The Armenian Ministry of Defense reported that joint exercises with the American military will start on September 11, which will take place on the territory of the republic. The maneuvers will be devoted to practicing peacekeeping operations, the department specified. At the same time, Yerevan did not send its military personnel to participate in the CSTO exercises “Combat Brotherhood – 2023”, which took place in Belarus. The Kremlin has already commented on the message about the exercises between Armenia and the United States; presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov noted that this information “raises caution” in the current situation. According to experts, such steps are part of the course of Nikol Pashinyan’s government to bring Armenia closer to the West.
The Armenian Ministry of Defense announced that joint exercises with the United States will be held from September 11 to 20 on the basis of the Zar and N departmental centers. The Zar peacekeeping training center was opened in the fall of 2022, then the head of the Armenian government Nikol Pashinyan and Director of Strategy, Planning and Policy, US European Command, Major General Daniel Lasica.
As specified on the website of the Armenian Ministry of Defense, the upcoming exercises are called Eagle Partner 2023, they will include “operations to stabilize relations between the conflicting parties while performing peacekeeping tasks.” The message notes that the purpose of the maneuvers is to improve the coordination of the formations participating in peacekeeping missions, as well as to increase the readiness of the Armenian unit for planned assessments within the framework of the NATO Partnership for Peace program.
These plans have already been commented on in Moscow. As the press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov said, such information “causes concern” in the current situation.
“We will deeply analyze this news and monitor the situation,” Peskov told reporters.
In the spring of 2023, the Armenian authorities announced the participation of the republic’s military in joint exercises with American specialists – through the International Mission under the auspices of NATO in Kosovo and Metohija and Saber Junction. The current statement about joint exercises on the territory of Armenia appeared against the backdrop of Yerevan’s refusal to send its contingent to participate in the CSTO exercises “Combat Brotherhood – 2023”, which took place from September 1 to 6 on the territory of Belarus. Earlier, in January of this year, Armenia refused to hold the planned CSTO exercises “Indestructible Brotherhood – 2023” on its territory.
Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan © Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
In early September, the Prime Minister of Armenia, in an interview with the Italian newspaper la Repubblica, said that the Russian peacekeeping forces “are not fulfilling the mission assigned to them.” We are talking about the Russian contingent, which must ensure that Baku and Yerevan comply with the terms of the 2020 peace agreement.
In addition, Pashinyan called Armenia’s almost complete orientation toward Russia in security matters a mistake.
“The security architecture of Armenia was 99.9% connected with Russia, including in the logic of acquiring weapons and ammunition. However, today, when Russia itself needs weapons, weapons and ammunition, in this situation it is clear that even if it wanted, the Russian Federation would not be able to provide for the security needs of Armenia. That is, this example should show us that in the field of security, depending or being tied to only one place is in itself a strategic mistake,” the prime minister said, adding that the Armenians “tasted the bitter fruits” of this mistake.
Pashinyan explained that the country is now trying to diversify its security policy, while “Russia itself is leaving the region due to the steps it takes or does not take.”
This position caused a negative reaction from Moscow. As stated by the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, political rhetoric from Yerevan with attempts to blame Moscow “is unacceptable, because it primarily hits people who now need help.”
According to Zakharova, the Armenian leadership “needs to be able to take responsibility for its own actions, and not endlessly search for those responsible for every occasion.”
“You need to bear your own responsibility and not pass it onto someone else. This is the difference between a politician and statesman and a person passing through and not thinking about the national interests of his country,” she emphasized, speaking at a briefing.
Russian peacekeeper at a checkpoint in the Lachin corridor in Nagorno-Karabakh RIA Novosti © Grigory Sysoev
In turn, Dmitry Peskov noted that the Russian Federation continues to play an important role in stabilizing the situation in the region. “Russia is not leaving anywhere and is not going to leave,” Peskov added.
According to experts, the actions of official Yerevan indicate the desire of the Armenian leadership to weaken ties with Russia, especially in the defense field. This point of view was expressed in a conversation with RT by the first deputy head of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Konstantin Zatulin.
“In fact, the Armenian authorities have already expressed distrust in the CSTO by refusing to participate in the bloc’s exercises. Now Yerevan is taking concrete steps aimed at reorienting itself to the West. In principle, Pashinyan’s government has long and consistently followed this course,” says Zatulin.
A slightly different point of view is shared by Alexander Vavilov, a professor at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry. According to him, Yerevan’s actions indicate rather not the presence of some clear course, but rather the fact that the republic’s leadership is confused and cannot find the right solutions.
“Now Yerevan, apart from Moscow, by and large has no comrades-in-arms and assistants. It was Russia that helped stop the war in 2020. Attempts to find an alternative now for Yerevan are an ill-considered step that will only cause additional tension in an already difficult situation,” the expert emphasized in a commentary to RT.
“The current situation is a blow not only to the Armenian side, but also to Russia’s long-term interests in Transcaucasia,” says Konstantin Zatulin.
In turn, Alexander Vavilov noted: “As for relations between Moscow and Yerevan, I believe that now there is a temporary distance, no one will burn bridges.”