A senior Armenian diplomat on Thursday reacted cautiously to a newspaper report which said that the United States has warned Armenia against striking major arms deals with Russian defense companies.
Citing the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily reported this week that Washington told the Armenian government that it will risk U.S. sanctions in case of signing “substantial deals” with Russia’s state-owned defense industry. The embassy’s press office told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that it has nothing to add to the report.
“Armenian must take into account all current developments,” Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian told reporters, commenting on the “Haykakan Zhamanak” claim.
When asked to go into details, Kocharian said: “What details? There has to be concrete information. For example, there was a statement which, to my knowledge, doesn’t correspond to reality because it exaggerates the existing danger.”
“But it doesn’t mean that one should ignore [developments,] so to speak. One should constantly monitor,” he added vaguely.
Asked whether Armenia’s continued military cooperation with Russia may now be at risk, Kocharian said: “Let’s not jump to conclusions … We are monitoring the situation and are at the same time interested in maintaining our relations with Russia in that area, which is an important component of our security.”
The situation, he went on, has not reached a point where Yerevan should hold “negotiations with the Russian side or the American side.”
Armenia and Russia have long maintained close military ties both on a bilateral basis and through their membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). That alliance has enabled Yerevan to receive large quantities of Russian weapons at discounted prices and even for free.
As recently as in October, the Armenian government announced that Moscow will provide it with a fresh $100 million loan that will be spent on the purchase of more Russian weapons at internal Russian prices set well below international market-based levels. Deputy Defense Minister Artak Zakarian said in December that as part of the loan agreement the Armenian side has already finalized three defense contracts with Russian arms manufacturers. He did not name them or give other details.
Moscow already lent Yerevan $200 million for Russian arms acquisitions in 2015. The Armenian army is thought to have used that money for buying Smerch multiple-launch rocket system, TOS-1A thermobaric rockets, anti-tank weapons and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.