Russian Armenian Alliance Carries On

MOSCOW (Nazavisimaya Gazeta–Noyan Tapan)–Armenia is acquiring a very powerful and reliable "umbrella" that both Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s attack aircraft will find difficult to pierce without substantial losses–Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote in its commentary on Russia’s decision to enhance Armenia’s air defense capabilities.

A Russian military delegation headed by Air Force Commander in Chief–Colonel General Anatoly Kornukov–is currently visiting Armenia. Two interrelated objectives stand behind the visit.

The first is to inspect the readiness of the Russia Air Force and Air Defense group deployed in that North Caucasian CIS member. The second is connected with the talks on the issue of hooking up Armenia to the joint combat patrol within the framework of the CIS unified Air Defense systems.

Actually–the author explained–this means that the Armenian military and the Russian group will start exchanging information about the condition of their airspace with the Air Force Central Command located not far from Moscow.

At present–Russia is cooperating with Belarussian and Kazakhstan in a similar manner–thereby making it possible to control the airspace over a significant part of the CIS territory–as well as part of the territory of adjacent states.

At the same time–the author continues–the joint combat patrol duty does not imply the automatic participation of Russia’s forces in armed actions–if this is not envisaged in additional agreemen’s and common military plans like those existing between Russia and Belarus.

In December [1998] the first five Russian MiG-29 fighters were transferred to Armenia. A second group of the same number is expected to arrive there shortly. Besides that–the Russia group is to be beefed up with S-300V anti-aircraft missile systems and radar stations.

The radar stations are capable of spotting air targets at a range of up to 300 kilometers. The radius of knocking out attacking aircraft is 100 kilometers–while the range of defending ballistic missiles is up to 40 kilometers.

Russian representatives maintain that the new weapons systems will not be part of Armenia’s arsenals.

The author pointed out that Azerbaijan has more than 40 combat aircraft–while Turkey’s Air Force numbers up to 750 assault planes–including modern F-16’s.

All the weaponry now being given to the Russian group in Armenia is strictly of a defensive nature. The Russian MiG-29’s are capable of winning a dogfight with any fighter from the neighboring states–however–the former are not so efficient for knocking out land targets–and moreover–their radius of action is not so large.

On Saturday–Azerbaijan issued an announcement denouncing the proposed shipment of S-300 warplanes to Armenia and warning that the Russian-Armenian alliance could pave the way for a three pronged military cooperation agreement between Azerbaijan–Turkey and the US.

"The shipment of such military equipment deeply concerns Azerbaijan. The Kremlin has no right to make such a decision–not as the leader of the CIS nor as a member of the Minsk Group," said Azeri Presidential advisor on foreign affairs Vafa Guluzade–reported the Agence France Presse news agency.

Given the Russian-Armenian military alliance–Guluzade warned that Azerbaijan would also seek a military partnership–hinting at a possible alliance with Turkey and the US.

Such an alliance is needed to defuse "Armenian aggression–which is being supported by Russia," Guluzade stated–adding that Russia’should immediately end its arming of Armenia and consider the agreement null and void.

The Turkish daily Milliyet reported that Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian has denounced a proposed Turkish-Azeri alliance–saying that it would further aggravate the security of the region.

The Milliyet–citing Azeri sources and the Moscow-based Interfax news agency–reported that Azerbaijan was concerned over Russian-Armenian military cooperation–and in an effort to counter that alliance–Azerbaijan aimed to encourage the establishment of US military bases on its territory.

The same sources indicated that the military base plan is scheduled to be completed soon. Azerbaijan stated that the US bases would balance the military capabilities envisioned in the Russian-Armenian alliance.

The sources indicated that the Azeri efforts are a direct challenge to Moscow.

"If a US base is established in Azerbaijan–then Baku can initiate relations with Moscow based on equal military might. Furthermore–Azerbaijan will significantly decrease chances of an Armenian attack," reported the Milliyet newspaper.

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