Armenia, Russia Mull Close Ties Between Defense Industries - July, 2010

Recent developments in Russian-Armenian relations should put to rest unfounded concerns about Russian-Armenian relations. By disseminating the news that it will place more emphasis on protecting Armenia from external threats, Moscow is in essence publicly reaffirming its strategic commitment in safeguarding the Armenian state against the Turkic threat. Have no doubt, coming on the heals of a presidential visit to Armenia by Medvedev, as well as rising tensions between Baku and Yerevan, this is a clear threat, a clear warning to Ankara and Baku from the Kremlin. The message more-or-less reads: Armenia shall remain off-limits to Turkish incursions.

Despite what many Armenians have been preaching these days, Russia is not about to sell Armenia to the highest Turkish bidder; Russia is not about to undermine Nagorno Karabakh; and Russia is not about to relinquish its powerful presence in the Caucasus region (largely thanks to its close partnership with Armenia) to anyone - especially to Turks.


Regardless of any lucrative deals they may have with Turks within the economic sphere, Kremlin officials today are of the mindset that a viable pro-Russian Armenian state in the Caucasus is their best defense against pan-Turkism, Islamic fundamentalism, NATO expansionism and American imperialism. Moscow's partnership with Armenia is also interesting in that the closer Armenia gets to Russia the more dependent Turks and Azeris become on Russia. Armenia is in essence Moscow's sledgehammer hanging over Turkish heads in the Caucasus. The geopolitical insurance Armenia provides Russia in the region will be jealously protected by Moscow for the foreseeable future.

This also explains why Ankara fears opening its borders with Armenia. The problem for Ankara is not Armenia per se (economically, Ankara can overwhelm Armenia in a very short period of time), their actual problem is Russian power in Armenia. Much like how nations such as Japan, Britain and Saudi Arabia are expected to serve Washington's interests in their respective regions, Armenia today is expected by Kremlin officials to serve as an impregnable gate guarding Russia's strategically significant underbelly, a role Yerevan has been fulfilling magnificently and with great dividends during the past decade. However, I do realize that there will be some amongst us that will not spare any efforts in putting a negative light on all this. After all, we are Armenians and many of us are self-destructive peasants at heart more than willing to burn down our village to protect it from imaginary monsters.

For understandable reasons, recent media rumors that Moscow is planning to sell Baku S-300 surface-to-air missile systems has caused some concerns in Armenia and the diaspora, and it also seems to have given ammunition to those who seek to put a wedge between Yerevan and Moscow. The fact remains, even if true, the weapons system in question will not serve to tip the balance of power in the region to Baku's favor. The S-300 is potentially effective against militaries of developed nations that have formidable air forces; not Armenia, who's air force possesses some 10-20 antiquated aircraft. Because maintaining a modern air force is a monumental task, both financially and logistically, Armenia's military planners have rightfully concentrated on building defensive ground forces. As a result of this, the S-300 will do Baku no good against Armenia. If the rumors hold true, the S-300 missile system is most probably meant to protect Baku from a potential Iranian attack in case of a regional war, which may be impending.

Moreover, geopolitical prudence dictate that Moscow will sell military hardware to Azerbaijan because if it does not someone else will. Russia does not want to totally alienate Baku especially at a time when Moscow has had a series of political successes in the region. It would be utterly foolish of Russians officials if they alienated and antagonized Baku any further than they have been for the past twenty somewhat years. It's bad enough that Nagorno Karabakh is off-limits to Baku as a result of a Russian presence in the Caucasus, to add insult to injury by not having any dealings with Baku would make no political sense. Besides, tactically, as noted above, the S-300 weapons systems would not have any significant impact any future ground war involving Armenians and Azeris. Warming of relations between Baku and Moscow will not undermine Armenia's strategic value in the halls of the Kremlin.

