Armenia’s new Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan and his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu have reportedly agreed to maintain and even deepen the already close military ties between their nations.
The two men met in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on Wednesday on the sidelines of a meeting of the defense ministers of six former Soviet republics making up the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
The Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, said they stressed their governments’ “readiness to ensure the continuity of existing agreements and programs and to expand them in all areas of bilateral [military] cooperation.”
A separate statement by the ministry likewise said Shoygu and Tonoyan agreed to deepen “the Russian-Armenian strategic allied relationship.” It said they also discussed regional security and “ways of jointly countering existing threats.”
Tonoyan met with Russia’s charge d’affaires and military attaché in Yerevan on May 16 just a few days after being appointed as defense minister by Armenia’s new Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. He reportedly told them that Russian-Armenian military ties “will continue to be expanded.”
Pashinian said on Wednesday that “military-technical cooperation” was among the issues on the agenda of his May 14 talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin held in Sochi. He did not elaborate.
Russia has long been the principal supplier of weapons and other military equipment to the Armenian army. Membership in the CSTO entitles the South Caucasus state to receiving them at discounted prices or even for free.
Last October, Moscow agreed to provide the Armenian government with a fresh $100 million loan that will be spent on buying more Russian weapons at internal Russian prices set well below market-based levels. It already lent Yerevan $200 million for the same purpose in 2015.
Armenia also hosts a Russian military base that has been reinforced with modernized warplanes, combat helicopters and new artillery systems in recent years. Successive Armenian governments have regarded the Russian troops as a crucial deterrent against neighboring Turkey, which fully supports Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.