Armenia's Approach to Eurasian Integration


Armenia's Approach to Eurasian Integration

Norayr Dunamalyan (Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University, Armenia)


Armenia’s approach to Eurasian integration is considered as a pragmatic step towards establishing strategic relations within the scope of a common political and economic integration project. In this context, there are several main trends, related to Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU): the problem of security, the need for economic integration due to overcoming the effects of the blockade, the strengthening of statehood and internal economic stability. Referring to the problem of approaches to Eurasian integration, public discourse in Armenia is built on a comparison of three patterns: “Eurasian economic integration”, “Armenia’s participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)”, and “Russian-Armenian relations”. For economists, political scientists or lawyers, these phenomena differ for several reasons and functions, but public opinion, and in many respects, political statements, are built by combining these elements of Armenia’s foreign policy. At the same time, it is important to understand what changes have occurred in the views of the political elite and society of Armenia in perceptions of Eurasian integration after the “velvet revolution”. Determining the degree of the Armenian domestic policy influence provides a large field for studying the interdependence of factors within the integrative processes.

The main aim of this chapter is to detect the main approaches to Eurasian integration within the framework of the various social and scientific discourses transformation in Armenia.

This chapter includes three parts. The first part is dedicated to the analysis of the social, political, economic and cultural prerequisites of Armenia’s participation in the Eurasian integration project. In the second part, the effects of Armenia’s entry into EAEU are analyzed in conjunction with the security problem. Finally, the third part appeals to the possible development of Armenian integrative approaches after the political changes in 2018.


Armenia’s foreign policy U-turn, made in 2013, when the country decided to choose Eurasian integration over European association, has been a subject of a large number of scientific and analytical researches, aimed at identifying the main reasons of Armenia’s position change in rejecting the more flexible format of complementary. Consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of Armenia’s membership in the EAEU was held within several thematic clusters. These blocks are formed at various levels of problem analysis: geopolitical, domestic, economic and security.

In all cases, the complexity of the analysis concerns the omission of many important aspects of the problem. Researchers come to not quite correct conclusions because of many nuances related to the EAEU “semi-integration” problem (Tigran Sarkisyan vidit neobkhodimost 'v soglasovanii natsional'nykh politik ..., 2019), whereas the internal political context is ignored beyond the frameworks of scientific analysis or it takes too much attention.

The most popular topic of analysis remains the discussion around the concept of “conflict between two integrations” (the term was introduced by Vinokurov et al. 2015). This problem includes two levels. On the one hand, the studies are connected with a more professional assessment of the institutional interoperability issue in the economic union and cooperation with other integration projects. On the other hand, the discussion revolves around the “existential” choice between the West and the East. This approach is common both in the Armenian and foreign academic community, but it is worth noting that politicization of the issue has been a subject of a thorough scrutiny in academic papers (Delcour, 2018; Tavadyan, 2018, Shirinyan 2019) and analytical publications on various network resources (Armeniya mezhdu ES i EAES: v lovushke politicheskogo parasitisma, 2017; ES – EAES: vozmozhna li konvergentsiya? 2017).

Speaking about the internal political context of the U-turn of Armenia towards Eurasian integration, another discourse aims to analyze the tactics and strategy of Armenia’s political elite in 2008-2013. This approach considers the process of including Armenia in various integration projects from the domestic political expediency perspective, aimed at strengthening political power and ensuring stability within the state. Thus, the process of association with the EU is explained by the need to neutralize the liberal opposition in Armenia and to ensure the victory of the ruling party and President S. Sargsyan in the elections for 2012-2013, that is why some scholars saw the motivation of the following global changes rather prosaic (Giragosian, 2014). At the same time, the geopolitical component of the process is not neglected, since joining the EAEU is determined by a combination of internal and external factors. Besides, the problem becomes biased, reducing the discussion of the issue in the public and scientific fields to the competition of “pro-European” and “pro-Eurasian” (meaning “pro-Russian”) discourses (Terzyan, 2016; Gabrielyan, Dabaghyan, Tadevosyan, Zakaryan, 2017).

As a part of Armenia’s accession to the EAEU, the main focus was on the issue of security, which became the leitmotif of Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union (CU) and then to the EAEU. The S. Sargsyan’s formula «participating in one military security structure makes it unfeasible and inefficient to stay away from the relevant geo-economic area» (The RA President Serzh Sargsyan’s remarks…, 2013) became an important thesis for further debates in Armenian and foreign academic literature. It should be noted that from the very beginning the focus of discussion of the topic shifted from the economics to security, and more specifically to politics. Yet again, according to many Armenian experts, Armenia, juggling between the Association Agreement (AA) and the Customs Union, chose the CSTO (Iskandaryan, 2015). This approach represented the EAEU in the form of a certain geopolitical union, which Armenia had to join for some reasons.

Separately, one can be mentioned the literature devoted to a macroeconomic analysis of the Eurasian integration effects (Vinokurov, 2017), although this problem evolved in Armenia’s public discourse relatively later - in parallel with Armenia’s integration into the EAEU and by a degree of the socio-economic situation deterioration in the republic. Also, an important place in the Armenian scientific and journalistic literature was taken by the evaluation of the positive and negative effects of joining a new integration project (Manaseryan, 2018). In addition to the identified topics, a popular trend in the Armenian academic discourse is the consideration of Armenia’s example as a bridge of cooperation between the EAEU and the EU (Perspectives оf Co-Existence of EU and EAEU Integration Processes: The Case of Armenia, 2018).

