Georgia Doesn't Allow Russian Military Transit to Armenia -- But Azerbaijan Does?
The Georgian parliament has annulled a deal allowing Russia to transit military cargo to its base in Armenia via Georgia. This is just formalizing the de facto situation -- transit via Georgia to the Russian base in Gyumri was already halted, de facto, after the war in 2008 over South Ossetia. From Civil.ge:
Georgian Parliament unanimously endorsed on April 19 government’s proposal to annul a five-year agreement with Russia setting out procedures for transit of Russian military personnel and cargo to Armenia via Georgia.
The agreement on transit of military personnel and cargo, giving Russia access to its 102nd military base in Gyumri, Armenia through land and air via Georgia, was signed in March, 2006 in parallel with a separate agreement based on which Russia pulled out its military bases from Batumi and Akhalkalaki. The both of the agreements were ratified by the Georgian Parliament on April 13, 2006.
Equipment that Armenia is buying from/being given by Russia is still allowed to transit Georgia, as was highlighted by a 2010 diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks and published by Russkiy Reporter magazine, the transit had been of concern to Georgia for fear that some of the equipment being sent to Armenia is more than Armenia might need and could be instead destined for Russian forces in Armenia with the potential of being used against Georgia:
Georgia is also concerned by a significant increase in military supplies from Russia to Armenia planned for 2010 primarily via overflights between Russia and Armenia. Although Georgia has continued to allow the flights to maintain a good relationship with Armenia, it does not believe Armenia has the capacity to use these shipments itself and fears that such armaments as large-caliber ammunition for aircraft could be intended for Russian forces in Armenia, instead of the Armenian military. Not only could such shipments disrupt the balance in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but they could potentially be used to squeeze Georgia from the south as well should there be a future conflict with Russia.
(h/t Emil Sanamyan on that cable)
So how is the base in Gyumri being supplied now, if not through Georgia? The only other countries that make sense geographically are Turkey and Azerbaijan, which both pose obvious political problems. But remarkably, it seems that the base is supplied at least in part via Azerbaijan (though Azerbaijan denies it). So if Azerbaijan is the only way to get supplies into the base, that would appear to give Baku a pretty big amount of leverage.
Despite the uncertainty over the Russian base, on the surface things seem to be quite friendly between Georgia and Armenia. The Armenian and Georgian defense ministers met yesterday and were all smiles about the prospect of cooperation. From RFE/RL:
“Armenian-Georgian military cooperation is effectively developing, encompassing peacekeeping, military education, exercises and other areas,” Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian told a joint news conference with his visiting Georgian counterpart, Bacho Akhalaia.
“That cooperation aims to ensure an exchange of experience and form an atmosphere of mutual trust in the peaceful resolution of regional security problems,” he said...
“Georgian-Armenian relations are special, and no force can impede cooperation between the two countries, which I’m sure will become stronger soon,” said Akhalaia.