Russia Guarantees Arms Supplies to Armenia; Will Continue Selling to Azerbaijan

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin assured his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan that Moscow would continue to supply Yerevan with major arms supplies, including many of the most sophisticated weapons in Russia’s arsenal, but said Russia would continue to sell military equipment to Armenia’s arch rival Azerbaijan.

"Armenia for us – is a strategic partner in the Caucasus, and we consistently build our mutual alliance…we are cooperating together in the Eurasian Union and in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States)," Putin said during a meeting with Sargsyan.

Armenia is Russia’s staunchest ally in the Caucasus, while the increasingly authoritarian Sargsyan has enjoyed a close personal relationship with Putin since coming to power in 2008. That alliance, however, has been severely tested in recent months following a major escalation in fighting in the Armenian-controlled breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The clashes claimed the lives of hundreds of ethnic Armenians and left Azerbaijan in control of small patches of territory that it had lost in the first phase of the war in 1988-1994.

The Armenian public was outraged to find out that Russia had sold highly sophisticated air-to-air and surface-to-air weaponry to Azerbaijan, most of which was far superior to Armenia’s Soviet-era equipment.

Armenia’s opposition politicians have accused Putin of seriously jeopardizing Russian-Armenian relations with continued weapons sales to Baku.

Russia has flatly denied the charges, saying they are simply carrying out regular business on the international arms market and have no intention of weakening their ties to their closest allies in Yerevan.

“Regarding weapons, we have a cooperation program with Armenia and we have mutual obligations to supply and defend the country. Russia has always adhered to its obligations and it always will,” Putin said.

Putin was quick, however, to say that any country has the right to buy weapons from whomever, so long as it has the money.

"A country like Azerbaijan - oil-producing, with a booming economy, sufficiently large volumes of gold and currency reserves - of course, it can buy arms from anywhere it wants,” said Putin.

By Nicholas Waller

15 August 2016 12:53