Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Caucasus Report

Closer Military Ties With Armenia To Boost Russia's Regional Clout

Armenian and Russian army units at a joint military exercise (file photo)
Armenian and Russian army units at a joint military exercise (file photo)
Russia looks set to strengthen its foothold in the South Caucasus by means of a new defense agreement with Armenia that will formally make it a guarantor of the country's security and pave the way for more Russian arms supplies to Yerevan.

The deal, which may well be sealed during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Armenia next week, will have important repercussions for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the No. 1 threat to peace and stability in the entire region.

In what could be an effort to placate, and gain more leverage against Azerbaijan, Moscow is at the same time reportedly planning to sell sophisticated air-defense missiles to Armenia's arch-foe. The Azerbaijani government has so far been silent over this new twist in Russian-Armenian military cooperation that could further limit its ability to win back Karabakh and the Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it by force.

The deepening of Russian-Armenian military ties will take the form of amendments to a 1995 treaty regulating the presence of a Russian military base in Armenia. Armenian officials have essentially confirmed Russian media reports that Moscow will have its basing rights extended by at least 24 years, to 2044, and that the mission of some 4,000 Russian troops headquartered in the northern Armenian city of Gyumri will be upgraded.

The Interfax news agency reported on July 30 that a relevant "protocol" submitted to Medvedev by the Russian government makes clear that the troops will have not only "functions stemming from the interests of the Russian Federation," but also "protect Armenia's security together with Armenian Army units." It also commits Russia to supplying its regional ally with "modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware."

Russia Offers Arms

Less than two weeks later, an Armenian government commission on defense approved plans to modernize the country's armed forces and expand the domestic defense industry. Speaking to journalists after the commission meeting on August 10, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said Armenia would specifically seek to acquire and even manufacture long-range precision-guided weapons that would "allow us to thwart free enemy movements deep inside the entire theater of hostilities."

Although Ohanian gave no further details, it is obvious that Russia is the only plausible source of such weapons (presumably surface-to-surface missiles), as well as technology for their production. Their acquisition by the Armenian military could be facilitated by separate plans to forge close cooperation between the Armenian and Russian defense industries. Senior security officials from both countries announced unpublicized agreements to that effect after two-day talks in Yerevan in late July. According to Armenian National Security Council Secretary Artur Baghdasarian, those agreements include the establishment of joint defense ventures.

The military alliance with Russia has always been a crucial element of Armenia's national security strategy, allowing the landlocked country to receive Russian weaponry at knockdown prices or free of charge and precluding Turkey's direct military intervention in the Karabakh conflict. It is taking on greater significance now that oil-rich Azerbaijan is increasingly threatening the Armenians with another war. Fresh (and more sophisticated) arms supplies from Russia would put Armenia and its ethnic kin in Karabakh in a better position to offset Azerbaijan's ongoing military build-up fuelled by massive oil revenues. Some observers speculate that Moscow would use the new mandate of the Gyumri base to intervene militarily on the Armenian side in the event of a resumption of hostilities.

Nonetheless, not all politicians and pundits in Yerevan are happy with the planned changes in the 1995 treaty. Some of them say that the Kremlin could exploit its security guarantees to exert undue influence on Armenian government decisions and even limit Armenia's sovereignty. Baghdasarian on August 11 dismissed such claims as "absurd."

...But Also To Azerbaijan

Moscow is facing a stronger Armenian uproar over the possible sale of S-300 antiaircraft systems to Azerbaijan. The Russian daily "Vedomosti" reported on July 30 that the Azerbaijani military signed a deal in 2009 with the Rosoboroneksport state arms exporter to purchase two batteries of the surface-to-air missiles worth $300 million. Although the report was denied by Rosoboroneksport and not confirmed by the Russian Defense Ministry, it is considered credible by many in Armenia.

S-300 air-defense system
Opposition leaders and independent analysts there warn that the deal would change the balance of forces in the Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan's favor. Some have accused the Russians of betrayal.

