Sunday, 8 September 2013

How Armenia ruling regime and Putin’s Russia fooled the EU over Association Agreement

Surprise. Shock. U-turn... Yet if we look at the bigger picture, including developments of last few months, this turn of events will not seem that surprising.

First sign that we are going to witness what we eventually witnessed, i.e. Armenia president announcing (3 September 2013) country’s intention to join the Russia led Customs/Eurasian union, was... yes-yes, the anti-gender-equality-law-hysteria.

Armenian government proposed the law on gender equality, as part of its European commitments, made sure it was approved by the under control parliament (no efforts needed, just order), then along with Russia provoked and contributed to the backlash against the very law they adopted by equalling “gender” with “European amorality” and “LGBT”. To note, women's groups, including Women's Resource Centre that became target of orchestrated hate campaign and LGBT rights groups had no role whatsoever in developing or promoting the law.

Never before Armenian public underwent such an intoxicating dosage of anti-EU hysteria with propaganda machine making all the possible efforts for EU to be associated with "amorality", "destruction of traditional Armenian families", "making your children gay"... You got the picture.

While this puppet show was clearly governed from Moscow, Armenia authorities not only did nothing to explain the benefits of their ‘EU integration’ policy, a policy they ‘worked towards’ for the last 4 years and seemingly (only seemingly!) committed to, but all their under control media, including Public TV, was engaged in an anti-EU campaign.

They used this ‘hate the EU’ campaign to prepare the public for the announcement of 3rd September.

Since the introduction of Eastern Partnership, It has always been the case that Russia dislikes (to put it mildly) the initiative and will do whatever possible to derail it. Armenia’s dependence on and close ties with Russia was never a secret.

It’s inconceivable to believe that Armenia authorities committed to EU and went so far - only steps away to sign (initial) the Association agreement, including deep and comprehensive free trade agreement - without Russia's blessing.

They waited the right moment to announce the U-turn as a diplomatic coup triumph for Russia and a scare tactic directed primarily to Ukraine.

For Armenia authorities, hardly bearers of or devotees to European values, the main reason why they entered this game was because in return they received EU/West legitimacy, despite fraudulent elections. The only things that matter to them are power, money and travel enjoyment. With Russian help, they made EU to believe that they are committed pro-Europeans. Ha!

Now they can present themselves as victims of Putin’s pressure: ‘poor Armenian authorities, they simply had no other option but to succumb to Russia’s pressure.’ How convenient.

This way they will try to avoid EU sanctions and may get something light in return. You know, the way they like the concept of ‘human rights light’. Now it will be ‘EU light’. Something that won't put too much responsibility on them in terms of commitments by still giving all the main benefits in terms of keeping power, money and travel. Win/win for Armenia ruling regime and Putin’s Russia. Big fail for the EU.

Armenia ruling regime clearly demonstrates how unreliable international partners non-elected authorities could be. Time wasters.


artmika said...

Some similarities with my view. Good read (AM). Stepan Danielyan on Hetq: Armenia authorities 'master of imitation', bluffing re EU integration process

Ani said...

Well, you may be right that the plan was an elaborate charade from the outset. But I think that gives them too much credit for long-term planning and that the decision was made more recently—maybe late last year, when the Russia-Abkhazia-Georgia-Armenia railroad restoration story was first floated. I believe that Sargsyan and company had the original intention of proceeding with the European agreement provided that there were enough carrots and candy included for the oligarchs’ businesses to thrive in the European market. They needed to go through to the conclusion of negotiations (should we call it haggling?) to see whether signing on was in their own interest (not in the interest of the people of Armenia, just that of the oligarchs). However, when the last best offer got to the table, it became clear that breaking up monopolies and the hard work needed getting products up to European standards (see the Wine Union president’s statement regarding that here: would have a negative effect on the oligarchs’ bottom line, at least in the short term (and they only ever think short-term). And of course, all the human rights and civil society elements of the Agreement you mentioned were an integral part of the package; they would not be allowed to sign it à la carte.

As the doubts grew, it was easy for Russia to step in with its own small carrots (the railway story float) and big sticks (the gas price rise and the Azerbaijan weapons sales) to seal the European plan’s fate. (You made the point that Armenia negotiated the European agreement with Russia’s permission; I think that this permission was not needed, because Russia knew it could sit back, watch, and wait, thinking the agreement would fall through on its own or it could spoil the deal if necessary.) To make the case more palatable to (too) much of the Armenian population, though, the gender hysteria was cranked up as well as other stories about how “European values” were not compatible with “Armenian values.” Thus there is now a doubt and a balance between explanations as to whether the Russians forced the agreement or the Armenian government decided the Eurasian Union was a “better fit.”

There is no doubt that the Eurasian Union is a very poor alternative to the European package. Belarus and Russia are at odds and Kazakhstan is busy making huge independent deals with China. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are being pressed to join, but their economies are in worse shape than Armenia’s and will yield no economic benefits. Meanwhile, small businesses and individuals in Armenia will continue to be shut out of opportunities, since nothing new will be offered to them from Russia, and European interest will wane, so emigration will continue and perhaps accelerate. Sorry, no optimism here.

artmika said...

Armenia ruling regime rejoice at Ukraine fail with the EU. This card will be used internally & externally to cover-up their own bluffing with the European Union.

The EU Just Lost Ukraine To Russia

artmika said...

Armenia’s ex-file