In final analysis, for better or for worst, Moscow remains the sole power-broker in the Caucasus. Putting aside some temporary lapses that have occurred from time to time, for the past several centuries we Armenians have had the great fortune of maintaining good ties with the northern Bear. Let's realize that Armenia has managed to exist as a nation in the Caucasus primarily as a result of the region's Russian presence. Nonetheless, if God forbid Moscow ever decides one day to give Baku and/or Ankara the green light to attack Armenia, we can all kiss Armenia goodbye for nothing in our pan-national resources and/or abilities would be able to save Armenia from inevitable demise at that point. And if Moscow does not give Turks the green light (as it has not since the collapse of the Soviet Union), then no matter what weapons systems they possess - it will not do them any good against Armenia.

In my opinion, as long as Russian nationalists are in power in the Kremlin, Armenia has nothing to worry about and a lot to look forward to. As a result of its relationship with Russia, Armenia has for the first time in perhaps a thousand years become a major regional political player. However, recognizing their certain vulnerabilities as a nation, let's all pray that the Kremlin continues to stay firmly in the hands of ethnic Russians. And, in the meanwhile, let's use the unique opportunity our relationship with Moscow is providing us to strengthen Armenia - so that it may become less dependent on foreign powers regardless of who they may be.


At the bottom of this page I have posted several news articles pertaining to Vostok 2010, military exercises that recently took place in Russia's Far East. One of largest and most comprehensive of its kind
since the Soviet Union, the massive military drill involving upwards of twenty-thousand men, hundreds of armored vehicles and dozens of ships and aircraft, is unmistakably a show of force in Russia's Siberia and Far East.

Arevordi

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Armenia, Russia Mull Close Ties Between Defense Industries

Armenia -- High-ranking Russian defense officials hold  talks in Yerevan, 20July 2010.

Armenia and Russia plan to significantly boost cooperation between their defense industries within the framework of a Russian-led military alliance of seven ex-Soviet states, top security officials from the two countries said after talks in Yerevan on Tuesday. Nikolay Bordyuzha, the secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), said the alliance has already launched a “pilot project” aimed at integrating Armenian defense enterprises into Russia’s military-industrial complex.

“Military-industrial cooperation with Armenia is one of the priority areas of CSTO activities,” the Regnum news agency quoted Bordyuzha as telling journalists. He said “practical steps” already taken in that direction will bear fruit soon. “We will soon be monitoring the realization of agreements that were reached today,” said Konstantin Biryulin, the deputy head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation with foreign states.

According to Artur Baghdasarian, the secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council, the agreements envisage, among other things, the establishment of Russian-Armenian defense joint ventures. He did not elaborate. The three men spoke at a joint news conference after two days of negotiations that also involved Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian. Bordyuzha and Biryulin visited on Monday four Armenian plants manufacturing weapons and other military equipment.

Biryulin and other officials from his agency already visited Armenia last December for a session of a Russian-Armenian inter-governmental commission on bilateral military-technical cooperation. Under an agreement signed during the meeting, Russia and Armenia will work together in exporting arms and ammunition to third countries. The military alliance with Russia and, in particular, the presence of Russian troops on Armenian soil has been a key element of Armenia’s national security doctrine since independence. Armenia has been entitled to receiving Russian weapons at cut-down prices or even free of charge also because of its membership in the CSTO.

“In my opinion, the possibility of purchasing Russian weapons is the main privilege given to CSTO members states within the framework of military-industrial cooperation,” Ohanian told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday. “I will not hide the fact that we pin big hopes on this sphere of activity.”

Source: http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/2105193.html

Armenian Official: Russian Troops In Armenia Set For Mission Upgrade

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Defense officials in Moscow and Yerevan said on July 30 they are planning to sign a new military agreement that would assign Russia and its troops a greater role in ensuring Armenia's security, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. The two governments will soon amend a 1995 treaty dealing with a Russian military base in Armenia, Interfax reported. It said the Russian government has already submitted a relevant "protocol" to President Dmitry Medvedev, who is scheduled to visit Yerevan in mid-August. It said one of the amendments proposed by the protocol makes clear the Russian base will not only protect Russia's interests but also contribute to Armenia's national security. Under another change cited by Interfax, Moscow will explicitly commit itself to providing its main South Caucasus ally with "modern and compatible weaponry and [special] military hardware."

