Armenia not afraid of Azerbaijan's S-300s
What does Armenia's military think of Russia selling its S-300 air defense system to Azerbaijan? Bring it on. Armenia has hosted Russian S-300s for at least a decade, and Russia has trained some Armenian officers in the system's use. So Armenia's defense minister Seyran Ohanyan says that experience will allow them to thwart any Azerbaijani attempt to use them:
"I must point out that the acquisition of Russian S-300 air-defense systems [by Azerbaijan] cannot directly influence the correlation of forces between Armenia and Azerbaijan, because their use by Azerbaijan against the Armenian Armed Forces would be fruitless under all possible scenarios," he said. "The reason for that is simple: we are very familiar with those systems, we have been exploiting them for quite a long time, and we know the possibilities of reducing the effectiveness of such systems."
Ohanian was likely referring to at least two batteries of S-300s that were deployed by Russia at its military base in Armenia in the late 1990s.
Top Russian military officials announced in early 2007 that Moscow has further upgraded Armenia's air defenses and trained Armenian military personnel to operate the air-defense systems. The Armenian military confirmed that, saying the training began in 2005.
Ohanian added that even if Azerbaijan does acquire S-300s, it would need "quite a lot of time" to develop an integrated radio-technical system for them.
While RFE/RL refers to the S-300 sale to Azerbaijan as "alleged," it doesn't say whether or not Ohanyan believed it to be real or not. He is, however, confident that in the event of war with Azerbaijan Russia would come to Armenia's defense anyway -- assuming the war threatened Armenia itself:
Ohanian also said that he has "no doubts" that under an agreement signed with Russia last week, Russia would openly support Armenia in the event of a new conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh that "became a threat to the Republic of Armenia."
So does that mean the Russians would use their air force against Azerbaijan -- and expose it to their own air defense systems?