The strategy of complementarity: European and Eurasian integration ways of Armenia

Two main principles were defined in the national security strategy of the Republic of Armenia in the 2007 edition: ‘involvement’ (integration) and ‘complementarity’ (complementarism) (Republic of national security strategy, 2007). These principles were built on overcoming the negative effects of the Azerbaijani-Turkish border blockade and the necessity to extract development resources from various sources. It is noteworthy that the notion of “Eurasian” was absent in the 2007 Strategy, although Armenia has been an observer country in the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) from 2003. The country’s regional economic cooperation was conceived in the framework of “Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia” (TRACECA) and “Interstate Oil and Gas Transportation to Europe” (INOGATE) projects that were ineffective for Armenia because of the closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, while the main way of state development was seen through European integration. It should be understood that the problem of a balanced foreign policy of Armenia accompanied the entire history of political and economic development of the independent republic. Moreover, the need to actualize the national security strategy against the background of the growing confrontation between Russia and the West eventually lost its significance for the Armenian political elite.

In 2003, Armenia became an observer in the Eurasian Economic Community, while in 2004, this republic began gradually integrating into the association with the European Union (EU). More precisely, Armenia became a member of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). Thus, Armenia chose the European integration path, which was accompanied by reforms in various spheres, however, the Eurasian integration remained a part of the country’s foreign policy as it was tied to the matters of security of the South Caucasian republic (Iskandaryan, 2015, 41). This aspect is also reflected in the Strategy, noting the importance of finding Armenia in CSTO in terms of the country's security and the purchase of Russian weaponry at preferential prices.

The political and economic strategy of Armenia in the 2000s evolved within the principle of resource complementarity of several integration projects and bilateral formats of international relations. From 2003 to 2008, Armenia’s GDP increased more than four times (2003 - $ 2 807 million, 2008 - $ 11 662 million), including construction and services, which generated more than 90% of GDP growth. At that time, the remittances were an important factor as one of the main types of people's incomes. The global crisis, which began with a reduction in capital inflows, remittances and external demand, led to a fall in economic activities and exposed the imbalance of the GDP structure and the inefficiency of investments. Consequently, a 14.1% reduction in Armenia’s GDP in 2009 was the deepest drop among the countries of the region. It took 4 years from Armenia to restore the pre-crisis level of GDP (Armeniya i Tamozhennyi soyuz: otsenka ehkonomicheskogo effecta integratsii, 2013, 12-13).

It should be noted that the optimism of the Armenian government with a high level of foreign direct investments caused the notorious “Dutch disease” before the 2008-2009 global crisis. The vulnerability of the Armenian economy will also be manifested after 2014, when economic restrictive measures against the Russian Federation will be introduced and applied, causing their effect on Armenia’s economy.

At that time, the logic of the Armenian authorities was to reduce risks and compensate losses through cooperation with several different integration associations (The Republic of Armenia in the Eurasian Economic Union. first results, 2018, 53). Thus, there was a diversification of risks, but not the economy. Foreign direct investment and remittances were mainly connected with economic cooperation with Russia, in addition to which there was a security problem.

After the onset of the global crisis in 2009, Armenia participated in the creation of the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development (EFSD). The latter helped mitigate the post-crisis state of the economy, as well as attract investment in the modernization of the country’s irrigation system, transport, agriculture and medicine. In 2011, Armenia’s Parliament ratified the Agreement on the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) free trade zone (Dogovor o zone svobodnoi torgovli, 2011). This event was highlighted by the Armenian authorities as another breakthrough in the integration policy of Armenia, but was hugely criticized by the opposition. Back in those days, the Armenian opposition noted that in case of the future non-alignment with the Russia-led Customs Union, Armenia could have a serious conflict with the former. The reason for such consequences was in the numerous contradictions in the CU treaty text (Armeniya ratifitsirovala soglashenie o zone svobodnoi torgovli v SNG, 2011). Moreover, since 2009 Armenia has been participating in the Eastern Partnership project with the EU, aimed at the future signing of the Association Agreement (АА).

Tactically, the political elite of Armenia has managed to ensure the effectiveness of its decisions by playing on two integration projects that provided certain benefits for Armenia. Thus, integration with the EU promised great financial assistance in some areas, both humanitarian and infrastructural. The space of Eurasian economic integration, in turn, represented a large market for the export of competitive Armenian products. At the same time, various issues of military-political and energy security intertwined within the framework of Eurasian integration. On the other hand, economic cooperation, primarily with Russia and the EU, allowed the Armenian elite to ensure the ongoing development of the economy, as well as stabilize the problem of unemployment and poverty. Even after a catastrophic collapse of Armenia’s GDP in 2009 (-14,2%), the economic recovery structure was built on attracting investment through integration projects.

