Shortest way from Europe to Asia lies through Armenia - October, 2010

"The shortest way from Europe to Asia lies through Armenia enabling it to become a transit country,” Russian director of the South Caucasus Railways, Shevket Shaydulin, recently told Armenian journalists in Yerevan. And with those words Moscow all but obliterated the Western inspired Baku-Tbilisi-Kars-Akhalkalaki railway construction project as it had previously done with the Nabucco project. Moscow is planning to build a railway to Iran through Armenia, and China may participate in its construction. The ultimate goal here is to turn Armenia into a major rail hub connecting east to west. Again, much to the dismay of Tbilisi, Ankara, Baku, Brussels and Washington, we see Moscow pushing Armenia onto center stage in regional politics. I have a strange feeling that the "opposition" obsessed segment in Armenia, namely those who enjoy nothing but disseminating poisonous stories about their republic, will find something catastrophic about this development as well...

Within the world of superpower politics, within the world of career officials who are responsible for the care of hundreds of millions of nationals and the protection of trillions of dollars of wealth and resources, absolutely nothing is left to chance. Political policies are carefully formulated and meticulously mulled over many years in advance by major powers. Government controlled news press reveals merely a fraction of what actually transpires within the inner chambers of places like the White House or the Kremlin. Therefore, when I see a major political/economic entity like the Russian Federation investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Armenia's national infrastructure and hear Russian officials talk about the building of a new railway in Armenia, as well as the building of an oil refinery plant and a new nuclear power plant, I begin to suspect that serious regional projects are being worked on by the Kremlin and Armenia is playing a major role in it.
I have been saying the following for the past several years. Step-by-step Moscow is attempting to help its ally Armenia become a transportation hub in the Caucasus. The push to bring Yerevan and Ankara together in the aftermath of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 was at least in part because of Moscow's desire to project its economic power in the region via its most reliable foothold in the region, Armenia. The strategically significant railway project has been getting more news coverage recently. As a matter of fact, work has already been started in Armenia and Iran. Here we have a major railway system that is envisioned to connect Russia to Iran via Armenia - yet no one that I know of yet is asking the most obvious question. How? While it's quite easy to see how Iran and Armenia will be connected by this railroad, it gets a bit perplexing to try to figure out how Russia will tap into this network since it is cut off from Armenia by a hostile Georgia and a belligerent Azerbaijan.

Why is a major superpower like Russia willing to invest so much time and money in a project that it is ultimately not physically a part of? I would first like to bring this interesting question its logical conclusion by stating that Moscow will eventually seek to tap into the railway in question either through Azerbaijan or Georgia. Which would mean one of two things. With the virtual disappearance of American interests in the Caucasus, Moscow is currently working on a plan to -
1) Carryout a regime change in Tbilisi or resume military hostilities there once again in an attempt to install a pro-Moscow government in Georgia, one that Moscow can thereafter reach political/economic agreements with.

2) Settle the Nagorno Karabakh issue. Thereafter, use the established peace to reach political/economic agreements with Baku and Yerevan. This alternative will most probably result in Moscow forcing Armenia to pull out of the territories taken outside of Nagorno Karabakh proper (hopefully with the exception of the western regions) and force Baku to recognize Nagorno Karabakh as an independent nation.
However, taking into consideration simple nuances like geography and the fact that Moscow has already been modernizing its railway in Abkhazia since the summer of 2008, Russia's rail connection to Armenia will most definitely come by the way of Georgia. Which means there will be no extracurricular pressure on Yerevan to come to terms with Baku. Which also means that Sakhashvili's time in power is fast expiring. Yes, you heard it here first.

I have no doubt that after having worked years on expelling Western and Turkish influences from the region and investing billions of dollars in various military and economic project throughout the Caucasus, Moscow is now planning to deal the West and its regional allies a final coup de grâce. As I have been stating since 2008, Armenia has suddenly been propelled onto center stage as a result of these political changes in the south Caucasus. This is a historic opportunity the kind of which Armenia has not seen for close to a thousand years. Pax Russica holds many promises for the region. But I also realize that there are forces that would like to sabotage these developments in the name of freedom, justice and the American way. Thus, there still lies turbulent times ahead. The final outcome of the great game in the Caucasus is still contingent upon various geopolitical factors and variables.



