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Unannounced Russian military exercises in Armenia panic residents

A Russian military official has apologized after Russian soldiers carried out unannounced exercises in an Armenian village, panicking the population and reopening the sensitive issue of Russian-Armenian military ties.

The exercises took place on July 17, with about 30 Russian soldiers blocking off the roads in the village of Panik, after which a column of military vehicles passed through accompanied by loud gunfire, as documented by local residents:

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Pashinyan in Brussels: “We expect more assistance”

Armenia's newly elected prime minister Nikol Pashinyan visited Brussels and had a clear message for European Union and NATO officials: We're democratic now, so we deserve your support.

Pashinyan's visit to the NATO summit, held in Brussels on July 11 and 12, was being closely watched due to his geopolitically delicate balancing act: dependent on support from Russia but clearly more sympathetic to the West.

That Pashinyan went to the summit itself wasn't geopolitically noteworthy – Pashinyan's predecessor, Serzh Sargsyan, also was a regular visitor to NATO summits. And…

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Russia transfers five warships out of Caspian Sea

Russia has transferred at least five warships out of the Caspian Sea into European waters in response to threats in that theater, at least temporarily leaving Russia without a substantial portion of its Caspian firepower.

There have been two separate redeployments over the past month. In the first, Russia sent three missile ships into the Sea of Azov, between Ukraine and Russia, along with two auxiliary vessels. In the second, it sent two corvettes into the Sea of Azov and then onward to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

The former deployment appears to be related to…

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Azerbaijan acquires new missiles in escalating arms race with Armenia

Azerbaijan has displayed new missiles it has bought from Belarus and Israel, the latest escalation in the arms race between it and Armenia.

The new weapons – the Belarusian Polonez multiple-launch rocket system and the Israeli LORA tactical ballistic missile system – were rolled out on June 11. Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev visited a new missile unit, which is equipped with both the Polonez and LORA. Official photos showed him sitting behind the wheel of the truck-mounted Polonez.

Azerbaijan's interest in the Polonez…

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Azerbaijani military advances on tense Nakhchivan-Armenia border

Azerbaijan's military has advanced further into a no man's land on the border with Armenia, causing panic in the nearby Armenian areas, local media have reported. Armenia's military leadership has tried to downplay the advance, while Azerbaijan has been silent.

The advance seems to have taken place without any fighting, and the Azerbaijani forces remain on their side of the internationally recognized border. But they have reportedly taken up new positions in a previously unoccupied neutral zone in Azerbaijan's exclave of Nakhchivan near the Armenian village of Areni.

The…

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As ties with Turkey suffer, Israel moves to recognize Armenian genocide

Israeli politicians have called on the country to formally recognize the Armenian genocide amid a diplomatic spat between Israel and Turkey. But the move has drawn criticism that it risks turning the genocide issue into an unseemly political football.

On May 16, two members of the Israeli Knesset submitted legislation to recognize the genocide. “This historical injustice should have been recognized long ago,” one of them,…

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Pashinyan and Putin hold first meeting, pledge to build closer ties

Newly elected Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time, as the two sides begin to navigate the choppy waters that lie ahead in the two countries' relationship.

Pashinyan and Putin met in Sochi on the sidelines of a May 14 summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Russia-led economic bloc that Pashinyan had opposed in his days as an opposition politician but to which he now vows to stay loyal.

“No one can doubt the importance of Russian-Armenian relations,” Pashinyan…

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Azerbaijan reaches deal with Belarus over missile purchases - report

Azerbaijan has reached a deal to buy missiles from Belarus, a Russian newspaper has reported. The deal was reported earlier this year to have been blocked by Armenia, which is angry about its ostensible military ally increasingly cozying up to its enemy.

Under the deal, Azerbaijan will buy Belarus-made Polonez multiple launch rocket systems, and deliveries could start as early as this year, the newspaper Kommersant reported, citing two “top managers in the Russian defense industry.”

Azerbaijan has been…

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Georgian President Stumps for More US Support, Details to Follow

On his recent visit to Washington, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili took every opportunity to urge his American partners to pass the Georgia Support Act in the United States Congress.

The “Georgia Support Act will strengthen Georgia's status of the US special ally at the legislative level,” Margvelashvili told the audience at the Heritage Foundation. The act would be “the next logical step in backing and cementing” the strong relations the two…

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American Mercenary Was in Talks with Azerbaijan over Weaponized Crop Duster

An American mercenary attempted to sell modified crop duster aircraft to Azerbaijan's military, contravening United States laws on defense exports, a new investigation has found.

