Armenia’s Northern Neighbor: Georgia

One of the irks I have about this blog is that even though this will be my 107th blog post, there are still so many topics I have yet to touch. Armenia’s Northern neighbor Georgia is one of those. Georgia is Armenia’s only open border to the rest of the world, so its internal politics (and regional politics as its 2008 war with Russia showed) have a significant impact on Armenia. In the future, I will have more in-depth articles on the subject, but for now I can only scratch the surface of current events.

Georgia recently had a general amnesty that included some Armenians. The big question was whether Vahagn Chakhalian would also be released as his lawyer believed. Chakhalian is the leader of the United Javakhk Democratic Alliance, an organization composed of ethnic Armenians in favor of local autonomy for the Javakhk region. While some Armenians were released, Chakhalian was not included in the amnesty. Ivanishvili is planning on visiting Armenia on the 17th, but Chakhalian is not on the agenda.

Armenia and Georgia do not have great relations. While the issue of independence for Javakhk is an issue, as an Armenian MP found out when he was denied entry to Javakhk by Georgian officials with no explanation given, so are a number of cultural and political issues. Georgia is very happy to take advantage of Armenia’s closed borders and develop trade with Turkey and Azerbaijan. This is good business and has kept Georgia in favor with the West who deal with both countries regularly. Armenia is dependent on Georgia, so it can do little to respond.

What will be interesting is to see what changes Ivanishvili, the President-elect, brings. Ivanishvili is much closer to Russia than the current Saakashvili. While many things can be said about Saakashvili that go beyond this blog, one of the commendable things he did was promise a peaceful transition of power between competing parties, the first in the Caucuses. Ivanishvili is not yet in power, but is developing his team and having his opponents allies arrested. With Ivanishvili’s pro-Russian perspective, there is talk of the two countries normalizing relations, and Georgia has turned an eye towards warming up relations with Armenia.

While Armenia is obviously happy that Georgia is warming up to Armenia, a big question is what will happen if Armenia picks the path towards the EU instead of towards Russia’s Eurasian Union? Will Georgia and Russia shun Armenia in punishment? Will Armenia’s only good neighbor be Iran?

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2 Comments

Filed under Regional Politics

2 responses to “Armenia’s Northern Neighbor: Georgia

  1. H.

    Um, what? From what I’ve read in the Armenian media, there is not a substantial movement that desires to “pick the path towards the EU,” Saakashvili style, in Armenia. There is actually a (quite justifiable) Euroskepticism by Armenians, given the EU’s unsympathetic positions on Armenia-related matters. With the neighbors and position it finds itself in, Armenia country should remain firmly within the Russian strategic alliance.

    • Gabe Armas-Cardona

      This question is the basis for a longer article I’m working on about Armenia going towards the EU or the Eurasian Union.
      There is definitely skepticism with Europe, with a lot of the older generation wanting to keep a strong connection with Russia. And, I agree, that it’s totally justifiable considering Europe’s lack of interest in Armenia’s specific issues.
      But, it’s hard to see how Armenia can have a bright future with Russia. Russia’s economy is equal to California; it will be next to impossible for Russia to be able to raise central asia and the caucuses out of poverty alone.
      That’s why Armenia has looked towards the west. Armenia joined the Council of Europe. Armenia is pursuing the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with Europe. And just recently, Sargsyan signed the visa-waiver agreement with the EU.
      What Russia can provide is security. It has its troops on the western border and it’s not likely those will remain there if Armenia turns its back to Russia.
      To me, the key question is security vs. economic prosperity. Russia represents the first option while the EU represents the latter.

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