On 2 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Armenia. The state visit began in the republic’s second largest city, Gyumri, in the outskirts of which is located the Russian 102nd Military Base, covering the border between Armenia and Turkey.
Russia traditionally holds a strong position in Armenia. In 2010, the presence of the 102nd Military Base was increased to 49 years, with the opportunity for this to be automatically extended for subsequent five-year periods. In the same year, the function of the military base was extended to encompass the joint protection of the republic’s security with the Armenian armed forces. Russia has also promised to assist its ally by supplying “modern and compatible weapons, and military (special) equipment”. Over the past three years, the countries have reached a high level of military and technical cooperation.
Certified centres and joint ventures for the repair and maintenance of weapons and military equipment are being set up in Armenia. The republic is able to carry out repairs and service equipment produced by companies in the Russian military and industrial complex on site. This includes armoured vehicles, anti-aircraft weapons, helicopters, and UAZ (Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant) and KAMAZ (Kama Automobile Plant) motor fleets. The joint enterprise KAMAZ-Armenia, for example, is going to be responsible for the repair and maintenance of the Armenian Defence Ministry’s fleet of trucks. There has also been marked progress on the creation of joint military enterprises in Armenia involving Russia. The objective is to organise Armenia’s defence industry, with Russia’s help, for the production of certain types of ammunition and armoured vehicles, and to set up assembly plants for the production of cars based on the KAMAZ chassis.
At the same time, Russia and Armenia are undertaking specific military measures to develop their military and technical ties. Among these should be noted the increase in the combat readiness of the 102nd Military Base by Russia. The personnel of the 102nd Military Base are constantly being replenished with contract soldiers. The professional component of the base’s staff numbers has taken over air force, air defence and intelligence units almost completely. The aviation element of Russia’s military presence in Armenia, which is structurally part of the base (the 426th Air Group is located at Erebuni Airport), is going to include a helicopter squadron in the near future.
The Armenia-Russia intergovernmental committee on military and technical cooperation is also operating successfully. In June 2013, Armenia and Russia signed an agreement on the development of military and technical cooperation.
The close cooperation between Russia and Armenia with regard to military and technical cooperation was the basis for the strengthening of bilateral economic ties and Armenia’s inclusion in the processes of integration into Euroasia.
Before Yerevan made the decision to join the Customs Union, there were a number of disputes surrounding Armenia’s choice between Eurasian and European integration trends. These disputes have now lost their urgency. Even those in Yerevan who are fervently in support of the European option are beginning to realise that the progressive strengthening of Russia’s economic position in Armenia defeats the purpose of any previously formed plans for associating the republic with the European Union… Russia is Armenia’s biggest trade partner (23.5 percent of total foreign trade turnover at the end of 2012). Russia also accounts for more than 40 percent of all foreign investments in the Armenian economy. There are nearly 1300 businesses in operation in Armenia involving Russian capital (more than a quarter of all businesses in the country that include foreign capital). Russia’s economic presence in strategically-important sectors like nuclear energy, the gas transport system, rail transport, and communications strengthens the feeling of solidity of Russia’s position in the Armenian market. This was particularly noticeable following the visit by Russia’s head of state, which resulted in the signing of a number of agreements, including an action plan for 2014-2017 to implement a programme of long-term economic cooperation between Armenia and Russia for the period up to 2020.
The future development of economic relations between Russia and Armenia is a priority issue for both countries. Russia is going to build a new nuclear power plant unit in Armenia, it has undertaken the concessionary management of Armenia’s railway system, the development of which is going to include an investment of 15 billion roubles, and it occupies an almost dominant position in the Armenian telecommunications market.
The Russian president’s visit to Armenia came at a rather difficult period in the development of international relations. It is also impossible to ignore the fact that, little by little, disagreements and conflicts are being resolved with the use of force rather than a diplomatic approach. This tendency has not yet become universal, but the process of Eurasian economic integration currently gathering momentum is giving it stability. At present, the benefits of Eurasian integration – that it has a solid historical foundation and involves the reconstruction of the best of the cooperation ties developed when the post-Soviet republics were part of a common state with a single economic system – are clearly shining through.