A senior official at the Armenian Defense Ministry confirmed this information to RFE/RL. He noted, though, that the Russian troops headquartered in the northern Armenian city of Gyumri are already tasked with defending Armenia. The planned changes in the Russian-Armenian treaty would simply spell out that mission in more explicit terms, he explained. The treaty went into effect in 1997 and is valid for 25 years. Interfax said its amended version would prolong the Russian military presence in Armenia by another 24 years and provide for its automatic extension in the future. The Russian base, which numbers some 4,000 personnel, and the broader military alliance with Russia have been key elements of Armenia's national security ever since the Soviet collapse.

Armenian leaders have repeatedly stated that despite forging closer security links with the West in recent years, they will not seek NATO membership in the foreseeable future. Just last week, Yerevan and Moscow announced plans to significantly boost cooperation between their defense industries within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance of seven ex-Soviet states. Top Russian and Armenian security officials said after talks in Yerevan that they have reached agreements envisaging the establishment of joint defense ventures

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/Armenian_Official_Russian_Troops_In_Armenia_Set_For_Mission_Upgrade_/2114739.html

Russian expert: “Moscow understands there’s no ally except Yerevan”

“I don’t think OSCE MG activities should be optimistically or pessimistically expressed. We should acknowledge that the conflict should be settled by the conflict sides,” Russian political expert Albert Zulkharneev referred to NK conflict resolution in a talk with “Day.az. He said neither Moscow, nor Washington or Paris could do anything if their recommendations are disliked by the conflict sides. The expert said the conflict can be settled only by the conflict sides. “I’ve been Baku recently, then I met with Armenian representatives in Moscow, and, I should point, regretfully, that the dispositions of the sides are far from being close,” Russian expert said. To the question how Russia would act if a war starts, he said: “Everything depends on the situation. Moscow understands they have no other ally except Yerevan, and if they don’t support Armenia, they would have tough disposition beyond the CSTO states.”

Source: http://www.panorama.am/en/region/2010/07/22/zulkharnev/
Russian authorities seem unwilling to annoy partners in Armenia

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Why do you think Russian and Azerbaijani officials refuse to comment on the information of Russian supplies of 3PK S-300 PMU-2 Favorit to Azerbaijan you have used?

They have a right not to comment on the deals in the sphere of military supplies, especially such complex and expensive ones. Russian authorities seem not to be willing to annoy partners from Armenia in public, as well.

Is this information reliable considering the fact that it was dismissed by some representatives (though anonymous) of the Russian military circles?

Well, the representative of Rosoboronexport said in open that he knows nothing about the contract. Nonetheless, I still believe this information is true.

Do you share the opinion that the purchased weapon is mostly designed to secure Azerbaijan from Iran?

Yes, I do.

Meanwhile, your article has caused a great stir in Armenian mass media who state the anti-Armenian direction of these military supplies for Azerbaijan. What can you say about it?

Naturally, any supplies of Russian arms to Azerbaijan create concerns in Armenia (especially because it is Russia’s military ally), like the supplies of arms from Russia to Armenia cause concerns in Azerbaijan. Nonetheless, in both cases all the declared arms supplies were not destabilizing, like the supplies of C-300 to Azerbaijan.

In fact, neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan has arms system that C-300 PMU2 may fight with. However, to ensure missile defense of such a big city as Baku and adjacent oil fields, the purchase of anti-missile C-300 is the most effective solution by cost/effectiveness criteria. The purchase and maintenance of new fighters by Azerbaijan would have been more expensive (and be potentially more destabilizing for the Armenian-Azerbaijani military balance). To compare, new Su-30 fighter costs $40-50m, US F-16 $60-70m depending on modification not speaking of ammunition reserves, spare parts, expensive training of pilots and so on. It is militarily senseless to buy less than 10-12 fighters while the operation of two C-300 divisions is much cheaper than of dozens of modern fighters. It is clear that the purchase of the same number of US anti-missile Patriot, analogous to C-300, would also be much more expensive.

