The latest decision by the Armenian government to pay for more expenses of a local Russian military base has fueled the ongoing debate about whether the host country should make such payments.
On Thursday the Cabinet approved a fresh allocation of 20.5 million drams (about $50,000) to the National Security Service (NSS) that would spend the money to cover expenses of the Russian military base stationed in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri.
Such allocations from the Armenian state budget are made quarterly. NSS head Gorik Hakobian said that in the second quarter of 2014 about the same amount of money was provided to the Russian border troops in Armenia to cover their military transportation expenses.
Political analyst Gagik Hambarian, meanwhile, called it a nonsense that Armenia as a country hosting a foreign military base should also cover its expenses. He cited the examples of other countries where Russia has military bases and itself pays significant amounts of money for using them.
“This is probably the world’s only military base that gets paid for being deployed in a foreign country,” he said. “The Russians pay quite a lot even for their military base in Kyrgyzstan, let alone their bases in Syria and Belarus for which they provide sizable discounts on natural gas supplies. Russia also had a military base in Azerbaijan, which it closed because it did not want to pay a higher rent [asked by Baku]. Nowhere in the world do the Russians get to deploy their military bases for free.”
According to the analyst, it is even more absurd that the Armenian government pays to a Russian railway company shipping Russian military cargoes.
Armenia has not concealed that the presence of Russian troops on its soil is a deterrent to possible aggression by Turkey with which the South Caucasus nation has no diplomatic relations.
An Armenian-Russian agreement signed in 2010 extended the presence of the Russian military base in Armenia until 2044, at the same time upgrading its security mandate. Moscow has since beefed up the base numbering between 4,000 and 5,000 troops with heavy weaponry.