Armenia continues to regard Russia as its key military ally despite criticizing Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan following the recent escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Wednesday.
“I don’t see a single fact indicating that our strategic relations have been somehow disrupted or changed,” Ohanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview.
“Especially in the military-defense area, those relations remain the same,” he said. “They are the same even on the people-to-people level.”
“I think that all those rumors and claims [to the contrary] are the result of superficial analyses and evaluations of the situation,” the minister added during a visit to Moscow where he attended an international security conference.
In recent weeks, some Armenian politicians, media commentators and other pundits have called for a reorientation of Armenian foreign policy because of the April 2 outbreak of heavy fighting in Karabakh. They say that the Azerbaijani offensive there was made possible by recent years’ Russian arms deliveries to Baku worth an estimated $5 billion.
President Serzh Sarkisian openly complained about those supplies when he met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Yerevan on April 7.
The Armenian press has also been rife with speculation that Moscow is pressuring Yerevan to make additional concessions to Baku in order to avoid a full-scale war in Karabakh. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian denied such pressure over the weekend.
As well as criticizing the Russian-Azerbaijani arms deals, the Armenian leadership has asked Moscow to speed up the planned sale of new Russian-made weapons to Armenia. The latter will buy them soon with a $200 million loan extended by the Russian government last year.
“Agreements have already been reached and we are now working on the signing of [supply] contracts,” Ohanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He said the Armenian side is keen to receive those weapons as soon as possible but gave no dates for their delivery.
Russia has always been the main source of weapons used by the Armenian army. Membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization and bilateral treaties have allowed Yerevan to obtain them at discounted prices or even for free.