war with the west as the Soviet Union of the 50s. Artur Ghazinyan

First Armenian News and Analyses interviewed Dr Artur Ghazinyan, Director of YSU Centre for European Studies.

-Dr Ghazinyan, how can you sum up recent developments in Ukraine?

In order to understand what happened in the Ukraine and what situation we are dealing with now we have understand the source of the current tension. Yanukovich was elected the president of the Ukraine by promising the Ukrainian people that he will finalize, sign and put into action the European treaty to integrate into the European Union which gave him the vote of the Ukrainian people. Negotiations were held to complete the process, treaties were signed and initially signed and were already supposed to sign at the Vilnius summit. Unexpectedly for the Ukrainian people, at least for those living in the western and central parts of the Ukraine, the prime minister announces that he termites the activities aimed at integrating with the EU. This was preceded by meetings with leaders of Ukraine and Russia. And some rumors came about and there was an opinion that Ukraine is changing its foreign economic policy and is prone to Customs Union. At that point, obviously, rose a wave of protests which in fact were justified and the deceived people went out on the streets to demand to implement Yanukovich’s pre-election promise and accomplish the signing of the of the EU treaty and putting it to practice. Initially, the agenda was to secure a European future for the Ukraine. Later, there were attempts to pressure by force. Students, in particular, were prosecuted which led to more massive events. The number of protesters grew several times, dozens of times. Even the Sunday meetings would gather up to half a million people who demanded for the treaty to be signed. As a result of the Ukrainian government’s inadequate response and attempts to solve the problem by force occurred a big resistance in Kiev, and central and western Ukraine. Consequently, radical nationalistic sentiments appeared. In general, existence or absence of alien ideology can nurture radical nationalist sentiments. The problem here was that what demanded in the bottom could not be fulfilled by those at the top. And in this ideological vacuum radical nationalists came about with their agenda which gave them a large army of like-minded people in the Ukraine. So they owned the situation and started to dictate the policies in Maidan. Later, when the issue was supposed to be solved and the process that lasted two, three months had to end somehow, the Ukrainian government decided to close the issue by appealing to rather severe methods, as a result of which civilians were killed, government building were attacked by radicals. Maidan went towards self defense, which resulted in clashes that we know as a result of which had more than 80 casualties. Consequently, those three foreign ministers came and together with the leaders of so-called opposition a treaty was signed to come of the crisis, which was not undersigned by Russia by the way. So, all the parties agreed except for Russia and Maidan. Because we have to admit that Maidan was not represented by opposition. There were completely different sentiments there. They had their own vision regarding ukraine’s future. Maidan simply turned down what was agreed upon and even booed the leaders who came to Maidan and tried to justify that the treaty was the utmost that we could favor and get from the president of the Ukraine at this point. As a result, Yanukovich understood that using armed forces at that point was full of unpredictable consequences and he simply resigned, left his residence and he fled. As result, the situation was that the Ukraine was left without a president, without power. So, a revolutionary government formed.

– How do you assess the western policies throughout this whole process?

– At the initial stage, the west was not participating in any way in protests. It was just encouraging to stay away from using force against peace protests. When I was following the event, I didn’t see any western guidance. Although proponents of conspiracy believe that this was planned event. But to plan such a massive protest against own nation is honestly hard. At the initial stage it had a spontaneous nature. However, later when it became systematic, the west began to work in this direction by supporting. We saw how Katherine Ashton and US deputy secretary of state came to Maidan and showed their support to participants at Maidan. This was already a direct support which the west was showing in this process. As a result, the authorities of the countries were not allowed to appeal to radical methods and means to solve the problem. The west was the guarantor that there shouldn’t happen bloodshed or any other form of violence against the protestors. Whereas we witnessed that the process transformed from peaceful state to clashes. The guilty and the instigator was the government which tried to terminated activities at Maidan with berkuts. They attacked the Maidan and saw what a big power there presented. They tried to clear up that area but saw how big the resistance was. As a result, there was a counteroffensive. A simple revolution. A normal one that we witnessed many times throughout the history of mankind about people move towards revolution.

– How would you commend the development in Crimea? In this case, in fact Russia poured a cold shower on the west with an unexpected move. How will this end?

– To say that it was unexpected is wrong. For Russia Crimea has vital importance. Strategic importance. Defensive importance. It is obvious that the Ukraine is irrevocably changing its foreign policy. If during the orange revolution in 2004 brought to power still had the opportunity to return to Russian political field which happened by the election of Yanikovich as the president as we’ve seen, whereas now the victory at the expense of deaths of 80 people will not be compromised. The compromise will lead to disintegration of the Ukraine. Russia understood this very well and as a priority it placed the issue of guaranteeing its security which is to secure the existence of military base located in Crimea. Why is this important for Russia is because if the Ukrainian government decides to apply for NATO membership by having a military base of the opposite bloc is simply impossible. In fact, the military base in Crimea is the guarantee for non-membership of the Ukraine in NATO. Consequently, they had to appeal to concrete measures. But as always, everything was done in a dilettant way, this could be done in a more intelligent way, in regard that it was claimed the Russian speaking populated is under threat. Also rumor had it that the Ukraine intended to terminate the Kharkov Treaty through which it was entitled to rent the base in Crimea, as well as the threat for their citizens was the fundamental base for the Russian president to come up with a proposal to use armed forces in the territory of the Ukraine. We saw that not a single of threat for the Russian speaking population, or any attack or any form of problem related to the Russian speaking population of the Ukraine particularly in Crimea was not there. There was no threat. They were not used force against. I would say right the contrary. We’ve seen that in Kharkov, in Donetsk there was a revenge by the Russian speakers who brutally beat. And here bringing facts was rather poor in the sense that there was no threat. Crimea is mostly populated by Russian speakers and they were not under threat. At least in practice there was no threat for them. Although it is still being claimed that Russia has not sent troops to the Ukraine. It’s jus it got the approval to do so by the federal council as prescribed by the constitution, still we see that there are armed people without identification in Crimea with armor that closed all the inputs and outputs. If Russia denies that they are its forces, it means they are an assault which should be isolated. If no one take the responsibility for those people who closed all the roads, who are armed who do not reveal their identity and use arms, then this is an immediate threat to the people living in Crimea. Someone should be held responsible and state that it is me who’s there.

–  Aren’t the Russian actions in Crimea severe violation of the Budapest treaty? And what possibilities does the treaty give to the parties of the treaty other than Russia? What can be applied?

