European Union to Invest in Armenia, Western Allies – Armenia to Deepen Military Ties

Foreign Affairs

Milan: The European Union has announced a milestone decision that involves pumping millions of euros into Armenia’s industries in an attempt to pull the country closer to Western allies and away from its historical ally, Russia.

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Following talks last week in Brussels with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the bloc will invest €270 million ($287 million) over the next four years to support the country’s economy.

“We will make investments to strengthen Armenia’s economy and society, making them more robust and stable in the face of shocks,” she said at a media briefing on April 5. Sectors in line for grants include infrastructure projects, renewable energy and small to medium enterprises.

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While the newly announced aid does not explicitly include defence and security, experts note that some EU and NATO countries are separately deepening their military partnerships with Yerevan to that end.

“France has established the most tangible defence cooperation with Armenia and has already provided military equipment to Armenia in the last several months,” Sossi Tatikyan, an independent consultant on Armenian foreign and security policy, said.

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Last month, French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu visited Yerevan to discuss the boosting of defence ties with his Armenian counterpart. They recently signed a contract for the supply of rifles produced by the French company PGM and discussions are said to be ongoing for a potential sale of MBDA’s short-range Mistral missiles, according to Politico.

Pashinyan announced in the same week that Armenia had suspended its membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a military alliance dominated by Russia.

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“Armenia has been refusing to sign CSTO documents since November 2022 and participate in its meetings since last year – Armenian leadership has also stated that it is considering possible de jure exit from it,” Tatikyan said.

In September of 2022, Azerbaijan launched a military offensive during which Armenia says the CSTO and Russia failed to step in to prevent casualties and the mass departure of thousands of ethnic Armenian residents.

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Other signs that the South Caucasus country is attempting to stray away from Russian influence have included sending humanitarian aid packages to Ukraine and publicly stating that Armenia is not Moscow’s ally in the war against Kyiv.

“The measures that Armenia has taken against the circumvention of our sanctions against Russia … this shows that the EU and Armenia are increasingly aligned in values and interests,” von der Leyen said.

Tatikyan also notes that Armenia and the United States have shared longstanding bilateral defence ties. “The two have conducted [a number of] joint military exercises… [But] so far, their defence cooperation has addressed rather soft security aspects such as military education and dialogue,” she said.

According to an April 11 interview by the US ambassador to Armenia, Christina Quinn, with local media, Washington has agreed to provide the country with armoured ambulances. Last year, 80 American soldiers were sent to train with the Armenians as part of the Eagle Partner 2023 military exercise, likely irking Russia, which still has a military base in Armenia.