Baku needs missile defense as a big modern city regardless of Azerbaijan’s neighbors. In the USSR times the missile defense of the Baku industrial region was among the most powerful (since the war times), it is clear that everything worn out through 20 years of independence and probably a greater part of technique has been written off or worn out (like in other former USSR countries). Thus, it is necessary to renew it anyway. Even poor Tajikistan purchases modernized C-125 complexes (which are far cheaper but having less capacities) from Russia (Russia seems to pay for them in part). Kazakhstan purchases C-300 early modifications from the Russian army and will likely purchase new C-300 PMU-2, while old ones have been transferred by Russia and Belarus, some other CIS countries (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) also modernize old Soviet complexes C-125 by means of Russia or Belarus.

Azerbaijani authorities say Baku preserves the right to liberate lands through war and therefore it strengthens its military potential in conditions of continued Armenian occupation. Are the statements accusing Baku of groundless military rhetoric justified in such conditions?

I cannot answer the question since I am not an expert in foreign policy.

Do you think the possibility of resumption of hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia for Nagorno Karabakh is high?

Hardly, both countries need this, but I am not the expert in this issue.

Russia is Armenia’s military and strategic ally both on the bilateral level and within CSTO. At the same time, Moscow seems to be developing quite active military cooperation with Azerbaijan. Do you think Russia will preserve neutrality in case Armenian-Azerbaijani war resumes?

I suppose that Russia (along with other concerned countries as Turkey, US and CIS countries) can avert this war.

Alexei Nikolski, is correspondent of Russian Vedomosti, co-author of the article “Baku, if not Iran” on Russia’s intention to supply 3PK S-300 PMU-2 Favorit to Azerbaijan published on July 29.

Source: http://news.az/articles/20148

Azerbaijani NGO criticizes expansion of military cooperation of Russia, Armenia

The Azerbaijani Organization of Karabakh Liberation has sharply condemned the expansion of Russia's military cooperation with Armenia.

'By its step, Russia is openly demonstrating support to the occupant and terrorist regime of Armenia. With respect to this fact, we condemn some representatives of the political and public camps of Azerbaijan in their attempts to intimidate the public with the Russian factor and the intention to capitulate before Russia', the statement of the NGO says. The organization assesses these attempts of mongering the Russian factor to intimidate public as inadmissible.

Taking into account the aforementioned facts, the organization proves that the Azerbaijani leadership must speak sharply against the expansion of Russia's military cooperation with the occupant regime of Armenia". The organization states the need to review the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia. The organization demanded from the persons holding the propaganda of the capitulatory policy before Russia complaining about the lack of alternative on the way to concessions to Russia, rejected their erroneous points of view. "The surrendering is not a way out. On the contrary, if Azerbaijan capitulates, it will lose much. It must attack Russia", the statement reads.

According to it, Russia has serious economic interests in Azerbaijan and it attaches geostrategic importance to Azerbaijan. In this connection, the organization intends to "put all efforts to close the embassy of the Russian Federation in Azerbaijan".

Source: http://www.news.az/articles/20232

In other news:

Vostok-2010 games: A test of Russia's new army

The Vostok-2010 strategic war games were the largest exercise Russia held in the last few years. Held at dozens of ranges from the Altai in southwest Siberia to Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast, the games aim to strengthen the new elements of Russia's army. These new elements include the inter-arms command, with joint staffs commanding units from different arms. This allows strategic command to control the troops involved in real time, focusing their efforts more promptly on the required target. The second element is a new structure of the Russian army. It has been changed from a four-level command system (military district, army, division, regiment) to a three-level system (strategic command, tactical command, brigade).

