The NATO-Armenian Relations in the Context of the NATO Enlargement
The problem of the NATO enlargement is comparatively a new problem. It is the result of our changing world and the new geopolitical situation in the world. It, in its turn, is connected with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world socialist system and the Warsaw Treaty Organization. After those radical changes, which meant the end of the Cold War Epoch, USA remained the only superpower in our planet, and NATO as the only political-military organization. In fact, since then, there has not been any real force in the world capable of seriously challenging the US world leadership and NATO's leading role.
Since then, firstly had appeared the idea of NATO enlargement and its expansion towards the East and concrete steps had been taken in realization of that idea.
The situation from political, international and psychological points of view was quite favorable for implementation of new policy by the NATO. We mean the following circumstances.
Firstly, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia was weak and incapable of preventing the NATO enlargement to its western borders, though it protested very vigorously. Otherwise, there was no serious obstacle in that way.
Secondly and more significantly, at that time the Central and Eastern European countries, as well as some ex-Soviet republics, particularly the Baltic republics, were very eager for the membership of the NATO. However, they still saw Russia as the main threat to their independence and national security. Thus, to provide more reliable security, they tried to unite with NATO. Here it is necessary to take into consideration two other factors. First of all we mean the changes of NATO itself and its adaptation to the new world geopolitical conditions. The NATO leadership in the 1990s took several very important decisions. While preserving its political-military structures and tasks, NATO adopted new functions: to provide security on the basis of dialogue, cooperation and support of the collective defense potentiality. It was the very principal innovation in the strategy of NATO.
These changes had made NATO more attractive for non-NATO countries and peoples, and had facilitated the liquidation of certain prejudices against NATO.
The second factor is connected with the new attitude of Russia towards NATO and the problem of the Russian-NATO relations. Russia, after all, though very slowly and cautiously, steadily started to improve its relations with NATO and to cooperate with it in many fields.
Consequently, the gates of the Central and Eastern Europe were opened before NATO and it remained for him to enter through it. And NATO had entered. Poland, Hungry and Czech Republic became new members of NATO and currently about 10 other countries, such as Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Slovenia, Slovakia, three Baltic countries, etc are members of the alliance.
As it was mentioned in the 48th Congress of the Atlantic Treaty Association held in Istanbul on 9-12 October 2002, the next stop of NATO will be the South Caucasus.
Other countries, in particular Georgia and Azerbaijan have declared their interest in accession to NATO. Whereas Georgia is doing it openly and actively knocking NATO doors, Azerbaijan is acting more cautiously, without making any noise.
The position of the third country of the South Caucasus region, Armenia, is quite different from those of Georgia and Azerbaijan. Until 2000, the Armenia-NATO relations were passive and Armenia's cooperation with NATO was on a very low level, which had its internal and external reasons.
Among the internal reasons it should be mentioned that the overwhelming majority in Armenia did not trust NATO for a long period of time, identifying it with its member Turkey. Since 1993, Turkey and Azerbaijan have imposed economical and communicational blockades on Armenia, and placed various preconditions for establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia. Also, Turkey pressured Armenia in the Karabakh conflict, demanding the resolution of the conflict on the Azeri variant, which is not acceptable for Armenia, and many times openly threatened Armenia. As such, these were not only seen as Turkish policy towards Armenia, but also as NATO's policy in general. Naturally, it aroused negative attitude towards NATO, feeding anti-NATO feelings in Armenia.
The government of Armenia could not ignore this fact, and thus, it became for a certain time an obstacle in the development of relations with NATO on a large scale.
This was the main internal reason, standing in the way of it.
As for the external reason, we mean Russia's position towards NATO and the character of Armenian-Russian relations.
At that time, in the mid-1990s, the Russian-NATO relations were strained. Russia thoroughly rejected the possibility of expansion of NATO to the East, near the Russian borders. Its cooperation with NATO was on a low level. These circumstances inevitably affected the attitude of Armenia towards NATO.
Armenia is connected with Russia by the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, concluded in 1997. Armenia is the only country with whom Russia had concluded such kind of Treaty. Russia has a military base in Armenia. Besides that, Armenia is a member of the Collective Defense Treaty (CDT) together with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
Therefore, Armenia's national security system was based on the strategic partnership with Russia and close cooperation with the countries of the CDT, which put certain obligations on Armenia. Under such circumstances Armenia could not ignore the position of Russia, for if it did, it would mean the deterioration of the rules of the game.
However, the situation had changed recently, which was connected to the improvement of NATO-Russian relations and rapprochement. Their cooperation now is covering practically all main fields and the logical development of it was the creation of "Format 20" on the base of 19 NATO member states and Russia. Russia, which cooperates so closely with NATO, cannot any more prevent or create difficulties for other countries, including Armenia, for their own cooperation with NATO.
In addition to the change in external conditions, there had been changes in the internal conditions and political atmosphere within Armenia in favor of cooperation with NATO.
The Armenian society, due to large explanatory works, began to better understand the policy of NATO and its tasks in post Cold War Epoch, denied to put a sign of equality between the policy of Turkey and NATO and demonstrated its willingness to enlarge cooperation with NATO in different fields, including the military sphere.
And I can say proudly that in this principal change the Armenian Atlantic Association made a significant contribution.
