The Armenian military might launch a preemptive strike against Azerbaijan to prevent it from attempting to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by force, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Thursday.
Ohanian said Baku is continuing a military buildup aimed at winning back control over Karabakh and other Armenian-controlled territories surrounding the disputed region.
“I think that they are seriously preparing for hostilities, while we are seriously preparing to defend our homeland,” he told journalists in Yerevan’s Victory Park after official ceremonies to mark the 68th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II.
Asked whether the Armenian and Karabakh armed forces could strike first if they feel that Azerbaijan is about to restart the war, Ohanian said, “I don’t exclude anything because the doctrine of using our armed forces for the country’s defense envisages numerous measures that can be not only defensive but also preemptive.” The Karabakh-born minister did not elaborate.
President Ilham Aliyev and other Azerbaijani leaders regularly threaten to forcibly end the conflict, buoyed by billions of dollars in Azerbaijani oil revenues that have been spent on the massive military buildup over the past decade.
Citing research conducted by a Swedish think-tank, “The Wall Street Journal” reported last November that Baku spent $11 billion on weapons in the past five years, compared with less than $2 billion by Yerevan. The latter has been trying to offset this spending gap through close military ties with Russia.
President Serzh Sarkisian told “The Wall Street Journal” at the time that the Armenian side will respond “disproportionately” if Azerbaijan acts on its threats. Sarkisian spoke shortly after the Armenian army simulated missile strikes on military targets as well as oil and gas installations in Azerbaijan during large-scale exercises.
Azerbaijan dismissed the Armenian missile threats, saying that its armed forces have the capacity to protect Azerbaijani oil facilities.