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told the media that their main goal is to test the new system in practice. "The goal of the exercise is to see how the new structure works, to check whether our decisions were correct, and if necessary, to change them," he said. The third element is mobility. In view of strength reductions and gradual transition from a conscripted to a professional army, groups of forces in the given theater of operations should be reinforced first of all with troops promptly moved from other areas. This puts special requirements to the combat readiness of units and formations, which must be ready for rapid redeployment and be highly mobile strategically and tactically.

The Vostok-2010 war games included flights of frontline bombers with midair refueling. Many motorized and air defense units also covered long distances by rail and in self-propelled mode. The war games did not have a designated enemy; the troops trained in different strategic and tactical moves simply to enhance their combat unity against any enemy. However, the territory of the war games is a telling sign, as their plan includes repelling an attack by an enemy landing group and air strikes and directing one's own landing troops against the enemy. Although the military say the goal of the games is purely defensive, this is a clear demonstration of Russia's intention and ability to protect its Siberian and Far Eastern territories.

The naval part of the games includes, apart from the Pacific Fleet, also the heavy missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky from the Northern Fleet and the missile cruiser Moskva from the Black Sea Fleet and Baltic Fleet marines. This shows that Russia can relatively quickly reinforce its Pacific Fleet with warships from its other fleets. Changes in the command structure of the Russian army will not resolve its other problems, such as the shortage of modern weapons and inadequate training of personnel.

A new army needs new officers. The methods of warfare have changed so much in the past decades that officers now need to have broader military knowledge to be able to command and coordinate inter-service groups, and also better civilian skills allowing them to act as managers, diplomats, financiers and lawyers. Taken together, these skills will allow modern officers to be more flexible in a situation that implies a broad use of non-military methods of conflict settlement and to be highly selective as regards military instruments.

In fact, the industrialized Western countries put these requirements to their officers, in particular high-ranking ones. In Western armies, officers hold a variety of related posts during their carrier, which makes them versatile professionals. Russia has only entered this path.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20100705/159695795.html

Russian naval drills draw attention of U.S. intelligence services

The naval phase of Russia's Vostok-2010 military exercises have drawn increased attention from the intelligence services of the United States and Asia-Pacific countries, a senior source in the Russian Navy said on Tuesday. The Russian Armed Forces started early last week large-scale Vostok-2010 military exercises in Siberia and the country's Far East. The drills, which involve at least 20,000 troops, up to 70 warplanes and 30 warships, will continue through July 8. Increased activity by intelligence aviation, particularly Japanese, has been noticed in close proximity to the area where the drills are being held, the source said. Attempts to collect data about the actions of the Pacific fleet were held from water and air, he added. "This was not a surprise for the Pacific fleet," the source said, adding that intelligence-gathering operations had not disrupted the drills.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20100706/159706183.html

Russia starts large-scale military drills in Far East

The Russian Armed Forces started on Tuesday large-scale Vostok-2010 military exercises in Siberia and the country's Far East, a spokesman for the Far Eastern military district said. "The exercises started on schedule, without delays. They are being held on the territory of the Far Eastern and Siberian military districts from June 29 through July 8," the official said. At least 20,000 troops, up to 70 warplanes and 30 warships will take part in the drills on 15 training grounds. Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, earlier said this year's strategic exercises will include the firing of live ammunition, simulated airborne assaults and amphibious assault landings.

As part of the drills, the Armed Forces will practice the deployment of additional troops in Siberia and the Far East to reinforce the existing military contingent in the region in case of a military conflict. Makarov stressed on Monday that the Vostok-2010 drills were not aimed against any one country. "This exercise...is not directed against any specific country or military-political bloc. It has a purely defensive nature in ensuring the security and national interests of the [Russian] state in the Far East," he said. Russia holds Vostok strategic command-and-staff exercises every two years. More than 8,000 troops took part in Vostok-2008.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20100629/159616039.html

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