EAEU`s event in "hospitable" Armenia: confrontations amid vows

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Baku, 3 October 2019 –

The vassal Armenia`s hosting a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which was established under Russia`s patronage, is not an unusual event as Armenia now chairs the organization. The fact that the so-called state of Armenia – the aggressor – is a member of the EAEU does not bring it honor. On the contrary, with its resentment, discontent and absurd claims, Armenia is just complicating the situation. In addition, no member country of the EAEU shares Armenia`s hostile position towards Azerbaijan. However, experts do not rule out that the Yerevan meeting may produce positive process for the organization. But the event that took place in the capital of Armenia showed the lack of any progress. There were only new vows.  Among them was a proposal to embark on cooperation that would increase the organization`s international influence. In this context, the organization considered the opportunities for building relations with Iran, China, Singapore, Egypt, Israel and other countries. This article will analyze the outcomes of the Yerevan summit against a background of the internal processes within the EAEU and its international influence.

Armenia and Eurasian integration model: contradiction between the opposites and…

Different forecasts were made ahead of the Yerevan meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union. Some believed that the organization`s Supreme Economic Council would put new issues on the agenda. Others forecast that the Yerevan meeting would feature formal discussions, referring to serious problems and disagreements within the organization. In fact, the meeting proved a mix of these two prognoses and was remarkable for several interesting points.

For example, a Georgian journalist`s question to Vladimir Putin, asking when Russia would pull out from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, grabbed the spotlight. The Russian leader`s response was brief: ''When we consider it necessary.'' But employees of the Armenian Foreign Ministry took the journalist away from the venue, surprising the media.

Of course, judging by this episode would not be right. But it reveals certain chaotic situation that dominated the Yerevan event. It was admitted by Russian journalists who said there was an air of ''Armenian carelessness''. There was also plenty of disagreements in opinions of the event participants.

Some media outlets hint at serious changes. For example, the organization`s relations with Singapore and Iran are exaggerated. Singapore signed a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union. Iran is also claiming that it is going to sign a similar deal on October 27. Experts even say that President Hassan Rouhani is interested in Iran`s becoming a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. In addition, the Russian president revealed that 13 countries were interested in building relations with the organization, including Serbia, China and India.

Experts highlighted a brief dialogue between Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the margins of the meeting in Yerevan. With his typical sincerity, the Belarus leader pointed out his friendly ties with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. At the same time, he said he maintained friendly relations with Pashinyan too. Lukashenko said he would never act against Armenia. In his turn, Pashinyan stressed common interests of Armenia and Belarus. He also referred to Armenia`s problems with Azerbaijan. He hinted that Belarus should correct its relations with Azerbaijan because of Armenia.

But Pashinyan did not elaborate on what was the common interest of Belarus and Armenia in relation to Azerbaijan. Yerevan`s main goal is to continue the policy of aggression again Azerbaijan. But is it Belarus` goal too? Is violating Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity one of Belarus` national interests? Absolutely not. That was just Pashinyan`s another attempt to draw Belarus into provocation against Azerbaijan. But Lukashenko, an experienced politician, would never give in to the immature Armenian leader`s primitive plan.

Naturally, the Yerevan meeting focused on quite different issues. Experts divide these matters into two groups. Leaders discussed problems within the Eurasian Economic Union, in particular barriers to cooperation. Putin, Lukashenko and Tokayev openly emphasized serious problems in this regard. They pointed out the inflexible trade of goods produced by member states in the Eurasian region and numerous legal gaps, which impeded seriously the opportunities to foster cooperation. In addition, there is not a single currency for member states to adopt. However, a protocol of intent on the establishment of a single financial environment was signed in Yerevan.

''Good dreams'' and reality: Uncertain situation for EAEU

Experts described this document as a ''good dream'' that lacks any content and specific mechanisms. Interestingly, the Armenian prime minister also spoke of a shift to trade in national currencies. But who would trade with the valueless Armenian dram? For example, why Kazakhstan would need the Armenian dram? Or how would member states use the Kyrgyz som? Such questions are numerous, and the talks about trade in national currencies are nothing but empty words. The only member states that have a powerful production industry are Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

On the other hand, the main trade partners of the EAEU member states are the European Union and China. For Kazakhstan, it is of special importance, as the country`s president mentioned in Yerevan. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that the European Union accounted for 75 percent of his country`s foreign trade. Russia and Belarus maintain economic and trade relations with numerous countries, and no EAEU member state can replace them. So the organization needs to foster its relations with other countries where experts hint at Singapore and Iran.

Yerevan pins hopes on cooperation with China. Beijing-initiated One Belt, One Road project is expected to bring serious socio-economic and trade changes to the Eurasian region. But Armenians forget a very important point: for the initiative to be a success, member states should have appropriate infrastructure. But they do not. For example, Armenia has very poor infrastructure and it is beyond the bounds of possibility that the country will be able to develop it in the near future. At the same time, there are serious geopolitical matters that should be taken into account.

For example, the factor of Azerbaijan should necessarily be taken into consideration as regard the Belt and Road initiative`s section passing through the EAEU region. Azerbaijan possesses the developed infrastructure and the establishment of a transport link between China and Russia, Iran or Armenia requires a positive attitude of Azerbaijan. For example, the operation of the North-South corridor depends on Azerbaijan as much as the South-West route needs Baku for opening. But Azerbaijan will not allow the involvement of Armenia in any project unless Yerevan withdraws from the occupied lands. And any pressure from Russia, China or Iran in this issue is out of question. Azerbaijan is capable of defending its national interests.

Against this background, Iran`s attaching importance to relations with the EAEU seems interesting. Tehran`s position is understandable. Experts admit that Iran is tired of the American sanctions. The situation is worsening, with Russia and China being unable to exert any influence as they are facing sanctions themselves. Neither Moscow, nor Beijing want to sink because of Yerevan. The Iranian leaders realize this very well so they do not want to miss even a minor opportunity.

Iran understands that the EAEU is a weak organization. But Iran`s joining the organization will politicize the situation. This will make the organization a political and geopolitical rival for the United States, raising the possibility of sanctions on member states. With this in mind, Kazakhstan opposes Iran`s becoming a member of the EAEU. Kazakhstan believes that Tehran`s membership will politicize the issue completely, confronting the EAEU with the world` s leading organizations as well as the United States. This shows that despite vows, the future of EAEU-Iran relationship is uncertain.

All these factors reveal official Yerevan`s attempt to make a political show of the EAEU event held in Yerevan. But it was not enough to assure experts because it may take a long for the EAEU to achieve the necessary level. How an organization that lacks a flexible integration mechanism and a strong political will can live in a hope of building international reputation or expanding the scope of influence? There is not a Eurasian Economic Union at the moment, there are powerful Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan!

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