Armenia, Russia ‘Working’ On Iran Rail Link

Armenia --  Shevket Shaydulin, director general of the national raillway company, at a news conference in  Yerevan, 7Oct 2010.

The Russian and Armenian governments have started jointly looking to into the possibility of building a railway that would connect Armenia with neighboring Iran, a top executive of Russia’s state-run rail network, RZD, said on Thursday. The ambitious project was formally approved by Yerevan and Tehran in April 2009. But they have yet to identify concrete sources of funding for the 470-kilometer rail link that would mainly pass through Armenian territory. Unofficial estimates of its total cost have varied from $1.2 billion to $4 billion. The Armenian government hopes that the Russians will participate in the railway construction and partly finance it. The Russian government and RZD, which manages Armenia’s national railway company, have not ruled out such possibility.

The transport ministries of the two countries agreed to set up joint working groups dealing with the matter during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s August visit to Yerevan. They comprise ministry officials and representatives of RZD and its Armenian subsidiary called the South Caucasus Railway (SCR). “At last, the working commissions of the two parties have started working,” Shevket Shaydulin, the SRC director general, told journalists. As part of that effort, he said, the RZD chairman, Vladimir Yakunin, formed recently a “special design center” for the Iran-Armenia rail link which is headed by one of his deputies, Oleg Toni. Shaydulin said another RZD subsidiary, the Moscow-based Giprotransproekt research institute, will launch a detailed feasibility study of the project after Toni’s task force works out technical parameters of the would-be railway. That study should be completed by next April, he added.

According to Armenian officials, China is another only potential source of funding for the project. Transport and Communications Minister Manuk Vartanian said in June that Yerevan is already negotiating with Beijing and hopes that the latter will provide more than $1 billion of the required funding. President Serzh Sarkisian stressed the importance of the project during a visit to Germany earlier in June. He said that as well as the planned expansion of Armenian highways leading to Iran could have “a truly revolutionary significance” for the wider region. Analysts and politicians critical of the Armenian government have questioned the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the project ever since its inception, however.

Shortest way from Europe to Asia lies through Armenia, Shaydulin says

Kars-Akhalkalaki railway is not our competitor, General Director of the South Caucasus Railways (SCR) Shevket Shaydulin told the reporters today. “Let the Armenian-Turkish border be open, let them construct what they want,” he said, adding that Kars-Akhuryan railway is much more profitable from the viewpoint of cargo transportation, as it is shorter and has higher traffic capacity. Thus, 6-8 carriages can go through Kars-Akhalkalaki railway, whereas Kars-Akhuryan’s capacity is up to 3,000 tons. According to him, there are some Turkish investors interested in operation of Kars-Akhuryan railway and are ready to invest certain funds to develop logistic system. However, Shaydulin is not aware of the activities carried out by the Turkish side at the moment. As to Akhuryan station, bordering with Turkey, its logistic center is almost ready to accept trains. "The shortest way from Europe to Asia lies through Armenia enabling it to become a transit country,” he concluded. Baku-Tbilisi- Kars-Akhalkalaki railway construction project is an alternative to the existing but not operating Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki railway. On the whole the project’s objective is to force Armenia out of the regional communication projects.


China May Join Armenia-Iran Railway Construction

China will consider Armenia’s proposal on participation in the construction of Iran-Armenia railway, Armenian Premier Tigran Sargsyan said in the course of his visit to Shanghai ExPo 2010. The Armenian side has presented China a number of projects, such as basalt reprocessing factories, production of solar batteries, etc., RA governmental press service informed The sides also stressed importance of the opening and operation of Shanxi-Nairit joint venture. In the course of bilateral talks it was decided to discuss the projects at the forthcoming session of the Armenian-Chinese intergovernmental commission to be held in Yerevan. Tigran Sargsyan noted that over 2 million people visited the Armenian pavilion at Shanghai ExPo 2010 and it was recognized one of the best.


