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Armenia Geopolitical Situation
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
    << Back to Armenia National Security

    As a nation, Armenia has not had a great tradition of military success, even at the largest extent of the Armenian Empire. In the Soviet period, Armenian troops were thoroughly integrated into the Soviet army, and Armenian plants contributed sophisticated equipment to Soviet arsenals. After independence Armenia profited from some aspects of this close association, and a strong Russian military presence is expected to remain for some time.

    Geopolitical Situation

    As a small country, Armenia has had an unfavorable geopolitical situation, with no neighbors likely to provide support and security. Lacking an outlet to the sea, Armenia is surrounded by Muslim Turkey and Azerbaijan, both of which generally have been hostile to Armenia's interests; the militant Islamic republic of Iran; and a Georgia torn by civil war. By 1990 Armenia's traditional reliance on Russia had weakened because of internal political conditions--the Karabakh movement had an anti-Russian orientation--and because of the retreat of post-Soviet Russia from military involvement on many fronts.

    In the early 1990s, the major external threat to Armenia came from Azerbaijan. A state with twice the population of Armenia, with significant unrecovered oil reserves in the Caspian Sea, and with great potential for securing Western capital for industrial development, Azerbaijan possessed considerable resources with which to fight a long war in Karabakh. In early 1994, the Armenian Army was considered the most combat-ready force in the three states of Transcaucasia. However, experts attributed Armenian combat successes in the conflict in 1992-93 to the political instability in Baku, to regional divisions within Azerbaijan, and to the greater unity and determination of the Armenian forces in Karabakh (see Forming a National Defense Force, ch. 2).

    In the years following independance, Armenia saw its future security based on ending the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, improving its relations with all its neighbors, and gaining aid and support from the great global powers and organizations--the United States, Russia, the CSCE, and the UN. Once it joined the CIS, Armenia adhered to the organization's security arrangements. In March 1992, Armenia joined Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia in an agreement on the status of general-purpose forces, and it joined seven other CIS republics in an agreement on the financing, supply, production, and development of military equipment. On May 15, 1992, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan signed the Treaty on Collective Security in Tashkent. According to this pact, former Soviet armed forces were permitted to remain in the signatory republics by mutual agreement. Armenia and several other republics agreed to apportion former Soviet weapons to conform to the CFE Treaty. By that agreement, Armenia was to receive 875 units of heavy matériel (tanks, artillery, aircraft, and helicopters), the same number as Georgia and Azerbaijan.

    Armenia's location between two larger states, Russia and Turkey, has long forced it to orient its policies to favor one or the other. Until the late Soviet period, Armenia generally favored its coreligionist Orthodox neighbor and depended on the Russian or Soviet state for its national security. In 1945 Stalin raised the matter of regaining Armenian territory from Turkey, but the issue quietly expired with the dictator in 1953. After independence was officially proclaimed in 1991, Armenia's membership in the new CIS became a national security issue because it seemingly prolonged Russian occupation. The prevailing view in the early 1990s, however, was that isolation from reliable alliances was the greater threat.

    In the decades after World War II, relations between Armenians and Turks degenerated. The Turks became embittered by acts of Armenian terrorism against Turkish citizens in other countries, especially in the 1970s, which served to remind the world of the genocide issue. Starting in the 1980s, Turkey began aspiring to play a major role in European affairs and to exert leadership among the Central Asian Muslim nations that emerged from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. These foreign policy goals encouraged Turkish ambivalence toward Armenian objectives in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, traditional Turkish nationalism demanded alliance with Muslim Azerbaijan, and eastern Turkey remained a heavily fortified area after the end of the Cold War-- about 50,000 Turkish troops were on the Armenian border in early 1994. In turn, Armenia saw its collective security treaty with the CIS and the presence of Russian troops in Armenia as restraints on the nationalist impulse in Turkish policy making.

    Data as of March 1994

    NOTE: The information regarding Armenia on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Armenia Geopolitical Situation information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Armenia Geopolitical Situation should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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