– It is a relevant question that you moved to international law. I should say that the events in the Ukraine opened a new page in international relations, international diplomacy and the implementation of norms of international law. Namely, we see that Russia being member of numerous UN treaties and conventions, and having signed the quadrilateral memorandum in 94 with which three countries, UK, US and Russia guarantee the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, and the integrity of borders, political self-governance, possibilities of economic development, we see that Russia unilaterally at least intends to violate the memorandum which it had signed. It has an intention. I can speak about the legal terms of the violation at this point. But the fact is that Crimea is being forcefully retained in the field of Russian influence by which it guarantees the existence of its military base in Crimea, in Sevostopol. The violation will not stir any legal consequences in fact  – it is just a memorandum where the parties have agreed to guarantee. This will cause the loss of russia’s international reputation as a trustworthy partner because once you’ve agreed you should implement. We see that at the moment Russia does not lean towards keeping the power of its own signature. Whereas in general as regards the principle of territorial integrity that are prescribed in the international law are currently in the phase of violation. Why? Because in order for one country to use force again another, the decision of the UN security council is required.  Or the use of armed forces has to be precisely proved and motivated. So far we there were precedents to that. Namely, by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq – there was a military intervention which was ultimately close to the procedures prescribed by the international law. In case of Afghanistan all the norms of international laws were maintained. In case of Iraq they couldn’t reach the decision of the UN security council while all the doubts were available that chemical weapons were being proliferated there. Moreover, the chemical weapons had been used against peaceful citizens in particular against the Kurds in northern Iraq. At that time large numbers of Kurds were killed. In general, the point that US is allowed while Russia is not is being largely manipulated and discussed. The problem here is not about the entities but what cause the use of military force. Whether all the possible mechanisms and tools are used before appealing to military force? The available institutes in the international law. The procedures that international doctrine prescribes. In order not to go in the military way of solving the problem. I can say for sure that in case of Iraq the United States have attempted to do everything in order to avoid military intervention. Because first of all, the US government is democratic which is accountable towards its people. It takes the responsibility for every deceased citizen. And to make such a decision precise, concrete reasons were required. We’ve seen that they existed in reality. Of course, the chemical weapons were not found but the success is that the authoritarian power was demolished. In this case, we didn’t see procedures proceeding the use of military use. Although it could be possible to find possibilities. It could be possible to send an observers group to Crimea. It could be possible to use the possibilities of the OSCE, the EU, the UN why not. It could be possible to find formats of cooperation. If the point was the security of the Russians, if that was the problem, then it could be very easily in the international format, bilaterally, trilaterally, or quadrilaterally encourage the Ukrainian government to restore the language status as well as constrain fascistic ideologies and its spread. And alongside gain guarantees that the Russian speaking minorities in the Ukraine will enjoy the rights prescribed by the constitution, international laws. We have witnessed that they were not attepted, nor applied. The decision to use military force was immediately made. I believe this was a quick decision to make on behalf of Russia. It was possible to solve the problem by other means.  And not lead to such a tension.

Does that mean that comparisons are irrelevant? With Iraq and Afghanistan.

– As a final outcome, we can compare with Iraq. As a final outcome. That as a final outcome the US used military intervention in Iraq without UN security council sanction. The same will be done by Russia so in that regard we can compare. But what did the US do before the military intervention? How many years of negotiations preceded the intervention? How many UN missions were sent over to Iraq? How many times Hussein was asked to open up the possibilities to examine and study? Once they gained a rejection by the Iraqi leader which didn’t allow to enter the areas where there could be chemical weapons. As a result of which a decision was made. And there was this case that chemical weapon was used in northern Iraq. So, they are different in form and content. Russia’s and the US strategies are different. The approach is different. As a final outcome there is similarity.

How should the west tolerate Russia’s such policy? What steps do you foresee? And what steps do you consider necessary today?

– It is hard to say at this stage because it seems that steps are being made to encourage Russia to act within the framework of international law which is the geopolitical and economic isolation. The upcoming G8 summit in Sochi can be considered canceled. As well as economic sanctions which the west will attempt to use against Russia. As well as other formats within which there will be attempts to find dialogues with Russia. And the format exists. As we speak, an extraordinary session of EU foreign ministers is underway which was summoned by Katherine Ashton around the Ukraine problem. And I think that the EU has all the possibilities to find a solution through mediation mission of Germany or France or Franco-German alliance. What is optimistic for me is that as we know yesterday the Russian president and German chancellor have come to an agreement in their telephone conversation to send to Crimea an observation mission within the OSCE. This makes me hopeful that the west, namely, the EU will find possibilities to cooperate with Russia which will minimize the launch of military actions and escalation of tension. At least, it will be the beginning of a process which will temporarily or forever, I hope, eliminate the use of arms, of armed forces in the Ukraine which is, speaking otherwise, declaration of war to a state which is when you intrude the country with arms without the country’s consent – it’s a war. Whereas in case of Ukraine and Russia the war will be a disaster. All the possible means and mechanisms should be found in order not to let it happen.

Neither the European union nor the US recognize Yanukovich as the president. During a recent press conference he mentioned that he is and continues to be the legitimate president of the country. Today does he have the right to be called a president or no?

– Not only did Yanujivich, but other high ranking Russian officials have stated that Yanukovich remains to be a legitimate president. The one who stated that, the Prime Minister, is a lawyer by profession. There is a huge difference between the words legal and legitimate. Legitimacy is the possibility to run authority that a certain leader has.  Namely, making decisions, implementing those decisions, and inputting a resource in it. Whereas legal is prescribed by the constitutional regulations for election or impeachment process.  Now Yanukovich is not a legitimate president. Maybe Yanukovich is a legal president. Because the impeachment process prescribed by the constitution was not retained. But in fact it’s a revolution with all the obvious consequences. But speaking about Yanikovich’s legitimacy is, I would consider, illiteracy.

These days both Carry and Mccain talked about cold war trying to persuade Russia about its unexecptability. Do you see potential today?

–    Frankly speaking, you cannot identify the Soviet Union of the 50s with today’s Russia. These are different units with economic, geopolitical, military potentials. The Soviet Union could afford the luxury of entering a cold war with the west, namely with Europe which was heavily deprived and damaged in post-war infrastructure, the US has undergone lesser damage because of the war. I think Russia today cannot enter a long-term cold war with the west – economically, politically, demographically, culturally.. it doesn’t have any relevant resource.

In your opinion, how will current affairs related to Russia and Russian integration projects?