Iran and Armenia railroad feasibility study underway

Meanwhile, Mr Igor Levitin transport minister of Russia stated that a research institute in Russia is working on a feasibility study for the project. A working group has been created consisting of specialists as well as deputy ministers of transport of Armenia, Iran and Russia. The total length of the railroad is 540 kilometers to 600 kilometers on Iranian territory and 480 kilometers in Armenia. Experts and specialist are now discussing different options for the orientation of the railroad. According to early estimates, USD 2 billion of investment is needed for the construction of the Iran and Armenia railroad. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have already voiced interest in the railroad construction project.


Bulgaria Eyes Iran-Armenia Railway Project
Bulgaria is interested in building a railway link between Armenia and Iran, a Bulgarian Minister said on Thursday as he visited Armenia. Any improvement in the field of transportation is beneficial for Bulgaria,” Bulgarian Transport, Information Technology and Communications Minister Aleksandar Tsvetkov said. He added that Armenia is a friend to his country with “traditionally effective” levels of cooperation. The project, if implemented, will lay 540 km of rail track linking the two neighboring countries, with a bulk of the line passing through Armenia. 480 km of the track will run through Armenia, with the remaining 60km through Iran, Tsvetkov said. According to Armenia’s Transport and Communications Minister, cooperation between Armenia and Bulgaria has “increased considerably” and will continue to grow. “Armenia’s trade with Bulgaria in 2009 totaled $147 million, and in the first half of 2010 alone, reached $125 million,” Vardanyan said, adding that Bulgaria is among Armenia’s top ten trade partners. The two ministers met on Thursday at the 6th Session of an Intergovernmental Commission organized by both countries to streamline economic cooperation in trade and science.


Related information:

Global Insider: Russia-Armenia Defense Ties

Armenia agreed to extend Russia's lease of a military base in the city of Gyumri until 2044. In an e-mail interview, Kim Iskyan, a director in the Russia and Eurasia practice at Eurasia Group, discusses Russia-Armenia defense relations.

WPR: What has historically been Russia and Armenia's defense relationship?

Kim Iskyan: Russia and Armenia have long shared a close relationship, with defense as a critical dimension. Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there were Soviet bases in all three countries of the Caucasus, but Azerbaijan and Georgia subsequently engineered the departure of the Russian military presence. Armenia, though, wanted to keep Russian boots on Armenian territory. Russia currently maintains a base with several thousand troops in the city of Gyumri. Russian and Armenian forces are jointly responsible for the defense of Armenia's borders. In the bigger picture, the Russian presence has been a critical source of support for Armenia against the possible threat of any heightened tension with Turkey and, in particular, with Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh issue remains a source of continued contention, and Armenia does not have relations with Turkey nor Azerbaijan. So Armenia has long been in a tenuous position -- geopolitically, economically and militarily -- and has looked to Russia for support.

WPR: What is the significance of the recent extension of the Russia-Armenia base deal?

The deal highlights Russian commitment to Armenia, and solidifies Russia's role as Armenia's big brother. That said, Russia has long tried to walk a fine line, as it is not in Russia's interest to alienate Azerbaijan -- which is economically far more important to Russia than Armenia because of its oil resources. Critics of the deal question whether -- if push came to shove -- Russia would go to the wall for Armenia against Turkey and/or Azerbaijan, and whether the agreement may give Armenia a false sense of security. (This is highlighted by the rumored sale by Russia of anti-aircraft rocket launchers to Azerbaijan.) Also, the extension of the base deal limits Armenia's scope for maneuver; it in effect further reduces the chances that Armenia will join NATO, for example. Any change in heart, or policy, on the part of Russia vis-à-vis its objectives in the Caucasus, or the broader region, could be dangerous for Armenia.

WPR: What impact does the base have on the regional balance of power, now and in the years to come?

