The main aim of this paper is to present several recommendations for strengthening Sino-Armenian political and military cooperation in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
In the framework of the BRI initiative, China will strive toward growth of military-technical and military-political cooperation with the BRI participating countries. This firstly means that those countries’ and China’s military bodies will strengthen cooperation. They will build joint centers for military production. The Chinese will work toward the acquisition of military bases or similar structures in these countries, and toward increasing the volume of Chinese arms exports to them. With the aforementioned steps, China will try to safeguard its investments in BRI participating countries.
I do believe, that in the future China will continue to enlarge its involvement in UNPKO in the territories, where it plans to make investments in the framework of the BRI.
The UN Peacekeeping operations can foster the normal development of the Belt and Road Initiative, as this initiative will bring more results in the territories which are stable for Chinese investments. In turn, if the Silk Road will be implemented, it will stand great contribution for the economies of the states, which are located from Far East to Middle East, Europe and Africa. As a result of the implementation of the BRI, new jobs will be created, economic growth will make the world safer and more stable. It is worth mentioning that China’s participation in UNPKO is also increasing its reputation as a responsible power. If we look on the map of the UNPKO, where China has sent peacekeepers, we can note, that they are mainly located in the areas where China has economic interests or investments.
In turn, Armenia is also interested in UNPKO operations, in this field Yerevan cooperates mostly with NATO. Armenia and China can negotiate and further participate in peacekeeping missions together, sharing military experience and knowledge with each other.
As a result, Sino-Armenian military relations will be strengthened, further, during the joint peacekeeping operations there will be a practical exchange of strategic experience between the Armenian and Chinese military units.
The following question arises: What will China get from strengthening its military cooperation with Armenia?
It is worth mentioning that for a long time China has not participated in wars, in turn, the Armenian army has got its military experience during the last clashes with well-equipped Azerbaijani army on April 2016. Therefore, the experience of Armenian army can be interesting for Chinese side as well, as during the aforementioned war Armenian army successfully struggled against modern drones made by Israel, which with their performance characteristics looked like the US drones and Russian multiple rocket launcher Smerch, etc.
It should be stated, that Armenia and China already have certain military cooperation. Armenian military officers and doctors study in China’s military Universities. From time to time China provides or sells weapons to Armenia, for instance the WM-80 multiple rocket launcher. Every year due to agreement which was signed in 2017, China provides 5-million-yuan military help for buying Chinese conventional weapons to Armenia.
However, it is worth mentioning that Armenia mostly imposes Russian conventional weapons in its military arsenal the quality of which is better than the Chinese one, for this reason conventional weapons: tanks, missiles, artillery, machine guns, fighter jets of Chinese manufacture cannot become of great interest for Armenia and compete with Russian weapons.
But it is worth mention, that during the last years, China successfully developed its production of drones, military robots, and hypersonic missiles, which could be interesting for the Armenian side as military advances.
It means that Armenia must try to strengthen its cooperation with China in aforementioned “not traditional” weapons.
The next recommendation is that in the context of Belt and Road Initiative Armenia and China establish production of aforementioned weapons which will be possible to sell in the Middle East and Eurasian Economic Union as well.
Safe Silk Road Economic Belt: Possible Cooperation in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) Issue
As China is interested in making investments in South Caucasus, which is in the important crossroad of communications and has a rich energy sources, Armenia can try to involve China for solving Nagorno Karabakh conflict in a peaceful way. Yerevan can offer Beijing to submit resolution in the UNSC, which will impose arms embargo on sides, which are involved in aforementioned conflict. As a result, the arms race between Azerbaijan and Armenia will be stopped and Nagorno Karabakh conflict will be solved in a peaceful way, in turn China will get an opportunity to make vast investments in this region without any risks. It is worth mentioning that one of the routs of the SREB’s China-Central Asia-Western Asia also passes through South Caucasus.
China invests billions in Belt and Road Initiative’s mainland direction: Silk Road Economic Belt, therefore it is beneficial for China to improve security of this belt and the regions which are located near to it. The Nagorno Karabakh conflict creates unstable situation in the South Caucasus and puts under the question Chinese investment in this region, which has significant energy resources and it is located in the center of strategic crossroads.
The following question arises:
In which way it is possible to cooperate with China in peaceful solvation of Nagorno Karabakh issue?
UNSC other Permanent members such as Great Britain, France and the US, do not sell weapons to Karabakh conflicting parties, only Russia and China remain, that do not put such a limitation. If Armenian side start negotiation with China and ask it to put an embargo on sales of weapons to the conflicting sides of Nagorno Karabakh conflict, I do believe that resolution will be adopted, as the US, France and Great Britain do not sell weapons them and in the UNSC China and Russia usually support one another’s resolutions. Of course, till the voting the Armenian side must also negotiate with its military alley, that the last one also supports this issue.
As a result, Azerbaijan will not be able to use its revenues from oil for buying weapons, in turn Armenia will not have to withdraw money from its economy for buying weapons, which will help it to keep the balance of powers. As a result, arms race between Azerbaijan in one side and Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh on the other side will be stopped, the conflicting sides will solve the problem without military conflict and by the help of negotiations they will find resolution in peaceful way. In turn, China will get an opportunity to make new investments and secure its previous investments in the region.
China and Armenia’s policies on Nagorno Karabakh can be connected to each other by the help of Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Theoretically, both Armenia and China are opposed to resolving this issue by military means, which from time to time tries to make Azerbaijan, and they adhere to the position of a peaceful settlement proposed by Armenia.
The policy of Azerbaijan and Turkey due to which they try to isolate Armenia from regional projects also totally contradicts to the principles of “equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence” which are included in Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Armenia needs to negotiate with China on these points, that Turkey and Azerbaijan do not use China’s Belt and Road Initiative for isolating Armenia from regional projects. For instance, now Turkey and Azerbaijan negotiate with China to include Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway in the Silk Road Economic Belt’s China-Central Asia-Western Asia Economic Corridor. We must remember that the main aim for building this railway was to isolate Armenia, as the old railways were passing from Azerbaijan to Armenia and after Turkey.
（*）Dr. Mher D. Sahakyan author of the book “Belt and Road Initiative and Armenia”, 2018, from which this essay is adapted. Translated from Armenian. Used by permission. All rights reserved.