Who Earns Russia’s Protection?: Reading between the lines on recent military officials’ comments -
A Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jet takes off at the Erebuni air base in Gyumri, Armenia -
A Russian colonel’s statement made in an interview with the Russian defense ministry’s official newspaper early last month – Armenian media, however, covered the news only Thursday – has stirred unease in Azerbaijan, as some interpreted it as a threat of war against Azerbaijan by Russia.
Chief of the 102nd Russian military unit, Colonel Andrey Ruzinski announced that if Azerbaijan attacks Nagorno-Karabakh, the Russian military mission in Armenia: “can be involved in the hostilities in accordance with Russia’s commitments within the CSTO frame.”
Ruzinski also added that the Russian military unit in Armenia is equipped with C-300B anti-ballistic missile, Smerch artillery, ЗРК BUK-М1-2 anti-ballistic missile systems, zenith-missile division and MIG-29 jet fighter aircrafts.
Azeri media interpreted it as a threat while head of Defense Ministry’s security department, Russian Major General Anatoli Vasyak said Thursday night that the Russian military base would never get involved in the Karabakh conflict, as Nagorno Karabakh is not Russian or Armenian territory; hence has no connection to Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), haqqin.az reports.
Prior to Ruzinsky’s statement, Armenian experts shared the opinion that the CSTO agreement had nothing to do with active hostilities directly in the territory of Nagorno Karabakh.
Political analyst Tigran Abrahamyan says in reference to Ruzinsky’s statement that it is interesting that Anatoly Vyborny, the Russian chairman of the committee on defense and security of CSTO Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, pointed to the fact that Russia has been selling large amounts of weaponry to Armenia’s arch-foe Azerbaijan: “During today’s meeting an issue was raised to the effect on whether it’s time to work out a legal mechanism that would prevent such supplies in the future.”
According to the analyst, in this way Russia is trying to emphasize the seriousness of its relations with Armenia, especially after Armenia’s September 3 decision on joining the Customs Union.
“To some degree this was an answer not only to the periodical bellicose rhetoric on Azerbaijan’s part, but also the aggressive steps on the border, especially frequent recently. Moreover, the Russian side states openly that any incursion against Armenia and Karabakh, be it by separate incidents or large-scale hostilities, is a threat against Russia,” says the analyst.