After these changes Armenia had officially adopted a new policy, called complementary policy. The backbone of it is to develop relations with foreign countries on the multi-track principle. Armenia, while keeping its strategic relations with Russia on the basis of the Armenian-Russian Treaty, 1997, and preserving its participation in the CDT, had started to enlarge and deepen its cooperation in political, military and other fields with NATO, the European Union and the US.
And we can confirm that now the main components of national security of Armenia consist of strategic-military cooperation with Russia, participation in the CDT and NATO's program "Partnership for Peace." The USA-EU-NATO track is coming to complement the Russian-CDT track and due to it the ensuring of the national security of Armenia has been raised on a new, more high and reliable level.
After these changes a new page was opened in the NATO-Armenian relations. Armenia activated its participation within the program "Partnership for Peace." In framework of this program a battalion of the Armenian Military Forces, on 17-28 June, 2002, took part in NATO's multinational, large-scale exercises - "Best Effort-2002," in Georgia.
Now the preparatory works for a new NATO exercise in June 2003, in Armenia are under way. The Defense Minister of Armenia Serge Sargsyan, giving great importance to this fact and calling some people shortsighted, tried to qualify the NATO exercises in 2003 in Armenia as betrayal to Russia and stated: "Some people simply can not truly appreciate the national interests of Armenia."
In addition to taking part in some NATO measurements, Armenia will take part in another important NATO program - "Planning and Review."
Moreover, we would like to mention that military cooperation between Armenia and the US has been established and is developing successfully. In the beginning of August 2002, the US Senate had already passed a new program on military cooperation between these countries, assigning approximately $4 million for this purpose.
The NATO leadership appreciates positively the European track of the Armenian foreign policy, expressing their good will and readiness to facilitate the efforts of Armenia and to cooperate with it on every level.
We convinced in it during the visit of an Armenian delegation of scientists and representatives of NGO on July 18-19, 2002, to the NATO's Headquarter in Brussels and Mons by the latter's invitation. The delegation met and had frank conversations and discussions with the leaders of all the main political and military departments of NATO. We were ensured that the NATO leadership considered the close contacts and cooperation between NATO and Armenia beneficial to both NATO and Armenia.
Moreover, during one of the discussions, a NATO responsible official stated that Armenia, who has a Treaty of Mutual Assistance with Russia and is developing cooperation with NATO, can be a linkage between Russia and NATO to facilitate the further improvement of relations between NATO and Russia, underlying that that role can be carried out only in Armenia, but not in Georgia nor Azerbaijan, taking into consideration the character of their relations with Russia. On finalizing this subject, we have to underline, that in the agenda of Armenia's foreign policy, however, is not standing the question of membership of Armenia to NATO.
Armenia is for the enlargement of cooperation with NATO in different fields. And one has to take into account that the problem of enlargement of NATO to the East does not exist for Armenia. Since 1952, after Turkey's membership to the alliance, NATO has been in the East, becoming neighbor to Armenia.
And at the end we would like to express our private point of view on the subject whether the NATO enlargement is an unfinished business.
It is a very difficult question, for it is not easy to find an answer acceptable to all sides. NATO, of course, still has reserves for further enlargement in the sense that there are a lot of countries standing for membership to NATO, which coincides with the contemporary policy and desire of NATO. But the question is the following: is it so essential for NATO the endless, let me say, hyperbolical enlargement or not? We think that the endless or hyperbolical enlargement of NATO after all can lead to the self liquidation of NATO. The integration of many countries with different, mainly low level of development, diverse ethnic and cultural traditions, different national interests, etc. would create a lot of new problems from point of view harmonizing their interests and actions with the basic principles of NATO, as well as keeping strong discipline, so necessary for that kind of political-military organizations.
The conglomerate of these countries could make NATO less operative and effective, affect negatively on its capability to act as an interlocking organization. The possible result of it would be degradation and downfall of NATO itself or its metamorphosis in such a degree, that after that it would be hardly possible to call that organization NATO.
As we understand, the strength of NATO is in its quality, not in the quantity of its members.
The endless enlargement of NATO, the involvement of many countries in this organization would mean a challenge to the United Nations, an attempt to replace it, which to our opinion is not a development in the right direction. It would become a new source of international tensions.
Let's not forget also about the new ambitions of the European Union to create its own military forces. As it is well known, many members of the EU are at the same time also the members of NATO. How will the relations be between them and what kind of missions will they carry out?
The variant of enlargement of NATO membership can arouse many other unforeseen problems, difficulties and obstacles.
As a result we can have an organization under the name of NATO, but in fact another organization different from the pattern of NATO of the 1990s. So we would be obliged to select another name for that organization.
Despite these arguments, we have to recognize that the enlargement of NATO is one of the options for future existence of NATO.
Another option is the enlargement of NATO's cooperation with non-NATO states in different fields- political, military, educational, and humanitarian, etc., on the basis of decisions, adopted by its leadership in 1990s, which contributed many positive changes in NATO's programs, strategies, tactics and tasks.
NATO can carry out its historical mission not only by means of enlargement and expansion, but also by preserving its high qualities and capabilities, deepening its cooperation with all countries, which are ready for it. It seems that the future belongs to the second option.
It is necessary first of all to define the enemy of NATO at this stage of development and then, according to this new task, it would be much easier to decide whether further enlargement of NATO is necessary.