The Commonwealth of Independent States
Increasingly through the early 1990s, the Republic of Armenia's isolation led the government to look for allies beyond Transcaucasia. Ter-Petrosian appealed to foreign governments and to Armenians abroad for material aid to carry the people through the harsh winters. As the rapprochement with Turkey in 1991-92 brought few concrete benefits, Armenia steadily gravitated toward a closer relationship with Russia. Early in 1993, Ter-Petrosian met with Yeltsin in Moscow to discuss deliveries of oil and natural gas to the blockaded republic. The Russian minister of defense, Pavel Grachev, negotiated a brief cease-fire in NagornoKarabakh in April. Armenia remained in the ruble zone, the group of countries still using Russian rubles as domestic currency, often in parallel with a new national currency such as Armenia's dram. In 1992 and 1993, large-scale credit payments from the Central Bank of Russia were vital in supporting Armenia's national budget.
Immediately after Armenia declared itself independent, TerPetrosian joined in an economic community with seven other republics--but he refused to enter a political union at that point. In December 1991, however, he signed the Alma-Ata Declaration, making Armenia a founding member of the CIS. From that time, Armenia has played an active role in the CIS, signing an accord on military cooperation with Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.
In May 1993, Ter-Petrosian announced Armenia's support of a Russo-Turkish-American plan for settlement of the Karabakh conflict. When Aliyev returned to power in June, Ter-Petrosian spoke by telephone directly with the new leader of Azerbaijan, and together they agreed that Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh must begin direct negotiations. Azerbaijan's entry into the CIS in September 1993 was seen by some as giving Russia a mandate to solve the Karabakh problem. Ter-Petrosian reiterated his conditions for peace: Karabakh was to be recognized as a full party to the negotiations, all blockades were to be ended, and the CSCE-sponsored Minsk Group negotiations were to settle all political and legal questions on the status of Karabakh.
Russia was a logical mediator. Not only did it have military bases and equipment in the region, but Russian troops were still guarding the border between Armenia and Turkey. Russia consistently asserted its hegemonic role in Transcaucasia, opposed the designs of Turkey and Iran in the region, and was even wary of the United States being a mediator in the region without specific Russian invitation or acquiescence. After Yeltsin won a struggle with the Russian parliament in September 1993 and both Georgia and Azerbaijan had joined the CIS, Russia resumed its role as the primary mediator of conflicts in Transcaucasia.
Russia has asserted hegemony in the region in several ways. It has repeatedly claimed the right to protect the major link from Russia to Armenia that passes through the conflict-plagued Abkhazia and Georgia. In September 1993, Russia requested a revision of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which had been negotiated between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in 1990, in order to achieve an increase in the number of Russian tanks and heavy weapons in the Caucasus. Although NATO perceived an increased military influence in the formulation of this more assertive Russian policy, Western policy makers recognized that at the end of 1993 Russia was the only power in position to play a meaningful peacekeeping role in the region.
|Country Studies main page | Armenia Country Studies main page|