Virtual Parallels

Russian Arms in the Karabakh Conflict

Russian Arms in the Karabakh Conflict

The purchase of armament from Russia by Azerbaijan in June 2013 and the acutely negative evaluation of the actions of Russia – Armenia’s strategic ally– by the Armenian public made us turn to military experts in Armenia and Azerbaijan, asking to comment on the issue of conflicting parties’ purchase of armament from the same sources, moreover the co-chairing OSCE Minsk Group countries.

How to tell who is who in the given situation, that is to say how to differentiate between business and politics, and how should the expression “to sell arms to Armenia or Azerbaijan” be perceived: as “it’s business, nothing personal?”
 

 
Russian Arms in the Karabakh Conflict: a Perspective from Armenia 
 
 
- Is Russia the only supplier of arms to Armenia and Azerbaijan? Is this business or politics for Moscow? 
 
- Russia is by far not the only supplier of arms to Armenia and Azerbaijan, but simply one of them. For example, Azerbaijan buys considerable batches of arms also from Turkey and Israel. For Moscow this is two in one – both business and politics.  
 
As business:
 
– it is taking advantage of the solvent Azerbaijan as a market for its arms and military equipment, 
 
- enhances the capacity of its military and industrial complex – not only in terms of production, but also warranty and post-warranty service, repairs, modifications and refitting, supply of spare parts and accessories, ammunition and so on. 
 
- it earns additional financial dividends from training operators on the contemporary arms systems and so on. 
 
As politics, it reinforces its positions:
 
- (at least) in the military and technical cooperation with Azerbaijan, 
 
- across the range of military and technical, military and political, and military and economic cooperation with Armenia. After the supply of weapons to Azerbaijan, in particular, the batch of heavy offensive arms of approximately 1 billion US dollars, announced this June, we expect a rearmament and modifications of the arms and military equipment possessed in Russian military base 102 in the RA, as well as in the Armed Forces of the RA. Particularly, it has already been announced that a large-scale additional armament programs has been launched to upgrade the RA Air Forces with battle planes. Besides, part of the armament and military equipment, outfits and accessories will be produced in the MIC enterprises in Armenia.
 
It is clear that the rearmament and the modification of arms will be organized taking into consideration the current needs and the enlargement of the assortment of the equipment, supplied or planned to be supplied to Azerbaijan.
 
In general, Russia is thus reinforcing its military and political presence in the South Caucasus region.
 
- What is the reaction of the USA and France – the two other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group to the supply of the Russian arms to Azerbaijan and Armenia?
 
-  So far, it has been quite reserved. Particularly, according to the results of the annual OSCE Parliamentary Assembly session, held in Istanbul from June 29 to July 3, a declaration was passed where the Parliamentary Assembly is calling “the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to continue their cooperation with Armenia and Azerbaijan in search of solutions to the Karabakh conflict.” The Co-Chairs are more likely to make similar statements.
 
The fact of the sales of a large batch of arms by Russia – and OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair that is dealing with the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, a member of a Group that is committed to the peaceful settlement of the conflict, gives a lot of possibilities to all those who desire to practice diplomatic rhetoric, yet, without any significant impact on the situation. The arms race has long started in the region. By the way, Turkey, another OSCE Minsk Group member, has been intensively arming Azerbaijan, too.
 
- Is there a provision in the documents passed by CSTO, banning the supply of arms to a member-state that directly threatens the security of another member of the organization? Is the supply of the Russian arms to the parties of the Karabakh conflict a similar case? Are there any examples of such supplies?
 
- In fact, Azerbaijan signed a document on the affiliation to the Collective Security Treaty, but the Treaty never got ratified.  In the given case, Russia – a CSTO member, supplies arms to Armenia, that is a CSTO member, too, and Azerbaijan – a state that is not a member of that organization, and is at war with Armenia. 
 
According to Article 2 of the Collective Security Treaty, “member-states will consult one another on all significant issues of international security, infringing their interests, and coordinate their positions, regarding those issues”, but nothing more than that.
 
As a similar precedent in world history I could recall the example of the sales of arms and military equipment by NATO member-states to Turkey – a member-state of the Alliance, and Cyrus, that is not a NATO member, and part of territory of which is occupied by Turkey itself.
 
Once, Great Britain and the USA were actively arming Pakistan – their ally in the South-East Asia Treaty Organization (1955-1977) and its enemy India in the periods between waves of escalation of the long-term conflict, putting an embargo on the supplies of arms to either party in the course of the renewal of large-scale hostilities (Cashmere War II, 1965, and Indo-Pakistani War III, 1971).
 