The S-300 systems may be purely defensive weapons, but the danger for the Armenian side is that they would enable Baku to secure its vital oil and gas infrastructure in the event of renewed war. Those facilities, which form the backbone of the Azerbaijani economy, are widely seen as a likely target of Armenian missile strikes. Ohanian may well have had them in mind when he noted Armenia's desire to obtain "super-modern weapons" that would enhance "our long-range strike capacity."

The reported sale of S-300s to Azerbaijan seems at odds with Russia's stated readiness to boost military support for Armenia, and is raising questions about its true intentions. Ashot Manucharian, a veteran politician who held security posts in the Armenian government in the early 1990s and has long been known for his pro-Russian political orientation, believes that all this is part of a cynical plan to keep Armenia anchored to Russia and discourage it from forging closer security links with the West. By strengthening Azerbaijan militarily, Moscow leaves Yerevan even more dependent on Russian military aid, Manucharian claimed in an August 4 interview with the daily "Hraparak."

Whatever the truth, Russia is clearly consolidating its presence in the South Caucasus, two years after effectively thwarting Georgia's accession to NATO with the 2008 wars in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is now digging in for the long haul in Armenia and should continue to have more influence on the Karabakh conflict than any other foreign power.

-- Emil Danielyan

Tags: Nagorno-Karabakh

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Zareh from: Canada
August 12, 2010 18:45
In a direct way the US is at fault in literally pushing Armenia to forge closer ties with Russia. Armenians have been accustomed in seeing a pronounced pro-Turkish and pro-Azeri bias. The ridiculous Turkish masquerade of the Zurich Protocols, the aggressive Azeri threats of resumption of war, the silence of Western leadership on the destruction of Armenian Monuments in Azerbaijan as well as Turkey all have contributed to strengthening of Armenian-Russian military cooperation. It is a well deserved defeat for the US in the Caucasus.
In Response

by: RD
August 13, 2010 09:32
It's not only Russia and the US, which manipulate with Armenia. Armenia (and at times Azerbaijan) have masterfully manipulated and continue to manipulate both Russia and the US to further its expansionist interests.
In Response

by: Matt from: Canada
August 13, 2010 23:34
I personaly see no way in which the United States is involved with this conflict, this is purely a disgretion based upon the need for defence and security. Be that becoming close to a known war profitere or seeking help by whatever means necesary. I agree with the fact that somthing could easily be done to halt the conflict on either side but noone around the world is aroused enough to simply put an end to the interior squabbleing.
In Response

by: Darwin Jamgochian from: America
August 14, 2010 23:40
Where do you think Azerbaijan gets the financing to build its army? You say the United States isn't involved? Think again.

by: Larry from: USA
August 12, 2010 20:24
I agree. What choice does Armenia have? It's either get close to Russia or risk being attacked by the Turks again. Russia is the best choice they can make in a very bad neighborhood.

by: Armen from: Armenia
August 12, 2010 20:45
Long live Mother Russia

by: Darwin Jamgochian from: America
August 13, 2010 02:56
"Closer Military Ties With Armenia To Boost Russia's Regional Clout"

Thank God!

by: Garry from: USA
August 13, 2010 23:09
Do you want to believe in "Mother Russia" ???
NO, NO and one more time NO!!!!
In same time the Russian can be "Father" for Azerbaijan !!!!
Do not be naive........
In Response

by: Darwin Jamgochian from: America
August 14, 2010 12:55
Russia, except for Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, has a history of benevolence towards Armenians. Don't believe everything written by revisionists from the west. If you study history, a better understanding of the predicamenrt Armenia is in will show that the situation today didn't evolve through any faults of the Armenians. You might be surprised where the fault actually lies.
In Response

by: Armen from: Armenia
August 14, 2010 17:15
Without Russia there would not be an Armenia or Armenians in the Caucasus. Children like you need to grow up and discover the real world.
In Response

by: john from: france
August 15, 2010 18:18
Do you want to believe in "Father US" ???
NO, NO and one more time NO!!!!

