The head of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) visited Yerevan on Monday for a second time in less than two months to discuss preparations for military exercises which the Russian-led defense pact will hold in Armenia this year.
According to official Armenian sources, the issue topped the agenda of Nikolay Bordyuzha’s talks with President Serzh Sarkisian and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian. They gave no dates for the annual exercises codenamed “Indestructible Brotherhood.”
The most recent CSTO drills took place in Kyrgyzstan in July-August last year. They involved about 1,000 troops from the six ex-Soviet states aligned in the bloc: Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Armenia most recently hosted major CSTO exercises in September 2012. The 2,000 or so participating troops were part of the CSTO’s Collective Operational Reaction Forces (CORF) created in 2009. The war games were watched by then Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.
Bordyuzha and Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Studenikin, the CSTO’s top military official accompanying him, also discussed with the Armenian leaders regional security. Sarkisian’s press office said they spoke about the CSTO’s role in “maintaining security in the Caucasus region.” It did not elaborate.
Bordyuzha expressed serious concern at the latest escalation of fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone during his previous visit to Armenia in early February.
Speaking at a January 30 news conference in Moscow, Bordyuzha reportedly ruled out a direct CSTO intervention in the Karabakh conflict. Armenian critics of close military ties with Russia seized upon those remarks to again accuse the CSTO of failing to honor its defense obligations to a member state.
Ohanian dismissed such criticism earlier in January. He insisted that the Armenian army is strong enough to contain Azerbaijan without a direct Russian or CSTO intervention.