– In post-Soviet area economic and political processes with the Ukraine’s participation and without it are different form and content. Integration processes with the participation of the Ukraine have huge potential to restore infrastructures created at Soviet times and sum up a political resource which is to consolidate that resource. Without its participation it will just be a half step. A process that has no prospective. It is very well perceived by Russia, it is very well perceived by other partners that are in the Customs Union and other potential parties that assume to create Eurasian partnership. The process was active because Russia was sure that Ukraine would join it sometime. And everything was moving in that direction if not for the Maidan. And the Ukraine would join if the Ukrainian people hadn’t struggle for its freedom and its European future. But the situation today is that Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine do not even have an intention to think about participating in post-Soviet integration. While without them it will be just another phase of satisfying the aspirations of Russian imperialism.

So you don’t see any prospectives?

– I don’t. More than that, I have a feeling that both Russia and Armenia got what they wanted from the process called Customs union. So what did Russia get? What it got is that Armenia refused its aspiration of EU integration. Armenia got the lowest rate of its reputation ever. In fact, Russia gained a fully controlled economic and political system. While Armenia in return gained cheap gas, gained its migrants, the possibility to live and work freely in Russia. The parties did not expect more, in my view. Since customs union without a common customs border when the free movement of goods, services, capital and human resources wouldn’t be guaranteed because there was a country which was in a different economic system and a different bloc which would naturally create technical and content obstacle for the transfer of goods, I think additional obstacles would be created for Armenia. Likewise for Russia. We add also the unsettle confrontation in Nagorno Karabakh, the special attitude of Belarus and Kazakhstan towards Azerbaijan, where will be the outer border of the Union be, would Turkey open the so-called foreseen outer border of the Customs Union with Armenia, and what would be reason behind it since there is no note on that by official Turkey regardless that for about five six months the membership process is underway which means that Turkey should be speaking about not having a closed border with Russia. Whereas it doesn’t talk about this. Therefore, as an analyst, I can infer that the parties gained what they were expecting to gain. This is my personal opinion. I won’t attempt to predict what will be the result, but that the process will slow down… Russia especially, and we talk about Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union, it will slow down and even postponed. Why? Because Russia is facing more important issues to solve. And armenia’s membership is not the issue for Russia to allocate resources in this difficult situation where we already see the Russia’s stock exchange is experience a huge decline.. deals in the stock exchange have already been canceled.  Russia may face a huge economic collapse. As well as the exchange rate of the ruble. And in this regard, to assume a new burden such as Armenia and the latter is very weak at this point and is expecting a support from Russia and Russian is not able to support since it has more important problems to invest in, I think what the parties have acquired will be enough. It may be good because legally and in fact we will not become a member of the Union.

Many parallels are draw in regard that Crimea can become a precedent for the Nagorno Karabakh. Do you see a similar scenario?

– I do not want to even think about it. I wouldn’t even want to … want to.. I hope our government will be clever enough not to draw parallels between Crimea and Nagorno Karabakh. These are entirely different cases. Absolutely. The people of the nahorno karabakh have gain the  right of self-governance and independence.   Nagorno Karabakh is independent de facto and possesses its state borders while Crimea is in the process of ukraine’s territorial integrity and separatism in the 21st century especially in such a confrontation within the package of international laws, I simply see at this point as impossible unless there is a military intervention. Even Crimea itself does not claim to withdraw from the Ukraine. Even the newly formed authorities in Crimea do not speak about withdrawing from the Ukraine. They speak about forming a federal state. But Karabakh is an entirely autonomous unit. It is not dictated anyhow by the central government of Azerbaijan. It makes decisions internally. It possesses all the required attributes of self-government, which is not there in case of Crimea. It doesn’t claim to. We may be running ahead of the Crimea people or their government to become independent of the Ukraine, but they don’t want to.

In your view, what will be Turkey’s actions? There were publications in the media that Crimea will join Turkey. I wonder how will Turkey react to this action of Russia.

– Turkey has stakes in Crimea. This is not something new and Turkey has stake claims but Turkey views Crimea as part of the Ukraine. This was said by Davit Oghlu on March 1 in Kiev during his meeting with the current Ukrainian prime minister. It was announced that Turkey defenses Ukrainian territorial integrity and sees Crimea as part of the Ukraine. If there are any manifestations of separatism regarding withdrawing Crimea from the Ukraine, Turkey will not stay away from that process. A concrete process will start and Turkey being part of NATO, and NATO will not let Crimea separate from the Ukraine. A phase of concrete actions will start and we shouldn’t forget that Turkey is our bordering neighbor.

Armenian government does not recognize the new authorities of the Ukraine? Why? And in your view, how will this later on impact the Armenian-ukrainian relations?

– I wouldn’t say they do not recognize. I’d say they didn’t state they recognize. That creates a different situation. At this point it is very difficult for Armenia. Hard in the sense that on the one hand we have a strategic partner, we are a part of CSTO, we have Russian military base in Armenia, on the other hand our immediate neighbor Turkey being counterbalance of the strategic polarity and a leading country, having NATO’s biggest army in their territory and in the region, to weigh or counterweigh these two forces on the borders of Armenia is the number one problem for the Armenia authorities. Look, in this confrontation, in this tension we’ve heard the names of various international organizations. But I didn’t hear a single word about CSTO.   After all Russia is a member of CSTO. Russia is making a decision to use military force against another sovereign state. This is russia’s separate decision – which doesn’t have anything to do with CSTO. But at least it is worth consulting with member states of CSTO and take into account their stakes and benefits because in case of unfavorable development these states are automatically involved in war. It should be considered as a scenario therefore it would be desirable to stick to the partnership format and environment, and consult on constant basis or summon a extraordinary session of the CSTO board where Russia will share its intentions with the partners at least to keep they ready. So, there’s a feeling that the CSTO member states are not immediately favoring Russia’s actions in the Ukraine. This is a serious challenge. And Armenia should reconsider its guarantees of security and consider whether today’s guarantor of security may become a source of threat tomorrow for Armenia.

We witness the same CSTO policy during the war in Georgia in 2008. Georgians have highly praised armenia’s position at that time. At this point you consider armenia’s position as sufficient in regard to the Ukrainian development?

– Armenia should abstain from any announcements. Abstain from any actions at this point. If any announcements should be made then it must the announcement about the neutrality of Armenia regarding this issue. Because Ukraine is a brotherly country and Armenia doesn’t have any issues with the Ukraine. And we must be very cautious in this matter. It is desirable not to do anything. In case of doing just announce about its neutrality. It’s the only thing Armenia should do. Later when everything ends or in the long run we should seriously ponder what to do next.

Although the situation is not yet finished, I assume we can make preliminary assumptions about how it will influence the region and particularly Armenia.