However, by the end of the 2000s, some non-economic factors began to influence the integration choice of Armenia. It should be noted that until 2008 the atmosphere of international relations was relatively favorable, although there was a tendency towards the deterioration of Russia-West relations. Under these conditions, creating multilateral economic relations in the framework of various integration projects could have been fraught with negative consequences. While remaining committed to the development of Armenian-Russian relations (a corresponding agreement was signed in 2010 to extend the location of the 102nd Russian base in Armenia until 2044), Armenia tried to minimize the effects of the blockade, its unfavorable geographical position and the constant threat of renewed hostilities. Tactically, this behavior of the Armenian political elite justified itself, yet, not strategically. The gradual escalation of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border also contributed to an unambiguous geopolitical choice, as security guarantees were necessary against the background of deteriorating socio-economic conditions of the population of Armenia (Minasyan, 2016).

From 2008 to 2018, Armenia experienced several crisis waves in domestic politics. The first wave was associated with a deep political crisis after the tragic events of 2008 (Zolyan, 2010), which later provoked a number of political and social protests in the republic. At the same time, the first crisis wave rolled back by 2012, partly due to the anti-crisis reforms of the government of T. Sargsyan, when the republic’s GDP reached 2008 levels (Minasyan, 2016, 39-43). In 2014, the Armenian economy demonstrated its vulnerability to external factors again – due to the introduction of sanctions against Russia, the fall in oil prices and the devaluation of the Russian ruble. The second wave of the crisis began to roll back as early as 2017 when the volume of trade between countries increased, and the dependence of GDP on remittance inflows began to minimize (V 2019 godu denezhnye perevody bol'she ..., 2019) (Fig. 1).


Fig. 1. Migrant remittance inflows to Armenia in correlation to GDP, USD bln.

Source: World bank and Central bank of Armenia.


Figure 1 shows the important stages of the political development of Armenia. These stages became decisive in choosing the geopolitical path of Armenia, as tactically the political elite of Armenia was able to resolve almost all crises inside the country, including the ability to maneuver in relations with the EU. The resource of cooperation with the EU in the framework of preparing the signing of the AA was actively used by the authorities to neutralize opposition forces inside the republic, providing an opportunity to eliminate protest hotbeds gradually, using methods of public opinion manipulation and creating a fake agenda within public discourse (Giragosian, 2014, 2). At the same time, European officials turned a blind eye to some authoritarian actions of the Armenian elites, as well as to the problem of possible falsifications in the elections in 2012 and 2013.

Going back to the topic of Armenia’s internal policy influence on the geopolitical choice, it must be admitted that the tactical victories of the Armenian authorities over the opposition to neutralize the protest movements were gained against the background the absence of any clear foreign policy strategy. At least the four-year period of the association was not successful and led to a crisis of trust between Armenia and the EU, although at the Vilnius summit in 2013 the Armenian President S. Sargsyan announced a desire to continue the dialogue. Simultaneously, joining the Customs Union, and later the EAEU was incomplete and has a non-linear nature, as Armenia had close economic and trade contacts mainly with Russia. It was remarkable, that a new agenda in the context of deepening integration relations within the EAEU and cooperation with the EU emerged in 2017, coinciding with the socio-economic situation stabilization in Armenia.

Analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of Armenian integration into the EAEU, it is necessary to note the fact that the success of changes in foreign policy was inextricably linked with the domestic political configuration. The complicated situation of Armenia’s relationship with neighboring countries and world leaders also left its imprint on the country’s domestic policy, but the ability to maneuver in foreign policy depended directly on the political elite’s coherent view of the political decision-making process. Besides, the attitude of the EU and the USA towards Armenia has changed, creating new risks (the deepening of the strategic relationship of the US and the EU with Azerbaijan, reduction of financial support from American and European governments) in republic’s positions strengthening on the world stage.

Based on the above, the Armenian approach to Eurasian integration needs some clarification. Armenia’s foreign policy is cramped in the context of conflict with Azerbaijan and Turkey since the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the problem of recognizing the Armenian genocide largely determine the outlines of Armenia’s foreign policy opportunities. At the same time, all the EAEU members are endeavoring to develop reciprocal beneficiary collaboration with Turkey and Azerbaijan based on political, economic and cultural features. It should also be mentioned that Russia is the only EAEU member-country, which recognized the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. In this context, emphasis only on economic integration is more reasonable, but the weaponry trading with Azerbaijan or the desire to include Turkey in the free trade zone with the EAEU will meet a negative response in Yerevan.

Another aspect worth mentioning is the popularity of the foreign policy agenda as part of public discourse, which was often used by the opposition in the confrontation with the “regime”. Here, one may consider a large number of publications on various Armenian Internet sites directed against Russia or Armenia’s joining the EAEU (, Besides, this agenda was used by the “Way-out” bloc – parliamentary opposition, headed by N. Pashinyan. Further, the current Prime Minister pointed out the rhetorical nature of his statements about Armenia’s withdrawal from the EAEU in order to sharpen the internal and external audience's attention on other important issues (Pashinyan obyasnil ideyu ego fraktsii o vykhode Armenii iz EAES, 2018). In public opinion, the issue of joining the EAEU was associated with the personality of President S. Sargsyan, who had an extremely low legitimacy. Thus, the low legitimacy of authority was reflected in the public perception of all Armenian political elite’s foreign policy decisions. Such discourse was picked up by Western-oriented media and replicated in the press. Thereby, the problem of mistrust of the executive power was projected onto the foreign policy agenda, notwithstanding the positive or negative sides of the issue.

