A senior Russian security official sought to justify ongoing Russian arms deliveries to Azerbaijan on Tuesday, saying that they help Moscow gain leverage against Armenia’s arch-foe.
“On one side is our ally Armenia and on the other our partner [Azerbaijan.] We can’t enter into de facto or de jure conflicts with former Soviet republics,” said General Vladimir Nikishin, a senior aide to Nikolay Bordyuzha, the secretary general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
“Furthermore, if we forge links with those states in such a way, we can have a certain influence on their policies. An influence through effective and peaceful methods,” Nikishin told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on the sidelines of a security conference in Yerevan.
Nikishin referred to the large-scale sales of Russian-made offensive weapons to Azerbaijan. According to recent media reports confirmed by Russian officials, Moscow began supplying the Azerbaijani military last May with $1 billion worth of tanks, artillery systems and other offensive weapons in line with defense contracts signed two years ago. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said in June that Baku plans to buy more Russian military hardware.
The reports caused an uproar in CSTO member Armenia, with local politicians, media commentators and other pundits accusing Russia of weakening the Armenian side in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and thus betraying its main regional ally. The Armenian government refrained from publicly criticizing the Russians, however. Officials in Yerevan implied that the arms sales to Baku will be offset by continued Russian military assistance to Armenia.
Russian officials defending the arms sales have until now put the emphasis on their commercial character, saying that Baku would have purchased such weapons from other countries had Moscow refused to sell them. They have also assured Armenians that the Russian-Azerbaijani arms deals will not change the military balance in the Karabakh conflict.