–  You probably wanted to ask whether there will be Maidan in Armenia or not. I assume that was your question. In the region Georgia has had its Maidan long ago. In case of Azerbaijan I can’t say anything because I am not aware of current processes in Azerbaijan. As to Armenia I can state that for Armenia it is an extremely undesirable Maidan. The Maidan in its form and content that happened in the Ukraine. Namely, clashes with the police, casualties, radical sentiments, semi-fascist ideologies… we simply cannot afford that. But we also shouldn’t say that Armenia should stay away from this issue because priorities in the world are changing. The world is changing. Due to the events in the Ukraine we will live in a different reality. And we should adapt our policies to the newly emerged situation. Therefore, Armenia should find ways to diversify its economics and security policies, find a bilateral format of cooperating with NATO as a military alliance. With the United States as a bilateral cooperation by maintaining good and positive relations with Russia. How this will happen is a very tough issue. It required serious political and diplomatic skills for Armenia to be able to implement. But this is the number one issue for Armenia. Armenia should reconsider its foreign economic and political priorities and be able to diversity them.

Will the west reconsider eastern policies after these developments?

– You know, we speak of the west in a collective sense which includes both the US and the EU. We have witness that in case of Armenia the United States was neutral. That is they didn’t intervene or interfere in the de facto fiasco of the eastern partnership, the abortion of the European integration which we no longer have. We have a partnership search. The US has silently observed the process. Whereas in the Ukraine they were not observers. They were active and direct participants. We saw the active and personal mission of the US secretary of state in the Maidan events, his bilateral and multilateral conversations with the Ukrainian oligarchs, how they were convinced to appear in the western political field, how Rada became entirely pro-western, how former fractions of regions became advocates of Ukraine-EU integration path, in Armenia the US did nothing. Thus, the EU being the most developed and perfect economic structure, being the center and basis of value system cannot yet find its geopolitical identity. And here US and the EU should find an cooperative and mutually beneficial format in order to succeed. The European Union will promote values and wellbeing, will demonstrate its inner capacities, but when it comes to physical existence and security, they all become secondary. And today, regardless how unfortunate it may sound, the EU is not capable of assuring Armenia’s security. It can be done by the US.

So, the security which is in Armenia can change? Is there such a concern?

– The security guarantee may become a source of threat. It may. As a result of change of the situation. That is armenia’s presence in CSTO can become dangerous. Despite the fact that Armenia should remain a loyal partner, should remain a predictable partner, and remain loyal to the principles it fostered and loyal to its position within signing for associating with European integration. It had to remain loyal. But it has to think of diversifying it.

Will the United States give that opportunity?

– Yes. I think it will. We simply have to approach the issue timely and in the right way.

“There is a need for a new political thinking and culture, failing to build which will push Armenia dangerously close to the edge of the abyss”

First Armenian News and Analyses interviewed Armen Kharazian, former member of Armenia’s diplomatic service, and analyst on security affairs, based in Washington, DC.” 

There is a widespread perception that while people in Armenia and Ukraine faced similar challenges in opposing the pressure of the Kremlin to join the Russia-led Customs Union, U.S. and EU offered strong support to the opposition in Ukraine, but not in Armenia.Whywas Ukraine more important?

Hardly was one was more important than the other. Simply, public outrage in Ukraine over the decision bythat country’s authorities to clip its European aspirations and join the Russia-led Customs Union was far more robust and vigorous than in Armenia. Unlike the Ukrainians, the Armenian public at large took a somewhat more subdued, less vigorous position against Russia’sresurgent neo-expansionism. Armeniansfailed to assert their European identity and aspirations fora future in Europejust as forcefully as the Ukrainians did.

Where one expects support, it is helpful to have and articulate clearpolicy goals, and to be prepared to advance them, regardless of whether any such support is forthcoming. Unlike Ukraine, Armenia demonstrated very little of that ability. How is the world supposed to understand what the people of Armenia want, when neither the public nor political parties succeeded in denouncing, in clear terms, thepolitical U-turn that the Armenian government made towards the Customs Union, literally days before the scheduled initialing of the Association Agreement with the EU?

 

We had major public rallies in Armenia in 2008, following the botched presidential election – why was no support offered then?

Immediately after the events of March 2008, there were hearings in the U.S. Congress, specifically, in the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission). The commission invited Levon Ter Petrossian, Armenia’s first president and the leader of the opposition, to travel to Washington and address the Commission. An invitation was also sent to the Armenian government. Mr. Ter Petrossian chose not to attend the hearings, and instead dispatched one of the leading opposition activists. The government was represented by a senior staffer in the Office of the President. A lower, more working-level representation of participants led to a decrease in overall interest in the hearings, making them less efficient.Around the same time, The Washington Post published an op-ed piece by Levon Ter Petrossian on events in Armenia, which, in my view, was a significantgesture by the newspaper to offer the Armenian opposition an opportunity to present its views to the world audience.

As it became clear that elections were marred by significant fraud, the United States suspended Armenia’s participation in the Millennium Challenge Assistance program, and the political situation in Armenia was adequately criticizedby the White House and other U.S. government and non-profit agencies with a role in the U.S. foreign policy making.

I will, however, mention four factors that shaped the U.S. response, although critical, but somewhat restrained, to post-election violence in Armenia on March 1, 2008.

First, the Armenian-American community. As one may recall,shortly after the election, major Armenian-American organizations, in particular the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), Armenian Assembly of America (AAA),and the Diocese of the Armenian Church,issued a statement ofsupport for Serge Sargsyan, the declared winner of the elections and the favored candidate of the outgoing President Robert Kocharyan.The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and its affiliated structures were already known for their long-standing support forMr. Kocharyan and his apparent successor. Note that the Kocharyan administration was also the principal beneficiary of Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation, which had invested over $250 million in Armenia in the past few years, and it becomes clear who enjoyed the support of the organized Armenian-American community in the immediate aftermath of the election.

Secondly, the outreach to the U.S. by Armenian authorities and the opposition. The main opposition force that later formed the nucleus of the Armenian National Congress was bizarrely aloof to the idea of any outreach to the West, and tothe U.S. in particular. It took no meaningful steps to interact with the U.S. policy community, either before, or after the election. Rather, itlimited itself mostly tomaking sporadic pronouncements aimed at Western audiences that were part-critical, part-resentful, and part-sarcastic. In the meantime, Mr. Sargsyan launched an intensive outreachcampaign in the period leading up to the election, working with U.S. government, policy, and non-profit communities. That effort included hiring one of the best-known U.S. public relations firms, Burson Marsteller, for a six-month contract worth half a million dollars, to help him build a favorable image in the United States. Even then, the U.S. was very consistent in supporting normalization of the political situation in Armenia, helping releasepolitical prisoners, and providing legal protection to many of those who had been arrested or charged in connection with their post-election activity.

