YEREVAN(RFE/RL) — Armenia’s armed forces acquired “qualitatively new weapons” late last year, President Serzh Sarkisian said on Monday as he met with the top military brass in Yerevan.
Sarkisian addressed the commanders of Armenian army units and other senior officers at the start of their annual “operational gatherings” that will end in command and staff exercises. Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said the war games “will take into account the current military-political situation in the region.”
“At the end of last year, the Armenian Armed Forces received qualitatively new weapons and guarantees of further [arms] supplies,” Sarkisian said in a speech partly publicized by his office. “Even more important is the fact that you have drawn up a new concept for what you call ‘armed confrontation deterrence.’”
A statement by the presidential press service did not specify the weapons, which Sarkisian said, were acquired by the Armenian military in 2015.
Ohanian said in late January Armenia is continuing to acquire “long-range and precision-guided” weapons for its armed forces thanks to its close military ties with Russia. He gave no details of those supplies.
A Russian-Armenian intergovernmental commission on bilateral “military-technical cooperation” met in Yerevan earlier in January. According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, Russian arms supplies were on the agenda of the four-day meeting.
Ohanian thanked Moscow for its “huge” military assistance to Yerevan when he met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu in Moscow in December.
In mid-February, Moscow disclosed the types of new military hardware, which Armenia will buy from Russia soon with a $200 million Russian loan allocated last summer. Their long list includes, among other things, devastating multiple-launch rocket systems, heavy flamethrowers and advanced anti-tank missiles.
As of last July, the two sides were also reportedly negotiating on the delivery of sophisticated Russian Iskander-M missiles to the Armenian army. With a firing range of up to 500 kilometers, the Iskander-M systems would make Azerbaijan’s vital oil and gas infrastructure even more vulnerable to Armenian missile strikes in the event of a renewed war for Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to his press office, Sarkisian on Monday also spoke about last year’s upsurge in deadly ceasefire violations in the Karabakh conflict zone as well as the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. The Armenian president went on to answer a “wide range” of security-related questions asked by army officers. No further details were reported.
The military alliance with Russia has enabled Armenia to at least partly offset Azerbaijan’s decade-long military buildup fueled by oil massive revenues. The sharp fall in oil prices may have put an end to that buildup.
Azerbaijan’s defense budget for this year is projected at an equivalent of $1.3 billion. Only four years ago, President Ilham Aliyev declared that Azerbaijani military expenditure has surpassed Armenia’s entire state budget worth about $3 billion.