Armenia will be able to use Russian warplanes and spy satellites for protecting its airspace after its new system of joint air defense with Russia takes shape this year, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Wednesday.
Ohanian dismissed criticism of a relevant Russian-Armenian agreement which has been voiced by some Armenia opposition politicians and pro-Western civic activists.
The Russian and Armenian militaries have been jointly protecting Armenia’s airspace ever since the mid-1990s as part of a defense alliance binding the two countries. The agreement in question signed in December would deepen that arrangement through the creation of a Russian-Armenian “united regional system of air defense.”
Under the agreement, the air-defense system will cover “the Caucasian region” presumably encompassing southern Russia, Armenia and adjacent territory in the South Caucasus. It will be led by the commander of Russia’s Southern Military District and “coordinated” by the Russian Air Force chief.
The accord at the same time stipulates that an Armenian army general will command all air-defense forces deployed within Armenia. Those include sophisticated S-300 and Buk surface-to-air missiles as well as MiG-29 fighter jets that are part of the Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri.
Ohanian insisted that the newly modernized MiG-29s and other Russian air-defense facilities will be at Armenia’s disposal “in times of both war and peace.” “The agreement will also enable us to have serious intelligence data that will be available in a common information space and will help us avert violations that could be committed by our adversaries,” he told reporters.
The minister seemed to allude to information collected by Russian spy satellites. The Armenian Defense Ministry already indicated this in a detailed statement released early this month.
One of Ohanian’s deputies, Ara Nazarian, gave similar assurances on Tuesday during a parliamentary debate on the ratification of the Russian-Armenian agreement. “Relevant actions will be ordered by the commander of our air-defense forces,” said Nazarian.
The treaty was backed on Wednesday by deputies representing not only the ruling Republican Party but also most opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament. This made its ratification by the National Assembly a forgone conclusion.
Zaruhi Postanjian, a deputy from another opposition party, Zharangutyun (Heritage), was among the few lawmakers that spoke out against the new Russian-Armenian military air-defense system. “You are turning Armenia into a territory under full Russian political and military control,” she charged during the debate.