The Armenian government paved the way on Thursday for the parliamentary ratification of an agreement with Russia to boost a joint Russian-Armenian military force that was created more than a decade ago.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and his Armenian counterpart Vigen Sargsian signed the agreement on “the united group of troops of the two countries” after talks held in Moscow last November.
The agreement clarifies and upgrades the mission of the joint force comprising troops from the Russian military base in Armenia and the Armenian army’s Fifth Corps. In particular, it stipulates that the commander of the Russian-Armenian contingent will be appointed by the Armenian army’s commander-in-chief.
Also, the commander will be subordinate to the chief of the Armenian army staff in times of peace. He may report to the head of Russia’s Southern Military District in case of a war or imminent military aggression against Armenia or Russia.
“The main task of the United Group of Troops is to identify preparation of military aggression against Armenia and Russia in a timely manner and to repel it jointly with the armed forces of Armenia and Russia,” Defense Minister Sargsian said in November.
The deal was ratified by Russia’s lower and upper houses of parliament on July 14 and July 19 respectively. Prime Minister Karen Karapetian’s government formally recommended its ratification by the Armenian parliament, which now seems a forgone conclusion.
Alexander Iskandarian, director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute, said that the signing of the Russian-Armenian accord was largely a formality that underscored close military ties between the two states.
“This agreement is one of the formats for comprehensive interaction between the Russian and Armenian armed forces which helps to ensure Armenia’s protection against Turkey,” Iskandarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). The Armenian military will thus be able to continue to concentrate on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he said.
Another analyst, Armen Grigorian, suggested that the deal was initiated by the Russians. He said they plan to use to increase “Russian influence in Armenia.”