Iskyan: There is unlikely to be any real impact on the regional balance of power. The deal further strengthens Russia's position in Armenia -- and the region in general -- but it doesn't represent a significant shift in the balance of power. The level of Russian military commitment is unchanged, and there is no shift in Russia's position regarding Nagorno-Karabakh, or Armenia's relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Russia's relations with Georgia remain challenging, but this is largely divorced from Russia's role in Armenia.

Russia further strengthens its position in the Caucasus

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Russia is further strengthening its position in the South Caucasus and consequently all over the post Soviet area as well as in the Middle East. Meanwhile the West naively observes this “resetting policy” with curiosity. This is what we conclude from the recent developments in the mentioned areas - the deployment of S300 missiles on Georgia's territory of Abkhazia, the possible sale of the same devices to Azerbaijan, the visit of Russia’s president Medvedev to Yerevan, along with his signing of an agreement on Russian military base in Armenia, holding the Collective Security Treaty Summit, an upcoming visit of Medvedev to Baku in September, as well as a general strengthening of its military presence in Georgia’s occupied territories which have already been “the new reality” for two years.

Analysts worldwide, not only in Georgia, express their deep concern as they see Russia increasing its presence not only in the regions mentioned, but around the world. For instance Ariel Cohen in his article in Washington Times thinks that Moscow is using whole geopolitical instruments to change the balance in Eurasia. This includes diplomacy, informative operations, selling arms and constructing military bases to protect its interests in the sphere. It has become clear that either the West cannot stop Russia, or it is choosing not to do so. With the deployment of S-300 missiles in Abkhazia and Armenia, Russia is able to control the entire area of the South Caucasus, Black Sea and part of the Near East. Strangely enough the West “cannot see” that and/or cannot respond effectively.

The US administration has chosen a soft force policy, while Moscow exploits a “hard policy” and is gradually exercising more and more influence in this strategically important region. Ariel Cohen predicts that if things continue like this, Washington's influence in the region will decrease considerably and the US would need tens of years to rebuild it, while the Russians are acting directly to expel the US out of these regions. Cohen’s predictions are rather pessimistic concerning the US reset policy towards Russia.

We can also surmise that Russia does not even think about the EU as a player while it is creating its new reality. Russian analyst, Stanislav Tarasov extremely positively evaluates Russia’s moves in the regions, believing that they change the regional balance of the forces in Moscow's favour. Speaking about the South Caucasus, we should assume that Moscow has also managed to push Turkey aside. The final major problem Russia must overcome is to be the champion that brokers the settlement of the Azeri-Armenian conflict over Karabakh. If it can find an acceptable solution of the conflict for both sides, then Russia’s position will be finally domineering in this region, at least for time being.

Russia Main Investor in Armenia

Armenia’s President Serge Sarkisian stated that Russia is Armenia's major investor. 60% of direct foreign investment comes from Russia. In 2009 alone Russia invested USD 0.5 billion in strategic branches of Armenia’s economy such as energy, transportation and communications. The prospects of Russian investments in Armenia’s economy are increasing. Moscow is starting construction of the nuclear power station, as well as the Iran - Armenia railway.


Shirak Torosyan: Armenia has to toughen its policy towards Georgia

Prior to every official visit to Armenia, Georgia closes Upper Lars checkpoint to make it the key topic in talks with the Armenian authorities and distract attention from other problems, the head of Javakhk expatriates’ community, Armenian parliament member Shirak Torosyan stated.Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze’s statement that there’s no such region as Javakhk on the map of Georgia is a reflection of the country’s policy on eviction of Armenians from the region,” he told a news conference on October 7. “Presently, Georgia implements various projects, including construction of a complex with towers in Ninotsminda. Authorities say they build an orphanage, but its can hardly be so, the building being too big for the purpose. A similar construction is under way in Poka village, in the bank of Parvana village,” he said, urging Armenia to toughen its policy towards Georgia.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several anonymous visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what.Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Articles in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you as always for reading.