Armenia-Iran agreements are not a stab at Russia - September, 2008

The following news article is yet another attempt at manipulation by Western officials at Eurasia.net. Armenia and Iran built the gas pipeline in question with Moscow's full knowledge, blessing and participation. Had Moscow been against it the project would have never materialized. The new pipeline is not meant to replace Russian gas supplies to Armenia. In the aftermath of the Georgian-Russian war, when Armenian gas supplies from Russia were threatened, officials in Moscow and Yerevan realized that Armenia desperately needed an alternative energy source in times of crisis. Cut off from Russian energy supplies, Armenia's fragile economy could face a grave situation. Moscow has in essence allowed Yerevan to deepen its ties with Tehran, as a result. Thus, the Iranian-Armenian gas pipeline is meant to be used as a backup, assurance in times of emergencies. Perhaps this is the reason why Yerevan is not fully jumping onto the opportunity to import gas from Iran although the pipeline is now ready for operation. Nevertheless, like Sevak Sarukhanian stated in the article, similar strategic projects will serve to further enhance Armenia's geopolitical status in the eyes of Moscow, further deepening Russian-Armenian-Iranian cooperation.

Had this been five-ten-fifteen years ago Moscow would not have allowed Armenia to approach any other nation due to its vulnerable position in the Caucasus region. Today, since Moscow dominates the Caucasus. Since it already controls vital aspects of Armenia's economy and national infrastructure Moscow will not object to Armenia having limited dealings with other nations in the region. But the idea that official Yerevan is embarking on regional projects to gain "independence" from Moscow
, is foolish to say the least. Armenia here is a victim of regional superpower politics, as usual. The gas pipeline in question was not built to give Armenia independence from Russia. The pipeline was built to give Armenia an alternative choice in a case of an emergency. With that said, Russia does not want to see Iranian gas/oil competing with Russian gas/oil in the Caucasus and beyond in Europe; nor does Russia want Armenia to be independent of Moscow in any manner. The reasons why Moscow feels this way are quite obvious. The Caucasus is where the interests of various major power intersect. It so happens that due to the region's political circumstances Armenians have always been pushed towards siding with Russia, even when doing so has not been easy for us. Nonetheless, this is the nature of regional politics, this is the real geopolitical situation Armenians have to learn to deal with and perhaps learn to use to Armenia's benefit.

Let's also look at this matter with a different perspective. The only way Russia would relinquish its control over Armenia is if Moscow was forced out of the Caucasus. How would the Armenian Republic fare in the Caucasus if Russia abandoned the area? We need to seriously seriously about this question. There are pros and cons within our relationship with Russia. We need to better assess these. Doing so may help us see things in a better light. An embattled/weak/vulnerable/poor nation that is subordinate to a major superpower does not have much voice in decision making.

Arevordi


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ARMENIA: NEW PROJECTS A STAB AT INDEPENDENCE FROM MOSCOW?

October, 2008

The Armenian government has confirmed plans to build an Iran-Armenia railway and a new nuclear power plant as part of a series of new, "large-scale" initiatives. In an October 2 speech to parliament, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan declared that the "time has come for Armenia to implement ambitious economic projects, super-projects." Aside from the railway and nuclear power plant, Sargsyan said that work will also begin in the next few months on an Armenian investment foundation "that will fund large-scale programs." "Such projects not only solve major strategic problems, but have a large-scale impact on the economy and society," said Sargsyan. Details are not yet available; instructions, however, have been given to the Ministries of Energy and Transportation to come up with proposed work plans for the railway and power station projects.

In a September statement to Diaspora Armenians in New York City, Sargsyan stated that "similar and larger-scale programs" are also in the works, the presidential press service reported. He did not elaborate. The "new initiatives" have prompted a debate about whether or not President Sargsyan is trying to diminish Russian influence on the country, and to strengthen Yerevan’s ties with other players in the South Caucasus. The fact that the three projects were first mentioned in a speech to Armenian Americans in New York City has prompted some local observers to believe that the government may be trying to draw greater Diaspora interest to diversify the investment mix. "An attempt is being made to strengthen Armenia’s foreign policy," commented opposition parliamentarian Stepan Safarian, a member of the pro-West Heritage Party.

The president’s decision to invite Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Armenia in September has prompted other opposition members to agree. "It is obvious that Sargsyan’s foreign policy is different from his predecessor’s," added opposition politician Suren Sureniants, a senior associate of opposition leader and former president Levon Ter-Petrosian. "The pro-Russian emphases are in some way altered and it can be seen that Sargsyan is trying to become more comprehensible for the West." But not all observers agree.

"One can hardly think that by constructing a new railway and nuclear power station an attempt is being made to get rid of Russian control," said political analyst Sevak Sarukhanian, deputy director of Yerevan’s Noravank Foundation for Strategic Research. "On the contrary, it will deepen Armenian-Russian strategic cooperation, since . . . Russia will have its share in both construction projects."

Armenia’s existing railway network is already managed by Russian Railways; the Armenia-Iran railway would, therefore, have Russian involvement. Similarly, Armenia depends on Russia for nuclear fuel and technological support for its existing nuclear power station, which is managed by the Russian company UES. Overall, nearly 80 percent of Armenia’s energy system is estimated to be under Russian control. Russia also maintains control over the Hrazdan hydropower plant, one of the largest in the South Caucasus. The Iran-Armenia gas pipeline is one example of a similar, large-scale project that had initially stirred speculation that Armenia was attempting to pull away from Russia. Gazprom’s majority stake in ArmRosGazprom, however, means that Russian interests are represented in the pipeline.

A recent Armenian about-face on the desirability of importing Iranian gas illustrated the implications of that presence. On September 10, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Armen Movsisian told Armenian media that Armenia will be able to import Iranian gas in November. The pipeline, which Movsisian presented as the solution to "the issue of Armenia’s energy security," has an annual capacity for 2.3-2.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Iran reportedly plans to export some 1.1 billion cubic meters of gas to Armenia annually, and will increase that number gradually to reach 2.3 billion cubic meters by 2019, according to the Armenian Ministry of Energy’s website. Iran was reportedly ready to start supplies of gas to Armenia by October 13. "Iran will pump three million cubic meters of gas to Armenia during this winter," said National Iranian Gas Company managing director Reza Kasaei-Zadeh in a recent interview with the Iranian ISNA news agency.

In-exchange Armenian exports of electricity reportedly began on October 5. However, Armenia’s Energy Ministry earlier this week affirmed that Armenia "does not yet have a need" for Iranian gas. One analyst cited the incident as a sign that Moscow still holds the cards for Armenia’s energy market. "It is clear that Armenia refused to receive Iranian gas as a result of Russian pressure," said independent political analyst David Petrosian. "Russia controls almost the entire energy system of Armenia through its state corporation. It seeks to keep Armenia in a state of dependence . . . Armenia will receive gas from Iran only when Russian gas is in short supply."

Source: http://www.eurasianet.org/department...av101708.shtml

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