The mercenary, Erik Prince, was secretly brokering a deal to sell American-made Thrush 510G aircraft, with weapons and surveillance equipment added, to Azerbaijan's Ministry of Defense. But the deal fell apart after Prince's company's management caught wind of the project and hired a law firm to investigate. That is according to the…

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US Military Giving Up on Kyrgyzstan

The United States appears to have given up on military cooperation with Kyrgyzstan – once its closest partner in Central Asia – because Bishkek has thrown its lot in with Russia and China, a senior US general has said.

General Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command, testified before the US Senate this week to present CENTCOM's annual “posture statement,” its assessment of what the US military is doing in the region. And in his prepared remarks on Central Asia, he offered a striking rebuke of Bishkek's unwillingness to partner with the Americans.

“The Kyrgyz…

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Nagorno Karabakh Leader Makes Unprecedented Visit to Washington

The de facto president of Nagorno Karabakh, Bako Sahakyan, has made an unprecedented visit to Washington to try to boost American support for the unrecognized state. Azerbaijan, which claims Karabakh as its own, called the trip a “serious blow” to US-Azerbaijan relations and threatened to retaliate.

Sahakyan appears not to have visited with any administration officials, but on March 14 attended a reception organized by the Armenian Embassy…

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Armenia Wonders: Are We At Risk From US Sanctions?

The United States has reportedly notified Armenia and other countries that they are at risk of sanctions if they continue to buy Russian military equipment. But the scale of the sanctions is so great to make them nearly impossible to impose, rendering the American threat mostly toothless.

At the end of January, new US sanctions went into effect that would allow the US to impose a range of financial penalties on…

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China Denies Plans to Build Military Base on Afghan-Tajik Border

China has formally denied reports that it is building a military base on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border for the Afghan armed forces. But Afghan security officials have confirmed the original report, and offered additional details of the secretive Chinese presence in the region.

In January, reports emerged that Beijing and Kabul had come to an agreement for China to build and supply a military base in Badakhshan, the remote panhandle of Afghanistan that borders China and Tajikistan…

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Armenia Reportedly Blocks Belarus-Azerbaijan Arms Deal

Armenia has managed to block a significant arms sale from Belarus to Azerbaijan, Belarusian and Armenian sources have reported.

Azerbaijan had long been looking at Belarusian-made Polonez missiles as a means of countering Armenia's acquisition in 2016 of Russian Iskander missiles. When Azerbaijan Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov visited Minsk in October, the defense ministry…

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Survey: Armenians' Attitudes Toward Azerbaijan Increasingly Hardening

People in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh are increasingly opposed to making any concessions to Azerbaijan in their long-running conflict, and are also increasingly pessimistic about the chances for peace, a new study has found.

Hardening attitudes in Armenia have been anecdotally observed for the last several years, a trend that accelerated after the heavy fighting in April 2016 in which Armenians, for the first time since the ceasefire in 1994, lost some territory. But the…

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Armenia-Azerbaijan: Is Monitoring of Occupied Territories Back on the Table?

Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to increase the size of the international mission monitoring their conflict over Nagorno Karabakh, as well as to reopen discussions over an assessment mission aimed at determining how many people have settled in the Armenia-occupied territories surrounding Karabakh.

The agreements came out of a January 18 meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries, Edward Nalbandian of Armenia and Elmar Mammadyarov of Azerbaijan. The results were modest, as expected…

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Armenian Defense Minister Crowdfunds Soldier's Surgery

The Armenian defense minister's attempt to crowdfund money for a wounded soldier's expensive medical care has caused consternation in the country, as many Armenians are questioning why the government -- regularly accused of misusing state funds for the personal use of high-ranking officials -- can't pay for the treatment itself. 

At issue is the medical care of Albert Dallakyan, a 21-year-old who was accidentally shot in the head by his commanding officer last June. Dallakyan has already undergone three surgeries in…

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Iran's Caspian Flagship "Seriously Damaged"

The flagship of Iran's Caspian naval fleet has been seriously damaged, and two sailors gone missing, in an accident caused by a storm, Iranian military authorities reported.

The accident happened on January 10, when severe winds pushed the Damavand frigate into a jetty while it was in its home port of Bandar Anzali. Initial reports said the damage to the ship was “minor,” but on January 17 an Iranian military spokesman acknowledged that “the assessment teams…

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US Planned Big Boost in Military Aid to Tajikistan

The United States planned a large increase in special forces training programs for Tajikistan, newly released US government documents show.

The US also was planning to offer special forces training programs to Kyrgyzstan for the first time since being evicted from the air base it used to operate in the country, according to the new data.

The documents show that in fiscal year 2017, the US planned to train 1,200 special forces troops from Tajikistan. Of those, 600 were from the National Guard and a branch…

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