YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Russia will help Armenia expand and modernize its relatively small air force within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), top security officials from the two countries said on Thursday.
CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha and Artur Baghdasarian, the secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council, made the announcement after signing a memorandum in Yerevan.
The memorandum deals with the implementation of a recent decision by the presidents of six ex-Soviet states making up the Russian-led military alliance to set up joint army contingents operating under the CSTO aegis. According to Bordyuzha and Baghdasarian, they will comprise not only ground troops but also air force units.
“Collective security forces are being formed in the South Caucasus region where Armenia is the sole CSTO member state. Joint air forces will also be set up here,” explained Baghdasarian.
“Armenia’s air force will be expanded,” he told a joint news conference with Bordyuzha. “Not only the air force but also the air-defense system in general will be modernized and re-equipped. The Russian military base [in Armenia] will also re-equipped. In terms of modernization, 2014 will be a very important year.”
Baghdasarian gave few details of the planned modernization. He said only that an Armenian air force base in Gyumri is likely to be upgraded with the help of the Russian company Vertolety Rossii that manufactures military helicopters.
The Armenian air force mainly consists of several dozen Russian-made Su-25 warplanes and Mi-9 and Mi-25 helicopter gunships operating as part of the country’s air-defense system. Armenia’s airspace is also protected by two dozen MiG-29 fighter jets belonging to the Russian military base.
In recent years, Armenia’s arch-foe Azerbaijan has purchased dozens MiG-29s as well as advanced Russian helicopters as part of a massive military build-up fuelled by its oil revenues. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev again declared on Wednesday that the buildup will eventually enable his country to win back Nagorno-Karabakh.
Commenting on Aliyev’s statements, Bordyuzha warned against attempts to end the Karabakh conflict by force. “There can be no military solution to the Karabakh problem,” he said.
The CSTO secretary general also praised Armenia’s defense capability. “Intensive military-technical cooperation [with Russia] and deliveries of military products as an assistance … allows one to speak of a fairly high degree of security in the Republic of Armenia,” he said.