Third, the political realignment in Armenia following the election, marked by the staged “defection” of Arthur Baghdasarian and his Rule of Law Party to the pro-government camp, helped create the illusion that a legitimate political dialogue was taking shape in Armenia, and that those holding stand in the Freedom Square were simply rejecting it.A poorly choreographed trick, that development, however, gave the pro-government camp powerful leverage over Armenian politics in the immediate aftermath of the election.

Finally, the agenda. The dispute between the authorities andthe opposition in Armenia was about falsified elections and post-election violence. The parties held no serious differences of opinion on foreign policy or regional issues. The international community had no clear understanding of whether this was a struggle for power and domestic politics, or there were also foreign policy implications. There were no apparent disagreements on relations with Russia and the West. The opposition lacked a meaningful economic plan, and its positions on Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian-Turkish relations were far more rigid than those of the government. Moreover, the opposition lacked a clear agenda for democracy and human rights. There were no competing visions for foreign and security affairs, economic policy, or civil society building.Instead, the clash was over the elections, post-election violence, and power transfer – objectives quite legitimate per se, but not nearly enough as to help highlight anyadvantages the opposition held over the ruling party,tomerit foreign support. Still, another factor handicapping the opposition was the tarnished democratic credentials of its leader, Armenia’s first President Ter Petrossian, due to the infamously fraudulent parliamentary and presidential elections in Armenia in 1995 and 1996 respectively, and the Constitutional Referendum in 1995.Therefore, the situation in Armenia in 2008 offered little in terms of the prospects and promise that the situation in Ukraine offers today.

Let’s talk about the opposition in Armenia and Ukraine. Would you argue that Armenia saw little mass protest against the September 3 decision because the opposition here is too firmly pro-Russia?

Not just the opposition, butalso the public at large are quite heavily invested in the idea that Russia is irreplaceable. The European vision does not spark the same excitement in Armenia that it does in Ukraine. Mainstream oppositiondoesnot support European integration, preferring instead the Russian orbit. Armenia simply lacks the popular momentum that supports the mass rallies in Ukraine.

A few days ago European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Stefan Füle released a statement announcing that EU will continue to support Armenia’s civil society, as well as its Civil Platform for Eastern Partnership. Would you agree that despite all these challenges, Armenia-EU cooperation goes on, at least at the political level?

Some relations will clearly continue to exist, but what kind of relations will these be? EU provides democracy assistance to Azerbaijan and Central Asia as well. What is the effectiveness of that assistance, when it follows a downgrade in relations, like in Armenia, not an upgrade?

Poland’s Ambassador to Armenia, for instance, does not rule out that Armenia and EU may signa new Association Agreement.

It is highly unlikely that a new Association Agreement will be signed. I am not familiar with the context of the Ambassador’s statement, but find it hard to imagine that Armenia and the EU may sign an Association Agreement while Armenia is moving full speed towards the Russia-led Customs Union.

Moreover, I am deeply skeptical of the ability of Armenia’s current leadership to take the nation into the EU, just like I am skeptical of President Yanukovich’sability to take Ukraine into the EU. A successful bidfor an EU membership requires a new leadership, new vision, new strategy and new society. We have much work to do in that regard.

Many would agree with your assessment that Armenia’s present government is unable to lead Armenia into Europe. Is change of power the only way forward?

The way forward is revolution in our mindsets and worldview. Armenia will exhaust itself as a nation if it fails to break free from the suffocating grip of collective powerlessness in the face of a corrupt, incompetent and ignorantgroup of warlords-turned-barons holding sway over how the nation determines its values, ethics, choice and ultimately, identity.

Despite the September 3 statement by Armenia to join Russia’s Custom’s Union, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern stated thatthe United States will continue to support Armenia’s domestic reforms. Recently, however,it was announced that the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation has denied Armenia’s application for assistance, selecting Lesotho and several other candidates instead. How would you comment on that?

Armenia was suspended from the Millennium Challenge Account in 2008, during the Kocharyan administration. Armenian authorities have raised this issuewith the U.S. government on numerous occasions, but Armenia’s performance indicators no longer satisfy the program requirements, therefore, Armenia is not eligible for assistance, unless there is sufficient progress.

You stated that reforms in Armenia fall below the standards under that program. Would you agree that had Armenia initialed the EU Association Agreement in Vilnius, instead of issuing the Moscow Statement onSeptember 3,the U.S. would have a different view on Armenia’s eligibility for assistance under the Millennium Challenge program?

I doubt that the outcome would be different. The program sets clear criteria, which Armenia failed to satisfy. Whereas initialing the EU Agreement would have been a serious indicator of Armenia’s determination to continue reforms,there is no direct relationship between signing a document in Vilnius, and gaining eligibility for the Millennium Challenge Program: one is a European matter, the other — U.S.

The United States has a positive relationship with all member nations of the Eastern Partnership. At the same time, those pursuing EU integration receive greater supportthan those that are not.

Here, the issue is whether the choices these nations make regarding their collective security and economic arrangements are voluntary and reasonable. U.S. and Europe offer considerable support to nations that are moving towards closer Euro-Atlantic integration, but the West also respects the free will of nations that do not pursue such goals. Armenia has made a choice to be among the latter group of nations, and its Euro-Atlantic partnersrespectit. The question ishow closely that choice reflects the true aspirations of the Armenian people? Ukrainians rose up against their leadership, denouncing accession to Russia’s economic projects. Armenians, unfortunately, did not.Not a single member of the arts, sciences, or business communities, or a celebritycared to come and join the protesters on the Freedom Square. Not a single mainstream politician rose in calling for the withdrawal of the fateful September 3 decision, as an act of high treason. None, exceptfor select individuals and a few small, but dedicated groups of activists.

There were no denouncements by the First or Second Presidents of Armenia, none by the “pro-democracy” Armenian National Congress, “pro-business” Prosperous Armenia Party, “pro-independence” Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and of course, none by the ruling Republican Party that claims adherence to the principles of the founders of the First Republic, but acts in ways that are deeply disgraceful and offensive to the legacy of these founding fathers.

There is a need for a new political thinking and culture,failing to build which will push Armenia dangerously close to the edge of the abyss. Shockingly,while Armenia’s survival as a nation is at stake, the debate over social security withholdings from wages draws more passionate opposition, than relinquishing sovereignty to Moscow.If this is not a clear enough sign that Armenia is failing as a state, then what is it?

