Russia-Armenia Air Defense Cooperation: Threat to the Regional Security?

14 April 2016
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Defense Ministers of Russia and Armenia signed an agreement in early December 2015, on the establishment of a joint regional air defense system in the frame of the Caucasian Collective Security Region. The air defense system leads to the disturbance not only in the South Caucasus but also in the wider neighborhood. Especially in the wake of the crisis between Moscow and Ankara over the shooting down Russian bomber SU-24 warplane by Turkish fighter jets, any such kind of military activity is explained as a new rising tension between Moscow and Ankara, and as a direct threat to each other’s national security. Also, the latest developments directly related to Armenia’s military provocation against Azerbaijan in the occupied territories, which gave rise to for a short-lasted conflict, can also be analyzed in the context of the unified air defense deal.   

The timing of the agreement was of particular significance due to several reasons: First, it could be acknowledged as Russia’s direct response to the Moscow-Ankara political crisis. Second, it could be regarded as Russia’s military support to Armenia in case of military conflict with Azerbaijan. Last but not least, it was one of Russia’s goals to increase its security ability in its southern borders following the NATO’s increased military and political activities in Russia’s close neighborhood, namely, in the Baltics and in the Eastern Europe.

Politically and strategically, the content of the agreement is not new. Both Russia and Armenia have already been coordinating their actions in patrolling Armenia’s airspace. Already in the mid-1990s, Russia and Armenia had laid groundwork for unified air defense systems. In 2007, the Collective Security and Treaty Organization (CSTO) gave regional status to the integrated air defense system of those countries.

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