Russia Risks Losing Armenia As Ally, Says ARF-D Leader

Armenia – Hrant Markarian, a leader of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation, speaks to journalists, 27 Feb. 2012.

( Russia will lose Armenia as an ally if it continues to supply arms to Azerbaijan in large amounts, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) said on Tuesday.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service ( representative of the opposition party’s Bureau Hrant Markarian reacted to recent reports suggesting that Moscow has sold modern types of weapons, including heavy materiel, worth around $4 billion to Baku in recent years.

“Russia should realize that this way it cannot keep its allies around for a long time. It should realize that this way it will lose them,” Markarian said. “One can always find options, one should always look for options, there are always ways, hard or easy, ways in which we may pay a high price, but still have an option. I don’t think that we are so helpless that our only way can be with Russia. And Russia should also realize this. It should realize that this is a wrong approach and it may have great losses.”

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian recently voiced dismay at continuing deliveries of Russian offensive weapons to Azerbaijan. In an interview with Argentinean media during a visit to Buenos Aires last week Sarkisian, however, insisted that Russia remains committed to its military alliance with Armenia.

“It is a very painful subject and our people are worried that our strategic ally sells weapons to Azerbaijan,” the Armenian president said. “But we are very confident that Armenia has the capability to defend its borders… Despite the fact that Russia sells weapons [to Azerbaijan] I have no doubts Russia will honor its commitments to us in times of adversity.”

Sarkisian did not specify what kind of Russian military assistance Armenia expects to receive in case of a renewed war for Nagorno-Karabakh. Meanwhile, Russia appears to have supplied more heavy weapons to Azerbaijan than Armenia, its main regional ally, in the past several years. Citing Russian government data, the UN Register of Conventional Arms revealed last month that Azerbaijan purchased 72 tanks, 34 armored vehicles, 456 artillery systems, 37 attack helicopters and 1,200 rockets and missile systems from Moscow in 2007-2013.

Russian and Azerbaijani officials have estimated the total volume of bilateral defense contracts signed between the two countries since 2010 at nearly $4 billion. A Russian newspaper reported recently that the figure could rise to $5 billion by the end of this year. Officials in Armenia have so far been careful not to publicly criticize the Russian arms supplies to Azerbaijan. Some of them have implied that they are offset by Russian military aid to Armenia.

The senior Dashnaktsutyun member believes that maintaining military balance in the region is in the interest of Russia. “This [arms supplies to Azerbaijan] is not something that we can disregard… There is only one way to make it acceptable – if Russia gives us whatever it sells to Azerbaijan free of charge while charging Azerbaijan for it,” Markarian said.

The Dashnaktsutyun representative also spoke about Armenia’s planned membership in the emerging Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, acknowledging that the decision to engage in the process stems from considerations of Armenia’s security. Yerevan effectively gave up its process of association with the European Union after announcing its intention to become part of a Russian-led trade bloc last September.

Markarian said that remaining outside any blocs would be the best option for Armenia if it had no security issues. “If we could find a way to solve our security problems or to feel secure and not be a member of any bloc, but have relations with all, that would be an ideal way,” the Dashnaktsutyun leader said.