Also, it must be mentioned, that the picture of public opinion about Russia in Armenia and its attitude towards the EAEU is quite compatible, although they need some explanation regarding the domestic and foreign policy context (Fig. 2). According to a sociological survey conducted in May 2019 by the International Republican Institute (IRI), Russia seemed to the respondents to be the most important political (78%) and economic (62%) partner of Armenia, and 77% (in the IRI’s October survey this indicator was 79%) of respondents considered the joining of republic the EAEU as a positive phenomenon (Public Opinion Survey: Residents of Armenia, 2019).


Fig. 2. Dynamics of public perception of the EAEU, 2012–2017.

Note: Question: Five countries have decided to create the EAEU (in essence, a single market for the five countries). What is your attitude towards that decision?

Source: EDB (2017).


In the case of public perception of the EU, there are many nuances related to the specificity and viability of the institutional framework of this organization. The support for Armenia’s possible membership in the EU had been gradually decreased since 2012 when Armenia’s integration vector begun to change (Fig.3).


Fig. 3. Support of Armenia's membership in the European Union, 2011–2017.

Note: Question: Please tell me to what extent would you support Armenia's membership in the EU?

Source: The Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC).


The difference in the positive perception of the EU and the EAEU in Armenia is quite large, which is explained by the active and flexible EU media policy, as well as it’s significant support of local media in Armenian (Fig. 4.). Non-profit organizations existing on European grants also provide consolidated information on EU activities. In 2018, the EU spent € 1.74 million to support civil society (Armenian civil society receives €1.74 million for new activities, 2018; European External Action Service (EEAS), 2018). In the period 2017-2020, the EU, in the framework of the Programming of the European Neighborhood Instrument (ENI), plans to allocate more than €140 million for the development of business, democratic institutions, infrastructure, environment and civil society (Single Support Framework for EU support to Armenia, 2017).


Fig. 4. The comparison of trust dynamics towards the EU and EAEU in Armenia, 2016-2019, per.


Source: EDB, Annual survey report «EU NEIGHBOURS east».


All these factors influence the attitude towards the EU, which is also reflected in local media, where the number of publications on the EU is almost always greater than references to the EAEU (Fig. 5). The role of the media in the formation of public opinion about the EAEU and the EU is quite large, and the European Union eventually developed an effective system for Media-NGOs coordination.


Fig. 5.  Armenian media coverage of the EAEU and the EU, the number of Armenia-related publications (March, July 2018, March 2019)



In the case of the EAEU, there are more difficulties. The institutional, regulatory and procedural aspects of integration are still in their infancy, but at the same time, the expectations of the Armenian society from the EAEU are higher, and disappointment with certain problems within the organization or in the framework of interstate cooperation may be more acute. Media also does not reveal the functional differences of the EU and the EAEU for Armenia, therefore in the public consciousness, these two organizations are perceived at the same level for several characteristics, which affects their assessment.

Summarizing aforementioned, it is necessary to note all the factors that influenced the Armenia’s integration choice in 2013: the necessity to continue complementary policy in order to avoid a scarce resource base effects; foreign policy pressure caused by the reformatting of the post-Soviet space international relations; internal political problems associated with the Armenian political elite desire of power retain; economic crisis and vulnerability to external factors; national security of Armenia and the necessity of minimization of the risks of active hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. These conditions act as context for Armenia’s approach to Eurasian integration and its shaping, the process of which continues until now and is aimed at determining the republic's main priorities of development after the 2018 “velvet revolution”.

Armenian View on “Greater Eurasia”: Region, Integration Effects and Security Dilemma

The specificity of the Armenian approach to integration is highlighted by a number of features related to the self-perception of the Armenian people in the world. The basis of the Armenian identity is built on the foundation of the historical and cultural experience of existence in the framework of various “imperial” projects, as well as the desire to preserve its uniqueness based on three elements: religion, writing system and language. These factors also influence the formation of the Armenian view on Eurasian economic integration, contributing to the idea of Armenia as a bridge between various integration projects (Ademmer, Lisovolik, 2018, 29). Thus, the Armenian political thought positioned the Armenian state as an “in-between” state. (Krumm, 2018, 19).

This position is explainable from the perspective of perceiving Armenia’s place in the world and the region geopolitics as a middle state, capable of performing mediatory functions between different centers of power. At the same time, the ethno-political conflict and the realities of the independent republic existence limit the Armenian view on “Greater Eurasia” in the context of concentration only in the South Caucasus problems.

The institutional basis of Eurasian integration is still in its infancy, which contributes to the “regional space” formation (Söderbaum, 2012). The continuing post-Soviet space erosion as a reaction meets with the construction of new regionalism, which is distinguished by the “softness” of relations within integration projects and is therefore beneficial in terms of preserving sovereignty and ability to cooperate with other regional associations. On the other hand, the “soft” type of integration within the framework of unified formation of Eurasian space hampers its development, since each state pursues its pragmatic goals, which sometimes conflict with the partner country's interests.

