Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 23 February 2021
Armenia Invites More Russian Troops to Its Territory
After its humiliating defeat last fall, Armenia can only see Moscow as its guarantor of security. Yerevan is expressing concerns over the further military expansion of Azerbaijan and an ever-bigger influence of the Azeri-Turkish alliance in the Caucasus. Recent months have seen a joint Azeri-Turkish military exercise while Russia and Turkey agreed to set up an observation center to monitor a ceasefire deal in Nagorno-Karabakh. Thus it is little surprising to observe calls – also from Armenian opposition politicians – on the Kremlin to cement the Russian-Armenian alliance.
Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutyunyan told Russia’s RIA news agency in an interview on February 22 that Armenia would welcome a new Russian military facility on its territory and the redeployment of a Russian military unit near the border with Azerbaijan. “The question of expanding and bolstering the Russian military base on the territory of Armenia has always been on the agenda,” Harutyunyan told journalists. Armenian opposition politicians went even further than that as they have called for the creation of a second Russian base. The existing base is located in Gyumri near the Turkish border while the second facility would be created close to Syunik, wedged between Azerbaijan and the Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan. This shows where Armenia fears a possible offensive from its neighbors. Harutyunyan said he saw no need for Russia to formally open a second military base. However, the two countries are considering deploying a military unit from the existing base in Gyumri to eastern Armenia, near the border with Azerbaijan. Both the stance of the opposition and that of the government show that Armenia is now fully dependent on its Russian ally, as confirmed by the war last fall. Moscow failed to offer military aid to Armenia who lost the battle with the better armed, armored and Turkish-supported Azeri military. After six-week fighting, both countries signed a ceasefire, in which Armenia ceded swathes of territory in Nagorno-Karabakh and seven Azerbaijani-majority districts that Armenia had controlled since 1993. Under the deal signed on November 9, 2020, Russia deployed its “peacekeepers” to the disputed region. Yerevan’s recent call to build up Russian military presence also in Armenia proper means that Moscow has a chance to develop a strong military and political foothold in this part of the Caucasus. This is particularly vital for the Kremlin as Azerbaijan grew stronger after its latest victory and – most notably – after Turkey entered the game. Not only is Azerbaijan – but also Georgia – are centered on Ankara.
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