You talked about the Armenian government’s reliance on foreign support. Yet, the opposition doesn’t do anything much differently. Take, for instance, the recently launched Alliance for Civic Contract, whose leading members have called for Diasporan support. How interested is the Armenian Diaspora in supporting this sort of opposition initiatives?

Idoubt any opposition movement in Armenia would attract much Diasporan support. The way Armenia’s threats, challenges, and opportunities as a nation are perceived in the Diaspora,makes it certain that it wouldbe difficult to articulate the need for, let alone provide such support in any consistent, effective manner. While Armenia will certainly benefit from the experience and enthusiasm of many Diasporan Armenians, the Diaspora itself is hardly the best conduitof democraticculture and governance Armenia. Rather, Armenia should seek that experience in a direct, unmediated interaction with the advanced Western democracies, while welcoming and encouraging any contributions Diasporans could make to Armenia’s progress.

You compared Armenia to a failing state. Do you see arebound, or Armenia has crossed the point of no return?

Armenia needs a broad-based popular movement for democracy that will force the authorities to withdraw the September 3 decision. A revolution of mindset and worldview must take place. The notion that Armenia may be allowed to slip back into its Soviet past must be emphatically rejectedand resistedon every turn –both here and now,in our daily lives, and as a matter of planning for the nation’s long-term future.

In foreign policy, a radical change is overdue in Armenian-Turkish relations. This is the single greatest contributor to Armenia’s geopolitical hermitage, the source of its persisting complex of a victim of genocide, and a conscious effort is needed to overcome it, if we are to prevent it from happening again.The issue of Turkey, along with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, has been frequently exploited to deter Armenia fromembracing a vision anchored in its European identity and Euro-Atlantic integration, and holding it instead firmly in Russia’s shadow.Yet everyone concerned with the future of the South Caucasus must realize that keeping the Armenian-Turkish border sealed, or linking itsopening to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a way to pressure Armenia, will not only bring Armenia down, but Georgia and Azerbaijan as well. The South Caucasus is a three-legged chair – pull out a leg, and the chair will collapse.

Secondly, no matter how strongly we desire that Turkey delink the Armenian-Turkish relations and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it is neither feasible norreasonable to overlook the mutual relationship between the two. Armenia must continue to counteract attempts to enforce a linkage, but it must also be prepared to invest sufficient political will to work with the other parties in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to build consensus, to the extent that Turkey itself invests necessary effort in normalizing relations with Armenia. This must be done in a way that allows Armenia to maintain its leverageover the balance of power in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and its negotiating advantage in the peace process. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh can and should handle talks with Azerbaijan, so that progress on that track triggers progress between Armenia and Turkey, without ever imposing a direct linkage between the two, yet acknowledging and leveraging their inter-dependence and mutually reinforcing character. Armenia must ensure that negotiations with Azerbaijan lead to a durable solution based on a mutually acceptable compromise that both harnesses, and contributes to the full strategic potential of the region of South Caucasus.

Finally, both processes must be kept as immune as possible from unnecessary Russian interference, although having a serious policy in place to work with Russia is imperative.

In terms of economic development, Armenia faces an extremely complicated situation: the nation has ceded much of its economy and infrastructure to Russia, and it will be very difficult to bring it back under Armenian control. Giving is easy, reclaiming it – not.

Thepath forwardis tobuild new economic capabilities and infrastructure, in cooperation with those foreign partners that are willing and able to provide access to them. Instead of the ageing railway, nuclear power station, communications, energy and transportation infrastructure, Armenia must build new, better and more modern ones that will overwhelm the old and make it obsolete – both morally and physically, whether by absorbing it, or simply pushing it out. In other words, Armenia must build a new country instead of the old, much tothe chagrin of its present rulers – the Armenia of our dreams, strong, prosperous, and democratic, in peace with itself and its neighbors, and a valuable member of the Euro-Atlantic community.

 

 

FINCA was recognized as the best credit organization of the year (video)

As a result of public opinion poll conducted by Gallup International and PanArmenian Media Group, FINCA Universal Credit Organization CJSC was recognized as the best credit organization of Armenia in 2013.

On December 20, the Director of the Armenian representation of Gallup International, Mr. Aram Navasardyan, visited the headquarters of FINCA UCO to present the diploma of the award to the CEO of FINCA Armenia, Mr. Hrachya Tokhmakhyan.

The public opinion poll was conducted by Gallup International and PanArmenian Media Group, on their own initiative around Armenia. The project aimed at studying the consumers’ opinion regarding various companies, their products and services operating in Armenia. 26 market spheres of goods and services have been studied.

FINCA Universal Credit Organization is a leading credit organization in the micro-credit field. It provides micro loans to low income entrepreneurs so they can create jobs, build assets and improve their standard of living.

In his speech the CEO of the Organization, Hrachya Tokhmakhyan, noted that this recognition puts a lot of responsibility to make sure the company will stay the best in its category not only today but in the future as well.

Armenia must diversify its security system

The guest of the TV show “Realpolitik”  David Shahnazaryan director of the Center for Political and Legal Studies “Concord”, former head of the National Security Service of Armenia.

Mr. Shahnazaryan, recently Armenia-EU negotiations concluded regarding Association Agreement, the head of EU diplomacy and the head of neighborhood politics and EU expansion Štefan Füle made a welcoming statement. How do you assess the negotiations and are you acquainted with the document which was not published.

I think it is a great achievement for Armenia.  I hope that the process of Association will have a great and successful final.  I consider it to be a historical opportunity for Armenia.

What do you put into these opportunities?

It is opportunity to be closer to Europe. Regarding economical context, Armenia gets the tremendous opportunities.  Armenia gets the opportunity to become part of civilized market. Here I am talking not about half billion EU market, but about billion one. As you know, the US and the EU are conducting serious negotiations regarding establishing of a common transnational market. Which opportunities does this market create for Armenia? First of all, all goods which are produced in Armenia can be sold in Europe. It means that soon we will see an influx of serious investors. Armenia becomes more attractive country for foreign investors, there also many opportunities for local Armenian oligarchs who can transform their commercial capital into industrial one.  Regarding political context, we will move closer to the modern civilization and European values, however we still have to conquer this Rubicon trail.

Mr. Shahnazaryan, the economy of Armenia has serious problems with monopolies and generally with oligarch systems which literally strangle the economy. For instance, how would we look like with such people as chairman of the State Revenue Committee Gagik Khachatryan, Gagik Tsarukyan and other “lfiksamo”, what can we do in European market within the frames of this agreement?

