An indicator of the foreign policy priorities of any country is the statistics of foreign visits of the leader of the country. Analyzing the statistics of foreign visits, one can form an idea of the foreign policy priorities of that country and the tendencies of change of the foreign policy course in a given period.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power as a result of the April-May 2018 revolution in Armenia, made 37 foreign visits from May 2018 to December 2019. Below we will present the number and general description of the foreign visits of three former Presidents of Armenia, as well as the geography and general dynamics of Nikol Pashinyan’s foreign trips.
The former authorities
The first foreign visit of the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan took place on November 20, 1991 to the then capital of Kazakhstan Almaty. In total, during his seven years in office, Levon Ter-Petrosyan has made 62 foreign visits. As with all Armenian leaders, Levon Ter-Petrosyan visited Russia the most, but unlike others, the first president visited the EU member states least of all. Instead, Ter-Petrosyan made the greatest number of visits to neighboring states of Armenia – Georgia, Iran, Turkey.
Second President Robert Kocharyan made his first visit to Moscow on March 18, 1998. During the ten years of his presidency, Robert Kocharyan made 129 foreign trips. The latter has also made the most visits to Russia, but trips to EU member states altogether already exceed the number of visits to Russia. It is also noteworthy that among the leaders of Armenia Robert Kocharyan made the greatest number of trips to the United States.
Third President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan made the largest number of foreign business trips (203) among Armenian leaders. The latter’s first foreign visit was to Bucharest on April 3, 2008. As a country, Sargsyan has mostly visited Russia (54), but there are substantially more visits to the EU – 72. In addition, Serzh Sargsyan has traveled to the United States quite often (10) mainly to attend the UN General Assembly sessions. Serzh Sargsyan is also the leader in the number of visits to remote countries in South America and Asia. Instead, Serzh Sargsyan has paid the least number of visits to neighboring countries.
This picture of international visits by former leaders of Armenia shows that maintaining close ties and cooperation with Russia, Armenia has activated contacts with the European Union by joining the European structures and implementing a European integration policy, making Europe one of the two major directions of Armenia’s foreign policy.
Following the revolution, Armenia’s new government, led by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, announced that there would be no drastic changes in the country’s foreign policy course. This is also evident from the statistics of Nikol Pashinyan’s foreign visits. As mentioned above, after becoming Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan left for 37 foreign trips, 10 of which to Russia. Pashinyan has visited European Union member states 12 times. It is noteworthy that Nikol Pashinyan made 3 out of 37 visits to neighboring countries – twice to Georgia and once to Iran. In percentage, this is more than in the case of Kocharyan and Sargsyan, which is in line with Pashinyan’s statements about paying more attention to relations with regional countries.
As for the other nuances reflected in the statistics of visits of all Armenian leaders, it should be noted that besides bilateral relations with Russia, Armenia also actively participates in the works of CIS and Eurasian integration structures (CSTO and EAEU). Therefore, a considerable part of the visits of the Armenian leaders take place to the member countries of these organizations. For example, Nikol Pashinyan has made six out of his 37 visits to CIS member states – Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. It should also be noted that more than half of Pashinyan’s visits to Russia (6) took place within the framework of activities of Eurasian integration organizations. Consequently, Armenia’s contacts with Russia are also substantially related to integration with Eurasian structures, and this direction is generally Armenia’s biggest foreign policy priority, according to statistics of current visits.
It should also be noted that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has been in office for less than two years, and it will be possible to make more accurate conclusions on foreign policy rearrangements and changes later in the longer term.
It should be noted that the data on foreign trips of Presidents Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Robert Kocharyan were received in response to an inquiry sent to the Staff of the Armenian President by the Union of Informed Citizens in 2015. Information on Serzh Sargsyan’s visits is taken from president.am website, and information on Nikol Pashinyan’s visits has been retrieved from primeminister.am website.
Union of Informed Citizens