For Armenia, it is important to retain a flexible relationship mechanism within the EAEU and the possibility to continue cooperation with the EU, as well as to reduce the risks of price increase for different types of goods using the tools of free trade zones with various states (Iran, China, etc.). Based on this, Armenia’s vision of “Greater Eurasia” passes through the lenses of economic interests and is limited by them. The pragmatic approach of Armenian economic relations in the conditions of undeveloped industries suggests the need for a protectionist policy in the export field and avoidance of more competitive products from the third countries to its market. In such conditions, countries contribute to the deepening of further integration, but on the other hand they fear ambitious steps in the issue of giving broader power to the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) (Delcour, 2018, 60). As a result, subjective and objective reasons lead to the low level of integration problem in the Union.

The complicated situation in Armenia, which has developed in the process of private political and economic crises, ought to be stabilized. Integration was considered as a factor contributing to the sustainability of the domestic political and economic conjuncture. Despite the balance breaking through abrupt and ill-considered steps in 2013, Armenia’s participation in Eurasian integration by 2017 began to show a positive trend in trade and export. However, the agricultural and industrial sectors of the economy are still in an unstable state, depending on some external and internal factors (Effekty integratsii Armenii I Kyrgyzstana v ramkakh EAES, 2019).

Armenia’s entry into the EAEU prevented a number of possible risks. At the same time, it raised some new ones. The main field of problems for Armenia after the restoration of independence was formed around finding an effective solution to issues related to transport routes and the organization of goods logistics, as the only way to the world was communication with Georgia. The highway project “North-South” was an attempt to create an alternative communication with Iran in order to support Armenia's transit potential. The absence of a common border with the member countries of the EAEU aggravated Armenia’s situation in the context of creating flexible economic relations mechanisms with Georgia, aimed at the Euro-Atlantic integration path.

The security issues in the context of the development of Armenia is perceived as a space of “existential” challenge, connected with the provision of all measures for the Armenian ethnos preservation in this territory. As an argument one can mention the same absence of a direct border with the EAEU member-countries or the glowing ethno-political conflict presence, and also blockade from two of four adjacent states. The obvious benefit of the membership in the EAEU is the absence of a sharp increase in gas prices, as well as the abolition of taxes and non-tariff restrictions on the EAEU products export (Armeniya v EAES: evraziiskaya integratsiya v deistvii, 2018, 8). The guarantee of energy and economic security provides the development of other spheres of the Armenian society, including the military-political component.

In the Armenian political elite and many public groups perception, Eurasian integration in its economic (EAEU) and military-political (CSTO) dimensions serve a single goal.

In this aspect, there is some “isolated” vision of Eurasian integration, extraneous to other Armenia’s partner states in the EAEU, but those are the political and economic realities of the Armenian society development process. Of course, the effect of integration is not only positive, but also reveals many structural and substantive difficulties of a unified economic association. The ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of the process of Armenia’s integration into the EAEU cannot be separated since there are a large number of factors influencing the common market formation. For example, the common labor market formation, and a labor migrants number increase from Armenia and other EAEU member states to Russia, which in turn necessitates the development of a regulatory basis within the EAEU labor law framework, including in the pension provision within the Union (Shustov, 2018). But also the number of labor migrants is an indicator of the crisis situation in the EAEU countries. The absence of whole complexes of industrial or agricultural sectors leads to a disproportion in the effectiveness of integration processes and does not solve problems within societies of the member countries.

The obvious achievement of Armenia’s membership in the EAEU is the foreign trade and export growth. Considering the geographical structure of trade, it is worth noting that foreign trade with third countries dominates in Armenia’s trade, this is fair for both export and import. However, there is an increase in the share of mutual trade with EAEU member countries, mainly in terms of exports, which indicates the positive impact of integration (Tab. 1). Nevertheless, it should be admitted that Russia remains the main trading partner of Armenia in the EAEU, as much of the energy and nuclear fuel also comes from the Russian Federation.






EAEU states

Russian Federation

244 893

374 471

557 256

666 502


6 810

13 412

7 051

11 737


4 166

4 974

4 928

9 767



1 037

1 764


EAEU free trade and economic cooperation zone


81 728

75 253




165 359

96 451

118 529

107 222






Other trade partners


























Tab. 1. Structure of Armenia’s export, USD thousand



First of all, difficulties arise from the insufficient level of the institutional and regulatory framework development in various areas of cooperation. This problem is also being slowly resolved due to the internal political inhomogeneity of the partner countries. Secondly, there is a lack of communication channels between countries, as well as a lack of adequate interaction at the humanitarian level (Evraziiskaya ehkonomicheskaya integratsiya: perspektivy razvitiya i strategicheskie zadachi dlya Rossii, 2019). Although the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) announced the start of financing humanitarian projects, the initiative of humanitarian cooperation from both an organizational and a substantive point of view should come not only from Russia, but from all other EAEU members (Sarkisyan, 2015). Thirdly, there is a problem with the low qualification of manpower. The priorities of the EAEU formation, associated with the development of high-tech industries to establish the cooperative interaction of states, need a serious scientific and educational foundation. Finally, the real problem for the whole Union and, in particular, for Armenia is the lack of working capital and the limited banking system capacity to finance infrastructure projects. For example, the project “North-South” was faced with some problems at construction various stages, also the possible implementation of a railway to Iran was declared unprofitable. In this context, the conditions for attracting investments are important and will be discussed below.

