Interview with Former Defense Minister, Lieutenant-General Vagharshak Harutyunyan
Interviewed by Nelly Grigoryan
Read more at: http://en.aravot.am/2013/11/22/162678/
Former Defense Minister, Lieutenant-General Vagharshak Harutyunyan
Vagharshak: Armenia and Karabakh have stronger positions in the sense that resumption of the war from military and political point of view does not generate from the interests of Turkey, the West, and Russia. In fact, Russia has unequivocally stated about it: from the UN platform, Putin and Medvedev have told that they would not allow the resumption of hostilities, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement by force. Lavrov
Nelly- In this new situation, when Armenia is prepared for accession into the Customs Union, what are the potential threats to our country in the Karabakh front?
- There is no threat for resumption of war militarily. More precisely, this probability is not growing, on the contrary, it is decreasing. Because, if we pay attention to the statements raised in Azerbaijan, Russia’s position interferes them to win the war. At this point, when Armenia becomes a CU member, it further aggravates their fears. It is possible to use Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement as a lever to influence Armenia not to join the CU and not to be in deeper integration with Russia. Such an option is possible, but it will not have any impact on the policy chosen by Armenia.
- You mean by the West?
- In the process of joining the Customs Union, the authorities were constantly pushing the issue of Armenia and Karabakh security forward. In your opinion, by joining the CU, does Armenia solve the problem of security of Armenian states?
- In general, there is a wrong idea about the Customs Union. The membership to the CU is a whole process, the first phase of which is signing of a free trade are agreement, the membership to Eurasian Union is the final point of the CU membership. Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have submitted an application to join the CU and have announced that they have a positive attitude towards it. In other words, CU current and future members are the CSTO member states. The economy should not be separated from the security. It would be wrong to say that we only pursue an economic benefit. If an economic area is formed, it must first ensure its security. If security is not provided, then there could be no word about the development. So, these are correlated, they are natural questions, and Armenia entering into the CU, solves both economic and serious security issues.
- With respect to CU membership, there were a lot of criticism on economic aspect, because the European market is freer, rich and attractive in all ways. Weren’t the prospects on Armenia’s development in Europe wider?
- You know, if we consider the issue from the perspective of which market is more developed, then, of course, the European. This is an axiom, there is nothing to discuss here. But, as to what this market gives Armenia, that’s another matter, and here is the confusion. When judgments are made about Europe, they talk about how developed is the Europe, how rich, but they never ask what Europe has given to us, what Russia has given, and what CU will give. These are very different platforms, in the sense that when we are talking about the CU, it’s a specific organization with clear agreements and economic output. Nothing prevents us to go to the EU market as a member of the CU. Armenia is a member of the World Trade Organization. Europe put the question, either EU or CU. Eventually, today, Armenia also agreed to sign the Association Agreement, but Europe says, no. This is in political aspect. Economically, what CU and EU gives to Armenia are incomparable. I will answer the question related to economic interests by estimates of the Polish ambassador. He said that if Armenia had signed the Association Agreement of EU and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement, then in a few years Armenia would have received an income of $ 150 million. Only the price of gas, which is formed today, decreasing by 30 percent, enables Armenia to save $ 150 million a year. Not to speak about that Armenian products will have free access to the Customs Union market, where our products are competitive. Today, Armenia can export very few products to the European market, which will be competitive. For example, Armenian grapes, apricots, and so on, if they are sold at the CU market without the customs duties, then they will be more competitive, as the Georgian and Azerbaijani ones are going to be more expensive. The same is true of other products. Armenia will definite receive advantages, and it would be apparent. In the case of accession to CU, Armenia must join 19 agreements and ratify 65 other acts, one of them is related to gas and other energy carriers, which would be sold to CU members without any taxes and customs duties. The status of Armenian migrants in social and other issues are almost equal to the status of Russian citizens: only the employment contract enable the person to move freely, social assistances are given to families, children are able to get education and so on. One of senior European officials, answering the question of what Armenia will export to Europe, what it will import and what it will gain, answered that Armenia will export textile, import agricultural products. It’s just ridiculous, and after all that to talk about what Armenia gets in the EU or CU is obvious and pointless. It is not always to go to the powerful and rich side provides necessary effect. Let me bring an example, in 1992, during the years of war in Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Georgia chose the direction to the powerful and wealthy west, Armenia went towards broken, weak Russia. As a result, Armenia won the war, rebuilt its economy, reopened the nuclear plant with the help of Russia and was able to overcome the consequences of war.
Edited by man, 23 November 2013 - 01:40 PM.