Armenia has significantly increased acquisitions of new and sophisticated weapons in the last few years in response to a massive military buildup in Azerbaijan, according to Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian.
“Neighboring Azerbaijan has been spending huge sums on strengthening its army in order to forcibly resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Sarkisian said during a visit to Gyumri this week. “We are obliged to guarantee the security of our citizens and the only way to do that is to have a combat-ready army.”
“Today we can report to you that in the past five years we have managed to solve that task,” he told hundreds of local members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). “In the last three years alone we have enhanced the level of our armament as much as we were able to do during the first 17 years of our independent statehood.”
“We have imported essential and qualitatively new weapons and ammunition to the Republic of Armenia, providing our army with modern weapons and thereby imposing peace on our foe,” the premier said. He gave no details of those arms deliveries.
Armenian military officials have likewise reported an ongoing army buildup. “We have been enhancing our military capacity with arms acquisitions in recent years,” Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian told journalists in January.
Ohanian said the Armenian government is now successfully implementing a five-year plan to modernize the national armed forces with long-range weapons and other hardware. The still unpublicized program was approved by President Serzh Sarkisian’s National Security Council in December 2010.
Some of the longe-range weapons already possessed by Armenia were demonstrated for the first time during a military parade in Yerevan last September. Those included Russian-made Scud-B and Tochka-U tactical ballistic missiles capable of hitting strategic targets deep inside Azerbaijani territory.
Armenia is able to stay in an intensifying arms race with oil-rich Azerbaijan mainly because of close military ties with Russia that entitle it to receiving Russian weapons at discount prices or even free of charge. A new Russian-Armenian defense agreement signed in August 2010 commits Moscow to helping Yerevan obtain “modern and compatible weaponry and (special) military hardware.”
Artur Baghdasarian, secretary of the National Security Council, said last month that the two governments plan to sign a new deal that will deepen Russian-Armenian military cooperation further. He made the announcement after talks in Yerevan with his visiting Russian opposite number, Nikolay Patrushev.