Armenia is not alarmed by Russia’s growing military cooperation with Azerbaijan, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian claimed on Tuesday, commenting on his Russian counterpart Sergey Shogyu’s latest visit to Baku.
Shoygu and Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov signed on Monday a plan of joint military activities for next year and announced that more Azerbaijani cadets will now study at Russian military academies. They also spoke of a successful implementation of a 2013-2016 program of bilateral military-technical cooperation, which apparently involves continuing Russian arms supplies to Azerbaijan.
Russia and Azerbaijan have signed $4 billion worth of defense contracts since 2010. The figure could reportedly rise to $5 billion by the end of this year.
Speaking after talks with Hasanov, Shoygu also said that the two nations will hold naval exercises in the Caspian Sea next year. He said that Russian would like to create a “collective security system” in the Caspian region that would comprise Azerbaijan.
Ohanian insisted that such an alliance would pose no security threat to Armenia. “The Caspian Sea basin is a fairly complicated region, and there are five littoral states there that have to cooperate,” he told reporters. “We consider that cooperation normal.”
Ohanian also emphasized in that context “the high level” of Russian-Armenian military ties.
Ohanian and other Armenian officials have previously voiced unease over the Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan, while saying that they are offset by Russian military aid to Armenia. Armenian opposition politicians and pundits have criticized Moscow’s large-scale arms deals with Baku in much stronger terms, saying that they run counter to the Russian-Armenian military alliance.
Manvel Sargsian, the director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, believes that Moscow is deliberately keeping the two South Caucasus states, locked in a bitter conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, highly dependent on Russian weapons. “On one hand, Russia is, to put it bluntly, enslaving Azerbaijan in that sense,” he said on Tuesday. “On the other, it is creating additional security dangers for Armenia and demanding that Armenia host more and more Russian troops.”