YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Two U.S. generals have arrived in Armenia to watch an ongoing U.S.-Armenian military exercise criticized by Russia and Iran.
Major General Gregory Anderson, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, and Brigadier General Patrick Ellis, a deputy chief of staff of the U.S. troops in Europe, joined Armenia’s top military officials on Friday in visiting one of the two training grounds where 85 U.S. and 175 Armenian soldiers are holding the Eagle Partner 2023 exercise.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said that Defense Minister Suren Papikyan, the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, Lieutenant-General Eduard Asryan, and the U.S. generals observed its “active phase.”
“Our ties with Armenia are multifaceted and cooperative,” the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan quoted Anderson as saying in a statement. “The U.S. has consistently extended military assistance to Armenia, especially in bolstering the nation’s capabilities in crucial areas such as nonproliferation and peacekeeping.”
For her part, U.S. Ambassador Kristina Kvien described the 10-day drills as a “testament to our longstanding partnership with Armenia.” They will build upon “decades of successful peacekeeping and security cooperation” between the two countries, she said.
Asryan also attended their opening ceremony held on Monday. According to the Defense Ministry in Yerevan, the participating troops are simulating a joint peacekeeping operation in an imaginary conflict zone.
The ministry announced the drills last week amid Armenia’s unprecedented tensions with Russia. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stoked the tensions with a newspaper interview in which he declared that his government is trying to “diversify our security policy” because Russia is “unwilling or unable” to protect Armenia.
Russia condemned Pashinyan’s remarks. The Russian Foreign Ministry listed them and the U.S.-Armenian drills among Yerevan’s “unfriendly” actions in a note of protest handed to the Armenian ambassador in Moscow on September 8.
Pashinyan essentially stood by his statement in another interview publicized late on Wednesday. Russia’s defense “capabilities have changed” as a result of the war in Ukraine, he told Politico.eu.
Pashinyan’s political allies as well as Western-funded civic groups have welcomed the apparent pro-Western shift in Armenia’s traditional foreign policy orientation. By contrast, Armenian opposition groups are seriously concerned about it. They say that the policy change is reckless because the United States and other Western powers will not give Armenia security guarantees or significant military aid.
The U.S.-Armenian exercise has also prompted concern from neighboring Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan on Wednesday that it could “further complicate the situation in the region.”