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Armenia builds up its military might

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  • Armenia builds up its military might

    Agency WPS
    DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia)
    August 27, 2004, Friday


    SOURCE: Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kurier, No 32, August 25 - 31, 2004, p.

    by Samvel Martirosjan (Yerevan)


    The Russian-Armenian military cooperation develops quite dynamically.
    Not long ago, Russia lent a sympathetic ear to Armenia's request
    concerning training of up to 150 officers. Complicated situation in
    the Caucasus forces the authorities of Armenia to pay unfeigned
    attention to national defense. According to official data alone, the
    2004 Armenian state budget allocated almost $82 million for military
    needs, an almost 10% rise against war spendings in 2003. Estimates of
    the International Institute of Strategic Studies (London) show that
    in 2002 Armenia was the CIS leader in the arms spendings to GDP ratio
    - 6.4%, an equivalent of $162 million.

    The CIA claims that as far as this particular parameter is concerned,
    Armenia is the 11th in the world; it spent $135 million on its army
    in 2001. When the closed parliamentary hearing of fulfillment of the
    2003 budget was over not long ago, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh
    Sarkisjan said that arms spendings would be increased next year
    again. Sarkisjan refused to elaborate but said that the Armenian
    national army was initiating a program of rearmament.

    It should be noted that the population of Armenia, not exactly a
    wealthy country, does not object to these measures taken by national
    leaders. The population is perfectly aware of the undeclared war with
    Azerbaijan that is under way. Serious clashes are regularly reported
    in the areas where Armenian and Azerbaijani troops face each other;
    shots have been fired by sharpshooters for a decade (ever since the
    cease-fire on the Karabakh front was signed). Moreover, official
    Yerevan positions itself as a guarantor of security of Karabakh.

    Turkey is another potential enemy. Diplomatic relations with Turkey
    have never been established. Ankara is still blocking the border with
    Armenia and pursuing an openly anti-Armenian policy. Sociologists of
    the Armenian Center of National and Strategic Studies discovered that
    47.5% respondents in Armenia believe that the war with Azerbaijan may
    be resumed within five years, and 7% more expect a Turkish aggression
    within the same span of time.


    Armenian national army is considered one of the most combat ready in
    the Caucasus. These days, it is over 60,000 men strong. According to
    the CIA, there are 810,000 men in Armenia aged 15 to 59 and almost
    650,000 of them are fit for combat. Most experts say, however, that
    mobilization resources of Armenia amount to 300,000 men, i.e. almost
    10% of the total population (over 3.2 million).

    Under the Treaty on Conventional Arms in Europe, in 2001 Armenia
    declared 102 T-72 tanks and 204 armored vehicles (most of them
    infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers). With the
    military hardware the Treaty on Conventional Arms in Europe does not
    apply to, Armenia has up to 700 armored vehicles. Its artillery
    comprises 225 pieces of 122 mm and larger calibers including 50
    multiple rocket launchers.

    The Armenian Air Force includes five SU-25 ground-attack aircraft,
    one MIG-25, 35 helicopters (the latter include twelve MI-24 attack
    helicopters), and 3,000 servicemen. Yerevan intends to build up this
    component of its Armed Forces. Not long ago, Defense Ministry of
    Slovenia proclaimed the sale of ten SU-25s to Armenia (nine SU-25K
    one-seaters and one SU-25UBK two-seater). The consignment will cost
    Armenia $1 million. Armenia bought two IL-76 military transports from
    Russia not long ago. The transports were bought at Russian domestic
    prices and made it to Armenia together with Defense Minister of
    Russia Sergei Ivanov.

    Armenia builds up its Air Force in the hope of making it a match for
    the Azerbaijani, but its antiaircraft defense is considered the best
    throughout the Caucasus. Armenian antiaircraft defense comprises an
    antiaircraft missile brigade and two regiments armed with almost 100
    antiaircraft complexes of various models and modifications (Osa,
    Krug, S-75, and S-125). Numerical strength is estimated at about
    2,000 servicemen. Armenian antiaircraft defense developed in a hurry
    in the war over Karabakh when Azerbaijani Air Force regularly and
    energetically bombarded Armenian trenches and settlements both in
    Karabakh and in Armenia's own border districts. There was nothing
    Armenia could do about it then. By 1993, however, it already had a
    formidable antiaircraft defense in Armenia itself and in the Republic
    of Nagorno-Karabakh. Its deployment cut Azerbaijani advantage in the
    sky to the minimum.

    These days, the Armenian skies are controlled by Armenian and Russian
    antiaircraft defense units on joint combat duty since 1999. There are
    at least 30 MIG-29 fighters and a regiment of S-300s quartered on the
    territory of Armenia.

    Allies in the Organization of the CIS Collective Security Treaty

    Armenia is a member of the Organization of the CIS Collective
    Security Treaty. As such, it participates in all events organized
    within its framework. In any case, Russia is Armenia's oldest and
    traditional ally. Ever since the regaining of sovereignty, the tandem
    of Moscow and Yerevan has served as one of the few examples of bona
    fide military-political cooperation in the Commonwealth. There is
    practically no discord between Russia and Armenia in this sphere.

