Azerbaijan Shows Off New Weapons at Military Parade
Azerbaijan celebrated its Armed Forces Day on Sunday with a big military parade in Baku and the first display of the country's new, Russian-supplied S-300 air defense system, the existence of which had been the source of some skepticism.
The parade featured 6,000 soldiers and a variety of hardware (you can see a video below). Azerbaijan's president, Ilham Aliyev, also gave a speech in which he boasted about Azerbaijan's military prowess and vowed to retake the disputed province of Nagorno Karabakh, now controlled by Armenians.
“The war is not over yet,” Aliyev said at the showpiece parade in the center of Baku, vowing to end what he called the “occupation” of Karabakh.
“The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored and the territory will be restored,” he said...
“Azerbaijan has fulfilled the task that I set, which was that Azerbaijan’s military expenditure must exceed the entire state budget of Armenia,” he said, noting that defense spending reached $3.3 billion (2.3 billion euros) this year.
“Military expenditure occupies first place in the state budget of Azerbaijan and that is understandable. It will be like this as long as our lands are not liberated,” he said.
None of that is too newsworthy, but the appearance of the S-300s was. (You can see them in the clip below at about the 4:00 mark.) When news first broke that Russia would be selling the advanced systems to Azerbaijan, Armenians called it a "betrayal" and many doubted that it was even true, given Russia's traditional military support of Armenia. And we hadn't heard much about the S-300s since then, until this appearance. Russia still gives a lot of military aid to Armenia, while presumably charging much richer Azerbaijan for their weapons. As usual, when it comes to the military-industrial complex, cash talks and traditional alliances walk.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.