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Ballad about arms: what Baku is roaring about and why is Yerevan displeased

Photo: aze.az

Azerbaijan’s regular reports about arms deliveries from Russia keep annoying Armenia. This is like some vicious circle: the Azerbaijanis are reporting each delivery, the Armenians keep cursing them and reproaching the Russians, while the Russians are silent. Only once Dmitry Rogozin made a statement that one would rather forget.

Arms deliveries are not a public subject. but the Azerbaijanis make public each delivery from Russia. As a result, we are witnessing lots of articles in the press, heated debates at different forums and protest actions in front of the Russian Embassy in Yerevan.

According to Eurobarometer, in 2016, Russia’s popularity in Armenia dropped by 17% from 86% in 2015. No surprise. Last year, the “arms soil” was quite fertile for anti-Russian moods and the four-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh in Apr 2016 made it even richer.

The Russians say that they are trying to keep balance of forces in the South Caucasus. The Armenians also receive arms from Russia and pay for them very low prices – sometimes they don’t pay at all. Even though the Armenians spend much less on defense than the Azerbaijanis do ($450mn against $3bn as of 2014), they have almost as much arms are the Azerbaijanis have. Recently, they were the first to get Iskander systems. And since then, they have been warning the Azerbaijanis that they can use this powerful weapon as a preventive measure.

The Russians began supplying arms to both Armenia and Azerbaijan on their very first days as independent republics - even before the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Both armies are based on Russian weaponry. So, to stop supplying arms to one of them would mean to take the side of the other. The Azerbaijanis are actively diversifying their arms imports and are buying weapons from Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Belarus and Ukraine. So, to stop supplying arms to Azerbaijan would mean to cede this market to rivals. And the final factor is that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and if the sides prefer killing each other, they will find arms no matter who will supply it. In this light, the argument that an Armenian or an Azerbaijani would prefer to be killed by a weapon of non-Russian origin is not good at all.

So, who needs all this noise about natural – though not very human – state relations? Obviously, those whose work is to undermine Russia’s positions in its neighboring states and regions, more specifically, young people from West-sponsored NGOs, Radio Liberty, bloggers and Facebook users – all those who perfectly know how to turn anti-Russian hysteria into internal political bonuses.

It is noteworthy that the Azerbaijanis are not making public arms deliveries from Israel or Turkey or their own efforts to supply Bulgarian arms to terrorists in Syria. With Israel, they have arms contracts worth a total of $5bn. They used Israeli kamikaze drones against the Armenians in Apr 2016. One of them hit a bus with Armenian volunteers and killed seven people. The Israelis were tough when the Armenians tried to protest: you are also free to buy our arms, we offered but you refused.

So, it turns out that the Azerbaijanis make public only deliveries from Russia and there are two purposes here:

  1. To divert the public’s attention from Azerbaijan’s role in the deliveries of arms to Syria-based terrorists from Pakistan.
  2. To keep anti-Russian sentiments high in Armenia.

The Armenians seem to be unaware of this and keep blaming the Russians. This all may result in the latter’s tough response. It is already high time for the Kremlin to urge the Azerbaijanis to stop reporting each delivery of Russians arms to their territory and to remind the Armenians that even though they are part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, it does not object to their contacts with NATO and involvement in U.S.-commanded peacemaking operations.

Viktor Yakubyan, specially for EADaily

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