Armenia and Russia Unite the Air Gates: Risks or Opportunities?
16.06.2016
12:00
The joint anti-aircraft warfare systems in Caucasus between Armenia and Russia should be considered not in the context of April war or the Russian policy in the region but just an agreement made between two states on defense system. Chairman of RA NA Standing Committee on Foreign Relations Artak Zakaryan said this during the discussion on “Armenia and Russia Unite the Anti-Aircraft Warfare Systems: Risks or Opportunities?” at Media Center on June 16.

The issue of establishing joint anti-aircraft warfare systems in Caucasus, submitted for the verification of the Armenian and Russian Parliaments, made a big noise among the society and the opposition.   

They refer to Provision 6 of the agreement, which mentions that the coordination of the joint anti-aircraft system will be carried out by the Russian side, and say that Armenia subordinates its air defense system to Moscow's ambitions or concedes almost the last attribute of its security and sovereignty.  In other words, the Armenian anti-aircraft warfare system becomes the “branch” of the Russian system. The issue is not mainly the provision but the distrust towards Moscow, which was more deepened during the April war.

Zakaryan said that one should read the agreement, understand its provisions instead of making “politicized statements” where a certain attitude is obvious towards Russia. “Though Provision 6 mentions that the coordination of the joint anti-aircraft warfare system will be conducted by the Russian side, it does not mean that our systems is under the control of Russia. This is just a coordination but the management is conducted by the Armenian command which is also stipulated in the provision,” Zakaryan said and added that the document is a result of a three-year procedure. 

“The risks and interests were measured and a natural demand occurred to unite the anti-aircraft warfare systems. This is a very objective document,” the speaker said.

The former Minister of Defense, Lieutenant-General Vagharshak Harutyunyan said that the main challenge that Armenia faces nowadays is Turkey. “Armenia is capable to face the threat from Azerbajan. The main threat for Armenia is Turkey. So now the joint coordination of anti-aircraft warfare systems of Armenia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus occurs. Kazakhstan and Belarus are involved in this joint system. Who manages and makes decisions in Armenia is the Armenian side as the agreement says,” he said, considering it natural that the Russian side should conduct the coordination.

“In the large scale this is a procedure within CSTO. Kazakhstan cannot carry out the coordination of Armenian and Russian activities. When Kazakhstan sees the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan and all flights of aircraft, this information goes to Russia and comes to us from there. This means a joint coordination. Russia has the technical opportunities and potential to provide a large visibility and availability in the region,” the speaker said and added that the agreement is implemented only in case of an aggression.

“For example, if Russia announces a war against Ukraine, we have nothing to do there as it is not an aggression against Russia. If Azerbaijan makes an aggression against us, the coordination system works,” he described. Harutyunyan said that the agreement gives Armenia an opportunity to strengthen Karabakh’s defense as the escadrille of the Russian military airplanes, S-300 anti-aircraft warfare system and radiolocation stations defense the Armenian border with Turkey. “So we have an opportunity to centralize our forces against Azerbaijan,” he said. Both speakers stated that the agreement does not work in the territory of Karabakh. “Nagorno Karabakh is not an official part of the agreement but Armenia is the security provider of the Karabakh population. No matter what agreements we have, there is nothing binding for us. In case of any threat against Nagorno Karabakh corresponding actions will be made also in the air territory. The security of Nagorno Karabakh is the integral component of RA security,” Artak Zakaryan said. 

Harutyunyan added that in case of a war the joint project of the use of Armenian-Russian troops acts. “In case of a war the sides decide what will be done and how,” he said and added. “For example, anti-aircraft forces of 102th base and “Erebuni” also obey the Armenian side. The activities should be coordinated by the Armenian side.”

According to him, last year when the Turkish aircraft entered the airspace, "Erebuni" military aircraft flied in order to neutralize the threat, although nothing was said about it. "The air force is especially important for Armenia, considering the smallness and availability of the country. For example, a plane reaches Yerevan from Turkey in 1.5 minutes ... Isn’t it clear now how fast should that decision be taken,” he said.

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”

To contact the author please send an email to [email protected].

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