More Russian Arms Deals With Azerbaijan Add Insult To Armenia's Injury
Just as Armenia was digesting the news that its ally, Russia, was offering a large batch of top-of-the-line tanks to its foe, Azerbaijan, it's emerged that there are other such deals in the works, as well.
APA reported that Russia will shortly deliver another batch of TOS-1A “Solntsepyok”multiple-launch rocket systems to Azerbaijan. The deal to buy those systems was announced last year, but at the time it was reported that it would be for six; now the number has grown to 18.
In addition, Azerbaijan is reportedly in talks with Russia to buy Bal-E coastal anti-ship missile systems. Russian newspaper Kommersant quoted "an informed source in the Russian military-industrial complex" as saying that "negotiations will start later, now there is an understanding that our Azerbaijani colleagues are counting on the purchase of one division of the system."
Naturally Armenia, not having any navy, will not be threatened by the anti-ship missiles. But the Solntsepyoks, on top of the earlier offer of 100 T-90 tanks, is rankling in Yerevan. “I can’t be happy with that but I have no right to stop it,” said Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, reported RFE/RL.
Expert opinion was divided on the impact of the deal. Some downplayed the news: “The delivery of 100 tanks to Azerbaijan will not have any significant impact on the military balance. But we’re concerned about the fact that Azerbaijan keeps on purchasing attacking vehicles. Over the past three years, Azerbaijan has increased its military purchases, particularly the purchases of attacking vehicles for 400%. If this tendency continues, then it might pose a threat for us," said analyst Hrachya Petrosyants in an interview with Armenian website Mediamax.
Others were more concerned, if not for the military balance than for the state of the Armenia-Russia relationship. From RFE/RL:
“If that is not compensated with more arms supplies to Armenia it could disrupt the balance,” warned Sergey Minasian, the deputy director of the Caucasus Institute. He said Moscow has until now cemented the Karabakh status quo with large-scale military assistance to Yerevan.
Another analyst, Ruben Mehrabian, said Russia is not only demonstrating that it is not a true Armenian ally but also deliberately preventing a peaceful settlement by arming both parties to the conflict. “It’s time to question Russia’s role as a mediator,” he said.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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