Armenia’s deepening military cooperation with Russia will cement the balance of forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and discourage Azerbaijan from attempting to resolve it by force, President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) said on Tuesday.
Sarkisian and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, are expected to sign significant amendments to a 1995 treaty regulating the presence of a Russian military base in Armenia after talks in Yerevan later this week.
The amendments will extend Russia’s basing rights by 24 years, to 2044, and upgrade the mission of its troops headquartered in Gyumri. They stipulate that the troops will be supposed to not only protect “interests of the Russian Federation” but also “ensure the security of the Republic of Armenia” jointly with the Armenian army. They also commit Russia to supplying its regional ally with “modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware.”
Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for the ruling HHK, confirmed that Armenia is reinforcing its military alliance with Russia in response to Azerbaijan’s ongoing military build-up and regular war threats.
“If we want to have adequate national security, especially considering statements made by our eastern and western neighbors, we need to be able to develop counterbalancing mechanisms,” he told a news conference. “And I think that the agreement to extend the deployment of that base is also aimed at ensuring the balance of forces.”
Sharmazanov claimed that the new defense pact will “practically rule out a military solution to the Karabakh problem.” “That is important not only for the Republic of Armenia but also long-term peace and stability in the region,” he said.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Friday, Razmik Zohrabian, an HHK deputy chairman, said that the amended treat will oblige Moscow to support the Armenian side in case of renewed fighting in Karabakh.
Armenian critics of the deal, among them some opposition politicians, dismiss such claims, arguing that a new Armenian-Azerbaijani war would unfold in Karabakh and surrounding territories that are not an internationally recognized part of Armenia. They are worried that Armenia would only become even more dependent on Russia.
Sharmazanov rejected the criticism as “inappropriate and populist.” He insisted that the treaty amendments will be good for Armenia.