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Former Official Downplays New Russian-Armenian Military Pact

Gerard Libaridian (file photo)
Gerard Libaridian (file photo)
A prominent U.S.-Armenian scholar who held senior posts in Armenia's first post-Soviet government has downplayed the significance of a revamped Russian-Armenian military agreement that will be signed this week, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Former Armenian national security adviser Gerard Libaridian said he did not believe the deal would prevent a new war over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Libaridian was Armenia's top Karabakh negotiator in the early and mid-1990s under then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian.

In an interview with RFE/RL today, he said the amendments to be signed later this week only highlighted Armenia's failure to make peace with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

"The country's security will be tied to the military field much more than with the diplomatic one," Libaridian said. "That means we have not managed to solve our problems with [our] neighbors."

Will Deal Prevent New War?

The deal will take the form of amendments to a 1995 Russian-Armenian treaty that formalized the presence of Russian troops in Armenia. They extend Russia's lease on a base in Gyumri by 24 years, to 2044, and upgrade its mission.

The amendments are expected to be signed during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Armenia that begins on August 19.

They stipulate that the Russian troops will have to not only protect "the interests of the Russian Federation," but also "ensure the security of the Republic of Armenia" jointly with the Armenian Army.

They also commit Russia to supplying Armenia with "modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware."

Representatives of President Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia argue that this will discourage Azerbaijan from attempting to solve the Karabakh conflict by force.

Some of them also say that the amended treaty will commit Moscow to supporting the Armenian side in the event of renewed fighting in Karabakh.

Libaridian dismissed such claims. "The 1995 treaty has a provision, which I'm sure will remain in the new one, that if there are military hostilities within Armenia's borders, Russia won't automatically come to [Armenia's] aid," he said.

"That is, if one party [to the treaty] is subjected to attack, there will be consultations with the other," he added. "It's the other side that will decide whether or not to participate [in the war.] And I don't think that provision will be changed."

Libaridian, a U.S. citizen who currently teaches Armenian history at the University of Michigan, claimed that Russia will definitely defend Armenia only if the latter is attacked by Turkey.

"But in the case of Azerbaijan, I'm not sure that Russia would come to Armenia's aid, because I'm sure that Azerbaijan would not launch such an attack without Moscow's tacit or vocal consent," he said.