At same time the US and its puppet turkey HAS BEEN be "Father" for Azerbaijan !!!!
Do not be naive........

by: RD
August 14, 2010 03:29
Azerbaijan may have much larger financial resources to spend on its military, but you would hope their leadership is not stupid enough to start a war thinking they will score quick victory. History is littered with countries starting wars against others only to find out they are standing on a quagmire. Starting a war is easy, finishing one successfully is never guaranteed. Furthermore, even if Azerbaijan wins a renewed war with Armenia, it will destroy its economy and society under the weight of the costs of the war, making itself weaker only to find it becomes a target to other foes. Aliev, I truly hope you are not as stupid as you look.

by: Sasa from: Moscow
August 15, 2010 10:17
Russia should just annex Armenia and be done with it :)
In Response

by: J from: US
August 15, 2010 14:55
Oh please. Russia can't even put out its own fires for a month; should focus on that.
In Response

by: john from: france
August 15, 2010 18:15
your cute, real cute. Idiotic and nonsensical, but cute as a knuckle dragging russia hating monkey nonetheless.

As usual Russia will have a last laugh.
In Response

by: john from: france
August 15, 2010 17:43
you should just admit you ignorance and paranoia and be done with it!!

by: Garry from: USA
August 16, 2010 23:21
I am repeating same words. Do not believe Russia... If same "not children" still believe
I very sorry about it. But now, I think it's not naive, it's worse....
One more, the current power (power in Armenia) Do Not call trust at me also....

by: Ara from: Los Angeles
August 17, 2010 22:12
Russia and Armenia have maintained close ties and cooperation for well over a century, and these ties must be strengthened and deepened.

The US is pro-Azerbaijan / Turkey, these two countries must not forget about the trap Georgia fell into by accepting the US and Israel as "friends."

Other examples of US [Israeli] loyalty would be Saddam and Iraq, and we all know what happened in that case.

Yes to Russia and China and NO to US and Israel!!!
In Response

by: Darwin Jamgochian from: America
August 19, 2010 20:36
Ara, I wish to correct you. America is not pro Azerbaijan/Turkey. It's pro oil. Obviously the United States can't protect Azerbaijan and Turkey's enemy. Ninety years ago General Andranik had the Baku oil fields in sight and was stopped in his tracks by the west. You should ask who benefits the most from this dirty oil?

Armenia has suffered through the Truman doctrine and now is strangled by the oil cartel. When the west finally decides to step up and do what it preaches, the pawn called Armenia will stand on its owns two feet. Do you still think its the Russian bear that wants world domination?

by: Sinofriend of Armenia from: East Asia
August 18, 2010 15:56
The best news of the century. God bless and protect Armenia always. USA and NATO CAN NEVER be trusted to protect Christian or other counties threatened by muslim nations. In fact USA/NATO will betray Christian countries and support the muslim insurgents ( eg.Kosovo) when the smell of crude oil is very strong - they will prostitute themselves and do anything for the sake of oil - here Azeri oil.
Look how US Congressmen's knees are shaking when the decisive moment to vote for the confirmation of the Genocide of Armenian people came-scared of Turks ! Yet they are so brave to bomb Serbia -oh lovely dandy effete US/NATO 'heroes' of Kosovo bombing.Look at the Copts suffering in Egypt, Christians crying in Iraq/Indonesia, yet USA/NATO remains mousely silent -not even a squeak. Armenia,N.Karabakh, Russia, Serbia, Greece and Orthodox countries must now stay united and form an unshakeable common defense front, for Turkey will be a frontman for NWO (supported by USA and Britain) in future and dominate Europe again. Woe unto Christian nations then. We love you Armenia, from all the Chinese.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.