Russia is planning to significantly strengthen its troops deployed in Armenia with new weapons, the Russian ambassador in Yerevan, Sergey Kopyrkin, said on Tuesday.
Kopyrkin also praised the current state of relations between the two states, saying Armenia remains a “reliable partner” of Russia.
“In the past year a number of steps have taken to enhance the combat readiness of the 102nd Military Base stationed in Gyumri,” he told a news conference. “We have achieved serious results here.”
“We have plans to double the combat potential of the base without increasing the number [of military personnel,]” he said without elaborating.
Russia has already reinforced the base numbering up to 5,000 soldiers with helicopter gunships and other military hardware since a 2010 Russian-Armenian agreement extended its basing rights in Armenia to 2044. The official TASS news agency reported in April that it plans to replace 18 MiG-29 fighter jets stationed at the Erebuni airbase in Yerevan with more advanced Sukhoi Su-30SM warplanes by 2021.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu inspected the Gyumri headquarters of the base when he visited Armenia in October. Shoygu told Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian that the Russian troops are ready to “confront emerging threats and challenges jointly with the armed forces of Armenia.”
The current and former Armenian governments have regarded the Russian military presence as a key element of their national security strategies. From their perspective, it specifically precludes Turkey’s direct military intervention in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on Azerbaijan’s side.
Kopyrkin noted with satisfaction that Russia’s broader relationship with its South Caucasus ally has continued to deepen since the 2018 change of government in Yerevan. “We are united by common interests,” the envoy said, adding that “for us Armenia remains a key, reliable partner on which we can rely in difficult situations.”
The secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigorian, similarly praised the “ideal state” of Russian-Armenian ties on Tuesday.
“Up until October, the Armenian press was trumpeting, for example, that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin will not be visiting Armenia, that no [Russian-made] weaponry is entering Armenia. But it now turns out that we acquired an unprecedented quantity of weapons in 2019,” Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Those weapons include sophisticated Tor-M2MK surface-to-air missile systems demonstrated by the Armenian military late last week. Grigorian shed no light on other arms acquisitions touted by him.
The official also pointed to continuing growth in Russian-Armenian trade, saying that it is on track to pass the $2 billion mark this year.