YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Armenia’s government is planning a sharp rise in its defense spending next year amid the continuing conflict with Azerbaijan.
The government’s draft 2023 budget calls for a record 506 billion drams ($1.28 billion) in military expenditures. This represents a 46 percent increase over funding earmarked for the country’s armed forces a year ago.
Finance Minister Tigran Khachatryan spoke of a 35 percent rise in defense spending as he presented the budget bill to lawmakers on Monday. He cited the “adjusted 2022 budget,” suggesting that the Armenian military will receive this year more than was initially allocated to it.
Armenia’s overall public spending is projected to rise by 18 percent, to almost 2.6 trillion drams ($6.5 billion), in 2023.
With the Armenian dram having appreciated by over 20 percent against the U.S. dollar this year, the planned enlargement of the Armenian defense budget will be even more drastic in dollar terms.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan touted it on Wednesday when he too visited the National Assembly to discuss the spending bill with lawmakers representing his Civil Contract party. He said that his government will be in a better position continue its “defense reforms” and gradual transition to a “professional army.”
Pashinyan also stressed that despite the soaring military expenditures Armenia remains committed to its “peace agenda” declared after the 2020 war with Azerbaijan.
Oil-rich Azerbaijan’s defense budget is projected to reach an equivalent of $3.1 billion next year. Baku regularly threatens to use force to clinch further concessions from Yerevan.
Azerbaijani forces attacked and seized on September 13 Armenian army positions at various sections of the border between the two South Caucasus nations. At least 280 soldiers from both sides were killed during the two-day fighting.
Armenian opposition leaders have portrayed the latest Armenian territorial losses as further proof of Pashinyan’s incompetence and inability to protect the country’s borders. They say that his administration has done little to rebuild the armed forces since the disastrous war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Following the recent border clashes officials in Yerevan complained about the Armenian army’s lack of modern weapons. In an apparent reference to Russia, Pashinyan claimed on September 29 that “our allies” have failed to deliver weapons to Armenia despite contracts signed with them in the last two years.
As always, the Armenia government has not publicized details of its military budget, viewing that as classified information.
In September, Armenia reportedly signed contracts for the purchase of $245 million worth of Indian multiple-launch rocket systems, anti-tank rockets and ammunition. Defense Minister Suren Papikyan explored the possibility of more such deals during a recent visit to India.