- How much does it cost Armenia and Azerbaijan to buy arms from Russia? Do Azerbaijan and Armenia comply with the Treaty on Conventional Arms, signed in 1992? 
 
- As a CSTO member, Armenia gets the arms and military equipment at preferential prices, as a rule, close to the prices charged inside Russia. Azerbaijan buys the weapons at contract prices, almost at the prices charged in the global arms market. However, for every deal with both Armenia and Azerbaijan the price is agreed upon, taking into consideration a wide range of factors, and it quite largely depends on the level of military and political cooperation these countries have had with Russia.
 
- What do international authorities do if a country exceeds the acceptable quota on armament? 
 
- Actually, the Treaty for the Conventional Arms in Europe, signed back in 1990 by NATO states and the members of the Warsaw Pact Organization is not enforced; however, formally Armenia and Azerbaijan have not yet withdrawn from it. Very many factors played a role here: both the altered geopolitical situation (the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty and the enlargement of NATO), the refusal of most its participants to ratify the Adapted Copy of the Treaty (1999), Russia’s halt of its pending membership to it (2007), problems with the recorded and ascribed possession of arms and military equipment, placed in the territories of the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of South Ossetia, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic and the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh and so on. Many of these factors hinder the conclusion of a regional, South Caucasian treaty on the reduction of and quota system for arms, if such an idea would ever be supported.
 
However, some members of the Treaty for the Conventional Arms in Europe continue to receive inspection groups for control, according to the Treaty for the Conventional Arms in Europe provisions. For example, from July 1 to 4 this year such a group from NATO member-states will conduct a checkup at a military unit in Belarus.
 
However, it is becoming more of an exception from the rule and a goodwill gesture.
 
Thus, according to the data in the report, disseminated by the British International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Military Balance 2013, Azerbaijan exceeds the quota, established by the Treaty for the Conventional Arms in Europe on already 4 parameters out of the 5, controlled by the Treaty: military tanks, artillery systems, armored machines and military helicopters. In case an inspection checkup is conducted and the above-mentioned data are confirmed and established, this will be reported to various international instances – OSCE, UN and so on, and the latter will start to call Azerbaijan to cut its heavy arms down to the limits of established quotas. Azerbaijan may refer to the current process of rearmament along with the removal of the outdated machinery from register; it will surely refer to the outstanding Nagorno Karabkh conflict and the existence of Nagorno Karabakh that has not signed the Treaty for Conventional Arms in Europe… In a word, it is obvious that nothing will be done in this regard. 

 
Russian Arms in the Karabakh Conflict: a Perspective from Azerbaijan  
 
- Is Russia the only supplier of arms to Armenia and Azerbaijan? Is this a business or politics for Moscow?
 
Russia is not the only country Azerbaijan buys arms and military hardware from. In terms of purchasing military hardware, Azerbaijan cooperates with Ukraine, Turkey, and Israel.
 
Research shows that in the last 3 years there was an abrupt rise in Russia’s cooperation with two countries in South Caucasus in conflict with one another – Armenia and Azerbaijan, in terms of its sales of military hardware to them.
 
The main reason for military and technical cooperation of Russia with Armenia can be accounted for by the fact that this country is the guarantor of the military, political, and economic interests of Russia in South Caucasus. 
 
That is why there are Russian military bases in the territory of Armenia. According to the information received recently, Russia supplies Armenia with arms and military hardware along two lines. Firstly, based on the strategic partnership and the document on the prolongation of the renting of military base N102, as well as the charter of CSTO, Russia sells arms to Armenia at preferential prices and even presents the country with armament free of charge. Secondly, along with the upgrading of Russian arms and military hardware in the military base in Armenia, all the outdated weaponry is given to the Armed Forces of this country. According to the information available, in the recent years in Armenia armament and military hardware of about a total of hundreds of millions has been transmitted to Armenia. There are also some up-to-date implements of war among them. 
 
As for Azerbaijan, Russia pursues two goals here. Firstly, to channel the financial means Azerbaijan has towards the Russian Federation, secondly, to establish control over processes underway in the Armed Forces in Azerbaijan. At that, it should be mentioned that the military and technical cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan has intensified in the recent years. The Russian Federation sells arms and military hardware to Azerbaijan that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. Regardless of the disagreements between the parties on the Gabala radar, the information we have proves that Russia agreed to stop the operation of the radar on one condition: Azerbaijan will buy a large amount of arms and military hardware from Russia. As it is obvious that the operation continues, though the websites under the control of authorities announced the termination of military and technical cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan. The supply of armaments and military hardware to the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan by Russia is a kind of deceleration of the process of the introduction of NATO standards to Azerbaijan.   It is well known that the arms used in the army in most cases do not comply with NATO standards. There are also problems with human resources, since in most cases their training has to do with Russia which accounts for by a certain degree of dependence on certain circles in Russia. Thus, these people in the army are interested in the reinforcement of Russian, and not NATO standards. 
 