Armenia’s interest in the EAEU is expressed by the cumulative “security-economy-communication” ratio. These elements are interdependent and determine the place of Eurasian integration in Armenian foreign policy. By its size, Armenia is a small state with a little economic and demographic potential (Armenia’s GDP – $ 12.4 bln. (2018), population - 2 986 100 (2017)), but the strategic course of this country's foreign and domestic policy concerns several areas: preventing deterioration of relations between the state-members of the EAEU and CSTO, deepening cooperation, monitoring the actions of allied states in relations with the third countries, the formation of its own agenda of integration relations. In this context, the role of CSTO is very important as an allied structure, which was not conceived as an organizational element of the Eurasian project, but which actually represents the military-political dimension of integration in a common space.

In the 2007 Strategy, Armenia’s need to be in the CSTO was associated with the provision of armament to the participating country at preferential prices, the creation of mechanisms for military cooperation and the fight against international threats (Republic of Armenia national security strategy, 2007). However, Armenia’s view on military-political or economic cooperation lies in striving for a “rigid” CSTO structure capable of ensuring the security of the borders of Armenia from possible aggression. In parallel with this, economic integration is considered in the context of the “flexible” system formation in the EAEU, which will contribute to the development of the Armenian state and society, but at the same time does not hinder the search for resources in the framework of cooperation with other integration projects.

Strengthening trade relations with Iran, Vietnam, Singapore, India and other countries of Eurasia can contribute to a "departure" from the post-Soviet logic of “holding-together regionalism”, in which politicization of various issues impedes integration processes (Libman, Vinokurov, 2016, 33). In this context, the new experience of creating a unifying regional project should be based on mediation between various integration projects: the EU, the EAEU, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the “One Belt, One Way” project, etc. is important. For Armenia, it is important to include the greatest number of potential political and economic allies in this further process.

Future of Armenia in the EAEU: external vector of domestic policy changes

The aforementioned factors shape the current policy of Armenia and contribute to the current approaches to Eurasian integration transformation. Considering the future of Armenia in the EAEU, it is necessary to understand the trends that arise under the influence of external or internal changes. The choice of the integration vector was determined by a specific set of circumstances where a large number of elements were included, but today the formation of the EAEU is also affected by structural changes within the member states - at least, in the areas indirectly related to trade and commodity circulation. In the future, these relations will deepen and partner countries need to develop a common program for the organization of further development.

The global problem at the moment remains the blurriness of such concepts as “Eurasian space” and “Eurasianism” in general, as well as the resulting lack of understanding between the allies. “Eurasia" as a region is not perceived as a unified construct, directed to the future, because the main aspects of classical Eurasian conception do not work with society’s modern self-perception (Bordachev, Pyatachkova, 2018, 37). To a greater extent, other integration associations in the form of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) or ASEAN are ignored in the Armenian public discourse. In ordinary consciousness, the perception of this phenomenon dominates as a relic of the post-Soviet space, which currently unites only some of the participating countries' selfish economic interests. There are many grounds for such opinion, however, Armenia’s position in the context of the “Eurasian” region development is not entirely clear.

In this regard, a number of explanatory questions should be answered: 1. What niche does Armenia occupy in the framework of the Eurasian integration process? 2. What strategy can be most effective in the face of international tensions? 3. What are the prerequisites for the implementation of these strategies? 4. What is the real state of issues in domestic and foreign policy? 5. What complex actions can contribute to the development of Armenia and the entire economic union?

Armenia has shaped its approaches in domestic and foreign policy under rather difficult circumstances, experiencing a series of crises one after another. Integration could be considered as a way to mitigate crises, but the Armenian political elite has not yet formulated any working program for inclusion in the international process. Ideas are akin to the “Armenian world”, “global nation”, “local civilization” or part of the European family of nations led to the destruction of the format of relations between states and even the ties of Armenia with some communities of the diaspora, because from an institutional or value point of view Armenian society was not ready to adopt a new foreign policy concept.

Eurasian integration was not a panacea for Armenian society, but the “softness” of the economic union gave some room for maneuver and breadth of actions within the framework of “Greater Eurasia” or the post-Soviet space. The discourses formed within Armenia show antagonism of the “pro-Western” or “pro-Russian” positions, but own vision of foreign policy is seen through the prism of certain subjects: the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (regional layer), the problem of recognizing the Armenian genocide (global layer), relations with the Diaspora (global layer), Russian-Armenian relations (bilateral security format). Outside these narratives, several formats of bilateral relations are present, but there are no full-fledged approaches within the framework of Armenia’s role global vision.

This problem brings Armenia’s relations with other states to a crisis, as the recognition of any negative step towards Armenia leads to a sharp increase in tension. In this case, the biggest share of the blame lies with the Armenian diplomacy, which is not aimed at creating close relations with various countries of the world. As an example, several processes, including intensive economic and military-technical cooperation between Russia and Belarus with Azerbaijan, as well as disputes around the CSTO Secretary General, put to a certain disillusionment of the citizens of Armenia, but the reaction of the Armenian public and the political elite was limited, emotional and situational. No effective steps have been taken to prevent such effects before those situations occurred.