This agreement creates tremendous opportunities for everyone.  Within the framework of this agreement even oligarchs can use their funds in a more effective way. As I said, we have problems not with oligarchs but with a flawed system which must be changed.  No doubt that the economy of Armenia is in horrible state however this agreement provides us with opportunity to pull out our economy out of the path which takes us to the abyss.  In the meantime, it is only first step, there is yet a long way to go before Armenia can achieve this. All our standards must meet European requirements and in economic sense Armenia will be able to become a full member of this market. Regarding politics, this also provides us with opportunity to establish values which uphold Europe and the Free World. Thus, we will become part of Free Civilized world which not only gives various advantages but also provides us with opportunity to diversify our security.

So, now you are talking about security diversification of Armenia?

Yes, there are tremendous opportunities for security diversification. Armenia gains new status in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  In other words, the new status provides Armenia with a chance to cover that civilizational, human rights and civil society gap which was present between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  Although human rights situation in Azerbaijan is worse than in Armenia, Armenia still maintains a better record than the former. It is also well known that in all conflicts like the Nagorno-Karabakh one, the success is always achieved by the side which stands on the higher civil level. The first example is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In 90s, Armenia was considered to be an “island of democracy” while Azerbaijan was in a worse condition. Well, this becomes clear, when we recall that Armenia received wide support from the Free World, Democratic West, while Azerbaijan tried to solve its problems with the Soviet Politburo and other rudiments of the USSR. Needless to say, that all that attempts and efforts were futile.

So, did Azerbaijan also try to engage with democratic Russia?…

As a result, when democratic processes were initiated in Russia… By the way, 90s was the only period in history of Russia when it was not ruled by a single man. In spite of this fact, Russia still pursued its geopolitical interests and did its best to enhance its position in the region. In that period we also had advantages which provided us with opportunity to combine foreign, domestic, and military policies. We were able to receive arms contracts from Russia, political and financial support from the West, and bread from Turkey. In the end, thanks to the   well organized political, military, and diplomatic moves we managed to achieve a serious success in war and diplomatic field.

What can you say about current Armenia-Russia relations? The last events, famous Russia-Azerbaijan agreement, and Grachya Arutyunyan case showed that Armenia-Russia relations are not going smoothly, and in particular – during the negotiations on the Association.  I believe we must reassess current Russia-Armenia relations.

First of all, let us separate Armenian-Russian relations from Armenia-Russia relations, because right now we are talking about intergovernmental relations. During the whole independence period Armenia-Russia relations have never been so tense. Why and where? I believe we must look for a root of cause in Kremlin.  Let‘s base our discussion solely on facts, because some Russian and Armenian representatives are constantly trying to distort the facts, bring some emotion and hysterical behavior.

In February-March 2011 Russia signed with Azerbaijan 5-6 arms deals. I have to remind you that not all of them were fulfilled. According to my sources, these deals are worth $3.5bn.During that period Association Agreement with the EU did not attract so much attention the way it does nowadays. Later on, the talks became much more serious, when the sides were about to sign free trade agreement which constitutes an integral part of Association agreement and marked the beginning of arms and weapons supply. The deal regarding the last one was worth $1bn and was related to the offensive arms. Some people in Armenia were ready to express gratitude and enormous thanks to Russia for such a gift!

Prior to this, Russia also raised gas prices for Armenia which made some Kremlin analysts claim that it was purely political goal which will force Armenia to forget about existence of the EU and become part of Russian integrational processes that do not match Armenia’s political interests.

It is important to note that it is hence the strategic ally of Armenia who cuts arms deals. In the same line of high authorities of Russia, analysts who work for Kremlin could not even bring a single argument which could match our goals or interests in the region. They even claimed that “we modernize Russian military base in Gyumri”… However, what does it have to do with the armed forces of Armenia? Furthermore, I will remind you that few years ago Putin also clearly expressed his standpoint regarding establishing of Russian military base in Gyumri. During the interview with Azerbaijani reporter, he stated that Russian military base in Gyumri does not go against Azerbaijani interests. Be cautious, it was not against Azerbaijan, but against Azerbaijan’s interests. In the meantime, the interests of Azerbaijan lie not around war with Karabakh but around full scale war with Armenia; this goal constitutes a cornerstone of Azerbaijani military doctrine and foreign policy. Moreover, Russia itself since 2011 called into question two crucial points – first, that we and Russia are strategic allies, and second that Russia will ensure Armenia’s security.

After arms deal with Azerbaijan we witnessed Grachya Arutyunyan case. It is clear that while being in court Grachya Arutyunyan was under effect of some medications. It was simply a coercion of his rights. It is indeed surprising that judge did not make any remarks regarding this issue. In addition, when Grachya Arutyunyan was sent to Butirka prison it turned out that his arm was fractured/broken. We can explain this in two ways; it is either his hand was fractured as a result of car collision or after the court hearing. Moreover, we must turn to the robe issue. Of course, I can suppose that it was done by the order of local “kings”, local authorities. Nevertheless, other Russian authorities did not make any remarks regarding this issue. Yet, we received a strange statement from the Russian embassy in Armenia. However, we have a healthy civil society which reacted in an appropriate way which surprised Russia which did not expect such a reaction.

I also have to point out to the public outcry of our youth which was mobilized after transport fare increase and proved that the generation of Independence will not allow that foreign state trampled the dignity of our country and our sovereignty. The actions of our youth raised a great hope in our society; this hope proves that it is possible to overcome deep psychological crisis which is present in Armenia and on its political arena which started a few years ago. Civil society showed that it can uphold to the high moral values   which were present in 80s and in the beginning 90s.

During the protests related to the Grachya Arutyunyan some representatives stated that they were directed by the Western conspiracy.

I have to admit that over the last years Russia tries to justify its failures by a global Western conspiracy against it. Russia is trying to find reason for its failures outside itself. Russia-Armenia relations are quite important for us, however we should never forget about our statehood, sovereignty, and dignity. Everyone understands this in Russia.

Current Russia-Armenia relations started and were established during the presidency of Robert Kocharyan. What was the base of these relations? First of all, the property – in exchange for the debt, secondly, energy security was completely given to Russia, and whole network of rail ways was also given to Russia. Essentially, Armenia-Russia relations were directed to the one point: Armenia can do whatever it wants in foreign area, as long as it does not contradict interests of Russia. When Russia reassessed its policy in South Caucasus, it turned out that we had our own interests which we must pursue and understand. We must strive to the diversification of our own security. The policy of modern Russia reminds me period of collapsing USSR. Basically, Russia is trying to initiate new operation “Ring”. I believe that our society can resist it. In the end we all have to face one crucial question – do we have our own interests in Armenia-Russia relations or we always have to submit ourselves to Russia in order to receive its favor? This process is going on, and we will resist it.

