Azerbaijan will not gain a military edge over Armenia with the ongoing large-scale delivery of weapons purchased by it from Russia, a senior Russian security official said on Wednesday, echoing statements by Armenian leaders.
Nikolay Bordyuzha, the secretary general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), defended the sale of tanks, artillery cannons and rocket launchers worth $1 billion, which was disclosed by Russian media last week. He said the arms deal does not contradict Russia’s military alliance with Armenia or weaken the latter in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“The Russian Federation sells weapons to dozens of countries, including those that are not members of the CSTO,” Bordyuzha told journalists during a CSTO-sponsored conference in Yerevan. “It’s business, it’s a market, it’s the Russian Federation’s economy.”
Bordyuzha insisted that Moscow did realize the need to maintain “parity” in the Karabakh conflict when it decided to sell those weapons to Baku. “This key principle was taken into consideration during the making of the decision to sell weapons to your neighbor,” he said. “I think that in any case that parity has not been breached.”
The Russian official, who is a retired army general, argued that Armenia, which is part of the CSTO, has been receiving substantial military assistance from Russia. “Russia is already compensating [Armenia] and quite strongly and actively,” he said. “There is a Russian military base in Armenia tasked with ensuring Armenia’s security. Russian border guards protect the Armenian-Turkish border jointly with Armenian border guards. This is a substantial contribution to Armenia’s security.”
Bordyuzha has repeatedly implied before that the Armenian side can count on direct Russian intervention in the event of another war with Azerbaijan over Karabakh.
Armenian government officials have similarly downplayed the significance of the Russian arms supplies to Azerbaijan, dismissing concerns voiced by domestic media commentators and opposition politicians. Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, who also took part in the CSTO conference, assured reporters that they will not give the Azerbaijani military the upper hand in the unresolved dispute.
“Azerbaijani arms acquisitions cannot fail to worry us,” said Ohanian. “But as you know, military-technical cooperation with our strategic partner, the Russian Federation, is at a quite high level. Today we are doing everything to maintain the balance of forces with not only quantitative but also qualitative advantages.”
Ohanian pointed in that regard to the “very important” agreement which he signed in Yerevan on Tuesday with Aleksandr Fomin, the head of a Russian government agency overseeing arms deals with foreign states. “That document will enable us to place our military-technical cooperation at a higher inter-state level,” he said. “So the situation is under control.”
In Ohanian’s words, the agreement envisages, among other things, the creation of joint ventures by Russian and Armenian defense firms.