With Ukraine now a lost cause for the Customs Union, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has checked in with Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian to see how Armenia's plans to join the Customs Union are coming along.
For Russia, Armenia is a poor substitute for Ukraine, but still a victory in Moscow's efforts to assert its broader economic clout through the trade bloc.
Prime Minister Sarkisian seems to have seized on that status to lodge a request with Moscow to keep the investments coming and to underwrite some of the legal and institutional changes that Armenia needs to meet the upcoming trade club’s membership rules by 2015. Yerevan also needs resources to keep selling Armenians on the idea of pushing the country into what many claim will be an economic throwback to the USSR.
How far Kocharian could go with this is unclear. Memories of the 2008 bloodshed under his administration do not endear him uniformly to Armenian voters. But his choice of topic could add at least some fuel to the fire.
Angry over Russia tightening the screws on migrant workers and not lowering gas prices and watching the desperate efforts in Ukraine to keep Moscow at arm’s length, many Armenians have strong second thoughts about Putin's Customs Union. There is also growing anger with various local economic policies that, some analysts believe, may at some point snowball into a larger, anti-government movement.
To be clear, despite such disgruntlement, no EuroMaidan is expected anytime soon in Armenia. But, as Ukraine showed, in the ongoing game of checkers between the pro-EU and pro-CU camps in the Eurasian region, the players' pieces can indeed move anywhere at any time.