The “Caucasus 2020” exercises, described by Moscow as “strategic,” began on Monday in southern Russia and the Black and Caspian Seas, reportedly involving 80,000 Russian soldiers. They were joined by around 1,000 military personnel from Armenia, Belarus, China, Myanmar and Pakistan.
The weeklong drills are also featuring joint military operations simulated at the Alagyaz firing range in central Armenia by Armenian army units and Russian troops stationed in the South Caucasus state. They deployed about 300 tanks, armored vehicles and artillery systems as well as dozens of warplanes, helicopters and drones during a live-fire session on Thursday.
The Alagyaz war games are led by Lieutenant-General Tigran Parvanian, the commander of a joint Russian-Armenian military force. Under their scenario cited by Parvanian, the participating troops launched a counteroffensive against an imaginary enemy that invaded Armenia.
Armenia hosts up to 5,000 Russia soldiers as part of its military alliance with Russia. Successive Armenian governments have regarded the Russian military presence as a crucial deterrent against Turkey’s possible military intervention in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The likelihood of such intervention appears to have increased after deadly hostilities that broke out on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in July. Turkey blamed Armenia for the escalation and pledged to boost Turkish military aid to Azerbaijan. In an apparently related development, Turkish and Azerbaijani troops held last month joint two-week exercises in various parts of Azerbaijan.
The Armenian government responded by accusing Ankara of undercutting international efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict and posing a serious security threat to Armenia. Armen Grigorian, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, said on August 2 that Yerevan counts on Moscow’s support in its efforts to counter that threat.
Armenia’s and Russia’s defense ministers met in Moscow later in August. The two countries’ top army generals held talks in the Russian capital two weeks later.