- What is the reaction of the USA and France – the two other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group to the supply of the Russian weapons to Azerbaijan and Armenia?
 
- So far there has been no reaction from the American and French Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, regarding the sale of armaments to Armenia and Azerbaijan by Russia. In fact, if we are to refer to diplomatic and military sources, the USA and France feel concerned by the fact that Russia is armoring Armenia and Azerbaijan, both at war. This anxiety has two main reasons. The first one is the serious increase in the probability of war in the region, and the second one is that Russia is actually reinforcing its military and political participation in South Caucasus, thus preventing the integration of the countries in the region into the Euro-Atlantic space.
 
- Is there a provision in the documents passed by CSTO, banning the supply of arms to a member-state that directly threatens the security of another member of the organization? Is the supply of the Russian arms to the parties of the Karabakh conflict a similar case? Are there any examples of such supplies?
 
-  If we are to refer to CSTO documents, according to them Russia cannot sell armaments and military hardware to Azerbaijan. In its relations with Azerbaijan, Russia has to make a choice. If Moscow does not sell the official Baku arms and military hardware, Azerbaijan will fully meet its military and technical needs at the expense of Western countries, in particular, Turkey and Israel, as well as Ukraine. The financial resources of Azerbaijan have considerably enlarged the number of countries that are willing to cooperate with Azerbaijan in the military-technical and military-industrial fields. At the moment many countries turn to Azerbaijan for the realization of joint projects in defense. It is interesting to see Georgia among them. As for Armenia and its silence regarding the sales of Russian arms to Azerbaijan, it denotes the existence of some sort of agreement between Moscow and Yerevan. 
 
- How much does it cost Armenia and Azerbaijan to buy arms from Russia? 
 
- According to the studies, carried out by the Doctrine Center, approximately 400 – 500 million Manats out of total state expenses on the defense of Azerbaijan is annually spent on the purchase and modernization of armaments and military hardware. Some years this figure exceeded 1 billion dollars, and in other years it was brought down to 300 million Manats. It is necessary to take into consideration the fact that the policy led by Azerbaijan regarding the purchase of arms and military hardware from Russia was activated in 2009. The purchase of the two S-300 complexes at 300 million dollars each, as well as the purchase of the anti-aircraft complex from Russia could be considered the culmination of the military cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan in the recent years. However, the latest information gives grounds to say that the financial level between Moscow and Baku in the field of military and technical cooperation in the past 2011 – 2012 years amounted at least up to 1 billion. If we take into consideration the information presented in the media and confirmed by the official structures, in the upcoming 2 years the military and technical cooperation between the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan may still increase. Undoubtedly, this process contradicts the policy of Azerbaijan’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic space and is incompliance with the NATO military standards. 
 
- Do Azerbaijan and Armenia comply with the Treaty on Conventional Arms, signed in 1992? 
 
- Neither Azerbaijan, nor Armenia meets the requirements established in the Treaty on Conventional Arms in Europe. Armenia violates the articles of this document in two ways: firstly, Armenia places the unrecorded arms and military hardware in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. In this regard, Armenia is not held accountable to anyone, including international organizations. Secondly, Russian military base 102 is located in the territory of Armenia, which is another violation of the Treaty. As for Azerbaijan, the establishment of a quota equal to that of Armenia is at least unfair. There are various reasons for this. The main reason is that Azerbaijan, as compared to Armenia, has more concerns about its security. Azerbaijani territories are occupied, Azerbaijan has common borders with Iran and Russia, and there are threats to its energy projects. From the perspective of its territory and number of population, Azerbaijan is larger than Armenia. For this reason it would be incorrect to establish the same quota for both countries. However, from the statements made by the official Baku we can conclude that Azerbaijan is trying not to violate the quota, established by the Treaty.
 
- What do international authorities do if a country exceeds the acceptable quota on armament? 
 
- I think that presently this is not a topical issue. Exceeding the quota of armaments by any country will not lead to an embargo or any other decisions. The processes we are witnessing now give us ground to assert that there is very little probability that the administrations of Armenia and Azerbaijan will unfold a war. And the intervention by international structures is quite serious in this matter. The issue of armaments in South Caucasus has fallen into the background, since the attention is mainly focused on Iran and Syria.  

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