The summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in Yerevan on October 1 caused a strong reaction in Armenia and in the member states attending this event. And if outside Armenia the participation of the prime minister of Singapore and the president of Iran aroused interest, inside Armenia, as was expected, Putin’s personality did. Last time the Russian president visited Armenia three years ago. And since the Velvet Revolution and the resulting change of government in Armenia all the bilateral meetings between Putin and Pashinyan took place in Moscow or in the framework of international meetings.
All this time debates on the Armenian-Russian relations have not stopped in Armenia. Many thought that the policy conducted by the new government has aggravated these relations. Such moods were upheld by some Russia-based activists and media who kept drumming the topic “Armenia’s rapprochement with the West”. In Yerevan, after the information on preparations for the summit of the EAEU High Economic Council the top issue of discussion was the visit of the Russian president. For whatever reason, the dominant opinion was that Putin would not arrive in Yerevan because he was “upset” with Pashinyan. The issue of the summit itself interested few people. But there happened what happened.
In the first meeting of the heads of state Putin looked gloomy indeed. Apparently, it was not easy in the territory of the country often perceived as Russia’s “vassal” to get used to the role of one of the many heads of states. It was unusual to be met at the airport as provided by the protocol, by the head of government of Armenia. It was more usual to visit Armenia on one’s own discretion, as it had been years ago. There is still a vivid memory of how his plane landed not in the capital of Armenia but in Gyumri where the Russian military base is located. And the presdient of Armenia had to leave for Gyumri and meet him there.
Time is changing though. The global tendencies are forcing everyone to review their understanding of how partners should interact with them and even those partners whom they have never regarded as such. Russia which has been cornered by the Western states can no longer rely on the Eurasian Union. The situation requires stepping on a vaster space and to the sphere of relations with leading states. And here they have to change their attitudes to traditional partners. The club known as EAEU has become a mechanism for enlargement of a new network of global relations.
For the first time this tendency was observed on 6-8 June 2019 in Saint Petersburg during the international economic forum. The point is about the unprecedented aspiration by Russia and China to establish a global strategic comprehensive stability. The extravagant greeting of the Chinese president Xi Jinpingvisiting Russia by President Putin, as well as their history making statements do not leave doubts about the far-reaching intentions of these two countries. Against the background of the cruel trade war of China against the United States such intentions of Russia and China appear to be destiny-making for the whole world.
Then it was obvious that ahead of and during the international economic forum in Saint Petersburg important reverences were made to Armenia. On the eve of the meeting the spokesperson for the Russian president highlighted that aside from the Chinese president they are expecting the Armenian prime minister. Earlier the head of China Xi Jinping said Armenia is an important partner for China in his country’s civilization policy. Afterwards the Chinese minister of foreign affairs visited Armenia, and the two countries signed an agreement on visa liberation.
And the showcased “politeness” towards the Armenian prime minister and all the questions asked him to check his firmness during the forum indicated that Armenia was expected in Saint Petersburg for a reason. It was obvious that Armenia had been offered to take a special place in the aspiration of Russia and China to establish a comprehensive partnership. It should be noted that Prime Minister Pashinyan did not hide in his speeches that Armenia has something to offer to the international format. Readiness was expressed to transform Armenia from Iran to the Eurasian space and a transport corridor to Europe. Pashinyan announced that the membership to the EAEU could not be an obstacle to Armenia’s relations with China, the European Union and other countries. Interestingly, the pertinent representatives of other post-Soviet states who are usually present were not attending the aforementioned debates. Apparently, there is little connecting them in the new perspective.
If we look at the EAEU summit in Yerevan, we can clearly see the continuation of the tendencies observed during the forum in Saint Petersburg. The Armenian government invited to Yerevan the prime minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loongand the president of Iran Hassan Rowhani who took part in the Eurasian High Economic Council. This year the Armenian prime minister was in these two countries for official visits and achieved agreements. And in Yerevan the free trade agreement between Singapore and the EAEU was signed. The Russian and Iranian presidents had a meeting too.
In the evening it became clear that the ice of the relations between Vladimir Putin and Nikol Pashinyan had melted.
During their meeting the Russian president announced with a good mood: “The results of the summit are good indeed, including from the point of view of the relations with the partners from the third world… There was no disruption, on the contrary, agreements between the participants of the union were reached within the framework of the organization. Here is the person who made maximum effort for such effective work. I would like to congratulate you as chair of the EAEU on the results of the summit held in Yerevan.”
On the eve of the summit the Russian press did not hesitate to write that the summit in Yerevan would become history, considering the participation of the prime minister of Singapore and the president of Iran. No doubt for Russia this aspect is key. And the reverences to India, China and other countries in Yerevan only come to prove the opinion that the “Yerevan initiative” is seen as a basis for the implementation of new global initiatives. Time will show how these initiatives will fit into the Western economic-political concept.