Yerevan: The relations of the Republic of Armenia with Western countries and structures are built in rather ambiguous geopolitical conditions. It is not a secret that the Republic of Armenia in its preferences has clearly tilted toward the pro-Russian vector, and it should be separately noted that the entire political, defense and economic security doctrine of the Republic of Armenia is built in integration with pro-Russian structures such as Evarzes and the CSTO.
However, there is a very important nuance that should be noted, it is declared complementarity in the international policy of official Yerevan, which is expressed in attempts to diversify its geopolitical capabilities. One of the most important elements of the complementary policy of official Yerevan is the progressive cooperation with the NATO bloc. Armenian servicemen take an active part in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of NATO in Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as the participation of Armenian soldiers in command post exercises held in various countries within the NATO bloc.
Despite the taciturn irritation of Russia, Armenia, nevertheless, does not abandon attempts to draw closer to the NATO bloc, which, we recall, is a military antagonist of the CSTO.
So, more recently Armenian servicemen took part in the multinational exercise "Noble Partner 2017" held in Georgia, which took place at the military airfield in Vaziani from July 30 to August 12, 2017. NATO exercise "A Decent Partner of 2017" was part of the Black Sea exercise of the European Command of the United States.
Nevertheless, at the beginning of September, 2017, an event occurred that caused serious resonance in the expert circles dealing with this subject.
On September 3, the Armenian side suddenly refused to participate in the multinational exercise Agile Spirit ("Agile Spirit") 2017 under the auspices of NATO, which are held in these days in Georgia and will last until September 11.
As the head of the Public Relations and Communications Department of the Georgian Defense Ministry Nino Tolordava stated, the Armenian side at the last moment refused to participate without preliminary explanations.
On September 4, the Armenian side, represented by Deputy Defense Minister Artak Zakaryan, gave a partial explanation of Armenia's refusal to participate in the exercises. Artak Zakaryan stated that Armenia did not plan to participate in these exercises, did not make a statement about its participation in the "Agile Spirit" exercise and the topic is contrived.
The explanation looks, at least, strange, given that the Georgian side has always indicated Armenia as a participant in these exercises in its press releases and official statements. It is difficult to assume that the Georgian military department was engaged in gibberish and included Armenia in press releases of forthcoming exercises without agreement with the Armenian side.
According to most experts, there are two main reasons for Armenia's refusal to participate in these NATO exercises. The first is a version that concerns the alleged pressure of Russia on the Armenian side. The version of the pressure of the Russian side has sufficient grounds for it if we recall the growing tensions between Russia and the United States and, accordingly, some political "jealousy" towards countries that somehow increase their relations with Western political and military structures.
The second version of the refusal is participation in the exercises of Azerbaijan, which conducts an extremely hostile policy towards Armenia.
It can be said with certainty that both versions played a role in the decision of the Armenian leadership, but the main reason for Armenia's refusal to participate in the NATO exercises is the whole complex of problems facing the Armenian leadership, the most important of which is the issue of ensuring the security of Armenia and Artsakh in a probable military confrontation with Azerbaijan.
It's no secret that the main focus of the military concept of Armenia is close interaction with Russia, which is expressed not only in the supply of new weapons to Armenia, the training of Armenian military personnel in military universities in Russia and the diverse integration of the armed forces of Armenia and Russia, but also with direct military support in case of aggravation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It is clear that NATO will not support any of the conflicting parties, but will adhere to the position of strict neutrality. The Armenian side also understands that Russia will not take a direct part in the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the calculation of the Armenian side is based on the fact that, at least, the joint military grouping of the armed forces of Armenia and Russia and the Russian Armed Forces (stationed in Armenian Gyumri 102 military base and Russian military aircraft stationed in Yerevan) will cover Armenia directly from the attack of the Azerbaijani army from the side of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (which is part of Azerbaijan ana) and hostile actions of Turkey, which is Azerbaijan's strategic and military ally and which occupies a tough anti-Armenian position in the international arena. Important factor and membership of Turkey in NATO, where the Turkish military occupy the second place after the United States in terms of strength and cumulative military power.
Under these conditions, Armenia's decision to slow down its relations with NATO is dictated by rather pragmatic considerations of the Armenian side. Moreover, Armenia's refusal to participate in the above-mentioned NATO exercises can in no way be considered a demarche or a cooling off of Armenia-NATO relations, but rather are tactical steps consonant with today's challenges facing the Republic of Armenia.
Front News International, Yerevan