    Russia and Armenia together defend the Armenian airspace or, rather,
    the southern border of the Commonwealth. Armenian borders with Turkey
    and Iran are manned by almost 2,000 Russian bodyguards who serve
    shoulder to shoulder with their Armenian counterparts. Yet, it is the
    102nd Military Base in Gyumri that is Russia's major outpost in
    Armenia. Unlike Tbilisi or Baku, official Yerevan never brings up the
    subject of withdrawal of the Russian troops. When Sarkisjan is asked
    the question, he never answers believing it a rhetoric question.
    Armenian society regards the Russian troops as a covering force
    defending it from the Turkish aggression.

    Until recently, the 102nd Military Base had 74 tanks, 17 battle
    infantry vehicles, 148 armored personnel carriers, 84 artillery
    pieces, up to 30 MIG-23s and MIG-29s, and a regiment of S-300
    antiaircraft complexes. In the last eighteen months, however, a great
    deal of military hardware was moved there from Georgia. Armenia gave
    the land and objects used by the 102nd Military Base over to Russia
    and covers some communal services.

    Officer training is another sphere of Russian-Armenian military
    cooperation. In the first years of sovereignty when Armenia did not
    have military educational establishments of its own, officers of its
    army were trained in Russia. Even now when Armenia has a military
    college on its own territory, the Armenian officer corps honors the
    tradition and is trained at Russian military educational
    establishments. On a visit to Armenia in late May, Ivanov said that
    600 Armenian servicemen are being trained in Russia. "Armenia asks
    for the permission to send 150 servicemen to Russia in 2005, and
    Russia gave its consent," Ivanov said.

    It seems that Moscow and Yerevan do not plan to stop. The first
    meeting of the joint Russian-Armenian government panel for
    military-technical cooperation will take place this autumn. According
    to Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, Russian factories will participate
    in the Armenian program of military hardware modernization. He even
    said that Russia is prepared to supply the necessary spare parts an

    Belarus is another ally of Armenia in the Organization of the CIS
    Collective Security Treaty. The two countries signed a treaty in
    2002. Under the document, Armenia will receive light weapons, armored
    vehicles, ordnance, and optical devices in return for spare parts and
    gadgets for military hardware. Armenia also intends to have its heavy
    military hardware upgraded at Belarusian factories. Lieutenant
    General Sergei Gurulev, Chief of the General Staff of the Belarusian
    Armed Forces, says that the Armenian-Belarusian military contacts
    "become systematic and deliberate."

    Do not forget NATO

    Greece is Armenia's best ally in the Alliance. Greece and Armenia
    share ancient ties and a common enemy - Turkey. Armenian officers are
    trained in Greece. Every now and then Athens puts into motion
    military aid programs. In 2003, the two countries signed another
    military cooperation accord under which Greece will up the number of
    Armenian servicemen trained at the military and military-medical
    academies in Athens.

    Armenia became a peacekeeper in February. It sent 34 servicemen to
    Kosovo where they became an element of the Greek contingent. Armenian
    servicemen in Kosovo are paid by the Greeks.

    Yerevan has been shifting towards NATO lately, mostly within the
    framework of the NATO's Partnership for Peace Program. Cooperative
    Best Effort exercise (the first one where Russia was represented) was
    run on the territory of Armenia in 2003.

    Armenian cooperation with NATO is mostly declarative for the time
    being, but the United States - the country steadily upping its clout
    with countries of the region - has far-reaching plans with regard to
    Yerevan. In early 2003, the Pentagon announced several major military
    programs in the Caucasus. Washington's military aid to Armenia in
    2004 will amount to $5 million even though the US Administration
    intended to restrict it to $2 million at first. Armenia and the
    United States signed a military-technical cooperation accord in
    April. Some articles in the American media imply that the accord
    specifies the use of Armenian airfields by the US AF.

    Proclaiming complementariness as its foreign political doctrine,
    official Yerevan never misses a chance to advance its contacts with
    Washington. When the war in Iraq was under way, Armenia remained
    neutral. It neither supported the war and America's action nor
    condemned them. These days, however, the parliament and government of
    Armenia are working on the legislation that will enable Yerevan to
    send servicemen to Iraq. The Cabinet already endorsed the decision of
    the Defense Ministry to subscribe to the memorandum "On the command
    and settlement of issues in connection with activities of the
    international division in the forces of coalition in Iraq". At first,
    Armenia will probably send 10 de-miners and 3 doctors and some trucks
    to Iraq.

    Moreover, Armenia even permitted the United States to modernize its
    communications, one of the most vulnerable items. Yerevan expects to
    get communications means from American companies. The deliveries will
    be paid for by the White House (the sum amounts to $7 million).
    Commenting on it, Sarkisjan said that Russia is quite understanding.
    "We are allies. It means that the strengthening of one partner will
    benefit the other," said Sarkisjan. "We initiated the process a year
    ago, and I found our Russian colleagues quite understanding." He said
    that from military cooperation with the United States Armenia
    expected to up combat potential of its own army.

    So, Armenia ups its military might against the background of the
    deepening crisis in the relations with Azerbaijan, the crisis that
    threatens to deteriorate into another full-scale war. It should be
    noted as well that in any conflict the Armenian national army may
    count on servicemen from Karabakh. In fact, the Karabakh army even
    leaves the Armenian behind in some parameters. Karabakh armed
    formations cannot match the Armenian army in manpower (about 20,000
    servicemen and mobilization resources at 60,000 men), but they are
    certainly ahead of Armenia in heavy military hardware: 316 tanks, 324
    armored vehicles, 322 artillery pieces of calibers over 122 mm, 44
    multiple rocket launchers, and the antiaircraft defense system that
    performed flawlessly in the hostilities in the 1990's.

    Translated by A. Ignatkin