On the other hand, the attitude towards the EAEU is “politicized” because of the little attention of Armenian society to the problem of economic growth or tax-free trade. The share of the blame lies on the structures of the EAEU, which do not properly conduct the policy of informing the population about the results achieved. That is why even events that are not directly related to the EAEU can affect negatively the Armenian public mood. The lack of a foreign policy strategy and specific approaches to Eurasian integration might not have much importance in the case of low integration, but the EAEU currently influences the formation of some economic institutions in Armenia, which cannot be ignored. With a high depth of integration, Armenia will be forced, along with some proposals of a structural nature, to include in the foreign policy agenda the development of its vision for Eurasian integration.

The implementation of some of Armenia’s approaches to Eurasian integration faces difficulties in domestic and foreign policy nature. There is also the problem of concentrating on solving domestic problems after the “velvet revolution” and the transition to a new economic policy.

For Armenia’s new political elite, it is important to demonstrate an interest in promoting the Eurasian integration project in various directions, as well as to avoid mistrust between the member states of the Union (Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan Presents Priorities of Armenia’s Presidency in EAEU, 2019). At the same time, N. Pashinyan’s government faces the issue of improving the macroeconomic indicators of Armenia, using also the tools of Eurasian integration. As well the new Armenian parliament came up with the initiative to create Standing Committee on Regional and Eurasian Integration (spheres of activities: relations with the Eurasian Economic Union and other countries of the region, harmonization, unification of legislation of the Republic of Armenia and other member states of the Eurasian Economic Union and laws governing those areas).

Returning to the main priorities of the Eurasian integration, a number of difficulties hinder the effective implementation and contributes to the failure of initiatives.

In almost all areas of Eurasian integration, there is a problem of harmonizing both regulators of economic and trade relations and increasing the level of trust between countries. In addition, there is the problem of market liberalization, when some of the Union states are shifting too early to the free movement of goods, services and capital to the detriment of local producers, while partner countries remain in positions of state regulation of the market. In the case of Armenia, everything is much more complicated in the context of the transition period for the political and economic system after the “velvet revolution”.

The following issues of strategic importance are included in the main agenda of the activities of the new Armenian government:

  1. The effect of the “economic revolution”, which is neoliberal and risky in the context of modern internal political processes in Armenia. Tax reform is aimed at introducing a single income tax rate of 23% with a gradual decrease to 20% by 2023, as well as removing most of the economy from the shadows. This plan is designed to receive benefits in the form of a large flow of foreign direct investment (FDI), but according to some researchers, the forecasts of the government are rather controversial (Avetisyan, 2019). Also, the growth of FDI is decreased, which the entry into the EAEU could not affect (Kakvstuplenie v Evraziiskii Soyuz povliyalo na ekonomiku Armenii, 2019), but the new economic policy may also affect relations within the EAEU.
  2. Funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Eurasian Development Bank, the “North-South” highway project has been a subject of litigation after the seven years of the road construction. At the same time, government representatives have stated that there was not a real calculation of the economic effect of the project for a long time in except for superficial assessments, the total cost and the completion of the entire investment program (Pravitel'stvo Armenii rabotaet s partnerami ..., 2019). Additionally, the “North-South” highway is the most promising direction for including Armenia in the transit network of “Greater Eurasia”, as well as entering into competition with an alternative route through Azerbaijan.
  3. The implementation of the Comprehensive and enhanced partnership agreement (CEPA) between the European Union and Armenia presents great interest from perspectives of interfacing cooperation processes with European structures and Eurasian integration. In this context, the problem of Armenian (Metsamor) Nuclear Power Plant exploitation stands out of the Russian-European “competitive partnership”, as the Europeans are in favor of closing the station, and Russian specialists are suggesting to modernize it. However, the model export-oriented power grid has remained unthinkable without a nuclear power plant (Davtyan, 2019).
  4. Another strategic direction for Armenia and all EAEU countries is the strengthening of trade relations with Iran, despite the large difference between the markets and a three-year period for the compliance of trade relations between EAEU and Iran with WTO standards. In addition, Armenia is interested in increasing its export to Iran, as well as in activating the free economic zone in Meghri on the Armenian-Iranian border (Markarov, Davtyan, 2018, 535). In the context of deepening Iran-EAEU economic relations, Armenia has some advantages: a common border with Iran and long-standing political and trade-economic relations. The “North-South” project also serves to strengthen EAEU-Iran contacts, where Armenia plays the role of an interested mediator. Therefore, Armenia expects from this agreement both a reduction in duties on a wider list of goods and the opportunity to penetrate the market of Northern Iran in conditions of Iranian protectionist economic policy, and strengthen its political and economic status in Iran-EAEU relationship (Armenia stands to benefit from Eurasian Economic Union, Iran trade deal, 2019).
  5. The IT sphere is also worth mentioning, as one of the most important directions of development of the Armenian economy, which can support the “Digital policy” of Eurasian integration. This industry should be considered not only in terms of software exporting, but also fulfilling the following important tasks: creating integrated tools for trade facilitation, recording citizens’ relocations of the EAEU member states within the common space and ensuring their physical and legal security, shaping common standards for inspection and transportation of goods (EAES nuzhny mestnye analogi internet-gigantov Alibaba, eBay, Amazon…, 2019).