Do you share the standpoint that we will face new “storms” or “cleansings”?

Russia will do its best to create new storms; however it does not have that many opportunities. Russia-Armenia relations are important for us, however Russia has to understand that there is a civil society in Armenia which will protect not only rights of Grachya Arutyunyan, but also our own statehood. What must be done in these regards? Taking into consideration that Russia changed its policies, we need to reset Armenia-Russia relations. Having this in mind, Armenia must ensure its energy security. Thusly, we must also closely cooperate with Iran. Secondly, I also started to notice some progress in regards to diversification of security and military cooperation; for instance, we can point out to the recent successful visit of Armenian Minister of Defense to Georgia.  In other words, under diversification I understand the close cooperation with EU states and countries which signed Association Agreement. Finally, Armenia must deepen its relations with Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova.  By the way, although we have many common political goals with Moldova, I still find our relations to be unsatisfactory.

Last actions of Russia created an interesting situation in OSCE Minsk Group. Russia realizes that it changed its status of mediator. It is unprecedented, when mediator, “honest broker”, as Bismarck used to say, initiated arms race between two sides. If war starts, God forbid, it will not matter for us who sold T 90 tanks to Azerbaijan. Secondly, few times Russia together with other co-chairs pushed sides to the peace talks, while Russia itself initiates arms race between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Kremlin knows the end of every arms race; it is either collapse of one of the sides or a real war. I suppose that in the near future someone other than Russia in OSCE Minsk group will initiate negotiations in order to find exit out of this impasse. It is well known that this impasse appeared after Safarov case, when newspapers wrote that high level Russian authorities participated in the extradition of Safarov to Azerbaijan.

We reached the point when Armenian authorities must stand up not only for themselves but also for the whole Armenian society. Current behavior of the authorities is not adequate. Nevertheless, I believe that our society will stand up to the future challenges. We must also take into consideration that our statehood and sovereignty are absolute values which are currently put in danger.

In relation to the Russian integration projects, there was adduced only one argument.  Is it possible to be in two different economic and security systems at one time? Indeed this is unprecedented. Meantime, the position of Russia in regards to its ally is also unprecedented just as position of peacemaker and mediator. It means that our response will also be unprecedented. Armenia must diversify its security system. There is no alternative to the EU Association Agreement.  This can turn into opportunity which was used by Baltic States after collapse of the USSR. No one wanted them in Europe. Together, three of them,  they tried to enter the EU through the door, however they were rejected, then they tried through the window and it worked out; now they are the full members of the system.

We also have hope for such opportunity. I have no doubt that the day is near when the relations between Armenia and Russia will be restored when the Kremlin’s imperial pretensions disappear, as it will hit primarily Russia itself.

Indeed, Ukraine is really important for Russia, and few days ago Putin listed the advantages and achievements which will be available for Ukraine if it joins Russia. However, on the next day Russia issued import ban on Ukranian “Roshe” product.

Russia implemented punitive sanctions against Ukraine. Needless to say that Russia also went the way too far with Georgia as well. I do not exclude that such steps could be taken in relation to Armenia too. Why not, for instance, Russia can issue import ban on Armenian brandy. But we must be ready for this and look for alternative markets. What did happen when Russia issue ban on the Georgian wine? Currently, the production of Georgian wine meets requirements of the European market.

We need a unity in order to withstand this. Russia has a habit like this when it comes back to the region – and now Russia wants to utilize Armenia in order to solve all questions in the region.  The same took place with Karabakh case. We have experience when Russia acted in this way and we are ready to deal with it. Besides that, Azerbaijan for Russia represents more important ally than Armenia. I am sure that all plans which Russia had with Baku will not be fulfilled as well.  We must realize that sooner or later Russia will leave the region again. Therefore, we must find common language with our neighbors and make use of advantages which are presented by Association Agreement.

I am not acquainted with Association Agreement itself; however I am aware of the main points of this document.  I expect that if this agreement is based upon universal, European, or western, values then it will not be difficult to judge the rest of it. Moreover, I am aware of certain wordings/statements regarding Nagorno Karabakh.

So, you have no concerns regarding this?

The main concern is that there are certain representatives of Armenian political elite who aim only at the defense of Russian geopolitical interests without taking into consideration what really lies behind these interests. One can also close eyes to the arms deals, and dignity of citizens of Armenia. Even if our society bore the arms deals it will never bear the trampling of dignity of Armenian citizens by Russia authorities.

You said we must be unified in the face of forthcoming challenges.

We must solve our internal problems. We must fight against corruption; we must force the Armenian authorities to undertake these steps.

Musician Arto Tunçboyacıyan meets the RA Ministry of Diaspora

On January 16, RA Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan received Diaspora Armenian musician Arto Tunçboyacıyan.

Mr. Tunçboyacıyan briefly represented to Minister Hakobyan the cultural and social activity he pursues both in Diaspora communities and in Armenia, attaching special importance to his initiative to establish an art school.

Minister Hakobyan praised the musician’s activity in Diaspora, pointing out the key aspects and goals of the ministry, particularly those aimed at maintenance of national identity, unveiling Armenian potential abroad, as well as the studies aiming to expose problems of the Diaspora.

“Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia do not participate in the tournament for political reasons”: Director of “Commonwealth Cup”

As it is reported, in”Commonwealth Cup” youth soccer tournament starting on January 18 in St. Petersburg, will participate all the post-Soviet countries, with the exception of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia.

Director of “Commonwealth Cup” Dmitry Schneider believes that the non-participation of the national teams of the three South Caucasus republics is because of political reasons.

“Unfortunately, no matter how often we say that football is beyond politics, in practice this does not always work – says Schneider.- Three Transcaucasian republics do not participate in our tournament for reasons in this field.”

Rectors of universities meet Serzh Sargsyan

President Serzh Sargsyan convened a meeting, which was attended by Minister of Education and Science Armen Ashotyan and the rectors of state universities.
Head of Rectors’ Council, the YSU Rector Aram Simonyan represented to the President common problems of all the state institutions and their solution proposals, discussed by the Council. During the conference Minister of Education and Chairman of the Council of Rectors reported to the President the implemented work assigned at the previous meeting. Rectors of universities presented priority issues, recent achievements and development programs of each university.
Together with President Serzh Sargsyan they spoke about the status of the state’s universities, some of the measures aimed at ensuring quality education opportunities.

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