An Armenian military unit has participated in a drill of the Russian-led defense pact during which conventional NATO peacekeepers “invading” a former Soviet country were urged to “lay down arms and surrender”.
The maneuvers of the rapid reaction force of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) codenamed “Cooperation 2016” took place in the Pskov and Leningrad regions of Russia on August 16-18 and involved about 6,000 soldiers and 1,000 units of military equipment, according to a press release of the bloc comprising Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
One of the units of the armed forces of Armenia also participated in the drill conducted under the command of Commander of the Western Military District of Russia, Lieutenant-Colonel Andrey Karatapolov, according to the same source.
According to the scenario of the drill, under the guise of a peacekeeping operation forces of a Western military alliance invade, without UN approval, a CSTO-member country. The CSTO rapid reaction forces launch a counterattack and rout the enemy. Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency published a call made to the conventional NATO soldiers during the exercises in several languages (Russian, English, German and Polish).
“NATO soldiers! You are being lied to! You are not peacekeepers! Lay down your arms,” a female voice warned the soldiers in a recording played on loudspeakers. “Your treacherous attack is disturbing a peaceful country. You will suffer retribution and the anger of a people who have never suffered defeat in any war. Drop your weapons and stop being pawns for your leaders.”
CSTO press secretary Vladimir Zaynetdinov refused to answer a question from RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on whether the CSTO considered NATO to be a hostile organization. He also declined to comment on the call addressed to conventional NATO forces during the drill in Russia.
An Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman similarly declined to comment on the matter.
Cooperation between Armenia and NATO began in 1992 shortly after the South Caucasus country gained independence. Armenian armed forces joined NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo in 2004, and since 2010 Armenia’s peacekeepers have been involved in a NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
Last September, attending a UN summit on peacekeeping operations in New York, President Serzh Sarkisian even pledged that the Armenian forces would stay in Afghanistan as long as it was necessary.
“Since 2010 we have taken part in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Since 2015 we have partaken in the Resolute Support Mission in that very country, and, as we have declared on numerous other occasions, we will stand there with our international partners until that mission is accomplished,” Sarkisian underscored, as quoted by his press office.
In the same speech, the Armenian leader expressed special gratitude to the United States, Greece, Germany, as well as NATO structures and other member States that “have played a pivotal role in the establishment and development of the Armenian peacekeeping capabilities.”
Opposition lawmaker and founder of the Armenian Atlantic Association Tevan Poghosian stressed that Armenia is the only CSTO-member country that is also participating in two NATO peacekeeping missions. “Today Russia has a confrontation with NATO, but Armenia should be guided by its own interests, rather than try to follow the Russian games. At present, Armenia continues its cooperation with NATO, which is commendable,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am).