These priorities, along with the peculiarities of changes in the political and economic structure of the Armenian society, represent an open ‘window of opportunity’ that is related to both the internal political development of Armenia and the EAEU as a whole. Since after the “velvet revolution” the tendency to associate the Eurasian integration with the illegitimate political regime has passed. Paradoxically, N. Pashinyan’s high rating leads to support for Eurasian integration within Armenian society. That is why today the Armenian political elite and society can form new demands for their own view on Eurasian integration.

It is difficult to determine what is the place, occupied by Armenia in the structure of Eurasian integration, because the given problem has not been scrutinized meticulously, which to a certain extent can be explained by the very fact of the incompleteness of the integration project itself. There are two possible strategies that Armenia can choose in the process of deepening integration processes. The strategy of Armenia as a “small state” can be reduced to the desire to give supranational bodies of the EAEU and CSTO a more significant role. At the moment, the only tool for smoothing asymmetry is the consensus institution, however, making collective decisions in this way is sometimes ineffective, because it faces with the reluctance of one of the parties to give up in a dispute for political reasons (consider revising this sentence, difficult to understand). Thus, the Eurasian Economic Commission has no authority to monitor the implementation of the decisions of the EAEU bodies. The commission does not even have the right to appeal to the Court of the EAEU, which hampers the elimination of barriers in the common market and complicates the resolution of disputable situations (Sutyrin, 2019).

In the absence of significant resources and in a complex geopolitical situation, Armenia may be interested in using the institutional framework of Eurasian integration, putting emphasis on increasing the role of supranational international institutions and exerting pressure through them on more influential partner countries (Wivel, 2005, 396). On the other hand, the integration strategy of Armenia can be built around a bilateral format of relations with the most significant state of Eurasian integration – Russia. Such a strategy is more realistic, given the deepening of relations between Armenia and Russia in the economic (most of the export-import and foreign direct investment falls on Armenia) and the military-political spheres (purchase of weapons at preferential prices, creation of joint air-defense system, support in implementing the Armenia’s humanitarian mission in Syria). The format of Armenian-Russian relations differs in many ways from interaction with other the EAEU and CSTO states, as Belarus and Kazakhstan in some cases tend to have a more restrained integration policy, emphasizing the purely economic component of integration and bilateral security format.

The Eurasian Economic Union remains a community of realist states that seek to protect their interests, not allowing any losses for themselves. But the idea of ​​Eurasian integration, first of all, belongs to the “constructivist” thought, aimed at the new region formation, based on the values ​​justifying a common future, as well as the transition from “role” to the “collective identity” of the EAEU member countries (Wendt, 2003). In the economic sphere, this means to create conditions for a common chain of the industrial complex, independent of imports from the third countries, as well as the interest of allies in developing a general position on some regional and global issues.

The core of relations between states within the framework of Eurasian integration is still geopolitics. This process is natural since the development of the integration project requires the political will of the leaders of all countries included in the integration project. Given the diversity of political systems, cultures, social attitudes and traditions, it is possible to imagine how difficult is to formulate common standards for the purpose of deep economic and social modernization of the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union.


Armenia is unique in a number of features, determining the place of this republic in the structure of Eurasian integration and its relation to the whole common space formation concept. This specificity is connected both with the geopolitical position of Armenia, and the existence of ethno-political conflict, however, the Armenian foreign policy remains “hostage” to the regional policy in the South Caucasus, not having the opportunity to present a broader vision of integration processes. The absence of strategy in 2008-2013 led to an unexpected U-turn of the Armenian policy towards Eurasian integration, although before the domestic elites were trying to maintain a common vector of political and economic development with Russia. The tactical victories of the Armenian authorities over the opposition and the international confrontation growth led to the adjustment of the Armenian integration policy. The complementary principle of Armenian foreign policy has been revised, but no conceptual basis for a new strategy has been emerged. Today, Armenia is an active participant in the EAEU and can estimate the advantages that the Eurasian integration has brought to the country, however, the domestic policy remains the priority as the basis for ensuring the security of the state. In Armenian society, the phenomena of security, foreign policy, integration, economic development are not separated from each other, therefore, the political changes in 2018 made their adjustments to the process.

After the “velvet revolution” Eurasian integration in public discourse is no longer associated with illegitimate power, which makes it possible to formulate its own vision of current processes within the framework of the EAEU and the CSTO. Also, Armenia’s membership in Eurasian integration showed some benefits and advantages for the country’s economy in the field of export growth, trade turnover and sustained GDP growth.

At this stage, the new political elite will have to attract investment and ensure economic growth, and at the same time stabilize the public discourse about the role and place of Armenia in the Eurasian integration project. The sustainability of Armenia’s approaches to Eurasian integration depends on solving urgent problems in the spheres of economy, development of the transport system and infrastructure, as well as the ability to ensure the state security in the long term.


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